Molly Burke: Makeup Guru, YouTuber, Disability Icon

Written by Virginia Faust, content writer intern

Beauty guru Molly Burke is one of several prominent influencers dominating the YouTube sphere. From makeup tutorials to clothing hauls, her likeable content is quickly gaining popularity – and her video collaborations with other YouTube creators like James Charles and Shane Dawson consistently reach viral fame.

Within the past several months, Molly Burke’s social media presence has skyrocketed her to internet stardom. The personality’s most recent milestone was hitting one million subscribers on the video streaming site, and her view count is approaching fifty million. As the YouTuber is now recognized as a spokesperson for Dove, it seems Molly Burke’s influence is only becoming more far-reaching.

Conventionally attractive and charming with a positive presence in the online beauty community, she’s everything you would expect of a social media influencer – however, one thing sets her apart from the rest. Molly Burke is blind.

At the young age of four, Burke was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa. Since her childhood diagnosis, she has been public speaking and giving interviews on living with a visual impairment. Her channel description reads: “YouTuber. Motivational Speaker. Accessibility, anti-bullying, & mental health activist.”

Along with following popular tags and YoutTube trends, Burke also posts content focused on demystifying her condition. “Day in the Life of a Blind Girl” and “Misconceptions about Blindness” are just two of countless videos meant to educate the able-bodied on life with a physical disability.

Her collaborations with sighted celebrities are also super interesting to watch. From “Teaching Karlie Kloss to Read Braille” to “Blind Girl Does My Makeup,” these videos pose a great way to teach audiences how to respectfully interact with someone with a physical disability.

Molly Burke’s channel emphasizes  her similarity to any other content creator. She loves fashion, has tons of friends, and regularly features her guide dog on her channel. Not only does she create disability-specific videos – she also makes delightful content one could find on any sighted person’s channel.

So often it seems people with disabilities are boxed into a category. Stereotyped by society and the media, their lives are represented as revolving around physical challenges – far from their actual truth. Molly Burke is living proof that people with disabilities are multidimensional with varied interests and passions, and this important representation is everything.

The able-bodied youth who watch her find not only entertainment, but education. Children and teens with disabilities who watch find someone to look up to, someone succeeding with vibrant enthusiasm.

Molly Burke’s sudden fame marks the beginning of a new era. On YouTube and beyond, people with disabilities are showing up, smiling, and succeeding massively.

With positivity and determination, anyone can find happiness regardless of physical ability – and Molly Burke is exemplary of this changing internet’s exciting future.

Social Isolation and Disability: What You Can Do!

Written by Emily Rizza, Content Writer Intern

As a result of physical, financial, and social problems, it is common for persons with disabilities to opt to stay home instead of encountering potential barriers in the community, thus getting into a “homebound rut” that cuts them off from the outside world.  Common barriers that isolate handicapped persons from public social settings could include the logistical challenges of transportation and facility accessibility, and the financial strain of engaging in social activities. It’s also very difficult for persons with disabilities to deal with the basic activities of daily living such as bathing, eating and cleaning.  Unfortunately, many persons with disabilities become comfortable in their everyday routines and drastically decrease their social interactions to avoid additional problems.

This limited contact with the outside world can lead to severe feelings of isolation; in fact, according to a 2017 study from the disability charity Scope, two-thirds (67%) of disabled people have reported a chronic feeling of loneliness in the past year. The number is even higher to three-quarters (76%) for working-age disabled people.  

In combination with physical isolation, the pervading sense of loneliness that disabled persons experience often comes from the emotional isolation people feel when their impairment is not easily understood and accepted in social settings. Even if a disabled person is active in the public sphere, they might feel unwelcome in certain environments based on physical limitations and unacknowledged in inaccessible spaces that only cater to the needs of able-bodied persons.  As an example, participating in the after work happy hour becomes a challenge if the facility isn’t accessible and has only high top tables, making it inaccessible for those in wheelchairs. It is common for disabled persons to feel isolated by their perceived “differences” when they go out in public.

The social isolation that results from the feelings of being stuck in the home, cut off from the outside world, and unaccepted in public settings can “exacerbate a person’s feelings of low self-worth, shame, loneliness, depression, and other mental health concerns. Thus, social isolation can be both a cause and symptom of other mental health issues. Though often underplayed because they are “invisible” illnesses, untreated depression and social anxiety lead to various additional health problems, including a weakened immune system, impaired sleep, early-onset dementia, and cardiovascular problems. A recent study from the British Cardiovascular Society shows that isolation increases the risk of heart disease by 29 percent and stroke by 32 percent, and a 2015 Sage Journal analysis of 70 studies found that “socially isolated individuals had a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years.”

There are solutions that can help persons with disabilities re-engage with the outside world:

  1. Keep company

Social isolation for persons confined to the home is much stronger when individuals live alone or have a lack of emotional support from their housemates and family members. If you are craving interaction, invite guests over for low-key, budget-friendly fun. Have your friends and family over for game nights, dinner parties, and movie marathons. Ask each person to bring food to share so that hosting is not a physical or financial burden on you.  

In an article on the link between social connectedness and mental health, New York Times writer Jane E. Brody shares:

Emma Seppala of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, and author of the 2016 book “The Happiness Track,” wrote, “People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them.

“In other words,” Dr. Seppala explained, “social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”

Surrounding yourself with positive people who provide you with emotional support can keep you connected to the outside world and, in turn, reduce feelings of social isolation. Make the most of your community and invite guests into your home for some low-maintenance and low-budget quality time.

2.Look for disability support groups

Research disability support groups in your area and find other individuals who are facing similar physical and emotional challenges. If you cannot travel to group meetings, find online communities or read inspiring blogs from disability bloggers. By reaching out to people who are undergoing the same struggles, listening to their stories,and connecting with their experiences, individuals can battle the feelings of being misunderstood and unaccepted, and can realize that no one is struggling alone.

Check out the following links to find disability blogs and online or in-person support groups:

https://www.activerehab.net.au/blog/10-disability-blogs-you-need-read

https://curemedical.com/find-a-peer-support-group-near-you/

https://www.disabilities-r-us.com/

3.Use Social Media…the Right Way

Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have features that allow you to privately message your friends and family members and stay up-to-date on the life events of people you may not see regularly in person. While social media is a great way to be involved and connected, it can become a toxic contributor to emotional isolation, as users often perceive that other people are leading effortless and exciting lives and thus become envious, afraid of missing out on the fun, and discouraged by the “boredom” of their own lives. Instead of scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, the use of messenger features and support groups are highly encouraged to promote social connectedness.

4.Get a Pet

If you are physically able to care for a pet, consider getting a fury companion to keep you company in your home. Dr. Helen Louise Brooks from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom reflects on a recent in-depth analysis of studies showing that pets improve mental health:

“Pets provided acceptance without judgment, giving unconditional support, which [participants] were often not receiving from other family or social relationships,” adds Dr. Brooks.

Additionally, some owners said that their pet forced them to stay connected with the outside world and engage in physical activity. Some pets — such as dogs — were found to encourage social interaction and strengthen community ties.

Having a pet also helped the people to keep a strong sense of “identity, self-worth, and existential meaning.”

If you are physically unable to care for a pet, ask a friend or family member who has one to bring their furry friend over for regular visits, as simply the act of petting an animal relieves psychological stress and physical tension.

5.Take Up a Hobby

Find a physically and financially feasible hobby that allows you to embrace your passions, enjoy the time you spend in your home, and feel a sense of purpose and connectedness to the human experience. Popular hobbies include reading, writing, art, playing an instrument, puzzles and games, photography, and online classes.

For more ideas, check out this list of hobbies for handicapped persons: https://confinedtosuccess.com/great-things-to-do-when-you-are-disabled-and-bored/

  1. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Create a safe, quiet space for your mind to relax as you reflect on any negative feelings you may be experiencing. Through writing in a journal, praying, or meditating, confront the social isolation, depression, anxiety, or frustrations that may be burdening you. Repeat affirmations, such as “I am not suffering alone,” “I have a purpose in this world,” and “I am needed, I am loved, I am a whole person.” Addressing your feelings is the first step to working through them. Focus on your breathing, bask in the peacefulness, and spend some quality time with yourself.

  1. Share Your Story

Start a personal blog, post reflections on social media, or join an online support group to share about your emotional, social, and physical experiences with your disability. Convincing yourself that you are alone in your suffering and that no one understands what you are going through will only increase your feelings of depression and anxiety, will further isolate you from the outside world, and will have negative effects on your health. By opening up to others, embracing your vulnerability, and sharing your testimony, you are empowering yourself and your readers. Your story matters and your courage to share it with the world can lead to heightened feelings of purpose and belonging, and can create deeply-rooted connections across ages, locations, genders, identities, and cultures.  

  1. Volunteer

There are many worthwhile nonprofit organizations that need assistance, and shifting the focus from yourself to others can help tremendously to strengthen your social interactions.

Read the article “Where can I volunteer if I’m handicapped?” for ideas, resources, and suggestions:  https://money.howstuffworks.com/economics/volunteer/information/where-handicapped-can-volunteer.htm

Although they are tragically common results, depression, anxiety, social isolation, and additional physical health problems do not have to be your fate if you are a homebound or handicapped person. Explore the various ways to engage in social interaction, connect with the outside world, find meaning in your daily life, and grow in solidarity with those who face the same physical and psychological barriers.  

 

Sources:

https://confinedtosuccess.com/disability-and-isolation/#tab-con-3

https://www.scope.org.uk/press-releases/nearly-half-of-disabled-people-chronically-lonely

https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/isolation

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/12/well/live/having-friends-is-good-for-you.html

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320950.php

Meet the Blogger: Lilly Cook!

Lilly Cook, foundress and writer of the blog “Journalist on Wheelz,” is a young multi-media journalist from London with cerebral palsy. As a wheelchair user, Lilly’s everyday life is affected by the accessibility of both public and private spaces–particularly London’s complex and bustling transportation systems. According to Lilly, it takes “substantial planning” to go out into the city, regularly contacting transportation companies and event settings to ensure accessibility. She notes: “It’s not so easy for me to negotiate certain things like public transport – it always takes extra time and planning. Venue accessibility can sometimes be a barrier in certain places.”

Despite the difficulties that Lilly faces navigating life with a physical impairment, she is determined to maintain a cheerful disposition and spirit: “Apart from that I try not [to] let my disability get in the way. I like to think I have a positive attitude [towards] living life to the best of my ability.” At just 19 years old, Lilly joined a Media Team training program at a creative arts charity called “Heart n Soul” (www.heartnsoul.co.uk), through which she learned “a range of different media skills, from filming and photography to radio and blogging.” Since completing her training, she has become a Trustee on Heart n Soul’s board and has been an interviewer on one of Heart n Soul’s biggest projects to date: an oral history archive to mark the charity’s 30th birthday. The archive project, called “The Big 30” (www.thebig30.com), is now on its way to a major research organization known as the Wellcome Trust. Lilly has also worked alongside other major organizations in Britain, such as Sound Connections, Goldsmiths University, Southbank Centre, and BBC Radio 4 to make short films and radio documentaries. Through Heart n Soul’s digital music project, SoundLab, she also ran a digital workshop at the international Ableton Loop conference in Berlin.

“Now I want to go further to widen my range of skills and work with other people and organisations,” Lilly writes. “I want to know what people are thinking. I am interested in current affairs, opinions and events that are accessible and welcoming for people with disabilities. I believe in collaboration.”

Disability Partnerships is honored to feature the success story of a passionate, determined young woman who courageously takes on the physical challenges that life presents her with positivity. Lilly’s blog, “Journalist on Wheelz” draws attention and awareness to the same issues that DP works to address: the support of persons with disabilities who deserve accessible and accepting community spaces, and the information that able-bodied persons need to know in order to advocate for their friends, loved ones, and community members with physical impairments. Lilly shares:

“I am all about changing people’s perceptions about disabilities. I want to share positive stories and spread the word about what disabled people can do, not what they can’t do.”

For more inspiration and information, check out Lilly’s blog at journalistonwheelz.wordpress.com.

7 Ways Public Schools Can Create an Accessible Learning Environment

Written by Emily Rizza, Content Writer Intern

Attending public school poses many challenges for students with various physical impairments and, if accessible features are not in place, may lead children to feel unaccepted, uncomfortable, and unsafe in their learning environment. Educators, parents and guardians, and community advocates are encouraged to evaluate the accessibility of their area’s public school facilities to determine if disabled students have equal opportunities to learn. If the school is lacking in classroom support resources for disabled students, adults must speak up on the child’s behalf by bringing the issues to the attention of the education department.

Here are 7 improvements that can be made to increase classroom and facility accessibility:

  1. Solidify an accessibility plan

Your local schools should have individual accessibility plans that detail the alterations that must be made to improve physical and educational accessibility for special education students, as well as the time frame in which these improvements will be made. The plan must be public so that educators, parents and guardians, and community advocates can request to read it. If your school facilities do not have a plan in place, the school must commission an Access Audit to prepare one.

  1. Alter the physical environment

Physical safety and ease of access is absolutely necessary for all students in a public school setting. Accessibility changes to the environment include: lighting and paint color schemes to for visually impaired students, lifts and ramps for physically impaired students, and carpeting and acoustic tiling of classrooms for hearing impaired students. Entryways to classrooms must have wide enough door frames for handicapped students, and the entrances into the school should include automatic doors. Access to a safe elevator should be easily granted to disabled students.

  1. Improve information delivery

Students with visual or learning impairments will not be able to take in information using standard textbooks, handouts, and resources, which often require prolonged focus, attention to detail, and strong visual ability. Ensure that the school will provide materials in Braille and large print, offer audio alternatives to visual materials, and utilize symbols.

  1. Adapt the curriculum

Ease of access to knowledge is the foundation of the education system, and students with disabilities deserve equal opportunities for learning. To make education more accessible, schools should be assigning disabled students to teachers who are qualified to work in special education and deliver information to students with impairments. These educators are responsible for arranging the classroom so that it both creates a physically safe environment and fosters learning for students who need a different type of sensory engagement. Additionally, curricula should be altered for students who learn at a different pace because of their disability. School counselors should not only provide emotional support and resources, but should also assist with the scheduling of classes to ensure that the students know where they are going and can get there easily.

  1. Install assistive technology

Technology that suits a student’s physical and intellectual needs should be present and readily available in the learning environment. Examples include: touch-screen computers, joysticks and trackerballs, easy-to-use keyboards, interactive whiteboards, text-to-speech software, Braille-translation software, and software that connects words with pictures or symbols.

  1. Ensure accessible transport

Be sure that the Board of Education and local school systems address the transportation needs of disabled students by offering accessible vehicles with essential equipment such as wheelchair restraints, ramps, or lifts.

  1. Provide counseling resources

It is not uncommon for disabled students to feel socially isolated by their physical or intellectual impairments in a public school setting. All educational facilities should provide easily accessible guidance counselors and school psychologists to help students socially, emotionally, and psychologically thrive in and out of the classroom. If you are a parent or guardian of a child with a disability and, at any time, become concerned about your child’s mental health, reach out to the school’s counselors to confirm that they are adequately equipped to address your student’s needs.

If your local public schools are lacking multiple accessibility features and you would like to bring it to the attention of the Board of Education, check out this article from Center for Parent Information & Resources on how to file a complaint with the State Education Agency. The article includes tips for letter-writing and communicating your ideas, and ends with a sample letter regarding school violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Additionally, if you are a parent of a disabled student and would like to reach out to other parents to discuss similar concerns, be sure to check out the following online support groups:

http://www.childrensdisabilities.info/parenting/groups-childrensdisabilities.html

Advocate for your children, your students, and the needs of the people in your community by evaluating the accessibility of local school facilities and advocating for any changes that should be made to create a safe, accepting, and stimulating learning environment.  

 

Sources:

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/school-accessibility

https://www.parentcenterhub.org/statecomplaint-2/

Make the Move: 6 House-Moving Tips for People with Disabilities

Written by Emily Rizza, Content Writer Intern

As the summer begins to wind down, many American families, couples, and individuals transition into new homes in different neighborhoods and communities. While moving houses is a challenging endeavor for any person, the stressors are heightened for people with physical disabilities who must factor in health risks and accessibility. To make your next move a smooth process, check out some of our tips on how to avoid physical and financial strain, identify disability resources, and enjoy the excitement of transitioning to a new location.   

Prepare your home before the move

Assess your new house to ensure that its features are adapted for accessibility before you move in. If you need to install ramps, widen doorways, or change the door knobs to easy-grip levers, take care of the necessary adjustments sooner rather than later, as moving into a home environment that is not navigable will add to your stress and put your safety at risk.

Contact social services, City Hall, or non-profit organizations in your area if you need physical and/or financial resources to refit your home.

If you are newly disabled, or are unsure of how to conduct an accessibility assessment, take a look at Mobility Management’s “Is Your Home Accessible?” checklist here: http://download.101com.com/pub/mmg/files/MM608%20Home%20Accessibility%20Checklist.pdf

Plan your layout and organize

To reduce the move-in day stress, be sure to label all of your boxes and belongings so that they are ready to be sorted as soon as you settle in. If you are supplying the furnishings for your new home, take some time before you move in to draw a floor plan indicating where you would like your furniture to be located. Designing a simple and quick layout will help you to approach move-in day with a clearer head, will serve as an essential visual for the moving team, and will prevent unnecessary re-organization of furniture.

Pack an overnight bag

The first day of settling into a new home is time-consuming and exhausting; it is likely that, by the time the moving process is finished, you might be too overwhelmed and tired to unpack everything. Prepare a bag for the first night in your new place with essentials, such as medication, phone charges, pajamas and a next-day outfit, toiletries, money (if you decide not to cook on your first evening), and any necessary devices for your wheelchair or equipment.

Enlist help

Moving into a house is both physically challenging and mentally straining–do not make the move all on your own. If you have any friends or family members who live near your new home or are willing to make the journey from another location, ask them for help. Otherwise, be sure to hire a professional moving team with good ratings and, if possible, experience with moving people with disabilities (research the company online and/or call to confirm). If you are unable to pack your goods, it would also be a good idea to look into hiring professional packers who can box up your items for you and then take them out of the boxes once you are settled into your new home. Remember that, while enlisting family and friends can help you to save money and provide you with emotional support as well as physical, a professional team will ensure that your goods are packed and transported safely, and will likely cover the costs for anything that may get damaged during the move.

Check for financial assistance

Hiring professionals and refitting your home can create unwanted financial stress during the moving process. Don’t hesitate to ask anyone who’s assisting you for a discount or a special deal–the worst that happens is that you aren’t able to receive aid, but the best result would be reduced costs on services. You can also research and apply for grants designed to help disabled persons move into their homes. Check organizations such as National Institute on Life Planning for People with Disabilities, ADAPT, and AUCD for grant-based assistance. According to moving.com, if you are a veteran living in a Maryland or Virginia suburb of Washington D.C., the Two Marines Moving firm “moves disabled veterans for a 50% discount, if they’ve been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. That discount often means the veterans can afford full packing services, if they choose” (Tips for Smooth Moving If You Have a Disability).

Locate services and resources near your new house

Research and create a list of the addresses and phone numbers of the emergency care facilities, primary care physicians, and disability services that are close to your new home. Keep this list available and visible during the move-in process and while you get settled into the neighborhood, and add emergency contacts of neighbors or other people you meet in your area who would be able to assist you in the event of a crisis. Check out available disability resources for community living near you: https://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/disability.htm

Moving into a new home does not have to be a strenuous event for disabled persons, as long as you take the time to plan and organize, research financial, medical, and community resources, and assemble a team of loved ones or professionals to provide you with assistance.

 

Sources:

http://www.unpakt.com/blog/7-moving-tips-for-people-with-disabilities/

https://www.moving.com/tips/5-tips-moving-disability/

http://www.jaymoves.com/dealing-with-a-move-when-physically-disabled/

What Does the ADA Actually Do?

Written by Virginia Faust, content writer intern

On July 26th, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law by then-president George H. W. Bush. Following its passing, much progress has been made ensuring equal rights and improving quality of life for people with disabilities throughout the country. The past thirty years have been a whirlwind of development and accomplishment for the disabled community – almost all progress due to the ADA and organizations that support their efforts.

I always understood that the ADA was a good thing, but until recently never realized what the law specifically entailed. My lack of prior education on the topics made the research all the more interesting, and the official website along with other informational sites gave me a much more concrete understanding of its powerful impact.

So, what is the ADA? What does it actually mean?

For those of us who are able-bodied, here is a good overview. The Americans with Disabilities Act, in summary, “prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life.” The law is influential in almost every public space – from places of employment to education, from within state government services to local.

The law is divided into five main sections, or titles: Employment, Public Services, Public Accommodations, Telecommunications, and Miscellaneous, respectively.

Title I, Employment, mandates employers to provide accommodations for their applicants and employees with disabilities. It also prevents discriminatory practices in terms of the application process, and regulates medical practices. In concrete terms, this means making workplaces accessible – restructuring job requirements, making interpreters available, and more.

Title II, Public Services, involves increasing accessibility in the realm of American transportation on a national, state, and local scale. This section mandates equity in public services provided to all citizens – those with disabilities must be offered the same access to vehicles such as trains and buses.

Title III, Public Accommodations, is one of the most vital sections promoting the rights of the disabled community. This section mandates that all public buildings must be made accessible to those with physical disabilities; buildings constructed following the legislation must follow certain policies to ensure access, and those built before must be adapted to fit accessibility standards.

Title IV, Telecommunications, involves telephone service accessibility for those with hearing disabilities. According to the official website, Title IV also mandates “closed captioning of federally funded public service announcements,” regulated by the FCC.

Title V, Miscellaneous, protects people with disabilities from threats regarding their ADA-secured rights and more, including a description of the term “disability” and defining the ADA’s relationship to other laws.

The overall impact of the legislation has been far-reaching.

Not only has its set standards influenced the disability community in the public sphere, but it has also given individuals the confidence and opportunity necessary to further improve quality of life.

Tamara Gallman, founder and director of Disability Partnerships, says, “I started my organization because of my experiences as a physically disabled person, but also because I knew I had the support of legislation like the ADA.”

Her work in creating Disability Partnerships has been effective in increasing information available and furthermore encouraging autonomy among the members of community – so the fact that she was able to do this work as a direct result of the ADA only proves its impact.

After doing research on the actual contents of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, I’ve found that I can’t imagine America before its passing. How did people with disabilities function – let alone feel – about their place in society before its ratification?

Of course, the lives and experiences of the disabled can still see improvement beyond this act. The ADA was modified in 2009 to further specify and define the concept of disability, and will surely see more adaptations to its standards in the future.

In the meantime, it is important to acknowledge the ADA’s wide-reaching effect on securing equal rights and opportunity for the marginalized disability community.

Gallman of Disability Partnerships frequently reminds interns that this community is the only minority group that anyone can become a part of, at anytime. Aided by legal efforts, we have the power to protect one of the most vulnerable sections of society – voting and social media activism are only the beginning.

On today’s anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act’s historic passing, we must take advantage of our opportunity to celebrate progress and research more ways to improve. Thanks to the ADA, the community’s future can only get brighter.

Hotel Accessibility Checklist for Your Next Vacation

Written by Emily Rizza, Content Writer Intern

Searching for a hotel that will accommodate your physical needs and requirements can often be yet another stress-inducing factor in the summer vacation planning experience. Due to vague website descriptions, a limited supply of pictures, and the subjective use of the term “wheelchair friendly,” many physically disabled persons have had difficulty in both booking an adequate hotel and finding the right resources on-site during their stay. A “Vancouver Destination Expert” and highly-rated contributor on the popular online travel forum TripAdvisor recommends calling the hotel and engaging in a conversation with a staff member to confirm the facility’s accessibility before making a booking based solely on the website’s information. The TripAdvisor user has released an essential checklist to use when confirming the accommodation options with the hotel of your choice:

Common Areas:

𝤿 Designated handicap parking with priority location in the parking lot

𝤿 Ramp or lift access to the main entrance and to all floors of the hotel

𝤿 Automated door opening

𝤿 Lobby-level accessible restroom

Private Rooms:

𝤿 Wider room entrance and bathroom doorway

𝤿 Doors to room and bathroom that are automatic or can be easily opened

𝤿 Mid-height level light switches and power outlets

𝤿 Lever-type door handles

𝤿 Maneuvering space on each side of the bed

𝤿 Grab bars in bathroom

𝤿 Raised toilet

𝤿 Lower hanging spaces in the closet

Neighborhood:

𝤿 Proximity to restaurants, markets, and stores

𝤿 Immediate proximity to health services

The online forum also suggests additional tips for vacationers seeking an accessible hotel:

  • Call the hotel directly
  • Take notes during your conversation:
    • Write down the name of the person with whom you spoke, the date, the topics discussed, confirmation numbers, and any information you were given
  • Ask to speak with someone who is familiar with the handicap rooms
  • Ask questions that require descriptive answers rather than a “yes” or “no”
    • Use phrases such as “Could you please describe for me…” or “Please tell me about…”
  • Check that you have a credit card guarantee for an accessible room and a confirmation number, not just a request for an accessible room if available at the time of check-in
  • Reconfirm your reservation for a guaranteed accessible room a few days before you leave for your vacation
  • Upon arrival, ask to see the room you have been given before you check in

Avoid any misconceptions and misinformation about the disability-friendliness of your hotel and be sure to make time for a phone conversation with a staff member, employing the checklist and tips provided by TripAdvisor. In the unlikely event that you arrive to your hotel and discover you are not being adequately accommodated as per your request, the TripAdvisor forum creator urges you to advocate for yourself, but ultimately advises you to be patient, relaxed, and understanding if you face a hotel crisis: “Be cool, be persistent, use a sense of humour and your vacation will be much more a pleasure than a nightmare.”

For more information on the resources available for accessible travel, be sure to check out the following websites:

Smarter Travel – Disabled Traveler: https://www.smartertravel.com/2017/06/19/disabled-travel/

Accessible Journeys: http://www.accessiblejourneys.com/

Wheelchair Travel: https://wheelchairtravel.org/

Rick Steves – Tips for Travelers with Disabilities: https://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/trip-planning/travelers-with-disabilities

 

Source: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i12336-k4150249-Accessibility_Checklist_for_Hotel_Accommodation-Traveling_With_Disabilities.html

100+ Major Businesses Recognized for Disability Inclusion in the Workplace

Written by Emily Rizza, Content Writer Intern

According to the annual Disability Equality Index, approximately 126 companies have been recognized for prioritizing the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the workplace, and have thus been deemed the “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion.” Participants Fortune 1000 corporations and Am Law 100–which led the inclusion ratings–employ over 7.8 million people all over the world within 25 significant unique business sectors.  

The Disability Equality Index is a collaborative initiative between American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN), and is dually designed by both successful business leaders and advocates for disability rights to serve as “the nation’s most trusted comprehensive benchmarking tool for disability inclusion.” The Index scores its participators on a scale from 0 to 100; scoring above an 80 indicates a high rate of disability inclusiom. Performance indicators measured by the Index include: culture of the workplace, diversity, accessibility, availability of support services, and company engagement within the community.

Corporations that received perfect scores of 100% include a variety major national and global companies such as AT&T, Bank of America, CVS, Facebook, L’Oreal Makeup, Microsoft, Travelers, Verizon, the Walt Disney Company, and Walmart.

Check out the full company list here: https://disabilityequalityindex.org/top_companies.

According to Helena Berger, President and CEO of AAPD, rising trends in corporations’ participation in the Disability Equality Index shows that disability inclusion is becoming an increasing priority for many major businesses seeking to develop the range of company diversity and employee support systems. Although a large number of corporations are becoming more inclusive, Berger emphasizes that progress is still demanding to be made: “While we have made great strides since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the number of disabled individuals getting hired has not significantly increased. The DEI was created to help advance employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities.”

The following statistics indicate evidence of corporate commitment to disability inclusion:

  • “94% of DEI companies reported having a Senior Executive (within the first two levels reporting to CEO) who is internally recognized as being a person with a disability and/or as an ally for people with disabilities.
  • 72% of DEI companies had expenditures with certified disability-owned businesses and/or certified service-disabled veteran-owned businesses.”

Additional numbers, however, show that there are still opportunities for improvements:

  • “Only 55% of DEI businesses have a company-wide external and internal commitment to digital accessibility.
  • 44% of 2018 DEI companies make all job interview candidates aware of the option to request an accommodation(s) for the interview.
  • Just 34% of DEI businesses have a public smart-phone app that is audited for accessibility.”

Jill Houghton, President and CEO of USBLN, applauds the corporations that have chosen to take part in the Index and envisions a hopeful future for the inclusion of disabled persons in all business venues. Corporations not yet registered to participate are urged to seize the opportunity to evaluate the physical, social, and emotional accessibility of their company agenda and work environment.

Companies can register for the 2019 DEI at https://www.disabilityequalityindex.org/register.

 

Source: 126 Major Businesses Rated “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion” (https://www.aapd.com/press-releases/126-major-businesses-rated-best-places-to-work-for-disability-inclusion/)

 

Accessibility at the Oceanfront

Written by Virginia Faust, writing intern

Several years ago, I took my grandmother to the beach. She lived life enthusiastically aided by her wheelchair, never hesitating to tend to her garden or spend time out with family. She was so excited to go to the beach that day – and the ease of Virginia Beach’s accessibility made what would be her last time seeing the ocean a wonderful experience for all of us.

When my family and I got to the beach, convenient parking was available near the accessibility park. A volunteer helped transfer my grandmother from her normal wheelchair to one able to travel on sand; after that quick process we pushed her to the shore, amazed at the big rubber wheels and kind help we’d received to use them.

I distinctly remember the joy in her eyes as she reached out to touch the water.

Because of beach accessibility, that day is one of the fondest memories I have of my grandmother. The happiness that lit up her face remains in my mind every time I return.

It was so important for my grandmother to be able to experience the beach alongside her family. She passed away a few years later, but I still think of her and our beach day – most of all, how sweet it was to share that final moment by the shore with her.

Everyone deserves to share these kinds of memories with their loved ones. Now that summertime is here and temperatures are finally warming up, it is the perfect time to take those beach days and make them count.

As an able-bodied person who now hits the beach most often with friends, the only thing I really have to worry about is remembering to pack enough sunscreen. For someone with a wheelchair, a beach day can be just as enjoyable – although definitely more challenging.

Several resources are available to assist with planning a beach day to work with physical disabilities. Although not all U.S. beaches are accessible, many of them are; for those that claim to be accessible, there’s also variation in the extent to which they accommodate visitors with disabilities. Beach wheelchairs and ramps are often provided on loan, but made complicated with time slot limitations, scarcity of equipment, and other unpredictable factors.

This can all be stressful to research and organize. On a beach day, the last thing anyone wants to do is worry – fortunately, following recent legislation, many public spaces are wheelchair-friendly.

The state of Maryland, interestingly, is home to several accessible beaches.

Assateague Island National Seashore, best known for its wild horses, is one of the best vacation spots for a person with physical disabilities. Its visitor centers, restrooms, exhibits, and majority of nature trails are wheelchair accessible. In addition, there are campsites built with accessibility in mind, and they have a beach wheelchair available for public use.

Maryland’s most famous beach, Ocean City, is even more accommodating. The popular tourist spot provides paratransit, beach wheelchairs, a beach playground, emergency services, accessible hotels, convenient parking and more. Reviews online confirm positive experiences.

The accessibility of Maryland beaches still has a long way to go – popular destination spots such as Calvert Cliffs State Park offer little to no accommodations. The United States in general still has a long way to go in terms of welcoming its residents with disabilities to explore its shorelines. However, as technology advances, legislation passes, and more information is available in online venues such as the Disability Partnerships official website, it seems accessibility at the beach is more accommodating than ever.

People with disabilities can enjoy the oceanfront along with their able-bodied friends and family, and should. The memories made on family trips can mean so much later in life.

Before taking loved ones to the beach, make sure you do your research. I promise you, sincerely – it’s worth it. With a little luck and some time spent planning, you too can make your summer a sandy one.

5 Facts About Accessible Parking That Everyone Should Know

Written by Emily Rizza, content writer intern

Handicap-accessible parking is essential in a public space if physically disabled persons want to be active outside of the home without sacrificing independence and mobility. Because accessible parking is a critical safety feature, it is imperative that both handicapped and non-handicapped drivers understand the parking regulations that stand in a public lot. According to a survey by BraunAbility, a shocking 74 percent of people have personally witnessed the improper use of a handicap-accessible parking space. In order to ensure that all persons are abiding by the rules of accessible parking, here are 5 facts provided by BraunAbility that must be known and shared for increased awareness:

#1 The striped lines next to a handicap-accessible parking space indicate it is reserved for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. These spaces are wider than regular handicap accessible parking spaces, offering room for people to safely lower a ramp and enter and exit their vehicles.

#2 There is a difference between handicap accessible parking for cars and wheelchair-accessible vans. When the parking sign says, “Accessible Vans,” it is reserved for wheelchair-accessible vehicles only. Van accessible spaces are easily identified by a striped access aisle on the passenger side.

#3 Some people have hidden disabilities, and it may not be visibly apparent that they need a handicap-accessible spot. Not all people who require handicap parking access are reliant on wheelchairs. These spots are also intended for use by people with disabilities such as deafness or a recent injury.

#4 Businesses are required to meet a quota for handicap accessible spots. The number of handicap accessible parking spaces required depends on the total number of parking spaces in the lot, but at least one in every six handicap accessible spaces must be designated for a wheelchair accessible vehicle, according to the American Disabilities Act.

#5 Wheelchairs continue to increase in size, requiring more room to maneuver in and out of vehicles, and therefore need extra space in a parking spot for the wheelchair user to safely access a fully deployed ramp.

(Create an Accessible Lifestyle, Cision PR Newswire)

Reminder: it is not acceptable to park in a handicap accessible space, even if it’s ‘just for a few minutes,’ without a proper permit.

BraunAbility–a leading manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vehicles and wheelchair lifts–has designed a “Save My Spot” campaign, which serves to educate the public about “the meaning and importance of handicap accessible parking.” Please join BraunAbility in its efforts to promote mobility independence and awareness, and share the facts with your friends and family to ensure that disability rights and physical safety thrive in the public sphere.