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Press Releases

Disability Advocates Work to Ensure That COVID-19 Stimulus Package Doesn’t Harm People with Disabilities

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Washington, D.C., Mar. 23 – As negotiations in the United States Senate bog down around a proposed $1.6 trillion economic stimulus package, disability advocates seek allies to ensure that the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic helps, rather than injures, the largest minority community in America.

The nation is facing unprecedented social, economic and health challenges at every level of society and the 1-in-5 people with disabilities are uniquely vulnerable to the disruptive consequences of COVID-19. Whether we are talking about issues of food insecurity, access to healthcare/testing, switching to telework, or life-or-death medical decisions, the disability community is deeply impacted by these events. [continue reading…]

Disabled Americans Demand Hospitals Aren’t Pushed into Medical Rationing

People with preexisting medical conditions urge others to heed CDC guidance, for suppliers to ramp up medical supplies, and for medical professionals to keep them alive

Washington, D.C., March 22 – As more Americans begin to heed warnings and self-isolate in their homes, the disability advocacy nonprofit RespectAbility urges all Americans to do so without delay.

“Millions of Americans – myself included – are at high risk from the virus and from medical rationing,” said Matan Koch, who is a quadriplegic with asthma and works closely on disability issues as the director of RespectAbility’s California office. A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, he knows what it means to face discrimination everywhere, including in the healthcare system. [continue reading…]

“You Don’t Look Blind”: by Abigail Shaw

Abigail Shaw smiling headshotNew York City, March 21 – On one afternoon in late January, I was in the locker room of a gym. As an admirer of nature and being outside, I would have loved to have done my workout in Central Park, but slushy streets are not an ideal ingredient for successful road running. Besides, none of my reliable friends and sighted guides were available to meet up for a run. Being a blind athlete, I usually train and race long distances with a sighted guide, using a fabric tether as we run in tandem. That meant that my workout was limited to the good ol’ treadmill; my least favorite piece of gym equipment.

“Are you training that dog?” a woman at the locker next to mine asked, as I toweled off my wet hair. “No, she’s my guide dog. She’s already trained.” This is a comment I frequently get when we are out and about. When I tell people that I am not training my dog, that we are an active team, I usually get the same response regardless of context, “Oh, you don’t look blind.” [continue reading…]

The Myth of Non-Progression: by Carly Okyle

Carly Okyle headshot smiling

Carly Okyle

New York City, March 20 – Cerebral Palsy (CP) is hard to discuss, specifically because there’s such a wide spectrum of symptoms and severity to consider. While mine presents itself as a limp with balance issues and problems with spatial relations, a friend of mine with the same medical designation can wear high heels without a problem; yet, she struggles with auditory processing. Same diagnosis, different issues.

One constant in this vast continuum of CP is that doctors describe it as a non-progressive disability, meaning that symptoms don’t become increasingly more severe. I used to find this comforting. I’ve since learned that although this is accurate, it’s not entirely true. [continue reading…]

New Battleground Poll Data Shows Disability Community is Large and Electorally Contested

Washington, D.C., March 19 – New polling data of the battleground states shows that the disability community is large and electorally contested, but the issues they care about most are not being sufficiently addressed.

The phone poll of 1,000 registered voters across 16 presidential and Senate battleground states was conducted by Stan Greenberg, Ph.D., and the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR), on behalf of the disability inclusion organization RespectAbility. The data was released on a webinar earlier today. The memocross-tab data, and PowerPoint are available to download now. The webinar recording will be available to watch with captions early next week.

The key findings of the poll include: [continue reading…]

Lachi: NY Music Sensation & Ardent Disability Champion

New York City, March 19 – From club releases to EDM songs, recording/performing artist, songwriter and record producer Lachi is a long-established talent that continues to astound many with her diverse musical creativity and expression.

With millions of streams and spins, her songs have debuted on national dance charts, played on national television shows, feature films, documentaries, broadcasted on radio, and have been mentioned on sites like HuffPost, NPR, MTV, Buzzfeed, Popdust,, and Oprah Radio. She has received awards such as an Independent Music Awards nomination and was even a finalist for the International Songwriting Competition.

Adding to several associated acts she recently performed with fellow artists like Snoop Dogg and Markus Schulz, it is an understatement to say that Lachi’s celebrity status has risen to tremendous heights. Using this incredible platform, she has committed herself to be a role model within the disability community. [continue reading…]

Becoming My Whole Self: by Khadija Bari

Headshot of Khadija Bari

Khadija Bari

New York City, March 18 – October of 2019. Everything looks the same even after all these years, but there is something different. I look to my left and right, and I am walking beside the same faces I have known for a decade now. The faces of my two best girlfriends I once used to see almost every day during my undergraduate years in Lahore, Pakistan, and now stayed in contact with long-distance. We walked through the same corridor in the shopping plaza that I used to walk a decade ago. It is the same street outside. But something was different this time. This time, I held a white cane in my right hand, swinging from side to side.

I had promised my husband back in New York that I would use my cane on my trip back to the country in which I had spent my formative years. Keeping his words in mind, I had begrudgingly snapped my cane out at Lahore International Airport upon my arrival as I made my way out of the terminal to the awaiting family members who came to welcome me.

I was so self-conscious. New York had empowered me, and I knew that I was not the most odd creature making my way down the block. Not here in Pakistan, though. My white cane and I stuck out. I could feel the eyes on my back and questions following me as I passed by.

The days in my short vacation went by and I caught up with old memories and the people who occupied them. Those people, to my surprise, did not see me differently. Our conversations flowed just as carefree, full of wit, humor and sarcasm. Me walking beside them now with a cane, definitely a sight they were not used to, seemed to foster none of those questioning stares.

I believe it is because they saw what was different. Not just in what I held, but what it was doing for me. My visual impairment was something they always knew about. But a decade ago, they, nor I, knew I was categorized as legally blind, and what more, with a disability.

I remember back in 2013, when I was first told I would need to use a cane to travel safely and independently, I went into shock and denial. In the beginning, I hid my cane every opportunity I had. I did not want to stand out. I did not want to be judged prematurely by those I held in esteem. Over time, I got a taste of such independence for the first time ever. And I loved it.

And here I was again, like a little girl who needs a promise to do the right thing, to not be afraid of being prematurely judged. It did make a difference though. The Khadija a decade ago was shuffling her feet on the ground as she walked, shoulders slumped, hoping she does not walk into another pillar on campus and wishing for the earth to open up beneath her and swallow her whole. A decade later, my friends saw someone walking taller, less worried, and not asking for help in identifying steps and stairs along the way. In that shopping plaza is when I realized that I should never have been afraid of being my whole self. To say, “Yes, I am a woman with a disability,” as I walk by tall and proud.

Magazine spread of Khadija Bari walking down a street holding a white caneKhadija Bari is currently a trainee in RespectAbility’s first cohort for its Women and Nonbinary Speakers Bureau: NYC, funded by the New York Women’s Foundation.

People with Disabilities & the COVID-19 Pandemic: Key Issues & Resources

image of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)Washington, D.C., March 17 – As the COVID-19 outbreak turns the world upside down, it is critically important that the global response to this crisis include people with disabilities. More than 9 million Americans are especially at risk from potentially life-threatening impacts of the virus. Moreover, fully 1-in-5 people have a learning, mental health, physical, sensory or other disability. People can be born with a disability or acquire one due to an accident, aging, gun violence or during military service.

People with disabilities are uniquely vulnerable to the disruptive consequences of COVID-19. Whether we are talking about issues of food insecurity, access to healthcare/testing, switching to telework, or life-or-death medical decisions, people with disabilities are deeply impacted by these events. This crisis demands leadership at every level of government, every sector of civil society and from the disability community itself.

Because this is a rapidly evolving situation, RespectAbility is closely monitoring developments and collecting new resources to help impacted communities. At present, there are several critical action steps that we want to see taken to address COVID-19’s impact on people with disabilities: [continue reading…]

I See What You Cannot See

Baksha Ali smiling holding her white cane with a large forest in the distance behind her“Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.” – Stevie Wonder

Okay, so I am not a man, and this is a piece for Women’s History Month, but I love this quote because it’s a reminder that my blindness does not define me or my vision. Honestly, in some way, my blindness makes me stronger and more resilient because I have to work harder. My blindness puts me more in touch with my other senses.

I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) when I was five years old, so my parents left Bangladesh, their family, and their livelihood to come to America in search of a cure. They never considered that they might remain in the U.S., but gave up going back home, as they realized that the hope of finding a cure for RP was better here than overseas. Unfortunately, there was no cure to be found then nor now, here nor there.

So, I always knew that I might lose my vision one day. However, knowing and experiencing something is completely different and it took some time to change my outlook on life. As a woman with a disability, it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. I mean, did you know that 80% of woman with a disability are victims of abuse and rape? That’s really high – and scary. So, I don’t trust people easily, despite my friendly personality. [continue reading…]

Unprecedented Opportunity for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities in RespectAbility Lab

Sponsors include Cast & Crew, Comcast NBCUniversal, Final Draft, Fox Corporation, Murray/Reese Foundation, Sony Pictures Entertainment and The Walt Disney Company

Summer Lab 2019 participants smile together around a statue of Mickey Mouse at The Walt Disney animation studios

Summer Lab 2019 participants at The Walt Disney Studios. Credit: Jeff Maynard

Los Angeles, California, March 12 – Great entertainment requires authentic stories and genuine representation of all people. This includes diverse people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health and other disabilities. Hence, RespectAbility, the nonprofit that produced The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit, is thrilled to offer the second annual innovative Lab series for emerging entertainment talent, as well as a track for mid-level career professionals. This 5-week, 10-session summer Lab is for people with disabilities interested in – and with experience in – development, production and post-production, including careers as writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, animators and other production roles.

[continue reading…]

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