Star Wars Actor Raising Awareness About Seizures

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The Epilepsy Foundation and actor Greg Grunberg launch a new website

The Epilepsy Foundation recently launched its TalkAboutIt.org website in partnership with epilepsy advocate and actor Greg Grunberg, who is featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Trek Beyond. The site, with sponsorship support from Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, raises awareness about seizure symptoms, offers first aid information, and addresses misconceptions about the condition. Three million people in the United States currently live with seizures, and one in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy in their lifetime.

The site is a unique, subway-themed resource that pairs celebrities and some of the leading experts in epilepsy to take viewers on a journey and provide information about key topics, such as what is epilepsy, who has it, how to treat epilepsy, how to provide seizure first aid, and how to help end public misunderstanding about epilepsy.

“Epilepsy is one of the oldest known medical conditions, but many people still don’t know much about seizures,” said Grunberg. “My son had seizures during high school. I personally went to the teachers and spoke about what to do if he had a seizure. It’s very common for people to think that epilepsy is contagious or that it is a mental illness, when in fact it’s not! Once people know about epilepsy and are comfortable talking about it, the world can start to change for people with seizures. Acceptance and understanding replaces ignorance and fear. Everyone needs to talk about it.”

When his son was first diagnosed with epilepsy, the Epilepsy Foundation helped Grunberg and his wife connect with services and support. One of the goals of TalkAboutIt.org is to help individuals and families find similar connections through the resources of the Foundation.

Another key goal of the site is to help raise public awareness. Many well-known celebrities appear on the site to help educate visitors about epilepsy and seizures.

“The Epilepsy Foundation is proud to deepen our partnership with our longtime friend and advocate, Greg Grunberg,” said Phil Gattone, president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation. “Greg and his celebrity friends will help us take our efforts to the next level to lead the fight in helping people overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy. TalkAboutIt.org helps us highlight the need to accelerate access to better therapies to save lives, while also raising awareness of seizures and proper first aid. We have greater strength when we all talk about it and take action together.”

TalkAboutIt.org is a program of the Epilepsy Foundation and is supported by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, a global biopharmaceutical company focused on the innovative application of science and medicine to help people with serious medical conditions.

What is Epilepsy?
When a person has two unprovoked seizures or one unprovoked seizure with the likelihood of more, they are considered to have epilepsy. Epilepsy affects 3 million people in the U.S. and 65 million worldwide. This year, another 150,000 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy. Despite all available treatments, 4 out of 10 people with epilepsy continue to experience uncontrolled seizures while many more experience less than optimal seizure control.

About the Epilepsy Foundation
The Epilepsy Foundation, a national non-profit with nearly 50 local organizations throughout the U.S., has led the fight against seizures since 1968. The Foundation is an unwavering ally for individuals and families impacted by epilepsy and seizures. The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is: to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives. The Foundation works to ensure that people with seizures have the opportunity to live their lives to their fullest potential. For additional information, please visit epilepsy.com.

Source: epilepsy.com

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

Good Jobs for People with Learning Disabilities

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Film editor

By Luke Redd

This category of disability sometimes gets overlooked, maybe because the different types of learning disabilities are so diverse. After all, one person might have imperfect reading, writing, or spelling abilities, whereas another person may have difficulty with using numbers, speaking, thinking, or listening. Even problems with memory, time management, and organization are sometimes considered learning disabilities.

Well-known conditions such as dyslexia and ADHD are only two of the many possible learning disabilities that can make it challenging to build a successful career. But you don’t have to be held back by your challenges. Some of humanity’s greatest contributors—such as Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein—may have had learning disabilities.

Although you might have challenges in one area, you may have real strengths and talents in another. For example, many people with at least one learning disability have valuable traits such as resilience, empathy, or creativity. Others seem to have a natural ability to speak in public or see the bigger picture. That’s why a lot of the careers that have already been mentioned (such as design and teaching) are often good jobs for people with learning disabilities. Here are a few other possibilities to consider:

Filmmaker

A lot of people with dyslexia or other learning disabilities have a heightened ability to distinguish different faces and objects from one another while also visualizing how various elements can come together into a single image. Frequently, they are also good at quickly processing a whole series of images. As a result, filmmaking is often a worthwhile path to explore.

Average yearly wages:

  • Film and video editors—$80,300
  • Directors of motion pictures—$105,550

Entrepreneur

Big-picture thinking is a trait that many professionals with learning disabilities use to their advantage. In fact, some of the world’s most successful business people have said that they achieved prosperity because of dyslexia or other learning difficulties. They’ve been able to find connections between ideas that other people can’t see. And they’ve had the courage to persist in the face of all kinds of challenges.

Average yearly wages: varies widely, from less than $50,000 to more than $200,000

Counselor

Since growing up with a learning disability can be very challenging, those who do often develop a lot of empathy for anyone else who is struggling. That’s why some people who have learning disabilities find that the field of counseling provides a good place for their talents. They can help comfort and advise other people with genuine understanding.

Average yearly wages:

  • Rehabilitation counselors—$38,040
  • Addictions counselors—$42,920
  • Mental health counselors—$45,080
  • School counselors—$56,490

Broadcast News Anchor or Correspondent

Special talents like public speaking come naturally to some people with learning disabilities. So it might be worth investigating careers that involve being in front of a camera or audience. Broadcast news is a fascinating option since you may be able to do a lot of public good by reporting on what’s happening in your community or around the nation.

Average yearly wages: $51,430

Nursing Assistant

This occupation is another option that can allow you to take advantage of your empathetic nature. Plus, providing basic care to medical patients or residents of nursing facilities can be a great way to experience a sense of pride and meaning. And you don’t have to learn much since the job typically involves relatively simple tasks like feeding, dressing, bathing, moving, and grooming patients.

Average yearly wages: $26,820

Source: Trade-Schools.net

Women With Disabilities Face High Barriers To Entrepreneurship. How To Change That

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The University of Illinois — Chicago is home to a unique education program for entrepreneurs with disabilities run by associate professor Dr. Katherine Caldwell. It’s called Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities.

“We wanted to really bring disability studies and entrepreneurship to the same table to look at, ‘Okay, well where are we now?’” Caldwell said. “What does it look like, what are the main barriers that they’re running into, and what sort of facilitators would help them out?”

Caldwell found that Chicago-area entrepreneurs with disabilities had trouble finding resources to grow their businesses, had high barriers to entry and faced structural challenges from the disability benefits system.

Caldwell also notes that most of the entrepreneurs she works with are women of color. Women and minorities with disabilities face extra challenges. “There’s that whole discussion of the pay gap that we’ve been having in women’s rights circles,” Caldwell said. “But it hasn’t included women with disabilities.”

Accessible opportunities

Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities aims to help participants understand the benefit system and other typical barriers to entrepreneurship so that they can find a way to be most successful in building a business.

Like in any demographic group, there’s plenty of desire to build businesses in the disability community. Perhaps, it’s even stronger, Caldwell said, because traditional employment opportunities for people with disabilities are often less than ideal.

“They want to take control,” she said. “ They want to start a business so they can, not just create a job for themselves, but also create jobs for other people with disabilities.”

Many people with disabilities are employed through something called sheltered workshops. Which, Caldwell said, “Is basically work in a segregated work setting where they’re paid less than minimum wage.”

Sheltered employment was originally intended to give people with disabilities a chance to get work experience and skills that they could use to get other jobs. But, “Only five percent of workers actually go on to competitive employment from sheltered workshops,” Caldwell said. “So it’s not effective at achieving what it was supposed to back in the ’30s and yet for some reason we’re still doing it.”

In fact, she argues many companies are exploiting workers with disabilities through sheltered employment because it’s a way for companies to employ people who they can pay significantly less than minimum wage.

In addition to entrepreneurship as an escape from sheltered work, people with disabilities can use entrepreneurship to tackle challenges they face every day navigating a mostly inaccessible world.

“They can tap into that innovative potential of having experienced the problems that their business serves first hand,” Caldwell said.

Representation matters

Caldwell believes there needs to be an increase in representation of entrepreneurs with disabilities on a wider scale.

“One thing that they really need, and one thing that they currently lack are mentors, are examples of success,” she said. “Which is why having more visibility of entrepreneurs with disabilities especially women entrepreneurs with disabilities in the media would be super helpful.”

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article

How I Got Into…With Richard Browne

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Richard Browne

In an edition of ‘How I got into…’ we find out how U.S. world champion and world record holder Richard Browne started out in Para athletics.

Growing up, sport for Richard Browne meant only one thing—American football.

College football beckoned—the springboard to the professional league—but all that changed during Browne’s junior high school year in 2007 when he suffered a traumatic accident, slipping in the rain and crashing through a glass window in Jackson, Mississippi.Several surgeries later, his right leg was amputated below the knee.

“I always tell people that I wish I would’ve got my leg cut off immediately because I would’ve gone to the 2008 Games, but I had 13 surgeries and went three years before getting my leg cut off,” explained Browne.

Not that track and field was immediately on his mind—after his football career ended, Browne kept playing basketball, using his walking leg. “It was a fluke—it was absolute luck. My prosthetist saw me playing basketball on my walking leg and a company donated me a running leg just off the back of that,” said Browne.

“The first thing I did was get on YouTube and watch the 2008 (Paralympic Games) 100m.” The race was won by South African Oscar Pistorius, with US sprinter Jerome Singleton clinching silver; two-time US Paralympic champion Marlon Shirley fell. “I remember Marlon going down. He was my everything—he was fast, he was the world record holder, he had gold medals, he was unapologetic for being a disabled athlete and I loved that.” In fact, Shirley was a great inspiration to the young American—when the pair met, he encouraged Browne even more.

“He told me ‘You know what, you’re going to be good at this’ and ever since then I was like, this is for me,” said Browne. But despite being a keen sportsman all his life, athletics did not come easily.

“I’d never tried track until after I lost my leg, so it was really weird transitioning from being an American footballer to being an amputee T44 sprinter. It was very different, and it was hard for me. “I remember quitting first, I had a conversation with my girlfriend at the time—I remember crying because I quit, but it was so hard just to get out there and run, especially being on that blade—it was different. “My hamstrings were weak and my hips were weak because I hadn’t used any of these muscles that you need to run in three and a half years.”

But Browne persevered—a mindset he puts down to his upbringing.

“It was that mentality that my mum taught us growing up—if you’re going to do something, be the best at it,” explained the 25-year-old, who won World Championship gold in October 2015 in a world record time of 10.61 seconds.

As for persevering, it’s because Browne just wants to be the best. He recalls his first race against British sprinter Jonnie Peacock, who went on to win Paralympic gold in 2012. It was in 2011 at Crystal Palace in London: “I raced Jonnie and I remember that race vividly because I freaked out—Jonnie was telling me his personal best and mine was nowhere close to what those guys were running. My PB at the time was like 11.8 and those guys were running 11.4 or 11.5. I hadn’t made the national team, I was pretty much a nobody and I remember when I told Jonnie my time he laughed! “I went out there and lost to him by 0.05 seconds. I ran 11.56 and the next year, boom, it all began. Losing races, those things didn’t sit with me well.”

Browne clinched silver behind Peacock at London 2012, a result that was repeated at the 2013 World Championships in Lyon, France 10 months later. “People don’t understand how that 2013 race affected me mentally—I did not want to lose another race,” said Browne, who had broken the world record in his World Championship semi-final.

“Never again would I feel like that. I felt like I had lost my leg all over again, it was the worse feeling in the world and I was like ‘Never again will I feel like this. I want to be the best.’”

Source: International Paralympic Committee
Photo Credit: Cory Ryan

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

The Fight for Accessible Taxis in New York City

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New York City is a beacon of freedom – unless you have a physical disability. If you need special accommodations, traveling in NYC is not only stressful, it’s nearly impossible.

Only 20 percent of NY subways are accessible, those that are deemed “key stations” which have the necessary elevators to take riders with a physical disability to the city streets above. Access-A-Ride, the paratransit service created to fill in the gaps where subway and public bus has failed, requires 24-hour advance notice and has been known to show up several hours late or not show up at all. Public busses, though equipped with a ramp, only run during certain hours and on certain routes. The disability community longed to be able to use the taxi service for the reasons so many other New Yorkers also use it: it’s convenient, it allows for spontaneous trips, and it can take you anywhere you need in the city.

In 2014, the Taxis for All organization sued the city of New York to mandate 100 percent of taxis in New York be made accessible. It wasn’t a revolutionary idea: in fact, every taxi in London has been wheelchair accessible since 1989. The result of the lawsuit was a settlement to make 50 percent of taxis accessible by 2020.

The film Access Denied, sponsored by BraunAbility, takes a look at what accessible transportation looks like in New York through the eyes of lawyers, advocates, filmmakers, and taxi drivers – and how far it has yet to go.

A special thanks to Reid Davenport, our co-producer on this project. Also, thanks to United Spinal for your support and wealth of knowledge in the taxi industry. And thank you to everyone who offered up your time and energy to be interviewed for this film. Your personal perspectives were integral to the film’s completion and we only wish we had more time to include even more people.

Court cases continue over the issue of accessible taxi transportation and showing your support could make the difference between institutional change and continuing to let inequalities and injustice remain commonplace and accepted in New York City. Share on social media with the hashtags #AccessDenied and #BraunAbility to amplify the discussion and show your support for civil rights and equal access to transportation to join the conversation.

Continue onto Braunability 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

United Nations declared 23 September as International Day of Sign Languages

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The United Nations General Assembly has declared 23 September as International Day of Sign Languages. The resolution (A/C.3/72/L.36/Rev.1 – International Sign version here) was initially adopted by consensus during the 48th meeting of the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, 16 November 2017 and officially adopted today at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.

The resolution was proposed, or sponsored, through the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations, following an original request by the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD). The WFD worked with its country members to garner support from their respective Permanent Missions to the United Nations, who have the power at the United Nations General Assembly to vote for adoption of the resolution as co-sponsors. The resolution was co-sponsored by 97 United Nations Member States and adopted by consensus.

Ambassador Walton Webson of the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations: ´This resolution is an important milestone in our international promise “to leave no one behind”. The acclimation of 23 September as the international day of sign languages is a significant step in the universalization of all communities to recognize the objectives set out in article 21 of the UNCRPD to meet our universal goal of inclusion. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda is pleased to be part of this international day that will focus the world’s attention on the principles of the UNCRPD in calling for equality, especially in terms of accessibility, that allows an individual freedom of choice, dignity and independence of self without discrimination.´

The choice of 23 September commemorates the date that the WFD was established in 1951. This day marks the birth of an advocacy organisation, which has as one of its main goals, the preservation of sign languages and deaf culture as pre-requisites to the realisation of the human rights of deaf people.

The first International Day of Sign Languages will be celebrated on 23 September 2018 as part of the International Week of the Deaf.

World Federation of the Deaf President Colin Allen: ‘This resolution recognises the importance of sign language and services in sign language being available to deaf people as early in life as possible. It also emphasises the principle of “nothing about us without us” in terms of working with Deaf Communities. With effect from year 2018, the WFD is overjoyed at the prospect of observing and celebrating this day annually.’

The International Week of the Deaf was first celebrated in September 1958 and has since evolved into a global movement of deaf unity and concerted advocacy to raise awareness of the issues deaf people face in their everyday lives. The WFD strongly believes that the present United Nations resolution is a valuable extension of this tradition and has the potential to increase the understanding of United Nations member states, the private sector and the United Nations’ system in closing existing gaps in the achievement of human rights for deaf people.

Continue onto the UN to read more about this significant day.

Airbnb buys ‘Airbnb for disabled people’ startup Accomable in accessibility upgrade

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Airbnb, the accommodation and travel startup that is now valued at $31 billion, is today announcing an acquisition that points to how it wants to address the travel needs of more kinds of customers. It has bought Accomable, a startup based out of London that focuses on travel listings that are disabled-friendly. Along with the announcement Airbnb is refreshing its own accessibility features as the first stage in how it hopes to develop them.

As part of the acquisition, Accomable will be winding down its business, co-founder and CEO Srin Madipalli said in an interview this week here in London, as the startup’s team begins work on building out both more specific features for the Airbnb platform, and a community of hosts who can accommodate disabled visitors — and in turn, to attract more of those looking to book disabled-friendly travel.

This will start with accommodation for those in wheelchairs first, he said, with an invitation being extended to Accomable’s existing hosts to list on Airbnb as part of the transition. Accomable had amassed listings for 1,100 properties in 60 countries with details about step-free access, other accessibility adaptations and with photos to show it all to would-be visitors.

Over time, the idea will be to create communities for travellers with other accessibility needs, and potentially move into areas that are aligned with Airbnb’s own expansion into Experiences once you get to your destination, which is another important area of travel where those needing special accessibility have been underserved.

“It’s something that has frustrated me from the start, that we weren’t able to do everything for everyone,” Madipalli said. “One of the challenges in an early startup is that you have constrained resources, but within Airbnb we can diversify.”

And hopefully grow: he also added that one of Accomable’s biggest issues up to now has been that demand for places has far exceeded the supply of available listings.

Airbnb — which has booked accommodation for 260 million guests and currently features over four million listings — is coupling the news with some accessibility announcements of its own. While the company has offered the ability to search for whether a property is wheelchair accessible, the company now acknowledges that this wasn’t cutting it.

“Guests weren’t getting the information they needed to find the right homes, nor the confidence that the home they selected would actually be accessible for them,” Airbnb notes in a blog post. Now, the company is updating and enhancing this with more detail, including whether there is step-free entry to rooms, and if entryways are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. These search features are now live on the web version of Airbnb and will soon get added to its iOS and Android apps.

Financial terms of the Accomable acquisition are not being disclosed, after the startup raised less than $500,000, mostly from angel investors. For now, Madipalli will be the only one who is relocating to San Francisco, with the rest of the small team continuing to work out of London.

Accomable was founded in 2015 by Madipalli and Martyn Sibley, who together previously had co-founded a magazine and online community called Disability Horizons. The two friends are avid travellers but found that it was a lot of work to organise trips: both have Spinal Musular Atrophy and use wheelchairs.

In the very crowded market of online resources out there for tourists of other stripes, they saw a gap: planning accommodation, travel and activities around accessibility needs should be as straightforward as planning for any other need, they thought. And thus Accomable was born.

“The original idea we had was to solve a problem that Martyn and I specifically had,” Madipalli recalled. “We said to ourselves, ‘we can fix this problem with tech.’”

Continue onto Tech Crunch to read the complete article.