Choosing a Summer Camp

Blog: Choosing Summer Camp 2024

As winter winds down, summer may still feel far away. But it’s not too early to begin thinking about your child’s summer plans — especially if those plans include a summer camp experience. Enrollment season is well underway.

The benefits of summer camp are many. Camp provides kids with opportunities to build independence and improve social skills, and offers new experiences in the arts, sports and the natural world. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a chance for your child to make friends and have fun! (Camp can also provide some much-needed down time for parents!)

If your child has a disability, you may be nervous about trusting counselors, camp medical staff and others with their safety and well-being. That’s completely understandable. And that’s why selecting the right camp setting is so important.

Here are some tips to make the job easier.

1. Start with some guidelines
Before looking at specific camps, decide between day camp or overnight camp; consider the length of camp sessions; and determine whether your child will be more likely to thrive in an inclusive camp or in a camp specifically geared toward children with disabilities.

2. Do your research
Talk with other parents about their children’s camp experiences and consult with teachers and school administrators who are well acquainted with your child to see if they have recommendations. There are many good online sources that provide information about camps for children with disabilities. One reputable source is the website of the American Camp Association.

3. Interview camp staff
Once you have created a list of some camps that sound good on paper, reach out to each of these to ask questions and get a feel for its leadership. Share information about your child and their needs to make sure that the camp can accommodate them. Some questions to ask include:

    • Can the camp accommodate complex medical needs?
    • What level of training does staff receive?
    • What is the staff:camper ratio?
    • Is the camp/bunk accessible to wheelchairs?
    • Is there a sign language interpreter, closed captioning at camp productions, etc.
    • What are the activities offered and how are they adapted for children with disabilities?
    • Can the camp accommodate my child’s special diet?
    • How long are camp sessions?
    • How can I communicate with my child?
    • How close is the nearest hospital in case of emergency?
    • How is medication distributed?
    • What is the full cost of camp and are camperships offered?

4. Attend an open house
Many camps offer opportunities to visit camp to meet staff and fellow camp families. An onsite visit will provide a sense of the grounds, recreational facilities, and bunks. If an open house isn’t offered, request color brochures, camp program schedules, and DVDs that you can view at home.

5. Get references from other parents
Ask the camp to provide contact information for several parents of campers with disabilities. Talking with parents who share many of the same concerns as you, will go a long way toward helping you to make an informed decision.

Enabling Devices Bookshelf 2024 Edition

Blog: 2024 Bookshelf

Looking for your next good read? If so, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the most highly recommended books on disability published in the past year and the most highly anticipated books on disability in the year ahead.

For Adults
 “Sipping Dom Perignon Through a Straw: Reimagining Success as a Disabled Achiever”
By Eddie Ndopu (Legacy Lit)
Born with spinal muscular atrophy, South African disability activist Eddie Ndopu typed his debut memoir using his one functional finger. Though he was not expected to live past age 5, Ndopu defied the odds, acing college and going on to study public policy at Oxford. “Sipping Dom Perignon Through a Straw” takes readers along on the author’s often challenging, sometimes frustrating but ultimately triumphant journey through graduate school.

“Beautiful People: My Thirteen Truths About Disability”
By Melissa Blake (Hatchett) Due out March 2024
Blake’s memoir describes her experiences living with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, a rare condition that causes craniofacial deformities. “Beautiful People” is both an exploration of what it’s like to live in a world that’s not built for people with disabilities and a call to action for allies of the disabled.

“We’ve Got This: Essays by Disabled Parents”
By Eliza Hull, Editor (Scribe UK)
Hull, an Australian writer, journalist, musician and disability advocate is creator of “We’ve Got This,” one of her country’s most popular podcast series. Her new book of essays explores the little-known lives of parents experiencing the joys and hardships of parenting while managing chronic health problems and disabilities. The bottom line: Biases against disabled people are the greatest obstacles they face.

“American Breakdown: Our Ailing Nation, My Body’s Revolt, and the Nineteenth-Century Woman Who Brought Me Back to Life”
By Jennifer Lunden (Harper)
When she was just 21, Lunden began experiencing debilitating physical symptoms that brought life as she knew it to a standstill. Unable to find a cause for her symptoms, doctors told her she was “just depressed.” Five years into her mysterious illness, Lunden discovered the biography of nineteenth century diarist Alice James, whose chronic illness was also dismissed by doctors. Kirkus Reviews said, “Blending theory and memoir, the author personifies her struggle for wellness and its associated costs and consequences. An alarming chronicle of catastrophic chronic illness and a passionate plea for health care reform.”

 For Children
“Henry, Like Always”
By Jenn Bailey with illustrations by Mika Song (Chronicle Books)
This year’s winner of the Schneider Family Book Awards for young children tells the story of Henry, a boy on the autism spectrum who values sameness but must adjust to a change in schedule at his school. This book is the first in a series for young readers.

“The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn”
By Sally J. Pla (Harper Collins)
This year’s Schneider Family Book Award winner for middle grade readers is about a neurodivergent girl who adopts surfing after she and her father must relocate due to a dangerous wildfire.

“Forever is Now”
By Mariama J. Lockington (Macmillan)
The winning selection for this year’s Schneider Family Book Award for teens and young adults, “Forever is Now” chronicles the tale of a young black activist who experiences post traumatic anxiety after she observes a violent episode of police brutality.

NFL Releases New Line of Adaptive Apparel

Blog: NFL Releases New Line

There’s good news for football fans with disabilities! No, we’re not going to tell you that your favorite team is in the lead. What we can report is that earlier this month, the NFL—in partnership with G-III Apparel Group—released its first collection of adaptive and assistive clothing. Now, disabled fans who want to support their preferred football franchises can do so in comfortable clothing that’s easy to wear.

As we’ve written in the past, adaptive apparel is designed to make dressing easier and more comfortable for individuals with disabilities. Some examples? Magnets instead of buttons; shoes without laces; apparel without tags, labels and scratchy fabrics; and garments that provide easy access to the stomach for medical devices.

According to The Conversation, “The key to effective adaptive clothing is catering for the vast array of needs different consumers have, while maintaining style and fashionability.”

The NFL’s new offerings include long and short-sleeved T-shirts with magnet snaps on the shoulders, and fleece crewnecks and hoodies with adaptive side zippers and buttons down the back, which make it easy to take on and off. The gear is available for fans of any of the league’s 32 teams. The NFL is the first professional sports league to offer adaptive garments but hopefully not the last.

In a statement provided to USA Today, Joe Ruggiero, SVP of Consumer Products at the NFL, said “our apparel is created with the fan in mind and with the design expertise offered by industry leader, G-III, we produced the League’s first-ever adaptive and assisted apparel that serves our diverse fanbase. The collections will allow fans to cheer on their favorite team with confidence, comfort and independence.”

Carl Banks, President of G-III’s Sports Division made this statement: “G-III is proud to design the first adaptive and assisted apparel fashion collections for NFL fans. These collections make sports apparel more inclusive than ever before and are a natural expansion of the classic sports collection we already produce for the NFL. Our innovative designers were able to create apparel that is super functional and provides new options to empower fans to express themselves, as they confidently support their NFL team of choice.”

NFL apparel comes in sizes small to 2XL and ranges in price from $44.99 for a short sleeve T-shirt to $64.99 for a hoodie. The gear is available at the NFL’s online shop.

Let the games begin!

Photo credit: Eric Espino/NFL

6 Sensory Activities for the Season

Blog.6 Sensory Activities

Fall is here and the season offers a variety of spectacular sensory experiences for children and adults alike. Below are some of our favorite autumn activities.

1. Admire fall foliage
Fall is the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors. Visit a local park with accessible hiking trails; embark on a driving tour; or even take a fall foliage train ride to see the changing leaves in all their glory. The colorful scenery, clean fresh air, flocks of birds flying south and the sounds of the leaves under foot provide a truly fabulous feast for the senses.

2. Carve a pumpkin
Whether you purchase one at a supermarket or visit a neighborhood pumpkin patch, pumpkin carving offers an array of sensory experiences. Designate an adult with excellent fine motor skills to carve the pumpkin. Observers can participate by touching the pumpkin, noticing its physical characteristics and coming up with ideas for what the carving should look like. Once the pumpkin is carved, let observers touch the gooey insides of the pumpkin and smell the pumpkin’s sweet aroma. Cap the experience by cooking and tasting pumpkin seeds, or making and eating some pumpkin pie.

3. Go apple-picking
Visit a local orchard to learn about and sample the variety of apples available. Is the apple sweet or tart? What is the apple’s texture and color? Pick the apples you like best, take them home and make an apple pie or apple sauce. Taste and enjoy!

4. Take a hayride
If accessible, take a hayride. Feel the wind in your face, the texture and smell of hay, and enjoy the slow bumpy ride. Nothing says fall like a hayride!

5. Pick leaves
While a trip to a park is great fun, you can pick leaves just about anywhere. Recognize the colors, shapes and textures of leaves from different trees. Listen to the sound of the leaves when you crumple them in your hands, or walk and ride over them in your wheelchair. Then come home and make a leaf collage.

 6. Make a fall sensory bin
You know those leaves you picked? They can go into a fall sensory box which may also include gourds, mini pumpkins, acorns, dried corn husks, kernels and beans. Add some plastic measuring cups and scoopers, and let the kids touch, scoop and pour. Sensory box users who don’t have use of their hands can try Enabling Devices’ switch-activated pouring cups to get in on the fun.

While you enjoy these sensory activities, start your Halloween planning. It’s time to for kids and older Halloween enthusiasts to decide how they want to dress for the holiday. Think about favorite book, TV and movie characters they may want to portray, and begin brainstorming about costume ideas. Look for Enabling Devices’ upcoming Halloween blogpost for more ideas.

8 Cooking Hacks for Chefs with Disabilities

Blog: 8 Cooking Hacks for Chefs with Disabilities

Cooking can be challenging when you live with a disability. But with the right tools and techniques, many people can find their way around the kitchen. Here are some tips you can try.

1. Use automatic and adaptive devices
Automatic and adaptive devices can make many cooking activities easier. Electric can openers, adaptive utensils, vegetable choppers, knives designed for safety, switch-activated battery operated scissors and switch-activated adapted pouring cups are just some of the products that can make cooking possible for individuals with impaired fine motor skills or inability to use their hands.

2. Collect simple recipes with step-by-step photographs
Individuals with intellectual disabilities will benefit from short recipes that don’t require too much reading and photos that will show them what their recipes should look like. Visit this website for more information.

3. Cut prep time
Take advantage of pre-cut and pre-washed veggies, fruit and semi-prepared meat as well as high quality, healthy frozen meals. Trader Joe’s sells yummy pre-seasoned dishes such as ready to heat pesto chicken thighs, lasagna, soups and all sorts of frozen pizzas at reasonable price points.

4. Use a rolling or bar cart to transport food and ingredients
In a recent Washington Post article, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a wheelchair user, says she “uses a child’s lap desk and balances food and plates on a tray that fits on it. The senator also advises loading up a bar cart. ‘I can just roll myself while pushing the bar cart with everything in it from one room to another without risking spilling hot food or drinks in my lap,’” she said.

5. Use voice-assisted technology
If you’re visually impaired or have motor challenges, avoid going back and forth to your recipe or cookbook by having voice-assisted technology read your recipe aloud.

6. Design your kitchen to meet your needs
If it’s not cost prohibitive, redesign your kitchen with your needs in mind. For instance, if you use a wheelchair, lower your counters to wheelchair level. If that’s not an option, get a rolling prep table that’s wheelchair height. Likewise, electronic touch or hands-free faucets make food preparation easier. An induction stovetop is a great idea for vision impaired cooks or those with impaired fine motor control since its surface or cooktop doesn’t get hot. Imagine – you can touch it and not get burned!

7. Consult with an occupational therapist
Not sure where to begin? Work with an occupational therapist who can teach you to simplify cooking routines and help you to set up your kitchen so it’s more user-friendly.

8. Check out Accessible Chef
Created by Anna Moyer, who experimented with all kinds of cooking hacks to help her brother who lives with Down syndrome, this website is full of helpful ideas, recipes, and product suggestions that make cooking accessible for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Bon appetit!

Disability Media Network Offers Rarely Seen Content for Disability Community

Blog: Disability Media Network

Frustrated by the paucity of disabled representation on mainstream television?

The new streaming service Disability Media Network (DiMe) offers free content including movies, documentaries, sports coverage and short series that deal with disability-related themes and present the work of disabled filmmakers and actors.

According to its website, DiME’s content is “specially curated to ensure that disabled viewers see more authentic versions of themselves when they turn on the TV. …”

DiMe founder Jennifer Price told New Mobility that “the platform has two purposes—one from a viewer standpoint to allow people to see people who look like them, [and one] from a filmmaker standpoint to give another distribution outlet to their content.”

Price, a non-disabled disability rights attorney, launched DiMe in June 2021 on Roku TV. Since then, the service has grown and DiMe content can now be viewed on the DiMe website, Apple TV and Fire TV as well. Subscriptions are free. New content is available each month.

Sound interesting? Here’s a sampling of what’s available now.

1. “For Better, For Worse,” a short Australian film, tells the story of John and Lizzie, a couple with Down syndrome trying to convince their friend Reuben to be best man at their wedding. Why is he so resistant? Find out in this entertaining romantic comedy.

2. “Groundhog Night,” another Australian short, is written by and stars wheelchair user Emily Dash. In a piece for The Equity Magazine, she told writer Kate Hood that she “wanted to make a film that looked at the impact disability had on family dynamics, and showed that living with disability could be funny, as well as poignant.”

3. Set in 2040, the 2020 short film “Here Comes Frieda” is a science fiction thriller about a blind woman trying to redeem a lottery ticket that will allow her to leave climate-change ravaged Earth.

4. “Deafening Darkness” a short Canadian horror film made in 2017 tells the story of a deaf woman searching for her missing friend. In the process of her search, she meets a stranger with a disturbing history.  This film includes a fully deaf cast and dialogue in sign language.

5. “To Pop a Wheelie,” a 2015 documentary written and directed by Teryl Warren follows three “adrenaline junkies” forced to feed their thrill-seeking addictions in new ways after they sustain life altering spinal cord injuries.

6. “Dancing Outside the Box” is a short documentary directed by David Block, a legally blind filmmaker. The film focuses on wheelchair user Ray Leight, who created a ballroom dancing curriculum that enables wheelchair users to dance with standing partners.

7. The documentary Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita chronicles the work of Dr. Jack Kessler, a stem cell biologist who decided to focus on using embryonic stem cells to find a cure for spinal cord disorders after his daughter Allison has a disabling ski accident.

Accreditation for ID Post-Secondary Programs Commences

Blog: Accreditation

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about plans for the expansion of Shepherds College, a faith-based institution in Wisconsin that offers post-secondary education for students with intellectual disabilities. Shepherds is unusual because it provides an authentic college experience including campus life, recreational and extracurricular activities that are similar to those at mainstream colleges and universities.

But Shepherds isn’t the only place where ID students can continue their educational journeys post-high school. According to Disability Scoop, “the number of programs at colleges and universities aimed at this population has ballooned to more than 300 in recent years, but they vary significantly in structure, length, how integrated they are in the campus and much more. As a result, families have had little way to assess different offerings despite program costs that can rival traditional college tuition.”

That’s where a new accrediting agency called the Inclusive Higher Education Accreditation Council comes in. The nonprofit agency will use a set of standards developed by the Think College National Coordinating Center Accreditation Workgroup to evaluate postsecondary programs in areas such as mission, curriculum, faculty, student achievement and financial status. Schools and programs are not required to become accredited and some may choose not to since the accreditation process can be costly in time and money.

Still, Martha Mock, executive director of the council and chair of the Think College National Coordinating Center Accreditation Workgroup, told Inside Higher Ed that post-secondary programs that become accredited will have certain advantages. Says Mock, “[Accreditation is] a way for programs to demonstrate and share how they are providing a high-quality program to students.”

It will take time before all students benefit from the accreditation standards. Just five schools are expected to complete the process from now through the end of the 2024-2025 academic year. Western Carolina University’s University Participant Program was the first program to begin the process. A site visit to the program took place last month.

Meanwhile, ID students and their families are clamoring for a spot at one of the 300-plus programs already in operation. As Inside Higher Ed reported, statistics from one study at University of Massachusetts Boston showed that “59 percent of students who completed such a program had a paid job a year later, compared to a 19 percent employment rate for adults with intellectual disabilities in the general population.”

An additional benefit? Post-secondary programs also help students to learn skills of independent living that allow them to be more self-reliant.

Disneyland’s Toontown is New, Improved and Inclusive!

Blog: Disneyland’s Toontown

Walt Disney Parks have always been disability-friendly destinations and the company continues to make its rides, attractions, dining establishments and grounds more accessible and inclusive for guests of all abilities.

As part of the Disney 100th anniversary celebration, Disneyland in Anaheim, California, recently unveiled its newly refurbished Mickey’s Toontown.

Toontown, which originally opened in 1993, is a cartoon-themed area that caters to young children and families. In Toontown, young guests can meet Disney cartoon characters such as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Pluto.

With more greenspaces, improved wheelchair access and thoughtfully conceived auditory, visual and tactile stimuli for visitors with sensory processing disorders and autism spectrum disorders, the area is now more welcoming than ever before.

To make Toontown fully accessible to wheelchair users, Disney has done away with curb cuts, added ramps and kept pathways open. A water play attraction includes interactive water tables set up at wheelchair height. Additionally, reports Disability Scoop, “a roller slide down an embankment hill will have a dedicated landing area where kids will have time to get back in their wheelchairs without pressure to get out of the way for the next slider.”

Likewise, the Dreaming Tree, which represents Walt Disney’s boyhood spot for daydreaming, includes a maze for climbing that’s wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

Visitors on the autism spectrum will benefit from designated areas where they can release pent-up energy, find shade, get away from crowds and noise, picnic and relax after an over-stimulating day at the park. Additionally, Toontown attractions such as Goofy’s How to Play Yard and The Popcorn Park feature calming soundtracks. Donald Duck’s boat is designed with hands-on sensory experiences. Toontown’s structures are painted in spa-like hues that won’t overwhelm guests who are sensitive to bright colors.

“We got a lot of guests who utilize our parks in different ways—who see, hear and feel our experiences in different ways and want every child to know that when they came to this land… that they were seen and that this place was welcoming to them,” said Jeff Shaver-Moskowitz, Portfolio Executive Producer at Walt Disney Imagineering, at a press preview last month.

Toontown also has family restrooms and the EngineEar Souvenirs gift shop, which sells Minnie Mouse ears headbands specially designed for visitors who use cochlear implants.

Disney hopes that the area will benefit not only people with disabilities, but all families who need a place to rest and rejuvenate after a hectic day at Disneyland.

Yes, You Can Go On Safari in a Wheelchair!

Blog: Yes You Can Go

Have you ever considered what it would be like to go on an African safari? To see animals such as giraffes, elephants, zebras, leopards, baboons, hippos, buffalos and all sorts of birds, close-up and personal and in their own environments instead of behind bars in a zoo?

When evaluating vacation options, many assume that Africa travel — especially safaris — is too difficult for individuals with mobility challenges. Yet, nowadays, there is no reason for wheelchair users to rule out this life-changing travel experience. The keys to a successful safari vacation are knowledge and careful planning.

In a recent article in Travel Weekly, Maija de Rijk-Uys, managing director at Go2Africa, confirms that “Africa’s great wilderness is becoming more and more accessible to travelers who use wheelchairs.” Adds Rijk-Uys: “As lodges have made it more accessible for people with disabilities to travel, we have seen a greater demand.”

South Africa is particularly accessible for individuals with mobility disabilities because airports and many tourist attractions, hotels, wineries and dining establishments are set up to accommodate wheelchair users, says Rijk-Uys. The country is also a safe destination for medically fragile individuals since its sophisticated medical infrastructure assures good care in the event of an emergency.

Rijk-Uys says that popular South African sightseeing locations such as gorgeous Table Mountain which overlooks the city of Cape Town, are accessible to wheelchairs. Likewise, beaches in South Africa such as Fish Hoek, Big Bay, and Camps Bay provide beach wheelchairs that move smoothly in the sand and can even be driven into the water.

Africa tourists who use wheelchairs will find that safaris are typically conducted by jeep so that mobility challenges needn’t be a major obstacle. In some safari locations, walking is even forbidden for safety reasons.

Safaris are made more accessible by the fact that some  operators “now have specially designed or adapted wheelchair accessible vehicles for their game drives,” says Responsible Travel, an operator that runs environmentally conscious Africa trips that give back to the communities in which it operates. Responsible Travel recommends wheelchair users consider vacationing in Botswana, another location that is increasingly accessible.

“Botswana is well set up for wheelchair users, with adapted vehicles available including jeeps, boats and the mokoro canoes used to traverse the lagoons and waterways of the Okavango Delta. While you’re game-watching, your wheelchair is kept securely to avoid any damage,” according to Responsible Travel.

Cape Town-based tour operator Travel with Rene offers wheelchair accessible vehicles for tours and transfers. Founded by Renè Moses, who has quadriplegia, the company specializes in wheelchair accessible travel. Moses’ vehicles “have been adapted with hydraulic wheelchair lifts to cater for wheelchair users, family and companions. For the clients’ safety, wheelchairs are secured to the floor by means of 4×4 floor restraints. A body belt is placed around the wheelchair user and the wheelchair to ensure their safety.”

To confirm that a safari will meet your accessibility requirements, be sure to research the following details:

1. Ensure that your lodge is situated on flat ground instead of on a hill or mountain top. Elevators and lifts are extremely rare in the African bush.

2. Make sure that your lodge has walkways that can accommodate wheelchairs. Lodges that are based on sandy terrain may limit your ability to get around.

3. Find out if your lodge has a generator. In South Africa, the government has implemented “load shedding” – the temporary interruption of energy a couple of times a day to save power. This can be extremely inconvenient without a back-up generator.

4. Ask if your lodge has outdoor showers. According to Travel Weekly’s Dorine Reinstein, “showering outside is a safari tradition; it’s a lot of fun to be under the sun or moon and to have nature all around you. Outdoor showers on decks are often a lot more spacious than indoor ones plus there aren’t ledges or doors to navigate.”

5. Make sure that your lodge has wheelchair accessible vehicles. Otherwise, you will need to be carried in and out of the vehicle by others, not an ideal scenario for many people.

Ready to go? Prepare for the time of your life!

Zara’s Parent Company to Double Disability Hiring

Blog: Zara's Parent Company

In a 2021 column for Forbes, Karen Herson, Founder & CEO of Concepts, Inc., a disability and woman-owned communications business, explained that companies that recruit individuals with disabilities will see “improved bottom lines; discover untapped potential; reduce turnover; improve company morale and culture; expand their consumer market; qualify for financial incentives; and meet federal contract requirements.”

It looks like some corporate leaders have listened to her advice. Certainly Inditex, the Spanish company that owns Zara, the world’s leading retail clothing brand, did. On Jan. 25, the company announced plans to double the number of disabled employees the company hires over the next two years.

The announcement, which took place at a meeting between Inditex CEO García Maceiras and the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Gilbert F. Houngbo, was made following Inditex’s endorsement of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network, an international group that advocates for workplace disability inclusion.

According to Disability Scoop, “the hiring push will increase inclusion in stores, warehouses, offices and across Inditex’s logistics platforms worldwide with more than 1,500 people with disabilities expected to be hired.”

Inditex’s plan exceeds disability hiring mandates in areas where its businesses are located. In regions where are no hiring mandates, Inditex pledged to make approximately 2% of its workforce people with disabilities.

“Disability inclusion in the workplace is a core component of our commitment to people,” said Maceiras. “Diversity, fairness and inclusion are values we all embrace, values we pursue day-to-day, in order to have an impact within Inditex, as well as all around us: our pledge is to design opportunities for everyone.”

Inditex’s support for ILO and its promise to dramatically increase its hiring of people with disabilities is one of four priority areas related to disability inclusion that were cited in a recent company press release. The areas are: “championing inclusive recruiting and career development; fostering accessible workplaces conducive to ensuring equal opportunities; facilitating an inclusive shopping experience; and raising team awareness about disability.”

Inditex isn’t the only international corporation that has recently stepped up its disability hiring practices. The company joins Microsoft, which trains and supports neurodiverse job candidates; L’Oréal, which founded the #Break the Silence on Disability Program and recently introduced an accessible makeup applicator; Proctor & Gamble, which recently partnered with Gallaudet University and Rochester Institute for Technology to recruit employees and interns who are deaf; Dell, which initiated the Dell Autism Hiring Program; and Uniqlo, which has been recruiting disabled employees since 2001 in Japan. These are just a few of the major corporations to recognize the many benefits of hiring people with disabilities. Here’s hoping that more companies join their ranks!

Six Reasons Why Video Games Are Awesome

Blog: Video Games

Since their debut in 1958, video games have been a source of controversy.  From claims that they cause violent behavior to assertions that they contribute to obesity, virtually everyone has something negative to say about gaming.

Yet, studies show that video games have many positive effects – particularly for those with disabilities. Here are some of the most convincing reasons why video gaming can be a worthwhile way to spend your leisure time.

1. Increased socialization
A frequent criticism of video games is that they encourage players to isolate themselves. On the contrary, gaming with others may encourage the building of friendships among individuals with mobility challenges or travel limitations by allowing socialization to take place without leaving the house. Additionally, gaming is a great way for individuals with unusual interests to find like-minded people.

2. More Accessibility
Now that video games have features like adaptive controllers, closed captions, and virtual sets they’ve become far more accessible for people with a wide range of disabilities.  One product that has made a huge difference to disabled gamers is the Xbox Adaptive Controller. As Anita Mortaloni, Director of Accessibility Xbox at Microsoft, told Ability Magazine, “[Xbox Adaptive Controller] started the momentum that accessibility can go beyond features like captions and difficulty settings and showed that we can really be innovative and meet the needs of people that previously were excluded from gaming. It allowed us to use the controller as gold standard to show the impact it can have on the industry.”

 3. Cognitive skill development
According to, “many video games involve critical thinking, reading, writing, decision-making, and more activities that can help [people with disabilities] learn new things in a fun, easy-to-understand way, improving their cognitive skills through the decisions they make during gameplay.”

4. Improved mood
Video games have been shown to improve mood among depressed individuals. According to, “Video games can provide an outlet for people with disabilities to de-stress, allow them to be whoever they want to be, work toward a specific goal, feel a sense of accomplishment, and even help improve their self-esteem.”

5. Multisensory stimulation
Video games provide an immersive experience through a mix of auditory, visual and tactile stimulation that can benefit sensory seeking individuals.

 6. Educational benefits
Video games provide opportunities to practice academic skills such as math, reading, history, programming and geography. According to EdSource, “As more schools have brought computers into the classroom, educational video games have become an easy way to engage students — especially those who might be bored by class lectures, educators said.”

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.