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Long Beach, California – Children and young adults with disabilities will have new hope and opportunities thanks to grants from two California foundations, including the Long Beach Community Foundation and the work of RespectAbility. New seed funding is being invested to support local leaders and to develop community resources that will enable more students, parents and families to succeed.

Long Beach is a beautiful city with a vibrant downtown, growing economic opportunities and a winning Mayor who is deeply committed to serving this diverse city. There are dedicated community leaders and self-advocates who are eager to make things better for their friends, neighbors and family members with disabilities.

Today there are 46,000 working-age residents with disabilities in Long Beach. Just 21 percent of working-age people with disabilities have a job in the Long Beach economy, putting the city below the national average of 34.9 percent. However, a new initiative is looking at ways to make things better for job seekers and employers alike. This effort has a special focus on filling key jobs where people with disabilities can excel.

Through a Knight Foundation grant, the Long Beach Community Foundation and and another funder are supporting RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization with deep experience around advancing opportunities for people with diverse abilities.

“The Long Beach Community Foundation initiates positive change in our community through strategic grant-making,” said Marcelle Epley, President & CEO of the Community Foundation. “We are delighted to support Respectability’s efforts through our Knight Foundation Fund. By working with local leaders, we can support our community to attract and retain people with diverse abilities, provide economic opportunities, and support civic engagement.”

Those three goals are critically linked to efforts that RespectAbility is investing in getting to know local leaders and understanding local economic conditions. “We are eager to learn from community members who want to coordinate and collaborate with each other,” said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the president of RespectAbility. “We want to help Long Beach benefit from new strategies that will result in more opportunities and independence for people with and without disabilities alike.”

The group is working on a new community resource guide with detailed information about local programs and services for children and youth with disabilities. They also are preparing a toolkit with solutions based on community feedback and new proven best practices. RespectAbility is hosting meetings for local residents to get to know each other and act on these new opportunities.

“We are thrilled that the Long Beach Community Foundation is supporting this effort,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, the Policy Director who will work directly with community members. “People with disabilities want opportunities for training, civic engagement and success, just like anyone else. This effort will positively impact everyone in Long Beach from educators to students to parents to local employers.”

The local infrastructure is a key reason why Long Beach gained the attention of a national group looking to partner with leaders and turn the city into a national model.

“Long Beach has an award-winning school system and a nationally recognized workforce development board,” Kahn-Pauli added. “We look forward to helping fill gaps when it comes to employment opportunities, especially youth with disabilities. We want to find and to support local leaders with cutting edge practices and share their stories nation-wide.”

Youth with disabilities and their parents stand to greatly benefit from this work. The Long Beach Unified School District is the second largest district in Los Angeles County and serves more than 9,600 students with disabilities out of a total population of 75,000 students. The current high school graduation rate for Long Beach students with disabilities is 62.4 percent, compared to 84.2 percent for nondisabled students. In the Long Beach Class of 2016, 413 students with disabilities graduated high school, while 110 students dropped out and 76 received only a certificate.

“That cohort of young people with disabilities,” Kahn-Pauli added, “represent a talent pool that can go on to achieve great things in college and contribute greatly to the local economy.” The reason for that is simple. Because traditional ways of doing things do not always work for people with disabilities, people with diverse talents can find incredible ways to innovate and succeed. In fact, some of the greatest companies on earth were started and led by people with disabilities.

RespectAbility regularlys highlights the incredible drive, determination and creativity that people with disabilities bring to their life and work. Innovators Richard Branson and Charles Schwab like Governors Hickenlooper and Bryant is dyslexic. Arthur Young of EY was both deaf and visually impaired. Likewise, Steve Wynn is legally blind. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, scientist Stephen Hawking, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, Congressman Jim Langevin, Snoop Dog, Senators Tammy Duckworth, John McCain and Tommy the “one arm golfer” all have disabilities.

In reaching out to the business community in Long Beach, RespectAbility hopes to showcase how people with disabilities bring unique characteristics to workplaces that benefit employers and organizations. Nationally Amazon, AT&T, Bank of America, Starbucks, Pepsi, Walgreens, Walmart and others have all shown that employees with disabilities are loyal, successful and help them make more money. Jennifer Mizrahi went on to add that “inclusion of people with disabilities in the Long Beach workforce will help the city overall thrive.”

This new effort will host its first formal meeting on Monday, August 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Pike Long Beach Hyatt (285 Bay Street, Long Beach, CA 90802.) Marcelle Epley, Long Beach Community Foundation President & CEO will provide opening remarks at the event from 9:30a.m. to 10:00a.m. This will be the first of a series of meetings to recruit and empower local leaders to advance new opportunities for education, training, and employment in the community. Learn more and RSVP here:

Media Contact: Lauren Appelbaum, 202-591-0703 or

Lessons from USA Today’s Richard Wolf

Richard Wolf pictured with RespectAbility Fellows and staff seated and standing in front of a RespectAbility banner

Richard Wolf speaking to RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Aug. 6 – In a country where two political parties constantly battle for power, it can be difficult for some to choose a side. One might wonder why it is so hard, given the sheer amount of news sources we have at our fingertips. Many news sources tend to have a specific political party leaning, therefore ultimately having a biased opinion when it comes to their stories. It has become almost impossible to find an unbiased news outlet, leaving little to no room for people to formulate their own opinions about an issue or idea. Although it is rare to find an unbiased journalist these days, it is not impossible to do. Richard Wolf is the perfect example of this.

Richard Wolf has been a USA Today reporter and editor for three decades, covering all three branches of the federal government. He has been the Supreme Court correspondent since 2012. Wolf covered the White House during the Bush and Obama administrations, traveling with and interviewing both presidents. He spent a decade reporting on Congress, as well as five years as the newspaper’s congressional editor. In addition, Wolf has reported on the federal budget and economics, health care and welfare policy, state and local governments and national politics.

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A Conversation with the Council on Foundation’s Floyd Mills

Floyd Mills pictures with the whole RespectAbility team, so the staff, and all of the fellows are posed in front of the wall that has the RespectAbility logo printed on it. The photo is in color.

Floyd Mills with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Aug. 2 – Growing up, Floyd Mills, the vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Council on Foundations, pictured his dream job in any field but diversity. Yet, Mills has been promoting workplace diversity and inclusion for the past two decades.

Everyone’s path is different,” Mills said. “This is just my story.”

Image of a few fellows sitting at the conference room table. Mills is resting his elbow on the table and the fellows' computers and laptops are visible on the table.

Floyd Mills speaking to the Fellows

Upon graduation at the University of Maryland, College Park, Mills started his career with Accenture, where he specialized in informational technology. Working for Accenture gave Mills the chance to travel around the country and the world. Living and working in Atlanta, San Francisco, London and Melbourne provided Mills with amazing experiences. Upon being assigned to a city that, for Mills, did not offer the same level of appeal, he realized that the job was not his passion and made the decision to pursue a position elsewhere. His job search led him to apply for a Human Resource position at the same firm. Little did Mills know that application would completely alter his career path in the long-term.

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Learning from the Office of Personnel Management’s Michael Murray

Michael Murray with Fellows sitting and standing around him

Michael Murray with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., Aug. 2 – “My father was a great father not in spite of his disability but in part because of his disability.”

Michael Murray’s involvement in the disability community stems from his personal and unforgettable childhood experiences. After sharing a touching story about his memories with his father, as well as revealing his own confrontation with a disability, Murray told the fellows: “My disability, although it came with struggles, brought value into my life.”

Since then, he has become a committed and respected advocate for people with disabilities.

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From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities
Featuring Leah Daniels-Butler, Casting Director and Producer, Tommy Morrissey, the One-Arm Golfer, and Marc Summers of The Food Network

Rockville, Md., July 28 – RespectAbility invites you to our free one-day summit, From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities, geared toward bridging the gap between entertainment, politics and disability advocacy. This entirely accessible event is open to the public.

The summit will take place on Monday, July 31 from 8:30 A.M. – 3:00 P.M. at the Rayburn House Office Building, Gold Room on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The summit will celebrate the good that can be done to end stigmas and advance opportunities for the 57 million Americans with disabilities.

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RespectAbility Summit Features Marc Summers on Monday, July 31

headshot of Marc Summers wearing a black suit and blue shirt with arms crossed in front of a kitchen set

Marc Summers

Rockville, Md., July 28 – RespectAbility invites you to our one-day summit, From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities, geared toward bridging the gap between entertainment, politics and disability advocacy. This free and entirely accessible event is open to congressional and Senate staff, journalists, disability advocates and other interested parties.

As a kid, Marc Summers, born Marc Berkowitz, was raised in a Jewish household and originally was inspired to become a rabbi before he began his rise to stardom. In an interview with the Jewish Times, Summers explained:

“I got the TV bug and went to talk to Rabbi Weitzman of Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, and I told him that I wanted to be a rabbi but also to be a performer. Regardless, I wanted to help people. He told me, ‘As a rabbi, you can help a small congregation a lot, but as a performer you can help a lot of people a little.’ I decided that I would rather help a lot of people, so my path was set.”

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head shot of Leah Daniels-Butler wearing a blue collared blouse color photo

Leah Daniels-Butler

Rockville, Md., July 27 – RespectAbility announces the final line-up for next week’s summit From Hollywood to Capitol Hill: The Future of Americans with Disabilities. The summit will take place on Monday, July 31 from 8:30 A.M. – 3:00 P.M. at the Rayburn House Office Building, Gold Room (RHOB 2168) on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The summit will celebrate the good that can be done to end stigmas and advance opportunities for the 57 million Americans with disabilities.

headshot of Marc Summers wearing a black suit and blue shirt with arms crossed in front of a kitchen set

Marc Summers


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A black and white photo of an American flag with the stars in shape of a wheelchairRockville, Md., July 26 – As the nation celebrates the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there is still so much work that needs to be done.

Fundamentally the ADA was a civil rights bill; this law guaranteed legal protections and physical access for the nation’s largest minority. The ADA reduced physical barriers to the world of work, transportation and independent living. Because of this law, millions of Americans with disabilities have been able to go to school, participate in the political process, live independently in the community and enter the workforce to pursue a better future for themselves and their families.

However, since its passing, not much has changed by way of employment of people with disabilities. The law has done so much to remove physical barriers without removing many attitudinal barriers.

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Advice from Jewish Family Service’s Linda Burger

Judith Creed and Linda Burger with the fellows sitting and standing around them

Linda Burger with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., July 26 – Channeling her humble demeanor and the Jewish values she was raised with, Linda Burger has grown to be a leading ambassador for disability in the Jewish community of Houston, Texas. Burger believes in the Jewish thought that all people are created B’tzelem Elohim (In God’s Image) and as inhabitants of this earth, it is our responsibility to “leave life in a better place than when we found it.”

Through these ideals and morals, Burger has devoted her professional life to shaping significant social service programs that work toward eliminating stigma associated with disability and mental health issues. Burger is the current CEO of Jewish Family Service (JFS) of Houston, expanding the agency’s resources and ability to respond to safety net basic needs, community emergencies and individuals who need ongoing help with counseling and other services.

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Lessons from David Trone, Founder of Total Wine & More

David Trone with Fellows sitting and standing around him

David Trone with RespectAbility Fellows and Staff

Rockville, Md., July 25 – David Trone, the founder and owner of Total Wine & More strode into RespectAbility’s office along with his assistant, Eric. Trone shone coming down the hallway with a bright canary yellow tie and a full head of glistening salt and pepper hair, a little more salt than pepper these days. As Trone made his way to his seat at the head of the table, he personally greeted RespectAbility fellows and staff.

Trone and his brother, Robert, created the largest U.S. alcohol retailer more than 25 years ago. On July 10, 2017, he joined RespectAbility Fellows and staff to share his advice on leadership, philanthropy, service, and his nephew’s struggles with opiate addiction and the impact on his family. Recently, following his nephew’s overdose, Trone published an important and potentially life-saving op-ed on the opioid crisis.

Leadership and emerging leaders have become passions of the Trone brothers in recent years.

“We have to recognize each person’s skills and what they can offer to society,” Trone said. “We are all leaders in different ways, not just the captain of the football team. Each person can offer their own perspective to help move us all together in society as a team.”

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Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.


HQ: 11333 Woodglen Drive, #102, Rockville, MD 20852
West Coast: 350 S Bixel Street
Los Angeles CA 90017

Office Number: 202-517-6272


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