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Watch Speechless on ABC, Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ET.

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Micah Fowler on the Red Carpet at the Creative Arts Emmys

Micah Fowler

Los Angeles, California, Nov. 5 — In the U.S., schools were not required to provide special education until 1975. Today, the fight for inclusive education remains a constant battle for parents and students. Speechless, a comedy starring Micah Fowler, a young adult with cerebral palsy, as J.J., a high school senior with cerebral palsy, shines the spotlight on the importance of young adults taking over the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process as they grow older.

Creating an IEP, an individual education plan that outlines what a student with a disability needs to be successful in school, can be a daunting challenge for parents and often stressful as there is much to consider when determining the education of a child. The implementation of an IEP is integral for children with disabilities. An IEP is a formal plan for students who have been identified to need accommodations specific to their individual disability in the public-school system. In addition to accommodations, the classroom can be tailored within a general classroom, a smaller group or one-on-one instruction. [read more…]

Winner of the 2018 Christopher Reeve Acting Scholarship, Media Access Awards

Delbert Whetter, Tatiana Lee and Lauren Appelbaum on the Red Carpet at the Media Access Awards

Delbert Whetter, Tatiana Lee and Lauren Appelbaum on the Red Carpet at the Media Access Awards

Beverly Hills, California, Nov. 2 – There is a conspicuous lack of disability representation in media. The Center for Disease Control estimates that nearly one in five Americans has some type of disability. Yet people with disabilities often are absent in acting, advertising and modeling. Today’s beauty standards often do not include depictions of disabilities. Tatiana Lee, an actress and model with Spina Bifida, is working on improving representation of disabilities in media. “Society is ready for disability representation,” she says.

Lee’s work toward inclusion within the worlds of both modeling and acting led to her receiving the Christopher Reeves Acting Scholarship at the Media Access Awards, which recently has formed a partnership with Easterseals Southern California, Thursday. The ceremony honors media and entertainment trailblazers advancing disability awareness and inclusion.

“Thank you all for giving me the tools to have a fighting chance to finally not feel invisible to the world and to ensure that future generations don’t feel the same,” Lee said while accepting the award. “I’m so honored and I will continue this journey and do all I can to ensure Hollywood is accessible to anyone else that dares to dream big!” [read more…]

As we all know, on Shabbat October 27th, The Tree of Life synagogue was holding three congregational services at the same time. One involved a baby naming ceremony. Our name is part of our identity, and our identity is something that we continue to develop as we age. David and Cecil Rosenthal had multiple pieces to their identity. Besides their name, they were brothers, members of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, “Yinzers”, Americans, and people with disabilities. However, they were both killed because of one aspect of their identity: they were Jewish. Let that sink in. The Rosenthal brothers were victims of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre because of this one aspect of their identity.

Jews have a history of being subjected to violence. As a child, during the Passover holiday, the older generations taught me about our persecution and enslavement in Egypt. Later, I learned about the Holocaust and the genocide of the Jewish people. I learned how Jews had to flee their homes, places they once thought were safe, so they would not have their name and their identity stripped away, replaced by a tattooed number on their forearms. As an adult I thought the violence against Jews had ended—at least in the U.S. I thought that the historical hatred was fading. On October 27th, the perpetrator reminded me and all fellow Jews and humanity of the evil in the world. The perpetrator reminded the Jewish community that some people hate us. The perpetrator, whose name I refuse to write, decided to act upon this evil and hatred.

When there is a tragedy, rather than focusing on the perpetrator and his identity, it is important to talk about and remember the victims. David and Cecil were 54 and 59 years old, respectively. They both had developmental disabilities and lived independently in a group home. Their home. They received residential supports through ACHIEVA, an organization that supports and empowers people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Achieva also helps find permanent jobs for people with disabilities, increasing Pittsburgh’s progress in hiring people with disabilities. [read more…]

Speakers from the Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative with RespectAbility staff and Fellows in front of the RespectAbility banner

Speakers from the Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative with RespectAbility Staff and Fellows

Rockville, Maryland, Oct. 31 – Having the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill can seem like a prestigious honor that is out of reach for many, especially those who are part of minority groups such as members of the disabled community. However, the Senate Diversity Initiative (SDI) is working to ensure that congressional office staff is more inclusive of Americans across a spectrum of race, socioeconomic status, creed, sexual orientation and even disability. The hope is that this diversity can be accomplished by connecting Hill offices with skilled candidates who have diverse backgrounds through a managed database.

Sam Flood, the Diversity Initiative Research Aide, came to speak with the RespectAbility fellows about his program and how they can participate. Flood started with an overview of the Senate Diversity Initiative and then explained how a candidate can apply and what positions could be open for them. [read more…]

Images of Micah Fowler, two people from the ODEP PSA, and Chris Ulmer. Text: NDEAM 2018Los Angeles, California, Oct. 31 – All month RespectAbility, a nonprofit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, has been celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). More than 343,000 Americans with disabilities got new jobs last year, a fourfold improvement in job gains compared to the previous year. An annual celebration, NDEAM is dedicated to raising awareness about disability employment issues and celebrating the incredible contributions of people with disabilities.

In a PSA he created for RespectAbility, Micah Fowler called attention to the fact that while “more than 300,000 people with disabilities joined the American workforce last year, there are over 14 million more people with disabilities who still want to work.”

So he issued a simple challenge: “I challenge each and every company and corporation in America to hire at least one person with a disability before the end of 2018.”

[read more…]

U.S. Senate seal. Text: Disability Employment: Outdated Laws Leave People with Disabilities Behind in Today’s Economy Minority Staff ReportWashington D.C., Oct. 31 – During October 2018, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (WA) and the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) wrote a report entitled “Outdated Laws Leave People with Disabilities Behind in Today’s Economy.”  The report claims that laws are not up to date with current disability employment policy and provides an update about the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014.

The report reflects on the modern legal landscape that directly supports the success of the 56 million Americans living with disabilities. Modern disability employment policy includes five laws: the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act of 2008, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Underpinning the success of these laws is the legal framework created by the landmark 1999 decision made by the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C. That decision calls for “the most integrated appropriate setting” also has critical consequences for efforts to get more people with disabilities into the workforce. Likewise, 36 states have passed Employment First laws which were created by state level policy makers to support competitive integrative employment for people with disabilities. [read more…]

headshot of Gail Williamson

Gail Williamson

Beverly Hills, California, Oct. 30 — As the “only agent in the country with a specialty of representing actors with disabilities,” Gail Williamson says that it is her ultimate goal that the need for specialty agents is eliminated. Someday, she hopes, agents, casting directors and producers will be able to accommodate actors with disabilities themselves, without needing to call her. First and foremost, Williamson considers herself an advocate for people with disabilities.

“I’m not an agent because I love being an agent. I’m an agent because I love the power of changing society through images,” she said. “I love that a simple image can change [people’s] minds.”

Williamson will be presented with the Norman Lear – Geri Jewell Lifetime Achievement Award at the Media Access Awards, which recently has formed a partnership with Easterseals Southern California, on November 1, 2018. The ceremony honors media and entertainment trailblazers advancing disability awareness and inclusion. Williamson is an indispensable advocate for disability representation in television and film. She demonstrates that with a simple phrase: “Any kid with Down syndrome in the U.S. who wants to act, I’ve probably got their picture.”

“We are honored to present the Norman Lear – Geri Jewell Lifetime Achievement Award to Gail Williamson who has done so much for the inclusion of people with disabilities in media,” said Deborah Calla, Chair of the Media Access Awards. “Gail was knocking on doors decades ago when the conversation about inclusion wasn’t a conversation at all. We owe her so much.” [read more…]

Gov. Christopher Sununu headshot

Gov. Christopher Sununu

Washington, D.C., Oct. 30 – Gov. Christopher Sununu officially has proclaimed October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in New Hampshire.

“People with disabilities bring a diverse array of talent, vision, and skill to their place of work, their communities, and our state,” said Sununu in the proclamation. “With a growing economy, businesses need talented employees to meet their needs and workplaces that welcome the talents of all people, including people with disabilities, and help to create more inclusive workplaces and a stronger economy.”

This proclamation comes after a year of steady job growth. Last year, people with disabilities gained 1,335 jobs in New Hampshire. [read more…]

Gov. Matt Bevin headshot

Gov. Matt Bevin

Washington D.C., Oct. 30 – Governor Matt Bevin has declared October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in Kentucky.

“National Disability Employment Awareness Month recognizes the contribution people with disabilities add to our society as well as the value and talent they add to our workplaces,” writes Bevin in his proclamation. “Workplaces, welcoming the talents of…people with disabilities, are a critical part of building an inclusive community and strong economy.”

The Proclamation also highlights other state efforts to support and empower Kentuckians with disabilities. Bevin called attention to the impactful work of Kentucky’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation that has “played a critical role in serving individuals with significant disabilities since….1910” and the recent work done by the Work Matters Task Force launched in 2016 “to address barriers to employment.”

This proclamation follows a tremendous year of job growth for Kentuckians with disabilities who got 18,349 new jobs. [read more…]

Gov. Jerry Brown headshot

Gov. Jerry Brown

Washington, D.C., Oct. 30 – Gov. Jerry Brown has proclaimed October 2018 to be Disability Employment Awareness Month in California.

“For thirty years, the month of October as a time to acknowledge the positive role that people with disabilities have in our workforce and their contributions to the well-being of our state,” writes Brown in the proclamation. “There are an estimated 4 million people in California with a wide spectrum of disabilities. By supporting the employment of these talented workers, organizations are not only contributing to employees’ independence and equality, but also to the financial strength of their company.”

“I call on all Californians to join me in recognizing the importance of their role in our shared future,” he added.

This proclamation followed a tremendous year of job growth for Californians with disabilities. Last year, across the Golden State, 19,398 people with disabilities got new jobs. [read more…]

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