Friday, February 1, 2019 Highlighting African Americans with Disabilities: Black History Month writes:

As we celebrate Black History Month, which takes place every February, RespectAbility recognizes the contributions made and the important presence of African Americans to the United States. It is important to note this includes more than 5.6 million African Americans living with a disability in the U.S., 3.4 million of which are working-age African Americans with disabilities. Therefore, we would like to reflect on the realities and challenges that continue to shape the lives of African Americans with disabilities. The full piece provides statistics relating to employment, education, criminal justice and more.

Some celebrities and business leaders are using their voice to share their stories, educating people about both visible and invisible disabilities. They are defying the statistics and have remained highly successful with their disabilities. These role models make a big difference in setting high expectations for youth with disabilities. RespectAbility will be sharing content throughout this month – and throughout the entire year - highlighting additional African Americans with disabilities, including some personal pieces from our own team members.

Maya Angelou, Legendary Poet
and Civil Rights Activist Who
Had Disability, Inspires

- Tameir Yeheyes, RespectAbility
Spring 2018 Fellow
Maya Angelou had selective
mutism, an anxiety disorder that
causes a child to not speak due
to physical and psychological
trauma they endured. In the five-
year span that she experienced
this, her listening, observing and
memorizing skills improved and
her love of books expanded.
This helped her later when she
began working in becoming
successful in her career.

Halle Berry: Living with
Disability While Taking a
Stand against Domestic

- Julia Wood, RespectAbility
Fall 2017 Fellow
Halle Berry is an advocate for
ending violence against
women, an advocate for
individuals with disabilities,
and has been fighting for
virtually her whole life.

Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott
‘Works it,’ Serves as Role
Model for Young Women
with Disabilities

- Julia Wood, RespectAbility
Fall 2017 Fellow
At the height of her career,
Missy Elliott experienced a
dramatic and dangerous
weight loss; she was diagnosed
with Graves’ disease, which
 attacks the thyroid.

Deafblind Lawyer Haben
Girma Advocates for
Disability Rights

- Ryan Knight,
RespectAbility Spring
2018 Fellow
The first Deafblind person
to graduate from law
school, Haben Girma
stated that removing
 barriers for herself
helped in her journey
to becoming a disability
advocate. Her disability
advocacy is not restricted
to education; she also
uses the media to
decrease the stigma in
the community.

Whoopi Goldberg: 
Talented Actress, 
Comedienne and Talk 
Show Host Lives with 
- Theresa Maher, 
RespectAbility Fall 
2017 Fellow
Reading scripts and
writing books as often as
 Goldberg does was hard
at first with her dyslexia.
Like she did in elementary
school, Goldberg found it
easiest to have someone
read to her so she could
memorize the lines for her
scripts. For her books, she
dictates instead of writing
before sitting down with
an editor to adjust the

Actress with Cerebral Palsy
Diana Elizabeth Jordan is
Veteran of 17 Shows,
Shorts and Movies

- Theresa Maher,
RespectAbility Fall 2017
Diana Elizabeth Jordan,
actress, writer, producer and
director, is an important
figure in the conversation
about the inclusivity or
lack thereof of people
with disabilities in
Hollywood. She found a
way to get into and around
Hollywood, with the help
of her faith and self-

Solange Knowles: Role Model
for African American
Performers with Disabilities

- Bryan Munguia,
RespectAbility Spring 2018
When it comes to the
traditional expectations of a
pop star in Hollywood, Solange
Knowles shatters the glass
ceiling as a woman of color who
also happens to be diagnosed
with a disability that affects
10 percent of the U.S.
population: ADHD. Knowles
has been outspoken about
her ADHD, educating people
about her disability.

Jenifer Lewis of ‘Black-ish’
has Coped with Bipolar
Disorder by Doing the

- Litsa Dremousis, The
Washington Post
Jenifer Lewis resisted
the diagnosis at first
and refused to take
medication until a
nervous breakdown
left her
convulsing in sobs,
a hostage to her
neurochemistry. A
later, she is thriving
and happy because,
as she says,
she “does the work.”

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