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

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Parker Foundation for Autism and Child Development

Based in Indian Harbor Beach, the Parker Foundation for Autism and Child Development enhances the lives of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their parents/caretakers through education, sports, and arts programs. These programs are made possible by partnerships with individuals, local businesses, and organizations. Informational sessions are held periodically for those who want to learn more about ASD. Along with UCF's Center for Autism and Related Disabilities and the nonprofit Spring Forward for Autism, the Parker Foundation participated in the creation of "Be Safe Be Prepared," a mobile app that contains ASD resources. One upcoming event is the 2nd Annual Parker Foundation Musical Concert, which will take place from 1:00 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. on Saturday, August 5, at Wesley Church (2075 Meadowlane Ave. in West Melbourne). The concert is free, but donations would be appreciated. Basketball clinics are planned for November.

One of the Parker Foundation's co-founders, Melissa Parker is Mrs. Southeast International 2017, and her platform is autism awareness. She'll compete at the Mrs. International Pageant in Charleston, West Virginia, August 11-12. For more information about the Parker Foundation for Autism and Child Development, go to http://www.theparkerfoundation.com/.

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Courtesy of brevardcountyevents.com

Monday, July 24, 2017

Speaking About My Job Search

The Space Coast Center for Independent Living (SCCIL) hosted the "Learn to Earn Summer Youth Program" for at least 30 young people with disabilities July 10-21 at the Holz Center in Melbourne (please refer to my July 3 post to learn more about the Holz Center). Last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking about my job search experience to the "Learn to Earn" participants during the final hour of the program. Using PowerPoint to supplement my presentation, I described how I obtained my quality analyst job and talked about the roles of self-advocacy, self-determination, and personal support groups in one's job search. A point I emphasized in my speech is job seekers should never give up, even if it takes them years to get their dream job. I was pleased members of the audience were responsive to what I had to say, answering a few questions I asked.

Preparing for my speech made me reflect on the gratitude I have for my current job. The process I went through to become employed by J.Lodge three years ago wasn't easy. I wish for the "Learn to Earn" participants the best of luck in their job search. For more information about SCCIL, go to https://www.sccil.net/.

As I reminded the "Learn to Earn" participants in my speech, Wednesday, July 26, is the 27th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

I with some "Learn to Earn" participants

Monday, July 17, 2017

Focusing on "Cape Abilities"

Cape Abilities is an agency that provides services to more than 400 people with various disabilities in the Cape Cod, Massachusetts, area. Founded in 1968, Cape Abilities follows its slogan "Creating Opportunity" by offering a variety of programs such as living skills/day habilitation, pre-employment transition services, vocational assessment and support, transportation, and residential services. The agency also runs enterprises for which some program participants work: Cape Abilities Farm, Cape Abilities Farm to Table Market & Gallery, Cape Abilities Thrift Shop, Cape Abilities Vending, and Cape Abilities Furniture Rescue & Restoration. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and SourceAmerica-AbilityOne have also created job opportunities for program participants.

Cape Abilities' excellence as a disability services agency is evident in its being awarded the highest accreditation possible from CARF (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) International; it is also licensed and certified by the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services' (DDS) Office of Quality Enhancement. Cape Abilities and seven other non-profits will receive the proceeds from the inaugural Charter Cup fishing tournament to be held in Hyannis, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, July 19. Cape Abilities will also be raising money for its programs by participating in the seven-mile-long New Balance Falmouth Road Race on Sunday, August 20. Donations can be made all year round online. For more information about Cape Abilities, go to http://www.capeabilities.org/ and its social media platforms.
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Courtesy of cccls.com

Monday, July 10, 2017

Muscle Memory Dance Company

A part of Hometown Hope, the Muscle Memory Dance Company (MMDC) is a dance group that focuses on movement invention, interdisciplinary collaboration, multimedia, site-specific performances, and dance therapy. Holding classes in Rockledge, MMDC has a dance education program for those who want to learn. Accepting donations, the Healing Arts Program provides dance therapy to students with special needs, people with Alzheimer's and dementia, and other groups in need. MMDC will be teaching a mixed ability class for children and teenagers with special needs every Tuesday from August 15 to December 12. For information such as how to register, go to https://musclememorydance.org/.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

Holz Center to Host Ribbon-Cutting July 13

The Holz Center is a one-stop place in Melbourne where children with special needs and their parents have access to bilingual resources, training, and support. The recently opened center contains a lending library with books about various disabilities; it plans to host story time for children to learn about disabilities on the first and third Thursday of every month. The Holz Center will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony from 1:00 to 4:00 P.M. on Thursday, July 13. The Space Coast Center for Independent Living is hosting a career exploration program for people aged 15-22 with disabilities July 10-21 at the Holz Center. Yours truly will be a presenter during the afternoon of Friday, July 21. For information about the organization that established the Holz Center, go to https://www.holzfoundation.org/.
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Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Place to Worship

The Special Gathering is a ministry for people with mental handicaps. The ministry holds weekly chapel services at churches in Daytona, DeLand, Titusville, Cocoa, Melbourne, and Vero Beach, Florida, as well as Walterboro, South Carolina. They also offer instructional classes tailored to attendees' special needs, help them engage in advocacy, and encourage fellowship through Camp Agape in Vero Beach, field trips, and socials. The Special Gathering publishes a newsletter called Connecting Point. For more information such as times and locations of services, go to http://www.nbbd.com/npr/specialgathering/.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Heavenly Home: Doing the "Wright" Thing

Based in Cocoa, Heavenly Home Health Aid is a faith-based agency that provides caregiving services to people with developmental disabilities and Medicaid HCBS waivers in Brevard County. The services help clients have a sense of independence and remain in their home. Megan McLaughlin Wright and her husband Jason cofounded Heavenly Home five years ago. Some caregivers are available for 24-hour service, and if needed, clients can reach Heavenly Home at the after-hours emergency line. Always looking for new caregivers, Heavenly Home was featured in an article in the June 16 issue of Hometown News. For more information, go to http://www.heavenlyhomehealthaid.com/.

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Courtesy of clipartpanda.com

Monday, June 12, 2017

Amputee Resource Guide

The Amputee Resource Guide is a new Facebook page that was created to share information for amputees. The page contains a link to a North Carolina travel guide for people with disabilities (https://amputeeresourceguide.com/access-north-carolina-travel-guide/). (I went to North Carolina for a few days in March; please refer to my March 8 post "My Time in Durham, North Carolina" for details.) More resources will be added to the Guide as time goes on. The Amputee Resource Guide Facebook page is located at https://www.facebook.com/AmpResGuide/.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

diversAbility Job Fair to Be Held June 13

In partnership with Vocational Rehabilitation, CareerSource Brevard's Palm Bay office is hosting the diversAbility Job Fair from 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M. on Tuesday, June 13. This event, a member of the Florida Unique Abilities company (www.floridauniqueabilities.org), is open to people with special needs. Employers such as Brevard Achievement Center, Goodwill, and Veterans Assembled Electronics will be participating in diversAbility. Job fair attendees should bring copies of their resume and dress in a professional manner. For more information, call CareerSource Brevard at (321) 504-7600 or go to https://careersourcebrevard.com/event/diversability-job-fair-palm-bay.

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Courtesy of careersourcebrevard.com

Monday, June 5, 2017

"Field"ing a Traumatic Brain Injury

Jennifer Miller Field is a motivational speaker who once aspired to compete as an equestrian at the Olympics. When she was 17, Field was in a nearly fatal car accident that caused her to be in a coma and unable to walk, talk, and eat on her own due to brain damage. With help from her mother as well as treatments and therapies, she took ten years to regain her physical independence and graduate from college as recounted in their book From Blue Ribbon to Code Blue. Field established the J Field Foundation, which provides funds to people with physical and mental handicaps for alternative therapies not covered by insurance. Field briefly described her life in a letter in the May/June issue of the magazine Angels on Earth. For more information about this inspirational woman, go to http://jenniferfield.org/.

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Courtesy of newengland.com

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rolling with Izzy Wheels

Isabel and Ailbhe Keane, sisters from Dublin, Ireland, co-founded Izzy Wheels, a company that sells wheelchair spoke guards. The spoke guards, which are designed by various artists, are strapped onto the wheels as a decorative piece. Isabel uses a wheelchair because she has spina bifida and is paralyzed from the waist down. Accepting international orders, Izzy Wheels has received four awards, including Accenture's Leaders of Tomorrow Award 2017. To browse their shop, go to https://www.izzywheels.com/.

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Isabel Keane with a wheelchair spoke guard
(courtesy of trendhunter.com)

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