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#RespectTheAbility

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…]

Emmy Award-Winning Show Born This Way Highlights Businesses Owned By People With Disabilities

Rockville, Md., Aug. 29 – Sean McElwee and Megan Bomgaars are talented designers who have sold products featuring their designs to make a living. These entrepreneurs also happen to have Down syndrome.

McElwee and Bomgaars are cast members on Born This Way, an Emmy award-winning unscripted reality television program created by Bunim/Murray Productions and airing on A&E Network. Born This Way stars seven young adults with Down syndrome and their families, and showcases their lives in a positive, accurate way. The fourth season of the hit docuseries highlights McElwee’s and Bomgaars’ businesses, both of which have made remarkable progress in recent months. [continue reading…]

Talented Innovators With Disabilities Showcase Secrets Behind 400% Improvement in New Jobs for People with Disabilities

26 July 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Washington, D.C., July 26, 2018 — A panel of diverse leaders with disabilities and their allies are gathering next Monday, July 30 to discuss key insights into the unprecedented success of hundreds of thousands of Americans with disabilities who entered the workforce last year. This panel, composed of disability employment and workforce development leaders, will be presenting between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. as part of a day long summit sponsored by RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities.

The focus of their discussion will be the fourfold improvement in employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities over the past year. According to Census Bureau data, 343,483 more people with disabilities joined the American workforce in 2016. This compares to only 87,201 in the previous year. The panel will explore the key factors driving these unprecedented successes. [continue reading…]

A Reflection on Truth and Acceptance: When Fear Finds a Home

Headshot of Daniel in professional dress

Daniel

It has never been a struggle for me to open up about who I am. In fact, the countless compliments I receive of “you’re so introspective” from peers and adult figures reassured me over the years that I was a certified expert at introspection. I told myself every morning the summer before my freshmen year at college that I had dug and filled all the holes inside me. Had I known I would struggle with depression and anxiety my first two years of college, I would have dug deeper.

I thought it was ignorance at first, but then I told myself “How could I have known any better.” I loved men, not women, and there was no mistaking it. On a tear-filled phone call with my parents on my 20th birthday sophomore year, I told my parents I was gay. I strongly sensed that they’d be accepting, but nonetheless I still had my anxieties and doubts. Once I heard their I-love-you-regardless-of-who-you-love speeches, I felt calmness in my heart. The truth was out there, and I felt brilliant. [continue reading…]

Learning About Myself and Coming Into My Own

Headshot of Lily in professional dress in front of RespectAbility banner

Lily

Growing up, I never knew that being gay was an option. Sure, I would see the occasional couple in public, or overhear something on the radio, but I knew who I was. I was a girl, and girls liked boys. I was naturally drawn to women. All my idols were high achieving girls, and I had intensely personal friendships with girls my age. Looking back, this early conflict between my concept of what I should be, and the person I was rapidly becoming was surely a major aspect of the mental health struggles I would come to face as I grew older. [continue reading…]

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