Sunday, March 9, 2014

Disability Awareness Month - 5 Influential People of the Civil Rights Movement For People With Disabilities

For Disability Awareness Month I’ve put together a list of five influential people of the disability rights movement in the United States. This is just a short list of some people who have made a tremendous impact on how people with disabilities are able to live today.


Hellen Keller
 1. Hellen Keller – Born in 1880, Helen was struck by a mysterious illness called “brain fever” by a family physician at 18 months and became deaf, blind and mute. At the age of 7, her parents found a young teacher who would teach Helen how to communicate and they would become life-long friends. Helen graduated from Cambridge School for Young Ladies and went on to become a well-known speaker doing lectures and working on behalf of people with disabilities. She testified before Congress, advocating for an improvement in the welfare of the blind. She co-founded Helen Keller International to combat the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition. In 1920, she helped found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Helen tackled many social issues including women’s suffrage, pacifism and birth control. She traveled to 35 countries on five continents, including a five month trip across Asia at the age of 75 in order to improve the lives of people with disabilities. She died in her sleep in 1968, just a few weeks before her 88th birthday.

Gini Laurie
2. Virginia “Gini” Grace Wilson Laurie – She is considered one of the “grandmothers” of the independent living movement. A year before her birth in 1913, two of her sisters died from poliomyelitis and her brother was left severely disabled. As an adult, she volunteered with the Red Cross in the Cleveland Toomey Pavilion rehab center during the 1949 polio epidemic. In 1958, she took the unpaid job of editor of the Toomeyville Gazette, a newsletter put together by patients who recovered at the rehab center after contracting polio. The Gazette published articles on legislation, activism and what would become known as the independent living movement. In 1970, Gini wrote an article in the newly-named Rehabilitation Gazette where she stated plainly that for people with disabilities, the most important thing “is the right to freedom of choice to live as normal a life as possible within the community…Segregation is unnormal.” In 1977, she wrote Housing and Home Services for the Disabled: Guidelines and Experiences in Independent Living”. It pointed to the fact that it is more cost-effective for people with disabilities to live in their community than being put into institutions or nursing homes, an important point still being driven in the disability movement today. She died in 1989 of cancer.

Ed Roberts
3. Ed Roberts – After contracting polio at age 14 and living in the hospital for two years, Ed was finally able to move back home. But things were very different. Because of the polio, he was only able to move two fingers and slept in an iron lung. His struggle against discrimination began immediately when school administrators did not allow him to attend school with his classmates. They felt it was best to have teachers instruct him privately at home. The family fought back and they won him the right to attend school with his classmates. After graduating from a junior college, he had to go through another battle in order to be allowed to attend the University of California in Berkeley. He eventually won this fight as well and went on to study Political Science. Because of Ed, more disabled students were allowed to attend Berkeley and they eventually formed a disabled student organization on campus. Their focus was to make the university more accessible and provide trainings on daily support techniques. In 1972, Ed helped the group form the first Center for Independent Living which was considered radical at the time because it was run by people with disabilities rather than medical professionals. He became the first person to serve as the Director of California’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. In 1981, he and Judy Heumann and Joan Leon started the World Institute on Disability (WID) which studies legal rights issues for people with disabilities around the world. Often referred to as “the father of the disability rights movement”, he was president of WID until his death in 1995.

Justin Dart
4. Justin Dart – At the age of 18, Justin contracted polio which left him unable to walk. He came from a wealthy family in Chicago and in 1967 he and his wife devoted their lives to helping people with disabilities. On his own dime, they travelled the across the United States in the early 1980’s which was quite an undertaking because many places were not wheelchair accessible. Universal design was just beginning to be implemented in larger cities but in smaller ones, it was practically unheard of.  What was learned through conversations during this tour was the basis for a policy that called for national rights for people with disabilities. It would eventually become the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Because of the national dialogue that took place during this time and the subsequent passing of the ADA, Justin Dart is considered to be “the godfather” of the ADA. In 1995, he founded the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) along with others. At the age of 71, he died in 2002 from congestive heart failure related to complications of post-polio syndrome.

Wade Blank
5. Wade Blank – emulating the great Dr. King, Wade began a movement in the 1970’s within the disability community in Denver, Colorado that would give rise to ADAPT, a national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action. A former minister, he saw the sad living conditions of individuals with severe disabilities in nursing homes and took it upon himself to make changes. He not only moved people from institutions into independent living centers but these very same people became co-protestors in his fight against the discrimination built into the public transportation system. They waged the first sit-in of their kind and surrounded a bus with their wheelchairs in Denver. The group quickly expanded to other cities around the US, holding demonstrations fighting for accessibility in public bus systems. His group’s national recognition paid off as accessible public transportation was included in The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a landmark law passed in 1990. He continued to be a leader in the civil rights movement of people with disabilities until his death in 1993.


Without these role models and others like them, people with disabilities would not have the right to a free and public education, public transportation and barrier-free public places, among other civil rights. Although there is still much work to be done, it is uncontestable that the foundation laid down by these pioneers sparked a movement that is still growing today.

Can you think of any others who have made a major impact on the lives of people with disabilities?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day - 8 Ways We Can Treat Ourselves Better Immediately

March 8 is International Women’s Day around the globe. It started back in 1911 and has been getting stronger ever since. We all know we should be sleeping 7-8 hours a night, exercising and surrounding ourselves with happy, loving people. But let’s face it, sometimes we’re lucky to get 4 good hours of shut eye and our closest friends are doing all they can to share their misery. So what else can we do to realistically make a positive impact on our daily lives as busy women?

In honor of International Women’s Day, I have put together a list of 8 tips for us women to live a healthier life.

1.       Eat less salt – Half of women over the age of 45 have high blood pressure and a lot of that is due to a high salt consumption. Rather than flavoring your meals with massive amounts of salt try other seasonings like garlic powder, adobo, oregano, rosemary seeds or cumin. A bonus to an aromatic dish is that by filling multiple senses (taste, sight AND smell) you tend to eat less in one sitting!
2.       Increase blood supply to your heart and lungs – Every night before going to sleep, hang your head and shoulders over the edge of the mattress. This opens up your chest, increasing the blood supply to the area and as a bonus can help with bad posture gained from sitting hunched over a desk at work.
3.       Rinse your mouth after drinking soda – We’ve all heard that we should eliminate or limit the amount of carbonated beverages for other health reasons but have you considered what the sugar does to your teeth? Rinsing with water will wash away the acids that erode tooth enamel.
4.       Walk extra steps each day – Instead of using the elevator, take the stairs. Instead of circling the parking lot for the closest spot possible, park far away from the store. Instead of sitting on the couch after a large meal, head outside even if it’s just to take the trash down to the curb.
5.       Change up your look – Did you have the same hairstyle at your 20th high school reunion as you did when you graduated? Too often, women try to hold on to their youth by never changing their look when in fact, it does the opposite – it dates you. Try a new look for the spring. If you wear it wavy, try a sleek look. Brunettes can try out a few face-framing highlights and blondes can add in some low-lights. A new hair style just may re-energize your spirit!
6.       Wear a hat – Using a facial moisturizer with SPF 30 and sunblock on the rest of your body is a good start to protecting yourself from harmful UV rays but what about your scalp? That skin is just as prone to skin cancer as any other part of you so show it some love by protecting it with a cute sun hat or baseball cap.
7.       Apply lip balm – To piggy back on the last tip, your lips are also often neglected in the sun-protection beauty regimen. There are some great balms containing SPF 15 these days so pucker up and keep those luscious lips kissable and free from dry cracks.
8.       Treat your eye-area gently – This is the most delicate part of your face and shows aging the quickest. Cleanse with care – always blot, never rub! Always use your ring finger to apply moisturizer and concealer because it uses the least amount of pressure.

Now go out and have a great day!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Top 5 Visitable Cities - Places Where People With Disabilities Have Great Accessibility

Vacations are enjoyed by millions of people all over the world but some people with disabilities can find planning a vacation a bit daunting because of disability issues. Some may even think it’s impossible. I say, with proper planning, you can have a great vacation to remember. Here is a list of the top five most accessible places to visit in the world.

Berlin, Germany
1. Berlin, Germany
It was awarded the “Access City of the Year” in December 2012 by the European Commission due to its aggressive and forward-thinking plan of creating a fully accessible public transportation system. Its plan also includes broadening sidewalks and using tactile guidance systems at road crossings. By the year 2020, the government plans on Berlin being 100% accessible. A large majority of museums in Berlin are already accessible as are most of the more well-known hotel chains but be sure to ask when making reservations what accessible features are currently available. You can search for places to visit at Visit Berlin for People with Disabilities

Vancouver, British Columbia
 2. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
One of the most diverse cities in the world, Vancouver offers visitors a wide variety of cultural foods and experiences. With its great public transportation system – buses are equipped with wheelchair ramps and the Sky Train and SeaBus are also accessible – visitors have a variety of choices when deciding how to get to where they’re going. Vancouver International Airport is one of the world’s most accessible airports. Some barrier-free features include amplified handsets at service counters, low-mounted information monitors, services for the deaf and accessible washrooms. Travelers can rent vehicles with hand-controls or use the Airporter shuttle bus service to get to their hotels. For more information on where to go and what to do, go to Accessible Vancouver.

San Diego, California, United States
3. San Diego, California
When you think “California” you should also think “beach”! With its mild climate you can enjoy 70 miles of beach when visiting this city year-round. At at least fifteen San Diego beaches, beach wheelchairs are available for people with disabilities at no charge. Some even offer motorized chairs. To find a list of beaches with phone numbers check out CaliforniaCoastal Commission. You can also take accessible sightseeing tours via bus, boat or old-fashioned trolley. Go to to plan your trip. 

4. Denmark
Yes, the whole country. While all Scandinavian countries are very disability-friendly, Denmark stands out because of its “Accessibility For All” program. This is a tourism labeling system for hotels, attractions, restaurants and other places you might want to visit while there. You can search for places and other things accessible using and narrowing it down by city, type of place, disability and more. You can also find more tourism information at 

London, England
5. London, England
England might call to mind old tradition but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t modernized its accommodations for people with disabilities. The subway system, called the Tube, has some stops that are not wheelchair accessible so if you’re planning on traveling that way be sure to research ahead of time to find the stops that are accessible. However, the large majority of their buses are accessible and their taxis are required by law to be accessible. You can find accessibility information at Transport For London. Many of London’s most popular sight-seeing stops are free or offer a discount for people with disabilities. There are some places that even allow one care giver in at no charge.

Special Mention:
Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas – A recreational park that provides a beautiful environment free of economic barriers that all individuals, regardless of disability can enjoy. It boasts many attractions such as a sensory village, picnic area, playground and sandpit and a carousel that is accessible to all including wheelchair users. Tickets can be purchased online and are very reasonably priced. Individuals with disabilities and children under 2 get in for free. Visit their site at Morgan’s Wonderland.


So now that you have some ideas of where to go, let’s go over a few tips on how to travel with a disability:
1.  Plan ahead! Give yourself as much time as possible to research where you are going. Here are some questions you should ask:
·         Is the destination airport accessible? Who can help you find the right accommodations?
·         Does the hotel have a no-step entrance; rooms on the first floor; wide hallways/doorways; grab-bars or roll-in showers? Do they have other accommodations such as interpreters or amplified handsets?
·         Is the local area disability-friendly? How will you be getting to local attractions and sites?
2. Bring a letter from you doctor - Preferably on a letterhead, a doctor’s note explaining your condition and necessary treatments could help you if you become ill or injured. Make sure the doctor’s contact information is on the letter.
3. Be specific - Not everybody will know what your particular disability entails or requires. When makin queries be very clear about what your needs are.
4. Know about emergency services - In the US, 911 is the universal emergency phone number. What about in other countries? Be sure to know what to do if you have an emergency.

Remember, being prepared for the worst allows you to enjoy your time better. Here are some travel sites geared toward helping people with disabilities:

Happy vacationing!