Saturday, October 30, 2021

What are “soft skills”?

Employers posting advertisements to recruit new employees will often list job related skills that candidates must have. For a job in the tech industry, you may need to know certain programming languages, such as Python or JavaScript. Doctors, architects, chefs, bookkeepers, office managers, market researchers, translators, carpenters, hair stylists, Xray technicians, plumbers; these careers all have specialized skillsets that are necessary for employment. These requirements are known as “hard skills” and are attained through coursework, internships, or previous employment.

If you want to become a teacher, of course you must know your subject matter, but there are other skills necessary for career success as an educator.

There are many types of careers available in agriculture. This list of agriculture careers includes information about employment requirements. For any of those jobs, you will want to be sure you also have these additional skills.

Just look at this list of top skills needed in the hospitality field

Today’s employers are also looking for so-called “soft skills” in hiring future employees. Soft skills include being able to communicate clearly and work as part of a team, ability to think critically and solve problems, managing your time and resources wisely, and being flexible, dependable, and accountable.

While you can learn about many soft skills through coursework or by watching YouTube, it’s very helpful to practice them in your daily life. Soft skills are not only important in your job, but they will make your professional and personal interactions with other people more successful as well.

Monday, October 25, 2021

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month

Image of a person's head as a jigsaw puzzle with two pieces displaced

Dyslexia is a neurological condition in which the brain’s “wiring” makes reading difficult. Brain anatomy studies and functional brain scans show that the brains of people with dyslexia are structurally, developmentally and functionally different from the brains of people without dyslexia. However, dyslexia is not brain damage nor a disease.

Dyslexia is not related to intelligence; highly intelligent people can have dyslexia. People with dyslexia may not read accurately or fluently, because they have trouble identifying the individual sounds that make up a word, or they can’t learn to relate a sound to a visual symbol like a letter. They may have difficulty decoding written or printed language, and may be poor spellers and have illegible handwriting. Having dyslexia may affect reading comprehension; persons who read less also tend to have smaller vocabularies and less general knowledge than more capable readers.

Children with dyslexia often face difficulty receiving an appropriate education. If their teachers do not understand their struggles, students with dyslexia may be tagged as lazy, stupid, or underachieving. However, many coping strategies are available. Dyslexia is now considered a specific learning disability, and can be covered by accessibility laws related to educational opportunities. About 14% of students have enough problem with dyslexia to qualify for special education services. With proper education and support, about 96% of students with dyslexia can become good readers.

For more information on adult dyslexia, please visit these sites:

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Easy Study Tool: Flashcards

A stack of 3 by 5 index cards used for memorization
Index cards for memorization

This old-fashioned tool used to be handwritten on the front and back of 3 by 5 index cards, but no longer. Now there are excellent e-versions which can include not only definitions but also pictures, sounds, and fill-in-the-blank questions. These modern flash cards are available as apps for iOS and Android devices. You can study anywhere! 

This tool is best for memorization and recall. Learning vocabulary in a new language, or multiplication and division tables, or chemical formula names, or famous painting or musical selection identification, or physics or mathematics formulas, or anatomical names, or… pretty much anything you need to commit to memory.

Several companies offer pre-made flashcards on a wide variety of topics, or you can create your own sets and then trade them. Some offer free services, others charge a fee. Many have created games to make studying more fun. Most keep stats so you can track your progress. The best flashcard sets optimize your memorization by repeating incorrect guesses later in your study session, and waiting to repeat correct responses for some set amount of study later on.

Here are some examples of companies offering flash card sets:

Give flash cards a try, no matter what you are studying.

Monday, October 18, 2021

What Can I Ask JAN About?

JAN can be a disabled employee’s best friend.  JAN is the Job Accommodation Network, a US organization that provides free, confidential information about job accommodations and disability employment issues to employees and employers worldwide. Within the US, JAN supports job accommodations under Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as supporting entrepreneurial self-employment for persons with disabilities. JAN is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

According to the ADA, a reasonable workplace accommodation is a modification or adjustment to either the job requirement or the workplace environment that is made so that a qualified employee who has a disability can perform the essential functions of a job. It also applies to job applicants, meaning accommodations can be made so an applicant with a disability can participate in the job application process. JAN specialists can brainstorm with employers, employees or job applicants to identify potential accommodations.

While half of all accommodations cost nothing, JAN can help employers and employees figure out not only what accommodations might work, but also how to afford them. JAN maintains a list of public and private funding sources. JAN also has information on tax incentives for employers related to increasing accessibility for employees with disabilities.

You can search the JAN website for information on accommodations by disability, functional limitation,  work/task functions that need to be modified, types of accommodation, or other topics. You can also find links to many publications and other helpful resources.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Does HIPAA Protect You from an Interviewer or Employer Asking You Health Questions?

Image of two people in a job interview
A job interview

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Since 1996 it prevents the release of your protected health information to unauthorized persons without your permission. It also requires that your physician’s office provide you with printed information about how your healthcare information is used and protected from unauthorized access. (That’s the sheet of closely typed information you probably don’t read during check-in, just sign that you received it.)
HIPAA does NOT prevent interviewers or employers from directly asking you health-related questions, including your COVID vaccination status. HIPAA does NOT prevent you from answering such questions. And HIPAA does NOT prevent interviewers, employers, or businesses such as restaurants or movie theaters from asking you to provide proof of COVID vaccination.
However, you do NOT need to respond to these questions or requests. If you consider them nosy or inappropriate, you can certainly say so and refuse to answer. Of course, then the person who asked you may make their own assumptions about your health or vaccination status.
It is not illegal for anyone to ask these questions, and it is your choice to answer or not answer.

October 20, 11am SLT - National Disability Employment Awareness Month Virtual Celebration

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

On Wednesday, October 20, at 11am SLT (2pm Eastern), you can join U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Taryn Williams for a virtual celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the 20th anniversary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy.

This online event will feature insightful dialogues and a video showcase highlighting strategies in action for an equitable, disability-inclusive economic recovery. Featured guests will include Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Jenny Yang and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Jennifer Sheehy.

You can register at this link to receive instructions on how to attend the celebration from your computer:

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Invisible Disabilities Week, Oct. 17-23, 2021

"Visible Courage - Stories of Life" - celebrating Invisible Disabilities Week
Logo from

The Invisible Disabilities Association invites everyone to celebrate Invisible Disabilities Week by proclaiming the visible courage of persons with invisible disabilities. 

Invisible disabilities are not readily apparent to others just by looking at a person. They include conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, mental illness, chronic pain, peripheral neuropathy, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, lupus, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, PTSD, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and myasthenia gravis, to name just a few. The impact of an invisible disability can range from minor impairment to completely disabling.

About 10% of Americans have an invisible disability; 96% of people with chronic medical conditions have an invisible disability. Because these disabilities are not apparent to the casual observer, a person with an invisible disability may be accused of faking or exaggerating their condition. The Invisible Disabilities Association is striving to establish a discrete National Disability ID icon that is more inclusive than the current blue and white wheelchair symbol for accessible parking in order to address potential misunderstandings with law enforcement, emergency and first responders, and other public services.

To learn more about invisible disabilities:

Oct 16, 2021, is Ether Day

Photograph of the first surgery
performed with the use of ether

Painting to commemorate the first surgery
performed with the use of ether

Ethers are a group of organic chemical compounds that are commonly discussed in biochemistry as they are often links in carbohydrates. However, the ether to be celebrated today is a specific example of this class of compounds, chemically named diethyl ether.

The first general use of diethyl ether was as entertainment in the early- to mid-1800s. “Ether frolics” were held by self-described itinerant scientific lecturers, who allowed audience members to inhale the fumes of diethyl ether. These eager participants were gawked at by the rest of the audience while they underwent what they later described as “mind-altering experiences.” 

In the mid-1800s, nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) was used as a general anesthetic for surgeries. Physicians, noting the anesthetizing effects of inhaling ethyl ether, began attempting its use in medical settings. On October 16, 1846, dentist William T. G. Morton made the first successful public demonstration of diethyl ether general anesthesia in a dental extraction. The audience attended this surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in what became known as the Ether Dome. A painting of the event by Robert C. Hinckley is titled The First Operation Under Ether.

For more information about diethyl ether, visit the links on this page:

Monday, October 11, 2021

TIP- Calcium and D together

Cartoon cow with hooves spread apart as if asking a question

Most of us know that calcium in the diet is important for bone health. Over 99% of the calcium in your body is found in your bones. It is less well known the calcium aids muscle contraction and nerve message transmission.

Vitamin D is another important dietary necessity, as it helps your body absorb calcium. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin derived from cholesterol. For most people, over 90% of necessary vitamin D is created in the skin in the presence of sunlight. Good dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (salmon, trout, tuna), eggs, and foods fortified with additional vitamin D such as dairy products, orange juice and cereals.

In addition to ensuring you get adequate calcium in your diet, be sure you also get enough vitamin D.

For more information about calcium and vitamin D in your diet:

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Sunless Tanning: Is it safe?

Thatch umbrella over beach chaise lounges

Sunless tanning, also called self-tanning, can make your skin look as if you have spent hours in the sun, but without the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Products sold for sunless tanning may be creams, lotions or sprays, and are readily available over the counter. You can also get a professional spray tan.

Most sunless tanners contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), a color additive, as their active ingredient. The DHA enters the dead skin cells at the surface of your skin. DHA temporarily darkens the appearance of your skin, but the tan wears off after a few days as you shed the tinted dead skin cells. 

Generally these products are considered safe when applied externally according to directions. For instance, avoid getting the tanning product in your eyes, nose or mouth. Avoid inhaling spray-on tanning products.

Sunless tanning pills are available, but should NOT be used. They contain a different color additive, canthaxanthin. If you ingest too much canthaxanthin, your skin will turn orange or brown from the inside. Canthaxanthin can also cause hives, impair your vision, and damage your liver. Avoid this product!

A warning: Most self-tanning products do not contain a sunscreen. If you spend time in the sun after self-tanning, using sunscreen is imperative. While a normal suntan provides some protection against sunburn, a self-tan does not. Using a sunscreen on self-tanned skin is important for your health.

For more information on sunless tanning:

Monday, October 4, 2021

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month


The purpose of this awareness month is to ensure that people with disabilities are fully involved in their communities and have full access to appropriate employment. It also celebrates the contributions persons with disabilities have made to their workplaces and the economy.

The US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) has made a list of 31 activities for Disability Employment Awareness Month, one for each day. Some are activities for employers, others for educators or for use in social media. Check them out here:

During the month of October, Virtual Ability will celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month on its blog and Facebook pages with articles and tips about education and employment. Be watching for this useful information.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Healthinfo Island Displays and Exhibits for October 2021

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs in this blog post. Click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images. 

If you click each poster, you will get a message with additional information and live links.

Thanks to Mook for assistance with the posters this month.