By Guest Blogger Janet Froetscher, Chief Executive Officer, Special Olympics
Paul Marretti, 37, is a talented employee of a Fortune 100 company who recently was recognized as his region’s Employee of the Year. He brings a wide range of abilities with him as he serves on national leadership committees, competes in multiple sports and volunteers in his community. Paul also has an intellectual disability.
“Paul is an excellent employee. He’s very reliable, very knowledgeable, a great customer service person,” shares Paul’s supervisor Tammy Henry. “We really appreciate having Paul here.”
Empirical and anecdotal data tell us many people with intellectual disabilities, like Paul, do work and contribute enormously, but that, unfortunately, most are denied the opportunity. A recent Special Olympics survey conducted by Gallup and the University of Massachusetts at Boston identified a few startling statistics on this front:
Only 44 percent of adults with intellectual disabilities are in the labor force, which is defined as either employed or actively seeking work. In contrast, 83 percent of adults without disabilities are in the labor force. Furthermore, the unemployment rate for adults with intellectual disabilities (21 percent) is more than twice as high as those without disabilities (9 percent). Someone is considered unemployed if he or she is without a job and actively looking for and available for work.
READ MORE ABOUT It Starts with You
Categories: Community Life
By Guest Blogger Wayne Connell, Founder and President, Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA)
But you don’t look sick.” “But you LOOK good.” “It’s all in your head.” “You just want attention.”
When most people are sick with the flu or a fever, they become pale and droopy and their hair is in a tussle. Therefore, when we meet someone who tells us he or she is ill or has an invisible disability, but he or she does not appear to be sick or in pain, we are often perplexed. Despite their appearance, we must realize that there is a difference between having a temporary cold or the flu and living day after day with a chronic illness or in chronic pain.
Many chronic conditions and disabilities are not as noticeable as a bad case of the flu. For instance, a person can battle symptoms such as extreme fatigue or cognitive impairments on the inside, even though he or she may appear healthy and well on the outside. Just the same, a person can have horrible pain or dizziness, despite the fact that he or she may seem strong and able.
IDA Ambassador Hannah Andrusky is someone who looks amazing and healthy on the outside while battling from injuries on the inside. In January of 2012, a serious car accident sidelined Hannah’s career as talk show host and stylist, as well as her confidence and self-esteem. Her ‘invisible disability‘ of concussion syndrome left her depressed, exhausted and even suicidal. Hannah’s medications caused her to gain weight and have severe mood swings, contributing to her lack of equilibrium on many fronts. A single mother and a daughter, her caretakers often had enough of the resulting behaviors.
READ MORE ABOUT My Disability May Be Invisible, But I’m Not!
Categories: Civil Rights & Voting, Transportation
By Guest Blogger Albert J. Rizzi, M.Ed., Founder and CEO of My Blind Spot, Inc.
I was returning from a business trip to Silicon Valley. The organization I founded, My Blind Spot, and the dedicated engineers at Intuit had been working together to develop accessibility features in Intuit’s widely used small business accounting software, QuickBooks for Windows. I had just met with a group of QuickBooks trainers and trainees about the tutorials we were developing as part of our effort to make QuickBooks software accessible for the blind. The meeting had gone well, but I was tired and ready to get home.
My guide dog, Doxy, and I had enjoyed our flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia, where we would pick up our connecting flight to Long Island. Doxy has been my guide dog for almost eight years, and he has crisscrossed the country on business trips with me. He flies more frequently and, at times, more adeptly than most people do. Since we had traveled together by air so many times without incident, I never anticipated the situation we encountered when we boarded our flight in Philadelphia.
Doxy and I were given a seat in the back row of the plane. The proper positioning for a guide dog on a plane is lying down at his master’s feet, vertically, with his head and shoulders, or rear and tail, tucked underneath the seat in front of his handler. Because this was a rather small plane, there was no seat in front of me—only the aisle. After showing me to my assigned spot, the flight attendant reminded me that I needed to make sure my dog was under a seat for takeoff. I was a little concerned about how we were going to manage that, given that we had no seat in front of us to make that happen. Fortunately, the woman beside me—Mary, from Pittsburgh—graciously offered her foot space for Doxy’s trip. I got him in position, and we were ready to go.
READ MORE ABOUT Grounded, But Still Soaring