top of page
Disability, Acceptance + Art
As we approach the holiday break for many, we want to share with you a story about an incredible LA nonprofit working to make real change in the lives of people with disabilities. It’s called Tierra del Sol — and it’s a place where people with disabilities work to find their places in the world, and their voices. One aspect of the nonprofit revolves around art; they provide a space for artists with disabilities to curate their work, while also providing a gallery space for exhibitions where their participants sell and make money. Check out this short documentary that follows four of the artists of Tierra del Sol. BirdMine presents, Disability, Acceptance + Art! Transcript: Lexington Sherbin, artist: What it makes me feel like to come here. Is that a matter? This one is acrylic. That was my first oil painting. And these were some of my new… Professionally, became artist, my first publishing was when I was 24. So I guess I never really was intimidated by like a blank canvas. I was put in restraints every day, sometimes over 24 hours. I was given loads and loads and loads of medications for different things. Very strong medicines that are illegal to give to kids. I lived very much for very many long years of with self-hatred. The things that I was told about myself by people in hospitals and different doctors and the way I was treated because I had a disability. I seen a lot of the darkness. I seen how dark it can even get. It stays inside, locked inside. It cannot come out except for my artwork. But the honest truth is, I feel things very strong inside. And I think my paintings show that. I know how I may not have words. But it’s there. There's feeling. There's a soul. A very vibrant soul. But by looking at us, people don't see the vibrant soul. They cannot see the spirit inside someone. Unbeknownst to them, many of us with disabilities, we see your souls as if your body is not even… as if it’s camouflage. I love Tierra. I think so many things about Tierra. I want places like Tierra to stay open and grow for us because we are a whole person. We are not our diagnosis or we are not our behaviors or we're not our whatever people see on the outside. People are so mesmerized by a lot of things we do and don't even believe we either wrote that or drew that or painted that because we are considered less than or incapable of or without feeling and they have no clue. Rebecca Lienhard, CEO of Tierra del Sol Tierra is actually a really amazing organization. I don't think people really realize the span or the wingspan of our impact, but we serve about 800 individuals on a daily basis. I think one of the things that I've enjoyed being here is the fact that we really try to listen to where people want to take their their own worlds. So we support a majority of our folks in traditional employment… that could be anything from volunteerism to paid internships to being hired by a variety of employers. We have well over 150 partners who really recognize the value that people with disabilities can offer to their own work community. There's people who bring beauty and culture into this world. And so there's artists. We serve about 120 artists across our organization. We have two very active studios. And when I say studios, it's not kind of one set of four walls. It's kind of a myriad or suite of studios that people can kind of move in between to really kind of find where their creative voice exists. Kyle Johnson, artist: I started drawing and then I've opened up my, my thing to like painting, and then I opened up further to like textiles, and then I opened up further to like poetry. It's something I've always done, always done from a very small kid. I think it's a comforting place for me. At first, I created people now I create landscapes. Allison Norlian, reporter: What is life like for you as a professional artist with Tierra? Kyle Johnson: It's great, I, I have to say it's great. I try to do work in every studio. When I'm painting, I like to spend all day on it, checking it out, looking it over, checking it twice like I'm Santa Claus or something. Allison Norlian, reporter: What do you want to tell people about artists with disabilities? Kyle Johnson: Oh, give someone a chance. They may surprise. If you know someone who has a disability, give them a chance. (More of transcript in comments section)
People with Disabilities are the Most Unemployed in US. An LA Nonprofit is Working to Change That.
In 2021, in the US, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was nearly double than for those without. But in Los Angeles, a nonprofit is working to create change — by placing people with disabilities in jobs and internships around the city. They are also hiring people with disabilities to work at their brick-and-mortar. ROSIES Foundation has provided opportunities for countless people — including Teren’e Chambers who hopes more businesses follow ROSIES lead. Video Transcript: Teren'e Chambers: So it was a struggle to find a job. It took a long time. It's because of my autism spectrum. So that's why they look at me like I look weird. Lee Chernotsky: At ROSIES we have two core programs. Our mission is to generate accessible solutions for people to engage in apprenticeships and continuing education. And so the two core programs are higher-ed or hired depending on their perspective is — that's one of them — that's our continuing education. If somebody wants to figure out really where they've been, where they're at now, and where they're trying to go, frame the skills that they'll need to do that. And then we give an accessible opportunity through community partnerships and then in-house with, behind us, the pop lab, which is popping our social enterprise program, that is People Plus Opportunity equals purpose… our dream is that we're like a co-op of sorts of personal and professional development. Nechama Chernotsky: I would say currently we have between 12 to 15 people in the office every day, and those people are different throughout throughout the week, but at one point in time, in the office. And then that doesn't include all of our community partners. Teren'e Chambers: I've been with ROSIES for six years. It all started where I was looking for a job. Out of the blue, I found ROSIES and I had to go inside and see what's going on. Their slogan or their mission really caught my eye. A few days later, I got rejected from retail/food job, and I started to go into ROSIES to see if they have any resources for me. And they did. So I needed that resource so I can, you know, get better at doing, doing retail and doing customer service, and also handling money. Allison Norlian: So with ROSIES, what do you do here? Teren'e Chambers: I am a digital content producer/ editor. I brainstorm ideas, I do pre-production, I do production and I do post-production. And I felt comfortable here. I feel comfortable where I can you know, I can finally sitm. I can, you know, create. I know. I know. I like to stim. I like to stim. When I was stimming at a retail job, people look at me funny especially the customers. Lex Paul: I came on board in November of 2020. Here, I try to just really work with everyone and get them, get them to the next step. Whether it's the next skill they need to start developing tools to begin a career, whether it's people who have all the skills and have trouble finding the next steps, then I take whatever skills I need to learn to help support that, I just kind of pick up and take the time to learn. On a personal level, I realized how much about myself and my own disability, I was completely unaware of. I wasn't diagnosed until I was an adult. I was 18. The extent of what I knew about ADHD was ‘here's a book about ADHD,’ and that was it. And I wasn't aware of a lot of the ways that my behaviors affected myself, other people. What I learned kind of with that in giving myself the space to understand my own disability, was also the patience in the space to give the people that I work with, the space to grow and the tools to make themselves the best they can be. Nechama Chernotsky: All of these places are ready for the right person. And that's another beautiful part of ROSIES, is that we're not trying to fit somebody into an opportunity. When that right person comes around for that job and for that opportunity, we then can make those collaborations actually happen. Teren'e Chambers: So ROSIES is a place for people who want to, you know, change their outlook on, you know, in their careers. I know usually people with disabilities or people on the autism spectrum, they're usually unemployed, which is very sad. But ROSIES is here to change all that now.
Gym Works To ‘Bridge Gap’ Between People With Disabilities And Fitness
Training at the gym used to be a frustrating experience for Emily Grodin, a woman with non-verbal autism. But then she discovered ZOOZ Fitness, an inclusive gym located in Encino, California, working to change the way the world thinks about fitness, and what a gym should be. ZOOZ Fitness provides a place for everyone to get fit -- both people with and without disabilities -- and they hope other gyms/fitness centers take notice and become more inclusive too. Video Text: Allison Norlian (Journalist): Why Do you like ZOOZ Fitness? Max: To be healthy. Allison Norlian: To be healthy? Sivan Buchinsky (ZOOZ Fitness athlete with Down syndrome): It's been a great motivator for me. So then I can start having workouts weekly and on Zoom. Jake Weiner (Founder/CEO of ZOOZ Fitness): ZOOZ fitness is an inclusive gym space. We welcome anyone and everyone. We focus our attention on folks with disabilities. My background is in working with people with disabilities in various capacities— public schools, private schools, nonprofit. And the one thing that I kept noticing was that these individuals were very sedentary and did not have opportunities to move their bodies. So over the years, I just kept thinking to myself, like, I love to exercise. I love to train. You know, there is a huge need. Why is no one doing this? So that was the inception of ZOOZ really early on— really organically started from just that very idea that I just want to get people moving. Emily Grodin (ZOOZ Fitness athlete with nonverbal autism): I love ZOOZ fitness. I have been coming for a few years now. I really enjoy being here. I like everything that I have accomplished so far. Before, it was hard getting into a routine to work out myself, but ZOOZ has helped me to change all that and be more consistent. Jake Weiner: You know, when I first started, I kind of I quit my job. I was like, You know what? I love doing this. I'm going to try this full time. So I put all my eggs into this basket, and you know, there were feelings of nervousness and ‘Oh, my God, did I do the right thing?’ My wife was asking me like, ‘Well, what are you doing? We need to make money.’ And really, just I knew I had an immense passion for this and excitement, and there's no way that it can't succeed. Around 150 families that we see every week between our private sessions and group sessions. So that like since 2015 when we started this really kind of part time to see where we've grown and to have this space. I mean, this was always the dream When I first started, you know, I want to help people. I want to start training. We were at parks, we were in community centers. And the dream was always like, I want to have our own space that we can feel the sense of community and we can feel, you know, parents can feel like there's, there's a home here. And that's really what we created over the years. And that for me, every time I walk these doors like that is the best feeling. I hit the lights and I'm like, it's amazing. It's an amazing feeling to know that parents and our athletes are excited to come. When I created this space, you know, our brick and mortar gym, it was those things in mind trying to look at it from a you know, from the mindset of someone with a disability. And I even talked to many of my athletes. Here's what I'm thinking. What do you think of this? Lights? Colors? And got incredible responses. And that's, you know, when new parents come in, they see the space and they are like, ‘Wow, this is like a real gym.’ And that piece is always something that I laugh at. Of course, it's a real gym. Again, we remove any stigma. We don't want you to think of anything else other than a real gym space. We have all the same equipment. How we break down movements is the only thing that's different. I firmly believe that this population, folks with disabilities, deserve every right that everyone else does. So for me, it's not like, I don't feel like I'm doing something really special. You know, I feel like I'm helping people that everybody should help. I don't look at people with disabilities any differently. I joke with them. I'm super sarcastic. I treat folks with disabilities exactly how I would treat a neuro-typical peer. And I think that's also what people respond well to. And that's the stigma I'm trying to remove. Just because you have a disability doesn't mean anything. It means you have disability. Like, fitness has an incredible way of breaking down these barriers. Allison: Why is it important to have a place like this for people with disabilities? Sivan: To get them motivated and also excited so then they can learn the new things about their bodies and just relay it into their own lives? ZOOZ Fitness is about having fun, being motivated exercising, having a housing start to your life and just having good friends and supporters around.
An Artist With Down Syndrome, A Bag, And Joe Biden: How A Man’s Work Led To A Meeting With His Hero
Rick Fleming, an artist with Down Syndrome based in Austin, Texas was commissioned to create a tote bag featuring the presidential nominee, Joe Biden. Now, his work is official campaign merchandise and through a confluence of events led to Fleming meeting his 'hero.' Video Credit: Video of Biden and Rick Fleming over Zoom: The Biden campaign Photos: SAGE Studio Song Credit: Storybook Shuffle by Dreamlamp
Miss America & Ms. Wheelchair Virginia discuss Ehlers Danlos syndrome
Camille Schrier, Miss America, and Ryann Kress, Ms. Wheelchair Virginia both have a rare genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos syndrome. BirdMine set up a meeting between the two beauty queens to discuss their condition and how they advocate for disability and invisible illness. Photo credit: Camille Schrier, Ryann Kress, Miss America organization Song credit: Malibu Sunrise by Noah Smith Upright by Lincoln Davis Beauty by Cody Martin Beautiful by Joshua Nichols
New Reality, New Routine l Complete Series
BirdMine presents "New Reality, New Routine: Six Employees with Disabilities Navigate Returning to Work during Covid" #### Follow BirdMine Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/BirdMineStories Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/BirdMineSto... Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BirdMineStories Website: https://www.birdmine.com About BirdMine: BirdMine is a production company focused on elevating the voices of the powerless, disenfranchised and underrepresented. Our objective is to produce unique and underreported stories happening around the country, and world. #### Music by: Artist: Cody Martin Song: Facing Legend Artist: Moments Song: Forgotten Road Artist: Hola Hola Song: All Was Not Lost Artist: Acreage Song: Ivy Artist: Sounds Like Sander Song: A Thousand Lakes Licensed through Soundstripe
New Reality, New Routine l Part IV: Emily
Emily Morrissey has had her own business, Emily's Bracelets, since 2018. The 22-year-old who has cerebral palsy, and lives in Chesterfield, Virginia, creates bracelets using colorful beads. The business began because Emily's family feared she wouldn't find a job after high school because of her disability. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Emily's Bracelets pivoted to making and donating masks to frontline workers. In total, they donated 500 masks to doctors, nurses, etc. Emily's story is the fourth of a four-part series by BirdMine about people with disabilities in the workforce and their experience going back to work during the Covid-19 pandemic. #### Follow BirdMine Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/BirdMineStories Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/BirdMineSto... Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BirdMineStories Website: https://www.birdmine.com About BirdMine: BirdMine is a production company focused on elevating the voices of the powerless, disenfranchised and underrepresented. Our objective is to produce unique and underreported stories happening around the country, and world. #### Music by: Artist: Cody Martin Song: Facing Legend Artist: Sounds Like Sander Song: A Thousand Lakes Licensed through Soundstripe
New Reality, New Routine l Part III: tAblespoons
BirdMine presents part three of "New Reality, New Routine: A Four-Part Series on Returning to Work for Employees with Disabilities." When the Covid-19 pandemic began, Shelley Lantz, who has Down Syndrome, worked three jobs in Richmond. But then, Covid-19 spread around the country and she was out of work. Around the same time, Elizabeth Redford, decided to use her newfound free time to invest in tAblespoons, a baking program launched in 2017 as part of her nonprofit. #### Follow BirdMine Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/BirdMineStories Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/BirdMineSto... Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BirdMineStories Website: https://www.birdmine.com About BirdMine: BirdMine is a production company focused on elevating the voices of the powerless, disenfranchised and underrepresented. Our objective is to produce unique and underreported stories happening around the country, and world. #### Music by: Artist: Cody Martin Song: Facing Legend Artist: Acreage Song: Ivy Artist: Hola Hola Song: All Was Not Lost Licensed through Soundstripe
bottom of page