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20 Useful Back-to-School Supplies for Students with Special Needs

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As the end of summer nears, many families are scrambling to navigate various back-to-school needs. For parents and/or caregivers of students with special needs, this to-do list can be a bit lengthier. For example, some students with disabilities may benefit from adaptive school supplies, an IEP and so on.

AmeriDisability rounded up 20 useful back-to-school supplies to help students with special needs transition back to the classroom.

1. Adaptive Eyewear

Worried your student isn’t clearly seeing the chalkboard because of ill-fitting glasses? Founded by a mom who struggled to find well-fitting glasses for her daughter Erin, the SPECS4US company specializes in frames designed for eyeglass-wearers with Down syndrome. This innovative line features a bridge that is adjusted to properly fit a low nasal bridge and temples (or “arms” of the glasses) which are modified to keep the glasses from slipping down.

pink adaptive glasses
(www.specs4us.com)

2. Adaptive School Uniforms

French Toast, a schoolwear brand, just launched its brand new adaptive collection. It features 12 disability-friendly and/or sensory-friendly, dress-code-ready tops and bottoms, including polos, woven shirts, shorts, pants, skorts, dresses and activewear. French Toast Adaptive is available online at FrenchToast.com, Amazon.com, JCPenney.com and Zappos.com, to name a few.

girl in wheelchair wearing adaptive schoolwear
(FrenchToast.com)

3. Chair Fidget for Feet

This useful tool easily loops around the legs of a standard classroom chair. Its noiseless design lets students with special needs fidget discreetly without distracting fellow classmates. Plus, it’s portable so students can transfer this item to secondary classes or other settings.

chair fidget
(FunAndFunction.com)

4. Chew Necklace

Stylish chewables for kiddos with autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder or other oral motor conditions are now available in tons of fun, school-aged designs. That means these sensory pieces double as accessories! For example, one multi-pack sold on Amazon features a shark tooth, Captain America-inspired dog tag and Lego blocks.

chew necklaces
(Amazon.com)

5. Chewy Pencil Sleeve

Designed for light to moderate chewers, this chewy is made of FDA-approved silicone and is free of BPA. It allows students to safely and calmly chew for oral motor stimulation, without damaging their writing utensils.

student using pencil sleeve
(FunAndFunction)

6. Clear Face Masks

For students continuing to wear face masks, these clear front coverings offer protection while allowing for displays of facial expressions and lip-reading, which is especially important for those within the Deaf and hard of hearing community. Masks feature adorable, kid-friendly designs with adjustable ear straps.

child sized face mask
(Amazon.com)

7. Compression Under-Hugger

This stretchy, tagless and breathable undershirt can provide desirable pressure for students seeking calming sensory input. Plus, the under-hugger can be worn unnoticeably beneath top-layer fashion garments so students can still show off their personal style.

girl wearing under-hugger garment
(FunAndFunction.com)

8. Different—A Great Thing to Be

Written by Heather Avis and illustrated by Sarah Mensinga, this book encourages children to live inclusively by valuing the “different” in all people in an effort to promote kindness. Everyone is different – with and without disabilities. FYI, perhaps this book could be counted for a school reading log.

Different Book
(Amazon.com)

9. Fidget Backpack

This backpack, with adjustable straps, is fun and functional. Students won’t misplace fidgets because their attached to this backpack. Kids can play and strengthen fine motor skills with snaps, bouncy coils, buckles, shoestrings and more.

Fidget backpack
(FunAndFunction.com)

10. Food Allergy Bracelet

According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), an estimated 32 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.6 million children under age 18. That’s 1-in-13 children or roughly two in every classroom. These silicone alert bracelets serve as a visual reminder to warn daycare and school staff not to give allergens to students. This pack also comes with EpiPen tags that can be attached to a medical bag or backpack.

Food allergy bracelet
(Amazon.com)

11. IEP Parent Planner

Whether it’s your first or fifth meeting with your child’s individualized education program (IEP) planning team, a lot of information can be discussed during such gatherings. Parents may consider organizing information in a condensed IEP binder.

IEP parent planner
(Amazon.com)

12. Mini Loop Scissors

Easy-squeeze scissors are effective for students who need added manual support when cutting paper or constructing art projects. This six-pack of adaptive scissors comes in assorted colors, including blue, green, orange, red, purple and yellow.

(Amazon.com)

13. Mood Bands

These wrist bands may aid students with a delay of speech, apraxia of speech and other communications-related or invisible disabilities. The two-sided bracelet can be worn on the green side to share “Happy to talk” or on the red side to emphasize “Please leave me alone.”

mood bracelets
(Kaplanco.com)

14. Pencil Grips

This eight-pack of ergonomic pencil grips features four different types of grippers in varying colors. They are designed to help students with special needs confidently hold a writing utensil and improve handwriting.

pencil grips
(Amazon.com)

15. Spiky Tactile Cushion

This double-sided sensory cushion offers spiky sensation on one side and a bumpy texture on the other. It is intended to engage balance, body awareness and core strength, while also improving posture.

spiky sensory cushion
(FunAndFunction.com)

16. Temperature Zone Lunch Box

Because some students with special needs are particular about food texture, flavor, temperature and plate arrangement, the leak-proof OmieBox Bento Box is a useful lunch tool. It has two temperature control zones to allow for warm and cold items, plus snacks.

Temperature Control Lunchbox
(Amazon.com)

17. Time Timer

Adhering to a schedule can be tricky, especially when parents are trying to coerce their students into sitting down for homework! A visual tool, like the Time Timer, can help set time limits for specific activities such as chores, reading and screen time.

girl using a timer
(FunAndFunction.com)

18. Thoughtful Cards

Offering words of encouragement and heartfelt affirmations can truly serve all students – with and without disabilities. This box comes with 30 positive cards that can be tucked in a lunch box, pocket or backpack. Consider this a simple, yet powerful tool to remind your student that he/she/they matter and are capable of greatness.

thoughtful cards
(Amazon.com)

19. Wake Up Light Alarm Clock

Over half of children with autism – and possibly as many as four in five – have one or more chronic sleep problems, according to Autism Speaks. Establishing good sleep hygiene can be challenging for some but this clock can help. It’s intended for kiddos who are sensitive to sounds or who respond more to visual cues than sound cues. Set the sound/volume and light to your child’s level of comfort.

light alarm clock
(Amazon.com)

20. Weighted Lap Pad or Blanket

A weighted pad can be laid across a student’s lap, shoulders, back or stomach; or, if applicable, utilized as a weighted blanket during nap time. Another option for calming and sensory input, students may also enjoy a weighted vest.

weighted lap blanket
(Amazon.com)

AmeriDisability wishes all families, and especially those within the disability community, a successful start to the new school year!

Note: This article includes affiliated links.

Looking for more adaptive products? Check out these finds: 

New Education Guidance Aims to Help Schools Better Support Students with Disabilities

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The U.S. Department of Education announced the release of new guidance from its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). This guidance is intended to help public elementary and secondary schools fulfill their responsibilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities and avoid the discriminatory use of student discipline.

These newly released resources are the most comprehensive guidance on the civil rights of students with disabilities concerning student discipline and build on the Department’s continued efforts to support students and schools through pandemic recovery.

The new resources include:

The guidance makes clear that schools do not need to choose between complying with Section 504 and IDEA and keeping their school community—including students and staff—safe.

All these documents can be found on the Department’s School Climate and Student Discipline Resources website.

Is this new guidance helpful for your family and/or your student with disabilities? Share with AmeriDisability on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn

4 Goals of DocsWithDisabilities, the Initiative Supporting Inclusion in Medicine

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On the heels of the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act, Dr. Lisa Meeks, an assistant professor of Learning Health Sciences and Family Medicine at the University of Michigan, and her team, launched the DocsWithDisabilities initiative. It’s a first-of-its-kind coordinated effort to systematically improve the inclusion of disabled individuals in health professions education.

“With generous support from the Ford Foundation, our team, along with our collaborators, are able to grow the initiative, expanding and exponentially increasing its reach and impact on disability inclusion in medicine,” said Dr. Meeks.

DocsWithDisabilities works to increase the number of healthcare providers with disabilities, address the disability access gaps in healthcare education and practice for people with disabilities, and expand education and awareness about disability inclusion.

female doctor, in wheelchair, at table with fellow physicians
(Shutterstock)

The DocsWithDisabilities initiative has four main goals:

  1.  Elevate people through shared stories of physicians, nurses and medical professionals with disabilities (in their own words).
  2. Foster awareness by increasing the visibility of disabled healthcare providers.
  3. Build community by creating a virtual space for people to connect and support one another in their journeys.
  4. Impact inclusion through organizational research and educational initiatives, informing policy and best practice.

In 2022, the initiative is launching several programs aimed at increasing the number of doctors with disabilities in the physician workforce and addressing current barriers in training. These barriers, many of which highlight the need for more research, include lack of mentorship, knowledge of reasonable accommodations in clinical settings and the impact of long COVID on the physician workforce.

“The ADA was passed 32 years ago, and careers in the medical profession have remained largely unachievable for disabled people, including those currently facing the challenge of living with long COVID. DocsWithDisabilities is a radical transformation in the power dynamic of our current medical system. Disabled people’s voices must be respected and followed within every aspect of health care — whether patients, providers or both. And providers with disabilities and chronic illnesses should be connected in a network of peer support and advocacy. The Ford Foundation is proud to support DocsWithDisabilities, whose critical work is leading the charge to end systemic ableism in the health care profession and better meet the needs of our diverse and dynamic community,” said Rebecca Cokley, Program Officer for U.S. Disability Rights at the Ford Foundation.

To accomplish these goals, DocsWithDisabilities is collaborating with several organizations, including the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Stanford Medicine Alliance for Disability Inclusion and Equity (SMADIE), the Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses (AMPHL), the Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center, and the Coalition for Disability Access in Health Science Education, initially co-founded by Dr. Meeks.

male physician using ASL with patient
(Shutterstock)

Here’s what the leaders of these organizations said about DocsWithDisabilities:

  • “The AAMC is committed to fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive physician workforce, and that includes people with disabilities. We are pleased to support the DocsWithDisabilities Initiative in its efforts to address and remove common barriers in training and to provide a platform for improving disability inclusion,” said David J. Skorton, MD, AAMC President and CEO.
  • “Sharing the stories of healthcare providers with disabilities helps directly combat stereotypes about disability and reshape the narrative. SMADIE is thrilled to support and endorse this highly impactful work,” said Peter D. Poullos, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Radiology and Medicine, Founder and Director, Stanford Medicine Alliance for Disability Inclusion and Equity (SMADIE).
  • “Disability inclusion among healthcare professionals is a necessary step to addressing the barriers and inequities that people with disabilities face within healthcare settings. These efforts require a holistic and data-driven approach that is informed by the disability community,” said Bonnie Swenor, PhD, MA Director, Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center.
  • “People with disabilities, including deaf and hard of hearing people, experience significant inequities, not only in accessing healthcare but also in becoming practicing clinicians. AMPHL is honored to partner with the DocsWithDisabilities Initiative to reimagine the delivery of health sciences education and healthcare,” said Chris Moreland, MD-MPH, President, Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Losses (AMPHL).

What do you think about this DocsWithDisabilities initiative? Share with AmeriDisability on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

Beyoncé’s New Album Drops Ableist Slur, Hitting Wrong Note with Disability Advocates

Disability Pride Month seemed to end on a low note following the release of Beyoncé new album, Renaissance, on July 29, 2022, which included an unexpected ableist slur. Known as “Queen Bey,” the 40-year-old singer-songwriter has long reigned as a pop culture icon. But, unfortunately, it appears that Beyoncé, like so many others, remains more so of a ‘commoner’ when it comes to understanding disability culture and inclusive representation. Let’s face it, misconceptions surrounding disabilities remain and ableist language persists…

Here’s How Beyoncé Missed a Beat

Beyoncé holds the all-time record of the most Grammy wins ever by a female artist. So the release of Renaissance, her first full release since 2016’s Lemonade, immediately had millions of music fans enthusiastically streaming her highly-anticipated seventh studio album. But not everyone was hailing the Queen…

Lyrics of “Heated,” a song co-written by Beyoncé́ and Drake, include the word “spazz,” which is considered to be a derogatory reference to the medical term spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy, a neuromuscular condition. People with cerebral palsy often experience stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity), among other differences related to movement/coordination, speech/eating and development.

But Beyoncé’s song isn’t about cerebral palsy. Thus, disability advocates question why such ableist language is yet again being casually used for entertainment purposes and, furthermore, ever-present in our world in general.

(Shutterstock)

Harmful Language Related to Disability Persists

Ableism is undoubtedly present in modern language. For example, the adjective “lame” is defined by Merriam Webster’s dictionary as having a body part and especially a limb so disabled as to impair freedom of movement. Over time, “lame” seems to have taken on another meaning of being boring or uncool. Sure, many words have varying or multiple definitions, but equating disability terms with undesirability or a lesser-than depiction is offensive.

Beyoncé is a wildly popular entertainer and so, as a top-selling artist, her words do matter. That’s because ableism affects everyone. According to industry reports, Renaissance became Spotify’s most-streamed album by a female artist in 2022 thus far, achieving more than 43 million streams in a single day. Since ableist language shapes how people think and perceive certain differences, Beyoncé’s influence is huge and, in this case, unnecessarily damaging to the disability community and community-at-large.

Ableism graphic
(source: rehabpub.com)

Is Beyoncé “Tone Deaf?”

This musical misstep came as a surprise since the singer and her producers could have seen this coming thanks to a prior incident. You see, six weeks earlier another chart-topping singer, Lizzo, was called out for using the same ableist slur (“spaz”) after the release of her song “GRRRLS.” In early June, a tweet by writer Hannah Diviney went viral when the disability advocate explained how Lizzo’s slur offensively aligned with her disability (cerebral palsy). Lizzo quickly took to social media to acknowledge the misappropriation and promised to update the song with more acceptable lyrics. She wrote, in part, “As an influential artist, I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.”

She got it after a well-intentioned disability advocate offered some insight. But was the damage already done? And why does the same old inclusive education need to be given again and again?

Diviney, among others, swiftly offered similar frustrations following the soon thereafter release of Renaissance. And, again, it didn’t take long for Beyoncé’s representatives to confirm that the lyric would be removed, declaring to CNN in a statement that “the word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced.” It seems a bit hard to believe, however, that no one in Beyoncé’s large team recognized the potential for backlash following the very same matter that publicly arose just weeks prior.

Listen, we are all human – with and without disabilities – and we all make mistakes. So maybe the public shouldn’t assert that Queen Bey be dethroned. Her musical chops really do reign supreme! Rather, her misstep in using ableist language can serve as a much-overdue, far-reaching lesson for all of us. Ableist language, intentional or otherwise, is disparaging and, well, avoidable. Let’s tune into the power of positive lyrics

Does music influence your life? Share with AmeriDisability on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!

Is Your Workplace as Inclusive as These Top Inclusive Employers?

Disability:IN, the global organization driving disability inclusion and equality in business, announced the 2022 Inclusion Award recipients. The awards recognize visionary brands and individuals that are advancing disability inclusion.

“We applaud these changemakers who are driving extraordinary outcomes for people with disabilities around the world. Whether it’s innovating new products, creating exemplary programming and practices, or demonstrating corporate leadership, I’m honored to recognize the brands and individuals that bring their passion and dedication every day to the table to transform business and shape a society that includes everybody,” said Jill Houghton, President and CEO of Disability:IN.

2022 Employer of the Year: T-Mobile

Disability:IN recognized T-Mobile as Employer of the Year due to the company’s achievement in exemplary policies, strategies and initiatives that have resulted in measurable results in the areas of disability inclusiveness in the workplace, marketplace and supply chain.

T-Mobile being named Disability:IN’s Employer of the Year reflects the commitment we’ve made to diversity, equity and inclusion and empowering every member of our team – including those with disabilities – to bring our ‘Be You’ culture to life every day,” said Jon Freier, president of T-Mobile’s Consumer Group. “This recognition just motivates us to continue to focus on being leaders in this space into the future!”

four hands forming a circle around handicapped symbol
(Shutterstock)

In total, there are 10 Inclusion Award categories that recognize companies and their inclusive employers and/or leaders:

1. 2022 Top Corporation for Disability-Owned Businesses: Accenture

The Top Corporation for Disability-Owned Business recognizes a corporation that has demonstrated outstanding inclusion of Disability:IN certified disability-owned businesses (including businesses owned by service-disabled veterans), and demonstrated commitment to disability business inclusion in their supply chain processes and corporate supplier diversity programs.

2. 2022 John D. Kemp Leadership Award: Rodney O. Martin, Jr., Chairman and CEO, Voya Financial

The John D. Kemp Inclusion Award recognizes an individual who has developed or influenced the development of significant company disability employment programs and/or services that resulted in measurable, tangible and positive outcomes that dramatically improved disability employment opportunities.

3. 2022 ERG/BRG of the Year: Dawn: Bristol Myers Squibb

The Employee/Business Resource Group of the Year recognizes a corporate employee resource group (ERG) or business resource group (BRG) as having exemplary programming and practices for its employee group that provides business value to the company and professional growth for its members.

4. 2022 NextGen Alum of the Year: Meenakshi Das, Microsoft

The NextGen Alum of the Year recognizes an alumnus who has gone above and beyond after participating in Disability:IN’s NextGen Leader Initiatives. This alumnus has not only demonstrated corporate leadership, but has also paid it forward for future NextGen Leaders.

5. 2022 Supplier of the Year: TDG Scientific

The Supplier of the Year recognizes a certified Disability-Owned Business Enterprises- DOBE®s, Veteran-Disability Owned Business Enterprises (V-DOBEs™) or a Service-Disabled Veteran Disability-Owned Business Enterprises (SDV-DOBEs™) supplier that has provided excellent service and serves as a role model for disability business inclusion in the supply chain.

keyboard with "inclusion" written on a post-it note
(Shutterstock)

6. 2022 Marketplace Innovator of the Year – Customer Service/Experience Design: Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

The Marketplace Innovator of the Year recognizes an innovative product(s) that is inclusively designed, to be used for people of all abilities. This category specifically relates to the processes, services or experiences that enhance an inclusive and satisfying customer experience for individuals with disabilities.

7. 2022 Marketplace Innovator of the Year – Product Design: Mastercard

The Marketplace Innovator of the Year, Product Category recognizes an innovative product(s) that is inclusively designed, to be used for people of all abilities. This category hinges on great product design which is marketed broadly to the general public and intentionally employs universal design principles.

8. 2022 ERG/BRG Executive Sponsor of the Year: Lisa Bickel, Honeywell and Joshua Pascoe, Honeywell

The ERG/BRG Executive Sponsor of the Year Award recognizes an Executive Sponsor of a company’s disability ERG/BRG who has had a measurable impact on disability inclusion at the company and champions disability inclusion across the enterprise.

9. 2022 Affiliate of the Year: Disability:IN Minnesota

The Affiliate of the Year honors a Disability:IN Affiliate that has demonstrated exemplary efforts in promoting the vision, mission and spirit of Disability:IN. This Affiliate helps their territory understand, utilize, and benefit from the valuable resources that people with disabilities present in the workplace, supply chain and marketplace.

10. 2022 Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year: Mary Brougher

The Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year recognizes a procurement champion who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the utilization and growth of disability-owned businesses, and also provided exceptional support for certified Disability-Owned Business Enterprises- DOBE®s, Veteran-Disability Owned Business Enterprises (V-DOBEs™) and Service-Disabled Veteran Disability-Owned Business Enterprises (SDV-DOBEs™).

This year, Disability:IN is renaming the Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year award to the Mary Brougher Supplier Diversity Advocate of the Year Award to commemorate the late disability rights leader. Mary was a leading advocate for employment for youth and adults with disabilities and mental health advocacy.

Nominate Inclusive Employers for Next Year

The 2023 DEI applications will open in the winter of 2022. What inclusive employers would you nominate? To see some of the potential competitors, download the DEI’s complete list of 2022 Best Places to Work. Kudos to the nearly 200 companies that scored 100%!

The One Main Freedom Vice President Kamala Harris Addressed with Disability Advocates

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On the 32nd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which fell on July 26, 2022, Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a roundtable discussion with leading disability advocates. The conversation included a focus on health care disparities among the disability community, the largest minority group in America.

Seated at the head of the table in her ceremonial office, the Vice President used the opportunity to address how new abortion restrictions, ignited by the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, disproportionately impacts Americans with disabilities, as previously reported by AmeriDisability. In June 2022, the Supreme Court issued an opinion that reversed the 5-decade-old decision that protected access to abortion on the federal level. Meaning that now it is up to each of the 50 states to individually enact and enforce laws related to this type of care. Thirteen states had so-called “trigger laws” on the books that then promptly banned abortion following the controversial opinion announcement.

Participants in the disability roundup discussion included: Lydia Brown, President and CEO at Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network; Sam Crane, Legal Director at Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities; Maria Town, American Association of People with Disabilities; Dior Vargas, Disability Rights and Mental Health Advocate; and Robin Wilson-Beattie, Disability Sexual and Reproductive Health Educator.

Vice President Kamala Harris hosts disability roundtable

Vice President Harris offered statistics that illustrated how people with disabilities are more so impacted by the reversal than other individuals. She noted that women with disabilities have higher rates of sexual violence, increased risk of pregnancy complications, and added difficulty in traveling to and receiving reproductive care; in addition to an increased likelihood of poverty and mobility challenges.

“So these statistics point out the direct impact of the Dobbs decision and the potential impact, but also speak to a larger issue, which is the disparities that still continue to exist in our country as it relates to access for people with disabilities in America,” Vice President Harris declared.

Representing each of their organizations, discussion participants offered additional dialogue regarding how people with disabilities face undue barriers as it relates to reproductive health care and abortion access. And, more than three decades after the ADA’s signing, the participants also attested that equal opportunity gaps largely remain. Much progress still needs to be made in support of people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment, schools, transportation, and accommodations in public and private places.

The Vice President acknowledged these staggering issues in her opening remarks. “We still have a lot of work to do in our country as it relates to fulfilling the promise of the ADA.  When we look at the issue of access to reproductive care, it is but one example of many where the disparities still exist as it relates to people in our country who have disabilities and deserve to have equal access.”

Vice President Harris also stressed that the current Administration is committed to fighting to protect reproductive rights, and she shared how the Administration will further advocate for the bodily autonomy and self-determination of all individuals, including those with disabilities.

“I also believe that this is an important conversation to have in furtherance of what we’ve been advocating for, which is the coalition building that must take place to strengthen the movement that we are in right now to fight for reproductive care for all people in our country,” she said.

The disability roundtable discussion was live streamed on the Vice President’s social platforms (replay here), and included ASL interpretation for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. You can read the full transcript of Vice President Harris’ disability roundtable opening statement by clicking here.

What other disability-related issues do you want the Administration to address?

Here’s Your Chance to Be Cast in GapKids’ Future Inclusive Campaigns

Just ahead of the back-to-school season, Gap is encouraging its consumers to join in celebrating inclusion with its newly released inclusive campaign. The creative was inspired by the children’s book of the same name, Everyone Belongs, written by disability advocate Heather Avis.

The campaign features a wide range of children of all abilities and special talents, including those of Avis’s own children with Down syndrome, a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome.

Dedicated to creating a more inclusive world, Avis is the founder of The Lucky Few Foundation, a national Down syndrome advocacy organization; and she’s also a New York Times bestselling author. With the release of her second book, Everyone Belongs, Avis inspired the perfect backdrop for Gap’s latest GapKids campaign — taking inspiration from the book and showcasing a diverse group of kids who make the world brighter by sharing their individuality.

author Heather Avis writes Everyone Belongs
credit: heatheravis.com

Concepted by Gap Creative Director, Len Peltier, shot by Jack O’Connor and directed by Lauren Sick, the cast of kiddos showcase their individual styles and the joy they feel from being who they are and doing what they love. Each youngster is styled in organic loose denim, khaki, pocket tees, dresses, varsity jackets and other modern looks.

“Celebrating individuality has always been iconic to Gap brand,” says Mary Alderete, global head of Gap marketing. “Back-to-school is the right time to bring this message of belonging to the forefront and reinforce that there is no greater joy than being your true self. ‘Everyone Belongs’ shares an important message for kids and adults alike; and we are excited to continue to encourage individuality, acceptance and the joy we feel when we embrace our unique selves.”

The “Everyone Belongs” GapKids campaign cast includes:

  • 13-year-old Adrina Castro who can be found playing basketball, making silly videos with her sister, staying fit and spreading positivity—all from her wheelchair.
  • 4-year-old Beauden Baumkirchner, a septic shock survivor, who, with two prosthetic legs, enjoys biking, quad riding, swimming and knee boarding.
  • 6-year-old Brody Schaffer, a social media influencer and entertainer growing up free of gender stereotypes, who sings, dances and plays the piano.
  • Avis says her three children, Macy, Truly and August, are her inspiration for social awareness and acceptance. The “Everyone Belongs” campaign marks the third time the Avis children are featured in a GapKids creative.

Your Chance to Be Cast in Future GapKids Campaigns

Beyond the campaign, GapKids is hosting its first-ever digital talent show, encouraging kids across the country to participate and show off their very own talents and skills. There will be a call-to-action for families to upload videos of kids performing their talents to social media, using the hashtag #GapKidsBelong, with a range of participants to be highlighted on future GapKids channels and campaigns. [Follow Gap on social for additional details.]

And, to further celebrate belonging, Gap is turning the page on educational barriers by donating 20,000 brand new copies of Everyone Belongs to schools in need via First Book, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing learning materials to underprivileged classrooms.

Celebrating 32 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

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July 26, 2022 marks the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.

The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.

In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law and became effective on January 1, 2009. The ADAAA made a number of significant changes to the definition of “disability.” The changes in the definition of disability in the ADAAA apply to all titles of the ADA, including Title I (employment practices of private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, employment agencies, labor unions, agents of the employer and joint management labor committees); Title II (programs and activities of state and local government entities); and Title III (private entities that are considered places of public accommodation).

Need to contact your ADA branch? Find contact information by clicking here

Check out this video to further review the ADA Act…

Two Famous Wheelchair-Using Entertainers, Chelsie Hill and Ali Stroker, Each Announce Their First Pregnancies

Within the same week (in mid-July 2022), two famous entertainers – Tony Award-winning actress Ali Stroker and professional dancer Chelsie Hill – each announced their first pregnancy!

It’s common for the press and social media channels to cover when a celebrity announces a pregnancy, engagement/wedding or any other personal occurrence. That comes with the territory of being in the public eye. However, because misconceptions remain surrounding people with disabilities, some may be surprised that Stroker and Hill (and women with physical disabilities in general for that matter) can have healthy pregnancies and joyful parenting journeys. But the truth is that women with disabilities can – and will and should – pursue motherhood if they choose to do so.

Figuring Out Motherhood

There are well over four million parents with disabilities in the U.S., according to the National Council on Disability (NCD). That statistic alone helps to debunk a few disability-related myths. The facts are that: (1) people with paralysis or disabilities can be intimate and engage in sexual relations (like typical people); (2) disabled women can get pregnant and carry to term; and (3) parents with disabilities can succeed in raising children.

Women with disabilities have a pregnancy rate that’s roughly the same as those without disabilities, says the National Institutes of Health (NIH). But, depending on the nature of one’s disability, research does indicate that a higher risk of pregnancy complications may exist, such as preterm birth, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, gestational diabetes and cesarean delivery.

Ali Stroker is the first wheelchair using actor to win a Tony
Ali Stroker is the first wheelchair-using actor to win a Tony Award.

Some women with disabilities have a child; some do not. Some pursue surrogacy, some carry their own. Some give birth naturally; some have a cesarean section. As with mothers without disabilities, the pregnancy, birth and parenting experience varies greatly for all.

Still, according to the NCD, problem parenting is found to be the same for disabled and nondisabled parents; and disability alone is not a predictor of difficulties in family life. According to health scientist Dave Shade, “The available evidence suggests that although parents with disabilities may have a very different approach to parenting, the presence of a disability (physical or mental) is a poor correlate of long-term maladjustment in children… Thus, although the data are far from clear, it seems safe to conclude that many parents with disabilities previously thought unable to raise a child at all may actually be able to do so, and that many more parents with disabilities may succeed in raising their children if provided appropriate support services.”

Furthermore, experts declare that the vast majority of children of disabled parents have been shown to have typical development and functioning and often enhanced life perspectives and skills.

Chelsie Hill is a wheelchair-using dancer.
Chelsie Hill is a wheelchair-using dancer and influencer.

Who Are The Famed Mothers-To-Be

A New Jersey native, Stroker was the first wheelchair-using performer to appear on a Broadway stage during her run in Spring Awakening. At that time, in 2015, Stroker was happy to further advance inclusion within the Broadway community. “Broadway theaters by law have to be accessible for audience members with disabilities,” she told The Daily News. “It should be the same for someone in the show.” Soon after, in 2019, Stroker made history when she earned the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance of Ado Annie in Oklahoma!

Via her Instagram account, Stroker announced that she and her husband David Perlow, a theater director, will welcome a new little cast member into their family this November 2022. In the meantime, 35-year-old Stroker is appearing as Queen Anne in the Free Shakespeare in the Park production of Richard III.

As a popular Instagram influencer, 30-year-old Hill also took to social media to announce that she’ll welcome a baby in January 2023. The image showed her cradling her growing belly; and jointly holding a onesie up with her husband, Jay Bloomfield. Hill is the founder of the Rollettes, an upbeat dance troupe comprised of wheelchair users. She also appeared on Push Girls, a Sundance TV reality series that chronicled the ups and downs of women, within the entertainment business, navigating life after injury-related paralysis.

Stroker and Hill both suffered spinal cord damage during car accidents. Stroker was just two years old at the time of her injury; and Hill, whose accident stemmed from a drunk driver, was 17 when she became paralyzed. An avid dancer from a young age, Hill persevered to follow her dreams to become a professional dancer. Similarly, Stroker fell in love with musical theatre as a kid and went on to earn a Fine Arts degree from the New York University Tisch Drama Department.

It Takes A Village

Current research demonstrates that disability does not necessarily have a negative effect on parenting. Raising a child (or children) is HARD – for parents with and without disabilities. That’s why it’s important for all parents, and perhaps especially so for parents with disabilities, to have a strong support system and access to necessary resources.

Here are Disability-Focused Parenting Resources

Congratulations to Ali Stroker and Chelsie Hill! Welcome to motherhood.

 

Want more content like this? Read:

20 Adaptive Swimwear Must-Haves to Dive into the Sand & Surf

Adaptive clothing options, including seasonal swimwear, are slowly increasing. In fact, popular brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Target, Kohls and JcPenny are now stocking their store shelves and e-commerce websites with adaptive garments. Well, as it turns out, the necessary trend of inclusive fashion just so happens to be pretty profitable for these companies and, in general, other apparel designers.

That’s because, in the United States alone, at least 61 million — or 1-in-4 — adults live with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Demand for inclusive products, of course, already exists and is definitely expected to grow — eventually racking up billions in sales thanks to the purchasing power of the disability community, the nation’s largest minority group.

Shopping for well-fitting swimwear can be challenging for anyone ─ with or without disabilities ─ but, perhaps, more so for consumers with disabilities. To help, AmeriDisability took a deep dive into swimsuit shopping! So go ahead… take the plunge into the season’s sun and surf with these adaptive swimwear pieces:

1. Abdominal Access Palms Tankini 

Offered in both toddler and girls’ sizes, this sensory-friendly tankini top is made with stretchy fabric with flat seams and no tags. Plus, its adaptive design includes a hidden opening underneath its ruffles for abdominal access.

Available at Target.com | $9-$10

adaptive swimwear from Target
(Target)

2. Anna Long Sleeve One-Piece Swimsuit

Designed by MIGA Swimwear, this uniquely crafted one-piece features a fashion-forward cut-out on one side and a bold hue. The long, comfy sleeves guarantee no chafing in the armpits, and the sleeve length is also ideal for those with hidradenitis suppurativa (acne inverse), eczema, skin cancer and other chronic skin conditions. The lengthy zipper pulley on the backside makes closure more accessible.

Available at PattiandRicky.com | $150

Adaptive swimwear by Patti + Ricky
(Patti + Ricky)

3. Autism Awareness Retro One-Piece

Moms of special needs kiddos can make a splash with a meaningful fashion statement. This retro-cut women’s swimsuit features the text “I Am His Voice, He Is My Heart.” The lightweight, breathable fabric also features symbolic puzzle pieces which are associated with autism awareness and support.

Available at Amazon.com | $16.88

bathing suit featuring autism awareness message
(Amazon)

4. Boy Trunks with Built-in Reusable Swim Diaper

i play. by green sprouts, which also makes built-in swim diaper options for girls as well, is the original swim diaper manufacturer with a patented three-layer design. The wicking liner of these trunks helps prevent diaper rash, the inner absorbent layer helps protect against messes outside of the water and the waterproof outer layer works with the snug-fitting waist and legs to provide secure protection from accidents. Choose from more than 20 cute prints.

Available at Amazon.com | $12.88 – $37.99

adaptive swimwear
(Amazon)

5. Cap Sleeve Crop Top + Adjustable Swim Skirt

Because Lands’ End offers mix-and-match swimwear, consumers of all body types can combine the sizes and styles that best meet their unique apparel needs. This cap sleeve crop top comes down further on the torso than a standard bikini top; plus, it has adjustable side ties. Pair with either a swim skirt or swim shorts.

Available at LandsEnd.com | $37.99 top + $54.99 skirt 

Lands' End Swimwear
(Lands’ End)

6. Cheetah Bonita Girls Magnetic One-Piece

A teen or tween can prance about the sand in this purr-fect cheetah print one-piece. Using Magnetease Technology, this adaptive swimsuit has hidden magnetic fasteners across the waist. Plus, the WowEase website offers an array of other adaptive swimwear choices for babies, toddlers, girls, teens and women.

Available at WowEase.com | $41.39

accessible swimwear
(Wow Ease)

7. Chlorine-Resistant Swim Dress

For those who partake in aquatic therapy, this chlorine-resistant swim dress won’t break down from frequent exposure to pool chemicals. Featuring a squared neckline, this tummy control one-piece also includes undergarment shorts, side pockets, removable soft cups, adjustable straps and UPF 50 sun protection.

Available at LandsEnd.com | $107.99

Lands' End Swim Dress
(Lands’ End)

8. Colette Scoop Neck Tankini Top + Bikini Bottom or Adjustable Skirt

Another design of MIGA Swimwear, fellow beach-goers will be green with envy over this adorable lime green bathing suit. The roomy tankini top provides extra coverage in the torso area, plus features a small pocket. Pair this tankini top with either a bikini bottom or an adjustable waistband skirt that has emerald green detailing.

Available at PattiandRicky.com | $65 tankini, $50 bikini bottom, $50 adjustable swim skirt

Colette adaptive swimwear
(Patti + Ricky)

9. Easy Dress Flounce Bikini Top + Reversible Bikini Bottoms

A part of the SO accessible clothing line, this classic black bikini top inspires fun in the sun with effortless style at either the beach or pool. Its flounce overlay makes this suit playful. And its easy closure back makes this suit accessible for swimmers of all abilities. Pair this top with reversible, diaper-friendly bottoms.

Available at Kohls.com | $8 top + $8 bottoms

Kohls adaptive swimwear
(Kohls)

10. High Neck Striped One-Piece Swimsuit

Made by CUPSHE, heart disease survivors who prefer to cover sun-sensitive scars can confidently suit up in this high-neck one-piece. Available in multiple color combinations, the top half features vertical stripes while the bottom half features flowing palm fronds.

Available at Amazon.com | $32.99

Amazon swimsuit
(Amazon)

11. Mastectomy Tankini with Pockets for Prostheses

With a vibrantly patterned top in blue, hot pink or black/white, this two-piece bathing suit is comfortable for women who’ve had a mastectomy. This tummy-friendly tankini features wide straps and top insert pockets to add removal pads or breast prostheses.

Available at Amazon.com | $22.52

bathing suit
(Amazon)

12. Sensory-Friendly Marvel Swimsuit

Intended to look like Spider-Man’s suit, this soft, lightweight fabric garment is tagless for ultimate coziness. It also has hidden openings on the front for abdominal access, with a hook-and-loop back closure for simple dressing. Superhero kiddos of all abilities, sizes XS to XL, can comfortably suit up for marvelous water fun.

Available at Target.com | $30

Target swimwear
(Target)

13. Minnie Mouse Adaptive Rash Guard Swim Set

As part of the Jumping Beans line, toddlers (12 months – 5T) can have a magical time splashing about in this adaptive rash guard swim set featuring one of Disney’s most beloved characters. This suit features a wider neckline, long sleeves, abdominal access and elastic waistband. It also offers UPF 50+ sun protection. Hand-washing is recommended.

Available at Kohls.com | $20.48

disney adaptive swimwear
(Kohls)

14. Mio Halter One-Piece

Accessible and versatile, this women’s halter top one-piece has extra-long straps to allow this garment to be worn in four different ways. Its fuchsia color comes with pops of green and yellow, plus faux button details.

Available at MigaSwimwear.com | $125

Mio swim
(MigaSwimwear.com)

15. My Pool Pal Flotation Swimsuit

Standard life preservers can be bulky for little swimmers, whereas the My Pool Pal flotation swimsuit enhances natural balance and stability when in the water. This swimsuit helps novice swimmers gain confidence, coordination, endurance and muscle development. Size options (x-small to large) can accommodate 20 to 70 pounds.

Available at Amazon.com | $38.11 – $49.95

flotation swimsuit
(Amazon)

16. Splash About Jammers Incontinence Swim Shorts

Available in men’s, women’s and children’s sizes, Jammers claims to make the most reliable fecal incontinence swim short in the world. The sporty design, which moves with the wearer and offers UPF 50+ for sun protection, comes in either blue or pink.

Available at Amazon.com | $25 – $46 kid size; $36 – 58 adult size

incontinence swim
(Amazon)

17. STEPIN2NOW Swimsuit

Constructed for and tested by women with arthritis and other mobility problems, the STEPIN2NOW swimsuit features an easy-on, easy-off two-sided design. Just step into each of the two vertical half-suits to achieve a beautiful, accessible look. Choose one solid, pair two solid colors or opt for a print design.

Available at H2owear.com | $73.77

18. Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Adaptive Swim Trunks

A part of Tommy Hilfiger’s Adaptive Collection, the cord-lock fastener on the drawstring allows for one-handed adjustability and secures easily into place. Plus, these quick-dry trunks are machine-washable.

Available at Amazon.com | $69.50

Tommy Hilfiger
(Amazon)

19. Tutublue Full Body Rash Guard Swimsuit

An activewear company created by a melanoma survivor, this women’s one-piece suit offers complete UPF 50 sun protection with a zip-up back and long cord for ease. Tutublue has many other full-coverage options for women, men, boys and girls.

Available at Amazon.com | $144.99

Rash guard suit
(Amazon)

20. Wide Strap Scoop Bikini Top + Pocket Bottom

Sold by Aerie, this wide strap top, available in moss green or black, resembles a comfortable sports bra style. Pair it with regular bikini bottoms, ruched high-waisted bottoms or ribbed cheeky bikini bottoms with useful (and super cute) side pockets.

Available at Aerie.com | $14.97 top + $17.47 bottoms

aerie
(Aerie)

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