February Disability Film Festival will be Held in Houston

The ReelAbilities: Houston Film Festival is a “free city-wide film and arts festival to promote inclusion and celebrate the lives, stories, and talents of people with disabilities making an impact that lasts far beyond the week of the festival,” according to the event’s website.

Films that are made by or about people with disabilities will take place Feb. 14-18 in various Houston venues. Reservations are required.

Houston skyscrapers.
Houston and Austin engage in a national trend to showcase accessible films by and about disability. photo credit: H-town via photopin (license)

See films being showcased across Houston for this year’s event and reserve your seat. At the top of their webpage, you can access a visual or text-only brochure.

Films address many abilities and two films are about deafness/hearing loss: Hear This! and No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie:

  • Hear This!When 10 year-old Tristan wants his dad to become the trainer of his soccer team, the club won’t allow it because his father is deaf. Tristan decides to prove them wrong.” Hear This! is playing Tuesday, Feb. 16, from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24, 3839 Weslayan St, Houston, TX 77027.
  • No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie Tony Kane plays a superhero on TV, but in real life he’s just another guy who happens to be deaf. Eight-year-old Jacob Lang is also deaf and is having a hard time. When Tony and Jacob’s paths cross, they inspire belief in each other and in themselves. Featuring Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin.” No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie is playing Monday, Feb. 15 from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. at Edwards Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24 (address listed with other movie above).

    Marlee Matlin holds us plaque of her Hollywood star.
    Marlee Matlin poses with a plaque representing her Hollywood star. Matlin advocates for Deaf issues. photo credit: Marlee Matlin via photopin (license)

The Houston Commission on Disabilities is a sponsor for the Feb. 16 evening event showing Hear This!, Coaching Colburn, and One Year Later.

The ReelAbilities Film Festival events provide accommodations, including:

  • ASL Interpretation,
  • CART,
  • adaptive listening devices,
  • captioned films (unless otherwise noted), and
  • wheelchair-accessible venues.

Other accommodations are available upon request with at least 72 hours advanced notice by contacting Jordan Lewis at 832.786.0361 or info@reelabilities.org

Tickets are available online at www.ReelAbilitiesHouston.org or by calling 832.786.0361.


World ASL Poker Coming Soon to Austin

According to a post from the Deaf Network of Texas, the World ASL Series of Poker, or WASP, Tour #5 will be held in February in Austin, Texas.

Royal Flush poker hand with cards 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace.
photo credit: I Win via photopin (license)

The ASL poker series was developed to “bring renowned poker games to all deaf, hard of hearing, interpreters, and family members of deaf or hard of hearing adult poker players of all languages in different regions of America,” according to the series’ website.

The group was formed by Texas residents Jay Levine of San Antonio, Matt Erickson of Austin, and Dan Stoddard of Austin. Tournaments will be held at different casinos. 

There has been debate about whether people who use ASL can do so in poker games and at casinos, and when, if at all. This relates to industry rules that English only is accepted in poker, usually unless the dealer and all the players at the table use the same language. Notepads have also been in use.

Anyone wanting to play games at a casino who uses sign language should contact the casino ahead of time to learn what restrictions apply during play.

Here, you can read about an example of casino staff and a deaf advocate debating when the Americans with Disabilities Act applies and when it doesn’t in relation to poker.

WASP, however, invites a variety of abilities to play.

The event will be held Friday, Feb. 5 in Austin at the Austin Deaf Club, 8818 Cullen Lane, Austin, Texas 78748.

Admission for Friday night only or for Saturday night only is $10. Saturday full-day admission is $20. Early admission paid on Friday offers a discount of $25 for both days. Additional fees may apply, contact event coordinators or the flyer below for more information.

For more information, contact wasptour@gmail.com.

See the Tour Flyer.



Extending Health Insurance for an Adult Child with a Disability

According to a blog from the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, some Texas children with disabilities can stay on their parents’ insurance plans past the age of 26.

Conditions for the insurance extension include:

  • “The adult child is incapable of self-sustaining employment because of an intellectual, developmental, or physical disability.
  • The adult child is dependent on the parent for support and maintenance”

and, according to the post, “Proof of the individual’s incapacity for employment and financial dependency must be submitted to the insurance company no later than 31 days after the adult child’s 26th birthday.”

Map of Texas showing cows, cowboy, and oil field.
Texas parents of children with disabilities have choices regarding insurance coverage for their adult child. photo credit: Texas Puzzle Shape via photopin (license)

For more potential savings, if a family has at least one person receiving Medicaid, they can enroll in another program, Health Insurance Premium Payment (HIPP) program, that may pay for part of their insurance premiums.

According to the blog, “People with Medicaid and the additional coverage don’t have to pay deductibles, co-payments, or co-insurance when they receive Medicaid-covered services from a provider that accepts Medicaid. The provider is reimbursed for these expenses by Medicaid.”

Learn more about the HIPP program or apply here. If you have questions about HIPP and Medicaid coverage, call the HIPP helpline at 1-800-440-0493.

If you live in another state, consult the government program that handles the Employer Sponsored Coverage through Medicaid to learn about your options.

Source: Extending Health Insurance for an Adult Child


Celebrating and Learning Braille

“We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded that we are vulnerable. We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way we can bring this about,” said Louis Braille, inventor of the raised print read by people who are blind or have low vision.

January celebrates the life and death of Braille. He was born on Jan. 4, 1809, and died on this date, Jan. 6, 1852 at 43. The importance of the inventor and teacher is shown by the move of his remains from his hometown in Coupvray to Paris–except for his hands, the same that read Braille and created it, which were separated from the body and remain in Coupvray.

Braille developed his method of raised letters from a military night-reading code of raised dots on cardboard that was submitted to the Institute for Blind Children in Paris by an officer in the French military. The military had rejected it, according to an article in History Today.

Large Braille makes a line across a full wall with some round tactile elements on the wall as well.
Braille elements add to tactile surroundings and become experiential art. photo credit: Blind message via photopin (license)

According to the article, Braille was a student who examined the officer’s code, later refined it when he was just 15, and as a teacher at the same school years later, published a book on it.

Children's bowl with Braille and upraised letters.
This tactile bowl shows the Braille alphabet with upraised letters as well. photo credit: Braille Seeing Eye Dog Ashtray via photopin (license)

Pierre Focault, another ex-student from Braille’s school, eventually developed the first typewriter for the blind,  according to the article. By that time, Braille had died from tuberculosis.

The American Foundation for the Blind has developed 16 Braille resources to celebrate the life of its creator. The resources include a link to a video of Helen Keller’s speech about Braille, games, parent and teacher resources, an online museum about Braille, and links to more resources.

According to the foundation’s website, January 2016 marks an important date in the American community of people who use Braille.

“The U.S. members of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) voted to adopt Unified English Braille (UEB) to replace English Braille American Edition in the U.S., which means that all new transcriptions will be produced in UEB and educators will teach the code,” according to the website.

The website recommends a resource to learn the Unified English Braille, Beginning with Braille.

Two fingers read Braille on a page.
Most people possess the sensitivity needed in their fingers to read Braille. photo credit: Aprendiendo a leer via photopin (license)

There are several types of Braille. Click here to learn more or if Braille could benefit you or someone you know.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about organizations for people who are blind or have low vision.





Wheelchair Users Address the Dangers of Snow

According to an article on the JJ’s List blog, a woman who uses a wheelchair asks us to spread the word about the need to clear sidewalks of snow for wheelchair users.

Wheelchair symbol on street with snow depicts person being thrown from wheelchair.
One of the most dangerous obstacles for wheelchair users is snow. With the risk of going off course, getting stranded, or being pitched in the snow, winter travel for those using wheelchairs can be life threatening. photo credit: ramp via photopin (license)

Blogger Nura Aly lives in Illinois and uses a wheelchair. Though a city ordinance mandates businesses and residents shovel paths 36 inches wide on their sidewalks and curb cuts, not many people do it.

The situation is complicated when street snow plows move snow off the roads and into curb cuts, which are essential sidewalk entry/exit points for wheelchair users.

After a snowstorm, Aly thought she could get to work two days after the snow, but her mother and a stranger had to assist her when she got stuck in an alley.

“On Friday, six days removed from the last major storm and after dozens of phone calls by me and my loved ones to the office of my alderman, the sidewalks were finally cleared,” Aly said.

A video shows how difficult wheelchair navigation over the snow for someone who uses a wheelchair. With snow a few inches deep, her wheelchair slides to the side and doesn’t follow a straight path, which could cause the wheelchair user to plow into a post, wall, or even off the sidewalk.

Large sofa sits on a sidwalk next to the curb cut
Assuming that a sofa wasn’t blocking sidewalk access for wheelchair users, snow could block access to this curb cut. photo credit: sofafree, lowrider via photopin (license)

The Realities of Wheelchairs and Snow Days

Another blogger, Anita Cameron, said, “Often, folks who use wheelchairs get stuck in the snow and must depend on the kindness of strangers to rescue them. This has happened to me and many of my friends countless times.”

“People sometimes make glib comments – ‘stay at home,’ ‘get a power chair,’ ‘use para-transit.’ Staying at home isn’t a good idea when you work and bills must be paid. Even the most empathetic boss is going to eventually get tired of the ‘snow excuse’ and you’ll find yourself disciplined or terminated. Contrary to popular belief, a power wheelchair won’t get through six inches of snow, ice or slush – the wheels will simply spin uselessly,” Cameron said.

Cameron said that para-transit is for people who can’t otherwise access a public bus. Since many buses are now accessible, para-transit wouldn’t apply unless they weren’t near a bus stop. Sometimes, access to the bus stop is also blocked by snow, forcing wheelchair users to wait in the street. Cameron said this has resulted in police stops to understand why she was in the street.

Snow plow shovels snow near man shoveling snow off sidewalk.
Snow plows can cause build up of snow around sidewalks. photo credit: Mine is Bigger via photopin (license)

Some people are training service animals to pull them out of the snow, according to a Daily Herald report.

Technology and Resources for the Snow

The Karman website has two technology recommendations for enhancing snow safety for wheelchair users.

One is a small set of anti-tipping wheels behind the other wheels. The other is a wheel blade that works like a snow plow. As with many items, for those on fixed budgets, additional wheelchair equipment may be beyond their budget or they may have to wait months for approval from insurance or rehabilitation sources.

According to the website, snow poses a significant risk for those using wheelchairs. “It can be a very dangerous situation if you are propelling your wheelchair on your own with no assistance. One little wheel slip and you lose balance, finding yourself face down in the snow. In some situations, you can start moving about in the snow, but after a while you will find yourself stuck in the snow you’ve been raking in front of the chair.”

The Smart Chair blog recommends snow tires for wheelchairs, a buddy system, backup power sources and planning for medicines and trips.

Creative Solutions

New Mobility Magazine, a publication for active wheelchair users, offers potential snow solutions in the form of specialized wheelchairs, additional equipment, snow chains, and homemade equipment. They provide links to videos showing the equipment.

Let’s not forget that people do what they are able and wish to do, and some people who use wheelchairs love snow and snow sports, such as adaptive skiing, snowboarding, hockey, and more.

Regardless of hobbies or abilities, sidewalks should be universally accessible to everyone, whether they use a wheelchair, are pushing a stroller or walker, are walking with a toddler holding each hand, riding a bicycle to work, or just enjoying the outdoors. At no point should sidewalks present a danger to life, as the bloggers shared.

Advocating for Public Safety

If you’d like to help, make sure that sidewalk areas and curb cuts near your home or place of business have at least 36 inches of access without snow.

If you observe areas of your hometown that have snow covered sidewalks and you live in the United States, let your City Council know. Locate your council through a link at the mayor’s office or directly. Type in the name of your city and City Council for search engine results.

If the problem continues, attend a council meeting and request that the issue be addressed. Meeting dates will be posted on their website, or you can call and ask. Look for or request the times when public comment will be taken, and then plan to share your input in 1-3 minutes.

For this topic, pictures would be useful for the council to review. Printed pictures would work best, as they could be passed to council members while you present your information.

Items brought to the council must be addressed in the future in some way, whether they seek more information, write an ordinance that the city must follow, or determine they can do nothing more.

You could also send an email or call your city’s disability coordinator, or if you can’t find one, then contact the council to address your concerns.

If you believe the issue isn’t being addressed properly, other resources are state and national representatives.

Contact Your Elected Officials

Find links to contact the president, vice president, U.S. senators and representatives, state governors, state senators and representative, and mayors. https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials


EEOC sues McDonald’s for Discrimination against Applicant who is Deaf

While many people were Christmas shopping, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, filed a lawsuit for disability discrimination against McDonald’s.

According to a Disability.gov update, the EEOC has charged McDonald’s Corporation and McDonald’s Restaurants of Missouri with disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“An applicant who is deaf applied for a job at a McDonald’s in Belton, Missouri. When the restaurant learned that the applicant needed a sign language interpreter as a reasonable accommodation for his job interview, they allegedly canceled the interview and wouldn’t reschedule it,” according to the Disability.gov update.

Man speaks and sign language interpreter signs with hands what he's saying.
Sign language interpreters aren’t a want for employees who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing and request them, they are a need. While employees may not need interpreters for most tasks, if they request an interpreter, the request should be taken seriously.

How might McDonald’s management have broken the law?

According to the ADA, “Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, State and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including State and local governments.”

According to the EEOC’s press release, they filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s for violating federal “by refusing to accommodate and hire a deaf applicant…”

“When the Belton restaurant manager learned [the applicant] needed a sign language interpreter for his job interview, she canceled the interview and never rescheduled it, despite the [applicant’s] sister volunteering to act as the interpreter. Restaurant management continued to interview and hire new workers after [the applicant] made several attempts to schedule an interview,” according to the press release.

According to the press release, “EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief, including training for all McDonald’s managers on accommodations for applicants with disabilities, particularly those who are deaf.”

Disability symbol
“People with disabilities have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country,” EEOC Regional Attorney Andrea G. Baran said.

“People with disabilities have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country,” EEOC Regional Attorney Andrea G. Baran said in the press release. “Providing equal employment opportunities to all job applicants – including those with disabilities – is not just the law, it is good for our economy and our workplaces.”

According to a Disability.gov bulletin, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a service for people who use American Sign Language (ASL). The Direct Video Access program helps people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing get information in ASL about employment discrimination issues, including filing discrimination complaints. Call 844-234-5122 from 7 a.m.- 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, to be connected to an EEOC representative who is fluent in ASL.