7 Great FREE Things You Can Do Over Winter Break To Help Jews With Disabilities
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7 Great FREE Things You Can Do Over Winter Break To Help Jews With Disabilities

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the President of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization working to empower people with disabilities to achieve the American dream. She works regularly with disability organizations, national, state and local policy leaders, workforce development professionals, media, employers, philanthropists, celebrities and faith-based organizations in order to expand opportunities for people with disabilities. Mizrahi has led numerous national polls and brought significant visibility to the issues of America’s 56 million citizens with disabilities. She is the co-author of a major toolkit on best practices on employment for people with disabilities and frequently hosts webinars on this topic. Mizrahi has published dozens of op-eds and publications on disability issues, including in USA Today, Huffington Post, The Hill and other publications. Dyslexic herself, she also knows what it means to parent a child with multiple disabilities. Reach her at JenniferM@RespectAbilityUSA.org.

1. February is Jewish Disabilities Awareness & Inclusion Month (JDAIM). It’s the time when those of us who care about Jews with disabilities should be going all out to build our inclusion skills and resources, as well as to offer speakers and films for the community. Doing it right, however, takes some planning. So download your free guide to JDAIM today by going here. It’s quick and easy to read the guide and you can do it from a beach or vacation spot anywhere. So put aside the novel for a fifteen minutes, and get your creative juices flowing early so you can make a positive difference in February!

2. If you are the parent of a child with a disability, take the time now to update your “how to” memo that you give to your child’s teachers at school, religious institutions and camps. Click here for ideas of how to do it and get started today! Once it’s done, send it to the adults who work with your child so that your child will have the best outcomes possible. Be sure to also offer to meet or speak with the recipients of the memo if they have questions. Indeed, it can also be helpful to share your memo on your child with your parents and in-laws as well. This is because very often grandparents of children with disabilities don’t always know how to make the most out of their relationships with their own grandchildren with differences.

3. Ask the charities/non-profits that you already support to be inclusive of people with disabilities. Click here to read about how to help make this change happen. It doesn’t cost you any extra money, and can really help the organizations that you support do a better job in welcoming and respecting people with disabilities.

4. Make a match between Jewish senior citizens and young adults with disabilities who can help them. Click here to read about a great program that every Jewish senior home should adopt! Let me know if you have questions on this, or need help to make it happen.

5. Review the nuts and bolts of what it takes to make inclusion succeed in a Jewish institution. Pay special attention to the role of the inclusion coordinator/director.

6. Write, call or visit your governor to ask about what he/she is doing to implement the landmark Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Literally every governor must create their own state plan for expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities in your state. There are many programs that are PROVEN to work that your state should be enacting. However, almost every state has legacy programs that are proven to FAIL. Contact me personally if you have questions about your state and/or your governor.

7.Be sure to turn on A&E’s Born This Way, a groundbreaking new series surrounding 7 people with Down syndrome. The show is getting rave reviews (it’s fantastic!) and A&E is doing a marathon with the first three episodes on the day after Christmas. Please also tweet and Facebook about #BornThisWay because this is must-see-TV!

I hope you find these ideas helpful. Meanwhile, here’s to wishing you and yours good health, success, happiness and the ability to make a positive difference in the year ahead.

P.S. If you want to go big and spend $10 to order a small and elegant lapel pin for JDAIM, you can get one for here. Indeed, non-profit groups can buy them for even less money and then sell them for full price and use the difference to raise money for their inclusion work. I like to wear mine because people ask me what it is, and it gives me an excuse to sing the praises of what Jewish inclusion can do to make us a strong, better and more successful community.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the president of RespectAbilityUSA which includes many resources for inclusion.

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