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Harriet Tubman, Legendary Poet and Civil Rights Activist with Epilepsy, Inspires Generations

Honoring Women with Disabilities During Women’s History Month

A portrait of Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman is known as one of the most influential leaders of our nation. She was a former slave turned abolitionist who bravely risked her life to free both slaves and her own family members through the underground railroad.

Tubman was a Maryland native. She was born around 1820 in Dorchester, County, Md. Her mission was getting as many men, women and children out of bondage into freedom.

When Tubman was a teenager, she acquired a traumatic brain injury when a slave owner struck her in the head. This resulted in her developing epileptic seizures and hypersomnia. Unfortunately, Tubman’s experience of violence occurred on a daily basis which made her brain injury worse.

“I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land,” she often is quoted as saying. [continue reading…]

Cristina Sanz: First Hispanic with a Disability As Part of Ensemble Cast to Be on an Emmy Award-Winning Show

Honoring Women with Disabilities During Women’s History Month

headshot of Cristina Sanz wearing a blue top

Cristina Sanz

Fans of the hit A&E docu-series Born this Way know Cristina Sanz as a lovable, fun and family-oriented dancer and romantic. In 2016, Sanz became the first Hispanic woman with a disability as part of an ensemble cast to be on an Emmy award-winning show. In 2018, she shattered stigmas by getting married to her longtime fiancé Angel Callahan.

The two already had been dating for five years before the show premiered. Their desire to live an independent life together – and get married – was a consistent plot line throughout the show. The first season ended with their engagement; the fourth season finale was an hour-long episode featuring the wedding between these two individuals with developmental disabilities.

“I wanted to show everyone that you can have a disability and get married,” Sanz told People magazine.

Her wedding, moving out on her own and working at two jobs, are things her parents never imagined as Cristina was growing up.

“I will not wake up waiting for my daughter to come back from a date like my mother did for me,” her mother, Beatriz Sanz, said she used to think. But, Sanz was the first of her siblings to get married. [continue reading…]

Frida Kahlo, Role Model for Artists, People with Disabilities and Bisexual Women

Honoring Women with Disabilities During Women’s History Month

Frida Kahlo black and white headshot

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, a Mexican woman who had multiple disabilities including polio as a child and spinal and pelvis damage from a car accident, became a world-renowned self-portrait painter. She has since served as a role model for generations of artists, people with disabilities and bisexual women.

At the age of six, Kahlo was bedridden with polio. The polio virus caused damage to her right leg and foot. She was left with a limp. Her father thought that playing soccer, wrestling and swimming would help her recover.

As a teenager, she was in a car accident. A steel handrail was impaled into her hip and came out the other side. Her spine and pelvis were damaged significantly. While in recovery, she began to paint. [continue reading…]

Selena Gomez Serves as Role Model for Young Women with Disabilities

Honoring Women with Disabilities During Women’s History Month

Selena Gomez wearing a black dress, smiling broadly

Selena Gomez

Three years ago, pop star and actress Selena Gomez strutted onto Ellen DeGeneres stage wearing a black floor-length dress and heels. Her hair was slicked back and wavy. Her face held a look of intention. She sat with both a stiff back and smile and told Ellen and the world what it is like to live with Lupus.

“It is an autoimmune disease; I will have it forever and you just have to take care of yourself,” Gomez told Ellen and the audience. “I can relate to people.”

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack itself, unable to differentiate between its own healthy tissue and invaders. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, 1.5 million people have Lupus in America and five million have it worldwide. [continue reading…]

Deafblind Lawyer Haben Girma Advocates for Disability Rights

Honoring Women with Disabilities During Women’s History Month

headshot of Haben Girma wearing a blue dress and pearls

Haben Girma

Haben Girma has been advocating for herself since she attended elementary school in Oakland, California. She became the first Deafblind person to graduate from law school when she earned her degree from Harvard Law School in 2013. She is a civil rights attorney who advocates for disability rights, a public speaker who travels the country changing people’s perceptions of the disability community in the media and has been featured in Forbes “30 Under 30” and on NBC and NPR.

In 1983, five years before Girma was born, her mother Saba Gebreyesus fled Eritrea, a city in Africa with approximately six million people, taking two weeks to walk to Sudan and sleeping in trees “surrounded by hungry hyenas.” But she was determined to give Girma the opportunities her son wasn’t given; he also was born deafblind. [continue reading…]

Shark Tank Entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran Proves Dyslexics Can Be Successful

Honoring Women with Disabilities During Women’s History Month

Barbara Corcoran pointing toward the camera wearing a blue top and silver necklace

Barbara Corcoran

Barbara Corcoran is an American business woman who started a real estate brokerage business, The Corcoran Group, at the age of 23. Famous for her TV personality on ABC’s Shark Tank as an entrepreneur and judge, she credits her determination and drive to her childhood diagnosis of dyslexia.

“When you cannot pronounce the other words that other kids are reading readily and the kids are laughing at you or are shouting the wrong letter to you, or the wrong syllable to you, it’s as painful as a child that I have never gotten over it. Honest to God, I’m sure of that. And so, when I got out of school, I really decided that I’m going to prove once and for all that I am not stupid,” she said in an interview with Spectrum News NY1. [continue reading…]

Donna Walton Creates Nationwide Movement of Representation with Divas With Disabilities Project

Donna Walton smiling in front of a white wallWashington, D.C., Feb. 27 – “What’s a leg got to do with it?” This is the question Donna Walton poses to her audience in speeches regarding her experience as a woman with a disability. As an amputee, Walton has experienced her fair share of people mistaking her disability for a weakness that supposedly makes her less of a woman. She works to reject that misconception and answers the question she poses to her audience: “Not a thing.” Walton has dedicated her life to reshaping the perception of what a disability looks like and stressing that a disability is not a person’s sole defining trait.

As we celebrate Black History Month, which takes place every February, it is important to recognize the contributions made and the important presence of African Americans to the United States, including the more than 5.6 million African Americans living with a disability in the U.S., 3.4 million of which are working-age African Americans with disabilities. [continue reading…]

This #SpiritDay, Choose Kindness

In support of GLAAD and Disney | ABC Television Group Be Inspired’s #SpiritDay campaign to end bullying, RespectAbility staff and Fellows created a video about the importance of stopping bullying and choosing kindness instead.

RespectAbility, a national nonprofit working to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities, recognizes the importance of ending bullying against LGBTQ individuals, including against those who identify as a member of both the disability and LGBTQ communities. Read about some of RespectAbility’s staff and Fellows’ experiences:

Stephanie Farfan: Using her Voice to Educate People about Visible and Invisible Disabilities

RespectAbility Policy, Practices and Latinx Outreach Associate Stephanie Farfan smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Stephanie Farfan

A young Latina, Stephanie Farfan is both completing her master’s degree and working at RespectAbility, a nonprofit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, as the Policy, Practices and Latinx Outreach Associate. Farfan first joined RespectAbility as a Fellow in the Spring 2018 Cohort. She returned in August as a full time staff member and already has made quite an impact. She was instrumental in the launch of RespectAbility’s new Spanish-language resource guide. She also represented RespectAbility at a Fiesta Educativa conference in California and even appeared on CNN Español to spread the word.

But before she started working at RespectAbility, she participated in interviews for other jobs. One of them, at a nonprofit near her school, sticks out in her mind. She excelled during the first part of the interview. Then, as Farfan puts it:

“The person who would be my direct supervisor came in and her eyes got really wide when she saw me because I’m a Little Person. Suddenly, she believed I couldn’t do the job, even though I was very qualified and it was just a data entry position. She kept telling me ‘I don’t think you’re smart enough. We really need to hire someone who is very intelligent and has very good attention to detail.’ I quipped ‘Well, I have a 4.7 GPA, I think I’ll be fine.’”

Farfan has been more than just fine. She has taken advantage of her unique perspective on life. In fact, she thinks that having a disability has improved her life in certain ways. Being a Little Person has “given me a community and a sense of culture,” she said. “It also shapes the way I see the world around me and how I react to things. If I didn’t have a disability, I wouldn’t have this personality.” [continue reading…]

Labor Day 2018: #RespectTheAbility Campaign Celebrates Model Employers that Demonstrate Inclusive Hiring

#RespectTheAbility campaign spotlights model employers that demonstrate how hiring workers with disabilities benefits the employer, the employee and society

As we celebrate the contributions of workers to our nation’s history and enjoy one last summer weekend, RespectAbility invites you learn about the incredible talents of people with disabilities. We hope you enjoy the amazing success stories captured in our #RespectTheAbility campaign which highlights the benefits companies reap when they hire talented people with disabilities.

“Many companies hire the best talent out there, no matter what package that talent comes in,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. “Employers’ focus should be on the abilities an individual brings to the table to better the organization, not any disabilities the individual may have. It is time for all employers to look beyond the disability and understand the true value of these employees.”

The #RespectTheAbility campaign began by celebrating the success of Ernst & Young LLP as a case study and featured a conference call with Lori Golden, Abilities Strategy Leader from Ernst & Young, on “Disabilities to Diverse Abilities: Changing the Workplace Paradigm.” Arthur Young, co-founder of EY, was deaf and exceptionally talented. [continue reading…]

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