Sunday, June 14, 2020

A Farewell Message

Five years ago yesterday, I created this blog to inform people on various disability topics while promoting my autobiography UnabASHed by Disability (still available for purchase on Amazon and Kindle). After much consideration, I have decided to stop posting on "UnabASHed by Disability: The Blog." I plan to shift my creative energy to other forms of writing. If you'd like to read one or more of my previous blog posts, go to the Blog Archive at the right of this column. Thank you, readers, for your support over the years. I leave you with these words from the epilogue of my book:

  • Focus on what you are able to do instead of what you are unable to do.
  • Be courageous and persistent while pursuing your dreams.
  • Remember you have the potential to make a positive difference in your family and your community and even your country and the world.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Family Cafe: Going Virtual

Normally, this would be the third and final day of the Family Café, which is typically held at an Orlando hotel during the first weekend of June. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 22nd Annual Family Café is taking place on its Facebook page over a two-week period. I hadn't attended the cross-disability conference in five years (refer to my first blog post dated June 13, 2015, for a summary of my experience). I decided last month to register for this event since I could easily access it online. A few days ago, I received in the mail a package containing the Family Café program, exhibitor catalog, and other materials along with a tote bag.

The Family Café began at 11:00 A.M. last Friday with the Governor's Summit on Disabilities, which included remarks from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Senate President Bill Galvano. A couple of hours later, there was a Q&A session with Zack Gottsagen, an actor with Down syndrome who starred in the movie The Peanut Butter Falcon (refer to my blog post dated October 6, 2019, for more information). You can watch these and yesterday's two sessions in the Live section of the Family Cafe's Facebook page. Future sessions on various disability-related topics will be broadcast live at 11:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. every day except Sunday until Friday, June 19. Attorney Robert "Bobby" Silverstein, the behind-the-scenes developer of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 30 years ago, will be the keynote speaker at 11:00 A.M. this Friday, June 12. Below are links to Family Café materials:

22nd Annual Family Café Program:
22nd Annual Family Café Exhibitor Catalog:
Updated Facebook Live Sessions Schedule:

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The Family Cafe logo
(image via

Monday, June 1, 2020

A Century of Vocational Rehabilitation

Tomorrow, June 2, marks the 100th anniversary of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). The organization is a result of the Smith-Fess Act (also known as the Industrial Rehabilitation Act and the National Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act), which President Woodrow Wilson signed into law. VR is the first federally funded program to help people whose disabilities were not caused by military service, making it possible for them to be employed and live independently.

I'm a former VR client; a job coach hired by the organization helped me become employed as a quality analyst for a call monitoring company. I still have my job almost six years later. For resources about VR's 100th anniversary, go to

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Vocational Rehabilitation's 100th anniversary logo
(image via U.S. Department of Education)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Going to Church Amid COVID

Last Thursday morning, my mom and I attended Mass at our church, Our Lady of Grace (OLG) Roman Catholic Church in Palm Bay, for the first time in two months. Going to church was a weekly routine for me before the coronavirus outbreak, so when I heard Catholic churches in the Diocese of Orlando were closing on March 19, I was stunned. OLG has been live-streaming its Masses on YouTube, making me feel somewhat connected to my church. OLG started its gradual reopening process on May 12 with Masses resuming last Tuesday. I was so glad to go to church in person, even though it was a different experience in the following ways: Almost everyone wore a mask. My mom and I were escorted to the front pew, which didn't contain hymnals or donation envelopes. Everyone else sat at least six feet apart in alternating pews.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to worship in public again. I've always felt welcome and respected at my church despite my disabilities. Whenever I read a Bible passage to the congregation, I'm able to access the space between the lectern and the altar thanks to a ramp (seen in the photo below). As churches are reopening in various parts of the country, you should look for church reopening updates in your area before you put on your Sunday best. If you still don't feel comfortable going to church, you can continue viewing streamed Masses/services online. You, my readers, are in my prayers.

I inside my church in January
(Photo by Tracy Jensen-McGrath)

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

My COVID-19 Testing Experience

A week ago, I underwent COVID-19 testing. Although I didn't have symptoms, my parents and I wanted to know if I had the coronavirus. So, I made an appointment to be tested. My mom drove me a few miles to the testing site, where we briefly waited in a short line of cars. I stayed in the van while a technician conducted a nasopharyngeal swab test by moving around a long cotton swab inside my nostrils for 15 seconds. I went into the testing facility for the antibody test, which involved a needle poke in my middle finger. About ten minutes later, the technician informed me I didn't have antibodies. However, I found out earlier this afternoon my swab test result came back negative.

If you haven't already done so, you should consider being tested for the coronavirus, especially if you have a medical condition that puts you at a higher risk. For more information about COVID-19 testing, go to You can look online for a testing location near you.

What You Need To Know About COVID-19 Testing In The U.S. | WLRN
Drive-through COVID-19 testing
(image via

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Applying for Disability Benefits

If you have an impairment, you may be eligible for disability benefits. I recently applied for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) for the purpose of being enrolled in Medicare. (People under age 65 may be eligible for Medicare if they have disabilities.) A couple of weeks before submitting my application, I spoke with a Social Security Administration (SSA) representative on the phone for about an hour. He asked me questions about my disabilities and sources of income. A few days after the phone conversation, I received the SSDI application in the mail. Along with my completed form, I had to send pay stubs from the past four months at my current job. I was told it might be three months before I find out if I'm eligible for SSDI.

If you believe you qualify for disability benefits, you can apply today for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as well as SSDI online. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Social Security offices are closed. If your application is denied, you can file an appeal. For more information, go to

Social Security Administration - Home | Facebook
SSA logo
(image via

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Wheeling Through the "A-Maze-ing" Sledd's U-Pick Farm

You've probably heard the saying "April showers bring May flowers." This is so true at Sledd's U-Pick Farm in Mims, where there is a sunflower maze that covers more than four acres. My parents and I went there yesterday, a beautiful spring day. I was amazed by what appeared to be endless fields of sunflowers taller than I am. The dirt path was wide enough for my wheelchair to maneuver through the maze. (If you can't walk long distances, you should take your wheelchair with you. Service animals are allowed.)

The admission fee at Sledd's U-Pick Farm is $5 for everyone over the age of three. For additional charges, visitors with their own scissors and containers can cut sunflowers and pick some fruits and vegetables to take home; they can also have lunch. This farm is a wonderful place for a family outing as well as a photo shoot. For more information and updates, go to its Facebook page at

I in the sunflower maze
(Photo by Tracy Jensen-McGrath)