Jewish Self-Advocacy Education

(credit: Rachel Moses)

(credit: Rachel Moses)

By: Rachel Delman Turniansky

Rabbi Hillel asked: If I am not for myself, who is for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” – Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers 1:13)

Wrightslaw gives the following definition of self-advocacy:

“… learning how to speak up for yourself, making your own decisions about your own life, learning how to get information so that you can understand things that are of interest to you, finding out who will support you in your journey, knowing your rights and responsibilities, problem solving, listening and learning, reaching out to others when you need help and friendship and learning about self-determination.”

There are times when well-intentioned professionals and family members have a dominating voice when it comes to decisions that impact the lives of people with disabilities (PWD), as opposed to allowing them to self-advocate. I feel that thee Jewish community needs to support the development of self-advocacy and leadership skills in a Jewish context. The need for self-advocacy education that includes Jewish middot (values) is significant. Jewish life centers around family and community connections. People with disabilities are often left on the sidelines when it comes to participating in Jewish life.

A Jewish self-advocacy training program is being piloted through Baltimore’s TAG program. TAG is a division of Gesher LaTorah, a community-based Jewish education program for students with disabilities facilitated by the Macks Center for Jewish Education. TAG stands for Torah, Avodah v’Gimilut Chassadim – Torah learning, prayer and acts of loving kindness. Self-advocacy through a Jewish lens starts with cheshbon hanefesh (self-reflection). In thinking about Hillel’s wise words, we need to first think about who we are and how we want to fit into the Jewish world. TAG participants develop their Jewish identity and build connection to the community. They work on improving communication skills and goal-setting as well as how to voice their needs in a variety of situations. Students learn how to navigate the world using the Jewish values emulated by the name of the TAG program, along with others such as kavod – respect, derech eretz – showing good manners and being a “mensch”, and b’tzelem E’lokim – people are created in God’s image. Growing as a person and as a Jew is an important step towards advocating for acceptance.

Benyamin Waldman, Nechemya Jakobovitz and Mordechai Cohen enjoy learning and laughing together at Gesher LaTorah.

Benyamin Waldman, Nechemya Jakobovitz and Mordechai Cohen enjoy learning and laughing together at Gesher LaTorah.

Exploring the Jewish community and learning how to interact with others are also components. Students spend time discussing various aspects of what it means to be a member of the Jewish community and ways to strengthen their relationships with others. Through hands-on learning, role playing and multimedia experiences, students embrace v’ahavta l’reyecha k’mocha – love your neighbor as yourself and rodef shalom – pursue peace, while learning to interact in a variety of situations. Developing social skills and leadership qualities leads to building confidence and independence.

Many Jewish communal agencies are fortunate to have programming, support and advocacy for people with disabilities. It’s time for these Jewish professionals to understand that true support must be with the PWD. To echo the message of many disability advocacy groups, an important component to this effort is embodied in the phrase: “Nothing About Us Without Us.” With the proper tools and support, PWD can explore their own strengths and challenges and become self-advocates. People with disabilities are the primary stakeholders in creating a culture of inclusion throughout the Jewish community. As self-advocates, people with disabilities can join with advisors and allies to lend their voice to the endeavor to ensure their rightful place as members of our kehillah – community.

Rachel Delman Turniansky is the Coordinator of Special Needs Programs at the Center for Jewish Education and Principal of Gesher LaTorah. The TAG – Torah, Avodah, v’Gimilut Chasadim program is the adult Jewish education program under the auspices of Gesher LaTorah. Through the support of the #MakeItHappen grant (a joint partnership of the Schusterman and Ruderman Family Foundations) TAG implemented a Jewish Self-Advocacy Program in which students are developing self-awareness, leadership and Jewish identity. Learn more about Gesher LaTorah by Liking them on Facebook.

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The ADA- Unfulfilled Promises

2015 is the 25th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. We will be posting 25 posts over the next 12 months which will focus on the ADA- how it has changed society and what still needs to be done. Our goal is to cover for you, dear reader, as many different angles and issues as possible. Below is the third post in our #ADA25For25 series. The most recent post can be viewed here

By: Barbara Burton

Before passing the ADA, Congress examined the state of people with disabilities in America. They found people with disabilities experienced discrimination in areas such as employment, housing, education, transportation, communication, recreation, institutionalization, health services, voting and access to public services. People with disabilities were frequently isolated and segregated from the rest of society and were routinely excluded from many aspects of life due to a lack of accessibility. Further, they found people with disabilities who have experienced discrimination, unlike people who experienced discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion or age, often had no legal recourse for that discrimination and were unable to win compensation.

Congress decided the nation’s goals regarding individuals with disabilities are to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency. Then it decided the purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act are (among others): to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities; to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against people with disabilities; and to ensure that the federal government plays a central role in enforcing the standards established in behalf of people with disabilities.

To the people who had worked hard to secure the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the closest thing to a precursor of ADA there was) including participating in long-term takeovers of HEW buildings in San Francisco and other cities, the first version of the ADA introduced to Congress in 1988 was exciting and promised an end to lives of segregation and ongoing discrimination. While the final version of the ADA signed by President Bush in July 1990 came with changes and compromises, across America people with disabilities cheered their victory.

Now here we are 25 years after that historic day. How do we decide if the ADA is all it was supposed to be? I suggest making it personal. 25 years later are people with disabilities doing better than prior to 1990? Are we doing as well as Congress promised?

More people with disabilities are employed now than were in 1990, but overall people with disabilities are underemployed and have an employment rate much lower than people who have no disclosed disabilities.

Wheelchair users traveling by air recount horror stories about damaged or lost wheelchairs and injuries caused by contract employees who do not know how to transfer the traveler safely from the aisle chair to a seat on the plane. Guide dog and service dog teams report a routine inability to hail a taxi in cities across America because drivers do not want the dogs in their cabs.

Reports released in 2014 confirm that healthcare is unavailable to many people with disabilities. Physicians refuse to hire ASL interpreters for patients who are deaf, instead insisting the patient’s children interpret for them. Wheelchair users are often turned away when trying to make an appointment because the office is not accessible.

Voters who are blind or vision impaired find they are unable to vote at the polls because of poorly trained poll workers or non-functioning accessible voting machines. Voters who use wheelchairs frequently discover their polling place is inaccessible.

mid sidewalk poleCity infrastructure is often poorly maintained and designed, making travel around town difficult for people with a variety of disabilities. In some towns utility poles are installed in the middle of the sidewalk leaving no room for a wheelchair. In my city, our new Town Square comes with very high curbs. In one area there is no curb cut allowing someone to cross the street to reach the curb cut on the other side.

It is not unusual for people with severe disabilities to wait for years on a list hoping to be assigned care providers and home services. Until that time many are sent to nursing homes or other institutions. Imagine being a 16 year-old with quadriplegia and living among people in their 70s and 80s. This is true segregation.

This is where we are 25 years later. Yes, we have seen gains, but they have come very slowly. We have bounced back and forth as court decisions whittle away those gains and then return them piecemeal.

Why are we still fighting 25 years later? Where are the legal solutions promised in 1990? The business community, which should be embracing ADA as a relatively inexpensive way to achieve a larger customer base, has fought the changes imposed on it. They balk at installing accessible bathrooms and ramped entrances claiming the cost will put them out of business. With over 20% of the population experiencing some kind of disability, it seems the cost of installing an accessible entrance will be defrayed by the increase in business. We are an aging population and more and more of us require accessibility features.

We cannot legislate respect. After 25 years of the ADA what will it take to change the way Americans think about people with disabilities? Without respect there is no interest in or commitment to change.

Barbara C. Burton, M.Ed., owns Capitol Inclusion, an accessibility and inclusion consulting company. Follow her blog and engage Barbara on Twitter.

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National ‘Ruderman Best In Business Campaign’ Launched

LogoThe Ruderman Family Foundation, in partnership with the Jewish Week Media Group, is proud to announce an innovative competition highlighting North American for profit businesses who have shown exemplary practices in hiring, training and supporting people with disabilities. Those selected will be recognized with a Ruderman “Best in Business Award” and featured in a supplement in The Jewish Week June 19th edition- both printed and online.

“The surest path to full inclusion in our society comes from meaningful employment” said Jay Ruderman, the foundation’s president. “People with disabilities are the most excluded members of our society because they are unemployed at the rate of 70 percent.” As a result, he said, “we must hold up as shining examples those employers who have demonstrated a commitment to hiring people with disabilities. We are proud to partner with The Jewish Week to recognize these employers as the best in the business.”

The awards will showcase those businesses — whether large corporations or small companies —that have a history of:

  • employing people with disabilities
  • training and supporting employees with disabilities
  • developing innovative approaches to maximizing employee’s abilities

For additional information and to make a nomination, please complete the online form Nominations will be accepted through March 27, 2015.

A panel of experts in the field of inclusion and disability will select the winners. Learn more about the experts here.

Each winner will be featured in the supplement with a profile that includes their business logo, a photo, link to their website and description of their inclusive policies.

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Fighting For My Life

(Credit: Georganne Garfinkel)

(Credit: Georganne Garfinkel)

By: Chava Willig Levy

I grew up proud to be a polio survivor, blissfully unaware of the stigma many people attach to paralysis and deformity. I grew up proud to be a Jew, blissfully unaware of the stigma many people attach to my faith. I grew up proud to be a girl, blissfully unaware of the stigma many people attach to my gender.

It was only later, on the cusp of adulthood, that on all three fronts I was rudely awakened. Against my will, I became a warrior. And nowhere did the battle rage more fiercely than at the intersection where all three identities converged: the dating front.

I had battled exclusion before. I always won. The movie theater, the restaurant, the concert hall, the university, the world of work: they had dispensed my basic training. This time the barricades wouldn’t budge. When it came to marriage, so central to my Orthodox Jewish upbringing, I seemed destined to remain on the sidelines forever.

With every passing year, I searched more and more frantically for someone, anyone, who believed—as I did—that I would marry. It’s not that my parents didn’t believe it. When I asked, they assured me that they did. But I didn’t want to ask. I wanted their words to reach me unbidden. I wanted to hear unshakable conviction, even righteous indignation, in their voices. I didn’t.

One day, I heard a lilting song about Vincent van Gogh on the radio. It became a life preserver.

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me,
And how you suffered for your sanity,
And how you tried to set them free.
They would not listen, they did not know how.
Perhaps they’ll listen now.

Surely I couldn’t be the only sane one in my world. And if I were, I refused to believe that the world expected me to embrace its insanity. I often found myself humming a strident, long-forgotten folksong I had known since childhood, I Don’t Want to Get Adjusted to This World. If being well adjusted meant adjusting to society’s maladjusted view of life with a disability, I’d stay maladjusted, thank you very much.

The author on her wedding day (credit: Jerry Meyer)

The author on her wedding day (credit: Jerry Meyer)

Happily, a paperback book on my friend’s living room shelf enabled me to do just that.

It almost escaped my notice, that’s how slender it was. But like candy, its spine’s graphic design- pink and orange against a black background- caught my eye and whetted my appetite. Equally diminutive was its title: Stigma. But its author, sociologist Erving Goffman, was an intellectual giant.

Stigma: a little word whose meaning I did not know. Goffman wasted no time enlightening me: Stigma is an “attribute that is deeply discrediting” and that reduces the bearer “from a whole and usual person to a tainted, discounted one.”

Goffman postulated that a stigmatized individual may consider himself “normal,” a human being like everyone else. At the same time, he may detect—and not without reason—that others do not accept him. And the kicker: As a product of the same society whose members stigmatize him, the stigmatized person subscribes to many of its attitudes, making him “intimately alive to what others see as his failing, inevitably causing him, if only for moments, to agree that he does indeed fall short of what he really ought to be.”

Time and again, I saw myself in Stigma’s pages, never more cathartically than in Goffman’s excerpts from The Little Locksmith, the 1943 memoir by Katherine Butler Hathaway, with whose scoliosis I thoroughly identified.

When I got up at last… and had learned to walk again, one day I took a hand glass and went to a long mirror to look at myself… That person in the mirror couldn’t be me. I felt inside like a healthy, ordinary, lucky person—oh, not like the one back in the mirror!

The discrepancy between Hathaway’s body image and her mirror’s reflection reminded me of the time my cousin Avrumi took me to a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. After the game, we were waiting outside the Garden for my taxi to arrive. Traffic was horrendous and at least fifteen minutes went by—and still, no cab. Then, all of a sudden, I saw Avrumi lifting a wheelchair into the trunk of a yellow taxi.

“No!” I called out to him in alarm. “The car we’re expecting is dark blue!”

Bewildered, Avrumi turned toward me, the wheelchair in midair. “But this is not your wheelchair.”

Equally bewildered, I looked down. Avrumi couldn’t have been lifting my chair; I was still sitting in it.

Reading Stigma at age 20 clarified why, unless society holds its “mirror” up to my face, I often have no idea that I am sitting in a wheelchair. It’s almost as if the chair is so much a part of me that I don’t even know it’s there. That night waiting outside Madison Square Garden, I actually thought I was standing.

Nourished by Goffman, determined to fight stigma tooth and nail rather than internalize it, it was disheartening that with every passing year, my chances for love seemed to dwindle. When I was twenty-eight years old, my tender Tante (Aunt) Miriam helped me get dressed for the very first time. Several hours later, cheeks blushing, eyes luminous, she confided, “I never realized how attractive your body is. I told Uncle Moshe that I can envision a man wanting to marry you.” My confidence boost was short-lived. What did it matter what Tante Miriam could envision, what I could envision, if a man could not?

Two years later, in 1982, Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial was released. The theater lights dimmed and soon I saw two elongated, reptilian fingers rising ominously. They pulled down a branch, juxtaposed against a globe of light glowing in the night sky. Those fingers terrified me. They disgusted me. And based on the audience’s collective gasp, I knew I wasn’t alone. Then, magic. Gradually, the fingers became far more than tolerable. They were lovable. Loving. Life-giving. It occurred to me that mine were too.

Within the year, I met and married my husband.

Chava Willig Levy is a New York-based writer, editor, advocate and lecturer who zips around in a motorized wheelchair and communicates about the quality and meaning of life. Her memoir, A Life Not with Standing, was published in 2013. Engage Chava Willig Levy on Twitter and follow her on Facebook.

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Inclusion Of Biblical Proportions

Melinda JonesBy: Melinda Jones

Moses is rarely thought of as a person with a disability. We all know his story – how he was hidden in the bulrushes as a baby, became a prince of Egypt, led the children of Israel out of slavery and received the Torah on Mt Sinai. We think of Moses as a leader, possibly the greatest leader we have had. He did a pretty good job of orchestrating & leading the Exodus, so everyone focuses on his ability and not his limitations.

You may recall that Moses didn’t really want the job as leader of the Jewish people. At the Burning Bush he argued with God and said he couldn’t confront Pharaoh and convince him to let the Jews leave Egypt. God brushed most of Moses’ objections to being His messenger to one side and considered them irrelevant. But Moses was able to convince God that he did, indeed, have a real limitation. Moses says in the Torah [Exodus 4:10]: “Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words…. I am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue.”

Most of what we know about Moses and his disability does not come from the Torah itself, but from the many midrashim or stories developed by commentators to flesh out the sparse statements of the Torah. The most common description of Moses’ speech problems is that Moses was a stutterer – probably because this was the view of Rashi, the popular 11th-century medieval French commentator. On the other hand, Abraham Ibn Ezra, writing several decades after Rashi, thought that Moses was unable to produce all the sounds made with the tongue and the lips, and that there were many words he could only articulate with difficulty. There are a number of other theories, too.

Stuttering is believed to be a problem caused by childhood trauma – and this was something Moses was said to have suffered. The story goes as follows: Moses was an exceedingly bright and beautiful baby who attracted everyone’s attention. His surrogate grandfather Pharaoh would play with him and dandle Moses on his knees. Whenever he could do so, Moses would reach up and take the crown from Pharaoh’s head and placed it on his own. This worried the Egyptian sorcerers who were concerned that Moses was destined to seize the reins of power.

So the advisers devised a test for Moses. Two plates were offered to the infant – one of gold and the other of glowing coals. As reaching for the gold would result in Moses’ death, the archangel Gabriel pushed his hand so that he grabbed the coal. In keeping with the behavior of young children, Moses instinctively put his hand with the coal into his mouth and burnt his lips and tongue. This is said to be the cause of the speech defect that limited Moses’ ability to function.

Leadership

We generally expect our leaders to be great orators – to be able to use all the means of rhetoric available to them; to be able to convince all listeners of the rightness of their cause. While this was something Moses was not, God did not consider Moses’ limitation to be so fundamental that, in the words of disability discrimination law, he was unable to perform the essential or inherent requirements of the job. Rather, God sought and quickly found a solution to the problem. Moses’ brother Aaron could speak in Moses’ place. With this simple facilitation, Moses could take the job on.

The case of Moses is an example par excellence of what can happen when a person is appropriately facilitated. Providing the support needed was not so very difficult. This will often be the case, if only there is sufficient will to make the accommodations. However, the fact of its uncomplicated provision is indeed inclusion of Biblical proportions. Here is a model of how all people can achieve greatness – even if they are reluctant or have less faith in themselves that they should.

Melinda Jones is a modern Orthodox feminist human rights lawyer and disability advocate. Some of her other writing can be found at: https://independent.academia.edu/MangoSalute  Melinda also edits a new online intercultural magazine that can be found at https://mangosalute.com/salutetheday

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The ADA Enters The Digital Space

2015 is the 25th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. We will be posting 25 posts over the next 12 months which will focus on the ADA- how it has changed society and what still needs to be done. Our goal is to cover for you, dear reader, as many different angles and issues as possible. Below is the second post in our #ADA25For25 series. The first post can be viewed here

Dana Marlowe

(credit: Rebecca Drobis Photography)

By: Dana Marlowe

The Internet allows us all to relive our glory days. If you celebrate Wayback Wednesday, Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday (with their associated Twitter hashtags, of course), some of the images, videos and memories might time travel you back to 1990.

If that’s a year that’s near and dear to you, perhaps you would fondly remember waiting for an episode of a new cartoon called “The Simpsons,” or maybe you were anticipating the first images to come from the Hubble Telescope. Probably more than you care to admit you were synchronizing hand motions to Madonna’s “Vogue” or jamming to MC Hammer.

But do you remember where you were when President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? That was the equivalent of disability advocacy going quadruple platinum. And it’s still rocking our charts twenty five years later. So strike a pose, because ‘U Can’t Touch This’ blog from taking a ride on a nostalgia rocket.

Writing this from the perspective of an accessible technology company, my favorite flashbacks come not only in music, but in tech products and devices. It’s always entertaining to see the differences between then and now. People ‘back then’ were saving on floppy disks as opposed to the cloud now. They were gaming on MS DOS, not touchscreens on tablets. The World Wide Web was just proposed–HTML then was not as fully developed as it is now. People with disabilities were using human readers to access print content in the 80s and 90s, and now PDFs scan text to access screen reading software. They were calling with TTYs and now text messaging and voice relay is ubiquitous. Look how far we’ve come, both in business and personal advances!

The ADA covers public accommodations, or entities, both public and private, that are used by the public. Used primarily more in the physical sense of physical buildings and services, language from the 90s never fathomed how prevalent and pervasive the Internet would be, nor the supporting technology. All of those places the ADA mentions have websites, yet are those sites covered?

Bill Gates has said that “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow”, and he’s truly right. The Internet builds upon itself in unfathomable speed and innovation. But if all the architects don’t have a voice, can they get inside a structure that could be laden with barriers? Ironically, also in 1990, Tim Berners-Lee, the father of HTML, published a more formal proposal for the World Wide Web and the first web page is written. You don’t have to believe in coincidences, but websites are as old as the ADA, and the two grew up simultaneously.

I believe that technology is a great unifier. It levels the playing field. Accessibility is the nexus where technology innovation and disability advocacy meet. It’s an incredible union.

Dana Marlowe presenting at the “Comics & Medicine Conference” at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine about the intersection of graphics medicine, technology, and accessibility. (credit: Sharon Rosenblatt)

Dana Marlowe presenting at the “Comics & Medicine Conference” at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine about the intersection of graphics medicine, technology, and accessibility. (credit: Sharon Rosenblatt)

When the ADA was revised in 2010, more attention was placed on accessible design with inclusion of new technologies. Many notices of proposed rulemakings included the Internet as a focus. Yet, as of publication date of this blog, there is no specific published law or section that defines how the ADA is applied to the Internet. Moreover, it doesn’t consider how a person with a disability would access content, especially with their assistive technologies like screen reading software, magnifiers, Braille displays, and more.

The lack of coverage in the ADA hasn’t stopped the fight for access by people with disabilities. In fact, many organizations have been sued for the inaccessibility of their websites under the ADA arguing that the web is a public space. Netflix was sued by the National Association of the Deaf for failure to provide captioning for some streaming content. Companies like the one I work for, Accessibility Partners, help prevent lawsuits proactively by ensuring that accessible solutions are released pre-development and with the input of users with disabilities.

But that Netflix case was almost three years ago. Today, there is a lot of momentum behind making the Internet an inclusionary public space. The Internet is only scratching the surface of what it means to have access to a public space. How do we get to the Internet? The answer is through our devices and hardware technology. Items like smart phones, tablets, kiosks, computers, and more that have broadband capabilities. These devices must factor in accessible design with feedback by users with disabilities. We’ve found that using testers and engineers with varied disabilities not only levels the playing field for technology, but also helps employ those with disabilities. It’s truly a success in multiple categories.

The ADA realizes the necessity of accessible technology for access to the Internet. While on the radar, it is slow moving. For another flashback, in June 2014, they proposed a rule that will address technical standards and obligations of state and local government agencies and public accommodations to make websites accessible.

Mark your calendars! The next regulatory process is scheduled for March 2015. There are already laws that cover government web content, and we are very optimistic that the ADA will be expanded to cover more public spaces. Wishing a very happy twenty-fifth year to this groundbreaking law, but with the caveat to continue helping those with disabilities as you mature.

Dana Marlowe is the Principal Partner of Accessibility Partners, L.L.C., an IT consulting firm. Dana works to remove barriers in technology, and to make opportunities available for people with disabilities. Dana partners with Federal Agencies, international organizations, and Fortune 500 businesses to help them create accessibility roadmaps and audit products to make them more usable for everyone. Like Accessibility Partners on Facebook and engage Dana on Twitter to learn more.

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2014 Recipient Of Morton E. Ruderman Award In Inclusion Announced

In continuing its commitment to advocating for the full inclusion of people with disabilities into society, the Morton Edward Ruderman Award in InclusionRuderman Family Foundation (RFF) announced today that it will award the second annual Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion to Ari Ne’eman, President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and Member of the President’s National Council on Disability. The $100,000 award recognizes an individual who has made an extraordinary contribution to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish world and the greater public and is based on past achievements and the potential for future contributions to the field.

“As a person with autism, Ari Ne’eman serves as an inspiration to millions of people with disabilities around the world,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “As one of the leading disability self-advocates in the United States, Ari is extremely wise beyond his years. His voice advocating for people with disabilities taking control of their own lives is respected in our nation’s capital and throughout our country. My father, someone who believed that we all deserve a fair shot in life, would have been proud that Ari has received an award in his name.”

Ari is one of America’s most recognized self-advocates for the rights of people with disabilities. He is the President and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, an advocacy organization run by and for Autistic adults seeking to increase the representation of Autistic people across society. In 2009, President Obama nominated Ari to the National Council on Disability, a federal agency charged with advising Congress and the President on disability policy issues. From 2010 to 2012, he served as a public member to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, a Federal advisory committee that coordinates all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services concerning autism. Ari also served as an adviser to the DSM-5 Neurodevelopmental Disorders Workgroup convened by the American Psychiatric Association. In 2010, he was named by the New York Jewish Week as one of their “36 by 36.″

Ari Neeman “I am sincerely honored and humbled to receive this award from the Ruderman Family Foundation,” Ari said. “This recognition carries special meaning to me, not only as a person with a disability, but also as a Jew. The Ruderman Family Foundation’s continued leadership on issues of disability inclusion in the Jewish community should be a source of sincere admiration and pride.”

“People with disabilities deserve the right to have our voices at the center of the national conversation about us. I believe that no conversation on autism or any disability is complete without the meaningful inclusion of those most directly impacted: people with disabilities ourselves.”

The Award was named after Mort Ruderman, a founder of the Ruderman Family Foundation. Morton E. Ruderman was a successful entrepreneur, mentor and proud family man. He saw his success as the result of help he received from others and was therefore passionate about providing opportunities for others – including assisting many people in becoming independent and successful in business.

The work of the foundation addresses Mort’s view that the exclusion of persons with disabilities- in Jewish life and society at large- is fundamentally unfair. Twenty percent of the U.S. population has a disability, yet they are the most excluded group in many ways; for example, 70 percent of working age adults with a disability are unemployed.

The primary consideration for the award is whether the recipient’s work has made life more equitable for people with disabilities. This award joins other signature programs of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community.

To read more about Ari Ne’eman

To learn more about Morton E. Ruderman

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