This company has huge aspirations for reducing the unemployment rate for disabled folks.

If you’re an adult with a disability, finding steady employment can be an uphill battle.

Due to some outdated, problematic stereotypes, the unemployment rate for disabled adults in the United States is nearly 10% — double the rate of those without a disability.

Those numbers are unacceptable, and one company has aspirations to make them a thing of the past.


Aspire works to support disabled adults through workforce development programs and creating job opportunities.

All photos are courtesy of Aspire.

Aspire works with adults who have many different disabilities — such as autism, those who use a wheelchair, and adults with learning disabilities — to develop several important work skills that can be used in different industries. Aspire CEO Jim Kales says it’s a positive step toward improving the job environment for disabled adults.

“While Aspire aims to lower the disability unemployment rate and include people with disabilities into our workforces, we never approach employers out of a sense of 'obligation' or moral duty,” Kales writes in an email. “We view each of our employer partnerships as a win for all parties.”

Through two ventures — the Career Academy and CoffeeWorks — adults with disabilities learn sustainable job skills and use them to support others with disabilities around the world.

Aspire supports multiple ventures to support people living with disabilities.

But how do they do it?

In Aspire’s Career Academy, students are able to dive into their personal career interests while gaining important workforce training. The students receive hands-on training from experts skilled at working with people with a variety of disabilities. To keep services effective, the Career Academy focuses on six career areas that have historically been particularly beneficial for students and graduates.

"We’ve identified six specific sectors that adults with disabilities have statistically excelled in and train participants in those tracks: warehousing and distribution, big-box retail, office and IT, culinary, hospitality, and fitness center administration," Kales says of the program structure.

Their strategy is working in the favor of the students they serve. More than 90% of academy graduates are employed full-time.

Some of them end up at CoffeeWorks — an Aspire-led organization that employs people with developmental disabilities. In addition, 100% of the net proceeds supports kids and adults with disabilities. In essence, they’re breaking down stereotypes and barriers one coffee bean at a time.

“We decided to explore opportunities in the coffee industry because, in essence, coffee brings people together, and that’s what our mission is all about — inclusion for people with disabilities,” Kales writes.

To be an outsider looking through the purview of stereotypes, the success rate might be surprising. But according the Kales, it’s exactly what they expected. Numerous reports show that adults with disabilities often excel in many fields, particularly those with creative or repetitive tasks.

"Hiring people with disabilities makes good business sense — 87% of Americans say they prefer to patronize businesses that hire people with disabilities," Kales writes. “Additionally, hiring people with disabilities helps companies increase their retention rates, saving them the time and cost accrued with employee turnover, as people with disabilities have higher than average retention rates and are proven to be dependable and loyal in their roles.”

For many of the students and employees, the work is empowering, valuable, and important for positive life trajectories.

With real employment opportunities, adults living with disabilities are able to have a more equitable chance to engage with the economy and participate in common societal practices. Society is noticing how awesome it is too.

"[We’re] seeing a wave of interest from employers seeking to hire people with developmental disabilities," Kales writes. "Twenty-one companies (including several Fortune 500’s) have reached out to us in the past six months to start their disability hiring journey."

It’s clear that giving everyone a fair chance at employment opportunities is a win-win for all.

"It comes back to Aspire’s fundamental belief that when we include people of all abilities into our communities, everyone is better for it," Kales adds. "We believe that when people with disabilities are included into our workforces, companies and communities prosper."

Learn more about Aspire's Career Academy below:

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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