Just Because You Can’t See it, Doesn’t Mean it’s Not There

Blog: Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program

You might be surprised to learn that 80% of disabled individuals live with a disability that isn’t immediately apparent to others. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Program, launched in the United Kingdom in 2016, was designed to help the more than 1 billion individuals around the world with non-visible disabilities such as autism, ADHD, dementia, cognitive impairment, mental illness, diabetes, low vision, and other conditions cope with the unique challenges they face on a daily basis.

The Sunflower Program was created because often when people can’t see disability, they don’t recognize that a person may need support, guidance or extra time to complete tasks or understand instructions. The Sunflower Program offers a discreet and entirely voluntary means of letting others know that you have a hidden disability and may need their help and understanding.

Becoming part of the Sunflower Program is simple. All you have to do is wear a lanyard, sticker or wristband with the sunflower symbol on it. When Sunflower Program-trained business owners and employees see the symbol, they’re alerted to the wearer’s hidden disability and know that they may need extra help. Individuals with hidden disabilities can add details about their disabilities and special needs by purchasing personalized Sunflower cards. While you can purchase these materials on the Sunflower Program website, you can also obtain them free from participating businesses.

Some examples of personalized Sunflower cards include those saying:

  • I may need more time
    Please be patient and keep calm—I may need more time to complete an action or to communicate with you.
  • Stairs/ramps are a barrier to me
    Is there an accessible route?
  • I may need urgent access to the closest toilet facility
    Please assist me without questioning.
  • I have sight loss
    I have limited vision and may find access to visual information or
    judging distance a barrier.

A comprehensive list of available sunflower card messages is available on the Sunflower Program website. The website also includes additional information about hidden disabilities, stories from individuals with hidden disabilities, an index of hidden disabilities and a blog with topics of interest for people with hidden disabilities and their allies.

The first business to participate in the Sunflower Program was Gatwick Airport in London. Nowadays, participating businesses include “retail, travel and tourism, transport including over 200 airports—as well as railway networks, coach and bus services and ferries, education (universities, schools and colleges), healthcare, central and local government agencies to football teams, theme parks, theatres and financial institutions.”

Check out the Sunflower Program website to make travel, shopping and recreational events more accessible for you or your loved one with a hidden disability.

8 Ways to Celebrate Disability Pride Month 2023

2023 Disability Pride Month

July is Disability Pride Month. It’s a time to honor the history, accomplishments, struggles and humanity of the more than 1 billion people with disabilities around the globe. As such, it’s the perfect time to review the history of the disability pride movement and consider meaningful ways to celebrate.

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The historic law prohibited discrimination against disabled Americans in all areas of public life. Unfortunately, despite the landmark decision, discrimination still exists. Disability Pride Month helps bring attention to the misconceptions and obstacles that disabled people continue to face and encourages their complete inclusion in our societies.

In October 1990, the city of Boston held the first Disability Pride parade. It was a great success, but it took a while for the rest of the country to catch on. In 2004, Chicago held its first Disability Pride parade and other cities including Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Buffalo eventually followed its example. Nowadays Disability Pride Month is celebrated in cities and towns across the United States and in some places overseas.

In 2015, then New York Mayor Bill de Blasio proclaimed July Disability Pride Month in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the ADA.

Whether you are a person with a disability or an ally of the disability community, you can participate in a variety of activities that highlight issues of concern to members of the disabled community. Here are some opportunities for Disability Pride Month observance:

1. Take part in a Disability Pride parade!
Disability Pride parades are held in many locations during the month of July. Some well-known parades are held in Missouri, Illinois and Pennsylvania but nowadays you can find parades and other disability pride events all over the U.S. Check your local news publications or websites to find out if one is being held near you.

2. Attend a virtual Disability Pride parade!
If you aren’t able to attend a parade in person, attend Easterseals’ virtual parade on Jan. 26. For more info, visit the Easterseals’ website.

3. Read about the history of disability rights
There are plenty of excellent books that teach about the fight for disability rights and inclusion. To find suggestions of books on disability, check out this list by USA Today or this one by the New York Public Library.

4. Watch a film about the disability experience
Some excellent choices are “Crip Camp,” “CODA,” “The Evolution of Disability in Film” and “The Miracle Worker.”

5. Check out a disability history website
UC Berkeley’s website on the Disability Rights and Independent Living Movement is a good place to start. Another informative website with ideas on celebrating Disability Pride Month is the Arc’s.

6. Tell your disability story on social media
Share your experiences and encourage others to observe Disability Pride Month on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or TikTok using hashtags #DisabilityPride and #DisabilityPrideMonth.

7. Reach out to elective officials
Write or call elected officials to demand policies that support the rights of disabled people. The Arc’s Action Circle provides alerts about the latest disability issues and policies.

8. Donate to disability rights organizations
Providing funding for organizations that support the rights of disabled individuals is one of the best ways to celebrate Disability Pride. Check out Stanford University’s Office for Accessible Education website for suggestions of organizations that need your donations.

 “Hop”—a New Kids’ TV Show—to Feature Disabled Characters

Blog: “Hop”—a New Kids’ TV Show

As we have frequently discussed here, disability representation in the media is a critical part of encouraging inclusion and changing the inaccurate and sometimes negative perceptions of people with disabilities. While 26% of Americans live with disabilities, just 3.1% of on-screen characters are disabled.

When children are exposed to disability early in life, either by getting to know their disabled peers, reading books or watching television programs with disabled characters, inclusion comes more naturally. That’s why we were particularly excited to learn about “Hop,” a new show for preschoolers recently greenlighted by Max (formerly HBO Max) and currently in development.

Created by Marc Brown, best known for the beloved PBS children’s television show “Arthur,” which concluded recently after 25 years on the air, “Hop” joins a growing number of animated shows for young children that present positive depictions of disabled characters and normalize inclusion.

“Hop” features a group of young friends that includes characters with disabilities. The show’s main protagonist—Hop—is a frog with a limb length discrepancy, played by actor David Connolly, the first amputee to perform in a Broadway production. Filipa the squirrel, another character on the show, is neurodivergent and dislikes loud noises and crowded environments. The young animal pals live in a fictional town called “Fair Village” where everyone is equal and valued for their unique qualities.

In a press release Brown said, “Even before Arthur ended, I was nurturing a new project about a little frog named Hop for a younger audience. As Hop’s world grew in my imagination, I drew inspiration from the great work my friend Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) had done.

With Arthur, we occasionally introduced characters with disabilities but they never became part of the ensemble cast in any meaningful way,” added Brown. “But the characters in Hop reflect many kids who are underrepresented in the media. Some of our characters have disabilities but they never define who they are or what they can achieve. Kids are kids and each one is unique and filled with potential. And kids love to have fun, that’s what Hop is all about!”

To ensure realistic and unbiased media portrayals, the show’s producer Epic Media is consulting with RespectAbility, a nonprofit that fights stigma and advances opportunities for people with disabilities. As part of its mission “to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities,” RespectAbility partners “with studios, production companies, writers’ rooms, and news organizations, to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the entire media ecosystem.”

“Hop” is scheduled to make it debut in early 2024.

Disability Studies: Is it the Field for You?

Blog: Disability Studies: Is it the Field for You?

What’s your major? Increasingly, college students are answering that question with “disability studies.”

In recent years, four-year colleges and universities such as CUNY (City University of New York), Arizona State University, Toledo University and University of Illinois have added disability studies to the menu of undergraduate programs they offer. More commonly, countless institutions of higher learning offer associate degrees, minors, certificates, interdisciplinary programs and graduate degrees in disabilities studies. Meanwhile, colleges and universities that have not initiated such programs of study are forming committees to discuss how best to do so.

But what is disability studies?

University of California, Berkeley’s website explains the field of disability studies like this:

“Disability studies provides a space to explore questions like these: How has disability been defined in various historical moments, in various cultures and eras? While impairment has unquestionably been a frequent experience throughout human history, has disability –the construction of impairment as a generic social category — been a historical constant, or is it a modern invention? What social ideologies, cultural systems, and societal arrangements have shaped the meaning and experience of disability? How has disability been defined or represented in cultural and artistic productions, public laws and policies, modern professional practices and in everyday life?”

CUNY, the first university to offer a bachelor’s degree in disability studies, defines the field like this:

“Disability Studies is an emerging academic field that explores disability and society through the lens of overlapping perspectives, including social sciences, humanities, science, and the law.”

Note that both descriptions reflect a relatively new understanding that the implications of disability go way beyond health and medical considerations. Instead, schools that offer disability studies programs recognize that disability, which affects at least 25% of the population in one way or another, intersects every aspect of our lives. As our population ages, more of us will become disabled. That means professionals who understand the challenges that individuals with disabilities face, will play a more important role than ever before.

Still, students concerned about how they will find jobs after college may have questions about how a degree in disability studies will pay off. No worries there. Graduates of disability studies programs will be prepared for careers and/or graduate work in a range of professions including special education, social work, physical, speech, rehabilitation and occupational therapy, sociology, anthropology, law, public health, architecture, design, engineering and more.

Regardless of what graduate program or career disability studies students choose, they will enter their fields with a breadth of knowledge about issues such as inclusion, accessibility, human rights, education and health policy. They will also have the personal and professional satisfaction of knowing that their expertise will almost certainly improve the lives of disabled individuals, and their families.

John’s Crazy Socks Spreads Happiness!

Blog: John’s Crazy Socks

Looking for a unique way to celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March?

What about World Down Syndrome Day on March 21?

You might want to consider donning a pair of John’s Crazy Socks! Why? Because John’s Crazy Socks, founded by Long Islanders John Lee Cronin, a young man with Down syndrome, and his businessman father Mark X. Cronin, provides employment for people with disabilities and donates 5% of its profits to Special Olympics. Additionally, the company educates the public about why people with disabilities make great employees, and advocates for public policy changes on behalf of people with different abilities.

John and Mark decided to start their own business in 2016, soon after John graduated from high school. Finding few options for employment, John eventually approached his father about starting a business together. At first, John and Mark considered starting a food truck but they discarded the idea after realizing they had no talent for cooking. Then, John had a brainstorm. Why not sell socks?

As Mark Cronin remarks on the company’s website, “John had worn crazy socks his entire life, that was his thing. We would drive around looking for them. It seemed as if John loved fun socks so much, others would too.”

As it turned out, Mark was right. Customers were crazy for John’s Crazy Socks! By the end of their first month on the e-commerce site Shopify, John’s Crazy Socks had filled 452 orders and taken in more than $13,000!

Since then, the company has grown by leaps and bounds. Nowadays, John’s Crazy Socks sells 4,000 different pairs from socks for disability awareness, holidays and birthdays to car and biking enthusiasts to coffee lovers, cat people, and more. Socks are available in men, women and baby sizes and in styles including ankle, bamboo, compression, no-show, athletic and knee-high. Businesses can purchase logo socks. And the company even offers a sock of the month club!

If socks aren’t your thing (although who doesn’t need socks?), John’s Crazy Socks also sells pet sweaters, tote bags, blankets, kitchen mitts and dish towels.

According to its website, John’s Crazy Socks’ business model is built on “four pillars – inspiration and hope; giving back; socks you can love; and making it personal.”  All John’s products have the same mission – spreading happiness. In other words, “The more we can do for others, the more we can make people happy, the better off we are.”

For more information about John’s Crazy Socks, visit johnscrazysocks.com.

Disabled Representation is Improving at Disney

Blog: Disabled Representation

Planning a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, this holiday season? If so, don’t miss the classic “It’s a Small World” attraction’s newest additions – two dolls who use wheelchairs.

“It’s a Small World,” one of Disney’s longest running attractions, was first created for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair. It opened at Disneyland in 1966 and has been a favorite ever since.

Disney Imagineer Kim Irving says it’s important for Disney’s attractions to change with the times. She told Parade Magazine that her team has been surveying Disneyland “with a magnifying glass” to find spots where the organization can increase inclusivity.

“We are always looking to enhance our attractions with not just fun things, but meaningful things as well,” said Irving in a CNN interview.

Disney Resort manager of accessibility Erin Quintanilla, a wheelchair user, said the ride’s disability representation was “an historic moment.” As she told CNN, “I feel seen. I feel represented. It’s a monumental moment to have my community be in an attraction and represented. I teared up when I saw them in the attraction.”

Dolls in wheelchairs are expected to be added to “It’s a Small World” in Florida’s Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris sometime next year.

Adding dolls who use wheelchairs is just one example of Disney’s efforts to become a more inclusive organization. In 2021, Disney updated rides such as Jungle Cruise and Splash Mountain after visitors complained that they contained racist imagery. Some Disney watchers expect that the park’s Peter Pan ride will also be updated soon, as the ride has been criticized for its negative portrayals of Indigenous people.

Disney has also made efforts to become a more inclusive workplace for its employees. In 2012, employees were [for the first time] permitted to wear beards. Nowadays, they are able to display body piercings and tattoos and can choose their own costumes.  Disney’s inclusion policy seems to be working. For the past five years, The Walt Disney Company has earned a top score on the 2022 Disability Equality Index (DEI), a tool that measures disability workplace inclusion.

Disney’s updated inclusion agenda can also be seen in films and television programs where the company has taken steps to diversify its characters. In addition to portrayals of ethnically diverse characters such as “Big Hero 6,” “Moana,” “The Frog Princess,” and “Pocahontas,” Disney has also increased disability representation with films such as “Finding Nemo,” “Finding Dory,” “Kim Possible” and “Luca.”

While disabled Disney fans are pleased with these changes, many are still waiting for Disney to create a film starring a disabled princess. According to Newzhook.com, “Sydney-based writer and disability advocate Hannah Diviney even started a petition to urge Disney Pixar saying that a disabled Disney princess would give many people around the world ‘the chance to see themselves be the hero of their own story.’ She says, ‘If the magical seed of representation is planted at a young age, it will bloom into something precious and valuable. …It would also be providing a powerful reference point for non-disabled children to understand us and our lives.’”

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” Sparks Controversy in South Korea and Beyond

Blog: Woo

A new Netflix show from South Korea has autism activists talking. When it debuted last summer, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” quickly became the most popular non-English TV show on Netflix. A courtroom drama about a brilliant young attorney with Autism Spectrum Disorder portrayed by Korean actress Park Eun-bin, the show is drawing accolades, anger and ambivalence.

What to make of this? Let’s take a look.

In the United States, depictions of disabled characters in film and television are still uncommon. Yet, thanks to organizations such as RespectAbility, there is progress. According to a recent New York Times article, “Significant depictions of disability on film and television shows have nearly tripled over the past decade compared with the previous 10 years.” Disability awareness in South Korea is also increasing, though at a much slower pace than in the U.S.

South Koreans “typically associate autism and disabilities with shame,” Ms. Son Da-eun, the director of Autism Partnership Korea recently told The New York Times. “Several parents whose children attend [our] center conceal the diagnosis from friends and relatives, and some blame themselves for it.”

Son and other autism activists are pleased by the exposure to autism that Attorney Woo is providing for Korean viewers. Yet, they worry that the show’s portrayal of the disorder is unrealistic.

“In South Korea, some families of autistic people have described the show as ‘pure fantasy,’” says News 24. That’s because only 10% of people with autism have savant syndrome like Attorney Woo, whose character has an IQ of 164; a photographic memory; and the ability to solve legal cases that none of her colleagues can. Additionally, these families insist that someone with autism would never receive the educational or vocational opportunities that Woo receives in South Korea.

When actress Park Eun-bin was cast as Attorney Woo, she was concerned about offending the autism community. With only two weeks to prepare, Park said she read a lot about autism and its symptoms. Meanwhile, the show’s screenwriter Moon Ji-won spent a year working with a Korean special educator to help ensure that Attorney Woo’s behavior would accurately depict traits of autism.

Attorney Woo displays many of the characteristics often associated with autism – echolalia (repeating other people’s words); sensitivity to noise and touch; rigidity; poor eye contact; and awkward gait. She speaks in a monotone and has an obsessive interest in whales. Some viewers with autism identify with the portrayal. Some insist that Park’s depiction is inaccurate since not all people with autism experience all those symptoms. Others are unhappy that the role of Attorney Woo is being played by an actor who does not have autism.

Writing for Polygon.com, Geoffrey Bunting recommends “inviting disabled people into the production (which would also do something to combat the staggeringly low employment rates of autistic and disabled people in Korea) and to hire disabled actors to lend their experiences to their own characters.”

Despite its problems, most viewers agree that the show is worthy of a watch.

“We can’t expect a television show to really portray what it is like for autistic people and their families,” said drama and pop culture critic Gong Hee-jung in an article for Korea JoongAng Daily, “but a show like ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ will help steer general understanding of autism towards improvement. It will be an opportunity for us as a society to reflect on the prejudices that we unknowingly had.”

Extraordinary Attorney Woo Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.

It’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month!

Blog: National Disability Employment Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time to recognize the contributions that disabled Americans make to the United States’ labor force. It is also a time to take stock of the current employment outlook for those with disabilities and to re-dedicate ourselves to increasing inclusion and opportunities for disabled workers.

“A strong workforce is the sum of many parts, and disability has always been a key part of the equation,” said Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy Taryn M. Williams in a press release. “People with disabilities make up a wonderfully multifaceted group. By recognizing the full complexion of our community, we can ensure our efforts to achieve disability inclusion are, in fact, truly inclusive.”

This year’s NDEAM theme is “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.” But how equitable is the American workforce and what is the current status of disabled workers in our country? The answer is complicated.

The Good News

On the bright side, disability employment reached historically high levels in 2022. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report released Oct. 7, 2022 reported the employment-to-population ratio (the percent of the population that is employed) for people with disabilities (ages 16-64) was nearly 35% in September 2022.

One major reason for the increase in employment of disabled individuals this year was due to changes that arose from the pandemic. Though many disabled workers lost jobs at the beginning of the pandemic, as it continued, changes in the employment landscape such as the increase in remote work opportunities made it possible for many disabled individuals to become gainfully employed. Likewise, workforce shortages encouraged employers to take a chance on hiring individuals with disabilities. As more people return to work and especially to office jobs, it is unclear whether such increases will hold.

In other good news, “federal officials are sending $177 million to states in a major push to shift people with disabilities away from subminimum wage work in favor of competitive integrated employment,” reported Sean Heasley for Disability Scoop on Oct. 3. The Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment demonstration project will provide funding to 14 state vocational rehabilitation agencies and will be distributed over five years.

This encouraging trend follows the enactment of another rule meant to prohibit the practice of paying people with disabilities less than their non-disabled colleagues. In July, AbilityOne, a federal program that finds employment for disabled individuals through government contracts, ruled that its employees must be paid at least minimum wage. Prior to the ruling, employers were permitted (with certification from the U.S. DOL) to pay disabled employees less than minimum wage.

According to Disability Scoop, “about 40,000 individuals who are blind or who have significant disabilities are employed through AbilityOne at over 1,000 locations nationwide. The program directs federal contracts to a network of some 450 nonprofit agencies, which provided nearly $4 billion in products and services to the government in fiscal year 2021 alone.”

Hopefully, other employers will soon follow suit.

The Not-So-Good News

The high employment-to-population rate for people with disabilities is a bit deceptive though. According to the BLS, the unemployment rate among persons with a disability is more than twice that of persons without a disability—7.3 percent vs. 3.1 percent, respectively—in September 2022. The unemployment rate measures the share of workers in the labor force who do not currently have a job but are actively looking for work. That means that individuals with disabilities who are able and willing to work are not finding jobs to the same extent as individuals without disabilities.

And there are other reasons that the increase in disability employment isn’t as good as it could be. For one, disabled individuals who are employed are more likely to have only part-time employment than their non-disabled counterparts (29 percent vs. 16 percent). Others are under-employed, which means that they are employed in jobs that are not consistent with their skill level. Still others face barriers to higher education, which hinders access to jobs with growth potential.

Complicating matters further is the fact that individuals with different types of disabilities face different challenges when it comes to employment opportunities. For example, Breeze, a disability insurance vendor, reports that employment rates (employment-to-population ratio) of working age adults vary by disability:

  • Learning disabilities: 46 percent
  • Hearing disabilities: 52 percent
  • Vision disability: 44 percent of people
  • Cognitive disability: 26 percent
  • Intellectual and developmental disabilities: 14.7 percent

Although there is still work to do before people with disabilities find equity in the workforce, there is reason to celebrate this NDEAM. Employers are gaining awareness about the need for equity and responding by hiring more people with disabilities. To learn more about ways to commemorate NDEAM, visit dol.gov/agencies/odep/initiatives/ndeam.

Pottery Barn Champions Inclusion and Accessibility

Blog: Pottery Barn

When Marta Benson, president of Pottery Barn, discovered that the bathrooms in Pottery Barn Stores weren’t outfitted with Pottery Barn-made bathroom consoles she asked a store designer about the design choice. He explained that the stores couldn’t use Pottery Barn consoles because none of them were ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. In other words, they didn’t have wheelchair accessible sinks. Benson was shocked and dismayed by the designer’s response.

“From that moment, I just started tuning into what it means to be inclusive and accessible to all abilities,” Benson told Elizabeth Segran of Fast Company.

Benson asked Pottery Barn designers to add accessibility features to many of the company’s most popular furniture and accessories. To ensure that adaptations were done right, she had Pottery Barn designers consult with disabled individuals from the Disability Education and Advocacy Network, and designers with expertise in designing for accessibility.

The result? Pottery Barn’s new Accessible Home collection, which premiered July 22 online and in select stores.

According to a press release, the collection includes furnishings for every room in the home. For instance, the “Irving recliner [chair] features powered remotes with easy-to-read buttons, multiple reclining positions, side pockets for easy-to-reach storage, and lifting to assist with sitting and standing; and the wheelchair accessible Pacific Desk comes in modular and open shelving styles so that users don’t need to use pulls to open drawers. … The Clarence Vanity, Pivot Mirror, and Linden Grab Bars that have been reimagined to make the bathroom safer and easier to navigate.”

The collection also features adjustable desks and beds; non-slip rugs, non-breakable dining products and lighting accessories specifically designed for disability.

Though home furniture for disabled consumers exists, it tends to be functional but not aesthetically pleasing. The Accessible Home collection aims to combine form and function so that everyone can enjoy living in an accessible and beautiful space.

“We don’t want customers to feel like they live in a hospital,” Benson told Segran. “We wanted to adapt our vernacular, our beautiful reclaimed-wood finishes, to these products. You shouldn’t have to compromise design to have this functionality.”

Despite their accessible design features, items in the Accessible Home collection will be sold at similar price points as Pottery Barn’s original versions. That said, Pottery Barn’s home furnishings are relatively expensive and prices could be prohibitive for many disabled and elderly individuals.

Even so, writes Segran, “Pottery Barn’s collection could send a signal to the market that there’s money to be made in serving the needs of disabled consumers and creating products that will allow homes to be more inclusive of people with disabilities. Ultimately, a line like this could nudge mass-market retailers like Target, Amazon, or Walmart to create stylish, accessible home goods.”

Eight Ways to Celebrate Disability Pride Month

Blog: Disability Pride Month

Friday, July 1 marked the beginning of Disability Pride Month.

The designation was first established by former New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio in 2015 in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by ensuring rights in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunication was signed into law on July 26, 1990 by former President George H.W. Bush.

The ADA had life-changing ramifications for individuals with disabilities, but more change is needed.

During Disability Pride Month, activists suggest disability allies learn about ways they can support the disability community. Here are some of their suggestions:

1. Walk in a Disability Pride Parade
In 1990, the first Disability Pride Parade was held in Boston. Today, Disability Pride parades take place in communities all across the nation. Support your disabled friends and family members by joining them for parade activities. The Disability Pride Parade Association in Chicago is holding its annual parade on July 23rd. (The New York City parade, originally scheduled for July 10th has been postponed until the fall due to COVID.)

2. Educate yourself about ableism
According to AccessLiving.org, ableism is defined as: “The discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. At its heart, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require ‘fixing’ and defines people by their disability.” Sometimes even those who mean well have ablest attitudes. To learn more about ableism, visit Access Living.

3. Stand up for inclusion
If you are a member of a religious, civic, arts or business organization, make sure that their services, meetings, performances and conferences are inclusive. This means that event spaces should be wheelchair accessible; sign language interpreters are present; assistive listening devices are provided; and disability accommodations are clearly explained on websites and in all marketing materials.

4. Read books by disabled authors and journalists
The best way to learn about issues of concern to people with disabilities is to read about their experiences. Check out this list of books by thecatchpoles.net.

5. Be aware of your language
Avoid offensive language about disabled people. Phrases such as “wheelchair bound,” or “suffering from” frame disability in a negative and frightening light. Similarly, descriptors such as “crazy,” “dumb,” “lame,” or “idiot” are all insulting and disrespectful.

For some time, there has been disagreement about whether it is preferable to use “people-first language” i.e. “people with disabilities” or disability-first language i.e. “disabled people.” The ADA National Network has a guide to disability language but when in doubt, ask individuals what they prefer.

6. Follow disability blogs and publications
In addition to Enabling Devices’ blog, keep up with blogs and publications such as Disability Scoop, Assistive Technology, Disabled World, MobilityWorks and New Mobility Magazine.

7. Hire individuals with disabilities
As Enabling Devices has reported, hiring disabled workers isn’t just a moral imperative. It’s also good business. Disability Pride Month is a great time to “raise awareness, educate your employees about the disabled community, and create an inclusive environment for employees with disabilities,” says Emtrain.com. For additional workplace inclusion suggestions, click here.

8. Take Disability San Antonio’s Disability Friendly pledge
Among other things, pledge signers promise to be accepting of difference; aware of the existence of invisible disabilities; and to become knowledgeable about disability issues. Visit disabilitysa.org/take-the-pledge.

6 Films Portraying Characters with Disabilities to Watch This Holiday Season


The holiday season provides rare opportunities for lazy afternoons and evenings at home with family and friends. Watching movies together—holiday themed or otherwise—is a favorite pastime for many. But until recently, finding films inclusive of characters with disabilities was nearly impossible. Fortunately, that’s slowly changing.

Here’s a brief list of films including characters who represent the 20% of Americans who live with disabilities. Happy viewing and happy holidays!

1. “Luca”
Set in an idyllic Italian fishing village, this animated film from Pixar does a wonderful job of exploring themes of otherness and disability.  Luca, the film’s young protagonist, has a secret identity: He’s a sea monster! When he meets Alberto, also a sea monster, the two youngsters leave the water to discover the human world and befriend a little girl named Giulia. Giulia’s father, Massimo, has one arm. According to the New York Times, the film “takes the rare step of portraying a character with a limb difference—without making it a defining characteristic.”

“Luca” is bound to be a crowd-pleaser for family members and friends of all ages.

2. “Rising Phoenix”
If you had the opportunity to see any of the Paralympic games several months back, you were no doubt amazed by the athletes and spellbound by the festivities. “Rising Phoenix” takes viewers behind the scenes at the Paralympics, sharing the fascinating history of the games and introducing you to nine of the games’ Paralympic athletes.

The documentary’s soundtrack is also remarkable. According to Variety, “most of it was created, post-pandemic shutdown, in [composer Daniel] Pemberton’s studio, augmented by three musicians with disabilities, all performing in their home studios and sending in their parts for mixing into the final score.” The film’s concluding song was performed by three disabled American rappers—George Doman aka George TraGiC, Toni Hickman and Keith Jones. You can watch rising Phoenix on Netflix.

3. The Fundamentals of Caring”
Paul Rudd, PEOPLE’S sexiest man alive, stars in this 2016 Netflix film about the relationship between a caregiver (Rudd) and his charge (Craig Roberts), a teenager with muscular dystrophy. It’s worth noting that the film, which also stars Selena Gomez, was criticized for casting Roberts, a nondisabled person, in the role of the teen. Nevertheless, it was a favorite at the Sundance Film Festival, so you may want to check it out anyway.

4. “Sound of Metal”
Award-winning actor Riz Ahmed stars as professional drummer who is losing his hearing in this 2019 film. Though Ahmed is not disabled, he spent a great deal of time preparing for the role in learning about deafness and deaf culture. The film also deals with themes related to addiction. “Sound of Metal” was nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Ahmed) and Best Supporting Actor (Raci) at the 93rd Academy Awards where it won for Best Sound and Best Film Editing.

5. “The Best Years of Our Lives”
Released in 1946, just one year after World War II ended, this epic drama, tells the story of veteran Homer Parish, who returns home from the war after losing both of his hands in combat. Played by Harold Russell, an actor who himself lost his hands during explosive training in WWII, Parish struggles to integrate back into his family and community.

Groundbreaking on so many levels, “The Best Years of Our Lives” is one of the first Hollywood movies to depict the pain and sacrifice of war and the arduous process of returning to civilian life after witnessing and experiencing unfathomable tragedy.

6. “Keep the Change”
Refreshingly, both stars of “Keep the Change,” a 2018 love story about two young adults with autism, really have autism spectrum disorder. David (Brandon Polansky) and Sarah (Samantha Elisofon) meet at the JCC in Manhattan where both are part of a social club for people with autism. Heartwarming and delightfully entertaining, “Keep the Change” received a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also won Best U.S. Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival, where Elisofen also received a Best Actress nomination.

Celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month with These Activities

DD Awareness Month

Developmental disabilities can affect movement, learning, language and behavior. Autism spectrum disorder; ADHD; hearing loss; intellectual disability; learning disability; and vision loss are all examples of this set of disabilities which affect approximately 17 percent of children in the United States between the ages of 3 and 17.

Every March, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities and its partners creates a social media campaign to promote the inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities.

According to NACDD, “the campaign seeks to raise awareness about the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life, as well as awareness of the barriers that people with disabilities still sometimes face in connecting to the communities in which they live.”

This year’s campaign is branded with a logo created by Eileen Schofield, an artist from Art Enables, a studio in Washington D.C. Individuals and groups participating in Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month can download the logo for use in their local campaigns here. Make sure to use the hashtag #DDawareness2021 on any NACDD materials that are distributed.

NACDD is also creating a resource guide with information of interest to people with disabilities and their families. Stakeholders are encouraged to submit materials that they think should be included in the guide. “NACDD’s website lists the following examples of the materials they are seeking: videos, toolkits, news articles, photos, personal stories and promising practices. They can be submitted to Rafael Rolon-Muniz at rrolon-muniz@nacdd.org.

For the second year in a row, NACDD will showcase artwork created by individuals with disability as part of its campaign’s marketing assets.

Here are some additional ways to observe Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month:

1. Join New York State’s Office for People with Disabilities’ virtual Dance for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month by making a video showing you or you and your friends and family dancing and send it to communications.office@opwdd.ny.gov. They’ll post it on their social media channels. Additionally, share your video on your own social media accounts using the hashtags #DanceforDDAM #DDAM2021 and #NYSOPWDD.

2. Wear a Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month ribbon. The blue and yellow ribbons can be purchased here. When people ask you what the ribbon means, be ready to provide valuable information about developmental disabilities and the need for inclusion throughout our society.

3. Donate money to an organization that provides services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Some examples: The Arc; Easter Seals; United Cerebral Palsy; Friendship Circle International.

4. Host a Spread the Word Inclusion Pledge Day event at your school or workplace by encouraging community members to pledge their support for inclusion. You can take the pledge by visiting spreadtheword.global/pledge.

5. Spread the Word also recommends starting a Best Buddies or Special Olympics club at your school.

6. Watch a webinar about developmental disabilities such as “Disability Advocates and Allies: Creating Inclusive Communities and Lasting Change with Xian Horn.” Register here.

7. Share stories about the accomplishments of people with developmental disabilities on your social media accounts.

8. Share photos and videos of people with developmental disabilities sharing their stories.