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Due to some outdated, problematic stereotypes, the unemployment rate for disabled adults in the United States is nearly 10% — double the rate of those without a disability.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

In 2015, Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price had a life-changing epiphany.

Price, who founded Gravity with his brother in 2004, was out hiking in the Cascade Mountains with his friend, Valerie. She told him her landlord had raised her rent by $200 and she was struggling to get by on her $40,000 a year income. Price, who was making $1.1 million a year as CEO of Gravity, was struck by her story. Not only did he feel for Valerie—a military veteran working two jobs and barely making ends meet—realized that some of his own employees might be facing similar struggles.

And they were. One employee frankly told him his entry-level salary was a rip-off. Another employee had secretly been working at McDonald's outside of work hours to make ends meet. So Price decided to make a drastic change by investing in his employees.

He researched how much money the average person would need in order to live comfortably and settled on $70,000 a year. In one fell swoop, he dropped his own salary to that amount, while also making it the minimum salary for anyone who worked at Gravity.

The move drew media coverage—and dire predictions from pundits. On Fox News and other conservative outlets he was called "foolish," a "socialist" and a "lunatic of lunatics." Rush Limbaugh called the company policy "pure unadulterated socialism" that was "going to fail" and should be a case study in MBA programs on how socialism doesn't work. Talking heads predicted that his employees would end up in the welfare line.

Six years later, Price has proved the haters wrong—by a lot.

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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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