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National Voter Registration Day

woman with a cane and man in a wheelchair at voting boothWashington, Sept. 26 – RespectAbility is honored to participate in the sixth annual National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), a nonpartisan effort to encourage people to register to vote and make their voices heard in our nation’s political process. Today, organizations nationwide will register thousands of new voters.

However, if you read the news today, many people might feel discouraged, disconnected or unconvinced that their voices matter. Last year, it was clear that getting the vote out mattered with the high stakes of a presidential race and key Senate contests across the country. What about this year? Why should people get out, get registered and get out the voter in a quiet year like 2017? The reason is simple.

As the former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics is local.” Did you know that 59 of the 100 largest cities in America are holding elections this year? Did you know there are 36 mayoral races and more than 360 city council races in 2017 alone? In communities across the country, local, municipal and state elections are taking place this year.

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Television Academy: Diversity Inclusion Includes Disability

back view of a young man watching a big tv panelLos Angeles, Calif., Sept. 25 – As diversity takes on a more important focus in Hollywood, disability is gaining prominence as four shows, two new, premiere this week: Young Sheldon (Season One) on CBS and The Good Doctor (Season One) on ABC tonight, This Is Us (Season Two) on NBC on Tuesday and Speechless (Season Two) on ABC on Wednesday evening.

Every season, networks premiere new shows in hopes of increasing their viewership. In recent years, the fight for ratings has included the need for expanding diversity – with shows like Black-ish receiving eight Emmy nominations in the past two years, including for Outstanding Comedy Series both years.

Yet while there has been an increased focus on diversity when it comes to race, gender and sexual identity, the same has not been true for disability. Shows like Young Sheldon and The Good Doctor show the trend may be changing.

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Learning from Political and Investigative Reporter Jonathan D. Salant

All of the fellows and staff standing in a large group against the wall with the RespectAbility logo all over it

Jonathan D. Salant with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Sept. 24 – “What is really a news story?” asked Jonathan D. Salant, an award-winning political and investigative reporter who graduated from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He posed this question to a group of Summer Fellows at RespectAbility, a nonprofit fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities.

Salant is the Washington correspondent for NJ Advance Media serving NJ.com and The Star-Ledger. His connection to disabilities developed at a younger age when his mother became the founder of a school for children with disabilities in Long Island.

Salant was the former president of The National Press Club (NPC), also known as “The Place Where News Happens.” NPC began 100 years ago as a place for male reporters to get together after work to socialize. Now it is a place to receive training and a gathering spot for social activity. Two to three times a week, national figures are invited to address the NPC during a luncheon that airs live on C-SPAN.

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A group of people holding a banner reading "Khmer Parent Association - please help to support our youth for the future."

Khmer Parent Association

Long Beach, Calif. – The Khmer Parent Association (KPA) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, which serves the community of Long Beach, California. The mission is to “produce tomorrow’s leaders of today’s Khmer youth through education.” The organization serves approximately 1,000 people a year including youths, adults and the elderly. KPA has a prominent role in the community because of its commitment to support children with education services and residents with cultural awareness and health education.

History of KPA

After throwing a small party to celebrate high school graduates in the Long Beach community, Chad Hopson founded the KPA in 1995. In 1994, when Hopson’s oldest son graduated with high honors in high school, Hopson and her family attended the graduation ceremony to showcase their happiness and support for her son. However, Hopson “felt so bad” when she recognized graduates she knew, and did not see their parents in the audience. Therefore, she decided to throw a party for all of the graduates to celebrate their success.

After the positive response to the party, which encouraged graduates to continue to strive for their goals and success, a guidance counselor who worked closely with the school district pulled Hopson aside. The guidance counselor wanted to work with Hopson, because she believed Hopson could reach students. The guidance counselor explained that there was a high rate of high school drop outs at the time, and parents did not “know what to do to help their children the way you do, so you need to do something.”

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Lessons from multihyphenate Geoffrey Melada

All of the fellows and staff standing in a large group against the wall with the RespectAbility logo all over it

Geoffrey Melada with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Sept. 18 – Geoffrey Melada is an outgoing and demonstrative man, a personality that has no doubt served him well as he moved from courtrooms to newsrooms during a diverse career as a journalist, trial lawyer and now communications director for Hillel International.

Geoffrey Maleda speaking to RespectAbility Fellows seated around a large brown table

Geoffrey Melada speaking to RespectAbility Fellows

As he entered the room, you could see his face light up and his excitement to be speaking in front of a group of interested young advocates, mixing advice and anecdotes in his hour-long talk.

Like many of the speakers RespectAbility featured this summer, Melada has not had a ‘traditional’ career journey. However, his winding career path taught him many lessons along the way, and he argued that the fellows shouldn’t accept the conventional wisdom that there is only one path to a profession.

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A Conversation on Building a Board with Debbie Ratner Salzberg

All of the fellows and staff standing in a large group against the wall with the RespectAbility logo all over it

Debbie Ratner Salzberg with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Sept. 18 – Debbie Ratner Salzberg has a sincerity that shines, and she starts the conversation by encouraging the RespectAbility Fellows to ask questions and participate in the discussion. She adds color to the conversation and engages us with her experiences in development and community building.

Debbie Ratner Salzberg speaking to RespectAbility Fellows seated around a large brown table

Debbie Ratner Salzberg speaking to RespectAbility Fellows

As past chair and current board member with the DCJCC, Ratner Salzberg envisions a community within the Washington, D.C., area where Jews and non-Jews can meet, socialize and help each other and the community. This is accomplished through community service planning, a theater company, a gym, educational classes and children’s programming, as well as welcome parties and family events.

“The DCJCC was trying to touch all parts of the community, and that was exciting for me because it was what I was looking for when I first arrived in DC,” she said.

Ratner Salzberg says that she watched this organization grow out of a small classroom in a synagogue and that the work that DCJCC is doing is something that she is very proud of.

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Learning from K Street Coaching’s Gideon Culman

All of the fellows and staff standing in a large group against the wall with the RespectAbility logo all over it

Gideon Culman with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Sept. 18 – Gideon Culman runs and operates K Street Coaching®, an executive coaching firm that supports business, government and nonprofit sector leaders as they weave their ingenuity and influence into a visionary legacy. Basically, Culman helps people get to where they want to go in their careers.

Gideon Culman speaking to RespectAbility Fellows seated around a large brown table

Gideon Culman speaking to RespectAbility Fellows

Culman’s discussion with all of the RespectAbility Fellows was similar to his coaching sessions with business and government executives. As a group, we began by making a list of the things we need to succeed.

The list contained some of these words: goals, vision, determination, patience, planning, support, guidance and passion.

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Authentic Disability Representation Necessary to Ensure Largest Minority is Included

Emmy TrophyLos Angeles, Calif., Sept. 15 – As Hollywood celebrates Emmy season last weekend and this weekend, it’s important to highlight the several nominees with disabilities. In contrast to the Academy Awards earlier this year, no known actor with a disability was nominated for an Oscar. Including authentic disability in the diversity conversation is important to ensure that Hollywood does not leaves out the largest minority in the U.S.

Creative Arts Emmy Awards

Last weekend during the Creative Arts Emmy Awards presentation at the Microsoft Theater, several nominations were for individuals with a disability or for a show with a disability theme.

Streaming service Netflix came out with a hit new show – Stranger Things. The series was nominated for multiple awards this year, including “Outstanding Drama Series,” “Outstanding Supporting Actress” and “Outstanding Supporting Actor.” Actor Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin in the series, has cleidocranial dysplasia. The genetic disorder affects the development of a person’s bones and teeth.

In documentaries, Sam Neill, narrator of Wild New Zealand and Emmy nominee for “Outstanding Narrator,” had a speech impediment as a child.

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Rockville, Md., Sept. 13 – Jose Plaza, current manager of The California Endowment and a former associate board member of the Washington, D.C., Latin American Youth Center, spoke with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff about his passion for the inclusion of people with disabilities in his work.

The California Endowment supports many of the core values that RespectAbility advocates for: bringing awareness to conducive, diverse populations such as people with disabilities and supporting the efforts in giving them equal opportunities to thrive. With the focus on underserved communities, Jose Plaza and The California Endowment have worked on finding the effective tools necessary for change.

“We need to ensure that we are all there for each other,” Plaza said. “We need to rise up as one.” With Plaza’s credence to find intersectionality across all communities, he uses his Hispanic background and former experiences to “celebrate diversity” across all borders. [continue reading…]

Learning from The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Patrick McCarthy

All of the fellows and staff standing in a large group against the wall with the RespectAbility logo all over it

Patrick McCarthy with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Sept. 13 – Do you remember playing with a kaleidoscope when you were a child? Or even recently? How about the excitement as the image changes and you gain a new perspective?

Patrick McCarthy speaking to RespectAbility Fellows seated around a large brown table

Patrick McCarthy speaking to RespectAbility Fellows

Patrick McCarthy, the CEO and President of The Annie E. Casey Foundation, brought RespectAbility Fellows and staff back to their childhoods. McCarthy reminded Fellows that the image changes as you turn it.

“It is all about how you use it and how you see it,” he said.

The ‘Kaleidoscope Perspective’ has played a significant role in how McCarthy guides The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Baltimore-based foundation is one of the largest in the United States, giving away more than $99 million dollars in 2015. As the website states, the foundation focuses on “strengthening families, building stronger communities, and ensuring access to opportunity, because children need all three to succeed.”

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