Disability Awareness Effort Asks People To ‘Just Say Hi’

“Siri, how do you start a conversation with someone who has a disability?” Apple’s Siri responds, “It’s easy. Just say ‘Hi.’”

This is part of a campaign to encourage conversation and raise awareness about people with disabilities, according to a Disability Scoop article.

Siri is the voice for the Apple phone’s digital personal assistant, though Google has a surprising answer to the same question. Google sends you to an article about Siri.

Three children sit on a golf cart. A boy and a girl wave hello.
Remember when making friends was as easy as waving Hello? Maybe it still is. photo credit: family on back of golf cart via photopin (license)

Society is unifying in its efforts to raise awareness so that conversations can begin about how to make the world a welcome place for everyone. The process begins with saying “Hi,” as you would for anyone else.

The project was started by the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and the video includes celebrities such as Gayle King, Tim Cook, Michael J. Fox, Joe Batali, Joe Girardi, Garry Gilliam, Oliver Platt, and more.

In some instances, when a person has a disability, people aren’t sure how to begin the dialogue, such as when someone has Cerebral Palsy.

According to the foundation’s website, “Cerebral Palsy is a physical disability that affects movement and posture. In most cases, brain injury leading to Cerebral Palsy occurs during pregnancy.” Globally, over 17 million people have been diagnosed with the disorder. There is no known cure.

While there’s no known cure for many disabilities, there is a cure for the loneliness and isolation that can accompany them–“Just say ‘Hi.'”

Source: Disability Awareness Effort Asks People To ‘Just Say Hi’ – Disability Scoop

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Santa Didn’t Know The Camera Was On…

Happy Holidays from Sign Shares!

What if Santa Claus knew sign language? Did you ever doubt?

See how beautiful the response when Santa proves he can reach any child!

Source: Santa Didn’t Know The Camera Was On, What I Saw Left Me In Shock ‹ Reader — WordPress.com

Samsung Reaches Out with Sign Language in Grand Gesture

What if everyone knew sign language?

According to this video, Samsung staff in Istanbul,Turkey prepared for a month to send a powerful message to a man who is Hard of Hearing.

Picture of Samsung cell phone.
One Samsung crew gave a new meaning to community outreach. photo credit: Samsung Galaxy Note Edge_2 via photopin (license)

The man’s reaction and those of Samsung staff who took part in the event demonstrate the effect of the kindness of strangers.

The planning took extra time because people interacting with Muharrem (no last name provided) had to teach and practice sign language to interact with him and provide him with one day with full communication access, everywhere he went, with everyone one who communicated with him.

For one unforgettable day, Muharrem experienced what it would be like if the world made the effort to communicate–in sign language.

Though communication is a two-way exchange, many people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing are expected to carry the responsibility for making themselves understood and deciphering spoken language, rather than people attempting to learn some signs or using captions, for example.

Old picture of Turkish hillside with buildings near the water.
For hundreds of years, Turkish sultans encouraged the use of sign language by their courts. photo credit: Rüstem Pasha Mosque BW via photopin (license)

Sign language in Turkey has a special history, because the ability to communicate silently was valued by the Ottoman Court in Istanbul. Several sultans learned sign language, preferred its use in their courts because it allowed for privacy and respectful silence, and some sultans encouraged those who could hear to still use sign language in their presence.

No one knows if Turkish Sign Language derives from this secret palace language that was used for 500 years in Ottoman courts because there aren’t written records of it.

Since Turkish Sign Language is older than European sign languages, it differs from them.

Despite the historical significance and practicality of sign language in Turkish culture, deaf education has focused on acquiring speech since 1953.

As you can tell from the video, Muharrem isn’t used to many people knowing sign language.

To create this experience for Muharrem, Samsung staff had to organize communications and cameras to make sure everyone was in place.

At the end of the video, Samsung staff say “… now we are at the service of all the hearing impaired people.”

The event promoted the Video Call Center for Hearing Impaired People–and taking our part in making communications more accessible and less complicated for everyone.

 

 

10 Tips for Including People With Disabilities in Your Party 

Have you ever been left out of or not invited to a party? I hope not.

This happens to many people during the holidays, especially if their needs aren’t met and they can’t participate in part or all of events. Accommodating people with disabilities isn’t as difficult as people think.

The Two-Step Party Aid

When preparing to include people with disabilities in a celebration or party, planners should Seek and Ask.

Party invitation
Have you posted invitations or verbally invited people with disabilities to your party, according to their ability? photo credit: Clover Invitation via photopin (license)

Seek

Seek to make sure that people with disabilities are invited and feel welcome to attend and share their accommodations needs. Party emails can indicate for guests to call ahead with their needs.

Checklist says "ready, finished, listo, lista...think of a checlist or to-do list: items on the list get checked off when they're ready or finished."
Creating a checklist with guest needs is a way to remember important details. photo credit: #231 – ready, finished – listo, lista via photopin (license)

Ask

Then planners should Ask individuals what their needs are and be creative with problem solving for special situations.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility USA, an organization that seeks to “reshape the attitudes of American society” about people with disabilities and “empower people with disabilities to achieve as much of the American dream as their abilities and efforts permit,” wrote an editorial in The Huffington Post about ways to include people with disabilities at your party.

What’s her first tip for including people with disabilities in your event? Ask.

According to the article, “If you know someone has a disability, use a simple strategy — ask the person what they need to be fully included.”

Needs Vary by Person

Each individual is specific.

Buffets bother many people with disabilities. People with wheelchairs sometimes can't reach items or serve and hold their plate while navigating their wheelchair. People who are blind or have low vision aren't seeing what's there or how to serve it. People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing have difficult understanding food preparers asking questions about their preferences. photo credit: abschluss-2009-buffet-1 via photopin (license)
Buffets bother many people with disabilities. People with wheelchairs sometimes can’t reach items or serve and hold their plate while navigating their wheelchair. People who are Blind or have Low Wision aren’t seeing what’s there or how to serve it. People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing have difficulty understanding servers asking questions about their preferences. photo credit: abschluss-2009-buffet-1 via photopin (license)

One time, a friend told me that the buffet tables were too high for her to reach from a wheelchair. Other users might be able to reach the table, but need help plating their food.

Woman uses portable ramp to lower her wheelchair.
Stairs and big steps hinder wheelchair access. Portable ramps are one solution. photo credit: 1H7A1145 via photopin (license)

Many people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing want some quiet spaces where they can speak with others without competing noise. Some members of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community like loud music so they can feel the beat. They might appreciate important song lyrics ahead of time so they will know what is being said in the song if it has an important meaning to your event.

A particularly beautiful way to enjoy events is through the use of sign language interpreters, who can add words, the beat, and the feeling of the song to their interpretation. Not everyone knows sign, so it’s important to ask.

People stand around talking at a party with low lighting.
While romantic, low lighting isn’t friendly to people trying to read lips or to see when they have low vision. photo credit: Disney – Blue Bayou Restaurant via photopin (license)

People with Low Vision often appreciate more lighting. They also may appreciate time to get to know the area before everyone arrives, as do many people who are Blind.

An Autism self-advocate told me loud noise bothered him and he needed ear plugs, and no strobe or flashing lights because they trigger headaches.

Many bright lights extend from a large stage.
Flashing or strobe lights can cause headaches or trigger epileptic seizures for some. photo credit: ///////// via photopin (license)

For people with Epilepsy, strobe or flashing lights (even police or ambulance lights) can bring on a seizure.

Parties that include everyone and make them feel welcome extends a warmth to all guests that enriches your party.

Source: 10 Tips for Including People With Disabilities in Your Party | Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi

The Need for Star Wars Access for All Abilities, Signing May the Force Be with You

Children dress up as Jedi masters from the Dark Side with red lightsabers.
People of all abilities want to put on a costume and share the Star Wars’ experience. Credit: Christina Goebel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens Dec. 17 premiere at Disney Springs in Kissimmee, Florida

While premieres for the latest Star Wars movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, were last night, the film opens in nationwide theaters today. Almost everyone who wants to can view one of the coolest movies in the galaxy–but not quite. For one blogger who uses a wheelchair, leaving home to view the movie with a damaged wheelchair could endanger his life. Another young man may be attending the film because of director J.J. Abram’s and others’ contributions.

Access to movies for people of all abilities will take a community effort.

Star The Force Awakens Wars lit up on the ground.
This Star Wars: The Force Awakens step and repeat on the ground at Disney Springs in Kissimmee, Florida makes it easy for everyone to snap their picture, even if they use a wheelchair. Credit: Christina Goebel

Movies have been a stress point for many people with a disability. For some, they need captions or amplification to hear, others need descriptive voice, and others need physical access to parking, the building, and accessible seating and bathrooms. Many theaters now provide this access and indicate next to the movie listing if it’s accessible.

A lot of work is still needed for ensuring access, as you can tell from viewing this “official” trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens that has no captions or this one, with 22 million views–but no captions for people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deafblind. As for descriptive voice for people who are blind, also not there.

Star The Force Awakens Wars light display on side of a Disney building.
This Star Wars: The Force Awakens building wall projection provides another accessible backdrop for people with many abilities. Credit: Christina Goebel, at Disney Springs

Here is how theaters accommodate disability, but visit your theater’s website or call to verify and if necessary, reserve access:

  • Descriptive voice: actions described by voice, supplied for those with low vision or blindness and available over a theater-provided headset
  • Closed-captioning: viewed by theater-provided Sony glasses, a captioning device, or shield (View a captioned video of how captioned glasses work here.)
  • Open captioning: scheduled less frequently, captions are shown on the film itself for all to see
  • Assistive Listening Device: a theater-provided amplification device for those with mild to moderate hearing loss
  • Accessible Parking, Seating, and Bathrooms: those spaces with no seats allow someone using a wheelchair to sit–and may run out temporarily during Star Wars’ showings
  • Showings for People with Cognitive Disabilities: usually scheduled later for showings, allow viewers to walk around or talk as they desire, sound may be lower for those with Autism, reduces stress about “proper behavior” for viewing films
  • Showings for with Sign Language for People who are Deaf: usually scheduled later with sign language interpreters

Watching films with sign language is a truer form of communication for those who are culturally Deaf and use sign as their primary method of communication.

To see how different sign language is from captions, learn how Deaf Star signs, “May the Force be With You!”

Seats in a theater with open space next to them to accommodate a wheelchair.
Seats with open spaces next to them are for wheelchairs. Don’t occupy these areas unless you or family members need them. photo credit: Riverview Theater [006/366] via photopin (license)
If you need accommodations, call early for theater access, especially when seats will be full, to know if there will be enough accessible seating, if captions will be available for the 3D version of the movie, if the film will have descriptive voice, if an open captioned film will be shown, or if there will be enough amplification devices on hand.

On crowded days, those using wheelchairs might want to call ahead to arrange for assistance carrying their food and drinks while navigating thick crowds in hallways.

Those needing additional access should show up early to the film to ensure their space or equipment is available. Accessible seating and equipment take extra time to arrange.

While many people with disabilities will experience Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters, some will not.

Darth Vader kneels on ground. He has painted the words Epic Fail on the wall.
Technology exists to improve people’s lives, but many can’t receive access to it. In some cases, when equipment fails, people with disabilities may have to wait years for a replacement. photo credit: Weston Super Mare – Epic Fail via photopin (license)

For actor, blogger, and activist Dominick Evans, Dec. 17 was a reminder of the downside of the lack of access. Evans said in his blog, “Not only can I not go see [Star Wars: The Force Awakens], but I probably won’t be able to see it until it comes to streaming or television. The reason is because I lack access to the things I need to not only get out of my house, but also out of my bed. I have been trapped in bed before, and it sucks, but today it is my reality…not because I’m disabled, but because any type of equipment and services I (and others) need, are 10 times more expensive. ”

Wheelchair foot rest is alone on floor, broken off the wheelchair.
Something as simple as a broken wheelchair foot rest can contribute to broken bones for the user because the wheelchair can roll over his or her foot. photo credit: Broken leg via photopin (license)

Evans has had a broken wheelchair for three years. He said that if insurance comes through, he may have a new wheelchair next spring. In the meantime, Evans’ wheelchair is painful and dangerous to use.

Not having a wheelchair is one of Evans’ access problems. Another is needing a new Hoyer lift, equipment used to move Evans into his wheelchair and out of it.

Evans said, “Due to something called contractures in my legs, which can be very painful, my legs hang around the bar of the kind of lift I use. My feet snag on it, and I have recently experienced multiple sprained feet and broken toes.”

The new lift that won’t break Evans’ bones costs $5,000 and may not be covered by insurance.

For people like Evans, not having appropriate technology is life-threatening and deprives him of choices many of have that we take for granted.

“This is the part of having a disability that stinks the most … knowing you could have your freedom back, but lacking that access to get the things you need, to make it happen. Today I wish I could go to the movies. I have long been a Star Wars fan,” Evans said.

Evans asks us to think of him when we experience the film at theaters. He said, “So today, if you get to go enjoy Star Wars…have some popcorn for me, and think about ways you can help support the disability community, so those of us currently unable to go see this film, or any other film franchise we happen to love, due to lack of access, have a greater chance of not facing these barriers, in the future.”

J.J. Abrams standing a podium next to microphone.
J.J. Abrams, director of the new Star Wars movie, has contributed to the access of those with disabilities. Have you? photo credit: J. J. Abrams via photopin (license)

J.J. Adams, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, contributed $50,000 this year to the family of 10-year-old Michael Keating, a young man who has Cerebral Palsy and whose family needed an accessible van to transport him. They needed more equipment too, since his mother had two hernia surgeries related to moving her 70-pound son.

According to a Washington Post report, Abrams said, “Katie and I made the donation. Likely for the same reason others did: we were moved by the Keating family’s grace, strength and commitment to each other.”

Picture of Yoda's head. It reads, "Try not. Do or do not. There is no try."
Abrams lives Yoda’s mantra by taking action to ensure greater access for others. It’s probable that a young man whose family he helped was able to see his movie because of Abrams’ contribution. photo credit: Yoda wisdom via photopin (license)

Sign Shares staff realizes the need to advocate for access and inclusion so that everyone can live, work, and play in the least restrictive environment. Sign Shares has contributed to disability events across the state and nation to support disability education, awareness, inclusion, and advocacy for people of all abilities.

If you need a sign language interpreter, CART live captioning, or similar resources, you can request services here or call: Local (Houston): 713.869.4373 • Toll Free: 866.787.4154, or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832. 431.4889.

The Sign Shares’ advocacy team can provide resources to those who need technology, access, or advocacy information. Contact us here or by calling the numbers above, at  or at the Videophone numbers for callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Videophone 1: 832.431.3854 • Videophone 2: 832.431.4889.

May the Force Be with You!

 

 

 

Deaf Students at Harvard Request Greater Access and Inclusion

According to an article in The Harvard Crimson, some students are embracing Deaf culture more at Harvard University, while students ask for ASL courses for full inclusion.

The subject of the Harvard article, Westley “West” A. Resendes, has had some good experiences at Harvard as a student who wears a cochlear implant and self-identifies as culturally “Deaf.”

According to the article, “He had interpreters for lectures, sections, and thesis meetings, as well as outside events at the Kennedy School of Government and Kirkland House.”

Cynthia Carvey signing.
Sign Shares’ interpreters like Cynthia Carvey don’t censor what is said. Deaf students want all of the same information as everyone else. (license)

The university provides full inclusion during access. For example, Resendes recalls that when Family Guy creator, Seth McFarlane, visited Harvard, the celebrity learned signs for vulgar words in ASL and then said them and watched the interpreters sign them, according to the article.

Times have changed for students who are deaf at Harvard. A professor from the deaf college Gallaudet University, Caroline M. Solomon, said there were no staff interpreters when she arrived at Harvard.

According to the article, “Halfway through [Solomon’s] first semester, however, the school hired an interpreter full time, who stayed with her for the next four years.”

Resendes and others sometimes don’t receive interpreters if they can’t give advance notice, according to the article.

Sarah D. Gluck, a deaf graduate student pursuing a degree in speech and hearing bioscience and technology, said, “Hearing students have the privilege of walking through the hallway and seeing a poster for something, like a science lecture or talk that’s happening that day or later that week, but it’s hard for me to have any sort of spontaneity.”

Gluck and others who are deaf must give two to three weeks’ notice of their intentions to attend an event, according to the article.

Many pictures in one of a woman showing sign language symbols with her hands.
American Sign Language classes teach one of America’s most-used languages. They also educate some of tomorrow’s interpreters. photo credit: See Hear via photopin (license)

Besides the difficulties of interpreter availability at Harvard, the lack of American Sign Language, or ASL, classes thwarts students like Resendes. The university had ASL courses in the 1990’s, but dropped them due to funding. Now, according to the article, the only ASL courses are provided by the campus organization CODA.

According to the article, Resendes tried fulfill his Harvard foreign language requirement with ASL and his request was denied. Currently, Harvard students can study ASL only as a source of research.

Resendes said, according to the article, that the standard is “rather unfair…considering other languages can be taken for pleasure at Harvard,” and that “The University needs to reconsider its outdated position on ASL.”

Significant strides are being taken by the university journalism staff because they are providing balanced news by presenting news from the perspective of deaf students. Also, The Harvard Crimson reporters aren’t perpetuating stereotypes and are including issues relevant to students with all abilities.

Human Writes with a W is written on paper with a marker.
By including the interests of students who are deaf and hard of hearing, Harvard journalists help to cultivate an inclusive environment on campus. (license)

Media inclusion is crucial for the future inclusive environment at Harvard, because without news coverage, students and faculty at the campus wouldn’t know the issues faced and changes needed.

According to Susan C. Levine in “Reporting on Disability,” “Media coverage plays a crucial role in educating the public on disability issues. It could–and should–be helping people understand that these are civil-rights issues. But more often than not, reporting on disability perpetuates negative stereotypes or fails to tell the story from the perspective of people with disabilities.”

Man reads newspaper intently.
Campus media influences how well a university accepts, rejects, or ignores students of all abilities. photo credit: Eligh Reading via photopin (license)

Like many universities, Harvard is working toward greater access and inclusion for all students and the article in The Harvard Crimson is proof that the campus culture encourages growth.

If you would like to provide a more inclusive environment for people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deafblind, you can request services from Sign Shares here or call 713.869.4373 or 866.787.4154.

 

 

 

 

 

Captioned Videos Share Holiday Message about Senior Isolation

During the holiday season of good will, visiting with lonely or isolated seniors makes a difference, and marketing is doing its part to bring the message to forefront.

Older woman walks down hallway alone, expression of suffering on her face.
What is it like to age in isolation? There’s a way to learn if you don’t know: ask someone who’s living it. (license)

According to the “American Community Survey Reports on Older Americans With a Disability,” “During 2008–2012, 29.9 percent of the older population with a disability lived alone, [and] 9.2 percent lived in group quarters, such as a nursing home…”

Number 39
Percent of elders with disabilities who live alone or in nursing homes. (license)

With 39 percent of our elders with disabilities in America living without family, and more without disabilities living alone, the country has an elder crisis with loneliness, and advertisers worldwide are addressing it.

According to the John Lewis Partnership of the United Kingdom’s website, “1 million older people go for a month without speaking to anyone.”

They’ve posted a captioned holiday video about a young woman on earth who sees a senior man on the moon and attempts to communicate with him.

Just when you thought you didn’t have time to share the holiday with family, this brief, German tearjerker holiday video might change your mind.

Chinese man eats food at table alone in restaurant.
Eating a holiday meal alone can make isolation seem worse for members of our senior population. (license)

When family calls and cancels Christmas for Grandpa, they get unexpected results.

The end of the video has a German message that can benefit us all: Zeit Heimzukommen,  which they translate as “Time to come home.”

If you don’t know anyone who needs company, nursing homes house many seniors who don’t receive visitors. Legacy Project has posted suggestions for visiting nursing homes.

Man has light shining down on him while he performs on stage.
On this week’s calendar: YOU. (license)

Don’t be surprised if you are a celebrity. According to the website, “Since visitors may be rare, the activities director will probably put your visit on the calendar of events so that residents can look forward to it.

How to Get Stupidly Happy after Breaking Up

(license)
(license)

According to an article in Upworthy, 28-year-old Cheryln Chong went through a painful breakup with her fiancé and had a difficult time coping and explaining to her friends how she felt. So she made a comic book to illustrate it.

The result was “This is a STUPIDLY HAPPY COMIC BOOK about the Very Real Pain of HEARTBREAK (and how a turtle snapped me out of it).” Parts of the comic can be viewed at the Upworthy link above and more can be accessed through Chong’s email list.

Despite the cheery title, Chong’s comic book addresses the sorrow and despair a person can encounter after a relationship ends.

Teddy bear sitting alone at night on a bench with head bent low as if sad.
Comic books like Chong’s allow us to see ourselves in a different light. (license)

On her website, Chong says, “After a very painful breakup, I made a comic that touched thousands of hearts worldwide. I now want to deliver the essence of this comic to you, in the form of new comics, new healing techniques and tons of laughter.”

The happy comic about heartbreak was appreciated by posters to her website, and Huffington Post reports that Chong made a Christmas breaking up comic too, and now provides bundles with tips for 30 days of healing, social interaction with others in similar situations, and her comic books.

Dog sits with head on the floor. He is wearing reindeer antlers and red nose costume.
Holidays present extra challenges for the recently brokenhearted. (license)

According to the article, Chong said that holidays and the expected cheer can make break ups more difficult because others may not be as understanding as you wish.

“I wanted this illustrated guidebook to help with just that. If you’re brokenhearted, it really is time to take back your damn holiday!” she said.

Man hugs guitar tightly.
Doing something you enjoy is one way to love yourself. photo credit: my favorite girl 🙂 via photopin (license)

Taking a lesson from Chong’s books, the healing process begins with self love.

If you’re struggling with emotional challenges, Emotions Anonymous provides their twelve-step self-help program online (click on “EA’s Basic Pamphlet” at the bottom of the page).

According to Emotions Anonymous’ health care pamphlet for the Medical Community, “Our aim is to help anyone with any emotional problem get their emotions back under control so they can make healthy choices in life.”

Man hugs a poodle.
An example of kindness: giving a hug. Not only does it make both parties feel good, others feel good seeing it! photo credit: Day 56 – Puppy Love via photopin (license)

Integral to their program is committing random acts of kindness.

Ideas for random acts of kindness:

  • pay for the next person’s meal at a restaurant or drive thru,
  • put money in someone’s parking meter if they’re running out of time,
  • write a thank you note to someone for something they did,
  • give a gift package for someone who’s homeless, including socks, a bus pass, batteries, toiletries, a book, and some snacks in wrappers, or
  • deliver care packages for a group of children at an orphanage.
Heart circle that reads Pay It Forward.
Paying it forward is a way to encourage the spread of acts of kindness. photo credit: Pay it forward via photopin (license)

When someone catches you being good and wants to return the favor, tell them to pay it forward. Maybe they’ll show kindness to someone who is experiencing a breakup.

If you or anyone you know can’t find strategies for relief or feels suicidal, you or they can contact the National Suicide Hotline online or call 1 (800) 273-8255.

According to their website, “By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7. . . You will be helped by a skilled, trained crisis worker who will listen to your problems and will tell you about mental health services in your area. ”

Source: The heartbreaking reality of heartbreak, beautifully told in a 16-part comic.

San Antonio prepares for the world’s first accessible splash park

According to a recent press release, Morgan’s Wonderland officials have broken ground multi-million-dollar expansion to their theme park. The new addition, Morgan’s Inspiration Island, will be “the world’s first ultra-accessible splash park where guests of all ages and abilities can get wet and have fun together.”

Girl plays with water.
At Morgan’s Inspiration Island, some water features will be heated to accommodate guests with temperature sensitivities.

“In many ways, creating Morgan’s Inspiration Island feels a lot like it did when our team designed and built Morgan’s Wonderland with special-needs individuals in mind  – it’s never been done before,” said Gordon Hartman, CEO of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation.

Morgan's Wonderland train
Morgan’s Wonderland’s train is accessible for wheelchairs.

Morgan’s Wonderland is a 25-acre fully accessible, non-profit theme park that opened in San Antonio, Texas in 2010. It’s completely wheelchair-accessible. In just six seasons, the park has welcomed more than 500,000 guests from 50 states, and visitors from 54 other countries.

Individuals of all ages with special needs receive free admission, as well as children under three. Prices for tickets range from $11 for children, seniors, and military personnel, to $17 for adults. Group rates are available.

According to the park’s website, it “features more than 25 elements and attractions including rides, playgrounds, gardens, an eight-acre catch-and-release fishing lake, 18,000-square-foot special-event center, 575-seat amphitheater, picnic area and rest areas throughout the park.”

The theme park was “inspired by their 21-year-old daughter, Morgan.  Her soaring spirit despite physical and cognitive challenges sparked within the Hartmans a deep desire to create Morgan’s Wonderland, a haven not only for those with special needs but also for their families, caregivers, friends and the general public,” according to the park’s website.

Morgan’s Wonderland has limited winter hours, but many events planned to celebrate the holidays, with rides open. Click here the park’s holiday schedule.

 

Virtual Reality Relieves Pain? This Company Says Yes, It Can

According to a company website, Virtual Reality, or VR, is a pain reliever. VR is the same process used to create realistic experiences while playing video games.

“Over a decade of research and clinical studies have shown that immersive virtual reality can significantly reduce pain, relieve stress, and build resilience,” according to the DeepStream VR website.

They even provide a bibliography of supporting research.

Man wearing glasses for virtual reality visual experience and gloves to monitor his heart.
The typical virtual reality display can be expanded to fight pain better, according to DeepStream VR CEO, Howard Rose. (license)

Their products include items needed for a VR experience, such as the wearable headset–called a VR Display, a partnership with a company that sells laptops that work well with the technology, and wearable biosensors that, according to the website, “let your heart control your experience.”

In an interview, DeepStream VR’s CEO, Howard Rose, said pain is more than what you feel. “The more stressed out we are and the more out-of-control we feel, the more amplified the pain. So pain is not just a matter of signals going to your brain. Your brain also has an active role in how you experience pain,” he said.

VR works as more than a distraction from thoughts and worries surrounding pain. “So, simply put, the mechanism for virtual reality pain relief is that our brain really only has a certain amount of cognitive power, and attention acts like a gate. The more we can direct your attention away from the pain, the less pain you experience,” Rose said.

Picture of sunset over the water at a beach.
If you could be here, would it reduce your pain? (license)

The elaborate VR experience occupies space that was formerly used to process pain and reduces pain, because, Rose said, it is “engaging and directing your mental focus. When you’re in [the virtual reality program] COOL!, you’re moving through a landscape and there are things to do; there are otters, and there’s stuff to play with; there’s a lot to engage your mind and engage your focus. That’s all working to absorb as much of your mental energy in the virtual experience as possible, so you have less brain power to focus on pain.”

Rose said that people with third-degree burns are an example of those that this technology can help, because “Safe doses of narcotics are not enough to relieve all that pain.” What happens when there isn’t enough medicine to relieve pain–or when the body can’t handle the side effects from narcotics?

Is it really as simple as mind over matter? Perhaps with a little mental help.

Acute and chronic pain have been studied with VR, and Rose said that VR studies are showing it offers the most help to the people who need it most. Since a person can’t have VR 24 hours for chronic pain, they developed a different process.

Woman wears virtual reality visual headset and holds hand controls to control what she does during the event.
For chronic pain, focus on activities can reduce pain, according to Rose. (license)

“So the idea is that we use VR as a way to enable people to get moving, to get up and active, to engage… so in the short term they get a benefit from pain relief akin to what happens with acute pain, but in the long run our goal is to help them be more resilient and pain-free long after they take the VR helmet off,” Rose said.

Path in the woods. Light shines on the path ahead.
During a meditative walk for chronic pain, participants need to focus to keep in the experience, according to Rose. (license)

One experience used with those who have chronic pain is the Virtual Meditative Walk through a forest with audio guided meditation. “The person walks on a treadmill and sees a virtual environment projected on a big screen. A biosensor measures the person’s level of stress and anxiety, and that data feeds into the virtual world to do biofeedback. So when the biosensor says the stress level goes up, the virtual world begins to fog over, reminding the person to calm their mind and relax through the pain,” Rose said.

The DeepStream VR administrative team brings two VR veterans who have been working with the technology for the 20 years–Howard Rose and Ari Hollander, and a Chief Scientist, Dan Shapiro, with 30 years’ experience with artificial intelligence applications and games.

For now, the company can set up health care providers and researchers with their software and VR system. They can’t provide hardware advising and support for individuals who don’t already have VR systems, but can provide COOL! to individuals who already have VR systems.

You can follow the DeepStream VR blog here.