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Solange Knowles: Role Model for African American Performers with Disabilities

Solange Knowles wearing a black and yellow dress smiling for the camera

Solange Knowles

When it comes to the traditional expectations of a pop star in Hollywood, Solange Knowles shatters the glass ceiling as a woman of color who also happens to be diagnosed with a disability that affects 10 percent of the U.S. population: ADHD. Knowles has been outspoken about her ADHD, educating people about her disability.

Through her impressive resume that includes music, art, dance and acting, Knowles is recognized as an elite in her industry. As a Soul Train Award recipient, an honoree at Glamour’s Women of the Year 2017 Awards, and, of course, holding a Grammy which celebrates her debut album “A Seat at the Table,” Knowles shares a positive portrayal of women of color in the art scene. It is no secret that Knowles is a powerhouse through her unique artistry.

“I was diagnosed with ADHD twice,” Knowles said. “I didn’t believe the first doctor who told me, and I had a whole theory that ADHD was just something they invented to make you pay for medicine, but then the second doctor told me I had it.”

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Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott ‘Works it,’ Serves as Role Model for Young Women with Disabilities

At the height of her career, Missy Elliott experienced a dramatic and dangerous weight loss; she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, which attacks the thyroid.

Missy Elliot smiling for the camera, dressed in a black and white outift

Missy Elliott

Forty-six-year-old businesswoman, rapper and Grammy award winner Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott never has had it easy. She was born and raised in a “rat infested shack” in Virginia. As a child, she watched her father brutalize her mother and at the age of 14, she was raped by her cousin. It was only after begging her mother to leave her father did the two women escape and Elliott began the start of what was going to be a tumultuous and exceptional career.

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IBM: Recruiting Talent with Disabilities, Serving Customers with Disabilities

Rockville, Md., Oct. 25 – IBM always has been inclusive of the disability community ever since they first hired a person with a disability in 1914. Since then, the company has taken numerous steps and created various programs to ensure that people with disabilities are well accommodated for within their organization and that their consumers with disabilities are provided with accessible and sound products.

More than 25 years ago, Yves Veulliet, a wheelchair user, started as an entry-level administrative assistant at IBM.

“IBM already had very high accessibility standards back then and I could work without any obstacles,” he said. “All my colleagues could interact with me easily and I felt completely autonomous.”

In 2005 he was promoted to Global Disability & Inclusion Manager. “To me, it was a way of paying back IBM for all they allowed me to be and become in my professional path.”

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Accessibility Through Innovation is Model of Success

Comcast NBCUniversal sends message “status quo is not good enough”

Rockville, Md., Oct. 25 – Tom Wlodkowski, who is blind, loves TV.  He knows first-hand that, contrary to conventional wisdom, he’s not the only blind or vision-impaired person who is passionate about entertainment and news media. Indeed, millions of vision-impaired people love to watch television. However, since blind and low-vision people could not access the menus for the hundreds of channels that Comcast offers, Comcast was missing out on customers – and vision-impaired people were missing a lot of shows.

Because of Wlodkowski, who is Vice President, Accessibility for Comcast Cable, and his team, Comcast invented a new interface to solve the problem so that vision-impaired customers could use their remote controls to choose their favorite shows. The navigational text of the set top box is announced in speech when highlighted by the push of a button on the remote. It is the nation’s first talking cable TV interface.

Tom Wlodkowski holding a remote in front of a wall mounted TV showing a baseball game

Tom Wlodkowski, Vice President, Accessibility for Comcast Cable, demonstrates how a blind person can access Comcast’s vast offerings.

Comcast as a company, as well as its customers with vision-impairments, each benefited by the fact that Comcast has people with disabilities in leadership positions and throughout its team. As a company, Comcast understands the importance of making its products and services open to all users, regardless of their abilities. People with disabilities serve in various roles throughout the company.

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Freddie Mac Enlists Employees on the Autism Spectrum

People with Autism Possess Skills that Strengthen Workforce

Rockville, Md., Oct. 25 – “An untapped reservoir of talent.”

This is how Megan Pierouchakos, Diversity Manager at Freddie Mac until earlier this year, describes a commonly overlooked segment of candidates poised to work for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation.

Since 2011, Freddie Mac and The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) have partnered to create internship opportunities for recent college graduates on the autism spectrum. These interns gain experience and enter the workforce of a leading American company. Through Freddie Mac, the interns are able to access valuable work experience that suit their specific skill set. In return, Freddie Mac gets new and talented recruits.

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National Employment & Disability Survey Shows Few Companies Have “Disability” as a Part of Their Diversity Efforts

Companies that do include people with disabilities, however, find it successful

Graphic Text: Kessler Foundation 2017 National Employment Disability Survey Supervisor PerspectiveWashington, D.C., Oct. 17 – A new study, entitled the National Employment and Disability Survey Supervisor Perspectives and conducted by the University of New Hampshire, was released in the U.S. Capitol in honor of the National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The survey showed that very few companies have an intentional plan as a part of their diversity efforts to include people with disabilities. Indeed, while 28 percent of organizations have disability hiring goals, only 12 percent of companies include disability as part of their diversity efforts. In comparison, 45 percent have hiring goals for other types of diversity. Even though disability advocates are saying that disability is part of diversity in the workplace, that message is still not getting across to businesses.

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Florida Blue Takes Action to Improve Services for Customers With Disabilities

2017 Employer of the Year designs system to educate its health care providers

Meagan Mauney headshot

Meagan Mauney

Rockville, Md., Oct. 17 – “They snatch you. They push you. They’ll grab you around the shoulders and push you along.”

So says Meagan Mauney, who is legally blind, of how people who are blind are often treated by the uniformed.

Mauney, Accessibility Consultant for Florida Blue, is working to change this through education and Florida Blue’s Distinction Program, which offers its customers a way to choose more mindful and educated practitioners.

“Leverage the resources around you,” Mauney says.

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Booz Allen Hamilton: 2016 Employee of the Year has Hidden Disabilities

Rockville, Md., Oct. 17 – For Eli Hinson, a Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) Associate who has dyslexia and a hearing impairment, “having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t reach for the stars.”

“Don’t let your disability stop you from doing what you enjoy whether it’s a career or whether it’s a hobby,” said Hinson.

Hinson was named 2016 employee of the year, an award that recognizes “the professional and personal achievements of outstanding individuals with disabilities.”

“I’m proud to work for a firm that supports all its employees and provides them with the tools and environment they need for success,” said Hinson.

Hinson leads the management consulting firm’s diverseAbility forum, which was created to educate and build awareness for all employees on disability-related issues in the workplace. She is a member of BAH’s section 508 Community of Practice (CoP), which endorses the firm’s inclusion initiatives, as well as a dynamic presenter on BAH’s Disability Mentoring Day.

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Microsoft: A Commitment to Inclusiveness for Employees with Disabilities

Rockville, Md., Oct. 17 – Jenny Lay-Flurrie is the senior director for accessibility, online safety and privacy at Microsoft. She also has been deaf nearly her whole life. However, she has not always had total hearing loss, and found that the condition had been continually getting worse as time went on. Surprisingly, no one in the Microsoft office had known about Lay-Flurrie’s hearing loss until after a year had passed in the office, at which point her hearing had gotten bad enough that she felt she could no longer efficiently do her job. However, once she asked for help, Microsoft immediately took action and offered assistance and was willing to help accommodate her in any way.

Jenny Lay Flurrie playing the clarinet on her deck

Jenny Lay Flurrie

“It took me a long time to figure out my disability is a strength. We are born problem solvers, loyal, and driven. I wouldn’t change my journey for the world – it’s made me who I am – but there is a smarter way to do this,” Lay-Flurrie said. “There is so much that I can do to help others personally and in my role at Microsoft. There are a billion people with disabilities in the world. We’ve got to get it right for them.”

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Highlighting Latinos with Disabilities in Honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Michelle Rodriguez looking fierce

Michelle Rodriguez on set

Rockville, Md., Oct. 16 – The country just finished celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month, which began on September 15, 2017 and ended October 15, 2017. National Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrates their heritage and culture. It is important to note this includes 4,869,400 Latinos living with a disability in the U.S.

Only 37 percent of working-age Latinos with disabilities are employed in the U.S., compared to 73.9 percent of working-age Latinos without disabilities. This is in line with the rest of the country, with fully one-in-five Americans having a disability and just 30 percent of those who are working-age being employed, despite polls showing that most of them want to work.

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