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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Glimmer: A Dating App for People with Disabilities

Glimmer (http://glimmer.tech/) is a dating and friendship app intended to make people with disabilities feel more comfortable about revealing their handicaps. They have the option to select their disability from a list and have it included in their profile. Entrepreneur Geoffrey Anderson was inspired by his brother (who has a cognitive impairment) to create Glimmer, which people without disabilities can use as well. For more information on Glimmer, go to https://www.thememo.com/2017/02/08/glimmer-dating-app-for-people-with-disabilities-disabled-dating-app/.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Speaking About Inspiration

Yesterday morning, I was one of four local authors who participated in the Brevard Authors Society Writers Forum at the Central Brevard Library and Reference Center in Cocoa. Representing the inspirational genre, I spoke about how I got started writing and my autobiography UnabASHed by Disability. During my speech, I mentioned the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series as a source of inspiration for me. A title that may be of interest to parents of kids with disabilities is Chicken Soup for the Soul: Children with Special Needs. A little inspiration can go a long way for someone with challenges.

 
I at the writers forum

Monday, January 30, 2017

A School Where Students Reach for the Starrs

The Shining Starr Learning Academy (SSLA), a private school for children with dyslexia, processing disorder, and anxiety as well as regular education students, recently opened in Rockledge. SSLA plans to provide a hands-on, interactive learning environment with no homework but recommended reading time at home. Linda Starr decided to establish the school to help children like her daughter have a better educational experience. SSLA is currently accepting students in grades three through seven with a plan to accept K-12 students in the future. To learn more about this school, go to shiningstarrlearningacademy.com.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Remembering Ed Roberts

Today, Google is honoring disability rights activist Ed Roberts with a Doodle at the top of its homepage. Born 78 years ago, Roberts contracted polio when he was 14, leaving him paralyzed. He used a wheelchair and respirator during the day and slept in an 800-pound iron lung at night. Roberts was the first person with severe disabilities to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he led its Center for Independent Living and obtained his bachelor and master's degrees in political science. He served as the director of the California Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and co-founded the World Institute on Disability before dying in 1995. To learn more about Roberts, go to http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2017/01/23/Google-honors-disability-rights-leader-Ed-Roberts-78th-birthday-with-new-Doodle/8751485170028/.

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Ed Roberts

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bishop Grady Villas

Bishop Grady Villas, a ministry of the Diocese of Orlando established in 2004, is a residential community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in St. Cloud. This non-profit organization, named after the second Bishop of Orlando Thomas Grady, also provides vocational, employment, respite, and companion services services for those who live in Orange, Osceola, Polk, and Seminole Counties. Bishop Grady Villas gives a tour and lunch to interested people once a month. Its main fundraisers are the "Achieving Their Dreams" Breakfast and the Harvest Ball in October. For more information, go to http://www.orlandodiocese.org/ministries-offices/bishop-grady-villas/.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District (Colorado)

Four days ago, oral arguments were heard by the United States Supreme Court in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. This case is significant because the Supreme Court justices will decide what level of educational benefit schools must provide to K-12 students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The plaintiff Endrew F. (also known as Drew) is a boy with autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. After having problems in public school through the fourth grade, Drew went to a private school that helped him improve academically and behaviorally; however, he didn't meet most of his educational goals. Drew's parents want to be reimbursed for the private school tuition, but lower federal courts ruled the Douglas County School District in Colorado met the minimum IDEA requirements in providing education and services. For more details about this case, go to http://www.bazelon.org/In-Court/Current-Litigation/Endrew-F.-v.-Douglas-County-School-District.aspx.

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The Supreme Court Building

Monday, January 9, 2017

College Board Test Accommodations Now Allowed

As of New Year's Day, high school students with disabilities will more likely be granted accommodations for College Board tests such as the SAT and ACT. Last year, there were many complaints about requests for test accommodations being denied, making the tests more difficult and stressful for those taking them. Under College Board's new policy, students can ask for accommodations such as extended time and the use of a computer to type essays and short-answer responses, provided they are included in their IEP or 504 plan. Now, students with disabilities have a better chance of scoring well on tests. For more information, go to http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/12/14/college-board-expands-test-supports-for-special.html.

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Monday, January 2, 2017

A Social Network for People with Disabilities

Happy New Year! Perhaps one of your New Year's resolutions is to make new friends with disabilities. Dale Reardon, who has been blind for almost 30 years, recently created a social network for people with handicaps called My Disability Matters (https://mydisabilitymatters.club/). This site allows individuals with vision impairments to adjust the font size and other settings, making the site more accessible than Facebook and Instagram. My Disability Matters also contains news and information on disabilities. For more details, go to http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-12-05/my-disability-matters-social-site-created-by-disabled-people/8092230.