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.
You may drive by a hospital or see a sign on someone’s lawn that proudly exclaims, “Heroes work here!” or “Thank you to our healthcare workers!” These are wonderful sentiments and ones we certainly echo and appreciate. This is why we need to ask ourselves, “Who will care for the caregivers?”
Here’s What You’re Probably Not Hearing Enough of…
If you check the news or head to social media, you will surely be met with endless headlines of COVID-19 related news and health warnings. You will probably be given tons of virus-related advice and instructions on how to stay physically healthy. What you are less likely to hear, however, is a reminder to check in on your mental health.
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.
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.
Recently, Easterseals day program participant, Andrew, was honored at the annual NJACP 20th Annual Stars! Award Presentation. He was treated to dinner and dancing with his peers at The Stone Terrace in Hamilton, NJ. Most important though, his commitment to achieving his goals was recognized and celebrated. Take a look at what his day program manager had to say him:
“Andrew, has attended an Easterseals New Jersey’s day program for over 8 years. He was born with an intellectual disability and faces challenges relating with his peers in social situations. However, these challenges have not kept him from developing meaningful friendships with his fellow program participants. And Andrew’s successes don’t stop there.
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).
Mental Illness – Perspective Through Story
Take some time to imagine this story about mental illness. A person opens their eyes to the first sign of sunlight, there is a sense of quiet, a hint of calm. Then, suddenly, a voice that does not belong to them interrupts their morning haze, shouting that this person is “worthless and should go back to bed.” And so the person does, missing the chance to fulfill their daily plans.
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.
President/Chief Executive Officer
Easterseals New Jersey
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.