Special Needs Considerations for Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 Update Coronavirus

Pandemic Protection for Our Most Vulnerable

Within a few short weeks, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) went from being a dangerous disease to being classified as a global pandemic. Countries have begun to take extreme measures to control the outbreak, but we must also take responsibility for the protection of ourselves and our loved ones. This virus can be lethal to anyone with a compromised immune system, heart disease, or respiratory complications, which means we must take extra precautions for people with disabilities, special needs, and seniors. We should also be considerate of the unique challenges we will face as a result of the special measures being put in place by our local, state, and federal governments. You can find many online resources detailing how to generally protect yourself and others, but this article will focus on those unique considerations for the individuals and families we serve.

Read moreSpecial Needs Considerations for Coronavirus (Covid-19)

It’s Time for a Direct Service Professional Wage Increase in NJ

A call to support DSP wage increases

Senator Stephen Sweeney (primary sponsor) and Senator Troy Singleton have put forward a bill in the New Jersey legislature that would increase direct support professional (DSP) wages in the state.

As the bill’s “statement” makes clear, DSP wages are becoming unsustainable at their current levels as the cost of living rises. See below:

 “At an average starting salary of $12 per hour, DSP wages are not competitive, with an increasing number of retailers paying $15 to $18 per hour and New Jersey’s minimum wage on a path to $15 per hour for entry-level jobs that are far less demanding.  To compound the issue, there is a growing DSP shortage that is threatening the safety and health of individuals with I/DD living in community settings.”

Read moreIt’s Time for a Direct Service Professional Wage Increase in NJ

Megan Tells Us What Camp Means to Her

Photo of Mary and TEXT: What does camp mean to you?

Megan came to Camp Merry Heart as a camper and had a fantastic time. So much so, that she couldn’t stay away. She came back as a volunteer because she wanted to help make sure other campers were able to experience camp the way she did. We ask her what makes her feel so strongly about the camp experience.

Read moreMegan Tells Us What Camp Means to Her

The Business Side of Disability – Part 3

hiring people with disabilities

Making YOUR Workplace Accessible

Welcome to PART 3 of our Business Side of Disability blog series. If you’ve missed PART 1 and PART 2, please give them a read, but it’s not necessary to understand this article. In those blogs, we discussed recruitment strategies and the benefits employees with disabilities bring to an organization. Now, we will be discussing how you can make your workplace more accessible by exploring technology and workplace accommodations.

Read moreThe Business Side of Disability – Part 3

The Business Side of Disability – PART 2

As part of our continued celebration of October being National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), this is PART 2 of our blog series showcasing the untapped workforce of job seekers with disabilities. In PART 1, we explored the overall value workers with disabilities can bring to your organization, but here we will be exploring how you can attract those employees to apply for open positions at your company.

Read moreThe Business Side of Disability – PART 2

The Business Side of Disability – PART I

The Business Side of Disability

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and in the spirit of the occasion, we decided to do something a little different with our blog…

Many times, we have written about employment and disability from the perspective of the job seeker. For this article we will be taking a different approach. Easterseals job coaches often go above and beyond providing individual job supports to our program participants. They visit businesses to speak with owners/managers to discuss how hiring an employee with a disability can help meet their staffing needs. Often hiring managers are unaware of the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, let alone that so many people are actively seeking work. That’s why we’re going to discuss why looking to the untapped workforce of people with disabilities to fill your next open position, makes good business sense.

Workers With Disabilities by the Numbers

Purely decorative graph

Unemployment has dropped to record levels, which has made it difficult for employers to find the right people for the open positions they desperately hope to fill. A perfect opportunity to look toward the 7.7% of New Jersey working-age (21-64) persons who identify as has having a disability. That’s approximately 700,000 people. 10.7% of those individuals were unemployed and actively seeking work. That’s 70,000+ individuals in New Jersey only who are looking to work for New Jersey businesses. Still, there is hesitancy for hiring managers to employee people with disabilities, evidenced by the 35.8% point employment gap between people with disabilities and those without.

There may be many reasons for this disparity, but the number one issue our job coaches have encountered is the stigma that still surrounds workers with disabilities. This stigma often stems from some commonly held misconceptions on the topic. So let’s address take a look at these issues here and now and learn more about why you should start hiring people with disabilities.

The More You Know

  1. Employees with disabilities are reliable, dedicated, and consistently are recorded as having impressive job performance, attendance records, and retention rates.
  2. It’s actually cost-effective to hire people with disabilities because benefits and insurance are sometimes covered by government programs, reducing your company’s overhead. You can also receive a tax credits for working with people with disabilities, helping to off-set any accommodation costs for providing accommodations for an employee.
  3. Employees with disabilities often qualify for training and support programs like those Easterseals provides. This means often the individual you are hiring is either already trained in their job task, or the training you would normally pay for, instead is provided by Easterseals rather than coming out of your budget.
  4. There is plenty of accessible technology available today which allows integration into the workplace possible. Everything from screen readers to accessible phone applications allow for many employees with disabilities to accomplish job tasks you may not have initially thought was possible for them.

These points may have dispelled some of the reservations you may have about hiring a person with a disability, but if you still have questions, let us know! Our workforce development team is always open to meeting with business leaders to discuss how we can work together to help solve your staffing issues.

Also, keep an eye out for our upcoming National Disability Employment Awareness Month highlights, coming this October. Don’t forget to check out Part 2 and Part 3 of this post for more information!

The Americans with Disabilities Act: 29 Years of Progress (UPDATED 2019)

Americans With Disabilities Act ADA

Access is a RIGHT

If you were a person with a disability living in the U.S. before the 1990’s, you know our society was NOT built with you in mind. This was best reflected in very architecture of our streets and buildings, which were structured in such a way that, unless you were walking, were impossible to navigate. Ramp access was a luxury, braille was barely used, closed captioning was not a requirement, and something as simple as using a public restroom was often a daunting (and dangerous) task. Today, it’s evident that the times have changed for the better. Though things are far from perfect, it’s undeniable that our country is more accessible than it ever was in the past. Many of these changes can be directly attributed to the establishment of a key law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Read moreThe Americans with Disabilities Act: 29 Years of Progress (UPDATED 2019)

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.

Read moreUpsides and Bird Boxes – The Disability in Film Conversation Continues…