Everyone is Beautiful!

Disabled Girl Hair Style

When your child has a disability, everyday activities that parents of typically developing children take for granted can be challenging. For example: getting a haircut. When your child uses a wheelchair or has sensory issues, finding a salon and a hairdresser with the accessibility and sensitivity to manage your child’s special needs is not a foregone conclusion. Far from it.

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, many salons are now wheelchair accessible, yet precious few of them provide comprehensive services to people with disabilities. For example, people with autism or sensory integration disorders may find the environment of hair salons overly bright, noisy or crowded or the experience of having their hair shampooed or cut anxiety provoking. Meanwhile, people who use wheelchairs are often out of luck when it comes to having their hair shampooed or even getting through the doors!

As the population ages, the need for fully accessible salons will increase significantly. Some salon owners and beauticians are taking the requirements of people with disabilities into account. But one thing is clear: There is a significant need for more salons to create accommodations for special needs clients. Here are some of the few businesses in and outside of the U.S. currently catering to people with disabilities.

One such business is KidSnips in the Chicago area. With eight locations, KidSnips salons are wheelchair accessible and its stylists are all trained to work with children with disabilities. According to its website, KidSnips’ stylists take time to explain the haircut process to anxious children. There is even a video on their website showing young customers what the haircut experience will entail. KidSnips’ stylists are also careful to respect young customers’ sensory issues “foregoing clippers and trimmers for scissors…” based on children’s preferences. For children who dislike the sensation of water spraying on their hair, stylists “will spray [their] hands or combs with water to avoid spraying directly on the child’s hair.”

In consultation with Autism Speaks, Snipits, another franchise with locations in Long Island, N.Y., New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and elsewhere, also trains its stylists to work with children on the autism spectrum.

Located in New South Wales, Australia, Shear Abilities is miles ahead of the rest. Owner Desiree McDonald is the mother of a woman with cerebral palsy and is well aware of the indignities that people with disabilities often face when it comes to finding accessible and respectful salon services.

McDonald says she opened Shear Abilities because she wants “to put clients, big or small, with a disability first because they deserve it. They deserve the royal treatment, they deserve to feel equal, they deserve to feel comfortable, they deserve to feel like they are not putting anyone out, they deserve to fit in.”

The salon offers, “entry ramps, special chairs, a lifting hoist and other features that make wheelchair access a breeze. For ultimate comfort, [Shear Abilities] also offers a full lay-down massage chair with neck support. “ Additionally, Shear Abilities has group programs and workshops that “help build confidence and self-esteem.” The business also provides in-home services for individual clients or residents of group homes.

Speaking of in-home services, The Traveling Barbers helps to match people with disabilities with mobile barbers and hair stylists in their areas. According to the website, “the same way Craigslist introduces buyers to sellers, we introduce those with disabilities who are in need of in-home hair care services, to local mobile barbers and hairstylists from their area…”

Jollylocks, another Australian haircutting establishment, offers mobile salon services to children with special needs including those with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities. In addition to working with children, Jollylocks’ stylists will provide in-home styling for busy parents who may not have the time to get to a salon.

Here’s hoping that more entrepreneurs in the beauty industry recognize that people with disabilities are a huge and growing market that deserves their attention!

Five Reasons to Bring a Pet into Your Child’s Life

Little boy hugging a Golden Retriever dog

Considering adding a pet to your household? If you have a child with a disability, the benefits of owning a pet can be significant. In fact, research has shown that pets can help children with physical and developmental disabilities in myriad ways. Here’s what the science says:

1. Pets encourage increased physical activity.
A 2017 case study at Oregon State University found that a program that incorporated the family dog into an exercise program for a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy “led to a wide range of improvements for the child, including physical activity as well as motor skills, quality of life and human-animal interactions.” Said study co-author Megan MacDonald: “They develop a partnership and the activities become more fun and challenging for the child.”

2. Pets help children with autism to form connections with others
Many children with autistic spectrum disorders have difficulty connecting to other people. Studies show that autistic children in homes with pet dogs, learn to make such connections. For example, a 2014 study published in the journal Pediatric Nursing, found that in families with dogs, 94 percent of children “were bonded” with them. And “children living with dogs interacted with them in play and/or sharing personal space,” noted researchers. In addition, having a pet also gave children an “opportunity to learn responsibility and companionship.”

3. Guinea pigs help to improve social skills
Can’t manage caring for a dog right now? How about a guinea pig, hamster, gerbil or even a turtle?  A study conducted at the Autism Resource Center at Hospital Bohars in France found that autistic children from families that owned pets “were better able to share toys and food with both parents and other kids and better able to comfort others than the pet-less children were.”

4. Pets reduce stress and improve mood in children with learning disabilities and ADHD
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.”

5. Fish tanks can be therapeutic for children with disruptive behaviors.
The calming effects of watching fish swim in a fish tank reduces behavioral problems in children with emotional and behavioral disabilities according to a study at the University of Pennsylvania. Other studies have shown that gazing at fish tanks also reduces anxiety as well as heart rate and blood pressure.

 

 

 

Strategies and Products for Caregiving When a Loved One Has Cerebral Palsy

Although it often gets lumped in with chronic “diseases,” cerebral palsy is not a disease. It is a condition that results from damage to areas of the brain responsible for movement a child experiences while they are in the womb or, in some cases, immediately after birth. Doctors can usually diagnose cerebral palsy, or CP, early on — during or not long after infancy.

Because cerebral palsy treatment and severity can look different for each person, developing a plan for how to care for your loved one with this condition or how to help someone with CP is a critical part of helping them manage it throughout childhood and adulthood. No matter how much you love someone, caring for a child or adult with cerebral palsy is stressful. It puts a lot of pressure on you every day. And, if you aren’t careful, the ins and outs of figuring out how to manage your loved one’s symptoms can quickly become overwhelming.

While we can’t cure cerebral palsy or suddenly make all your stressors disappear, specific strategies and products can help make your job as a caregiver just a little bit easier.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a condition that results when a child experiences brain damage in the womb or immediately after birth. Marked by problems related to movement, muscle tone and posture, its effects are permanent.

What-is-cerebral-palsy

The severity of cerebral palsy can vary, providing challenges that are unique for every caregiver. Some people with cerebral palsy can walk on their own, while others must rely on a wheelchair. Some can communicate their needs, and others are non-verbal. While cerebral palsy itself is a neurological condition, it can lead to a variety of other problems for individuals. While each person is different, in general, someone with cerebral palsy is also more likely to struggle with:

  • Abnormal perceptions of touch or pain
  • Seizures
  • Cognitive issues
  • Hearing and vision problems
  • Incontinence
  • Intellectual disabilities, including ADD and ADHD
  • Oral diseases
  • Mental health conditions

An individual with CP does face a unique set of challenges, but in today’s world, there many tools and strategies available to help them progress and live happy, productive lives. In many cases, they can make significant strides toward independence, which also relieves some of the pressure on their caregivers.

As a caregiver for someone with cerebral palsy — whether child or adult — you are always looking for ways to help your loved one improve their overall health and well-being. At Enabling Devices, we understand care for cerebral palsy in the home is an ongoing process of education and discovery. You never stop growing and learning, because you are determined to do the best you can as you care for your loved one.

Making Daily Life Easier

When it comes to at-home care for cerebral palsy, there are a lot of products and strategies available to help make life easier. Knowing what’s out there and how it can help you is essential to provide care for someone you love successfully.

living with cerebral palsy routines and care plans

Remember, establishing routines and an effective care plan may take time. After all, figuring out what works best doesn’t usually happen overnight. There will be times of trial and error before you finally settle on what works. You may spend months trying a new product or strategy, only to discover a better option down the road.

CP is a lifelong condition, so taking time to try different strategies and developing a plan that works for your loved one’s unique challenges is the best way to make sure everyone is comfortable and thriving where they are.

As you strive toward this, it’s essential to take time for self-care. Find ways to relieve stress, ask for help — more about that later — and remember to rest. One of the best cerebral palsy caregiving tips is to make sure you are helping yourself, too.

Communication and Language Development

One unique challenge that accompanies caring for someone with cerebral palsy is encouraging communication and language development. While cerebral palsy itself is typically a condition that affects movement, it can have profound cognitive impacts as well. Because of the limitations on their muscle development and function, individuals with cerebral palsy may struggle with facial expressions, gestures, speech, voice production and language — that is, being able to communicate and express their needs in a clear, concise way.

When it comes to how to raise a child with cerebral palsy, one vital job of caregivers is to address these issues when children are young, so as they grow, they learn to communicate and function in the world around them.

communication and language development for cerebral palsy

Some ways parents of children with cerebral palsy can encourage this behavior include:

1. Parallel Talk

This strategy is simple. As your child performs an activity — for example, playing with wooden blocks — you, the parent, talk about what’s happening while they do it. As they play, you might say, “Oh, look, you’re building with blocks. You put the red on top of the blue. Oh no, they fell over!” Think of it as narrating your child’s activities.

2. Self-Talk

This method is similar to parallel talk, only you are narrating what you as the parent are doing, rather than observing your child. As you play with your child, talk about what you are doing. For example, as you play with blocks, you might say, “Here is a yellow block. I think I will put it on top of the red block. Look at that! The red block is shaped like a square.”

3. Expansions and Extensions

In this case, you as the caregiver can add on to your child’s vocabulary to help them expand it. For example, if your child says “Dog,” you can expand it by saying “Fluffy dog.” Or, you can extend it to say, “The man is walking the dog.”

4. Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication falls into two categories — assisted and unassisted. Assisted includes technologies designed to help non-verbal individuals express themselves, such as computers, speech synthesis machines, or Augmentative & Alternative Communicators (AAC). Enabling Devices has dozens of AAC devices. These devices can be as simple as a one-message communicatormultiple message communicators, or progressive communicators that grow with your child. Unassisted includes communication methods such as sign language. If your child is non-verbal, trying out some of these options can ease frustrations and provide a means for communication.

5. Create Opportunities

Sometimes, the best way to encourage a child’s communication is to give them opportunities to practice. Place a favorite toy just out of their reach, so they will have to ask for it. Or, encourage them to socialize with other people. The more opportunities they have to practice communication, the better they will become at expressing their thoughts, feelings and opinions.

Developing Hand/Eye Coordination and Fine Motor Skills

Hand/eye coordination is an essential function for someone with cerebral palsy. As the use of visual cues to direct and engage the hands in action, hand/eye coordination can be challenging for someone with cerebral palsy because it requires the simultaneous use of the vision system as well as the hands and muscles.

Often mentioned in tandem with fine motor skills, which require tiny muscle movements, hand/eye coordination is the development of the skill of using the vision system and hand muscles simultaneously.

developing hand eye coordination for people with cerebral palsy

One of the best ways to help your loved one develop in one or both of these areas is with one of Enabling Devices’ assistive technologies. These devices provide fun and, often, guided interaction between the individual and their caregiver to help people with cerebral palsy in their development. The goal of these devices is to improve hand/eye coordination, as well as assist individuals with cerebral palsy as they develop and improve their fine motor skills.

1. Shape Sorting

Reminiscent of a popular child’s toy, this low-profile shape sorter — fondly called Drop-in-a-Bucket — is designed for players who have a more limited reach. The bucket has lights on it to attract the user’s attention, as well as music that plays when the user drops the shape into the correct hole. One great thing about this is that it teaches object placement and hand/eye coordination, as well as shape recognition. That combines two crucial functions into one item!

2. Pull and Play Switch

The Pull and Play Switch encourages the practice of three important motions — swiping, grasping and reaching. It can attach to a tabletop, wheelchair or bed rail, and comes with two different sized pulls. The object of the game is to encourage the player to reach for the ball suspended from the frame and then grab on to it with a finger or hand.

3. Stacking Blocks

These Stacking Blocks are designed to develop several skills vital to an individual with cerebral palsy. The object is to hone fine motor skills by placing one block at a time on the stack until it’s complete. As the individual places blocks onto the stack, they can also work on addition and subtraction and hand/eye coordination as they work to use their hands to guide the blocks to the right place.

4. Fine Motor Kit

Two Fine Motor Kits include different items that are designed to help children and teenagers strengthen their fingers and hands, develop grasping skills and hone their fine motor skills. It contains two pairs of easy-grip scissors, several games and the teen kit even has a Glow-in-the-Dark Dreamcatcher.

Daily Living Tasks

Another challenge caregivers often face is enabling your loved one with cerebral palsy to complete daily tasks. Generally speaking, four main tasks comprise the category of daily living — personal hygiene, eating/drinking, dressing and using the bathroom.

daily living tasks for those with cerebral palsy

While the extent of a person’s CP will indeed dictate their ability to perform any of these four activities, it should be the goal of any caregiver to promote as much independence as possible to build and maintain muscle function, as well as for peace of mind. Caregivers cannot be present every second of every day, and teaching an individual with cerebral palsy to perform specific tasks on their own can give them a sense of independence, as well as provide a much-needed respite for you.

Your medical team can provide guidance on how to go about teaching and developing certain skills within an individual with cerebral palsy, but it is critical to find ways to incorporate instruction into daily activities when raising a child with cerebral palsy. For example, use mealtime as a time to gradually teach your loved one to feed themselves. To do this, you can prepare them ahead of time for the table setup, what utensils they will use and what they will be eating. Then, during the meal, work with them on correct posture and the mechanics of chewing, if necessary, as well as identifying unfamiliar foods and the proper way to eat.

There are also a variety of useful products on the market that focus on how to help someone with cerebral palsy as they develop muscle control and the ability to perform daily living tasks. For example, tools like Enabling Devices’ ADL Boards help individuals with cerebral palsy develop the skills they need to dress. Each of the four boards helps with mastery of manipulative skills, including buttons, snaps, laces and zippers.

Over time, if a person’s abilities allow, they can also begin to practice and master specific life skills — that is, skills that help them care for themselves on more than a basic level. These skills might include housework, meal preparation, communication, managing finances and shopping. They can also include pursuing hobbies and activities that are of interest to the individual.

Depending on their abilities, products such as Enabling Devices’ battery-powered scissors provide electronic cutting, promoting independence and allowing someone with limited mobility to cut paper, fabric and other items on their own. While a pair of scissors might seem like no big deal, to a person with physical limitations, the ability to use an everyday object like a pair of scissors can provide a much-needed boost in their self-esteem and joy.

Products for Sensory Needs

Along with the physical challenges that come with cerebral palsy, individuals with this condition can also struggle with sensory processing disorder. While a sensory processing disorder can manifest itself in many different ways, it means they have a heightened sensitivity to things in their environment. These could include fear of loud noises, sensitivity to scratchy fabrics or even failure to respond when they encounter extreme temperatures. Yes, everyone hates startling sounds or the tastes of certain foods, but, for an individual with a sensory processing disorder, these aversions can take on an exaggerated effect to the point where they have a negative physical response to a trigger, such as vomiting when a loud noise happens.

 

products for sensory needs for those with cerebral palsy

Enabling Devices offers a variety of products designed to help individuals with sensory processing disorder, including toys, lights and chairs. We also provide sensory room design services to connect families with special needs to trained professionals who can recommend designs and products tailored to their individual needs.

Essential Products and Adapted Devices

One especially significant tool for individuals with cerebral palsy is the adaptive switch, a button used to activate adapted devices. The size and technology behind switches vary, so there is something out there for individuals of all levels of disability. These switches can make it possible for individuals with cerebral palsy to access a variety of devices including communicators, adapted toys, adapted electronics and even iPads. Enabling Devices has dozens of switches that address a wide range of needs — head switcheshand switchessip & puff switches, mounted switches, and even an eye blink switch.

essential products and adapted devices for people with cerebral palsy

Caregivers can attach switches to mounts, which come in a variety of sizes and designs. The job of a mount is to position a switch in a way that makes it most accessible for a particular individual based upon their physical needs. These can make a huge difference for an individual with limited physical abilities.

What good would switches and mounts be without adapted devices that attach to them? Enabling Devices offers hundreds of adapted devices that work with our switches. These include:

 

Finding Help

Being the parent of a child or adult with cerebral palsy can be both physically and mentally demanding. Just as you are intentional about taking good care of your loved one, you should also be intentional about taking care of yourself. Caregiver burnout can result in depression, anxiety and a variety of mental and physical health issues.

Unfortunately, all the devices and assistive technology in the world cannot prevent a caregiver from overdoing it. As a caregiver, you have a responsibility to yourself, as well as your loved one, to ask for help. This assistance could be in the form of a babysitter who comes once a week while you go to a movie, or it could be a trained professional who takes a more frequent and active role in the day-to-day care of your loved one.

Whatever route you decide to take, you will likely feel some apprehension about allowing someone else to spend time with your child without you present — no matter how old your child is. Some anxiety is normal, especially in the beginning. But, as you adapt to the presence of another person, it’s important to remember:

1. Change Is Good

Your child can find happiness and a fresh perspective when they spend a few hours with someone else. Interacting with a new person, encountering different ideas and playing various games can be stimulating for them, as well as you.

2. Taking Care of Yourself Helps Your Family

By avoiding caregiver burnout, you keep yourself mentally sharp and ready to care for your family, which is particularly vital if you have others in your home who do not have cerebral palsy. When you a break from your responsibilities as a caregiver, you can pay better attention to your other family members and nurture relationships that might otherwise fall by the wayside.

finding caregiving help for those with cerebral palsy

Just because it’s important to get help doesn’t mean you’ll leave your loved one with the first person you find. Take time to find someone you trust, and make sure they understand how to babysit a child with cerebral palsy. Then, once you’ve hired someone, spend time with them outlining expectations and routines. Be clear about what you expect, and make sure you know what their expectations are too.

About Enabling Devices

Since our founding in 1978, Enabling Devices has been dedicated to providing high-quality, individualized service to our clients and their families. Our goal goes beyond providing products to perform a task or assist with a daily function. Our mission is to create products that allow our clients to unlock their full potential and experience joy and independence they didn’t think was possible.

shop products for cerebral palsy enabling devices

Enabling Devices is proud to serve clients with a variety of needs, including clients with cerebral palsy. We offer a wide range of products to provide accessibility and to address muscle development, sensory issues, fine motor skills, teach cause and effect, and much more.

For questions about our products or to place an order, contact us today at 800-832-8697.

Dating with Disabilities Made Easier

Image for Dating site for People with Disabilities

If Valentine’s Day week finds you online looking for love, you’ll have plenty of company. According to Time magazine, dating sites such as JDate, Christian Mingle, Match, Coffee Meets Bagel and others confirm that generally speaking “Valentine’s Day sees a spike in user activity.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find your soulmate online. In fact, online dating is not for the faint of heart and for singles with disabilities, it can be especially complicated.  For one thing, there’s the perennial question: Should you reveal your disability in your profile and pictures?

The folks at Easter Seals recommend disclosing your disability up front “especially if it greatly impacts your life. It weeds out close-minded people from the start so you don’t waste your time, and it can be a way to spark conversation and connection,” says Easter Seals.

What if you’d rather avoid the whole disclosure question? Many singles with disabilities choose to forego generic dating sites in favor of the growing number of sites specifically for people with disabilities. Here, we list and explain how some of most popular sites and apps work.

My Special Match
Created by a mom and dad of a daughter with disabilities, My Special Match.com is a place where singles with disabilities can find friends and potential mates in a safe and accepting virtual environment.

Special Bridge
Special Bridge isn’t only a dating site, it’s an online social community for people with disabilities. Whether you’re seeking a romantic partner or strictly online relationships, the site offers dating and safety tips, an active blogsite with articles on relevant topics such as dating with Asperger’s syndrome and dating with Down syndrome. The site is only accessible to community members with disabilities and its developers are vigilant about making sure that scammers can’t become members.

Meet Disabled Singles Club
When you join this dating site, your profile will also be seen by users of many other websites geared toward singles with disabilities. Note: if you don’t want that, you can opt out and just focus on the site you join. You can send flirts and private messages, participate in video chats and see who’s liked and favorited you. Get started for free.

Glimmer
This dating app which launched in 2017, was founded by Geoffrey Anderson, the brother of a man with cognitive disabilities. After seeing his brother struggle to meet people on mainstream websites and dating apps, Anderson was inspired to develop an app that would make it easier for users to disclose their disabilities without fear of being rejected because of them. Think of Glimmer as a more inclusive, disability-friendly kind of Tinder.

Disabled Dating Singles
According to Best Dating Sites.com, this site is “easy to navigate, has an active dating community and is loaded with all the communication and search features that you look for in a good dating site.” Sign up for free and you can begin searching for compatible singles immediately.

 

 

Enabling Devices Bookshelf: 2019 Edition

Images of Books about Disabilities

Bundle up! The Polar Vortex is here! What better time to stay indoors and cuddle up with a good book? Enabling Devices has got your back with this updated list of highly rated fiction and nonfiction titles on a range of disabilities-related topics for readers of all ages and abilities.

Adult
“Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum” (Hardcover)
By Jennifer O’Toole, Skyhorse, 272 pages, $16.99
Girls with autism often present differently than boys with the developmental disorder. For that reason, they often wait years for a diagnosis. That was the case with author Jennifer O’Toole who was diagnosed with ASD at age 35. In her new book, O’Toole shares what life is like for a girl and woman with autism and how learning she had ASD changed her life.

Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World” (Hardcover and audiobook)
by Deborah Reber, Brilliance Audio, $18.32; audiobook, $14.99 Available 2/19/19.
One in five children born today are neuro-atypical. The mother of a son with ADHD and Asperger’s who is also highly gifted, Reber offers this “how to” manual on creating new and positive paradigms that helps parents to parent exceptional children exceptionally.

“Forever Parenting: Voices of Parents of Adults with Special Needs” (Paperback)
By Rosemarie Scotti Hughes, Ph.D., (Westview Press), 144 pages, $11.99
What lies ahead for children with disabilities when they cross the threshold into adulthood? How can their parents ease the way? In this 2018 book, Scotti Hughes, the parent of an adult child with intellectual disabilities, shares her experiences as well as the experiences of other parents with children with special needs, as they advocate for their adult children. Full of wisdom, hope and help, “Forever Parenting” provides a map for navigating the complex journey ahead.

Young Adult
“A Curse So Dark and Lonely” (Hardcover)
By Brigid Kemmerer, Bloomsbury YA, 496 pages, $12.91
A contemporary retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” this new novel’s brave heroine doesn’t let cerebral palsy stand in her way.

“This is not a Love Scene” (Hardcover, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac)
by S.C. Megale, (St. Martin’s Press), 288 pages, $18.99. Due out May 7
A talented young filmmaker with many strengths, Maeve’s rare form of muscular dystrophy tends to stand in the way of romantic prospects. But when she meets Cole Smith, the two discover an undeniable attraction that changes her outlook and her self-image.

 Children’s
“Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship” (Hardcover),
By Jessica Kensky, Patrick Downes and illustrated by Scott Magoon. (Candlewick), 32 pages, $15.29, K-4th grade
Based on a true story, this highly rated picture book teaches children about the deep love and devotion that develops between a young girl and her service dog.

Jolly Molly Dolly”(Paperback)
By Julia Kay O’Connor, (self-published), 24 pages, $6.34
Written in rhyme, “Jolly Molly Dolly,” is the story of the school therapy doll at the special needs school where the author works. O’Connor’s sweet story endeavors to familiarize children with and without disabilities with the equipment used by children at her special needs school. O’Connor’s aim? To make these mobility devices less scary for the children who use them and for their mainstreamed classmates.

Happy reading and stay warm!

New Ride-sharing Apps Cater to People with Disabilities

Man in Wheelchair getting out of an Accessible Van

Despite requirements set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act, access to transportation remains a major obstacle for people with disabilities. According to a survey of 1,650 people conducted by KRC Research for the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, “Eighty percent of people with a disability and 40 percent of older adults who don’t drive said they couldn’t do all the activities and errands they needed or wanted to do because they couldn’t get around.”

Obstacles to transportation also limit opportunities for employment and socialization, keep people with disabilities unemployed and isolated. But several new ride-sharing apps are offering options for people with mobility challenges.

Cofounded by internationally known opera singer and entrepreneur Ja’Nese Jean, a new app called SAFETRIP provides wheelchair accessible vehicles and ambulances and is the only ride-sharing app that can be paid for through health insurance. SAFERIDE’s drivers receive sensitivity training, defensive driving training, and CPR training. Jean told IssueWire “Our goal is to create a bridge between an underserved demographic as it relates to ownership and influence in a mainstream thriving industry.”

Another ride-sharing app for people with disabilities is due out later this year. Scoot, which stands for Stronger Communities through Open and Organized Transportation, is being developed by an Illinois-based nonprofit called New Star. The app “will make available drivers specifically trained in working with people with disabilities, and with vehicles specially equipped to transport them,” New Star CEO Dan Strick told Disability Scoop recently.

Not to be outdone by these newcomers to the ride-sharing industry, Uber has also gotten into the act. According to the Washington Post, “Uber has long been criticized for its lack of wheelchair-accessible vehicles, and a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Equal Rights Center in 2017 called out the company for its failure to provide access for passengers in wheelchairs and motorized scooters.” Recently, Uber in partnership with MV Transportation, launched wheelchair accessible ride-sharing in six cities. “MV will supply drivers and vehicles, while trips will be arranged through the Uber app,” said the Washington Post. Later this year, Uber plans to expand its services to customers in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Paying Tribute to Inclusion

Diverse Group of People in a Circle Hugging

It’s been just over a week since a mass murderer took the lives of 11 individuals during Shabbat services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn. Among the dead were two brothers with intellectual disabilities.

Cecil and David Rosenthal, ages 59 and 54, were well-loved by fellow congregants at the Tree of Life and throughout Pittsburgh’s Jewish and secular communities. And while many religious institutions have struggled to make their services, facilities and cultural climates accessible and inclusive to members with disabilities, it seems as if the Tree of Life had it right.

In remembrances published and broadcast across countless media outlets, the brothers were warmly praised for their devotion to the synagogue and their communities, their kindness and the joy they brought to others. During the brothers’ funeral on Oct. 30, their rabbi, Jeffrey Myers told the overflowing sanctuary full of more than 1,400 mourners, “They were two of the sweetest human beings you could ever meet,” according to The Algemeiner.com.

Not only were the Rosenthal brothers beloved, they were active contributors to synagogue and community life. Per Triblive.com, “The brothers were fixtures at Tree of Life. Both helped out before, during and after services. David Rosenthal was meticulous about arranging prayer books and shawls. Cecil Rosenthal was a greeter.”

David and Cecil lived together in apartment supported by Achieva, a social service agency in Pittsburgh. Their lives were full. In addition to synagogue life, Cecil was active with the local Best Buddies Program and was known as “the unofficial mayor of Squirrel Hill,” according to USA Today. Said Jason Bertocchi, former chapter president and local Best Buddies board member: “Cecil became a true staple of our chapter over his 8+ years, and, recently, would always welcome me with open arms and meaningful conversation each and every time we would get together. Our chapter suffered a loss of a family member yesterday. Cecil was a wonderful man and an even better friend.” David worked for Good Will Industries and though more introverted than his brother, was said to have had a terrific sense of humor.

As lifelong Tree of Life congregant Jerry Solomon told the New York Times, the fact that the brothers were staples of the community was taken for granted. “Today we talk about inclusion, but they were just part of the community, and I didn’t think anything about it… It was my introduction to the fact that there are people like that and they are just like the rest of us,” said Solomon.

 

A Plea for More Inclusion in Medical Schools

medical student with teaching doctor

Imagine if your child’s doctor understood first-hand, what it meant to cope with a disability because he or she had a disability too? Alas, a doctor with that particular expertise won’t be easy to find. Despite the fact that 20 percent of the general population has some sort of a disability, the likelihood of finding a doctor with a disability is far lower. “Students with sensory and physical disabilities are underrepresented in medical schools,” according to a 2016 paper published in the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics.

The paper attributed the scarcity of medical students with disabilities in part, to admissions policies that focus on students’ limitations rather than their strengths. In addition, the report said that schools’ biases against students with disabilities were based on assumptions such as the “potential risks to patient safety posed by accommodations, accommodation costs, and ensuring performance standards such that graduates can pass licensure exams without accommodations.” All these assumptions were without merit said the paper’s authors.

In response to the shortage of medical students and doctors with disabilities, in March 2018, the Association of American Medical Colleges released “Accessibility, Inclusion, and Action in Medical Education: Lived Experiences of Learners and Physicians With Disabilities,” a publication “designed to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges and opportunities for individuals with disabilities at the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals.”

In a press release, the publication’s co-author, Lisa Meeks, Ph.D. said: “Learners need effective structures that sometimes are missing, such as clear policies around disabilities and knowledgeable disability service providers. But that is not enough. They also need a culture that lets them know they are welcome.” The publication —which is the first of its kind— presented “key considerations” for making medical schools and by extension, the medical field more inclusive. The considerations included:

• Hiring a dedicated employee with expertise in disabilities and accommodations who is knowledgeable about the requirements of medical settings
• Ordering an assessment of medical schools’ existing services for students with disabilities
• Having a clear and confidential policy for accommodations requests that is outlined on the institution’s website
• Encouraging students to access supports and take time off for medical and mental health appointments as needed

It may take time for medical schools and the medical field to adapt to inclusion guidelines such as the ones recommended by the AAMC’s publication. But we’re convinced that when the medical field embraces inclusion, we’ll all be better for it!

Beware of Pain Medicines

Nurse Talking to Woman in Hospital Wheelchair

It’s no secret that in recent years, opioid addiction In the United States, has reached epidemic proportions. But did you know that people with disabilities are 2-4 times more likely to become addicted than people in the general population? One reason for the disparity is that physical disabilities are often accompanied by chronic pain that’s frequently treated with highly addictive narcotic medications. According to a 2014 study, “more than 40 percent of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients take opioid pain relievers, while the prevalence of chronic opioid use is over 20 percent and rising.”

What can you do to decrease the likelihood that you or a loved one will become addicted to opioids? Here are some preventive steps you can take.

Be aware of the dangers of opioids
A 2016 study by the National Safety Council found that “Ninety-nine percent of doctors are prescribing highly addictive opioid medicines for longer than the three-day period recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).” Though doctors may be well-intentioned, until recently, many were not well-educated about the dangers of overprescribing pain medications. When you’re prescribed a medication for pain, make sure you know as much as possible about the drug, its side effects and its potential for addiction.

 Try alternative pain therapies before resorting to narcotics.
The same NSC study found that “Seventy-four percent of doctors incorrectly believe morphine and oxycodone, both opioids, are the most effective ways to treat pain. Research shows over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen offer the most effective relief for acute pain.” Other treatments such as physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis and meditation may also be helpful and safe options for pain relief. Why not try these first?

Take medications as prescribed
Once you and your doctor have determined that opioids are the appropriate treatment for your or your loved one, be diligent about taking your medication as prescribed. Stick to a regular dosing schedule to prevent taking more medication than prescribed and refrain from drinking alcohol or using other substances when taking opioids. Make sure your doctor is aware of all medications you take to prevent dangerous drug interactions.

Don’t stop medications without consulting with your doctor
Stopping medications without consulting with your doctor can result in dangerous withdrawal symptoms. “Depending on the type and dose of drug you’ve been taking,” says the Mayo Clinic, “it may take weeks or even months to gradually and safely reduce your dose and get off your opioid medication.”

Get Help if Needed
According to the Mayo Clinic, it may be time to discontinue your use of pain medications if you experience “serious side effects, reduced pain relief from the same dose of medications over time (tolerance), or behaviors that raise concerns about misuse, abuse or addiction.” In the event that your doctor advises you to taper off your medication and you feel unable to do so, don’t hesitate to ask for help. “Your doctor may recommend combining your taper with counseling on medication use,” says the Mayo. “In some cases, you may also wish to join a substance misuse support group (for example, Narcotics Anonymous) or talk with your religious or spiritual adviser.”

Martial Arts for All

Four smiling boys and girls in karate outfits

In recent days, the topic of sexual assault has dominated the news cycle. What few realize, is that people with disabilities are far more likely to be sexually assaulted than people without disabilities. In fact, a recent report on NPR’s “All Things Considered” found that “people with intellectual disabilities — women and men — are the victims of sexual assaults at rates more than seven times those for people without disabilities.” Likewise, “Not on the Radar,” a new report by the National Council on Disability found that “nearly one in three disabled undergraduate women experience sexual violence.”

For a variety of reasons, people with disabilities can be more vulnerable to sexual predators than others. Some people with disabilities are turning to self-defense training or martial arts to protect themselves.

According to Advanced Martial Arts Connect (AMAC), a website for all things martial arts-related, martial arts styles such as taekwando, judo, karate and others can be useful to individuals with a variety of special needs. For example, says AMAC, the American Taekwando Association has partnered with Autism Speaks to educate instructors about best practices in working with individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

AMAC also recommends martial arts to students with Down syndrome who “tend to have some degree of cognitive and muscle impairment.” Says AMAC: The strength and coordination training that martial arts offers is “invaluable” to individuals with Down syndrome.

Blind people can benefit from martial arts training as well. “Blindness martial arts — Judo especially — are not heavily dependent on sight because they are not typical contact sports,” says AMAC. “In Judo, the experts usually practice blindfolded to improve their reflexes and strengthen their other senses. Karate also is easily adaptable to blindness.”

Those with movement disabilities such as paralysis, multiple sclerosis and other syndromes that cause severe mobility challenges, can also gain helpful self-defense skills through martial arts.

“As well as being therapeutic, martial arts help with confidence and self-defense, both of which can be useful when an assailant targets a disabled person for being a stereotypically easy target,” says AMAC.

The Adaptive Martial Arts Association serves as a clearinghouse for people seeking adaptive martial arts classes, instructors and resources. The organization also offers a school outreach program that helps to match students with disabilities to adaptive martial arts programs in their areas. They even provide free martial arts uniforms and tuition assistance to those who qualify.

Founded by Jason “The Animal” Davis, the association was a response to Davis’ experiences as a youngster with cerebral palsy. When he was 8 years old, Davis was turned away from a martial arts training course because of his CP. But his desire to pursue martial arts remained.

At 31, Davis reached out to a friend who was a martial artist and agreed to train him. The duo set out to adapt a martial arts curriculum for people with disabilities.

“The first few weeks both student and teacher wondered if it would work,” Davis recalled. “But then the physical and mental changes began to appear. When medical doctors and therapists noticed the difference, it was apparent that martial arts training was working in ways both never expected.”

To find a class and trained instructor near you, visit the Adaptive Martial Arts Association.