Americans With Disabilities Face Too Many Bumps in the Road

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Our survey of Americans with disabilities revealed that:

  • 28% encounter a barrier to a building, transportation or service once a week
  • 20% encounter a barrier at least once a day
  • 36% live in a home that is not wheelchair accessible; of this group:
    • 70% have steps leading into the home
    • 51% cannot afford to make their homes wheelchair accessible
    • 25% say they find ways to “deal with” the challenges and inconveniences
    • 16% say that landlord/homeowner/condo board won’t allow modifications

Top 5 challenges to wheelchair/scooter users:

  1. Unsafe sidewalks due to hazardous slopes, uplifted/deteriorated/blocked sections of sidewalk.
  2. Narrow aisles/thruways in public places
  3. Non-compliant curbs and crosswalks
  4. Blocked wheelchair ramps
  5. Buildings that are completely inaccessible

In January 1987, Robert L. Burgdorf Jr. drafted the The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as “a response to an appalling problem: widespread, systemic, inhumane discrimination against people with disabilities.” On July 26, 1990 the bill that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public was signed into law. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. Problem solved, right? Not exactly.

In March 2017, we surveyed 554 Americans with disabilities (including people who live with or are companions to people with disabilities). The provisions of the ADA have effectively removed many barriers, but our survey revealed that far too many still remain.

Barriers Everywhere

Americans with disabilities often encounter barriers that prevent them from entering a building, accessing transportation or accessing a service. 28% of survey respondents say that, on average, they encounter a barrier once per week. 12% said it happens multiple times per day!

What Gets in the Way?

Those who depend on a wheelchair or scooter (or accompany someone who does) were asked to rank a list of common barriers and obstacles that prevent them from entering a building, accessing transportation or accessing a service in order of the most frequent challenge to the least frequent challenge. The #1 complaint: Unsafe sidewalks due to things like hazardous slopes, uplifted and/or deteriorated sections and sections of sidewalk blocked by poles, trees and other obstructions.

Crumbling sidewalks and roads are a common sight in many communities. In 2015, the city of Los Angeles agreed to fix a huge backlog of crumbling, impassable sidewalks and remove other barriers that prevented wheelchair access–a violation of the ADA. The L.A. City Council took this action only after attorneys for the disabled filed a lawsuit.

Continue onto 1800WheelChair to read the complete article.

Autism Awareness at The Huntington

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Children with autism react to sensory stimuli in very different ways. Some children on the autism spectrum are overly sensitive, while others are just the opposite. The Huntington offers a range of environments to suit any child’s needs.

“The Huntington can be a wonderful place for someone with autism because it offers so many opportunities to see, smell, hear, and touch. But it also offers quiet, open spaces,” says Ricki Robinson, M.D., co-director of Descanso Medical Center for Development and Learning in La Cañada, California, and a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. She’s also a member of The Huntington’s Board of Overseers.

April is National Autism Awareness Month, a great time, says Robinson, to consider visiting The Huntington—given the mild weather and plants bursting forth in bloom.

We asked Robinson what she’d recommend to caregivers bringing their kids:

“A first stop for many children (autistic or otherwise) is the Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden. Designed by California kinetic artist Ned Kahn, children get to splash in water, make music with pebbles, dance under rainbows, disappear into a swirl of fog, and hold the magic of magnetic forces in their hands.

“Many autistic children have a heightened sense of smell. For them, the dozens of fragrances in the Rose Garden may hold great appeal. But each child reacts differently to their environment. What may be a joyous experience for one autistic child may be frightening for another. One child may find the waterfall in the Chinese Garden fascinating. To another, its sound can seem like pounding nails. With so many different sensory experiences that can be explored throughout The Huntington’s gardens, parents of a child with autism can tailor their visit to match their child’s interests and sensory likes and dislikes.

 

Read the complete article on Huntington Blogs.

University Of Texas Elects First Physically Disabled, Latina Student President

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When Alejandrina Guzman and Micky Wolf sought the top two spots of the University of Texas at Austin’s student government, they ran under the motto “Let’s RALLY,” defining what they’d be about.

First there was the definition of the word, “to come together for common action.” But they defined the acronym as: “Represent All Longhorns Like You!”

They were successful and with the win, Guzman, a senior studying government and Mexican-American studies, became UT’s first Latina student government president, as well as the first person that she describes as “differently abled” rather than disabled to hold the job. Guzman and Wolf, a junior, had 54 percent of the vote, winning by a margin of 800 votes last Thursday.

Guzman told NBC News she plans on using her platform to shine light on issues facing underrepresented communities.

“Representation can be very lacking in a lot of these different spaces,” Guzman said. “Being Latina, being a woman, being differently abled, I think it’s a unique opportunity for me to bring different perspectives to the table and now be at the head of the table.”

According to her campaign site, Guzman decided to run for the position after realizing the importance of representation and advocacy of underserved communities on campus.

Read more about Alejandrina and her campaign on NBC News.

Let’s Get Real About Autism

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By Jessica Berthold

As the mother of a young son with autism, I am livid at the notion that money and time would be spent on investigating long-debunked claims that vaccines cause autism, as would happen if President-elect Trump creates a new commission on vaccine safetyheaded by a prominent vaccine skeptic. The vaccines-cause-autism fallacy has long been put to rest, and that investment of time and resources would be better spent within the autism community and on pressing public health issues. And as the communications manager of a public health organization, I can confirm that reigniting this issue sends exactly the wrong message.

The “research” purporting to find a link between autism and vaccines has been thoroughly discredited and disproven by countless studies that failed to replicate the results of Andrew Wakefield’s original, falsified “study.” What’s more, that original study was retracted by The Lancet, the medical journal that published it, due to serious scientific flaws and ethical violations, and Mr. Wakefield lost his medical license.

Unfortunately, the damage has already been done, as the tentacles of this study’s false findings continue to alarm parents whose natural instinct is to protect their children. I know many parents who suspect there is no danger from vaccines but still choose to forgo them – why take the risk? Only in an era when vaccines have been so successful in saving lives and preventing illnesses like mumps, measles and polio could the idea of “risk” be so tragically misplaced. More cruelly, the lie about a vaccine-autism link has sown doubt and guilt into the minds of many parents of children with autism, who fret about the cause of their child’s condition and whether there is something they could have done to prevent it. The fact is, we still don’t know for sure what causes autism, but the best research suggests a complicated interaction between genetics and the environment. If we want to tackle autism, let’s focus on pursuing scientifically valid leads – instead of reanimating debates over proven dead ends, like a link between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism.

Better yet, let’s take a preventive approach that not only acknowledges the many people already living with autism in this country, but provides resources that enable people with autism to thrive in their families and communities. The need is great, for all with autism but particularly those in lower-income communities: for better diagnosis and screening, for early intervention and ongoing treatment, for better insurance/Medicaid coverage, for school supports, for respite care for caregivers, for housing and employment options once autistic people age out of the school system, and for embracing autistic people as full members of our society. I know firsthand that fighting for your child to get adequate treatment and appropriate education is a full-time job. I know – from speaking with many parents in my community – that it becomes much harder once your autistic child is out of secondary school and in the real world, where the employment rate for autistic people is abysmal and the quirks seen as “cute” in a young child are viewed in an adult as off-putting or even dangerous. And I know that I’m a privileged, well-educated woman with a decent salary – how much more overwhelming this fight for your child must be when you face additional discrimination or lack the resources to fully mobilize the limited systems and supports that currently exist? Instead of throwing money and time at a conspiracy theory that’s long been stripped of credibility, let’s devote our resources to equity for all with autism.

Continue onto U.S. News & World Report to read the complete article.

Community and Resources for Cerebral Palsy Families

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CerebralPalsyGuidance.com Offers Community and Resources for Cerebral Palsy Families

CerebralPalsyGuidance.com is a community site that aims to bring together everyone living with or affected by cerebral palsy. We provide resources and information on all aspects of this disability, from recognizing the signs in infants to getting a diagnosis and seeking out financial resources. Cerebral palsy can have a big impact on a child and a family, but with support and information, challenges can be overcome.

All about Cerebral Palsy

Our number one priority is to provide information about cerebral palsy. This is a neurological condition that is most often caused by brain damage that occurs in the womb, during childbirth, or shortly after a baby is born. The damage affects movement and muscles and the lasting impacts on a child can range from mild to severe disabilities. Cerebral palsy may cause spastic movements, difficulty controlling muscles, speech problems, hearing or vision problems, and even cognitive disabilities.

Cerebral palsy varies widely from one individual to the next, which is why it is so important to provide individuals and families with so many resources about symptoms, causes, diagnosis, daily life with a disability, and treatment for cerebral palsy. The more information is available, the better able families are to make smart choices for their disabled children.

Support through Community

Through our site we also aim to bring together the varied and large community of individuals and families living with cerebral palsy. Children born with this condition cannot be cured and will live their lives with challenges that others don’t face. This can be a big burden for the child and for the family that loves her, but having the support of a community makes a big difference.

As part of our community, we have Alex Diaz-Granados, a contributor who has lived his whole life with cerebral palsy. He shares his experiences growing up with this condition, describes his particular cerebral palsy symptoms, and tells the painful stories of bullies and overcoming challenges so that others like him can learn from his experiences.

Financial Resources for Families Living with Cerebral Palsy

Finally, we provide a collection of resources to help families bringing up a child with cerebral palsy find the financial assistance they may need. Raising a child with a permanent disability means parents must pay for treatments, different types of therapy, adaptive equipment, educational resources and more. The more severe the disability, the greater the expense is. We offer resources including links to birth injury lawyers, government aid programs, and non-profits that can help families get the financial assistance necessary to provide their child with the best care.

At CerebralPalsyGuidance.com, we hope to bring all the resources together in one place so that any family living with this disability can find the information, the community support, and the financial assistance they need to give their child the best life possible.

The Leka smart toy is a robot for children with developmental disabilities

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One of the biggest and most biting criticism of modern tech is the industry’s excessive push to solve trivial problems. Nowhere is this theme more apparent than among the sea of forgettable gadgets at CES, itself a trade show that revels in the opulence of Las Vegas and the often hollow promise of our techno-enabled future. Occasionally, there is a device that breaks the mold. Leka, a smart toy from a French startup of the same name, is a tiny spherical robot not unlike Star Wars’ BB-8. Instead of dazzling us with cheap tricks, Leka has a purpose: to help children with autism and other developmental disabilities better learn and communicate with others.

The device, shown off yesterday at CES, is aimed at schools and therapy institutions that focus on autism and other conditions. It’s designed to either be controlled by a caregiver or put into an autonomous state so children of any ages — and even adults with more severe disabilities — can overcome social barriers to learn and progress at their own pace. Because these children often have trouble interacting with others, taking social cues, and learning in traditional environments, toys like Leka help to act as a intermediary. In other words, it’s a robot friend that a child with autism can better develop a bond with than an imposing adult.

Leka lights up with colorful LEDs, plays music and chirps in anthropomorphic fashion, and emits subtle vibrations. It contains a screen as well, which shows various facial expressions and can also be used to display photos and videos. It’s main function, however, is playing educational games, and Leka can be customized to alter the amount of stimulation and the level of interaction for children with different needs.

Continue onto The Verge to read the complete article.

The Beautiful Side Of Disability

LinkedIn

When asked to think about diversity, most people tend to think about race and gender. One type of “underrepresented minority” that is often overlooked – in spite of often being as visible as gender or skin color – are the individuals living with genetic, physical, behavioral or intellectual differences.

We spent some time with Xian Horn, founder of Give Beauty Wings and Changeblazer. Born with cerebral palsy, Xian has embraced her physical differences and used them to educate and improve the lives of countless individuals. Through her efforts as a consultant and educator, Xian has shown that even a modest effort and some thoughtfulness does have a significant positive impact on a large segment of our society, and that organizations that educate themselves about disabilities stand to reap huge practical and economic benefits. In fact, after reading this interview, you may come to the conclusion that the term “disability” is misplaced.

Parts of this interview have been edited for clarity.

Paolo Gaudiano and Ellen Hunt: Tell us a bit about yourself. How has Cerebral Palsy shaped your life?

Xian Horn: A couple of years ago, during a conversation someone asked me, “How long have you been disabled?” Something about the way he asked it, made me answer, “Well, I’ve never been disabled.” Nothing in my life has been “disabled” by my disability ever. It has only added to my life.

My parents always told me anything was possible, and in my life I always treated my disability as a practical consideration. When I was applying for college, I never even looked up a disability scholarship. It never occurred to me to think of myself as disabled. I really saw myself a part of the whole world. Most of my friends are without disabilities.

Gaudiano and Hunt: Speaking of interacting with people without disabilities, what is your experience with respect to engaging these people in conversations?

Horn: I’ve had amazing, moments in my life, and it’s aided by the fact that I have these hot pink ski poles. Every day I’m in New York City I get the question, “Going skiing?” or, “What’s happened here?” I’m very used to saying, “I have cerebral palsy and it’s the blessing of my life. Thank you so much for asking.”

I do understand that’s a unique experience. I like to smile at people on the street, that’s how I am. I don’t expect everyone to be that way, but I do think that having some openness when you go into situations can help you have conversations more spontaneously. I also think of it as a wonderful weeding mechanism: I’ve learned that if somebody doesn’t want to talk to me because of my disability, that’s absolutely okay. I saved some time and I don’t mind that.

It’s just a personal choice that I’ve made myself available when I am on the street. I make myself emotionally and physically available to have interactions. If someone has never talked to a person with a disability, that can be a scary experience to just approach somebody, but I think it’s important to make the effort to meet and connect with people that are not like us.

Gaudiano and Hunt: What about engaging in conversations about disability in the workplace?

Horn: A lot of these conversations don’t happen because there is this fear between both sides. How do I talk to somebody with a disability? How do I talk to somebody without a disability? When I did vocational classes for Disability Mentoring Day for the Mayor’s office for People with Disabilities, we addressed “How do I talk about my disability?” I think that we were really able to dispel some of the self-made myths about what that conversation looks like.

In my latest endeavor, my goal is to take away the fear on both sides. From the side of an individual with a disability, I think there’s a fear, “Do I disclose? How do I talk about it?” While, from the other side it’s even a respectful fear, often, of, “I don’t want to offend this person, but I need to know what they need if I’m going to hire them.” I think a lot of times this fear is because employers have not done this before, or job seekers have not done this before. It’s the fear of that first step that often gets in the way.

I really see myself as the middle woman, telling individuals with disabilities “You have something that they need. Simply offer that up and be honest with what reasonable accommodations you might need.” I really believe that those conversations are much more easily had when a person with a disability is able to see that “Yes, I have all these skills and this is just the practical side.”

Then I also like to have conversations with employers, “Here, you need somebody to fill this position and there are these tax incentives now, so everybody wins.” It’s about having that conversation and communicating and being okay with maybe not always saying the right thing, but working through it anyway. We’re not going to know until we try. Have these conversations and be okay with making mistakes so that you can learn how best to engage with everyone. I can’t universally say what’s okay with every person with a disability, but what you can do is ask. You start that conversation and you work through the awkwardness because once you get past that, then you can really connect on what contributions can be made on both sides.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

This technology helps guide the blind and visually impaired

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Smartphones are helping the blind to tasks most of us take for granted.

Picking a bushel of bananas at the grocery store or throwing your trash in the nearest bin are banal tasks for most people. But for Candice Jordan, who is visually impaired, the ability to do these tasks independently has brought tears to her eyes.

Jordan is one of 200 blind or visually impaired people who is testing Aira, an app that connects users to visual interpreting services.

“I guess I would describe it as magical,” Jordan said. “Now, I can walk into a mall and instead of having to find a security guard, or find a kiosk desk, I can walk into the mall, click on Aira and say, ‘Hi, what stores are in my vicinity, what stores do you see?'”

Here’s how Aira works: The visually impaired user opens the app or presses a button on their glasses, which calls one of 15 trained agents. With the help of a special dashboard, an agent can see the users’ surroundings either through smart glasses or a phone camera. The agent can then verbally walk the user through what’s around them and answer questions.

The users have an hourlong information session with agents when they adopt Aira. These sessions help personalize instructions (does the user prefer “slightly to the right” or “2 o’clock”) and preferences (instead of reading a whole menu verbatim, the agent will know if Jordan loves seafood or is allergic to peanuts.)

Aira can also order from Amazon, give reviews from Yelp and hail Ubers.

Continue onto CNBC to read the complete article.

How A Vibrating Watch Helped This Graphic Designer With Parkinson’s Draw Again

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The Emmawatch counteracts her tremors so that designer Emma Lawton can keep doing the work she loves.

Graphic designer Emma Lawton was 29 when doctors diagnosed her with early-onset Parkinson’s disease—and the tremors the disease caused in her hand meant that she could no longer draw a straight line, let alone sketch more complicated designs.

A new watch-like device has changed that: Strapped on Lawton’s wrist, it counteracts the tremors through vibration.

Designer Haiyan Zhang created the technology as part of a new BBC documentary series called The Big Fix that pairs “fixers” with problems to solve. Zhang was presented with several potential people to help, and Lawton’s challenge—as a fellow designer—resonated.

“The effects of the disease were already taking away her ability to do the job she loves,” Zhang says. “I really wanted to help, but I didn’t know if I would be able to.”

Over several months, she worked with a team to experiment with various approaches. The final solution is somewhat similar to the technology used in Liftware, a spoon that also steadies a shaking hand by measuring movement and countering that with opposing vibration.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

Meet the man who’s redefining ‘disabled’ in Colombia

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As a young man with cerebral palsy, Jeison Aristizábal has fought his entire life to overcome the obstacles in his way.

“When I was a young boy, a doctor told my mom that I would amount to nothing,” said Aristizábal, who grew up in one of the poorest areas in Cali, Colombia.

His family provided the support he needed to live an independent life. But early on he realized there were thousands of children with physical and cognitive disabilities in his community who weren’t as lucky.

“Many families … are misinformed. They think that it’s God’s punishment,” said Aristizábal, 33. “There are children who spend years in bed … because their families don’t know how to care for them.”

For the last 15 years, Aristizábal has been working to change perceptions and give young people with disabilities a brighter future.

His nonprofit, ASODISVALLE (an acronym that translates to Association of Disabled People of the Valley), offers a range of services that have helped transform the lives of more than 1,000 young people and their families — all for free.

CNN: What struggles did you experience growing up?

Jeison Aristizábal: I had a difficult childhood that was full of doctor’s appointments and surgeries. I had to witness my parents rummaging for money so they could take me to the doctor. On some occasions, my parents didn’t have enough money to pay for surgery, so we had to wait.

When I was in a wheelchair, I would watch other kids running, playing and riding bicycles. I think that was one of my biggest motivations — I had to be able to be like them.

My mom started fighting against that initial diagnosis. She took me to physical therapy and to get many different kinds of treatments. I went to a regular school, and I kept pushing myself. I became class president, and I started proving to my friends, and myself, that I have many talents.

CNN: What inspired you to help other children with disabilities?

Aristizábal: I met a child in a very poor house, a boy who grew up on a bed for eight years, and I think that boy really touched my heart because he reminded me of when I was in that same situation. I started collecting and donating wheelchairs so that boy and many other children could at least move.

My next goal was to provide physical therapy. I asked my parents if we could work from their garage. I got a ball, a mat, and I found a girl who was finishing up her last year of physical therapy training. We started off with 20 kids, but children kept coming and coming. Eventually, we literally took over my parents’ house. Now we have our own center.

Read the complete interview on CNN.

The SMART Way to Set Goals

LinkedIn

Like many employees, you may have some specific developmental goals that you want to include in your Individual Development Plan (IDP) this fall. Did you know that there is a way to write your goals that can make you more likely to be successful? By using the SMART goal method, you can create tangible, action-oriented goals you can really achieve.

What is a SMART Goal?

A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Here’s how SMART goals work:

Specific

To be specific, your goal should be concrete and well-defined. It should identify what you are trying to achieve and who is responsible for completing each component of the goal. Start by asking yourself questions like:

  • What exactly do I want to do?
  • Are there certain steps I should take?
  • Will I be using specific resources to reach my goal?
  • Will I need to work with someone else?

So, for example, if your overarching goal is to improve your leadership skills, you can make that goal specific by saying: I am going to register for and take online training courses to improve my leadership skills. Note that this goal is still pretty vague. Keep reading to make it SMART.

Measurable

A goal should also have criteria you can use to track your progress and determine when you’ve been successful in reaching your goal. To make your goal measurable, it can help to think about the following questions:

  • How will I know when I’ve accomplished my goal?
  • Is there quantitative information I can include to make it easier to measure my progress?

Using the leadership training example, you can make your goal measurable by listing the number of courses you will take: I will complete four leadership courses.

Attainable

Your goal can be a challenging one, but it should still be attainable. Make sure you have the time and resources needed to realistically reach your goal by considering these factors:

  • How much time out of my regular schedule will it take to complete my goal?
  • Will I reasonably be able to dedicate this amount of time?
  • Will any funding be required to complete my goal, and if so, will I be able to obtain it?

In the leadership training example, you can make your goal attainable by planning to schedule a reasonable amount of time to train: I will dedicate one hour outside of my normal work schedule per week to complete leadership training.

Relevant

To keep your goals relevant, make sure they are focused in the direction you want to go in your career. For example, if you are a nurse, you may set a goal to develop your therapeutic communication skills to improve your patient service. To find activities that are relevant to your career, review the recommended training and development experiences for your job. Then, consider questions like the following:

  • Is this a reasonable goal for me in my current job?
  • Will this goal help me move forward in my career?
  • Does this goal support my employer’s mission?

You can make the leadership training goal relevant by choosing the right level of leadership training: I will take a TMS training course such as “Transitioning from Technical Professional to Management” to help me prepare for the transition to a management position.

Time-Bound

Finally, your goal needs a deadline to help you stay motivated. Think about how long it will take to complete your goal. Then, ask yourself questions like:

  • Are there outside factors that will affect my timeline, such as objectives I’ll need to complete first?
  • Are there things I should be doing along the way to keep myself on track?
  • Are there any upcoming events that would influence my deadline?

To make the leadership training example time-bound, you can include a timeline for reminders and the goal’s completion date: I will complete my goal before my IDP check-in with my supervisor at the end of January, and I will set a calendar reminder to check my progress on the 15th of each month.

Putting it all together

Once you’ve worked through the SMART method for each piece of your goal, you are ready to combine them into a SMART goal. For the leadership training example, the final SMART goal would look like this:

I am going to register for and take four online training courses to improve my leadership skills, including the TMS training course “Transitioning from Technical Professional to Management” to help me prepare for the transition to a management position. I will dedicate one hour outside of my normal work schedule per week to complete leadership training, so that I complete this goal before my IDP check-in with my supervisor at the end of January. I will also set a calendar reminder to check my progress on the 15th of each month.

After you finish

Now that you know how to use the SMART method, be sure to record your SMART goals in your IDP.

Source: mycareeratva.va.gov

DIVERSEability | A Diversity & Inclusion Disability Magazine