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Samford student fights stigma in Washington, D.C.

Jolie Carr smiling in front of the RespectAbility bannerWashington, D.C., September 15, 2019 – After spending the summer working for a disability advocacy group, Samford University senior Jolie Carr plans to bring her newfound knowledge of disability issues back to campus. Over the summer, Carr helped recruit volunteers and plan a Capitol Hill summit for RespectAbility, a national nonprofit working to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities.

“Disability is largely a social issue,” Carr states. “Fighting stigmas is so important – once people start seeing people with disabilities as equal, the equality in employment, representation and inclusion will follow.” [continue reading…]

New York City, Sept. 15 – Nearly 500,000 women and girls with disabilities live in New York City, with a stunning 44 percent of New York women with disabilities living below the poverty line. Hence, ensuring the inclusion of diverse women with disabilities in civic engagement, nonprofits, foundations and government sectors is vital. After all, people with disabilities themselves know the solutions that are best able to create progress.

Women with disabilities are underrepresented significantly when it comes to civic engagement in the nonprofit, foundation and government sectors. In the name of inclusion and equity, it is imperative that women – including women with disabilities – take a place and secure a space as active participants and leaders in these civic-centered sectors: as employees, volunteers and board members.

RespectAbility, a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit, fights stigmas and advances opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. To this end, the organization launched the unprecedented Women’s Disability Leadership, Inclusion & Advocacy empowerment training series in New York City. [continue reading…]

GW Graduate Student in Health Policy to Fight for Disability Rights

Laka Mitiku Negassa hugs a man who helped her recover from her brain injury at RespectAbility's 2019 summitWashington, D.C., September 14, 2019 – Laka Mitiku Negassa imagined she would spend her career in research or medicine, learning how the brain works. But a serious accident that caused a traumatic brain injury set her on a different track – to campaign for the rights and care of people with disabilities.

Negassa, a graduate health policy student at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, has begun her career in advocacy this summer as a policy Fellow with RespectAbility, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. [continue reading…]

Adam Fishbein singing the national anthem in front of an American flag with Debbie Fink accompanying him on violin.Washington, D.C., September 13, 2019 – Disability advocate and Philadelphia native Adam Fishbein recently completed a Fellowship with RespectAbility, a Washington, D.C.-based disability rights group, where he promoted the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish community. Fishbein, who grew up in Elkins Park, Penn., recently graduated from American University. He currently is pursuing a Master of Public Administration from AU while serving as Senate Diversity Initiative Intern with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

For Fishbein, RespectAbility’s work aligns with one of his core Jewish values: areyvut, or communal responsibility. “We as a society have a sacred obligation to fully include and empower people with disabilities.” Fishbein said. “Through RespectAbility, I have had the opportunity to fulfill this obligation.” [continue reading…]

Four Candidates – Biden, Booker, Warren, Yang – Have Made Substantial Improvements in Website Accessibility

Photos of the 13 candidates covered in the Miami Lighthouse Report. Text: 2020 Campaign AccessibilityWashington, D.C., Sept. 12 – Nearly three months after a report by the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired found that all of the presidential candidates’ websites block democratic access to voters who are blind or have low vision, an update finds that still none of these websites – Democrat or Republican – are fully accessible. However, the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind found that many of the candidates’ websites do show improvements in accessibility.

The organization issued a challenge for the candidates in June: “ensure their websites are fully ADA compliant and immediately put an accessibility statement on their page.” Four of the candidates now have an accessibility statement on their websites, including both a live email address and phone number that users can contact for additional assistance: Joe BidenCory BookerElizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang. Since the report first launched on June 26, 2019, each of these four presidential campaigns also have contacted Miami Lighthouse for Blind for counsel in updating their websites. [continue reading…]

Woodbridge native aspires to make a name for herself in politics

Angelica Vega smiling in front of the RespectAbility bannerWashington, D.C., September 12, 2019 – Woodbridge native Angelica Vega, who usually spends her summer volunteering at the Woodbridge Main Library, packed up her books and headed to Washington, D.C., to work at a leading disability rights group. Vega just completed a prestigious National Leadership Fellowship this summer with RespectAbility, a nonprofit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

For Vega, disability rights for all students is very important to her. As a former student of the Woodbridge Public School District, Vega credits much of her success to exceptional teachers devoted to her academic and personal development.

“Teachers such as Janice Lammers (School #9), Eric Stadtmiller (Woodbridge High School) and Christina Pastor (Avenel Middle School) helped me grow as a scholar and leader and left a lasting impact on my life,” Vega said. “Now, I hope to pay their lessons forward. I want to work on education and employment policy to make sure students with disabilities and other diverse identities are guaranteed to have great teachers like them in their lives.” [continue reading…]

Disability Representation in Film Falls to Four-Year Low

Los Angeles, California, Sept. 10 – Unlike in television, where disability representation has gone up in recent years, the percentage of characters with disabilities in the top 1,200 films has hit a four-year low. Just 1.6 percent of the 4,445 speaking characters analyzed have a disability, according to the study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Five of these films revolved around an underrepresented leading character with a disability and one showcased a leading character from the LGBT community.

“Including characters with disabilities does not happen by accident,” said Lauren Appelbaum, who leads RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion efforts as the organization’s Vice President of Communications and author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit. “What we see on screen influences how we act in real life, but that is dependent on filmmakers choosing to include individuals with disabilities in diverse and accurate portrayals. Thus, when just fewer than two percent of films include speaking characters with disabilities, the disability community is pretty much erased on screen. When filmmakers choose to include characters with disabilities, they can help to remove the stigmas that currently exist about interacting with individuals with disabilities.” [continue reading…]

Illinois athlete believes current perceptions amount to ‘inspiration porn’

Ana Kohout, a constituent of Illinois, shakes hands with Senator Tammy Duckworth.

Ana Kohout and Senator Tammy Duckworth

Washington, D.C., September 10, 2019 – Anastazia Kohout, an Illinois native with spina bifida whose competitive swimming career has cast her in the spotlight, wants people to see her individuality before her disability.

Kohout just completed a summer Fellowship with Respectability, a nonprofit that fights stigmas and advances opportunities for people with disabilities. With the skills and confidence she gained this summer, Kohout will lead empowerment training for women with disabilities when she returns to Beloit College this fall. [continue reading…]

Jonathan Koch smiling wearing a suit in front of a grey backdropRockville, Maryland, September 9 – Jonathan Koch, an Emmy Award-winning television producer and successful entrepreneur, was a speaker for RespectAbility’s Summer 2019 National Leadership Fellows. The hour-long discussion focused on his career path, before and after he became disabled, and how to be successful at pitching yourself.

Koch started his career as an agent for the 90s child star Candace Cameron and many other famous child actors. In 2003, he partnered with Steve Michaels to start Asylum Entertainment, a Los Angeles-based television production company. He was the President and Chief Creative Officer of Asylum Entertainment until they sold it to Legendary Entertainment for $100 million in 2014. A year later, Koch became desperately ill, causing doctors to amputate his right leg and left hand. [continue reading…]

Washington, D.C., September 7 – Before delivering the keynote address at RespectAbility’s Capitol Hill Summit, Ollie Cantos was racing through the halls of the Rayburn Building after being stuck in the notoriously long security lines, hoping to arrive at the Summit on time.

When he entered the room and began speaking, he immediately captivated the audience. Cantos, who is the Special Assistant to the Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education and Member of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID), highlighted the changes that have taken place in the disability community and the challenges still ahead, noting tensions within the disability community such as new and old ways of thinking amid polarizing political times. Some people with disabilities still are being housed in institutions, while some are out fighting for them to be let out. He emphasized that active members of the disability community are obligated to come together and speak up for themselves. Cantos described the process as “an ongoing journey of transformation and change.” [continue reading…]

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