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#RespectTheAbility

Richard Branson: Dyslexia is an Opportunity

Richard Branson smiling with arms crossed, wearing a black top

Richard Branson

Rockville, Md., Oct. 3 – Richard Branson always has had a “go getter attitude” in life, even when it comes to his dyslexia.

“Dyslexia is a kind of disability, but actually it’s an opportunity if you turn it into such,” he said during the SkyBridge Capital’s SALT Conference in Las Vegas.

As a child, Branson struggled in school with his dyslexia, failing at the all-boy school Scaitcliffe. When he was 13, he transferred to the Stowe school, a boarding school in Buckinghamshire, England. His struggles in school did not get any better, so at the age of 16, he dropped out of school.

This led to the beginning of his entrepreneur career; he started a magazine that was made by and for students. Called Student, the first edition sold an estimated 8,000 advertisements, enabling him to give out the first 50,000 copies for free.

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Daymond John: Clothing Entrepreneur and “Shark Tank” Star with Dyslexia

#RESPECTTHEABILITY CAMPAIGN:

Spotlight on FUBU’s Daymond John

Headshot of Daymon John in grayscale with text: #RespectTheAbility, “I see the world in a different way than most people and for me, that’s been a positive thing.” - Daymond John, Black History Month 2018

“I see the world in a different way than most people and for me, that’s been a positive thing.” – Daymond John

Rockville, Md., Oct. 2 – Growing up, Daymond John struggled in elementary school, where he was diagnosed with a general “learning disability” without being provided many resources or support. Today, John boasts unimaginable success as a multimillionaire and entrepreneur as the co-founder and CEO of FUBU and a shark on The Shark Tank.

John credits his dyslexia with setting him on his path to entrepreneurial success. “I see the world in a different way than most people and for me that’s been a positive thing,” he said in an interview with AOL.

When John went to school in the 1970’s, the public still lacked information on dyslexia, so children with the disability were given a general diagnosis of a learning disability, like John was. His math and science skills were exceptional, but his reading and writing grades were below average. The entrepreneur was anxious about his difficulty reading and writing until 1999, when he finally saw a medical professional who diagnosed him as dyslexic.

“It was like a light bulb went off. I finally understood why I struggled the way I did,” John said in an interview with AOL.

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From Rags to Riches: Overcoming the Odds with Sheldon Adelson

#RESPECTTHEABILITY CAMPAIGN:

Spotlight on Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson headshot

Sheldon Adelson

Rockville, Md., Oct. 2 – Forbes’ 20th richest entrepreneur in the United States just so happens to use a mobility device due to disability issues.

Sheldon Adelson, 84, grew up with nothing – living during the 1930’s-40’s in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Massachusetts: Dorchester.

“I didn’t know we were poor, but we were very poor,” he said during a testimony. “Church mice were rather affluent compared to our family.”

However, his past shaped Adelson’s everlasting drive and ability to overcome the odds, making him a candidate for RespectAbility’s #RespectTheAbility campaign, which highlights companies that either are run by or employ people with disabilities. An estimated 15 percent of people who own businesses have a disability. In this classic ‘rags to riches’ story, Adelson grows from an impoverished young boy living in (at the time) gang-riddled Boston to becoming a self-made entrepreneur with a net worth of more than 3.6 billion dollars.

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Ernst & Young (EY): Co-Founded by Super-Talent with Disabilities, Now Employs More Than 230,000 People

#RespectTheAbility Campaign:

Spotlight on Ernst & Young (EY)’s Co-Founder Arthur Young

Rockville, Md., Oct. 2 – Located at 5 Times Square, the red letters of Ernst & Young LLP (EY) glow on the side of its New York City offices. It’s been said that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere; and if you have an office in Times Square, in the heart of the city, you’ve truly arrived. That’s the global headquarters of EY, which was co-founded by Arthur Young. Trained as a lawyer, Arthur was deaf with low vision and he wasn’t able to comfortably practice. He turned to finance and the new field of accounting to build his career. His “disability” drove him to innovation and entrepreneurship, which played a pivotal role in the development of EY.

EY is where some of the most talented individuals from across the globe come together to offer services that have turned the organization into an international success, with offices in more than 150 different countries employing more than 230,000 people. A largely unknown factor in EY’s success is the example instilled by founding partner Arthur Young, who because of his disabilities adapted to learn how to think outside of the box. Over the years, EY has continued this trend of hiring the best talent, no matter what package that talent comes in.

By focusing on inclusion across the board, EY has opened the organization to a wide range of talented people, who contribute a wide range of ideas, which has ultimately resulted in tremendous success for the organization. As a result of its inclusiveness efforts, EY was selected by RespectAbility and Positive EXPOSURE, two nonprofit organizations working to enable people with disabilities to be seen for the strong abilities they bring to the table, as the first organization featured when the #RespectTheAbility campaign began.

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#RespectTheAbility Campaign: Spotlight on UCLA Medical Center

#RESPECTTHEABILITY CAMPAIGN: SPOTLIGHT ON PROJECT SEARCH

Job Openings in Healthcare Market Growing: Employees with Disabilities Help Hospitals Help Patients

A young woman answering the phone

“It felt like freedom,” Corinna Hitchman, storekeeper in materials management, said when she was offered a job in the unit where was interning.

Los Angeles, Calif., Feb. 17 – Filing, answering phones, providing customer service and making linen orders are just a few of the tasks Lily Fischer-Gilday completes in her rotation as an office assistant at the PathPoint Project SEARCH site at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica.

Fischer-Gilday is learning skills transferable to many industries, working alongside her supervisor Remy Abraham, who previously served as a job coach for the program. In September 2016, she began a yearlong program that has a greater than 70 percent success rate in ensuring its participants, all of whom have a developmental disability, find appropriate employment in an integrated setting.

“I’m an office assistant,” Fischer-Gilday proudly stated when asked about her position. “This is my first rotation. For my second rotation I hope to be trying out making badges. That seems pretty cool.”

At UCLA Medical Center and at other hospitals around the county, Project SEARCH interns work throughout the hospital, assisting the regularly employed staff in any task they need help fulfilling. Participation in the internship provides employers with great talent and the interns are compensated with work experience they can take with them into the competitive labor market.

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#RespectTheAbility Campaign: Spotlight on Embassy Suites by Hilton Omaha-La Vista

#RESPECTTHEABILITY CAMPAIGN: SPOTLIGHT ON PROJECT SEARCH

Embassy Suites by Hilton Omaha-La Vista is Prime Example of Progress of Jobs for People with Disabilities

a woman with a disability working as a barista offers a customer a coffee as an example of the #RespectTheAbility campaign

Embassy Suites by Hilton Omaha-La Vista

Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 2 – David Scott is a charismatic Australian immigrant who has been showcasing the American values of opportunity at Embassy Suites by Hilton Omaha-La Vista. The message that he has for the hospitality industry is simple: “Hiring people with disabilities is just simply great for business!”

Indeed, the Embassy Suites Omaha-La Vista in Nebraska has consistently ranked as the only hotel property to have achieved the #1 ranking for quality, service and guest satisfaction three times. Determined to continue this trend, management was faced with the question: How do we keep this momentum going? Their answer came to them when they were approached by their local school district to be a partner as a Project SEARCH host site.

Project SEARCH is an internship program for transitioning students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students are immersed in the workplace where they participate in three 10-week rotations to learn transferable job skills and explore career options. Project SEARCH was launched in 1997 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1997 as a way to fill high-turnover positions, and help youth with disabilities prepare for adult life. Since then, this model program has grown rapidly to nearly 500 host sites in 48 states and four countries.

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#RespectTheAbility Campaign Celebrates Model Employers that Demonstrate Inclusive Hiring on All Levels

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

RespectAbility’s #RespectTheAbility campaign highlights the benefits companies reap when they hire talented people with disabilities. Using the hashtag #RespectTheAbility, the campaign hopes to ultimately erase negative and untrue stigmas associated with hiring 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 in August 2014 with a focus on 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.” The 2015 campaign launched on the heels of the U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)’s first Disability Equality Index (DEI) naming 19 companies as DEI Best Places to Work. Developed by the DEI Advisory Committee, a diverse group of business leaders, policy experts, and disability advocates, the DEI is a national, transparent benchmarking tool that offers businesses an opportunity to receive an objective score, on a scale of zero to 100, on their disability inclusion policies and practices.

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#RespectTheAbility Campaign: Em’s Coffee Company

#RespectTheAbility Campaign: Spotlight on Iowa

Em’s Coffee Company: Bringing Independence To Independence, Iowa

Emilea Hillman, owner of Em’s Coffee Co.

Emilea Hillman, owner of Em’s Coffee Co.

Independence, Iowa, Jan. 22 – “I like to be the boss.”

That’s one thing Em’s Coffee Co. owner Emilea Hillman likes most about being self-employed.

In a town that has seen several coffee shops go out of business after only two years, Em’s Coffee Co. continues to be a strong, vibrant business since its opening six years ago.  Hillman, who arrives at 6 a.m. to make the coffee and open her business, is seriously committed to her work, her employees, and her customers.

Hillman is well known in Iowa for leaving a segregated workshop and becoming a business owner with the support of her family, the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services’ Self-Employment Program and other agencies. Born with a congenital condition causing a lack of nerve tissue connecting the left and right side of her brain, her parents were given little hope that she would learn to walk or talk, much less that she would ever be gainfully employed.

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#RespectTheAbility Campaign: Spotlight on the Spece Brothers

#RespectTheAbility Campaign: Spotlight on Iowa

Physical Limitations Don’t Stop the Spece Brothers From Making Their Dreams Come True

Independence, Iowa, Jan. 21 – Brothers Jake and Josh Spece may have spinal muscular atrophy and use wheelchairs to get around, but neither allows his physical limitations to get in the way of his dreams.

Josh Spece, Sue Spece, and Sue’s mother, JoAnn Johnston

Josh Spece, Sue Spece, and Sue’s mother, JoAnn Johnston

While Jake owns Johnston Creek Farms, where he provides customized feeding and tending of baby calves for farms and agribusiness in the area, his brother Josh owns and operates In The Country Garden and Gifts, a garden and gift shop located on the family dairy farm. Josh founded the shop business in 1998 with some artistic collaboration from his mother, Sue Spece.

High expectations and family engagement are key parts of promoting independence and improving employment outcomes for young people with disabilities. It is clear Sue Spece instilled this spirit in her sons from an early age, which is a big factor in ensuring positive results.

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#RespectTheAbility Campaign: Spotlight on Kwik Trip

#RespectTheAbility Campaign: Spotlight on Kwik Trip

Kwik Trip’s Retail Helper Program a “Blueprint” for Other Companies

Exterior of a Kwik Trip Store

Exterior of a Kwik Trip Store

Washington, Dec. 28 – Officially, Luke Cohran’s title at Kwik Trip’s Store 761 in La Crosse, Wisc. is retail helper. Unofficially? He’s the store singer. Whether he’s cleaning the gas pumps, restocking the coolers or checking inventory, 23-year-old Cochran can be found crooning.

“Our customers get such a joy out of Luke,” says Terry Johnson, the store leader who hired Cochran just over a year ago through the Wisconsin-based company’s Retail Helper program, which employs people with disabilities. Job duties include stocking, cleaning and food preparation, with shifts built around employees’ bus schedules. To start, employees work a maximum of 15 hours a week, a schedule that allows them to continue to receive disability benefits while gaining skills and independence. Once they master their job skills, they may apply for other positions at the stores.

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