Tag Archives: wheelchair-accessible

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.

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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

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

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.