Archives for posts with tag: Deaf

With the health care situation in flux and Medicaid cuts looming, it seemed like a good year to do something public to celebrate the ADA while we still have it.  I approached some disability advocates in the community, the Center for Independent Living and a local health care advocacy group and they agreed.  My vision was for a public event where we handed out lemonade and chips, had booths with info about the Center for Independent living and the Aging and Disability Resource Center and displayed signs about “Don’t Cap or Cut Medicaid” and “ADA Matters”.

To make this happen in ten days, each of us took on several tasks.  I sought permissions from the police and the health department, made media contacts, recruited folks from the blind and Deaf communities and wrote a pep talk. One big learning from all of this was that things are more complex than you’d ever think. For example, I didn’t ask the Parks and Recreation Department if we could use the grassy plot near the farmers’ market. I blithely assumed it was public land and the police said that was okay if you don’t block motorists’ vision or sidewalks.  Or when it came to deciding to have the event or cancel because of likelihood of thunderstorms, I hadn’t even thought about power wheelchairs not liking to be out in thunderstorms.

Another learning for me is that compromising is good and leads to a better event in the long run. One gal wanted to bring a bubble machine. Bubbles don’t do much for blind people, so I scoffed a bit and figured out I could bring bells for blind folks to balance the bubbles. It turned out the bubbles attracted kids, which attracted their parents and great fun was had with both bubbles and bells.

Even though we weren’t allowed to hand out anything because we ended up escaping from the rain under the roof of the farmers’ market, the event was great. Lots of people with and without disabilities helped and many in-depth conversations about disability issues were held. Even the local newspaper story was respectful and got the facts right. Here’s my speech that somehow seemed to fit the tone of the event:

 

Happy Americans with Disabilities Act Day! Thanks for showing up to help our community celebrate the ADA and the Medicaid program.  Medicaid helps low income Americans of all ages get the services they need to live out the promise of the ADA for access.  My hopes for this event are that people learn about each other’s worlds. But that will take the bravery of asking other people how the ADA or Medicaid made their lives better and the bravery to tell pieces of your story to strangers not just throw out political sound bites.

The disability community has been the last group to achieve our civil rights with laws like the ADA in 1990 and the Help America Vote Act in 2002.

The disability community has some values I’d like to highlight today: resilience and a balance of independence and interdependence.  We feel the fear but do it anyway as we encounter attitudinal, architectural and communication barriers. We are problem-solvers and hard workers, just to get ready to get out the door sometimes. We’ve learned the truth of the Hopi Katchina Tehabi story “You see for me, I’ll walk for you”.  We’ve learned to ask for what we need and to give what we can. For example today I’ve asked Jeff to walk around with me being my eyes about who’s out there so I can greet them. I hope to learn some things about organizing from him too.  But I’ll also be educating him about the world of people with disabilities. So it’s a two-way street with the helping today. Both “please help” and “may I help?” are useful phrases for everybody.

As able, find a partner you don’t know and do the work of holding signs, conversing with people, handing out information or passing out snacks. Mix and mingle. Learn and grow and by all means have fun! Happy ADA Day!

Freud said if you love and work, you have a full life. I’d add play and pray. Here are some signs of hope this week that people with disabilities are mainstreaming into regular life more, particular in the area of play:

  • Deaf man wins Dancing with the Stars contest and uses his prominence to educate people about issues faced by Deaf people. Nyle DiMarco wanted to teach Deaf kids math. Through DWTS he says, he can “educate the world and & invest in Deaf children”.
  • One of the contestants in the national spelling bee, who finished in the top ten of the contest, was a child born deaf who has cochlear implants.
  • A Ukrainian, Wheelchair-using fashion model, Alexandra Kutas is making waves for inclusive fashion shows.
  • People with disabilities are protesting at showings of the movie “Me Before You”. The glorifying of a quadriplegic’s suicide and the fact that there was no disability input in the script, in the choice of the actor playing the part of a quadriplegic, etc. deserve to be publicly commented on.
  • More Kindle players are becoming more accessible to people who are blind. New features being introduced into Amazon’s Kindle readers and Fire tablets will now make these devices readily accessible to the visually impaired. Side note: Check before buying to be sure the device you’re lusting after will work for you!
  • People with disabilities are holding candidates accountable for taking stands on disability issues and advocating for accessibility of polling places under the banner “Crip the Vote”.
  • Lured by a free month and American Council for the Blind’s (ACB) work with Netflix, to become more accessible, I signed up. I know the accessibility is in its infancy, but I was amazed both positively and negatively. The website is inaccessible. Onscreen visually are names of movies but screen readers can’t read them. ACB has a list of audio-described shows and movies so you find one of those you want to watch and then search it out using the search box on the Netflix page. Supposedly you can watch on computer or on iPhone, but I couldn’t get the computer to play it. But on the iPhone it worked fine and “Antz” came through complete with description. Five minutes was enough to convince me I didn’t want to watch it, but I could if I wanted to. I’ll go through the list of what’s available this weekend and see if I can get all I want watched in a month. I’ve never been a huge fan of television programs except for M.A.S.H., so I may not have to watch much to get full value out of my free month.
  • In the Midwest, rhubarb is a rite of spring. A friend who lives in an assisted living facility because of various disabilities was lamenting the fact that they wouldn’t have their usual rhubarb crumble this year because the gal whose son provided the rhubarb died. One can purchase rhubarb, but the facility’s management apparently wasn’t going to. Around here purchasing rhubarb would be like purchasing air. So I asked friends and friends of friends to share their rhubarb and a friend to truck it out there to the facility. From the first delivery rhubarb bread pudding and rhubarb crumble were enjoyed. In a couple days, another ten pound shipment will go out.

Small victories!

 

In New York, there’s a “Humans of New York” project. A writer and photographer Brandon Stanton has published two books now profiling and picturing “ordinary New Yorkers in the most extraordinary of moments”.

In Eau Claire this year, sixth graders at a local middle school did a project interviewing community members and writing summaries of what they learned from that person. Three university students took photos of each human. The remarkable humans ranged from a nurse to a soldier; from a jump roper to a turkey caller; from a CSA farmer to a yoga instructor; from a couple who got a wheelchair made for their Lab who was paralyzed so he could keep moving to a couple who run a shelter for senior dogs. A young man who is Deaf and is in school to become an architect or engineer, someone with Asperger’s and I represented people with disabilities active in the world.

Remarkable Humans picThe coaching and teaching that helped these sixth graders research their human, dream up good interview questions and do the write-ups was amazing to me. Several of the students read part of the welcome speech at the celebration event. I got to meet one set of parents of one of my interviewers and hear from them how appreciative they were of the great education their child was getting in our public schools. I’ll go to sleep smiling tonight thinking that someday this city and this world will be run by kids like these. Remarkable humans are all around us.