Shaholly Ayers and Nordstorm Logo

Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale Catalog Features Model With a Limb Difference Shaholly Ayers

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Representation, whether it’s in the media or in advertising, is important. Adding to its existing displays of inclusive advertising, Nordstrom featured models with disabilities for its recent Anniversary Sale Catalog.

Nordstrom has included models with disabilities in its catalogs since 1997. “We’ve had a long history of incorporating diverse models into our catalogs, including those with disabilities,” Nordstrom vice president and chief marketing officer Scott Meden said in a statement. “We do our best to reflect the diverse communities we serve.”

nordstrom ad featuring model with disability

Nordstrom’s latest catalog features Shaholly Ayers, a model with a limb difference, who is shown in the ad wearing her prosthesis. Ayers has also been included in previous Nordstrom catalogs, alongside other models with disabilities.

Ayers told People, “I like that I’m wearing the prosthesis because you can tell they are being inclusive. It’s a little more obvious.”

When she first started ten years ago,  Ayers said, modeling agencies rejected her due to her disability. Independently, however, she built up a strong portfolio and reputation through networking and determination.

Now, Ayers is a brand ambassador for Global Disability Inclusion and has walked the runways of New York Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week.

nordstrom ad featuring model with disability

Ayers said she hopes more companies embrace inclusive advertising, and she’s not the only one. Twitter users have also shared their appreciation, thanking Nordstrom for using inclusive advertising.

“It’s about showing, visually, that a person with a disability, a person who is an amputee, is still capable,” Ayers said in a statement. “I still should be considered beautiful despite my missing limb. That shouldn’t be a reason why I can’t model.”

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19 Secrets of Teachers of Kids With Disabilities

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I’ve been fortunate to have many wonderful teachers who work with my kids. And while every year I worry about the new teachers, as a parent of kids with disabilities, I especially worry about the special education teachers. My youngest daughter has Down syndrome, which means special education teachers are quite involved in her education, even more so than the regular education teachers.

I also know special education teachers chose their career because they wanted to work with kids like mine. From anything they could be teaching, they dedicate their time to students with disabilities. Still, a lot of people don’t understand what it means to be a special education teacher.

 

We reached out to our Mighty community and asked our special education teachers, “What do you wish people understood about your job?”

These were their answers:

1. “I wish people understood that all these kids need is a little bit of encouragement and a lot of love!” — Raazieh F.

2. “I always try to use whatever researched-based method will work in a given situation. If that method doesn’t work, it’s back to the drawing board to try a different method. All kids can [have] progress and success.” — Kelly F.

3. “I don’t know it all. I’m always doing the very best I can for each of my kids! I will never, ever do them harm.” — Joyce T.

4. “I teach because I love it, just like anyone else who is passionate about their job. I value my students because they are valuable, not because I’m somehow more holy than the rest of the population. And when you tell me I’m a saint because I work in special education, you are dehumanizing the amazing population I have the pleasure of working with daily.” — McAlister G.

5. “I wish people understood the amount of time it takes to develop an IEP and how essential it is for all IEP team members to contribute fully.” — Amy C.

6. “I wish my kids were thought about when activities are planned! We are part of your school, yet we don’t belong. Why is it so hard to have at least one field-day activity my students can do, too? I know they can’t walk or talk, but they do have feelings! Why is it so hard for everyone to stop by and say hello? I wish someone, anyone, understood that no matter how severe a disability is everyone should be included.” — Stacy S.

7. “I wish people would understand that I am not just ‘playing’ with children all day.” — Ryan B.

8. “I wish people knew how much my students are capable of achieving! I wish people understood how much time and effort it takes to get my students to their high school graduation and I wish people knew how great kids with disabilities (whether visible or invisible) are and how much of an impact they can have on the lives of others!” — Mary S.

9. “I wish people understood how much there is to my job besides the work with students: preparation, paperwork, meetings, professional development.” — Annette B.

10. “I wish people understood that preschool special education is not cute. It is hard work and students learn a lot of crucial skills through play.” — Robyn M.

11. “No one strategy works for every student. Just because a strategy works today doesn’t always mean it will work tomorrow. Flexibility is key! Slow and steady wins the race! I’m not a special educator so my students can pass a test. I teach because I believe my students can learn to be as independent as possible!” — Staci G.

12. “I wish people understood I’m not a glorified babysitter. I teach math, literacy, science, social studies, social skills and life skills. It might look different from a gen ed room, but my kids are still learning. I do what’s appropriate for each child. Some are doing basic multiplication and others are still learning to do simple addition or even number identification. Some can read sight words, others don’t know their alphabet. Also, I hate hearing how it ‘takes a special person to teach those kids.’ No it doesn’t. It takes a special person to deal with all the other aspects of the job that take us away from our kids. I love my kids with every fiber of my being, and I’m not a ‘special person’ for that. Regardless of their disabilities I teach 8-, 9-, and 10-year-olds who really aren’t that different from their typical peers. They all want love, success and a fair shot at life!” — Kim C.

13. “I wish the powers that create standards and policies would realize that many students learn differently and would stop holding everyone to the same academic standards.” — Wendy G.

14. “There are good days, and there are bad days. But the good outweighs the bad. Kids need to be loved, and they need someone to believe in them.” — Emily C.

15. “Not all learning has to be academic. Learning social and behavioral skills is just as important as learning math, ELA, science or social studies.” — Tricia A.

16. “Accommodations are not there to make it ‘easier.’ They are in place to allow the student access to the curriculum.” — Karen R.

17. “Every behavior is communication!” — Megan B.

18. “I wish people understood I am not ‘less’ of a teacher and my students are not ‘less’ important or capable.” — Rachelle M.

19. “I really do need the summer off.” — Megan R.

If you are a special education teacher, thank you. Thank you for everything you do for our kids.

Thinkstock image by monkeybusinessimages

19 Secrets of Teachers of Kids With Disabilities
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'Born This Way' Season Finale Highlights Financial Security for People With Disabilities

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Lauren Appelbaum is the communications director of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities.

For the cast of “Born This Way” and others with disabilities, acquiring a sense of financial stability is important in being able to live an independent life.

“Born This Way,” a reality TV show just nominated for six Emmy awards, including again for the 2017 Emmy Award for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, which the show won in 2016, is centered on seven young adults with Down syndrome living their day-to-day lives, all while pursuing their passions, following their dreams and defying stigmas. In the final episode of season three, Megan and her mother Kris learn about opening an A Better Life Experience (ABLE) account. ABLE accounts are savings accounts designed specifically for people with disabilities and their families to aid them in financial independence.

In December of 2014, President Barack Obama signed the ABLE Act into law. The passage of this act provides tax-advantaged savings accounts for people with disabilities and their families.

Through ABLEnow, a person with a disability can save up to $14,000 per year without compromising their benefits for qualified disability expenses such as educational costs, housing expenditures and payment for transportation. This applies to people with any type of disability, not just Down syndrome. However, the law only applies to individuals who developed their disability before turning 26 years old. Thus, the law is especially important to people with developmental disabilities including Down syndrome, autism, spina bifida and cerebral palsy.

“We’re honored to partner with A&E’s ‘Born This Way’ to spread the word about ABLEnow and focus on ability instead of disability,” said Mary Morris, CEO of Virginia529, the agency that administers ABLEnow. “Our ABLEnow program empowers people to increase their independence, improve their financial security and achieve a better quality of life. We share this passion with A&E, which gives a voice to people with disabilities, their families and advocates through this uplifting series.”

In the show, Scott from ABLEnow helps Megan and Kris sort out how a person with a disability can save money and not compromise their benefits. Megan’s business Megology is doing well and an ABLEnow account can help her save the money that she earns. In the past, an individual with a disability needing benefits such as Medicaid or SSI could save no more than $2,000.

“It’s just not fair that today I can go out to the store and spend money and save as much as I want and you can’t,” Scott from ABLEnow says. “You should have the same rights as anybody else does.”

“It is not a parent’s dream for their children to live in poverty just to qualify for benefits,” Kris says. “We want them to be able to earn a livable wage and not have to run the risk of their finances being devastated because they have a medical emergency and they don’t have insurance.”

Megan says that she is “not a charity case.” An ABLE account can be the first stepping-stone to financial independence for her, if she is given the financial guidance and tools she needs to succeed.

The passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act opened many doors for individuals with disabilities, but for many, financial inclusion in banking remained closed. While ABLE accounts can aid people with disabilities in their independence, family and friends are more likely to take on an individual with a disability’s financial responsibilities.

“Americans with disabilities face unique financial obstacles and challenges that separate them from their peers without disabilities,” according to Michael Morris, director of the National Disability Institute (NDI). In April of 2017, NDI released “Banking Status And Financial Behaviors” which discusses banking and under-banking habits among people with disabilities. For instance, 40 percent of those who are banked have checking accounts, but lack savings accounts. Just 40 percent of households with disabilities save for unforeseen expenses, as compared to 61 percent of other households.

This season “Born This Way” has also educated viewers about a variety of issues around disability. Episodes have tackled complex issues such as self-determination for people with disabilities in healthcare choices, the lack of employment opportunities for all people with disabilities, sex education for young adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and the importance of inclusive education for all. Find a free resource guide here.

Watch the Season Finale on A&E Network at 10:00 p.m. on July 18 and catch the entire season online. Join RespectAbility for a live Twitter chat during tonight’s show using #BornThisWay and #BTWchat.

ABLE Resources

The ABLE National Resource Center is a collaborative of more than 20 of the nation’s largest disability organizations. The ANRC’s goal is to provide consistent, reliable information concerning the benefits of an ABLE account. In addition, the ANRC aims to educate individuals with disabilities and their families, state government and legislatures, financial service companies and financial planners and attorneys – who focus on trust and estate planning – about ABLE’s potential positive impact on the lives of millions of Americans with disabilities. The interactive website offers educational videos, information resources, and a tool to compare up to three state ABLE programs in terms of costs and program features. The website is on pace to have more than one million visitors in 2017. It is the most comprehensive, independent source of information about ABLE accounts and programs.

RespectAbility Fellow Stephanie Flynt provided additional research for this piece.
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Why I'm Thankful I Asked for Disability Accommodations at Work

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No one likes having difficult conversations. They’re all around stressful  — from preparing beforehand to actually having the conversation, and then processing what was said after the fact. I tend to avoid confrontation if possible. I don’t like feeling uncomfortable (who does?) and tend to over-analyze everything. I worry about saying the right thing as well as not hurting anyone’s feelings. Sometimes though, these conversations are necessary. In fact, they can actually lead to an improvement in whatever situation you are discussing. Therefore, while it was incredibly difficult, I am thankful for the experience I had last fall when I talked with my supervisor about adjusting my assigned work duties.

Over the last year and a half I have had a harder time balancing my health issues and work responsibilities. Without going into too much detail, I was trying to do too much and the tasks didn’t make sense because they required skills I wasn’t very proficient and/or efficient in completing. They were tasks that required both fine and gross motor skills. I could technically do them, but it was difficult and time consuming.

I felt a lot of pressure (mostly that I put on myself) to make sure everything was absolutely perfect. When this didn’t happen, I became very stressed and felt as if I was completely and 100 percent ruining the project. I’ll admit that some things were my fault. I know I’m not perfect (no one is). But, I always tried my best. The issues that arose were often related to the fact that the tasks I was doing were more difficult for me (as opposed to a peer) specifically because of my disability.

After months of trying my best but having difficulty off and on, I decided I wanted to talk with my supervisor about adjusting my work responsibilities. By this point it felt like everything was falling apart. I felt like I was failing at my job. I was stressed and upset about “ruining everything.” There were other things within the project that I felt matched my “skill set” and abilities more closely. I basically wanted to switch tasks with one of my co-workers. I felt like this person would be better suited to do what I was currently doing. More efficient. More reliable in terms of being able to physically come into the office to handle time-sensitive matters. Being able to make special trips to the post office. Things like that. On the flip side, I would be doing more computer and phone-based tasks. I felt like these would be a much better match for my interests and abilities.

The very day I had been planning to ask to meet with her, she asked to meet with me. Her initiating the meeting made me more nervous and threw my confidence a bit. I should mention that my supervisor has been very accommodating since the day I first interviewed with her. She has always been flexible with both my schedule and where I work (home vs. office). The key thing is trust. She trusts me to do what I need to do in order to get my work done. That’s huge. She has been an amazing advocate for ensuring my work area as well as the general office area is accessible. I’m so very thankful for the support she’s given me. This in turn makes me want to work even harder in order to succeed. Therefore, I knew that no matter what, she would absolutely treat me with respect and want to work with me to find a solution that worked for everyone. I was still intimidated, though.

The conversation started off with her asking about how I was feeling. She knew I was having trouble managing a variety of symptoms and was genuinely concerned. We then talked about how I thought I was doing in terms of my job responsibilities. It was hard to talk about how I felt like I was struggling… It was hard to go over how my disability literally affected how well I could do my various tasks. There were times where I wanted to start crying or fall apart. All my frustration from the previous months came to the surface. I was able to keep it together during the meeting (made it until afterwards to cry in my office). During the meeting I remained calm and didn’t become defensive.

Overall it was a good conversation, because I was able to talk with my supervisor about how I wanted to adjust what I was doing. She was very responsive to what I said. She talked about how she wasn’t aware of how I was struggling and that sometimes she forgets I do have limitations (low vision, fine/gross motor skills etc). I think this is because I try so hard to do what needs to be done.

I think this conversation was a really good professional growth experience. It allowed me to practice effective communication skills. I learned the importance of being honest with myself and knowing when to ask for help. The conversation was hard, but I am thankful we had it. Without having this open and honest conversation, nothing would have changed. I wouldn’t be happier in my job. My responsibilities would not have changed to be more in line with my skills and abilities. I feel like I am succeeding, or at the very least, making a positive impact within the team and the research project itself. I am thankful for the opportunity to work within the team. I still have some difficulty balancing my health and work responsibilities, but things are improving.

The lesson I learned from that day is to speak up sooner; when things seem overwhelming, speaking up and asking for help can lead to actions being taken that ultimately improve your situation.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Spyder Skidoo.

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Google Maps Adds Accessibility Features

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Google announced a new initiative that will help people with disabilities find more accessible destinations through Google Maps.

Read the full version of Google Maps Just Got a Lot More Accessible for People With Disabilities.

Read the full transcript:

Google Maps Just Got a Lot More Accessible for People With Disabilities

Google announced a new initiative to help people  find more accessible locations.

It will now allow users to add whether or not locations are accessible through Google Maps.

“Many of us take for granted simple things like walking through a doorway, taking the stairs to the next floor, or always having a comfortable seat at a restaurant table.” -Shiva Thiagarajan and Rio Akasaka, Google Product Managers

“But for tens of millions of people worldwide, those very things aren’t possible unless a place has a wheelchair accessible entrance, elevator or accessible seating.”

Venue accessibility information includes wheelchair-accessible:

  • entrances
  • elevators
  • seating
  • parking

So far, accessibility information has been added to over 7 million locations.

To use, open the business listing, click the description and scroll down to the accessibility section.

Let others know how accessible the location is.

Google is not the first company to show how accessible locations are, although it is the largest.

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'It's Not My Fault I Can't Walk Without My Walker. A Doctor Should Always Help!'

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My daughter, Namine, and I have been reading a book for school called, “Johnny Tremain.” It’s a story of a silversmith apprentice whose hand, through an accident, is badly burned and can no longer study under his master.

We were at a part of the book where Johnny is no longer ashamed of other people seeing his hand, but neither does he deliberately draw attention to it. In the scene in question, Johnny is talking to a doctor. The doctor asks Johnny about his hand, “Was it the will of God?”

The narrator explains that in the 1700s, congenital disorders were considered the divine will of God, and no doctor would attempt to intervene. If a disorder came about through sickness or accident, they would.

On learning this, Namine became quite upset, “It’s not the child’s fault they were born that way. It’s not my fault I can’t walk without my walker. It’s not anyone’s fault. A doctor should help, no matter what! A doctor should always help!”

 

The picture at the top of the post is from when Dr. Gordon, the director of the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Special Needs program, retired. He and all of Namine’s doctors have helped her so much. In Namine’s own words, “Without my doctors, I wouldn’t be able to walk, or talk or even be alive at all.”

Follow this journey at Eiche Fam

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

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