Feeling Contento: Accessible Dining Done Right

Blog: Contento

Dining out should be one of life’s great pleasures. But for wheelchair users, finding a restaurant that is truly accessible can instead be one of life’s great frustrations.

Too often, wheelchair users arrive at a dining establishment that advertises itself as ADA compliant and/or wheelchair accessible and find that it’s anything but.

Contento, which opened in New York City in June 2021, is a welcome exception.

Located in East Harlem, Contento bills itself as a “casual place with food that has a Peruvian flair.” The restaurant was started by sommelier Yannick Benjamin and business partners George Gallego, Oscar Lorenzzi, Mara Rudzinski, and Lorenz Skeeter. Benjamin and Gallego are both wheelchair users and they’ve designed the restaurant with wheelchair users—and excellent food and wine—in mind.

Guests approaching Contento will find a wide smooth ramp up to the front door. Upon entering the restaurant through the (weather permitting) open front door, they will see the restaurant’s accessible bar—one half is typical bar height (40-42 inches) while the other half is wheelchair accessible height (34 inches max).

In designing the restaurant, Contento’s owners prioritized accessibility at the expense of being able to accommodate bigger crowds.

“We sacrificed a lot of tables and chairs so people in wheelchairs can come in comfortably, and myself and George can work there comfortably,” said Benjamin in an interview with RESY. “We could easily have three or four more tables, and that’s a lot of money to throw away. But I think in the long run, there’s definitely been a return on investment. I would say on a daily basis, five to 10% of our clientele has some kind of disability.”

In addition to being placed far apart, Contento’s tables are somewhat higher than typical dining tables in order to accommodate most wheelchairs. The restaurant’s large bathroom is outfitted with grab bars and a touchless sink, has an enormous but easy to maneuver sliding door, and it’s located on the same level as the bar and dining room. Adaptive flatware is available upon request.

Contento’s owners and staff are also attuned to the needs of guests with disabilities that may not require the use of a wheelchair such as “those with intellectual disabilities, invisible disabilities, those who are part of the low-vision and blind community, or the hard-of-hearing and deaf community,” Benjamin told RESY. “Part of that is simple verbiage. It could be, ‘Do you need me to talk louder?” or, “Do you need me to lower the music?’ We have a QR code on the menu for people in the low-vision community that they can scan to hear the menu read.”

While it’s highly unusual to find a restaurant geared toward the needs of the disability community, there is more to Contento’s success than that. Contento, which means happy in Spanish and Italian “is above all, a very enjoyable place to have dinner and a few glasses of wine,” writes New York Times restaurant reviewer Pete Wells.

Here’s hoping that restaurants around the country will follow Contento’s example.

Puppets for Disability Awareness

Blog: Puppetry Arts

Some disabled artists and educators have found that disability-themed puppet shows are an effective way of increasing understanding and improving attitudes about disability among the school-age children who watch them.

The Kids on the Block was one of the first puppet arts program to use puppets to educate children about disability. According to The Arc of Chemung-Schuyler (New York), the child-size puppets “were first developed in 1977 in direct response to US Public Law 94-142, sometimes called the “mainstreaming law.”

Since then, Kids on the Block puppet shows have been presented in schools and community venues all over the United States and in 30 countries around the globe. “Each Kids on the Block program is thoroughly researched and field tested before it becomes available to school districts, community service organizations and special interest groups.”

The Kids on the Block troupe include puppets with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, hearing and visual impairment, autism, ADHD, epilepsy, and learning differences as well as puppets without disabilities.

After each puppet show, young audience members have the opportunity to ask questions about the puppets and their disabilities. “The Kids on the Block program is powerful in helping break down barriers, enabling children to be candid with their questions and concerns. The puppets also help children feel positive about themselves, accept individual differences and learn valuable personal skills,” says The Arc.

Though Kids on the Block may be the most well-known puppet troupe to instruct children about disability, they are not the only one. Below are descriptions of other disability-themed puppet programs that teach school-age children about disabilities.

“What Happened to You?”
Puppet artist Nikki Charlesworth’s production, “What Happened to You?” is based loosely on her own experiences living with disability. Featuring three puppets with disabilities, the show raises awareness about the challenges people with disabilities face on a daily basis.

“Each puppet’s story explores our preconceptions about disability in a playful and humorous way and showcases the endless opportunities out there once barriers of all kinds are removed,” Charlesworth explains on her website. “What Happened to You?” is accessible to all audiences because it provides embedded audio description, integrates British Sign Language and is presented in a sensory friendly environment. The show was first performed in the UK and will soon open in Toronto, Canada.

Special Kids, Special Families Koscove Kids
SKSF, a nonprofit based in Colorado Springs, also uses puppetry to explore disability themes. Featuring the seven Koscove Kids, multicultural puppets with distinct disabilities, SKSF’s puppet shows educate students in area schools and other venues about how disabilities affect their disabled peers and promote respectful and positive attitudes toward individuals with disabilities.

Addy and Uno”
Touted as the first family musical about disability, New York City-based “Addy and Uno” tells the story of Uno, a math prodigy with autism who qualifies for a math competition but is afraid to compete. His puppet friends, all with different abilities, encourage him to participate.

Pacer’s Count Me In
Pacer’s Count Me program was established in 1979 and operates mainly in Minneapolis. Schools can request Count Me In programs, or they can purchase their own puppets and present their own onsite shows. Pacer’s sells child-size puppets that represent diverse children with a range of disabilities. Schools can choose between several packages that include puppets, a custom-built wheelchair, props, and resource books. They can also arrange trainings for aspiring puppeteers. Pacer’s also offers anti-bullying puppet programs that include puppets with and without disabilities.

Joseph Maley Foundation’s Disability Awareness, Hope, and As You Are Program
The Maley Foundation offers puppet summer camps where seventh and eighth grade students are trained to facilitate puppet shows and lead post show discussions with their classmates.

Camping for Wheelchair Users

Blog: Camping for Wheelchair Users

When the weather’s hot, being out in the forest is one of the best places to commune with nature. In fact, says Wild Learning, “the shade provided by trees can reduce our physiologically equivalent temperature between 7 and 15°C, depending on our latitude.”

That’s just one reason why July is a great month to take a camping trip. Other reasons include reduced levels of stress, depression and anxiety; improved mood and sense of wellbeing; lower blood pressure; better immune function; heart and lung health; and the chance to unplug from electronics and your regular routines.

Being a wheelchair user shouldn’t keep you from enjoying the joys of camping. With a little pre-trip planning, a vacation in the great outdoors is in your future!

1. Location, location, location
Location is always key to a successful vacation. But when you use a wheelchair, it’s even more important. While the Americans with Disabilities Act has made many campgrounds accessible to individuals with disabilities, not every accessible campground is created equal. If you’re interested in camping in a national park, check out individual park websites to learn about each one’s accessibility. For further reference, this blogpost from BraunAbility provides a list of the 9 most accessible campgrounds.

 2. Get an Access Pass
An access pass from the National Park Service permits free lifetime access to national parks and other federally managed national forests and grasslands. The pass also provides discounts on camping fees, tours and boating. For more information, visit outsidepulse.com.

3. Choose the right tent
A tent that is roomy enough to store your wheelchair and has a wide and flat entryway is critical to a comfortable, safe and restful trip. There are also tents especially designed for wheelchair users. For example, check out the Eureka Freedom Tent.

4. Sleep comfortably
Sleeping under the stars doesn’t have to be a dream, with the right set-up. Consider sleeping on a cot rather than roughing it on the ground. This will make it easier to transfer from your wheelchair and will likely be more comfortable – especially if you bring along a mattress pad. Likewise, a backpacking quilt without cumbersome zippers is lighter than a sleeping bag. See these top backpacking quilts to find one that best suits your needs.

5. Have a backup plan for hygiene
Most likely, you’ve chosen a campground with ADA compliant rest rooms and showers. But you never know what you will find once you reach your destination. Be on the safe side by packing a privacy tent, portable shower and fold-up commode.

6. Be prepared for unexpected medical needs
You’ll feel more confident knowing where you can go in the event of a medical emergency. Before you set out, know where the nearest hospital and urgent care clinic is located. Likewise, bring extra medication and medical supplies.

 7. Don’t forget to bring:
High SPF sunscreen, heavy duty bug spray, flashlights and extra batteries, maps, spare phone charger, and clothing for rain and unexpectedly cold temperatures.

Have a blast!

Products mentioned in this article are the results of our own research. We’re not endorsing any product, nor do we have any relationship with their manufacturers, nor do we profit from the sales of any of the products mentioned in this article.

Mock Airplane Cabin Takes the Stress Out of Air Travel

Blog: Mock Airplane Cabin

Recently, we reported on the “Microsoft Flight Simulator,” a series of flight simulator programs for Microsoft Windows operating systems that give wheelchair users the exciting sensation of flying an airplane.

But that’s not the only aeronautic innovation that benefits disabled individuals to make headlines this spring/summer travel season.

A mock aircraft cabin in the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) International Airport’s main terminal is helping passengers with disabilities and anyone else who may find air travel stressful, to practice boarding procedures before they fly.

Part of The Travel Confidently MSP Education Center, the cabin was formerly used to train Delta employees in Atlanta, Georgia. The 33-foot cabin, equipped with 42 seats, is useful for people with sensory, cognitive and physical disabilities and people traveling with service dogs. The cabin will also be used to train public safety and airline crews.

Individuals who enter the cabin will find opportunities to practice getting luggage into overhead bins and buckling their safety belts. They will also learn protocols for flying with a wheelchair and be able to orient their service dogs to an airplane before taking them on a flight.

“This unique facility will be a hallmark for MSP’s programs that support equitable and inclusive travel,” Brian Ryks, executive director and CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), said in a press release.

“Thanks to a generous donation from Delta Air Lines, we can provide a life-like training environment without the use of an actual aircraft, which will build confidence in air travel for more people in our community.”

Other funding for the mock airplane was provided by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and Airport Foundation MSP.

“We are always looking for ways to build travel equity,” said Rick King, MAC chair. “It’s easy to take air travel for granted, but for many it presents unique challenges and requires different resources. The Travel Confidently MSP Education Center is one more way we can provide resources to the community and lower the barriers to flying for as many people as possible.”

Another feature that makes the mock aircraft unique is that it features artwork by four emerging artists from Minneapolis-based Juxtaposition Arts, a non-profit youth art and design education center, gallery, retail shop, and artists’ studio space.

So, if you weren’t planning a trip to Minneapolis-Saint Paul, this summer, you may want to reconsider your travel plans!

Here’s hoping that more airports will eventually offer “travel confidently education centers!”

Five Reasons Why Therapeutic Horseback Riding Could be for You!

Blog: Horseback Riding Benefits

Spring is a wonderful time to saddle up – especially for people with disabilities.

Indeed, a great many studies have shown that therapeutic horseback riding, which includes both equine-assisted therapy and hippotherapy, benefits individuals with a range of physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities in a variety of ways.

The term “equine-assisted therapy” describes a range of programs that involve horses and horse care for clients with different needs. Hippotherapy, on the other hand, is a distinct type of therapy that is prescribed by a physician and conducted by an occupational, physical or speech-language therapist who has been trained and certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH).  Many studies have found that equine-assisted therapy and hippotherapy can benefit individuals both physically and emotionally. For example, therapeutic riding:

1. Improves motor skills in children with cerebral palsy, autism (ASD) and ADHD

A study published in the journal Neurologia found that “therapeutic horseback riding improved motor skills and reduced spasticity in children with CP.” Likewise, a 2016 study in the Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics journal found that “hippotherapy provided by a trained therapist who applies an intense and graded session for 10 weeks can improve body functions and performance of gross motor and fine motor activities in children with cerebral palsy.”

Another study showed that children with ASD and ADHD who took part in equine-assisted therapy combined with brain exercises showed improvement in motor skills such as “manual dexterity, upper-limb coordination and strength tests.” Additionally, “their caregivers … reported improvements in coping skills, balance, posture [and] social and academic performance,” according to researchers.

2. Improves communication skills and the ability to form relationships in children with autism spectrum disorder

Some children on the spectrum have difficulty forming bonds with others. According to Spark For Autism, therapeutic riding improves their ability to do so because “the bond that riders often form with their horses can be a bridge to better social or communication skills for people on the autism spectrum.”

For example, a 2021 study in which 42 children with ASD participated in a 16-week therapeutic horseback riding program while another 42 took part in other activities, found that the group that received hippotherapy “demonstrated a significant improvement in social interaction and communication skills compared to the participants in the control group.”

3. Therapeutic riding increases sensory awareness

When an individual rides or interacts with a horse, its movements provide sensory input to the vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile and visual senses. A 2021 study in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that an 8-week trial of equine-assisted OT improved sensory integration in children with autism.

4. Therapeutic riding helps build the skills needed for walking

As Janice Anderson, a clinical leader at Manes & Motions, a therapeutic riding school in Middletown, Connecticut, told the Hartford Courant, “as a person’s pelvis sways on horseback, it is actually simulating the walking motion and serving as physical therapy.” Anderson said she “has seen wounded veterans and others go from walkers to crutches as they gain strength and mobility, and their gait improves.”

5. Therapeutic riding builds confidence and patience

After participating in an 8-week therapeutic horseback riding program, combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder reported “greater confidence, gratitude and hope as well as increased patience” according to Beth A, Lanning, Ph.D. associate chair and associate professor of public health at Baylor University.

For more information and to find a PATH Certified therapist near you, visit pathintl.org.

Longview School Uses Assistive Technology to Prepare Students for Independence 

Blog: Longview School

Thanks to educators with the know-how to make the most of assistive technology and augmentative communication tools, the sky’s the limit for students at the Longview School.

Longview, a public special education school in Montgomery County, Maryland, serves youngsters ages 5-21, with severe to profound intellectual and/or multiple disabilities. Despite their disabilities, Longview School Principal Sarah Starr says that her students “learn every day. They are all capable of becoming more independent and they can all enjoy a good quality of life.” Adds Transition Specialist Adriana Friedman: “At Longview, we are truly committed to seeing ability, not disability, in every student.”

With that philosophy in mind, Longview transition-aged students ages 14 to 21 all participate in the Secondary Program’s work-based learning instruction. The program uses work-based learning to prepare students for life after school and to provide them with the skills they need to take part in the labor force post-graduation. Assistive technology and augmentative communication devices from Enabling Devices are a critical part of helping students to engage in the tasks that go into building a business.

For example, students use a variety of Enabling Devices’ switches, the company’s switch-activated pouring cups and adapted battery operated scissors in the transition program’s artisan soap making business. Enabling’s adapted garden spray lets students water the plants they grow and sell as part of Flower Power, the program’s plant business.

“Roar Dash” a snack delivery service based on Door Dash, is another transition program business. Using Enabling’s Bright Red Switch, which lights up and vibrates, a student with visual impairment was able to activate his speech generating device, which made it possible for him to become more involved in running the business, says Principal Starr.

The work-based learning program’s greeting card business has been especially successful. Students created art for their greeting cards using various assistive technologies and augmentative communication systems to choose painting techniques and materials. One student used a head switch connected to a paintbrush to create the art for his card. Another student used a communication builder with pictures to choose their paint colors and textures.

Once the greeting card art was completed, designs were sent to the school system’s print shop. After they were printed, students worked on filling orders and delivering cards internally and through the U.S. Postal Service.

In addition to learning to build and run their businesses, Friedman says students also use their work experiences to practice academic and soft skills—such as interviewing, teamwork and professionalism—that will help them get hired for jobs in the community or possibly decide to start a business.

Some students have opportunities for internships in the community. Principal Starr says student businesses and internships “are a great way for the community to learn about our students and the school. The community can see the greatness our students bring and ensure their dignity.”

They also show Longview parents “what kids can do with assistive technology and support from the team,” says the principal. “Assistive technology has opened the door for that. Students can do this work when they have the tools. In fact, we couldn’t run our school without them.”

Yet, the tools are only as good as the educators and therapists who know how and when to use them says Principal Starr. Staff development teacher, Courtney Fike, has implemented a parent and staff web page for training on best practices infusing assistive technology in the home, school, and community. Longview is using the SETT framework to best match assistive technology with our students.

“We can have a ton of devices but until we work with the student and figure out what they need, what will work for them, we can’t make the most of the devices,” Principal Starr says. “Enabling Devices has an excellent selection of different types of switches. Once the right switch is matched appropriately to the person who needs it, it’s magic.”

Learn more about Longview and their student-led businesses at the Longview Family Resource website.

Inclusive Spring Adventures

Blog: Inclusive Spring Flings

With the arrival of April, it’s a wonderful time to start planning for spring and summer day trips and excursions.

Though individuals with disabilities and their families still face obstacles when it comes to the accessibility of recreational facilities, arts and culture venues, and dining establishments, the landscape is slowly changing. For example, while still few and far between, inclusive playgrounds, amusement parks and sensory friendly theater performances are becoming more common.

These are just a sampling of the inclusive and accessible recreational facilities and arts and cultural programs across the country to try this spring and summer.

1. Sesame Place
Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, was the first theme park to become a Certified Autism Center in 2018. The designation set forth by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) means that at least 80% of employees of Sesame Place in Pennsylvania are trained “in the areas of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development, and emotional awareness.” Employees receive additional training every two years and must even pass an exam to work at the park. Sesame Place San Diego, which just opened in March, is also a recipient of the IBCCES certification. Now West Coast families and tourists can also enjoy an autism friendly experience.

2. Earl Reservoir Park 
Woodbury, New York, is the home of a new sensory park located within Earl Reservoir Park. The park includes wheelchair accessible equipment as well as flooring that can accommodate the weight of wheelchairs. Additionally, there are musical instruments and adaptive swings.

3. Savage Park
Savage, Maryland, in Howard County has a new inclusive playground with all sorts of bells and whistles. The playground “was designed to increase interaction and promote language skills for children ages 2 to 12,” says the Howard County, Maryland, website. The playground includes a nonverbal communication board; musical stations; and a sensory panel; as well as play choices for children of all different stages of physical and cognitive abilities.

4. Autism Nature Trail
Located in Letchworth State Park in Castile, New York, this new ADA compliant attraction is the “first of its kind” nature experience especially for individuals on the autism spectrum. The trail is one mile long and includes different stations that provide a variety of sensory experiences. For example, the Reflection Knoll is a quiet place for relaxing in nature; the Meadow Run & Climb is for active play; and the Sunshine Slope, has a “gentle maze with a viewing platform and three cuddle swings, and an ‘Alone Zone’.”

5. Legoland Peppa Pig Theme Park
Like Sesame Place, Peppa Pig’s park also received certification from IBCCES last year. The park opened next to Legoland in Winter Haven, Florida, in February 2022, ready to accommodate families with members on the spectrum. According to Disability Scoop, Peppa Pig also added a new vehicle that’s accessible for wheelchair users.

6. Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., offers performances especially designed for people with disabilities. Accessibility features include ASL interpreters, a sensory friendly environment, audio description, and cued speech. Check the website to find out which performances are designated for disabled audiences.

7. Children’s Theatre Company
Based in Minneapolis, this company offers fully wheelchair accessible spaces, ASL interpretation, assistive listening devices, audio description, large print programs, sensory tours, and sensory friendly performances.

8. Northlight Theatre
This Skokie, Illinois-based venue recently expanded its accessibility options to include open captioned, audio described, and “relaxed” performances. Relaxed performances “include changes to better support individuals with autism and/or those with sensory sensitivities,” according to the theatre’s website.

9. Disabled Spectator
Rather than focusing on one venue, Disabled Spectator is a new company that works with Ticketmaster to find accessible seating to sporting events and performances. So far, the company finds tickets to events at Dodger Stadium and the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and Oracle Park in San Francisco. Disabled Spectators’ website says the company promises to add more venues in the future.

10. Angela’s Accessible Trail
This mile-long wheelchair accessible section of the Cross Rivendell Trail in Orford, New Hampshire, just opened to the public. Named for a little girl named Angela, the trail was the brainchild of Maggie Stoudnour, the former School Trail Programs Coordinator for the local school district. She realized that her son, who has muscular dystrophy, would not be able to participate in the hikes that other students could. Nor could other students with disabilities, including Angela, for whom the trail is named. Through Stoudnour’s efforts, the school district was awarded a grant from the New Hampshire Recreational Trails Program to construct the wheelchair accessible trail.

10 Must-Have Items for Spring!

Blog: Spring break at home

If you’re feeling energized by the coming of spring, you’re not alone. Warmer weather, more daylight, the return of birds, flowers and greenery are just some of the things that motivate us to get outdoors in spring — the season of renewal.

What to do when you get out there?
Enabling Devices has put together a list of toys, and other products that will make your time in the sun, brighter than ever!

1. Big Water Toy #9000
Big Water Toy is great fun and provides a wonderful tactile sensory experience in any season, but when you can take it outdoors, you get all the fun without the mess!

2. Pouring Cups #20
Pouring Cups aren’t just for cooking. Take them outside and experiment with different materials—sand, water, pebbles, flour, sugar—whatever strikes your fancy.

3. Misting Fan #2134
This switch adapted fan emits a fine mist of water to keep youngsters cool, while increasing sensory stimulation and teaching cause and effect.

4. Minnie Mouse Bubble Blower #2331
This bubble blower will be a huge favorite with Minnie lovers and anyone who loves bubble play! Minnie has a surprise in her basket of flowers! Press your capability switch or the button on her back and bubbles float out of her basket.

5. Laugh & Learn Camping Fun Lantern #1479
It may or may not be warm enough where you live to actually go camping, but you can pretend inside or out. Make a tent with blankets, sheets or other fabric and bring this lantern along for fun and learning. This switch-adapted camping lantern plays more than a dozen songs, tunes and phrases, teaching users counting, colors, opposites and animals.

6. Weighted Blanket #3941W
Spring weather can be unpredictable. Take along one of our weighted blankets to stay warm while your child also benefits from the sensory integration, increased attention and focus that this special blanket provides.

7. Block Jam LED Illuminator #9238
It’s time for a dance party! The Block Jam turns any day or night into a party. LED lights illuminate the night, turning all the colors of the rainbow. It connects with any Bluetooth device for just the right music for the mood—jazzy, quiet, rock and roll—your choice!

8. Portable CD Player #3414
Outings to the park, beach or pool are even better when you bring along your favorite tunes. Our portable CD and radio player can be activated with a capability switch.

9. Space Shuttle R/C #5060
Blast off with this replica of the NASA space shuttle, adapted with an easy-to-grab, easy-to-use joystick remote for out-of-this-world fun and learning.

10. Adapted Garden Spray #9083
Spring brings out the gardener in almost everyone. Our Adapted Garden Spray is designed with a wand that’s easy to attach your wheelchair.

Happy Spring!

9 Places for Adaptive Winter Sports

Blog: Winter Sports

If the weather outside is frightful, it might be the right time to try adaptive winter sports such as Alpine (downhill) and Nordic (cross-country) skiing; snowboarding; and snowshoeing.

Adaptive winter sports originated in the 1940s when German and Austrian soldiers used skiing as a means of rehabilitation for their injuries. In 1976, the sport became part of the winter Paralympics scheduled this year from March 4 to March 13.

In recent years, adaptive winter sports have become increasingly popular and adapted ski and snowboarding instruction is available at many ski resorts. Adapted skiing and snowboarding use a variety of specialized equipment to give skiers and snowboarders with disabilities the support they need to enjoy the thrill of the sports.

Winter sports can be expensive but don’t let cost be a deterrent. There are many organizations such as the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the Double H Ranch willing to foot the bill if you qualify.

Here’s a rundown of what’s available in various parts of country. Note: All these programs observe COVID-19 safety precautions.

1. New England Disabled Sports (NEDS)
With locations at Loon Mountain Ski Resort in Lincoln, New Hampshire, and at the Bretton Woods Ski Resort at Omni Mount Washington Resort, NEDS is a nonprofit organization founded in 1987. The organization has grown by leaps and bounds (pun intended) and offers instruction in Alpine and Nordic skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing for children and adults with cognitive and physical disabilities. Rental equipment is available and lessons are by appointment.

2. Double H Ranch
Founded by actor Paul Newman and philanthropist Charles R. Wood, Double H is a free adaptive ski and snowboarding program for children ages 6-16 with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, located in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Candidates must apply online and although it’s too late for this season, why not investigate this awesome opportunity for winter 2023?

3. United States Adaptive Recreation Center
Located at Bear Mountain, California, in the San Bernardino State Forest, USARC offers individualized instruction in adaptive skiing and snowboarding. Prior to beginning their instruction, each student is assessed by a highly trained teacher who determines what type of adaptive skiing or snowboarding is appropriate for the student and then outfits them with the appropriate gear to ensure safety.

4. Achieve Tahoe
At Achieve Tahoe, individuals of all ages and abilities can learn to ski and snowboard. The program is located at Alpine Meadows Resort in Alpine Meadows, California. Individuals who can demonstrate financial need may receive scholarships through Achieve Tahoe’s Katherine Hayes Rodriguez Scholarship Fund.

5. Beaver Creek Adaptive Program
Part of the Vail Resort company located in the Colorado Rockies, Beaver Creek offers individualized lessons with professional instructors. Partial scholarships are available through the nonprofit organization accessunbound.org.

6. Telluride Adaptive Sports Program
Telluride offers adaptive skiing and snowboarding lessons for individuals with all types of disabilities. The program also has special weeklong camps for people with disabilities, including the Disabled Veterans Winter Adventure Week from January 31 to February 4; and the Expand Your Horizons Ski Camp from February 28 to March 4.

7. Liberty Mountain
Located on the Pennsylvania/Maryland border, Liberty Mountain ski resort has been the host site for the Blue Ridge Adaptive Snow Sports (BRASS) program for many years. BRASS’s mission is to enhance life for individuals with disabilities through winter sports.

8. National Ability Center
At the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah, you can enjoy downhill and cross-country adapted skiing as well as adapted sled hockey, rock climbing, equestrian, aquatics, archery and cycling. Prices are reasonable but you must become a member — it’s $20 for an individual and $50 for a family. Since NAC is a nonprofit, additional costs are relatively inexpensive and scholarships are available.

9. Sunday River Resort in Bethel, Maine, is host to Maine Adaptive, a program that provides over 1,800 free standard and adaptive lessons in skiing, snowboarding and snow shoeing every season. The program, open to adults and children with disabilities ages 4 and up, also offers skiers with disabilities who need it – free weather appropriate clothing and equipment. Instruction is provided by specially trained volunteers.

How COVID Has Changed Work for Individuals with Disabilities

Blog: Working during COVID

As the pandemic rages on, it becomes harder and harder to find silver linings.

Yet, the health crisis has yielded certain unexpected opportunities for working-age adults living with disabilities.

Individuals with disabilities have long lobbied for employers to allow them to work from home. Remote work eliminates problems such as transportation barriers, inaccessible offices, rigid work schedules, physical and emotional stress, and the stigma some face at their workplaces.

But in many cases, employers have balked, believing that remote workers will be less productive. Their experiences with remote work during the pandemic have disproven that theory and many workers—disabled and not disabled—have found their quality of life dramatically improved by the flexibility and comfort offered by remote work.

While individuals with disabilities are grateful for the opportunity to work from home, many are frustrated that they faced so much resistance to this practice before the pandemic.

“One of the hardest things for me during this whole time has been seeing something that disabled people have been asking for for so long and told it’s not possible,” Shelby Hintze, a wheelchair user, told CNN in August. “All of a sudden, when everybody needs it, we move heaven and earth to make it happen.”

Individuals with disabilities have also pushed for more online accessibility features.

As Cnet.com reports: “Over the past year, Jennison Asuncion has seen apps like Zoom, a lifeline during the pandemic, expand accessibility features like automatic closed captioning. Messaging app Slack, another critical communications tool, has also become more compatible with his screen reader, which speaks aloud what’s on his phone or computer. Now Asuncion, who is blind, can more easily access his messages.”

People living with disabilities are hopeful that accommodations such as remote work and expanded accessibility features will be available long after the pandemic runs its course.

Workers with disabilities also stand to benefit from what’s being called “the Great Resignation.” With so many Americans leaving the workforce, employers are finally recognizing that people with disabilities represent an enormous and untapped talent pool. Jonathan Bennett, head of Employee Benefits at The Hartford, says the Great Resignation offers opportunities to change American work culture for the better.

“As employers across the U.S. consider the ‘new normal’ of the American workplace, they have a historic opportunity to address the barriers that too often exclude people with disabilities from the workforce. In fact, new data from The Hartford shows that an inclusive workplace culture may help retain employees of all abilities,” says Bennett.

And in more good news:

Andrew Houtenville, Ph.D., professor of economics and the research director of the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability, tells us that “the employment of people with disabilities is pushing past historic levels, as well as pre-pandemic levels.”

According to Houtenville, “the October 2021 employment-to-population ratio of 36.8 percent exceeds the September 2008 employment-to-population ratio of 32.7 percent, which is when the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] first started to officially report employment figures for people with disabilities.”

Granted, these numbers are nothing to write home about—unemployment among the disabled is still ridiculously high. Still, these employment numbers are heartening since early in the pandemic, people with disabilities were losing jobs in record numbers. That trend appears to be reversing.

Could it be that more employers are recognizing the value of an inclusive workplace? We hope so!

6 Ways to Stay Occupied During the Latest COVID Surge

Blog.6 Ways to Stay

This week’s blog was supposed be about accessible restaurants. But with the omicron variant of COVID-19 surging, we can’t in good conscience, advise anyone to eat at an indoor restaurant. With any luck, omicron will prove less dangerous than previous variants, and we’ll soon return to some semblance of normalcy. But for now, cozying up with our loved ones at home is probably the safest way to go.

In that vein, this week’s blog post will offer suggestions for using our toys, sensory items and electronics for family fun.

1. Game Night
Game night, or game day for that matter, is a great way to stay occupied. Enabling Devices’ adaptive games make it possible for everyone in the family to play. Some of our favorites include: Bingo; Adapted Pie Face; and Matching Picture Lotto Bingo.

2. Dance Party
Turn your home into a discotheque and take turns playing DJ. Our portable CD playerCD Boom Box; and Adapted Sony Boom Box with AC Adapter are all great options depending on your family’s particular needs. Or opt for live entertainment performed by family members using our Band Jam or Musical Snail. Our Lighted Musical Tambourine  makes it possible for anybody to join the band and doubles as a capability switch.

 3. Plan a Sensory Room
Talk about a fun project!  As described in previous Enabling Devices blog posts, Sensory rooms are spaces where children and adults can explore their environments through visual, auditory and tactile experiences.”

The sky’s the limit when it comes to developing a sensory space. That being said, you don’t have to have a ton of room or a ton of money to create a sensational sensory space in your home. When planning the space, start by considering the needs of your family and remember — everybody can find something beneficial in a well thought out sensory space.

A sensory space must be comfortable, so consider purchasing one of our Pea Pods or Beanless Bag Chairs. An Aura LED Projector will provide fabulous visual sensory experience. Light-up toys, like Charley Chameleon and Twinkle Buddy the Dragon, create a soothing atmosphere while the Fish Play Mat offers a wonderful tactile experience. Need some guidance? Enabling Devices’ staff are members are happy to help. You’ll find more information here.

4. Bake Cookies
There’s nothing like homemade cookies on a cold winter day. Everyone can help using our switch-activated Pouring Cups.

5. Water Play
Water activities offer terrific tactile experiences while also providing oceans of fun. Our Big Water Toy is a great way to play!

6. Arts and Crafts
Painting is a wonderful family activity. With our Swirl Art and Musical Swirl Art Kits everyone in the family can make a masterpiece. Our Creative Art Bundle provides even more possibilities for expressing creativity.

Morgan’s Wonderland Opens Two New Attractions

Morgan Camp

In the past, the Enabling Devices blog has reported on fully accessible and inclusive attractions Morgan’s Wonderland theme park and Morgan’s Inspiration Island water park. Both located in San Antonio, Texas, the parks were envisioned and developed by philanthropist Gordan Hartman, who wanted intellectually and physically disabled children like his daughter Morgan—now 28 years old—to enjoy amusement and water parks just like their peers.

This year, Hartman continued to honor his daughter with the opening of both Morgan’s Wonderland Sports and Morgan’s Wonderland Camp. Morgan’s Wonderland Sports is a fully inclusive sports complex that accommodates adapted basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball, football, pickleball and tennis teams. The 8,000 square-foot complex and stage will also host performances and fundraisers. Additionally, the facility will be administrative headquarters for Special Olympics Texas’ annual games.

Soon, Morgan’s Wonderland Sports will launch adaptive programs for wounded veterans, open playtime sessions and an inclusive sports program for athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Morgan’s Wonderland Camp is the first of its kind, providing children with disabilities and their families the opportunity to have authentic camp experiences in an environment designed to meet all their needs. The 102-acre San Antonio property will accommodate 525 campers and staff members beginning in 2022.

Unlike traditional summer camps, Hartman’s camp will operate year-round. The camp will offer family weekends and be available for use by partner nonprofit organizations and for company retreats on weekdays. Early registration is highly recommended as sessions fill up quickly. Since Morgan’s Wonderland Camp is nonprofit, individuals with disabilities who register directly through the camp will receive free tuition. Other family members pay just $150 per person/per weekend.

“Morgan’s Wonderland Camp constitutes another of the world’s greatest places for inclusive, barrier-free recreation” said Hartman in a press release. “It features more than 20 major elements including ziplines and a challenge course like none other. Special adaptations enable those with special needs to enjoy these thrilling attractions just like everyone else.”

The Morgan’s Wonderland Camp property is outfitted with 20 fully accessible cabins with bathtubs, shower stalls and refrigerators. Its water features include “a large activity pool with beachfront entry, a warmed pool for hydrotherapy; a splash pad with a water tower; and a river.”

Other attractions include two accessible ziplines; a nature center; horse stables; a sports pavilion for basketball and volleyball; an arts and crafts center; wheelchair accessible bicycle trails; climbing walls and much more.

Best of all, campers and families can feel secure knowing that Morgan’s Wonderland Camp has a 4,500 square-foot medical facility that operates 24 hours a day.

For more information and to register for Morgan’s Wonderland Camp, visit Morganswonderlandcamp.com. For more information about Morgan’s Wonderland Sports, visit Morganswonderlandsports.com.