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