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A few common phrases found in job descriptions may sometimes be illegal.

And there are 4 things you can do to help fix the problem.

A few common phrases found in job descriptions may sometimes be illegal.

The story of how David Perry went from medieval history professor to disability rights journalist is not what you'd call typical.

Nine years ago, Perry's son was born with Down syndrome. At the time, he didn't know a whole lot about disability rights, but he wanted to learn. He took his training and skills as a researcher to better understand Down syndrome and other forms of disability. It was a more recent event, however, that set Perry on his current path.

About three years ago, Perry heard the story of Ethan Saylor, a man with Down syndrome who was shot and killed by police officers. In reaction to that tragedy, Perry took the knowledge he'd gained over the previous few years and used it to write about the discrimination and violence people in the disabled community face every day.


"It's become my life's work," he says.


Perry's children dance in the family's kitchen. Photo by David Perry, used with permission.

Have you ever seen something along the lines of "Must be able to lift 25 pounds" on a job ad? Those types of job requirements are the subject of Perry's latest article.

Sometimes, those requirements make perfect sense. For example, on a listing for a job stocking shelves with items that weigh up to 25 pounds, it'd be reasonable to ask job applicants to be able to complete that task. But what about an office desk job? Or maybe a position as a teacher? Or, well, anything that's not by definition "manual labor"?

Perry's latest article tackles what happened when the kind of group you'd expect to be aware of this issue, a disability rights organization called the Arc of Texas published a job listing that included the type of language that would exclude large numbers of disabled people from applying for, or securing, the job.

"The problem comes when these kinds of rules get made essential," Perry tells Upworthy. "If the main point of the job is to be good at working on a computer, as so many jobs now are, then that's what's essential, not being able to restock the coffee in the break room."

Disability Pride Parade in New York in 2015. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images.

Isn't that already illegal? Yes. But without enforcement, it doesn't mean much.

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. The law — which offers up a host of employment and other protections on the basis of disability — is great. It's a powerful tool. However, it often goes unenforced. The federal government isn't exactly combing through every job listing thrown up on Craigslist, nor does it have the resources to do so.

The goal, Perry says, then, is to find new ways for the government to incentivize employers to hire disabled workers, pointing to 2014's Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act as an example of positive action being taken by the government on the incentive front.

President Obama speaks during a reception to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2015. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Just 19.2% of people with disabilities participate in the labor force, and physical requirements are extra obstacles.

People without disabilities, on the other hand, participate in the workforce at a rate of 68.1%. Even for those with disabilities who are actively employed or looking for work, their unemployment rate is more than twice that of the rest of the population.

Job descriptions and requirements like this are just one of many problems keeping people with disabilities out of the workforce, but they're also one of the most easily solved.

Andrew Pike, a veteran of the U.S. Army who was paralyzed in 2007 in Iraq, attends training with his new service dog Yazmin. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The truth is, many organizations simply may not be aware they're practicing discrimination by including those physical requirements in job descriptions.

Luckily, solving this problem in those cases may be as simple as having a frank discussion with those in charge or those in HR.

There are four things any person can do to get these kinds of conversations started:

1. Ask your company's human resources department if they have any boilerplate anti-disability clauses on job descriptions and applications. If so, try to explain how this may promote discrimination and discourage disabled applicants.

2. Start a conversation with your school, business, or organization about what you as students, employees, or volunteers can do to create an accepting workplace for people with disabilities.

3. Share articles and information with friends and co-workers on social media. Perry's How Did We Get Into This Mess? is a great resource, as is this piece by Olga Khazan at The Atlantic, as well as the resources page at RespectAbility.

4. And, finally, if you personally encounter a job ad that discriminates against you, you can always contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Obviously, you hope it doesn't have to come to this option, but it's good to know its out there.

Perry's 9-year-old son was born with Down syndrome. Photo by David Perry, used with permission.

In the case of Arc of Texas, all it took was a note from Perry for them to replace their physical and mental work requirements.

The disability rights organization adjusted their job postings to be more inclusionary and issued an apology. As writers like Perry and others continue to raise awareness about the struggles disabled people endure on a daily basis, we can all learn and push to make the world a better, more accepting, and more accessible place for all.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

We know that mammals feed their young with milk from their own bodies, and we know that whales are mammals. But the logistics of how some whales make breastfeeding happen has been a bit of a mystery for scientists. Such has been the case with sperm whales.

Sperm whales are uniquely shaped, with humongous, block-shaped heads that house the largest brains in the animal world. Like other cetaceans, sperm whale babies rely on their mother's milk for sustenance in their first year or two. And also like other cetaceans, a sperm whale mama's nipple is inverted—it doesn't stick out from her body like many mammals, but rather is hidden inside a mammary slit.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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