Advocate for the Disability Community in New Jersey: Your Voice Matters

advocate for disability community

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world hard. Life came to a screeching halt, and for almost two years everything we did, like how we work, our interactions, and even getting food and common household staples became challenges.

For the disability community, life became even harder and the world even narrower. Many with sensory conditions found themselves unable to wear masks and shop. People saw their services shuttered and their hard-won skill progression erode.

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10 NFL Players Who Overcame Barriers to Their Disabilities

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From Shaquem Griffin to Tom Dempsey, the league is full of inspiring stories.

With the big Super Bowl game coming up, the spotlight is on the NFL. While we have a lot of football fans here at Easterseals NJ, we’re the biggest fans of players making a difference in the disability community. Many of these players created foundations and nonprofits to help others. Below are just a handful of current and former players that showcase that anything is possible.

Keith O’Neill

The former Colts and Cowboys linebacker has been vocal about his struggle with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. O’Neill started the 4th and Forever Foundation to help others struggling with mental health.

Brandon Marshall

Marshall, a former NFL linebacker, announced he had borderline personality disorder in 2011. He’s made it his mission to spread awareness and destigmatize BPD. He even started his own nonprofit– Project 375– with the goal of “unlocking human potential through conversation, education, & inspiration.”

Shaquem Griffin

Griffin is a former NFL linebacker (and twin brother of Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Shaquill Griffin) born with Amniotic Band Syndrome. ABS affected Griffin’s right hand, causing it to become underdeveloped. Griffin eventually underwent surgical amputation to have the hand removed. Griffin has worked with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a sports program for those with physical disabilities.

Tom Dempsey

The late Tom Dempsey was a kicker for the New Orleans Saints. Dempsey’s kicking foot was deformed; he wore a special boot while playing. He famously made a record-setting field goal against the Detroit Lions in 1970. The kick resulted in the “Tom Dempsey Rule” which now requires all players to use shoes similar to the NFL standard. Interestingly enough, Dempsey’s custom shoe was lighter than other shoes.

Brent Boyd

Often called the father of concussion awareness, Boyd is a former NFL offensive guard for the Minnesota Vikings. He founded the advocacy group, Dignity After Football, and famously testified in front of congress regarding the NFL’s disability plan.

Rocky Bleier

Bleier was a former halfback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He sustained severe injuries to his right foot and leg during the Vietnam War. He wrote a book about his experience, Fighting Back: The Rocky Bleier Story, discussing his injuries and his time in the NFL.

Tedy Bruschi

Bruschi, a former linebacker for the NFL and current ​​senior advisor to the head coach at the University of Arizona, suffered a stroke in 2005. After sitting out a season to recover, he was able to continue playing for several more seasons. Shortly after his stroke, he started a non-profit organization, Tedy’s Team, to raise awareness for stroke and heart disease victims while supporting survivors.

Samari Rolle

Rolle, a former cornerback for the Oilers and Ravens, has been very open about living with epilepsy. While he eventually retired, citing his illness as well as injuries sustained on the field, he’s currently the assistant football coach at a high school in Florida.

Joe Barksdale

Barksdale is a former offensive tackle in the NFL, but his impressive resume also includes singer-songwriter and stand-up comedian. Last year, Barksdale publicly shared his autism diagnosis. He mentioned in an interview with the Today Show that the diagnosis made him feel comfortable with who he is.

Eric LeGrand

LeGrand signed a symbolic contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, but he’s never played in the NFL. This college footballer fractured two of his vertebrae in a game against Army, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Since then, LeGrand has created a platform to speak out about those living with spinal cord injuries. He partnered with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to create the nonprofit Team LeGrand. He’s also an author, sports analyst, and motivational speaker.

Of course, these are just a handful of the many NFL players with disabilities who are making a difference in the world. Who are some of your favorite players and nonprofits?

Part One: Making Nature in New Jersey More Accessible

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In this first blog of a multi-part series, we explore the importance of making sure both public and private natural resources are available to all who want to enjoy being outdoors in New Jersey. 

While there are activities where accommodations may be impossible for some, New Jersey offers a vast array of natural experiences for all. 

New Jersey is known as the Garden State but make no mistake, in addition to gardens and farms galore, NJ boasts more than 452,000 acres of natural and historic property including forests, parks, and recreation areas. Visitors are invited to take part in a variety of activities including biking, hiking, camping, boating, swimming, and picnicking. 

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Survey Shows: Americans with Disabilities are a Major Voting Block

There is still time to request an absentee ballot in New Jersey

Do you want to vote in the 2022 midterm elections but are unable to get to your assigned voting place on Nov. 8, 2022? No problem!

By November 1, 2022 you can request a mail-in paper ballot. Start by pressing this link: https://www.state.nj.us/state/elections/vote-by-mail.shtml

Be sure to follow all directions. Don’t forget to return your ballot! It must be put in a drop box, returned to your County Board of Elections or postmarked by Nov 8, 2022, for your vote to be counted. 

You can also go to an in person early voting location from Oct. 26 – Nov. 6. You can find a location in your County and hours here.  

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Is Your Business Website ADA Compliant?

It comes as quite a surprise to many business owners that the provisions detailed in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) extend to websites. Well, it most certainly does!

People living with disabilities have every right to live, learn, work, and play using the Internet, just like anyone else. They know all too well that many companies aren’t aware of updates made to the original 1990 ADA. Their failure to accommodate people who are blind, deaf, living with mobility issues, etc., has made it difficult for people with disabilities to use the web.

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Easterseals New Jersey Supports CEOs Who Support Workplace Diversity and Inclusion

If you are super lucky, you love your work. Getting up every day is a thrill and you can’t wait to see what new information the day will bring. However, if you are, unfortunately, like most, you go to work to earn a paycheck. And, hopefully, you have more good days than bad.

If you find yourself “not fitting in” at work, stop and think. Does your company have a Diversity and Inclusion policy that protects you?

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How Do You Measure Inclusion in the Workplace?

graph how to measure inclusion in the workplace

When it comes to hiring in the workplace, diversity is a rather easy area to measure. It’s not difficult to make goals and measure metrics to assure the Human Resources recruiters are hitting various targets.

On the other hand, measuring inclusion is far more difficult. In a sense, the only way to truly measure inclusion is by starting to have conversations with various teams at your company. From management down, ask questions and not only listen to answers, but create strategies to integrate new ideas for inclusionary practices into your company’s culture.

Asking these questions could include personal 1:1 meetings with teams and managers, managers sending out micro surveys to their teams, or by a companywide annual employee survey asking employees to share their opinions anonymously. Yes, you’ll have to ask the hard questions… so be ready to read what could be harsh responses. However, employee feedback is the only way to truly gauge if your company is doing its role to be part of the DEI solution, rather than adding to the problem.

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Help Make Inclusionary Language Accessible

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Sticks & Stones May Break Your Bones, But WORDS Matter Too

There’s no doubt about it, some people think before speaking; their mind-to-mouth edit filter is in full functioning order, and some who suffer terribly from “open mouth, insert foot” syndrome. When this happens, it’s usually the listener who bears the brunt of the faux pas.

Since July is Disability Pride Month, we thought now would be a great time to look at how people communicate when talking about disabilities. Most people could use a refresher course in inclusionary language.

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Creative Ways to Keep Connected This Winter

Creative ways to keep connected this Winter

Wintertime can be challenging for many people, especially during this socially distant time. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many family members were separated for the holidays and were not able to participate in their usual family traditions. It is so important to check in with your mental health and make extra efforts to connect with loved ones. Cold, snowy weather has even made outdoor dining and activities hard to find.

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