Tagged with 'Inclusivity'

CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Highlights

 CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Highlights                                                                                                                  

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) held its 38th Annual Assistive Technology Conference March 13th through March 17th, 2023 in Anaheim, CA. This conference is focused on cutting-edge practices in the field of accessibility and assistive technology. The attendees typically are practitioners, educators, advocates, family members, individuals with disabilities, exhibitors, etc. This year the conference held hundreds of sessions, an exhibit hall, and many networking opportunities.

School Health was proud to participate in this year’s conference exhibit hall at booth number 104. I had the opportunity to represent the team along with my colleague Jodi Szuter, Specialist - Special Education, and the representatives from AbleCon as they provided real time demonstrations of the AbleCenter Camera System.

Sharing the products at our table such as the GlassOuse PRO and the Cosmo Devices drew attention from many conference attendees. The best part was meeting practitioners and school district staff looking for ideas to better serve their clients and students. We had many engaging conversations with individuals with disabilities who were looking for tools to assist their everyday lives. Their insights were helpful in understanding the variety and complexity of their needs. 

While at the conference, I made my way around the exhibit hall visiting over 90 booths. Many booths provided assistive technology equipment, software, or resources with focuses on two major areas: low/no vision and accessibility of websites and documents. There were some booths with augmentative and alternative communication devices, employment offerings/accommodations, and smart home speakers and cameras. 

One thing that really stood out to me at this conference was the number of attentive and helpful staff available to assist attendees in finding their way around the venue. Wearing their bright red shirts, they were easy to find, and with so many attendees using canes and guide dogs, their individual attention was exemplary. The CSUN 39th Annual Assistive Technology Conference is already scheduled for March 18th-22nd, 2024 at the Marriott - Anaheim, CA. 

 On a personal note, it’s not every day you meet a famous pop-culture icon but look who snapped a photo with us at this year’s CSUN Assistive Technology conference! Stevie Wonder!!!

Autism Acceptance is Key in Inclusionary Practices


During each spring, tens of thousands of students check their email or standard mail waiting for an acceptance letter from colleges. For thousands of middle school students, spring brings acceptance letters from private high schools. Parents in certain locations throughout the country seek acceptance into special pre-school programs for their young children. Individuals of all ages hope for acceptance into groups or other activities. The idea of acceptance is nothing new. We have seen it throughout the history of humanity. The idea of not being accepted brings concern and sadness and may even cause feelings of failure. Acceptance is an important part of any community and can help to establish higher levels of diversity and success within that group.

A few years ago, we moved from April being the month of “Autism Awareness” to “Autism Acceptance.” This came about because one can be aware of another person, but not accept them for any number of reasons. With the large number of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, acceptance of who they are is important to maintain a socially healthy community. Those who push back and fight accepting these individuals often do not understand that many individuals who may have had undiagnosed ASD have provided amazing insights into the world because of their “uniqueness” or “idiosyncratic” approach to life. Some people fear a label and do not give that person a chance to demonstrate what they can add to life.

Several years back, I was contacted by some consultant colleagues for insights on a project they were working on with a district. The district was moving toward having a strong inclusive approach to their student population and was developing a plan and budget to properly support faculty and students.  The seven-person Board had final approval and it looked like it would be a close vote as two members were opposed simply because of costs for the professional development. Two members were former educators and were very positive about the movement. So, both sides had the opportunity to present the pros and cons of an inclusionary program. The only argument against the plan was fiscal in nature. I was asked for insights on proper training and documentation because of work I had done internally with schools in the 1990s and early 2000s.

On the night of the public Board vote, both sides had one final time to share their side. Each side did and the crowd was asked to remain silent while the vote began. One of the three Board members who was undecided offered to vote first with his rationale. He shared his status as a parent of two students as well as a citizen concerned about doing what was right. He then went on to share that although the inclusion of students was important, he was going to vote against it because he did not want his children to “catch Autism.” Chaos arose in the meeting, but his vote was cast, and the other two undecided folks voted along with him in fear of something that wasn’t real. That district voted down inclusive classrooms because of being labeled without knowing anything about it. Fortunately, two years later a new superintendent entered the district and was able to put through a resolution with proper funding and training for “modern classroom teacher support and training.” Inclusion was able to be introduced in that way.

Events like that demonstrate why awareness is not enough. Too often, individuals making decisions are not aware of what actually happens in the classrooms. This is especially evident in our politically charged environment today where people assume they “know education” and “what really goes on” because they went to school. We have to put ourselves in a situation where these generalities and labels are pushed to the background while the individuals and the great things they bring to the community are in the forefront. One way of doing this is to highlight the accomplishments of all students side-by-side. Create videos and materials that surround the amazing work done by students, making sure that neurodiverse students are featured with their neurotypical peers.  

When we look for examples, think about some of the students on the autism spectrum who may be excellent actors or actresses. Be sure to use them in some of the advertising for shows or for recruiting others into the fine arts. Look at some of those individuals who may have other conditions and still make a positive difference in activities throughout the school. Be sure to have these students along with other students as examples to the community of the positive things being done by the students.  

Create community events like “Talent Evenings” with performances from the bands and choirs surrounded by art and pottery from student portfolios. Have the actors and actresses perform a short piece while speech and debate can mirror some of their competitions. I mention all these areas as various districts have shared with me how their neurodiverse students are thriving in these settings – something that the larger community may not be aware of at all!

We have heard of using the Universal Design for Learning principles for arranging classrooms and other educational settings. Keep the idea of "universal" in mind when highlighting the efforts of our students. We have experienced some of our students who may be on the autism spectrum becoming great athletes in sports like basketball, cross country, soccer, and volleyball. We don’t have to promote their condition, but we do have to promote their accomplishment. This way, we are designing a platform where individuals are assessed on what they have accomplished.

The question might arise surrounding those students who may be in programs to give them life skills with the goal of transitioning into the workforce. Celebrate them as well. Offer evenings and weekends when the community can interact with them as well as with those in standard vocational programs.  Look at what dishes can be cooked and serve those without distinguishing one group from another. Have some students work together to build something that can be presented to the community. Inclusion comes from the acceptance we have of one another. The way to break down some of those barriers is to highlight what can be done as opposed to how individuals are seen. By starting within our schools and programs, we can develop acceptance which can then be modeled for the world outside of our school walls!

Thinking through October and all it brings for our Individuals

Thinking through October and all it brings for our Individuals

By: Dr. Raymond Heipp

During a brisk October morning, I thought about all the wonderful activities that occur in October and throughout autumn. Remembering my days as an administrator, October would bring us to the end of the first quarter of the academic year, along with student testing. The academic side of this month was only one endeavor October brought. We were in the midst of the fall athletic season and the beginning of the winter season. We moved closer to the start of major extracurricular activities in theatre, speech, and other clubs. Depending upon the district, we were potentially looking towards Halloween or other holiday activities. In all, October is both busy as well as transitional to progress the school year. Let’s review these ideas and what we might want to keep in mind.

Starting with the end of the month, I have read and written pieces about preparing our students for communities which celebrate Halloween. This can be one of the most over-stimulating holidays for individuals. The sights, sounds, tastes, and movement can create high levels of both excitement and anxiety. We want to make sure that individuals come to an understanding that some might dress in “scary” ways. If that preparation is not done, the first appearance of a werewolf or zombie could be confusing and frightening. Pictures and old costumes can be shared with individuals to prepare them for Halloween events. We also need to make sure that we are educating nutrition information to not eat all the candy or snacks in one sitting. Additionally, we should be aware of individuals who need unique costumes. Think of those in wheelchairs or those who use walkers and what can be designed specifically to their interests to allow them to participate with their peers. Do not forget that some of our individuals may not be able to afford a costume. How can we repurpose what we have or use items that we can pick up at a local dollar store or resale shop? Sometimes, simple costumes can be better as they might not cause sensory adverse reactions, allowing better participation. If you are in a building or community which celebrates Halloween, please be sure to have your individuals ready for a fun-filled and not fright-filled evening!

In addition, October brings back thoughts of outdoor sports. Having participated in and coach fall sports, one wants to be used to the needs of individuals based upon the weather. I had the wonderful opportunity to spend many October nights in the mid-to-late 1990s at the ballpark with my father watching playoff baseball with our Cleveland team! (Great to see them back in the playoffs this year! I know that Dad is looking down from some great seats above!) My father spent the last 30 years of his life in a wheelchair due to suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. That never inhibited his love of our pro teams and desire to see them in person. It was at these sporting events that I learned how clothing needs to be assessed individually. My father always had his winter coat, gloves, and hat ready. For a long time, it was assumed that his jeans would be enough to keep his legs warm. We later realized that having a wool blanket to cover his legs made it more comfortable for him. Gabe Ryan, in his Access Angle blog, discusses some of the clothing available today, which really works at keeping the entire body warm. This allows more enjoyment at any outdoor event or even the travel to and from events in cold or wet weather. Not all clothing works for everyone, so be sure to learn what works best for your individuals when they are going out in multiple environments. We want everyone watching these events to be included and not allow the weather to interfere.

As I mentioned above, October brings us to the end of the first quarter of the academic year. There are times when that transition between quarters is overwhelming. During October, we specifically “Go Red for Dyslexia” to bring attention to the number of individuals who struggle with this condition. We want to provide any support we can for these individuals and understand that the use of devices or software does not mean that these individuals are “cheating” when completing work or taking tests. We want to understand that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” solution. I was recently involved in a conversation with a district who simply wanted to address dyslexia in students with software on Chromebooks. I think that is a great idea, but let them know that they also need to have alternative devices for students who are trying to interact with papers or physical books. Many students become embarrassed if they have to use another person as a “Reader” when interacting with these materials. Having a device as simple as a Reader Pen can not only increase an individual's confidence in their own abilities, but also create a stronger sense of independence.

The more we are aware of conditions that can inhibit individuals from participating in academic, social, or personal events, the better we can prepare to help them. Consider all the various environments our individuals may be encountering and think through how we prepare to go to a high school football or soccer game. Now, expand what we do through the eyes of our individuals to pick up some other ideas about how to help them become more fully involved. Autumn can be a beautiful time of the year when everyone has access to all of its activities!

Keeping Warm on the Go: Fall is Here – Time for Winter Gear

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor

Fall is here and that means the weather is getting colder as we head into the winter months. It’s time to talk about some of my favorite winter apparel items that help keep you warm and dry.

If you or someone you know uses a wheelchair, scooter, stroller, or something similar, you probably also know that finding a way to keep the upper and lower extremities warm and dry can take some additional planning. I have used a wheelchair for a very long time and often found that I’ll be warm and cozy in a flannel shirt or winter jacket, but my legs become very cold. It is difficult sometimes to keep my entire body warm as my temperature fluctuates. If I am participating in an outside activity, I must take along a blanket or wear a few layers of pants. These methods work well, but can be bulky, take extra time to put on, or become too hot.

Several years ago, I was introduced to a couple of great products that I really like. These are worth checking into if you are looking for solutions to this same challenge for your child, student, family member, friend, or yourself.

X-Ability Bodycoats:

A couple of years ago, my Aunt Katherine saw the following news story about these specially designed jackets for people that use wheelchairs: 9&10 News WWTY Parents Invent Coat to Keep Kids, Adults in Wheelchairs Warm and Dry. This coat was designed by a mom for her daughter with Cerebral Palsy that uses a wheelchair. She created a prototype attaching two jackets together, making a full bodycoat. My Aunt surprised me that Christmas and purchased one for me. I was very excited; I have never seen anything like this jacket before. It is like wearing a sleeping bag with arms and a hood! Very warm and the zipper runs the length of the coat so I can have it all zipped up, half, or fully open in the front, without having to completely take the coat off. This bodycoat is great for use year-round for kids or adults as they come in different sizes. I have had the opportunity to use this bodycoat on a sailing trip in San Francisco Bay, it was perfect. I could enjoy my time and not be concerned about feeling uncomfortable due to tight muscles from the cold weather.

Bundle Bean:

I’ve been in search of a lap blanket, but not just any lap blanket. I used to have a waterproof lap cover with elastic sewn into the lower part that fits snug around my feet. It was originally part of a stroller used when I was a toddler. I kept that piece for a few decades, but it was misplaced in a move a few years back. This was one of the best tools for guarding against rain and wind. Earlier this year, I was thrilled to find an adult version of this similar item. The company Bundle Bean has a product called Adult fleece-lined wheelchair cosy. Woo hoo! One of my favorite winter apparel items, but made even better – it’s fleece lined! They offer a variety of patterns and colors for kids and adults. I chose black so it would match whatever jacket I decide to wear. What makes this type of item handy is that it is easily folded up and fits in a backpack. It features an elastic that hugs around the foot area, and elastic and Velcro straps on the reverse side keep it from dragging on the ground or getting caught in wheels. It’s very warm and waterproof. In the summer, I participated in a local 5K race to support Shriners Children’s Hospital. This wheelchair cosy was perfect for the early morning race start temperatures. I wear mine covering just my legs, but I can pull it up higher; mine is long enough to cover my feet all the way up to my chest while seated.

These are a few great options to consider for students waiting for a school bus, participating in recess, outdoor physical education classes, sports, and so much more!

Stay warm out there this fall and winter!

Adaptive Fashion: Inclusive, Stylish Clothing, and Accessories

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor 

Years ago, finding adaptive clothing that was both functional and looked good could be difficult. There were specialty catalogs that carried some items, but mainly they were geared toward senior citizens, not so much toward children and young adults. Often, people that needed adaptive clothing creatively modified regular clothing themselves or enlisted the help of someone with skills in using a sewing machine or in clothing design. 

Fast forward to present day, it is exciting there are now several options when it comes to finding fashionable clothing for people of all ages and abilities.


What is adaptive clothing?

It is clothing specially designed for people with a disability that includes modifications to make it easier to take on and off for the individual or a caregiver. The type of modifications needed are unique to each person and their levels of independence, mobility, sensitivities, and dexterity.

Several popular clothing brands and mainstream stores have adaptive clothing lines. There are professional clothing designers willing to make adaptive clothing and smaller home-based businesses where a family member or individual is able and willing to showcase and share their creations. The internet has made it easy to find smaller companies that specialize in creating adaptive clothing.

As someone who uses a wheelchair, I am in the seated position a lot. Wearing pants that have a comfortable waist, not a lot of tags, and seams that are flat, rather than bulky, are important to me. Also, having fabric that stretches, isn’t tight on the hips and knees, as well as pant length, are all key factors. My arms are tight in the elbow and don’t straighten out all the way, and for this reason, many shirts can be difficult to get my arm through the opening if the fabric is too stiff. Sure, buying a larger size would fix this issue; however, the length and width of the shirt would be far too big and baggy. It is understandable why so many people that have difficulty with typical clothing rely on wearing sweatpants and basic t-shirts. These items are comfortable and are easy to take on and off. Sweatpants are a great choice, but what if you want more variety and options, fabrics, or styles, such as a pair of nicer pants or collared button up shirt? Luckily, you don’t have to look that far to find multiple selections of Adaptive wear in clothing stores and online.


Helpful clothing adaptations include examples such as the following list:

  • Magnetic closures on shirts and pants, replacing buttons
  • Velcro or zippers on the sides of pants or shirt arms
  • Larger neck openings on shirts
  • Magnetic zippers that can be connected with one hand
  • Zipper pulls that are longer and easier to grasp
  • Clothing that is shorter in the back for those who use wheelchairs
  • Shoes that slip on, have Velcro, or zippers
  • Elastic for adjustable cuffs and waists
  • Snaps for adjusting size width and length

The following companies design and promote adaptive clothing with a focus on the unique needs of individuals:

Zappos Adaptive­– Offers single and different size shoe options. You can buy a single shoe or buy a pair that are two different sizes. A quick search of the Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO) friendly option came back with over 50 choices! When I was younger, it was always difficult and limiting when shopping for shoes to fit AFOs. It is amazing to see shoes with zippers that go around the entire front of the shoe. They also carry an entire section of colorful covers, belts, and pads related to G-tubes, insulin pumps, tracheostomy tubes, and more.

Tommy Adaptive– Promotes magnetic buttons on shirts and pants, that look like traditional buttons, but they easily connect and close. Easy open necklines, longer zipper pulls, one handed zippers, drawcord stoppers, pull up loops on shorts and pants, seated wear with Velcro closures in the back or side seams, and sensory friendly clothing. Jeans with Velcro and magnetic closure, which replace the button and zipper… that is awesome! It’s impressive that a popular brand like Tommy Hilfiger has a section included right on their main website for adaptive clothing.

JCPenney– Online catalog includes adaptive clothing and accessories with many features such as hook and loop fasteners, tag free, flat seams, easy shoulder openings, wide neck openings, pull on loops, adjustable waistbands, hidden abdominal access openings, magnetic buttons and zippers, adjustable leg openings, etc. They have their items separated into collections, including easy on and off, sensory friendly, seated wear, adjustable features, bodysuit closures, etc. They have so many clothes to choose from in a range of prices and even have a big and tall section.

IZ Adaptive– A fashion forward company creating clothing that is stylish and comfortable. Izzy Camilleri is a fashion designer that has created custom adaptive clothing since 2009. Her mission is to make great looking and well-fitting clothes accessible to everyone. The focus this company has on inclusion and the detail put into their “Game Changer Seamless Back Pants” is captivating. These are not just a pair of pants – to this company, they are a part of independence and self-expression.

Etsy– A quick search for adaptive clothing and you’ll find several handcrafted custom-made pieces such as pants and shirts with side openings, Velcro, magnets, etc. This is a great place to find small businesses who will even customize and make clothing to fit more specific needs.

BILLY Footwear– This footwear was developed by a person who is paralyzed with a goal of seeking to find ways to get dressed more easily. This brand uses a FlipTop Technology zipper shoe where the entire front of the shoe opens to place your foot inside.

Nike FlyEase– These athletic shoes include easy open or close, step-in heel, and adjustable straps. I personally wear the version with the wraparound zipper with a hook and loop strap on most days. The ease of sliding my foot into the shoe and zipping it up saves time and eliminates having to bend my foot in an odd position.


Aside from practicing dressing skills in real time, there are ways people can brush up on their fine motor skills and hand eye coordination through dressing skills tools and supports. Products designed for practice can be helpful for both children and adults. Some examples of tools used for practicing these fine motor skills, that can be found on the School Health website include; Manual Dexterity Learning Vests, Manual Dexterity Learning Boards, Dressing Board Set, Melissa & Doug Basic Skills Board, Dr. Pooch Dressing Pet Pal, and Learn and Play Teddy. There are also many “do it yourself” tutorials on YouTube for creating even more practice opportunities.

These are just a few of the many companies out there now highlighting adaptive clothing as part of their offerings. There are many, many more clothing designers and companies focusing on this type of apparel, and it is much easier to find and purchase adaptive clothing than ever before. In addition to all of the creative openings, closures, magnets, and pockets that makes the clothing unique, there is a notable increase in companies including people with disabilities in their advertisements as well. Not just in the section for adaptive clothing, but throughout different parts of their websites.

“Adaptive clothing expands inclusion with each stitch” ~ Gabriel Ryan

Beginning the New School Year Inclusively

Beginning the New School Year Inclusively 

By: Dr. Raymond Heipp

As we move into the 2022-23 school year, we have hope that this will be a more traditional year than the past two. We are also cognizant of the issues we still face as we prepare to work with our students. We are going to take a journey that brings in the themes of literacy, access, sensory support, inclusivity, and transparency. At the same time, we will take inspiration from a Paula Abdul song from 1991, “Promise of a New Day”:

So time over time
What will change the world?
No one knows (no one knows)
So the only promise is a day to live, to give
And share with one another

As we move into the new academic year, we are reminded that some of our students are still struggling with literacy and reading skills. Virtual learning took its toll on some students, even with Herculean efforts by their teachers. Learning styles are significant for everyone and our master teachers recognize the needs to have multiple styles of teaching built in for the sake of all learners. This need is heightened for those students who, due to the conditions they face, need structure, consistency, and multiple ways to understand what is being presented. I recently posted a Talkin’ Tech video extolling alternative uses for Alphabet Pebbles. The beauty of these pebbles is the fact that they can be used in classrooms from grades Pre-K through 12, adding a level of physical/tactile interaction to activities. As we look at the other conditions our students face, we see that assistive technology like the Reader Pen or LiveScribe can aid our more developed students while permitting them to display their abilities. Assistive Technology is NEVER a way of creating an unfair advantage and those who argue that point do not subscribe to the ideas of inclusivity. Inclusivity means that students are able to use the tools which allow them to work alongside every one of their peers within that room.

Literacy is so essential in the lives of all our students. As we look at programs like the Science of Reading, as well as other approaches, we see the opportunity to have all of our students understand letters, phonemes, and words in multiple styles. Take some time to reflect on how we can turn lessons involving literacy into something that is tactile in nature. When we look at our students who have moved into lessons focused on reading and notetaking, we must remember that not everyone will cognitively process the information the same way. Incorporating tools that permit text-to-speech principles, along with alternative forms of notetaking (think about taking digital images of your notes on the dry erase board and putting them into a PowerPoint or utilizing the save features within your interactive whiteboard and including those notes into an online PDF), provide all students with alternative access. Research demonstrates that by giving students the opportunity to review notes they may have missed, actually increases the attention they pay within the class itself.

Access also becomes such an essential piece for some individuals. One might not be able to access digital information in the same way as peers. Hence, an alternative mouse, like the Glassouse, might be appropriate, while other individuals may need switches or AAC devices in order to access information and communicate with others. This leads us into thinking about the creation of classrooms with transparent, Assistive Technology. I do not mean that the technology cannot be seen, but transparent, AT is so ingrained within the classroom that no student views it as different or strange.

Examples of this would be to use TalkingBrix 2 as a way of providing students classroom feedback or instructions at a station so that the teacher does not need to be involved. One could use a GoTalk 9+ as a way that students could read a book to themselves. By putting page pictures on the GoTalk 9+ and recording the words from that page on the device, students can then take the book and interact directly with the device to have it read aloud to them. In both of these cases, we are using AAC devices for tasks other than simple communication. In effect, we begin to de-sensitize the neuro-typical students to use AAC devices. Therefore, when a student needs to use the device for communication purposes, other students do not find it unusual because it is a familiar device. Switches can also provide access by taking a switch not being used by someone in particular, like the Jelly Bean or Compact Switches, which can be connected to a light and used like an answer button. By using these devices as something common, it breaks down barriers when students see an individual using one for digital access in other classes.

As we prepare our classrooms, we need to take the sensory needs of all our students into account. Fidgets or kinetic releases are both socially and classroom appropriate. Items like Mad Mattr or Tangle Jrs. are great tools to have available for all students when they feel overwhelmed in the classroom. We must remember that we are in a global environment where anxiety levels are high. Creating sensory breaks and even sensory stations within a classroom will be healthy for everyone. Think about having a corner or location where the students can go to just sit and relax. Adding in an object like the Fiber Optic Lamp introduces light and texture to the area. Breathing activities and yoga can also be used to help students relax.

The most important responsibility to remember for this year is that you need to take care of yourself. Those of you who have worked with me already know that I urge everyone associated with schools to take 5 minutes of “me” or “quiet” time each day. This “me” time is critical for you as it helps to re-center and refresh. The school environment is stressful for all of us who work within it. Ironically, we focus on taking care of our students first and then look to take care of our families afterwards. We tend to leave ourselves out of the “care equation.” We can only give as much as we have, and if we do not have a lot, we cannot give a lot. We need to take time for ourselves daily, as well as engage in other healthy activities, to allow us to be the best we can be! In being the best we can be, we maintain that promise of a new day by being able to share the most we can with our students!

Access Angle: Celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor

Celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Every October, the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, along with state and local organizations, recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The purpose of NDEAM is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. This is the 76th Anniversary of NDEAM and this year's theme is "America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion". To bring national awareness, the White House has issued a proclamation on their website related to this National Disability Employment Awareness Month, 2021. The history of NDEAM dates back to 1945.


  • 1945: Congress designated the first week in October to recognize the skills and contributions of people with physical disabilities.
  • 1962: The language was broadened to include all disabilities.
  • 1988: Congress expanded the week to a month and renamed it National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)

All are invited to join the U.S Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh, and Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy, Taryn Williams and others across the nation on October 20th, 2021, at the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) Virtual Celebration. This is an opportunity to learn more and hear from leaders and change makers supporting the continued efforts.

There are a wealth of materials available for employers and educators to promote National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Beyond the awareness month, there are several informative resources on websites such as Accessibility.com, where accessibility in the workplace and accessibility in education are highlighted. Another useful resource is the ADA National Network. Their purpose is to provide information, guidance, and training on how to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They serve businesses, employers, state and local governments, disability organizations and individuals with disabilities whose rights are protected under the ADA.

In celebration of varied contributions of workers with disabilities, through an inclusive lens, I’d like to highlight some fantastic examples I encourage you to read more about.


Founded in 2011, Mozzeria cooks up authentic wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas and offers an experience in Deaf culture while working to increase career placement opportunities for Deaf people. Mozzeria is proud to be a place where employees can demonstrate their talent and feel a shared sense of belonging.

Ada’s Café

Ada's Cafe is a non-profit corporation dedicated to hiring, training and empowering employees with disabilities. Where Good Food and Community Meet. Ada's also conducts collaborative research on improving workplaces for people with disabilities. 

Vertical Harvest

Provides inclusive employment for underserved populations in the vertical farms programs. These employees grow food for the local communities in vertical greenhouses located in urban environments. Watch their award-winning independent documentary Hearts of Glass.


A national cookie business founded by Collette Divitto, who was born with Down Syndrome. Collettey’s has a mission to create jobs for people with disabilities, change public perception of how capable this population is, and they work with law makers in Washington D.C. on policies to support employees with disabilities.

Josh Blue

An entertainment icon, Josh has a huge presence on social media with over one million views on his YouTube clips and almost one million followers on Facebook. He is a comic who has Cerebral Palsy and is my personal favorite. His comedy and wit are enjoyed by people with and without disabilities.

Microsoft-Supported Employment Program

Their mission is to partner with vendors and local employment agencies to make a substantial difference in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Workers receive wages and benefits from their vendor employers, plus the social benefits of working alongside colleagues of all abilities.

"There was a whole group of people out there that could do the job as well or better, that we were unjustly leaving behind," says Randy Lewis, a former SVP at Walgreens. “I think we have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that people with disabilities can do the job. Try it, if it doesn’t work what did you really loose? It will take a lot more people doing it, but if we can move the world that millionth of an inch...it makes it all worthwhile.”  Learn more about Randy Lewis and Walgreens approach to including workers with disabilities through this brief video, Employers Rarely Hire People With Disabilities. Here's Why They Should.

My personal example of a creative employment opportunity is with the School Health Corporation. Eight years ago, they offered me an interview for a blog writer position. They were interested in bringing in my perspective and experience as a person with a disability who is familiar with accessibility, assistive technology, and inclusion in everyday situations. Over time my role in the company has expanded to also include co-presenting at conferences, representing at exhibitor events, participating in department and companywide meetings, and serving as a thought partner on various projects and products. I’m proud to promote the resources and products our company offers and hand out my business cards wherever I go.

Often employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities are hard to find or don’t yet exist. When an individual comes along with skills and talents to share, and a business is willing to create a role or adjust the environment to support that person’s contribution, both individuals and companies thrive.

“We will all profit from a more diverse, inclusive society, understanding, accommodating, even celebrating our differences, while pulling together for the common good.”~ Ruth Bader Ginsburg