More than a decade ago, when Jenny Lay-Flurrie was looking for a job, she told an interviewer at Microsoft that she had some trouble hearing.
"I didn't tell them I was profoundly deaf," Lay-Flurrie tells USA TODAY through an American Sign Language interpreter. "It was Microsoft that educated me. They helped me realize that my disability is a strength that makes the company better."
Thirteen years later, Lay-Flurrie is the chief accessibility officer for Microsoft.
A first-of-its-kind study published by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) in partnership with US Business Leadership Network (USBLN) finds that far more people than expected have a disability: In the U.S., 30 percent of college-educated employees working full-time in white-collar professions. CTI's report Disabilities and Inclusion has uncovered that employees with disabilities make up an enormous global talent pool that employers overlook far too often- to their own detriment.Read More
Less than 20% of people with disabilities are currently employed, drastically lower than the 65% employment rate of people without disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the best possible time to educate ourselves about successful practices for job seekers, and the many resources available to Americans with disabilities and employers interested in recruiting people with disabilities.Read More
A sailboat called 'Impossible Dream' was built with wide ramps, elevators and a wheelchair-level steering wheel to allow people with disabilities the chance to get out on the water.Read More
The Maine Human Rights Commission has developed a new educational video relating to what all too often is a confusing or contentious issue: service and assistance animals. This engaging and informative video illustrates the laws, rules, and issues that relate to service and assistance animals.Read More
Not Always Happy is a humorous and sharp chronicle about adopting and raising a son with Down syndrome from the Maine foster care system. The author quickly learns that life is best lived by expecting the unplanned when she makes the decision to become a parent in her late forties.Read More
When we led a survey to find out what professionals with disabilities wanted in their job search, we got some surprising results. First and foremost we were thrilled to see that job seekers with disabilities look for jobs like anyone else. Around 93% of respondents use social media as online job search tools, with LinkedIn the No. 1 job tool, followed by Facebook.Read More
Special Surfers is a non-profit organization (501c3) that provides the opportunity for special needs kids and young adults to surf. There is no cost to participants or their families, and all equipment and instruction is provided. Special Surfer events are held on the third Tuesday of each month in June, July, and August at Gooches Beach in Kennebunk, Maine. We have hundreds of special surfers and volunteers at each event providing a real sense of community and accomplishment for all.Read More
From May to October, the non-profit organization offers free recreational rides for people young and old and in between who are living with a disability and can't ride a bike by themselves.Read More
My name is Dylan Volk. I am 25 years old and I have what is known as high functioning autism. In my experience with almost 40 jobs, having been fired from every one of them, I have some advice for employers. I would like to tell you 5 things that I want employers to know about people with autism.Read More
Shopping for and choosing clothes is challenging enough that an entire industry of stylists, magazine editors and fashion bloggers has been created to help. But imagine if your parameters included more than finding a sweater to complement your eye color, or a backpack to match your sneakers.
Imagine if you were unable to use your arms to do anything (let alone get dressed), or used a wheelchair and needed to have easy access to a catheter, or had a spine with a significant convex curve that made pressing up against any flat surface painful, or had muscles that spasm.
At the end of March, Sesame Street introduced the world to Julia, the first autistic Muppet. At the time, Julia’s puppeteer and mother of a son on the autism spectrum, Stacy Gordon, told NPR, “Man, I really wish that kids in my son’s class had grown up with a Sesame Street that had modeling [of] the behavior of inclusion of characters with autism.”
A similar sentiment might be applied to Lion Forge's newest creation. Superb launches in July and will feature the first superhero with Down syndrome-the chromosomal condition that affects roughly 1 in every 700 babies born in the United States, according to the National Down Syndrome Society. NDSS was a full partner in bringing Jonah, the main hero of Superb, to life alongside Lion Forge, whose slogan is, “Comics For Everyone.”Read More
Summer vacation will be here soon. When planning a vacation with a person who has special needs, accessibility is the name of the game: wheelchair accessibility, accessibility to medical needs, a positive sensory environment, accessibility to old interests and new experiences.
Every destination on this list welcomes and accommodates visitors with special needs. You've probably heard of some of these places before, but others may get you thinking about vacations in a whole new way.
The Maine Development Disabilities Council (MDDC) presented awards in the Hall of Flags at the State House today, recognizing and celebrating students and schools that demonstrate the concept of inclusion, creating a world in which all people are valued members of the community.Read More
While the choice to self-identify as a person with a disability is entirely up to the individual, employers are increasingly interested in fostering an environment that encourages self-identification in order to: Increase hiring and retention of qualified individuals with disabilities to capitalize on their unique skillset, talents, experiences and perspectives; Ensure they are creating and sustaining diverse and inclusive workplaces; and, Achieve compliance with federal regulations requiring affirmative action in disability hiring, such as Sections 501 and 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, which cover federal agencies and federal contractors, respectively.Read More
Red Sox pitcher David Price has built a baseball field that is wheelchair accessible and made of rubberized turf, giving children with special needs a rare opportunity to play the game Price loves.Read More
This month, seven young adults with developmental disabilities are opening their mailboxes and finding out that they've been accepted to STRIVE U, a first-of-its-kind postsecondary education and training program based in South Portland.
Students learn to live and work as independently as possible and reach their own potential along the way. We met the first STRIVE class back in 2004, and recently checked in with several graduates to see how they're doing more than a decade later.
Volk Packaging Corporation, a third generation family-owned corrugated box plant based in Biddeford, Maine, never set out to be an employer of people with disabilities. However, Volk's inclusive workplace culture has led to the company's employment of numerous people with diverse abilities, including workers who are deaf, blind and on the autism spectrum.Read More
Maine's constricting labor force offers an opportunity to pull people into the workforce who otherwise wouldn't work, and to move lower-paid workers up the job chain into positions that pay more. But the public programs in place to help people improve their job prospects are largely set to autopilot, or they are greatly limited in their reach due to the way they are designed and funded. This is the third in a series called Forgotten Maine Workers that examines how Maine could realize the hidden potential among its workers.Read More
For the first time in a decade, the classic children's television show Sesame Street will introduce a new Muppet on the air. Her name is Julia. She's a shy and winsome 4-year-old, with striking red hair and green eyes. Julia likes to paint and pick flowers. When Julia speaks, she often echoes what she's just heard her friends Abby and Elmo say. Julia has autism.Read More
On February 21, 2017, the City of Biddeford announced a new summer camp for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The University of New England Westbrook College of Health Professions developed an academic course for undergraduate students in the Health, Wellness and Occupational Studies program about Autism. Students are currently enrolled in the course and will serve as the camp counselors, providing 1:1 care and support for the children. The UNE students receive course credits as well as valuable hands on experience with the children. The camp concept was developed and is being implemented with the help of the UNE Occupational Therapy Department and Community Therapy Center.Read More
For the first time, a new study suggests it's possible to predict within the first year of life if a child will develop autism.Read More
On the court, the Portland High School Bulldogs are reigning Maine state basketball champions. But, during most games this season, the crowd often finds it inspiration from what's happening on the sidelines.Read More
Over the next three years, Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) will be launching a new online, professional mentoring program to support community college students with disabilities across five states.Read More
A couple months back, a press release came across my desk. It said, for the first time ever, a deaf student was playing the part of Portland High School's bulldog mascot. I thought, hey, that's a cool story that needs to be told. But the more I pondered it, the more I wondered if it was really a story. I mean, why couldn't a deaf student be a mascot? Would it be kind of insulting to suggest it was a big deal at all?Read More
What does successful workplace inclusion for people with disabilities look like? An innovative program at Worldport, UPS's main air sorting hub in Louisville, Kentucky, is game-changing, reframing disability inclusion not only as social responsibility but also as a means of meeting strategic business needs.Read More
Today, Mind Shift announces a new partnership with Anthem, Inc. to recruit and hire people on the autism spectrum for highly specialized jobs in data analytics. Anthem's Health Care Analytics department is hiring motivated, detail oriented talent with exceptional attention to accuracy to perform data cleansing and data entry.Read More
While the choice to self-identify as a person with a disability belongs solely to individual employees and applicants, employers are increasingly interested in fostering an environment that encourages self-identification...Read More
From an early age, Lindsay Abromaitis-Smith loved creating art, which led her to become a puppetry artist and sculptor as an adult. She was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in 2012. Sometimes called Lou Gehrig's disease, ALS is a rapidly progressive neurological disorder that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. But she didn't let the disease stop her from expressing creativity. She now uses her feet to paint.Read More
People who experience hearing loss can feel isolated and alone. It is important that the hearing public understand how to interact with deaf people and those who are hard of hearing. It is not difficult to adapt communication, but for those on the receiving end, it can be a breath of fresh air.Read More
Tom Wlodkowski is working hard to put himself out of a job. Wlodkowski is the head of accessibility at Comcast, having joined four years ago from AOL. After working 25 years to make technology more inclusive for people with disabilities, he is aiming for the day when it's just part of the routine.Read More
Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette announces that the U.S. Department of Education has awarded the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, part of the Maine Department of Labor, $9 million to help students with disabilities prepare for postsecondary education and competitive integrated employment. Other states receiving a grant were California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont.Read More
EARN's National Project Director, Brett Sheats, celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month (#NDEAM) in this DirectEmployers Association blog post by recounting his experiences at the recent US Business Leadership Network - USBLN conference and sharing all the ways in which the conference highlighted the value of an inclusive workforce.Read More
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and all members of the Maine State Chamber are encouraged to participate. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities.Read More
O'Leary's boxing gym is using techniques to help adults with developmental disabilities gain better balance, coordination and confidence. The gym teamed up with Families Matter Inc. a few months ago. The group responded very positively to the activities, their favorite is sparring in the boxing ring. It gives the adults a chance to do something different and have fun while doing it.Read More
The 2016 Summer Paralympics are the fifteenth Summer Paralympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from September 7th to September 18th. This will be first Summer Paralympics to be held during the host city's wintertime. This will mark the first time a Latin American and South American city hosts the event, the second Southern Hemisphere city and nation, the first one being the 2000 Summer Paralympics in Sydney, and also the first time a Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) country hosts the event. These Games will see the introduction of two new sports to the Paralympic program: canoeing and the paratriathlon. Watch the trailer now!Read More
US Paralympics has announced its full team competing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, held 7-18 September. The 267-member team, which includes seven guides for athletes with visual impairments, is the largest US delegation in history.Read More
I've worked in the disability employment policy arena for more than 20 years, and a lot has changed in this time. Looking back, the progress I'm most thrilled about isn't just the policy action we've seen. Rather, it's the significant shift in how we as a nation talk about disability and employment.Read More
Jason Benetti was in elementary school when his teacher asked him to write an essay. "The assignment was, 'I wonder what I'll be in 20 years,'" he recalled. "I would like to be the White Sox sportscaster. As long as I don't look like Harry Caray," the boy wrote, referencing the famed voice of the Chicago Cubs. Benetti's childhood dream came true in January, when the 32-year-old was hired by the Chicago baseball team to be the TV play-by-play announcer. But it's a dream that almost never happened.Read More
Disability is part of the human experience, and one of the variables that contribute to the rich diversity of our nation. Disability is not a static condition - people can experience a disability from birth, or develop a disability as a result of genetics, aging, or trauma. Disability does not discriminate - anyone can acquire a disability, at any time. Individuals with disabilities are neighbors, teachers, community leaders, and parents. They are workers, managers, corporate CEOs and health care providers. Individuals with disabilities can and do participate in all realms of work, and their strong participation is vital to our economic growth.Read More
A 2012 study found that 35 percent of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or received postgraduate education after leaving high school, according to Reuters. And considering more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder, that's a lot of people with unique perspectives and talents whose contributions to the workforce are being lost. The Mighty teamed up with Autism Society to ask our readers for one piece of advice they'd offer employers about working with people with autism.Read More
Kristine Newbold, who has been in a wheelchair since the age of 5 due to a brittle bone disease, challenged able-bodied people to raise awareness about some difficulties people in wheelchairs face when she hosted her first wheelchair rodeo event over the weekend at Woodruff Park in Columbus.Read More
When Jyotsna Kaki got a call from Google, she was stunned. She had never applied for a job with the tech giant. "I thought that getting into Google was impossible for me," said Kaki, 33, who is blind. But it wasn't, thanks to her brother who passed her resume to a friend at Google.Read More
Theresa Daniels is starting a business with a twist. Daniels, a college junior on the autism spectrum, is launching a food truck that will be staffed primarily by people with autism.Read More
Life is full of challenges and obstacles, but one woman - who is paralyzed from the chest down - isn't letting that stop her from taking on one of nature's biggest feats.
Stacey Kozel, a 41-year-old hiker from Medina, Ohio, is aiming to hike all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia. And she's doing it alone.
Ford Motor Company today announces it is collaborating with Autism Alliance of Michigan on a pilot program that aims to provide individuals who have autism with an opportunity to gain work experience with the company in an on-the-job training program funded by the alliance.Read More
Social media has forced change in so many ways, it should come as no surprise that it has also changed how organizations recruit talent to fill job openings. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) (link is external), the world's largest HR professional society, 84% of organizations are now using social media for recruiting, up from 56% in 2011.Read More
Two undergraduate students at the University of Washington have worked to invent a new way to communicate. Navid Azodi and Thomas Pryor won a $10,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize - a nationwide search for the most inventive undergraduate and graduate students - for their invention, SignAloud gloves, which can translate American Sign Language into speech or text.Read More
Mindy Scheier, 44, is a fashion designer by trade with a flare for bold outfits. "Since I was a little girl, the reason I wanted to be in fashion was because it allows you to be who you want to be," she tells PEOPLE. "I love to stand out."
But for her son Oliver, 11, who has rigid spine muscular dystrophy - a rare degenerative disorder that affects his muscle tone and causes him to need leg braces - standing out because of his personal style wasn't an option. "I was 100 percent committed to fitting in," she says.
To reflect the important role disability plays in workforce diversity, the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy today announced that the theme of 2016's official National Disability Employment Awareness Month is "#InclusionWorks."
"By fostering a culture that embraces individual differences, including disabilities, businesses profit by having a wider variety of tools to confront challenges," said Jennifer Sheehy, deputy assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. "Our nation's most successful companies proudly make inclusion a core value. They know that inclusion works. It works for workers, it works for employers, it works for opportunity, and it works for innovation."
Small businesses looking to be disability-friendly should check out EARN - Employer Assistance and Resource Network resources.Read More
The disability community, from grassroots advocates to powerful cross-disability organizations, devotes a lot of time and energy to proving the value of hiring disabled workers. This is a common theme for our community, and extremely necessary, as there are a number of workforce-related challenges that workers with disabilities face. The unemployment rate for workers with disabilities is twice that of workers without disabilities. It is still legal for workers with disabilities to be paid well below the minimum wage based on a law that dates back to 1936, when the talents and potential of workers with disabilities were even more horribly misunderstood. And of course, while the Americans with Disabilities Act provides vital protections to the disabled workforce, it can't solve every issue in the disabled workforce, such as the systemic problem of fewer opportunities for advancement for workers with disabilities.Read More
f not, you could be missing out on top talent. To learn more about this issue and take action, check out TalentWorks - a free online resource from the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT). Designed for employers and human resources (HR) professionals, TalentWorks will help you make your eRecruiting tools accessible and ensure your virtual doors are open to all qualified job candidates.Read More
A letter from Scott Badesch, President/CEO of the Autism Society of America
Across the country, the Autism Society and our nationwide network of affiliates share success stories of people with disabilities thriving in the workplace. From engineers to animal caretakers and all career paths in between, employees with autism are embedded into the fabric of small and large businesses across the country. Yet, for every worker with autism who obtained their first real career opportunity, there are two who face barriers toward getting a foot in the door and a slice of the American dream. The United Nations estimates nearly 80 percent of people with autism across the globe are unemployed. We know this to be a staggering statistic by any measure.Read More
The U.S. Department of Labor announced the opening of a $338 million grant competition for national organizations to provide critical job training and related services to low-income, older American workers through the Senior Community Service Employment Program.Read More
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the recent White House Summit on Disability Employment explored how we can better include people with disabilities in the workplace. Here are five top takeaways from the summit for employers on improving disability inclusion:Read More
The latest issue of the Job Accommodation Network’s (JAN) quarterly newsletter has been issued, providing information on a range of topics, from when an employer may proactively ask if an employee needs a reasonable accommodation, to disability disclosure in the workplace, to strategies for retaining aging workers. >Read More
An updated version of a guide that employers can use to ensure the accessibility of their meetings, events and conferences is now available. Published by the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center, the aptly titled Guide to Accessible Meetings, Events, and Conferences provides extensive information on accessibility in the context of all stages of event planning, from site selection and room layout to audio-visual considerations to food service, as well as tips for presenters and attendees.Read More
We are excited to observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month, or NDEAM. The purpose of NDEAM is to educate the public, and especially businesses, about disability employment issues while celebrating the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. NDEAM is important because in Maine about one in six residents has a disability, and we value everyone's abilities, including in our workforce.Read More
Across the nation, public and private employers of all sizes are reaping the benefits of internships - temporary positions that deliver practical, on-the-job training to "beginners" in a particular profession. In addition to helping develop the work experience, skills and career goals of America's future workforce, internships offer employers direct access to a pool of motivated individuals who bring fresh thinking and innovation to their workplaces. What's more, they offer employers a pipeline of potential candidates to consider for permanent positions.Read More
Two recent EEOC cases highlight the importance of employee qualification when negotiating accommodations under Title I of the ADA. As these cases prove, the decision to grant more complex accommodations such as reassignment or telecommuting requires that both the employer and the employee work together to find an accommodation that is reasonable, effective, and congruent with the skills and qualifications of the employee.Read More
It's the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The good news is that people who use wheelchairs can now use ramps to get into public buildings. But the bad news is that for most people with disabilities, the on-ramps to success are still blocked. Only 3 out of 10 of Maine's 200,000 working-age people with disabilities are employed.Read More
In October of each year, our nation observes National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual awareness campaign to educate businesses and the general public about disability employment issues, as well as celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities.Read More
Anyone wanting to speak to the president must stop by her desk first. Leah Katz-Hernandez, 27, is the new White House receptionist.
She is also deaf.
I am surprised and incredibly honored to be recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Disability Employment. What began as a small project has led to be my passion, encouraging businesses to find good-paying and sustainable employment opportunities for people with disabilities.Read More