Monday, August 29, 2016

The Zika Virus in Florida

Spread by mosquitoes, the Zika virus began appearing in Florida earlier this summer. Pregnant women especially need to be careful because the virus can cause severe birth defects of the brain such as microcephaly, which causes a baby's head to be smaller than normal. Babies with Zika might also have eye defects, hearing problems, and impaired growth as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disease of the nervous system. People who come in contact with mosquitoes should spray insect repellent on themselves. For more information about the Zika virus, go to

A mosquito

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How Should Law Enforcement Approach Deaf People?

A week ago, a North Carolina state trooper fatally shot a deaf and speech-impaired man named Daniel Harris. The trooper tried to pull Harris over for speeding, but Harris drove seven miles to his home before stopping. He was shot shortly after he got out of his car. Harris's brother Sam, who said his brother was afraid of cops, is wondering whether his brother's disabilities led to a misunderstanding. Money is being raised through for Harris's memorial and cremation. Any remaining money will be used to establish a foundation that educates law enforcement on how to confront deaf people. For more details on this story, go to

Monday, August 22, 2016

Dorian Willes: Keeping His Eyes on the Prize

I mentioned bobsled/skeleton racer Dorian Willes in my August 8 post about the 9th Annual Youth Summit, but his latest accomplishments merit a post about him alone (not to mention the fact today is his birthday). To give you a little background, part of Willes's right leg was amputated after being shot 21 times by police in Boise, Idaho, in 2008. He was in a coma for months before he went to jail on drug and malicious injury to property charges. Fortunately, Willes decided to take a different direction in life.

Fast forward to August 2016: A week ago, Willes (also a motivational speaker) was featured as #4 on ESPN's SportsCenter Top Ten with Stan & Neil. Over the weekend, he won first place in three events at the WABDL Great Northern Bench Press & Deadlift Championships in Olympia, Washington. Willes' goal is to compete in the skeleton event at the 2018 Winter Paralympics. For more information and updates, go to Happy Birthday, Dorian Willes, and I hope you'll have a great year!

I with Dorian Willes

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Americans with Disabilities, Unite (to Vote)!

The primary election on August 30 is quickly approaching, and the November presidential election will be here before we know it. Some people with disabilities may think their votes don't really make a difference, but they do! According to a recent USA Today article (, there are more eligible voters with disabilities (35.4 million) than African-American voters (28.7 million) and Latino voters (29.5 million).

So, people with handicaps can have a significant impact on elections and therefore should vote. Take the time to do research on the candidates and decide which ones you think should be elected. If it's too much trouble for you to go to the polls, you can sign up for an absentee ballot that is sent to your home. Now, go exercise your right to vote!

Image courtesy of

Monday, August 15, 2016

Olympics Went Swimmingly for Cody Miller

Last Saturday night, U.S. swimmer Cody Miller received a gold medal for his part in the men's 4 x 100m medley relay final at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He also won bronze in the men's 100m breaststroke final on August 7. These accomplishments are very impressive because Miller has pectus excavatum, a condition in which the breastbone is sunken into the chest. Depending on its severity, this can affect the functioning of the heart and lungs, making exercise difficult. Miller hasn't allowed pectus excavatum to be a disability for him. For more information about the deformity, go to

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Gandee Brothers' Final Walk

Hunter Gandee, 16, carried his brother Braden (who has cerebral palsy) on his back almost 111 miles over a five-day period ending on April 25 of this year. Braden, who turned ten years old six days ago, walked the last half-mile to the Michigan Capitol with the use of a walker. Hunter said this walk was intended to encourage others to embrace anyone with a disability, not just cerebral palsy. The Gandee brothers walked 40 miles in 2014 and 57 miles in 2015. They don't plan on doing this long a walk again because Braden is getting bigger and Hunter is getting ready for college. For updates on the Gandees, go to

Image result for hunter gandee 
Braden and Hunter Gandee
(image courtesy of

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Recap of the 9th Annual Youth Summit

The 9th Annual Youth Summit (a free conference for people with disabilities age 15-30 sponsored by the Florida Youth Council) was held from last Friday afternoon to Saturday night at the Florida Hotel & Conference Center in Orlando. The summit kicked off with a speech from Dorian Willes, a bobsled/skeleton racer whose right leg was partially amputated. Friday night ended with a screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in keeping with the summit's Star Wars theme.

After a speech about self-advocacy by James Williams (an author with autism) on Saturday, the summit attendees were treated to a delicious buffet lunch. In the afternoon, there were three rounds of breakout sessions on topics such as positive thinking, social interaction skills, and Vocational Rehabilitation. The summit concluded with a dance party at which door prizes were given away.

The Annual Youth Summit encourages its attendees to be confident, productive adults with disabilities. Since I'm 30, this was my last summit, but I went away from it with happy memories. For more information about the Florida Youth Council and its Annual Youth Summit, go to

I at the Youth Summit

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Angel: Therapy Dog of Houston

We are well into the dog days of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Today's blog post focuses on a therapy dog named Angel, a golden retriever from Houston, Texas. Born an only puppy in 2009, Angel (owned by Trish Herrera of the band Mydolls) has one eye and three legs. She spreads joy at two hospitals and two assisted care homes and is a member of Faithful Paws, an organization of human-pet teams that visit 120 facilities in the Houston area. To learn more about Angel, check out her blog at

A service dog

Monday, August 1, 2016


On July 26, the National Disability Institute (NDI) announced the start of DISABLE POVERTY, a grassroots campaign to raise awareness of the fact that 33% of Americans with disabilities live in poverty. The NDI's goals for the next ten years are to decrease the number of Americans with disabilities in poverty by 50% and to increase banking products and services among Americans with disabilities by 50%. The NDI is encouraging people to spread the word and to take action. For more information about DISABLE POVERTY, go to