Empowering People With Disabilities Through Empathy

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in four Americans currently live with a disability. This means it is likely that you, someone you know, or someone you will meet has a disability or will develop one later in life. Yet the public is still either uninformed or misinformed about the modern-day obstacles facing persons with disabilities.

With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other key pieces of legislation, many barriers to access have been removed from public life. However, we must now move to address the social stigma surrounding this community. This problem cannot be solved by simply building a ramp or installing braille. We must instead work together to change hearts and minds in order to build a more inclusive society for all.

This stigma has had real-world consequences for this population. According to a 2016 survey by Total Jobs, one in four persons who are deaf reported they left their job due to discrimination at their places of employment. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor tells us that of those who were 16 or older, 19% of persons with disabilities were employed compared to 66% of those without a disability. These are not problems of “access,” they are problems of “perception” and perception can only be changed by increasing our capacity for understanding and empathy.

That’s why, to mark our 100th anniversary this spring, Easterseals New Jersey will be holding several pop-up events throughout the state we are calling “Exercises in Empathy.” At these events, people will be walked through short experience-based activities to learn more about disability. Activities include a limited mobility art station, a lip-reading exercise, a schizophrenia and depression experience, as well as a vision-loss/Usher syndrome activity.

Sharing in these experiences allows us to become more aware of not just the challenges having a disability can present, but how people overcome those challenges. This can be a powerful tool in removing the stigma surrounding disability. This shift in thinking is critical as we work together to build a more inclusive New Jersey.

We encourage you to experience our pop-up events. Visit www.easterseals100.org for more information and to learn how you can help create a future where everyone is 100% included and 100% empowered.


Brian Fitzgerald
President/Chief Executive Officer
Easterseals New Jersey

Disability Emojis Bring Us Emojoy!

Disability Emojis

Inclusive Disability Emojis? Yes, please

Inclusive disability emojis are on their way! Everything from prosthetics to service dogs will be represented in these fun new icons. In recent history, emoji’s were released that allowed for representation of multiple skin tones, but there are still limited options available for persons with disabilities. This oversight will be corrected with an impressive variety of new images. The community of persons with disabilities is vast so it would be expected that this first wave of emojis would be limited in what populations they would represent. We have to say that this release exceeded these expectations and is deserving of praise and attention.

Disability Emojis
Some emojis being released are not disability related, but were included in this sample.

We are unsure when this will be released, but as soon as we find out, we’ll update this article. Wheelchair users, blind-low vision, deaf and hearing loss, and prosthetic users will find these icons incredibly useful as soon as the update is implemented. Mobile technology has been a boon to the community of people with disabilities, allowing for increased community connection and even being used as accessible technology (Be My Eyes, Text To Speech, etc.). Having the technology itself also feature communication tools that are representative of those using them, only makes sense and is a welcome change.

Disability Emojis

Representation Matters

We’ve spoken before about the importance of representation for persons with disabilities and special needs in our media and these emojis are no different. Emojis are a staple of digital communication whether they are being used when texting or engaging on social media. Now imagine circling through the selection of emojis and seeing robots, aliens, and even the infamous “poop emoji,” yet you can’t find an emoji that represents you as a human being. What kind of message is that sending to the user? Not a very positive one. So these new icons will be a welcome addition to the roster.

Do you have any suggestions on how electronic communications could be made more accessible? Let us know in the comments below. And as always, if you’re seeking services, visit our main website.

Upsides and Bird Boxes – The Disability in Film Conversation Continues…

Disability in Film

Disability in film isn’t a new topic, but recent films have taken on the subject matter both in positive and not-so-positive ways. We’ve had Bird Box, The Upside, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, and others. Television has also joined in with such shows as Speechless, Atypical, and The Good Doctor. We’re happy to see these projects come out and hope more will follow to help further expose people to the world of disability. Still, not all exposure is good exposure and we want to make sure we point out what’s working and what isn’t so we can all learn from these issues moving forward. For the purposes of this article, we’d like to focus on the two most recent films to be released, The Upside and Bird Box, to help us explore this topic of representation of persons with disabilities and special needs in our media.

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100 Years of Changing the Way the World Views and Defines Disabilities

Easterseals is 100 Years Young

In 1919, Edgar Allen founded a service organization that eventually became known as the National Society for Crippled Children which eventually became Easterseals. He discovered that people with disabilities were hidden from the public eye due to a lack of support in their communities. He wanted to change all that.

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Disability / Sensory Friendly Santa is Coming to New Jersey!

Sensory Friendly Santa

Disability / Sensory Friendly Santa is Coming to Town!

We recently highlighted a story on DisabilityScoop.com about sensory friendly Santas holding events that are designed to be accessible for young persons and adults with disabilities. If you have ever attended a traditional gathering of jolly ole’ Saint Nick at your local mall or community center, you will remember the long lines, loud noises, and Santas that might not be exposed to the special needs population. This is usually NOT a sensory/communication friendly experience, but these Santas are looking to change all that.

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Success Story: Mature Worker Goes From Unemployed to a Six-Figure Salary

Mature Workers

It’s a line we hear all too often from hucksters, schemers, and con-men:

“You can go from rags to riches by buying my book and learning my money making secrets!”

They make promises of earning a six-figure salary in 6 months if you give them your money and listen to their advice. We of course know these are scams. But what if I told you I had a story about someone who enrolled in an Easterseals New Jersey program, spent $0 to do so, and ended up leaving the program with a $100,000 salary for a 40/hr. a week job – in under six months? Would you believe me? You should.

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Untapped Workforce? It’s Time to Start Hiring People with Disabilities

Untapped Workforce of People with Disabilities

People with Disabilities: The Untapped Workforce

In America today, we have a strong economy and unemployment is at an all-time-low. Companies are hiring, and have even expressed difficulty filling all their open positions. Now is the perfect time to start offering these employment opportunities to people with disabilities and special needs.

There is an unfounded misconception (emphasis on MISconception) that people with disabilities cannot work effectively.

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We Need to Talk About Norm Macdonald’s Comment About Down Syndrome

Norm Macdonald Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome in the News…

Comedian Norm Macdonald recently came under fire for his comments about the #MeToo movement and expressing sympathy for Roseanne Barr and Louis C.K. We won’t wade into those waters, but instead we’d like to focus on the apology he delivered on his September 12th appearance on the Howard Stern radio show. This is where he went on to say the following about the victims of sexual harassment, “You’d have to have Down syndrome” not to “feel sorry for them.”

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