Monday, May 22, 2017

Spotlight: Goats of Anarchy

Formerly an event planner, Leanne Lauricella founded Goats of Anarchy (GOA), a nonprofit that rehabilitates baby goats with special needs on a farm in New Jersey. A few of the goats use small wheelchairs for their hind legs while others have prosthetic legs. Some goats have health problems for which surgery is necessary. GOA, which has appeared on TV shows and in publications, was voted the winner of the People's Voice Webby Award for the Animal Social Media category in 2016 and 2017. For more information (including how to donate) and a dose of cuteness, go to http://goatsofanarchy.com.

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The Goats of Anarchy Farm
(courtesy of guff.com)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Stellar Transport Strives to Live Up to Its Name

Stellar Transport is a non-emergency medical transportation company based in Melbourne, Florida. For a fee, Stellar drives people to doctor's appointments, the hospital for ongoing medical treatments, and other locations as needed. Passengers also have a long distance option if they must travel more than 150 miles. Stellar's vehicles are wheelchair accessible and have room for a stretcher. If passengers need assistance, EMT-certified drivers help them get out of their homes and into their doctor's office or other destination. For more information, go to https://www.stellartransport.com/.

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Courtesy of stellartransport.com

Monday, May 8, 2017

Hugs + Mugs = Jobs

Hugs + Mugs is a cafe and gift shop staffed by adults with Down syndrome in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Gelato and milkshakes are two of the items served at the cafe as advertised on its website. Some of the staff members make and sell personalized gifts such as travel mugs and cell phone cases. Hugs + Mugs hosts birthday parties, field trips, and other events. The cafe staff are graduates of GiGi University, a program run by GiGi's Playhouse. The value of the cafe can be summed up in the following formula: Hugs + Mugs = Jobs (for people with disabilities). For more information, go to https://gigisplayhouse.org/hugsandmugs/.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dancing with the Rollettes

Chelsie Hill, a 25-year-old who is paralyzed from the belly button down, started a wheelchair dance team named the Rollettes in October 2012. Hill, who was on SundanceTV's reality show Push Girls, was an aspiring professional dancer before she was injured in a car accident in 2010. Based in Los Angeles, the Rollettes (who practice every Tuesday) do dance routines at events across the country. The team holds biannual dance intensives where wheelchair users learn a dance routine. The next dance intensive will take place August 9-13. To learn more about the Rollettes, go to http://www.rollettesdance.com/.

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A wheelchair dancing routine

Monday, April 24, 2017

Challenged Athletes Foundation Grant Recipients Announced

Based in San Diego, California, the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) is a non-profit organization that provides support to athletes with physical disabilities in pursuit of an active lifestyle. Founded 23 years ago, CAF hosts camps, clinics, and athletic competitions all over the United States and Canada. CAF sponsors the Access for Athletes Grant Program, which awards funds for equipment, training, coaching, and competition costs. This year's grant recipients are being announced this week. For more information, go to http://www.challengedathletes.org/.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Brevard Zoo's Exceptional Nature Space to Open April 28

The Brevard Zoo is preparing to host its fundraiser Safari Under the Stars, which will feature celebrity guests. Jennifer Arnold and her husband Bill Klein from TLC's The Little Couple will participate in the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the zoo's Exceptional Nature Space at a VIP event on April 28. The new exhibit will allow children with disabilities to have a positive zoo experience. Arnold and Klein will also be at the gala on April 29. The funds raised will support the Brevard Zoo's missions of animal wellness, education, and conservation. For more information, go to http://www.clickorlando.com/news/bindi-irwin-reality-tv-stars-coming-to-the-brevard-zoo.

  
Arnold and Klein with their children

Monday, April 10, 2017

Windows 10 Update Helps People with Disabilities

Microsoft has released the Windows 10 Creators Update version 1073. As a result, Windows 10's Narrator tool will have the following options: braille displays from more than 35 manufacturers, new capabilities for text-to-speech, and automatic lowering of apps' audio volume while the Narrator speaks. Made possible by Microsoft's AI-powered Computer Vision Cognitive Service, the accessibility features of the Office 365 suite allow users to create documents and presentations to be read and used by people with disabilities. For more information, go to https://www.slashgear.com/windows-10-creators-update-to-include-new-accessibility-features-for-braille-narration-03466255/.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Julia: The Sesame Street Character with Autism

Julia, the first Sesame Street character with autism, will make her debut on the show on Monday, April 10. She was introduced to America on 60 Minutes last month. Longtime Sesame Street character Elmo explained why Julia behaved in unusual ways when she met Big Bird. Stacey Gordon, who plays Julia, has a son with autism. For more information, go to https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2017/03/20/meet-julia-a-muppet-with-autism-and-the-newest-character-on-sesame-street/?utm_term=.32ec133c1759.

  
Julia, the newest Sesame Street character

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Fundraiser for the M.O.R.G.A.N. Project

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey and his wife Susan are hosting a fundraiser with the theme "Once Upon a Time... An Evening of Classics" at the American Muscle Car Museum in Melbourne from 6:30 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. on Friday, April 7. The proceeds will go toward the M.O.R.G.A.N. Project's Quality-of-Life service program for children with special needs. The organization also runs Morgan's Place, a therapeutic play center and the only multi-sensory environment in North America. Tickets for the fundraiser must be purchased at EventBrite.com by Saturday, April 1. For more information about the M.O.R.G.A.N. Project, go to http://themorganproject.org/.

  
The American Muscle Car Museum

Monday, March 20, 2017

Movin' On Up with Upsee

The Upsee is a mobility device with which a child goes through the motions of walking while attached to an adult's legs. This helps children with neuromuscular disorders practice weight-bearing. Sold by Firefly, the $499 Upsee kit includes a child harness (four sizes from which to choose), an adult waist belt, child and adult sandals, and a therapy booklet. Firefly will give a full refund to dissatisfied parents if the kit is returned in its original condition within 42 days. For more information and photos of kids using the Upsee, go to https://www.fireflyfriends.com/us/upsee.

  
A girl using the Upsee

Monday, March 13, 2017

Travis Roy: Changed in 11 Seconds

Travis Roy became paralyzed from the neck down by cracking his fourth and fifth cervical vertebra after crashing into the side of the Boston University rink 11 seconds into his first college hockey game on October 20, 1995. Less a year later, Roy returned to Boston University from which he graduated with a public relations degree in 2000. With help from E.M. Swift of Sports Illustrated, Roy wrote his autobiography Eleven Seconds in 1997. He also established the Travis Roy Foundation, which focuses on finding a cure for spinal cord injuries and provides grants to survivors in need. Today, Roy is a motivational speaker; he was the opening ceremony speaker at the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists Annual Meeting and Scientific Symposium in Chicago earlier this month. For more information on Roy, go to http://www.travisroy.com/.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My Time in Durham, North Carolina

Last week, I spent a few days with my dad's side of the family in Durham, North Carolina. On the way to and from Durham, my parents and I stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Express in Hardeeville, South Carolina. I was impressed with our room because it appeared to be designed for a wheelchair user. The thermostat, outlets, microwave, and refrigerator were all at a height I could reach. As common with accessible hotel rooms, there was a grab bar by the toilet in the bathroom and ample room for me to maneuver in my power chair.

While in Durham, my parents and I stayed in an accessible room at SpringHill Suites by Marriott. The tables in the breakfast area contained middle posts, making it difficult for me to sit underneath them with my wheelchair. This was also the case at the Holiday Inn Express. Our first night in Durham, my family and I had dinner in nearby Cary at Tribeca Tavern, which I had to enter through the back door because the front entrance wasn't accessible. I also had to go through the back door to get to the elevator in my uncle's apartment building. My family and I visited the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, which was very interesting. The entrance ramp and elevator enabled me to see all three floors of the museum.

The ADA compliance in the establishments I visited made my North Carolina trip more enjoyable. Traveling is possible with a wheelchair.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Butterfly Dreams

Butterfly Dreams is a children's book by Leslie Montali in which a girl who uses a wheelchair is able to do whatever she wants in her dreams. The book was inspired by the author's 13-year-old daughter Ashtyn, who has cerebral palsy. Butterfly Dreams is also the name of the non-profit organization that Leslie and her husband Adam founded to provide equipment and financial assistance to children with special needs and their families. For more information, including how to order a copy of Butterfly Dreams, go to http://ashysbutterflydreams.com/.



Monday, February 20, 2017

Tek RMD

Five years ago, Matia Robotics began selling a mobility platform called Tek RMD for people with paraplegia and other walking disabilities. Tek RMD, which stands for Robotic Mobilization Device, makes it possible for its user to go from a sitting position to standing on his or her two feet and then move around indoors. The battery-operated device comes with a remote control to aid movement and belts that wrap around the user. A significant amount of hand and arm strength are necessary to use Tek RMD. For more information and to watch videos of how Tek RMD works, go to http://matiarobotics.com/.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Peaceful Fruits

Peaceful Fruits is a social good company that sells fruit strips. These fruit strips are unique in that each of them is made of more than 25 acai berries harvested in the Amazon rainforest and mixed with other fruits such as apple or pineapple. The fruit strips are made, packaged, and shipped by a team of people with developmental and other disabilities in Akron, Ohio. Peaceful Fruits founder and CEO Evan Delahanty, a former Peace Corps volunteer, presented his product on Shark Tank a week ago. Even though none of the Sharks made an investment in his company, Delahanty should be commended for his efforts. To learn more about this company and order some fruit strips, go to http://peacefulfruits.com/.

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Acai berries