We Are Lions: Supporting Artists with disABILITIES

We Are Lions Logo: A graphic design of a lion with a crown and the text "Roar Loud!"

By Guest Blogger Brian McMahon, a Philanthropic Liaison and Business Development Consultant for We Are Lions

In the special needs community, we are often faced with disheartening statistics. A couple examples being the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ January 2015 report that just 17.3 percent of individuals with disabilities were employed or the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ survey showing 45 percent of parents reported their children with learning disabilities were bullied in the past year. The list gets grimmer the deeper we dig. One thing is clear, there is an unfortunate lack of opportunities and understanding for people with disabilities in modern society.

However, I’m not here to discuss statistics. The beautiful people (not numbers) that make up this community deserve much more than that. What I am here to discuss is how silence is the root cause of many of these problems—and a new conversation that is capable of ending it.

The disability community is silenced on a variety of levels. Some, not only in the literal sense because they may not communicate the way someone without a disability would, but also in the way that they are marginalized by society. People with developmental disabilities are often so detached from mainstream society that those with no exposure to the community are unaware of how creative, and even relatable, these individuals are. It is stigma and indifference caused by this silence that leads so many individuals with disabilities to unemployment. We also see silence for mental illness; people afraid to speak out, to ask for help and sadly, the consequences can be very morbid.

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Are You “Aware” Tomorrow Is EITC Awareness Day?

A photo of a gentleman helping another man complete his taxes.

A Guest Blog by the MyFreeTaxes Partnership

The 2015 tax season is in full swing! Taxpayers with and without disabilities are preparing to file their taxes in anticipation for what is often the largest cash payment many receive all year: their tax refund.

Unfortunately, many taxpayers do not realize they may qualify for an even larger tax refund by claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC; worse, many miss out on a refund altogether, fearing that filing their taxes and claiming the credit may lead to an additional tax burden — an all too common misconception.

Tomorrow (January 30th) is EITC Awareness Day, and if you worked last year, you may be eligible for EITC and may be missing out on the opportunity to get more of your money back from the IRS! If you didn’t know about the EITC, you’re not alone. Currently, one in five Americans who are eligible for EITC are unaware they qualify and do not claim it.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, you may be asking: what is the EITC? According to the IRS, the tax credit is “a benefit for working people who have low to moderate income.” Long considered to be one of our country’s most effective anti-poverty initiatives, this year, eligible taxpayers with three or more children earning up to $46,997 ($52,427 married filing jointly) can claim the EITC and may be eligible for the maximum credit of $6,143 — a life-changing amount for many.

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Section 508: A Program with Heart

A photo of Helen Chamberlain.

By Guest Bloggers Helen Chamberlain, Program Director of Section 508, and the General Services Administration Team

A Growing Need

More than 60 million Americans are classified as having a disability; about 19 percent of the total population. More than 50 percent of those Americans with disabilities are in their working years (ages 18-64).(Census)

The federal government is the largest employer of Americans with disabilities and with that comes the responsibility of ensuring equal access to opportunities and information as put forth in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. With our world and workforce becoming increasingly virtual, we rely more and more on technology to ensure those with disabilities are woven seamlessly into the rapidly diversifying fabric of our labor force.

The Section 508 program is at the forefront of this effort, ensuring that agencies are informed about and have access to technology that makes it possible for people with disabilities to not only do their jobs, but also excel at them. As the chief advocate and coordinator for Section 508 implementation, the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Office of Government-wide Policy (OGP) provides accessibility solutions to eliminate barriers for people with disabilities. People like Rita.  Read More about Section 508: A Program with Heart


Job Search Tips from the Pros

A photo of Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder of Employment Options, Inc.

By Guest Blogger Paula Reuben Vieillet, President and Founder of Employment Options Inc.

When it comes to job hunting, it is often best to consult the professionals. Job and career counselors are certified specialists in their field and know from experience, with their own clientele, what works best and what does not. They also know the nuances of different stages of the job hunt and different industries.

Not everyone can afford a career counselor or has access to free job placement services. Therefore, I asked my job counselors, who helped more than 400 people on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) return to work last year, about their best suggestions for getting a job.

Every one of them began with “Preparation is the key to success!” So take these tips to bring out the best qualities you have to offer an employer!

The Resume 

Condense – “Keep your resume condensed and simple: one to two pages max,” recommends senior vocational counselor Ray Morrison, who places clients in on-site jobs.

Customize – “Customize your resume by adding experiences and skills that will pertain to a specific job requirement or preference,” says work-at-home specialist Lisa Seeley. “It is very common to have more than one resume.”  Read More about Job Search Tips from the Pros


Cognitive Disabilities: A Significant, Yet Unaddressed Challenge for Competitive Integration in the Workplace

A photo of Rob Guttenberg who has a cognitive disability.

By Guest Blogger Madelaine Sayko, President and Co-Founder, Cognitive Compass, LLC 

The Statistics on Cognitive Disabilities and Employment 

Individuals with cognitive disabilities are one of the largest categories of people with disabilities, yet this demographic exhibits some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates. Only about 11 percent of people with cognitive disabilities are working full time, and 33 percent are living in poverty, which represents the highest poverty rate of any disability subgroup. Among working-age individuals with disabilities, people with cognitive disabilities have the largest percentage of individuals actively seeking work. Of those who are employed, they are the lowest wage earners of any disability group1. Such statistics speak clearly to how challenging it is for individuals with cognitive disabilities to find sustainable and meaningful employment and, equally, how much they want to.

Cornell University’s 2012 Disability Status Report identified the prevalence of cognitive disabilities among working-age adults at 4.9 percent of the United States population (i.e., more than 14 million people). According to the Coleman Institute of Cognitive Disabilities, there are more than 28.5 million people living with cognitive disabilities in the United States alone. Even this statistic may not tell the whole story, as some cognitive disabilities may be underreported or associated primarily with other conditions. Attempts at improved data collection have shown that cognitive challenges are likely more prevalent than previously measured. For example, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 2.5 million people with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in 2010, a Mount Sinai Medical Center study, designed to specifically identify and include those with mild TBI, indicated that there may be as many as 30 million individuals nationally. TBI is one type of a cognitive disability.

Defining Cognitive Disability

One of the challenges in understanding the full scope and impact of cognitive disabilities is finding a definition. The term is often poorly understood and sometimes used interchangeably with developmental or intellectual disability; while there are overlaps, they are not necessarily the same. According to the Employment Disability Institute at Cornell University, a cognitive disability is “a physical, mental or emotional condition which causes a person to have serious difficulty in concentrating, remembering or making decisions.” Comparatively, the Coleman Institute on Cognitive Disabilities uses the following definition: “a substantial limitation in one’s capacity to think, including conceptualizing, planning and sequencing of thoughts and actions, remembering, interpreting subtle social cues and understanding numbers and symbols.”

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