Tag Archives: wheelchair

Houston Internship Opportunity with Disability Advocacy

Pink cherry blossoms in front of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington. D.C.
With this internship opportunity, you can travel to Washington, D.C. License: (license)

If you’re currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program at college, this internship opportunity provides training in disability advocacy and laws, and an opportunity to travel to the nation’s capital to attend a national conference regarding disability issues.

According to a recent announcement from the Independent Living Research Utilization program, the internship includes a $2,160 to $3,600 stipend and will last six to ten weeks during the time frame of June 6 to August 12, 2016.

Travel to the National Council on Independent Living in Washington DC, July 25-28 is required. You can learn more about this annual conference here.

The Independent Living Research Utilization program at the TIRR Memorial Hermann Research Center in Houston, Texas seeks applicants for its 2016 summer undergraduate internship program.

Interns will learn about research, the Affordable Care Act, disability laws and policy, and disability and independent living history and philosophy.

The interns will be supervised by Lex Frieden and Richard Petty at ILRU and will be mentored by other researchers in the Collaborative on Health Reform and Independent Living.

According to the announcement, interns will attend the annual conference of the National Council on Independent Living in Washington, D.C., where they will gain additional exposure to disability issues, policy and the disability movement.

Interns will also assist in conducting town hall meetings regarding centers for independent living, learn from disability leaders, and visit federal agencies and meet federal officials in the disability network.

Applicants should submit:

  • a cover letter indicating their interest and availability,
  • an up-to-date resume,
  • transcript, and
  • a letter of recommendation.

See what a cover letter looks like here.

Need to make a resume? Resume Genius has templates you can download to make sure you cover important topics in the resume and that it looks good.

Submit your application package to Richard Petty at Richard.petty@bcm.edu by April 22, 2016.

Applicants will be evaluated on:

  • Academic performance,
  • previous research experience,
  • writing ability,
  • experience with disability,
  • experience in healthcare, and
  • interest in the field.

Applicants should include the above information in their cover letter and/or their resume.

Applicants should be enrolled as undergraduate or graduate degree-granting students.

Final selections will be made by May 9, 2016.

A majority of ILRU’s staff have disabilities and they provide reasonable accommodations, including:

  • meetings with Interpreters and CART live captioning,
  • TTYs,
  • screen readers,
  • accessible office furniture,
  • chemical-free work spaces,
  • emergency evacuation chairs,
  • flashing alarms,
  • accessible offices, parking, paths of travel, equipment and furniture.

ILRU’s offices, parking, paths of travel, equipment and furniture are physically accessible and convenient for access of staff and visitors with disabilities.

 

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Let Texas Know Your Needs

Every three years, Texas organizations and agencies gather with people who have disabilities to plan how to provide better services and supports so that Texans can live more independently.

Texas state flag waves
photo credit: The flag of Texas via photopin (license)

The Texas State Independent Living Council, or Texas SILC, asks for your input for the State Plan for Independent Living. The SILC  helps develop and monitor this plan.

According to a recent email by the Texas SILC, “By taking this short survey, you can help us create a framework for service delivery by including your feedback in the next State Plan for Independent Living. Take the Survey

Target Makes Move for Mobility

Target is investing in customers needing accessible shopping carts to assist families who want to shop and not have to push a wheelchair and shopping cart together, according to a report in Upworthy.

Target’s new shopping cart is called Caroline’s Cart, and is named after Drew Ann Long’s daughter, Caroline, who has special needs. According to the report, Long developed the cart and marketed it, and Target began testing it in its stores because of an employee who had a family member with special needs.

Line of red Target shopping carts
With Caroline’s Carts in Target stores, parents can push their family members in the carts without having to have a separate wheelchair. photo credit: Shopping Carts via photopin (license)

According to the report, one parent of a child with special needs, Adam Standiford, posted on the Target Facebook page: “Dear Target, I can’t express enough how happy my wife was to see this at our local Target today. We have a 6 year old handicap girl who either doesn’t fit in carts anymore or gets weird looks to as why she’s sitting in the basket and can’t walk like a normal child. This simple cart literally will change how we can shop, not having to worry as to how we are going to get her into a store. … I will forever be Target loyal! Sincerely, Every parent of a special needs kid.”

According to the Target website, “Beginning March 19, the vast majority of our stores (with the exception of a handful of our smallest stores where we don’t have full-size carts) will have at least one Caroline’s Cart, and many will have more, depending on their guests’ needs.”

According to the Upworthy report, “It may look like a pretty ordinary cart … but for the families who will use it, it’s extraordinary.”

Advocacy to Avoid Disability Discrimination Lawsuits

When people with disabilities encounter disability discrimination, they may think the only option is to sue. Or, they may let the issue go, thinking hiring a lawyer may be too expensive or time consuming.

Litigation in court costs money, and matters are resolved over a period of time–sometimes years. That’s too long to wait for a pressing need.

Gavel rests on top of desk with court room participants in distance
The courtroom is a place to solve problems as a last resort. photo credit: CA Supreme Court – 11 via photopin (license)

Other options are available to get access and inclusion.

Many businesses, organizations, and agencies understand that they should respect the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  and other federal laws that protect Americans with disabilities . One way to raise awareness is to share the law with them.

When agencies, organizations, and businesses know the laws and don’t want to make accommodations or include people with disabilities, there are other remedies.

According to the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ (CTD) Messenger e-Newsletter, a lawsuit should come after other efforts have been made to see if a solution can be reached.

The CTD newsletter suggests three actions before seeking a lawyer:

Wheelchair ramp leads up to steps
Here’s a situation businesses could understand better once someone pulled their wheelchair up to this ramp. photo credit: Ramp to No where via photopin (license)
  • Talk to the business directly CTD recommends asking for the manager or the property manager. A CTD example shows that calling attention to access for one disability can benefit others: “CTD was approached by a group of taxi drivers who were concerned that the drop-off area [for Austin City Limits] was far from the entrance gates and required people with mobility impairments to traverse a ditch. CTD staff met with Festival organizers … By the next year, vehicles transporting people with disabilities were allowed to pull right up to the entrance gate. Plus, the Festival added accommodations such as an accessibility station and free rental wheelchairs, and ASL interpreters became permanent.”
  • Put it in writing An example where this worked: “Austin resident Julie Maloukis sent Maudie’s Tex Mex written notice about their inaccessible parking. Several weeks later, Maudie’s contacted Julie, thanking her for letting them know about the situation and to tell her the parking spaces were fixed.”
  • File a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, “which might be able to require a business to comply with ADA regulations.” What does the Department of Licensing and Regulation do? According to the agency’s website, they “ensure public safety and customer protection, and provide a fair and efficient licensing and regulatory environment at the lowest possible cost.” The department has influence over businesses, particularly if the business requires a license. Complaints can be filed against businesses that are unlicensed too.

Another way to educate others is to ask to schedule a demonstration of the lack of access or inclusion. When staff at businesses learn how the problem affects others, they are more willing to help.

For example, if a ramp is too steep at the entrance to business, offer to demonstrate for them why. Have someone to spot the wheelchair as you attempt to travel up or down the ramp, and keep safe.

Captions on bottom of TV screen showing news about Oprah and Australia.
Watching TV without sound or captions is a quick way to teach why captions are important to those with hearing loss or deafness. photo credit: NICOLE CHETTLE via photopin (license)

If you need communication access, demonstrate how the experience would be without sound or words. For example, if you need a video captioned, have them watch the video with you without any sound. Have them read a paper with their eyes closed or in the dark if you are requesting Braille and they don’t understand why.

Be creative with teaching others to understand. Misunderstandings lead to discrimination continuing. Once everyone is on the same page, it’s easier to find a reasonable solution.

In many cases, these steps will work with solving  discrimination situations.

If not, another option before filing a lawsuit is to ask a lawyer to draft a letter discussing their obligations under the law, so that they are aware of the seriousness of the situation.

Whether the person chooses to take a matter to court is his or her right. Each person needs to evaluate how severe the situation is, and if a possible solution can be reached without deciding to sue.

Disability Study Points to Important Factors for Employee Retention

A national British study involving major employers and employees determined two major factors related to the retention of employees with disabilities: organizational values and reasonable adjustments, or accommodations.

The research was conducted by the Business Disability Forum, which includes businesses that employ 20 percent of the United Kingdom workforce. The study involved 352 employees. It follows an earlier employees with disabilities study conducted with 145 businesses.

Woman wearing business suit and smiling.
According to the report, retaining each employee saves a company an average of the American dollar equivalent of $43,000 a year. photo credit: Happy businesswoman via photopin (license)

According to the report, retaining employees with disabilities saves money for businesses, because it’s cheaper to keep them than replace them: “…staff turnover in just 5 sectors cost UK business more than £4 billion each year and the average cost of replacing individual employees is estimated at £30,000[1]. The business case for investing in retention is a compelling one.”

Wheelchair ramp placed at bottom of stairs.
Sometimes, employers and employees have differing views on what accommodations are needed. While the ramp is an accommodation here, a wheelchair can’t roll over the stairs. photo credit: Ramp to No where via photopin (license)

One of the areas needing to be addressed were workplace accommodations. According to the study, employees with disabilities felt their employers knew their legal obligations to provide accommodations, while few employees knew where to get advice about them from within their place of work:

  • “Less than 7 in 10 employees with disabilities were ‘very’ or ‘mainly’ confident that their employer has the knowledge to manage legal obligations with respect to adjustments;” and
  • “Close to 3 in every 10 employees with disabilities indicated that they were ‘very’ or ‘mainly’ confident about where to source advice about adjustments from within their organization.”
Business people hold meeting with a man on video.
Advanced technology offers solutions for the needs of all employees. Sometimes, people don’t know the options they have to get the technology. photo credit: Skype panelist via photopin (license)

Existing programs could have provided accommodations for employees, but employees didn’t always know about the programs, according to the report. “Far fewer employees than employers report awareness of the Access to Work program which can assist with funding specific adjustments for individuals that would not reasonably be expected for all employers to fund.”

The Access to Work website says that employees can apply for grants to assist with accommodations.

In the U.S., Centers for Independent Living, resource centers for people with any disability, and vocational rehabilitation programs assist with accommodations for people with disabilities:

Human with a question mark
The study revealed that line managers need resources and support with employees with a disability. photo credit: question mark via photopin (license)

According to the report, organizational barrier to employee with disability retention involves what they refer to as “line managers”  most directly. Line managers need skill and confidence in addressing disability-related needs, and in some cases, employees said that line managers had negative attitudes toward disability.

Man with a cochlear implant
Does your company website include profiles of individuals with disabilities? photo credit: Cochlear Implant via photopin (license)

The report provides suggestions for employers, including:

  • giving visibility to disability, such as having employee testimonials on recruitment webpages and staff profiles, and having staff networks for employees with disabilities;
  • building the skills and confidence of line managers by providing “centrally stored, up-to-date advice and guidance on all aspects of how disability affects employers on the intranet” and providing support them when hiring new team members with accommodations needs;
  • having a “stand-alone disability-related absence policy and clear guidelines for line managers about how disability-related absence is managed;”
  • having a workplace adjustment process that involves employees in the accommodations process. Line managers need training and guidance with this, according to the report; and
  • “reviewing performance appraisal systems for unconscious biases that limit the progress of employees with disabilities.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] See: HR REVIEW (Feb 2014)

The report, State of the Nation: Retaining and developing employees with disabilities – Stage 2,

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!

 

 

 

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.