by Anya Weber
ICI staffers Paula Sotnik and Jason Wheeler recently worked at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS) in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference is run by the volunteer organization Points of Light. For the last eight years, the ICI has helped NCVS ensure that this event is inclusive, accessible, and welcoming to all.
NCVS is the largest meeting of service leaders from all walks of life, sectors, races, religions, and political persuasions. These people all unite at this annual event, which focuses on all aspects of the international volunteer service movement.
Wheeler and Sotnik coordinate the Inclusive Events project at the ICI. Inclusive Events supports event planners to make sure that their conferences, presentations, and other happenings are fully accessible and enjoyable for people of all abilities.
This year at NCVS, the ICI staffers conducted pre-event planning, helped with on-site production, and coordinated a post-event follow-up session about access and accommodations for the conference.
by Anya Weber
On May 13, several staff members from the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) attended a training at UMass Boston run by the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. The training focused on how to develop a computerized simulation (SIM) around legislative policy.
ICI staff in attendance included Julisa Cully, Sheila Fesko, Karen Flippo, Mary Lu Love, and Bob McCulley.
Flippo, a senior technical assistance specialist at the ICI, said of the event, “We had the opportunity to play the role of senators who were either for or against fracking in our respective states and had to advocate, cajole and negotiate based on our political party, constituency, and personal preferences.”
Flippo added, “In a short period of time that was filled with spirited debate, we gained knowledge of the legislative process and the power struggles that occur as a bill becomes a law.”
UMass Boston faculty (including ICI staff) are being encouraged to partner with the Kennedy Institute to develop policy scenarios and conduct research on topics that can be used for similar simulations.
The Kennedy Institute is a new learning center dedicated to educating the public about policy, democracy, and the legislative process. Its main building (not yet open to the public) is located on the UMass Boston campus in Dorchester, MA, adjacent to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Staff at the ICI are pleased to announce our upcoming webinar series, Innovation in VR Program Management. These webinars are part of an ongoing series by an ICI project team, the RTAC on Vocational Rehabilitation Program Management.
The RTAC project focuses on program management practices at the state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency level that improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
For more information about the RTAC, visit the ExploreVR website. ExploreVR provides easy and convenient access to a range of data and analyses pertaining to the public VR program and its role within the larger employment and disability service system.
This webinar series will run from July 10 through October 21. It’s a great opportunity to learn about effective practices from the VR field and to explore innovations that are making a difference in VR program management.
These webinars are free and open to the public. Visit www.explorevr.org to learn more and to register!
by Anya Weber
Here are two tips I picked up at the conference about how to link to external content. These came from an excellent session called Linking, Attribution, and Plagiarism, run by Karen Martwick of Travel Portland.
1. Never say “click here.” Readers recognize that text that is underlined and in blue is a live link to another website. So it’s never necessary, and sounds awkward, to say “click here.”
From an accessibility perspective, making the words “click here” a link is also a bad idea. That’s because screen readers (used by people with vision loss) will read aloud the text of a live link. So the reader will just hear “click here,” but will not have context for where that link will take them.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re posting your college’s new list of spring courses online.
Don’t do this: Click here to see our spring course list.
Do this: View our spring course list.
2. Use Creative Commons-licensed photos only. It’s tempting to grab photos off the web and re-post them on your site, with attribution: “Photo by Geri Kwon, courtesy of cnn.com.” But this gets into a legal gray area: fair use. It can open your organization up to legal action.
A safer alternative is to use photos that are available online under a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons is a license that photographers can apply to their work, allowing it to be shared freely (or with certain restrictions). Usually this includes a requirement to credit the photographer and link back to the site where you found their photo.
One excellent source for Creative Commons-licensed photos is flickr.com. Their Advanced Search function lets you look for photos and video with a Creative Commons license. You have to set up a free Yahoo account in order to use Flickr, but it’s worth it to have access to this treasure trove of photos.
by Anya Weber
APSE is a national organization that supports people with disabilities to find competitive jobs in their communities. Massachusetts APSE is the statewide branch of this organization.
Eastman has been at the ICI for over 13 years. She works one-on-one with people with disabilities to help them find jobs that fit their skills and interests. Eastman also builds strong relationships with employers, so that she can match job seekers with businesses that need their talents.
Eastman’s supervisor is Lara Enein-Donovan, the program coordinator for the employment services team. In her letter nominating Eastman for the award, Enein-Donovan wrote:
“She targets businesses based on the needs of the job seeker, not just on the contacts she already has. Employers and individuals all state that Jill is professional, reliable and easy to work with. Jill has excellent communication skills and is able to adjust her style to meet the needs of job seekers and employers.”
Eastman says, “I couldn’t have achieved this without my team. We’re small, but we’re really tight. Everyone’s flexible and cooperative.”
This year, the employment services team consists of coordinator Enein-Donovan, two full-time employment specialists (including Eastman), two part-time job coaches, and two part-time graduate assistants.
When she heard she was receiving this award, Eastman was surprised and touched. “I’m humbled by it, I’m honored by it—but honestly, the most important thing to me is the work we do every day, providing quality services.”
Eastman has a master’s in clinical psychology and is a Certified Employment Support Professional.
by Anya Weber
In their presentation “Words of Respect,” Doug Ward and Val Alexander Renault, both from the University of Kansas, talked about appropriate language around disability. Ward teaches in the KU School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and Renault is from the Research and Training Center on Independent Living (RTCIL).
The RTCIL is part of the Life Span Institute, which like the Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) is part of the national network of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.
The RTCIL was one of the groups that lobbied the AP Stylebook to include a section on disability. The center recently released new guidelines around useful and appropriate language for covering disability.
Ward and Renault talked about the importance of person-first language: for example, saying “the girl with Down syndrome” instead of “the Down syndrome girl.” Using person-first language helps keep the focus on the individual, rather than their disability or diagnosis.
The presenters also emphasized that disability, like any other characteristic, should only be referred to if it’s relevant to a story.
For example, if an article is about science teachers at an elementary school and their approach to teaching evolution, discussing a particular teacher’s disability status would be out of place. But if the article focuses on discriminatory hiring practices, or favoritism toward teachers with disabilities, that information could be essential to the story.
As practice for applying these rules, Renault showed pictures of celebrities with disabilities and quizzed the audience on the best ways to describe them.
She showed a photo of the actor Peter Dinklage, from the HBO series Game of Thrones, who is four feet five inches tall (according to the Internet Movie Database). Renault said that either “little person” or “person of short stature” would be acceptable terms of description for Dinklage.
However, Renault emphasized again that disability only should be referred to when it’s relevant to a story. So an article in Variety saying that Dinklage had just been cast in a new movie would have no need to refer to his height at all.
Check out the slides from Ward’s and Renault’s presentation.
by Anya Weber
At the annual convention of the American Copy Editors Society, self-styled “word nerds” gather to discuss writing good headlines, using social media, and editing jargon-filled prose. At this year’s convention, several sessions also addressed topics related to disability, mental health, and accessibility. We’ll be covering some of those here on the blog.
Melissa McCoy from TEAM Up gave a talk called “Mental Health Matters,” aimed at journalists, bloggers, and others who write and edit news stories. McCoy emphasized the importance of covering mental health (MH) issues in a non-judgmental, non-inflammatory way.
McCoy works with reporters and news editors in CA on the way they portray mental illness. One in four Americans in any given year will experience a mental health issue, so it’s crucial to write about MH topics in a clear and well-researched way.
Usually the media only mentions mental health when it’s connected to a crisis or a crime (murder, suicide, etc.). McCoy urged her listeners to write more stories about positive or neutral aspects of MH—for example, looking at ways the Affordable Care Act impacts medical insurance for people with MH issues.
Sensitive coverage is especially important when writing about suicide. According to a report shared by the Suicide Prevention Research Center, “Research finds an increase in suicide by readers or viewers when:
- The number of stories about individual suicides increases
- A particular death is reported at length or in many stories
- The story of an individual death by suicide is placed on the front page or at the beginning of a broadcast
- The headlines about specific suicide deaths are dramatic…”
This phenomenon is known as “suicide contagion.” To help avoid it, McCoy said, we can write about suicide in a way that does not romanticize it or portray it as the result of one dramatic moment.
When writing about mental health, McCoy suggested asking ourselves: Is it relevant to the story? Who’s my source? Is there a diagnosis, or is it someone’s opinion (e.g., a police officer referring to a woman who stabbed someone as “mentally ill”)?
In a case like that, said McCoy, it’s fine to report what the officer said, but writers should frame it as “Officer Smith characterized Ms. Jones as ‘mentally ill.’”
McCoy cautioned writers against using MH terms in a slangy or joking way: “This sports team has been really schizophrenic this year” or “The stock market was bipolar today.” This is common, but demeaning, and adds to fear and stigma around MH issues. It’s our job as writers to raise the level of discourse.
Finally, McCoy suggested including a sidebar or end note with a help line number or website such as suicidepreventionlifeline.org (1-800-273-8255).
You can learn more about good writing practices around MH and suicide at these websites:
The City of Boston is seeking applications from people with disabilities to serve as volunteers on the Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities. Members will by appointed by Mayor Marty Walsh and will volunteer on the commission for a three-year term. The mayor is looking for volunteers who reflect the diversity of Boston’s many neighborhoods.
If you’re a Bostonian with a disability and are interested in getting your voice heard, send a letter of interest by April 1. You can mail your letter to:
Commissioner Kristen McCosh
Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities
Boston City Hall
One City Hall Square
Boston, MA 02201
You can also email Ms. McCosh at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 617-635-3682 to get more details.
Learn more about the commission here: