Monday, September 18, 2017

Spotlight: Victoria Arlen

I hope all of my readers are doing well after Hurricane Irma. My parents' house in which I live lost power for six days, but thankfully, there was no damage. Life is coming back to normal.

Victoria Arlen is a model, actress, motivational speaker, and ESPN sportscaster. At age 11 in 2006, Arlen contracted two rare conditions, transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which left her in a vegetative state for almost four years. She competed as a swimmer at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, winning one gold medal and three silver medals. Arlen regained her ability to walk during the last two years. She created the Victoria's Victory Foundation, which awards scholarships to individuals to help them overcome obstacles and achieve their goals. Arlen is competing with professional dancer Val Chmerkovskiy on Season 25 of Dancing with the Stars premiering tonight. For more information about this inspirational young woman, go to https://www.victoriaarlen.com/.

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Victoria Arlen

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Changing the Face of Beauty

Changing the Face of Beauty (CTFOB) is a nonprofit that advocates for more inclusion of people with disabilities in media and advertising. Katie Driscoll, who has a daughter with Down syndrome, founded CTFOB five years ago. This organization attracted publicity in 2014 when Driscoll was asked by Tori Spelling's children's fashion line, Little Maven, to produce its holiday campaign. CTFOB was instrumental in getting Jamie Brewer, the first New York Fashion Week model with Down Syndrome, on the runway in 2015. Appearing on TV programs such as The Today Show, CTFOB currently has 21 partners that include models with disabilities in their advertising. Driscoll, who has a total of six children, was one of the 2017 Awesome Women Awards honorees featured in Good Housekeeping. To learn more about CTFOB, go to http://changingthefaceofbeauty.org/.

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A CTFOB model (Image
obtained from thislittlemiggy.com)

Monday, August 28, 2017

National Inclusion Project

Now that school is back in session in Florida, the word inclusion should be kept in mind. The National Inclusion Project is an organization that advocates for children with disabilities to be included in the activities of recreational programs. The nonprofit's purpose is achieved through its Let's ALL Play program with the belief that ALL children can participate, ALL children can make friends, and ALL children can succeed. Formerly the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, the National Inclusion Project was co-founded by Clay Aiken, runner-up of the second season of American Idol. Aiken (who has a bachelor's degree in special education) was the tutor of co-founder Diane Bubel's son Michael, who has autism. For more information about the National Inclusion Project, go to http://www.inclusionproject.org/.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Surfers for Autism

Based in Boca Raton, Surfers for Autism (SFA) is a nonprofit that introduces surfing to children on the autism spectrum. SFA's mission is to unlock the children's potential while supporting advocacy for autism resources and scientific research. It also aims to eliminate stigma through public awareness and education. Free SFA events have been held at different beaches in Florida and Georgia since 2008. At each event, surf instructors guide the children into the water and teach them the basics. There are other fun activities and a catered lunch for the children, their families, and volunteers. The latest event was the Eighth Annual First Coast Beach Festival at the Flagler Beach Pier last Saturday. FSA sells merchandise at its online store Storenvy. For more information about this organization, go to http://surfersforautism.org/.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Spotlight: Sammi Tucker

Samantha "Sammi" Tucker, an Air Force veteran, lost part of her left arm in 2010. Having less than two years experience, Tucker became the first American woman to compete in the Open Compound Para Archery Division at last year's Paralympics. She is an abuse survivor and former methamphetamine addict whose life is now on target. As a resilience expert, Tucker encourages people to think in a positive way to overcome adversity; her first book will be released soon. She was the keynote speaker at the Florida Youth Council's Tenth Annual Youth Summit (an event for people with disabilities aged 15-30) August 11-12 in Orlando (please refer to my August 8, 2016 post for a recap of the Ninth Annual Youth Summit). For more information about Tucker, go to http://www.sammitucker.com/.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Ability App: Providing Accessibility Information

Alexander "Alex" Knoll, a 12-year-old from Post Falls, Idaho, has been in the process of developing Ability App for people with disabilities. This free app will list disability-friendly features of various locations (automatic doors, wheelchair ramps, etc.). Ability App will also keep users informed of disability services like in-home care and transportation as well as employment opportunities. People with visual impairments or without the use of their limbs can use the app with their voice while those without the use of their limbs or voice can use eye-tracking software. Ability App will make users aware of the accessibility of where they want to go. Knoll won awards at a few student invention competitions in 2015 and 2016. He was inspired to create Ability App after seeing a wheelchair user struggle to open a heavy door at a sporting goods store.

Knoll has appeared on TV shows such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show on which he received a $25,000 donation from Shutterfly, a company that makes photo books and other picture-related gifts. Knoll is looking for accessibility ambassadors to help populate accessibility information on the app, and donations are appreciated. For more information about Ability App, go to http://www.abilityapp.org/.

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Joni Eareckson Tada: 50 Years in a Wheelchair

Joni Eareckson Tada has accomplished a lot since she became paralyzed at age 17 due to a diving accident 50 years ago. She is the founder and CEO of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center, which promotes Christianity to people with disabilities. A breast cancer survivor, Joni is a magazine columnist and has written more than 50 books, including her autobiography Joni. The 1979 film of the same name in which Joni played herself is being shown at a movie screening at a church in Westlake Village, California on Sunday, August 6. As a disability advocate, Joni has traveled to more than 45 countries and received numerous awards. She hosts a daily radio program and used to host a TV show called Joni and Friends.

Joni enjoys painting with a brush between her teeth, which she learned during her two-year rehabilitation following her accident. She has been married to her husband Ken since 1982. Joni is truly an inspiration, especially to wheelchair users. For more information about this amazing woman, go to http://www.joniandfriends.org/.

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Joni Eareckson Tada