Self-Identifying With Your Invisible Disabilities

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By Erica Sabino

Demi Lovato has come a long way from her days acting and singing on the Disney screen. Though she made her debut at the young age of 8 on the show Barney and Friends, it wasn’t until 2008 when she nabbed the lead role in the Disney Channel original movie, Camp Rock, that her career skyrocketed. On the same year of the movie’s premier, she signed a recording deal with Hollywood Records that helped her release her first album, Don’t Forget, which went up to No. 2 on the Billboard Top 100.

Her rise to stardom did not come undeserved. With the success of the movie and her music, Lovato’s popularity saw a tremendous increase, paving the way to cementing her place among other big-named stars in young Hollywood.

Even with all her success, her journey wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Having amassed quite a following on her social media profiles like Twitter and Instagram, the Sorry Not Sorry singer has made it a point to be open about the struggles she has faced and is still facing on an everyday basis.

On October 2011, Lovato entered an inpatient treatment center where she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “Getting a diagnosis was kind of a relief,” Lovato admitted in an interview. “It helped me start to make sense of the harmful things I was doing to cope with what I was experiencing.”

Her admittance to the rehab facility was not only brought about by the state of her mental health, but also because of her struggles with bulimia, substance abuse, and cutting. Lovato learned to accept her issues and worked hard to find ways to overcome them. She worked with professionals to find a treatment plan that would work for her. “Living well with bipolar disorder is possible,” Lovato says, “but it takes patience, it takes work and it is an ongoing process.”

She understands how hard it is to bounce back from setbacks in life and how some people find it difficult to ask for help. But for Lovato, “asking for help is a sign of strength.” She wants those struggling with mental illness to know that there is always someone who can help and that there will always be a silver lining if they first learn to be strong for themselves.

Lovato has gone through a lot, but instead of letting these obstacles hinder her, she used them to build her strength and has found ways to capitalize on her experiences, so she can help people who are going through the same struggles she continues to go through each day.

Making a big effort to support individuals with mental health, Demi Lovato became the spokesperson for the Be Vocal: Speak Up For Mental Health initiative. Led by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc., this campaign also partnered with five leading advocacy organizations namely, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, The JED Foundation, Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Council for Behavioral Health.

This initiative calls people to speak up for the support of mental health. It urges them to “be vocal” in an effort to spread awareness and erase the stigma usually associated with this topic. As a strong advocate, Lovato wants to be a voice not only for herself, but also for others. “It’s important to speak up about the things you believe in, because your voice will be heard no matter what position you’re in,” Lovato said in an interview with Elvis Duran for iHeartRadio’s Label Defiers podcast. “I just happen to be in a position where more people would hear my voice than they would have 10 to 15 years ago, so I use my voice to do more than just sing.”

The pop singer has taken big steps to making her voice heard and pushing forward with her advocacy. In an interview with Tracy Smith for CBS Sunday Morning in 2016, Lovato revealed that she bought into the CAST Centers, a clinic in L.A. where she had undergone treatment. When asked why she did it, Lovato simply said that “it just feels good.”

With her passion for her cause only growing stronger, Lovato took on another project and co-produced Beyond Silence, a documentary which premiered in early 2017 that chronicles the experiences of three individuals living with mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. In her interview with Variety, Lovato said that she “hope[s] that this film will show people that there is nothing wrong with having a mental health condition.” It has become another stepping stone for her to inspire people to share their stories and encourage others to do the same. “There’s something about when you speak out and are vocal about your story, it’s very inviting to others who are dealing with the same thing. And if you can make that impact on somebody’s life, it does something for you spiritually that makes you want to tell the story again and again and again.”

Lovato’s reach is not limited to the United States alone. With fans all over the world, she is a global figure who is a living inspiration to many. Talking about mental health on a global scale, Lovato had spoken to Syrian refugee, Muzoon Almellehan, in a video chat about how important education and mental health is especially to people who are living in conflict and suffering. Lovato says “I want to be able to help people have access to mental health care, no matter where they’re from or what they’ve been through… I think it’s very important that someday, we have a curriculum in school where it’s based on mental health.” In their conversation, Lovato also offered Almellehan her help in ensuring that adequate monetary resources are set aside for the promotion of education through humanitarian efforts.

Taking another step forward in her efforts to being heard, Lovato revealed that she would be releasing I Am: Demi Lovato, a documentary about her life and the experiences she had undergone to get where she is now. “This past year has been one of the most transformative years of my life, and I’m looking forward to bringing my fans on this journey of continued growth and self-discovery in both my music and my personal experiences,” the singer said.

Aside from being an advocate for mental health, Lovato is also a big supporter of female empowerment. In collaboration with Fabletics, an activewear brand co-founded by Kate Hudson, the star helped launch the Demi Lovato for Fabletics collection. With designs inspired by her style and strength, the collection remains in line with supporting the brand’s partnership with the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, which is a movement to raise funds and awareness for the empowerment of women everywhere, especially those in marginalized countries.

Lovato’s accomplishments in her crusade for mental health have not gone unnoticed. Because of her passion, leadership, and campaign to promote and raise awareness on this issue, Lovato was presented with the Artistic Award of Courage on March 2017 at the Open Mind Gala hosted by UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

Demi Lovato has gone through and experienced so much at her age. Today, we all need to recognize that not all disabilities are physical. For the singer, her disability was a brain disorder that was hindering her growth as an individual. Although she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she does not want this to be the only thing that defines her. Using her powerful voice, she wants the world to know that she is more than just what she struggles from. She wants people to look at her and see someone they want to emulate: strong, confident, and courageously honest. Through her experiences, she has crafted herself into an inspiring image of what anyone should strive to become, no matter what’s hidden underneath the surface.

“I think what inspires me is remembering that I deserve to be the best that I can be and also knowing people look at me as a role model,” Lovato tells Entertainment Tonight. “It gives me the fire to continue to be strong and try to show people that there’s so much more to life when you take care of yourself and when you are able to be all that you can be.”

‘This Close’ Is by and About Deaf People, but That’s Only the Beginning

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The need for more diversity in Hollywood is a popular topic of conversation these days. But at least one group tends to get left out of the discussion.

“There have been some deaf characters on television, but they are usually there so the hearing characters can learn something from them,” Josh Feldman said. “And then they send the deaf characters back into the shadows.”

He said it with his hands. Sitting in a mellow cafe on a dilapidated strip of Melrose Avenue, he and his writing partner, Shoshannah Stern, carved shapes in the air to tell animated stories, volleys of sign language zinging across the table between them and their two interpreters.

It was at this cafe that the pair first conceived a comic web series about two deaf best friends like themselves living in Los Angeles. On a warm winter morning three years later, they returned to discuss the television show that resulted from it: “This Close,” debuting Wednesday, Feb. 14, on SundanceTV’s streaming platform, Sundance Now.

Created, written by and starring Ms. Stern and Mr. Feldman, the show follows the adventures of two deaf pals in Los Angeles. But the characters’ deafness figures as just one sliver of an effervescent dramedy about friendship, romance, sex and ambition, its sweet but gritty tone inspired by series like “Looking,” “Girls” and “Transparent.”

Kate (Ms. Stern) is an exuberant entertainment publicist determined to make her way in the world without any special accommodations; neither her boss (Cheryl Hines) nor her fiancé (Zach Gilford) make much effort to use sign language, expecting Kate to keep up with their conversation. Michael (Mr. Feldman) is a melancholy gay graphic novelist tortured by writer’s block and trying to blot out the pain of a broken relationship with liquor and sex.

The six-episode show is adapted from “Fridays,” Ms. Stern’s and Mr. Feldman’s rom-comish web series that so impressed Sundance the channel decided to make “This Close” the debut offering for its new digital streaming service.

“I thought to myself, have I ever seen a show where the characters are deaf but it doesn’t define them?” said Jan Diedrichsen, Sundance Now’s general manager. “This felt like a fully realized vision of a life where deafness was just one part of it.”

Ms. Stern grew up in the Bay Area dreaming of becoming an actor, even though there were few deaf role models on screen. For her seventh birthday she asked her mother for an agent. (The answer was no.) Later, during her senior year at Gallaudet University, a liberal arts college for the deaf in Washington D.C., she flew to Los Angeles for an audition and decided to stay.

“I thought, I will just convince people that it would be interesting to see me on screen and that it won’t matter that I’m deaf,” she recalled, signing emphatically.

Ms. Stern’s first major role came as an antiterrorism expert in the short-lived 2003 ABC series “Threat Matrix,” and she has since become one of the most visible deaf actresses in Hollywood, appearing in series like “Weeds, “Lie to Me” and “Supernatural.” “I was always the sole deaf person on set,” she said.

She met Mr. Feldman, an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, through mutual friends, and tried to help him get a foothold in Hollywood as a writer’s assistant. But people were generally unwilling to meet with him.

“They would ask, ‘How would we communicate with him?’ and ‘How can he write dialogue if he doesn’t speak?,’” Ms. Stern said. She decided that one way to change ideas about deafness, on screen and off, was for the duo to collaborate on a script.

Mr. Feldman had never tried to write a deaf character, he said, because “I thought no one would want to pay for anything that had deaf people in it.” But Ms. Stern inspired him to try, and the result was “Fridays.” After shooting a pilot for $250 with themselves in the lead roles, the duo put it on Kickstarter, hoping to raise enough cash to produce four episodes for YouTube.

Pledges quickly shot past their $6,000 goal, much of the money donated by people who weren’t deaf, Ms. Stern said. Also intrigued was Super Deluxe, an entertainment company owned by Turner. Super Deluxe produced five polished web episodes and screened them at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, where Mr. Diedrichsen saw in the show’s “singular vision” an ideal original series for Sundance Now.

Ms. Stern and Mr. Feldman revamped the concept to delve into pricklier emotional territory, with the help of the director Andrew Ahn (“Spa Night”).

Much of the material in “This Close” feels universal: Love affairs blossom and shatter, family members create emotional turmoil. But some of the stories naturally hinge on deaf-specific experiences, like a harrowing scene — based on something that actually happened to Ms. Stern’s brother — in which a drunk Michael is yanked off an airplane, utterly confused and unable to communicate with airport police.

At the center of the show is Kate and Michael’s codependent friendship, which sometimes leaves hearing characters feeling left out. “We did a lot of two shots so that you could see both Josh and Shoshannah signing together,” Mr. Ahn said. “It makes it feel like they are in a bubble of their own.”

Making television from the perspective of deaf characters forced everyone involved to rethink the usual ways of doing things. “So much of narrative filmmaking convention is based in a hearing world, but if you have a super tight close-up, you won’t see the hands,” Mr. Ahn said.

Read the complete article on the New York Times.

Have a lower leg injury? Don’t just sit there and suffer, get moving!

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iwalkfree

LOS ANGELES, Calif.– Each year, there are millions of people who end up with lower leg injuries. Those who have experienced it know all too well the way it can make something like mobility a new challenge to conquer.

Yet the majority of people need to still be able to get around to go to school, work, run errands, and just continue to participate in life. Time and duties don’t come to a halt with a lower leg injury, so knowing how to get around easier can make a world of difference.

“The last thing people want when they have a lower leg injury is to be holed up in the house and stuck on the couch waiting it out,” explains Brad Hunter, the innovator of iWALK2.0 and the chief executive officer of the company, iWALKFree, Inc.  “There are things people can do to help make it easier during this challenging period. Taking steps to make it easier will help keep people more mobile and less frustrated.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are 6.5 million people in the country who need to use some type of device to assist with their mobility. Here are some tips for helping make mobility easier while having a lower leg injury:

1. Consider using the iWalk2.0. Those who use crutches often find that they make mobility more challenging. They keep both hands busy, making it difficult to carry things or even open doors. The iWALK2.0 has been designed to help people easily get around with their lower leg injury and at the same time do so hands-free.

2. Plan ahead. Taking the time to plan out errands and tasks will give people an opportunity to determine which will be the easiest routes and schedules to take. Planning ahead will help people stay organized, determine the routes that are the best for increasing mobility, and will reduce the stress of backtracking.

3. Ask for help. Many people shy away from asking others for help. They don’t want to burden them or feel like they are being a pest. The truth is that most people won’t mind one bit helping out. Don’t shy away from asking for help when it is needed.

4. Look for obstacles. When you arrive at your destination, take a moment to scan the area for what could be potential obstacles. If you know stairs will be difficult, for example, or if you see the sidewalk is blocked off for repair, determine the best way to navigate around it before approaching the area.

5. Getting around. If your lower leg injury is preventing you from being able to drive, determine your other options. Ask friends and family members for rides, and if that is not an option check with your local bus company to see what they can provide. Many public transportation systems offer a home pickup and drop-off option for those in need.

“The important thing to remember is that this is a temporary challenge and you can take measures that will help to make mobility easier during it,” adds Hunter. “We routinely hear from people who love how the iWALK2.0 has made their mobility easier. Our system has helped countless people to navigate the challenge of a lower leg injury with more ease and confidence.”

The IWALK2.0 was developed as a way to help make healing from a lower leg injury more comfortable and to increase the ease of mobility. The original prototype was created by a farmer in Canada.  The concept continued to develop, and the iWALK2.0 was launched in late 2013. Sales really took off when Harrison Ford was photographed wearing it.

The iWALK2.0 is hands-free, easy to learn to use, it’s intuitive, and safe. From the knee up, the leg is doing the same walking motion that comes naturally to it. The device is essentially a temporary lower leg, which gives people their independence and mobility back as they recover from an injury. The device is pain-free, and makes it possible for people to engage in many of their normal routine activities, such as walking the dog, grocery shopping, and walking up or down stairs.

Clinical research, the results of which are on the company website, shows that patients using the iWALK2.0 heal faster, and have a higher sense of satisfaction and a higher rate of compliance. The iWALK2.0 sells for $149 and is available online and through select retailers. Some insurance companies may cover the cost of the device. The device can be used with a cast or boot, and comes with a limited warranty. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at: http://iwalk-free.com. To see a video of the iWALK2.0 in action, visit: iWalkFree

About iWALKFree
The iWALK2.0 is a hands-free knee crutch, made by iWALKFree, Inc.  It’s a mobility device used instead of traditional crutches and knee scooters. It offers more comfort and independence, with the hands and arms remaining free. The device offers people a functional and independent lifestyle as they are recovering from many common lower leg injuries. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at: http://iwalk-free.com

# # #

Source:

National Institute of Health: How many people use assistive devices? https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/rehabtech/conditioninfo/people

Move Over Crutches and Knee Scooters, Now There’s Something Hands-Free and Much Better

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iwalkfree

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are around 6.5 million people in the country who use a cane, walker, or crutches to assist with their mobility. Many of these people are prescribed crutches or knee scooters for lower leg injuries. Yet those devices come with their own set of problems, making them difficult to use.

Crutches often lead to muscle atrophy, make it difficult to use the stairs, and if they fall to the floor it can become a gymnastics maneuver to try and pick them up. Millions of people are prescribed crutches or knee scooters for lower leg injuries. Now, those with lower leg injuries have a better option to consider, the iWALK2.0, which gives them hands-free ability to continue walking and having full use of their arms and hands.

“When people have the ability to try out the hands-free iWALK2.0, they can feel what a major difference and step up it is from using crutches or a knee scooter,” explains Brad Hunter, the innovator of iWALK2.0 and the chief executive officer of the company, iWalk Free. “It’s a revolutionary device that helps give people back their independence and mobility while they are healing from an injury. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Crutches are known for being uncomfortable, often making it difficult for people to remain independent. They take full use of someone’s arms and hands. Leg scooters are also difficult to use because they lack the ability for the person to feel they are getting around in a somewhat normal fashion. These problems are what motivated the iWALK2.0 innovator to find a better, more comfortable way to help heal a broken ankle. The original prototype was created by a farmer named Lance, and when Brad found it he purchased half of the company and innovated the device. Sales really took off when Harrison Ford was photographed wearing it. The rest, as they say, is history.

The muscles around your upper leg and hip atrophy by as much as 2% a day while on crutches. That’s not so with iWALK2.0. Also, one’s blood flow to the lower extremities is typically reduced when using crutches, thus hampering the healing process and the transition between using crutches and walking without them can be difficult, but the iWALK2.0 makes the transition seamless. The iWALK2.0 is an alternative to 2,000-year-old crutches, and won the I-Novo Award for “best design” of any medical product, as voted on by 120,000 medical experts from around the world at an international conference held in Germany.

The iWALK2.0 is hands-free, easy to learn to use, it’s intuitive, and safe. From the knee up, the leg is doing the same walking motion that comes naturally to it. The device is essentially a temporary lower leg, which gives people their independence and mobility back as they recover from an injury. The device is pain-free, and makes it possible for people to engage in many of their normal routine activities, such as walking the dog, grocery shopping, and walking up stairs.

Since 1999, the company has brought thousands of people a more comfortable way to heal from many common lower leg injuries. Made of lightweight aluminum and engineered plastic, the device fits onto the leg, and allows people to do what they have always done. The crutches and knee scooter alternative, it has been the subject of numerous scientific studies and has won multiple awards from Medtrade, the largest medical device show in North America.<

“If you hurt your leg, you have a choice between arm crutches or our leg crutch, the iWALK2.0,” adds Hunter. “With all the benefits of the iWALK2.0 there is no reason to ever want to choose crutches or a leg scooter. The iWalk will keep you moving comfortably throughout the duration of your recovery.”

Clinical research, the results of which are on the company website, shows that patients using the iWALK2.0 heal faster, have a higher sense of satisfaction, and a higher rate of compliance. The iWALK2.0 sells for $149 and is available online and through select retailers. Some insurance companies may cover the cost of the device. The device can be used with a cast or boot, and comes with a limited warranty. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at: http://iwalk-free.com. To see a video of the iWALK2.0 in action, visit:  iWalkFree.

About iWalk Free

The iWALK2.0 is a hands-free knee crutch, made by iWalk Free, that is a mobility device used instead of traditional crutches and knee scooters. It offers more comfort and independence, with the hands and arms remaining free. The device offers people a functional and independent lifestyle as they are recovering from many common lower leg injuries. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at: http://iwalk-free.com.

# # #

Source:

National Institutes of Health. How many people use assistive devices? https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/rehabtech/conditioninfo/Pages/people.aspx

For People Living with Disabilities, New Products Prove Both Practical and Stylish

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When buying a pair of shoes, a pen, or a new car—the expectation is for the product to do the job. But you also want it to look good: stylish, current, cool. Why wouldn’t the same be true of products—wheelchairs, hearing aids, and more—designed to aid those with disabilities?

This is one of the major questions explored in the new exhibition “Access+Ability,” on view at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum through September 3 of this year. The show, which features more than 70 works, from an aerodynamic racing wheelchair to a vibration-activated shirt that allows the deaf to experience sounds, covers the wide range of innovations occurring in accessible design. It reflects how designers creating products for those with disabilities are making them not just increasingly functional and practical, but stylish.

“Why not be able to change the color of your prosthetic leg to match your style, your taste, your outfit?” asks Cara McCarty, director of curatorial at Cooper Hewitt, who co-curated the exhibition with Rochelle Steiner, curator and professor of Critical Studies at the University of Southern California. “You can dress it up, dress it down.”

McCarty is referring to a set of prosthetic leg covers designed and manufactured by McCauley Wanner and Ryan Palibroda for ALLELES Design Studio, which come in a number of patterns and colors, allowing the user the kind of choice they would get if shopping for any other item of apparel.

“Just like people add tattoos to their limbs, life-enhancing products can be yours, you can add your identity to it,” says McCarty.

A similar development can be seen in the jeweled hearing aids designed by artist Elana Langer. On first glance, they appear as eye-catching earrings before a closer looks reveals the wearer actually inserts a portion of it into the ear.

Many of the works look like something you’d be as likely to come across at Macy’s as at a medical supplier. The show includes a pair of Nike-designed shoes, inspired by a boy with cerebral palsy who wrote to the sneaker manufacturer when he was 13 saying he wanted to be able to put on his shoes by himself. The result features a wraparound zipper system at the back of the heel that has no need for laces, making it far easier for someone with a movement disorder to use. But they also look really cool.

“Anybody could wear those shoes,” says McCarty. The bottom line, she adds, is “giving people choice.”

Continue onto the Smithsonian to read the complete article.

Mattel introduces new colorblind accessible version of ‘Uno’

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In the game of Uno, knowing the color of a card is just as important as knowing its number, which means some colorblind players can be at a serious disadvantage. But now Mattel is fixing that — the company just announced a new accessible version of Uno, made with ColorADD cards.

For the new version of the classic card game, Mattel partnered with ColorADD, a global organization for colorblind accessibility and education, to add internationally recognized symbols to Uno cards, aimed to help people with colorblindness identify the colors of the cards.

Here’s a key that explains how the symbols work with the Uno cards and other colors:

In Uno, players take turns laying down cards from their hands, and the card they play must match either the color or the number of the last card played. Colorblindness affects around 350 million people around the world, so adding ColorADD symbols to Uno cards opens the game up to many people who may have had difficulty playing previously.

Accessibility features like the ColorADD symbols is extremely important for companies like Mattel to be aware of, because otherwise large numbers of people could be inadvertently left out of playing classic games like Uno, which first came out 46 years ago.

Continue onto Mashable to read the complete article.

No hand, no problem: Cougars top laner MistyStumpey thrives despite disability

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A dramatic, machine-generated fog and a computer screen separated Ian Alexander from the crowd at the DreamHack Denver 2017 American Video Game League Collegiate League of Legends Championship in October.

A camera to Alexander’s left livestreamed the team’s pre-game deliberations while shoutcasters commentated. Draped over the back of Alexander’s chair is a gray-blue bomber jacket, a yellow “CHALLENGER” embroidered in the League of Legends font on its left breast.

What the cameras on his left side didn’t pick up, though, was the most interesting part of Alexander’s journey to that chair.

At 18, Alexander is one of North America’s best League of Legends players. At his peak, “MistyStumpey” (as he’s known in League) was No. 12 on the game’s solo queue ladder. And the top laner did it with just his right hand and a lone digit on his left.

When MistyStumpey rolled his chair back to talk strategy with Columbia’s coach, he grabbed his “stump,” as he calls it, just as it comes into frame of the livestream camera. He often fiddles with the one finger on the end of his left arm, which ends in a partial hand where the elbow would normally be. He can move the finger, but not fully. It’s mostly cartilage, so it doesn’t bend at the joints. He can use it to press keys, but he has to move his wrist to get from one button to another.

Imagine what it’d take to be one of the best players in the U.S. despite that disability, rubbing shoulders with Cloud9 and FlyQuest starters and, yes, Team SoloMid’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg on the solo queue ladder this season.

In his promo photo for DreamHack, MistyStumpey flexes with his right arm, looking over his shoulder at the camera. But for some reason, the photo was mirrored so that it appears as if he’s flexing a full left arm, as if he doesn’t have a disability at all.

And on his best days, he plays like it.

“He’s a professional-level player missing four fingers on his keyboard hand,” said Drake Porter, Columbia College’s Esports Senior Strategic Analyst. “If anything, he should not be nearly as successful as he is.”

Continue onto ESPN to read the complete article.

DAV’s 2017 Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year

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Dr. Kenneth Lee

Dr. Kenneth K. Lee president of the Wisconsin Adaptive Sports Association

Disabled American Veterans (DAV) named Dr. Kenneth K. Lee, a combat-injured Operation Iraqi Freedom and Army veteran, its 2017 Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year.

Lee, who deployed as the commander of the Army’s Company B, 118th Area Support Medical Battalion, was injured in November 2004 by a suicide car bomber in Iraq. The explosion resulted in an open head traumatic brain injury and severe shrapnel wounds to his legs, which led to his evacuation back to the states, where he would later be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While recovering from his injuries, Lee, a rehabilitation specialist, saw how long and difficult recovery could be, often leaving lasting changes. Lee, who resides in Brookfield, Wisconsin, is a volunteer physician at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, which the Department of Veterans Affairs and DAV co-host, so he was no stranger to using adaptive sports as therapy. Through his own recovery, Lee propelled himself into the world of adaptive sports to help him deal with the psychological and physiological effects that can often cause an individual to hit bottom.

Within a year of Lee’s retirement in 2013, he formed the Milwaukee Wheelchair Lacrosse team and is now the president of the Wisconsin Adaptive Sports Association (WASA) which runs numerous adaptive sports programs.

DAV National Commander David W. Riley presented Lee the award at the organization’s 96th National Convention in New Orleans.

“Dr. Kenneth Lee is a shining example of everything that is good about our nation and its veterans,” said Riley. “The compassion he shows for other veterans and his work to help them find success is truly the hallmark of this award, and we’re very proud of what he’s doing for this community. At DAV, we truly value the importance and therapeutic effectiveness of adaptive sports and it is vital to have experienced leaders like Dr. Lee involved and carving out a path ahead.”

Despite his injuries and the constant pain in his lower extremities, Lee speaks with gratitude about his time in the Army.

“I got a lot more from the Guard than I put into it,” said Lee. “I joined the military with my eyes wide open. I volunteered to join. I have no regrets.”

Lee and his wife Kate currently live in Brookfield, Wisconsin, with their two children. As a youth volunteer, in 2014 his daughter Leah earned a $10,000 scholarship by volunteering for the DAV at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. On the same day he will be honored as the charity’s veteran of the year, his son Jonathan has earned the charity’s largest scholarship of $20,000 and will be honored the same morning. They both hope ultimately to serve veterans as physicians through the VA.

About DAV
DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; providing employment resources to veterans and their families and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning

About DAV
DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; providing employment resources to veterans and their families and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. DAV, a non-profit organization with nearly 1.3 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932.

Learn more at dav.org.

Fiesta Educativa Serves Latinos with Developmental Disabilities

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Dancers

By Ling Woo Liu

In the mid-1970s, long-time Spanish teacher Irene Martinez received a dinner invitation from a friend that would change her life.

Her friend’s husband, Joe Sanchez, was the executive director of one of California’s Regional Centers, which were established in 1966 to serve people with developmental disabilities and their families. That night over dinner, a conversation with Sanchez piqued Martinez’s interest. “It was a combination of what he said and how he said it—he had a deep commitment to what he was doing,” says Martinez. Soon afterward, she applied and was hired to serve as a counselor at the Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center. “From the first day, it just fit,” she says. “I loved what I was doing.”

At the time, center staff had noticed that non-English-speaking families weren’t receiving Regional Center services to the same extent as English-speaking families. As one of the early Spanish speakers on staff, Martinez organized a workshop to inform Latino families about Regional Center services. “There were people from wall to wall,” says Martinez, describing her first outreach event. “Parents talked to each other and word got out to the other Regional Centers. Things started to snowball.”

By 1978, that snowball had grown into an independent organization called Fiesta Educativa (“Educational Party”), founded by the Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center. It was one of the first organizations in the country to serve Latino families with children who have developmental disabilities. The concept of a “party” stemmed from the fact that Latino families respond better to information imparted in casual, familiar settings, like the homes of fellow families, rather than in agency offices. Martinez served as one of Fiesta’s original board members, and since 1998 she has led the organization as its executive director.

Nearly 40 years after its founding, Fiesta’s headquarters remains in Lincoln Heights, a predominantly Latino and Asian neighborhood in eastern Los Angeles, in an office above a strip mall. Signs throughout the building are printed in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Today, Fiesta Educativa is California’s largest nonprofit organization serving Latino families with children who have special needs. Fiesta has eight parent coordinators on staff and more than 30 volunteers based in offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Jose. The organization works with Latino clients at 10 of the state’s 21 Regional Centers. Funding comes from Regional Centers as well as from event sponsorships.

Fiesta’s programs include family conferences throughout the state that attract thousands of attendees, an autism education program for parents, and a partnership with a counterpart Chinese American organization that trains parents on special education advocacy. In addition, staff members organize regular “Fiestas Familiares” (“Family Parties”) in the homes of families to discuss topics such as special education eligibility and access to Regional Center services. These outreach events, conducted in Spanish and featuring food and music, reach entire families in safe, comfortable settings. “Immigrants have a tremendous amount of knowledge, but our structures don’t always fit them,” says Martinez. “It’s like having a CD but all you have is a cassette player. Fiestas Familiares come from the families themselves—they are organic.”

To reach Latino families who might benefit from their services, Fiesta utilizes a range of culturally appropriate outreach strategies, including a radio talk show, workshops at schools, libraries, and community centers, a monthly email newsletter, and, because many families do not use email, WhatsApp texts and phone “blasts” that play a recording about their upcoming events.

After 19 years at the helm, Martinez, 74, soon will be looking for a successor to lead Fiesta into its fourth decade. Her dream for the organization echoes the dreams that many Fiesta parents have for their children. “Fiesta is my baby,” she says. “And I don’t want it to rely on me. I want it to be independent.”

Source: lpfch.org

Camp Sunshine to hold 23 sessions in 2018 for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families

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Sessions are dedicated to specific life-threating illnesses and provide a reprieve for children and their families on the shores of Sebago Lake in Casco, Maine.

Camp Sunshine recently announced their 2018 program schedule, which features 23 cost-free sessions for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Each session is tailored to a specific life-threatening illness including, oncology, sickle cell anemia, retinoblastoma, lupus and others.

“Each year we look to enhance our sessions and events schedule to give our families the most rejuvenating experience possible,” said Michael Katz, Executive Director at Camp Sunshine. “Next year’s sessions are going to be a lot of fun with the addition of the opening of our new Tropical Smoothie Café Sports Center.”

While at Camp, families will experience the benefits of empathy and encouragement, recovery and recreation, and hope and inspiration. Throughout each session, families will be able to participate in numerous activities such as rock climbing, miniature golf, swimming in Sebago Lake, and movie night.

Camp Sunshine also annually hosts programs for rare bone marrow failure syndromes, as well as a Spanish speaking session to serve those families for whom Spanish is their first language, and two bereavement sessions for families who have experienced the death of a child from a supported illness.

Camp Sunshine is an award-winning retreat on the shores of Sebago Lake in Casco, Maine for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. For more information about attending Camp Sunshine as a family or volunteer, please email info@campsunshine.org.

About Camp Sunshine
Founded in 1984, Camp Sunshine provides retreats combining respite, recreation and support, while enabling hope and promoting joy, for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families through the various stages of a child’s illness.

Camp Sunshine is the only program in the nation offered year-round with the distinction of having been designed to serve the entire family in a retreat model. The program is free of charge to families and includes on-site medical and psychosocial support. Bereavement sessions are also offered for families who have experienced the death of a child from a supported illness. campsunshine.org.

Women’s Health Initiative

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Women with disabilities face many challenges. Finding adequate basic healthcare shouldn’t be one of them. So CPF created the Women’s Health Initiative. This project is generously supported by 100 women in hedge funds.

The statistics around healthcare for women with disabilities are shocking. For example, the mortality rate of breast cancer is three times higher than for others. The reasons for this are numerous. 80% of US doctors graduate medical school without ever having treated a woman with significant disabilities. Many doctor’s offices lack sufficient knowledge about what is needed to provide adequate care. Physical access is often insufficient. Far too often real medical issues are simply dismissed as a byproduct of cerebral palsy.

This cycle winds up with many issues, ranging from depression and isolation to troubling statistics: such as the greatly increased incidences of cancer.

It is time to transform healthcare for women with disabilities.

CPF and a collaborative network of nationally renowned medical institutions have joined together not only to identify the barriers to better healthcare, but also begin to develop and implement new approaches. This effort began with the generous support of 100 Women in Hedge Funds, one of the nation’s leading philanthropic organizations. Their fundraising efforts have raised nearly $2M for our foundation.

Each of our four partnering institutions is addressing a different aspect of healthcare for women, as we work with them and real women with disabilities to weave their findings together and put forth a comprehensive plan.

  • The Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center at Columbia University Medical Center will investigate gynecological needs and service barriers for women with CP.
  • The Complex Care Service at Harvard’s Boston Children’s Hospital will focus on sexual and reproductive health among adolescents with CP.
  • The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University will promote patient-centered care in mammography.
  • The Center for Cerebral Palsy at the UCLA Medical Center will seek to improve reproductive life planning and obstetrical care for women with CP who wish to become pregnant and start a family.

Critically, women with disabilities will be actively participating in each research project. In the first year, women with CP will be interviewed on their experiences. These survey results will lead to the development of pilot projects aimed at addressing barriers to quality healthcare for women with disabilities.

Continue onto the Cerebral Palsy Foundation to read the complete article.