#Awareness Blog

Welcome to our blog entitled #Awareness.  This is a space that will delve into disabilities.   Good, bad, or neutral the information should help provide an “Awareness”.  Hopes being that through the information we have provided, you gain a greater Awareness what is happening to people with disabilities.  

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  • 22 Sep 2020 10:03 AM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    For those who do not have their own transportation or need accessibleJackson Area Transit Authority logo. a blue arch crosses over a red arch with JATA underneath transportation, Reserve-A-Ride is one of the best transportation options around town and throughout Jackson County.

    A Jackson Area Transportation Authority (JATA) program, Reserve-A-Ride is a curb-to-curb service for the general public, including wheelchair users in Jackson County. JATA will pick up passengers and transport them to their desired destination.

    The service is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Call (517) 788-8410 to schedule a pickup.

    “Reserve a Ride, with an on-time performance of 95%, is likely the most reasonably priced public transportation in the county of Jackson,” said Chad Cumberworth, JATA’s Government and Community Relations Manager. “This service offered by the Jackson Area Transportation Authority provides approximately 30,000 trips to individuals each year.”

    Cumberworth said JATA recently received a $1.1 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration for a ‘Rides to Wellness’ program that is expected to start by the end of this year. The new program will provide non-emergency same day, door-to-door transportation to individuals.

    Under Rides to Wellness, the drivers will pick up passengers at their residence and take them, for example, to their doctor’s appointment. The drivers will then wait for them to finish their appointment, and return them home or to another wellness destination such as a pharmacy or grocery store.

    For now, here’s what you need to know about Reserve-A-Ride:

    **You have to wear a facemask while you’re in a JATA bus or mini-van and in the transfer center.**

    Call JATA in advance if you need a ride. You might get lucky and get a ride the same day if there’s a bus available. If you need a ride on a Saturday or Sunday, you’ll have to call JATA before 4 p.m. the Friday before.

    If you live inside Jackson’s city limits, Reserve-A-Ride is available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. If you live outside of Jackson, the county Reserve-A-Ride is available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

    JATA vehicles are equipped with lifts or ramps to assist the physically disabled. Up to 24 passengers can fit in a small bus. A pickup can be made curbside or in a designated parking area if one is available.

    As the service provider, JATA reserves the right to deny service for non-compliance with passenger rules.

    Here are the four big rules for riders:

    •      Once JATA arrives, you have 30 minutes to get on the bus or mini-van.
    •       All passengers who require assistance beyond JATA service limitations must provide their own personal care attendant, commonly known as a PCA. The PCA is allowed to ride on the vehicle at no charge, but only with ADA-certified passengers.
    •       If someone you know is coming with you, he or she will have to pay the same fare you paid. All passengers are required to pay a fee or show a ticket or pass, unless prior arrangements have been made with the JATA scheduling office.
    •       Give the JATA scheduling office at least a 2-hour heads-up if you need to cancel a ride. If you don’t cancel a ride and a JATA shows up, you could lose your privileges for a while. You also may be charged for the non-canceled ride the next time you ride a JATA vehicle. If not canceling becomes a habit, you could lose the service.

    There are 12 other rules to follow:

    •         No eating, drinking or smoking
    •         No talking on cell phones
    •         No profanity or shouting
    •         No soliciting
    •         No littering or defacing JATA property
    •         Playing radios is prohibited, unless you have earplugs
    •         Drivers do not make change (so bring the exact fare)
    •         Passengers without correct fare will not be allowed to board (told you)
    •         Shoes and shirts must be worn
    •         No unnecessary conversation with the driver
    •         Parents must keep their children seated for the duration of the trip
    •         Children under the age of 5 must be accompanied by an adult

    Also, if you call for a ride, make sure the building you’re calling from is safely accessible. Parking areas, including driveways, must be free of snow, ice or other obstructions.

    If you’re certified for the “Americans with Disabilities Para-transit Priority Certification” (ADA), you can make reservations up to two weeks in advance during normal business hours.

    For more information, visit www.jacksontransit.com.

  • 07 Aug 2020 1:49 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    2020 Youth Leadership Advocacy Academy

    By: Brian Elliott

    The 2020 Youth Leadership Advocacy Academy (YLAA) led bya screenshot from a Zoom virtual chat session. There are seven little squares, each square shows the face of on person. disAbility Connections employee Daniel Klink concluded recently.  The class consisted of Jackson area high school students who met online (due to Covid) twice a week, for six weeks and covered the systems that are in place to support people with disabilities, disability history in the U.S., learned about local/state/governance, and engaged with local governmental leadership to get a greater understanding of how and what is done behind the scenes of government on a daily basis. 

    Students interacted through a curriculum that provided a broader understanding of what it means to be a person with a disability in 2020, while also acknowledging where we came from and the struggles/advancements that have been involved over time.  Throughout the six week course, the class was able to review a timeline of disability in America, viewed and discussed the impactful film Lives Worth Living (highly recommended for any that haven’t seen it), as well as interviews with Mayor Dobies of Jackson, U.S. Congressman Tim Walberg, disAbility Connections Deputy Director Travis Barnett, and Jackson County Treasurer Karen Coffman.  In fact, the program was so impactful and such a success, that it will function as a pilot program.  Next year, Centers for Independent Living across the state will be picking it up and using it to teach their local youth.

    We are in the post-American with Disabilities Act (ADA) times.  People born in the late 1980s 1990 and beyond have grown up with the idea that things should be accessible through ramps, inclusive classrooms, braille on signs, power doors, or closed captioning, and more.  If you were born after this time, you could honestly assume these measures have always just been around.  The history of disability in America paints a different picture.  When asked if there were any segments that stood out or surprised the students, Klink stated, “They were really surprised about the history of disability and how people were treated, many had never seen or known what it was like pre-ADA. (Discussions) Provided a different aspect that many hadn’t considered”.   

    Before the class wrapped up for the 2020 session, the students were asked what type of project they thought would be beneficial, given all that they had encountered over the previous six weeks.  They were able to come to a group consensus with two ideas that they thought would be worthwhile:

    • ·        Develop an anti-bullying project around disability to implement with the incoming freshman class each year at local schools.
    • ·        Have an annual ADA assembly each year within the area schools to help inform schools and more importantly students, about the rights for people with disabilities.

    These are great ideas and help to show both the importance of the information to the students and the ability to advocate for their own needs, but also that disability history and experiences need to be shared.  A greater understanding of disability history and struggle for inclusion can help create a community of greater overall awareness and inclusion we can all enjoy.

  • 27 Jul 2020 8:54 AM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    ADA is Turning 30 – Disability Rights

    By: Brian Elliott

              On July 26th, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will have officially been a law of the land across the U.S. following its signing and passing in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush.  The ADA is a civil rights law that has five Titles/Sections under its canopy which guarantee equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications.  The ADA ensures that people with disabilities (PWD) are able to have the same opportunities and rights as everybody else.  Though these nearly 30 years have brought some immense changes for the better, room for improvement remains.

              The ADA helps to even the playing field and provide an opportunity.  PWD want to and are able to go places and do stuff!   Yes, depending on the severity and disability of a person, minor or major accommodations have to be made at minor or sometimes major costs.  However, do not let potential additional equipment/costs deter you.  With those accommodations, PWD are just as capable, likely, and able to do as meagerly or remarkably as well as any other person out there.  The ADA gives us a chance to put our work next to everybody else.

              A majority of the changes following the passage of the ADA have not only been beneficial for PWD but people in general as well.  Have you ever used a curb cut on the sidewalks, a ramp rather than stairs, entered through an automatic door, noticed braille on a sign, or benefited by closed captioning watching a show (maybe at home or a restaurant)?  Aside from making life easier for everybody, notice what else those changes have done?  They made it possible for more people to participate, be included, and get involved. 

              Simple changes like working from home, virtual meetings, flexible work schedules, or stores and restaurants offering curbside service are just a few examples of accommodations that are commonly implemented now and have been monumental in a businesses’ ability to function.  Pre-Covid-19, there were many documented instances where PWD were denied these exact same reasonable accommodations forcing them to move on and go without or try to file lawsuits citing ADA violations.  

              A common expression in the disability rights movement still applies here: “Nothing about us without us”.  PWD asked to be included or when that didn’t work, publicly forced their way into various decision making groups and, as a result, have become common fixtures at local, regional, and national meetings.  As alluded to earlier, some vast improvements within sections of the ADA have been made thanks to PWD getting involved in the decision making process.  These efforts have resulted in: transportation services with accessible vehicles, employers interviewing/hiring PWD and providing accommodations as needed, and alternate forms of communication and services for students with disabilities.  These may not seem all that impactful now, yet they were/are clear signs to all community members they are valued and welcomed.  To continue movement on these issues the whole community should always continue to be considered.  When decisions are being made we should always ask ourselves who is at the table?  Nothing about us, without us.

              Accessibility will always be a hot topic among the disability community and it should be a priority for any entity.  Accessibility goes beyond only physical access to buildings or services, it includes an ability to provide alternate materials like braille, image boards, or audio versions, alternate communication methods (languages, American Sign Language, tablets), and websites adapted to screen readers and images with alt text to describe photos are all forms of accessibility.  The good news is these changes are not impossible to do or difficult to learn. They can be adjusted for after the fact.  Meaning it is possible for a business by updating their old materials into accessible forms.  While retrofitting physical spaces for accessibility may be more difficult and costly (especially with our older buildings throughout the Midwest), accessibility can easily and affordably be built into any new construction project.  The only reason something isn’t built accessibly now is because the builder/designer chooses not to (cough cough: home builders!  Even though ADA doesn’t apply to private residencies). 

               Over the last nearly 30 years with the ADA, PWD are doing better now than before and there has been a shift towards acknowledging the needs of PWD and their inclusion in society.  The ADA should be celebrated for permanently establishing the civil rights of PWD and what it has been able to accomplish so far with its limited scope.  Going forward, I ask that you make a conscious effort to seek out the “other” people and offer them a seat.  Those that you don’t see at work, in your meetings, on TV, or out in the streets.  There’s a reason you aren’t seeing them.  There is still a stigma attached to disability.  People with disabilities are different, and being different makes others uncomfortable. When Covid-19 is all said and done, please remember what it felt like to be isolated at home, unemployed, unable to physically visit friends and family, or to get services out in the community.  Even with the ADA, PWD didn’t need a pandemic to encounter those scenarios because they are frequently a part of life.

             Despite the ADA’s impressive impact on society, the five titles within the Americans with Disabilities Act aren’t all encompassing.  The ADA has limitations and strict guidelines.  Since its inception and to this day, efforts have been aimed at undoing the strength of the ADA in courts, effectively trying to void the hard fought civil rights of PWD.  Here’s to 30 years of battling for inclusion with the help of the ADA and beyond!  #awareness

  • 22 Jul 2020 9:12 AM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    As we close in on the ADA become 30 years old on July 26th, staff here at dC were presented with the prompt:  What does the ADA mean to you? 

    The ADA impacts lives in multiple ways and can have varying degrees of importance to individuals.  Below are some responses as we share how the ADA has interacted with our lives and how we feel about the ADA.

    What does the ADA mean to me?

    That is a wide range kind of question.  It’s everything from being able to have accessibility into any building; to laws allowing me to be treated like everyone else.

    In a nut shell,  “the ADA allows me to actually live the life that I always wanted without any barriers.”

    Mindy Albert - Information & Referral Specialist


    Accessibility and Accommodations.  That’s what I think of when asked what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) means to me.  I was 5 years old when the 1990 enactment of the ADA became law with its seismic shift towards public opportunities and services for people with disabilities.  I am now grateful for their hard work and awed at what they accomplished nearly 30 years ago.  There is still work that can be done, but I know I wouldn’t be able to have done what I have without them laying the groundwork and starting to break down barriers.  Although there are areas that can be improved upon, I have had a far easier path to take in getting an education, going out with friends, traveling around the country, and getting services to live as independently as possible thanks to the people that took on the government for the civil rights of people with disabilities.

    Brian Elliott - Advocacy & Accessibility Manager



    Growing up in a country (Germany) that did not have the ADA and then coming to the U.S. I appreciate the opportunities the ADA brings to all of us. The Americans with Disabilities Act helps to level the playing field so that people can live a life that is not dictated by disability, but ability, a life of meaning and value.

    According to the CDC one in four U.S. adults have a disability, and most people, in the course of their lives, will either experience a disability or know someone who has one. This shows that disability is not an exception or abnormality, but a normal part of life. Sooner or later we are all likely to experience limitations in some areas of life.

    Ina Correll - Quality Assurance & Administrative Assistant



    What does the ADA mean to me?  I have lived the entirety of my life—starting as far back as age 6—under the cloud of depression and anxiety. 

    It wasn’t until I was 25 years old that I sought any treatment.  I thought that I was experiencing the effects of being naturally incapable of dealing with life, but I didn’t have any option but to try to work my way out of my problems. 

     I began taking medication and attending therapy.  I began to see how many of the challenges I had experienced in school, in social situations, and in employment—had all stemmed from an un-diagnosed mental health disability. 

    The ADA established rights for individuals with disabilities and lays out the responsibilities for those in positions of power.  It levels out the playing field for people whose disadvantages lie not in having a lack of capacity, but in living in a society that doesn’t ensure equal access and opportunity for all.  The ADA created an opportunity that I didn’t know I had. 

    Nick Swallow - Independent Living Specialist

    Now it is your turn and there are no right or wrong answers. 

    Simply leave your response below in the comments to share how you feel about the ADA and how it interacts within your daily life. 

    What does the ADA mean to you?

     


  • 21 Jul 2020 3:46 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    Service Animals are Trained to Work

    By Brian Elliott

              People are using service animals across many disabilities, and theya black and white outlined image of service dog are not always easily identifiable to an outside observer.  A person with diabetes, epileptic seizures, or anxiety does not broadcast disability the same way as a wheelchair or white stick.  Similar to someone parking in a handicapped spot and stepping out to walk to the door, disabilities are not always evident from the outside.  It is important to know that within the ADA:

    • ·        There are no restrictions on a dog’s breed or size.
    • ·        No requirements that service animals need to be wearing something that designates them as a service animal. 

    Only two questions may be asked when inquiring about a person’s service animal:

    • 1)   Is this a service animal required because of a disability?
    • 2)   What task has the dog been trained to perform?

              That’s it.  Worker’s can’t ask to see the task performed or for documentation of any kind.  No other questions may be asked of the person and their service animal.  Even though there is not a requirement to be wearing a vest or a leash and workers cannot ask any other questions, a service animal must still be under the control of the handler at all times.  A handler that is unable to control their dog because of bad behavior, incontinence, etc., may be asked to remove the dog from the premises.  The person may still return without the dog to get services if they desire.

              A service animal is defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a dog that has been trained to do work or perform a specific task for a person with a disability.  Notice that distinction, the dog performs a specific task for the person and their disability.  There is not an official training course or governing body that accredits and provides documentation to people and their service animals.  Although, it is VERY important to note that animals who solely provide comfort/emotional support are NOT service animals under the ADA.  Miniature Horses are now also covered under the definition of a service animal as the only exception provided.  Public spaces that must accommodate for dogs as service animals must also consider allowing a mini horse with these four extra considerations:

    • 1.   Is the miniature horse is housebroken;
    • 2.   The miniature horse is under the owner’s control;
    • 3.   The facility can accommodate the miniature horse’s type, size, and weight; and
    • 4.   The miniature horse’s presence will not compromise legitimate safety requirements necessary for safe operation of the facility.

              Other aspects of a service animal to keep in mind are that they are exempt from the typical pet fees and the service animal takes priority over other people.  In other words, when a person with a disability goes somewhere with their service animal that typically would charge for having a pet, such as a hotel or rent in an apartment and a pet fee typically is added to the bill, these charges are NOT allowed under the ADA.  Remember that these are working animals and not strictly pets.  Charges can be applied for pets, but not a service animal.  Only when damages have occurred from a service animal can charges be applied.  As far as other people and a person’s service animal, the service animal has every right to be with their person.  If there is a person with fears, allergies, or issues related to a service animal, it is on that person to make arrangements as needed.  Whether that means going to the other side of the room or through other methods, the person with a service animal cannot be asked to leave because someone else is uncomfortable.

              There are a wide range of jobs for the dogs in these careers.  Yes, these are careers for the service animals.  When you see someone out with their service animal, remember that it is working and not just out for leisure and fun.  Even though having a job to do is fun for many of these animals and they thrive through the ability to work, please keep your hands to yourself.  Ask first and only if the handler says it is alright, then you may pet.  I know it’s hard to resist, but the service animal has an important job and should be allowed to do so without interference.   

              Recapping what was covered and we all now know about service animals:

    • ·        Service animal is defined as a dog (or mini horse) that has been trained to do a specific task for a person with a disability.
    • ·        There are no size, breed, weight, or official uniform for a service animal.
    • ·        Emotional support animals are NOT service animals.
    • ·        No official accreditation's.
    • ·        There are a variety of reasons a person may have a service animal.
    • ·        Workers are only allowed to ask two questions.
    • ·        Pet fees do not apply to service animals.
    • ·        Service animals get priority over other people.
    • ·        Ask first, then pet.
  • 08 Jul 2020 1:11 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    A Brief Overview of the Five Titles under the Americans with Disabilities Act

    By: Brian Elliott

              You most likely have heard the term at some point, Americans with Disability Act or more commonly referred to as the “ADA”, but do youwhite background with red an blue text. ADA 30 Americans with Disabilities Act. Celebrate the ADA! July 26, 2020 know what, where, or how it actually applies?  If you do, awesome!  This will work as a refresher and if not, no worries, I’ll share some basic details so you will at least have a better understanding of what the ADA is, along with where and how it potentially applies within daily living. (Photo Credit: ADA National Network (adata.org)

              Nearly 30 years ago, the ADA was signed into United States law on July 26th, 1990.  The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in state and local government, employment, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.  As far as addressing the core issue, what is a disability?  The ADA defines a disability as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person that has a history or documented record of such an impairment, or perceived by others as having such an impairment.  Notice that the ADA does not specifically name all the impairments that are covered, as it is dependent on the individual.

    Within the ADA, they address five Title fields:

    • ·        Title I – Employment
    • ·        Title II – Public Services
    • ·        Title III – Public Accommodations
    • ·        Title IV – Telecommunications
    • ·        Title V – Miscellaneous

              Title I focuses on employment.  Under Title I, a business with 15 or more employees must provide an opportunity for people with disabilities (PWD) to benefit from employment related prospects that are open to others.  Also established under Title I are some basic guidelines to use during the interview process of what can and cannot be asked of people prior to a job offer.  Once a PWD is hired, it is then a responsibility of the employer to consider requests for ‘Reasonable Accommodation(s)’.  These are accommodations that a PWD requests as it will allow them to do their job to the greatest extent possible.  Requests for an accommodation can be anything that allows them to perform the job functions such as an adjustable workstation that raises or lowers to allow standing or a wheelchair to fit underneath, modifications to work schedules, ability to work from a virtual setting (sound familiar?), equipment or policy modifications, and provision of services such as American Sign Language interpreters are a few examples that PWD may request.  Once a request is made, the employer has a responsibility to assess the request and provide a solution or options unless the request will cause an undue hardship to the entity. 

              Title II addresses public services that are provided by state or local government.  These services must give PWD equal opportunity to benefit from programs, services, and activities such as voting, town meetings, or recreation and social services as a few examples.  In addition, public transportation busses must be accessible for PWD.  Similarly, public services are responsible for effectively communicating with ALL people.  Including those with hearing, speech, or visual impairments.  Unless the entity can prove that a reasonable accommodation to their practice, policy, or procedure will fundamentally alter the service, program, activity or causes an undue hardship, they are expected to make an accommodation to the greatest extent possible.

              Covered within Title III are the businesses and Non-Profit service providers that are public services such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, as well as privately owned transportation services.  These services should be prepared to effectively communicate with people that are blind, deaf, or have speech difficulties and must comply with non-discrimination that prohibits segregation, exclusion, or unequal treatment while also following the architectural standards for new and altered buildings by removing barriers in their existing buildings where possible.  An important point to remember is that Title III applies regardless of business size or employee numbers, unlike Title I which applies to businesses of 15 or more employees.

              Telecommunications under Title IV refers to phone and TV services for PWD.  Phone carriers are required to establish Inter and Intra State Telecommunication Relay Services 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  These allow those with hearing or speech disabilities to use TeleTYpe or Telecommunications Device for the Deaf, and callers with voice phones to communicate with each other via a 3rd party communications assistant. 
    Also covered under Title IV are Closed Captioning services for federally funded public service announcements.

              Title V contains provisions related to the ADA as a whole, including its relationship to other laws, state immunity, impact on insurance benefits and providers, prohibition against retaliation and coercion, illegal drug use, and fees to an attorney.

              There you have it.  The five Titles under the ADA along with a brief description in layman’s terms in an effort to help provide you a baseline understanding of what the ADA is along with where, how, and who the ADA applies within our society. 

    • ·        Title I – Employment
    • ·        Title II – Public Services
    • ·        Title III – Public Accommodations
    • ·        Title IV – Telecommunications
    • ·        Title V – Miscellaneous

    There are more details and information available out there and I encourage you to consult with a lawyer if you think there is an issue that needs to be addressed.  For more information and greater details within the ADA, here are a few links for references:

    • www.ADA.gov – Information and Technical Assistance on the ADA.
    • www.adata.org – Information, guidance, and training on the ADA.
    • www.askjan.org - Questions related to accommodation, ADA, and workplace issues.


  • 01 Jul 2020 1:11 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

             disAbility Connections ‘dC’ would like to express our deep gratitude and appreciation of Dave Fleming, following his passing away on June 21st, 2020.  Dave was an integral part of the Jackson community and longtime advocate for people with disabilities.  His dedicated support to the local community was evident in his willingness to volunteer, join, andA group of seven people stand in a line wearing winter coats on a sunny day in early spring. They each hold a small shovel handle with the tip down at their feet and they stand around a posterboard for the new community bandshell they are celebrating its groundbreaking with a ceremony participate with numerous organizations as a way to give back and ingrain himself with his fellow residents.  (Figure 1: Dave Fleming stands at the far-right end in a black leather jacket, holding a shovel during the Community Bandshell ground breaking at The Cascades.)  To some people Dave was fellow Rotarian, a dC Board Member, an architect, a colleague, and as dC employee Carmon Yeloushan said “He was giving, caring, a supporter, fun, gentle, and a person that lit up the room with his mere presence and smile.”

              Dave continually provided disAbility Connections with assistance as a member of the disAbility Connections Board and Facilities Committee.  Dave’s background as an architect helped in designing the initial renovations and additions to the buildings we use as our office in Jackson along with Fix-dis across the street, and was always one to provide support to make environments as inclusive as possible. 

    Kindness and helping were in his nature, going the extra distance by helping plan and setup the annual Disability Awareness Dinner to ensure even the stage was accessible, despite the fact he was a guest and had already done more than enough as he often already donated items to be bid upon during the dinner.   

              Commitment to the community and dC carried over into his time as a Rotarian and their Rotary Ruler Days fundraiser.  He would not only take the time to assist in collecting donations standing in storefronts around Jackson, afterwards he spent additional time to tally the totals gained over the days fundraising for disAbility Connections.  Additionally, Dave assisted in other fundraising ventures.  He was involved with setting dC up as a host for blood drives in our parking lot and also driving golf carts during race weekends at MIS, providing rides to people with disabilities throughout the weekends.

              Dave had an uncanny ability to put those around him at ease and also feel special.  An important aspect he also helped ensure was having pictures taken during events.  Not only to document events as they happened, but also to share with people so they can share in the memories too.  He thought it was so important that he even provided dC with a camera so we could continue the tradition.  During Rotary Children’s Christmas Parties he would make it a point that each child had their own picture taken with Santa to be able to take home after the party.  

            Longtime dC staff member Holly Peterson said it best when thinking about Dave and his time with dC, “Dave was a fun guy with a ton of patience and reason. We were blessed by his presence in being a big parttwo older men stand side by side and smile down towards a camera. The man on the left wears a grey collared shirt, glasses and has short white hair. The man on the right also has short white hair, glasses, but is wearing a short sleeved collared purple shirt of taking dC to where it is today.”  She also reflected on his genuine care for dC and the employees as it was not uncommon to see him at staff lunches, meetings, or stopping door to door in the offices as he asked how staff were doing and if anything new was going on in the various programs.  (Figure 2: L-R Jim Grose and Dave Fleming)

              As we reflect back on Dave Fleming, there is sadness for his loved ones and those around him during the difficult days, but also comfort in knowing that people are better off now and for years to come because of him.  Dave may no longer physically be with us, but through our memories and lessons learned he has left us knowing how to live a life caring for others, advocating for people with disabilities, and developing long lasting friendships with memories that can never be taken away. 


  • 15 Jun 2020 11:10 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Sharing Adaptive Equipment Experiences and Ideas

    By: Brian Elliott

              There are many things that can be frustrating to deal with on a daily basis.  At the top of the list for myself as a Quadriplegic, is the lack of function within my hands.  So much of my time, energy, and frustration could be spared if only I could use my hands the “normal” way.  Especially when it comes to both reaching/picking up items and also holding objects in my hands and moving them against resistance.  As much as I tried to remain active and independent using exercise equipment or doing household tasks, I encountered the recurring challenge of things being out of my range and then the ability to keep the item(s) in my hands and being functional.  I needed a tool that would allow me to independently reach and pickup items out of range from my wheelchair and also a tool or technique that would hold objects in my hand securely and not slip out.  Luckily, that’s where some simple equipment came into play.  Through a series of trials and errors with an Occupational Therapist (OT), I was introduced to a grabber/reacher for people without typical hand strength and recently bought some gloves/wraps for my hands to securely hold objects while I work out or try other activities. 

              Most reacher’s are designed for people with “normal” hands.  You simply squeeze and the reacher squeezes the ends together, grabbing the object at the end between prongs.  However, without hands to function that way, how could I use a grabber/reacher?  I tried using the standarda metal reacher that works through reacher but combos of small handles, no finger movement, and awkward positioning lead to more fails and drops of the reacher.  Then I needed a different reacher to get the original reacher I dropped on the floor. The reacher the OT proposed for me used wrist extension (bending at the wrist and bringing the top of your hand back up towards the elbow) to close and grasp objects.  Thanks to this design, I’m able to do numerous tasks that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible for me to easily do independently.  Such as reaching into a laundry washer or dryer to grab clothes, reach up into a closet, or picking items off of the floor when I drop them.  Which is often, I drop something nearly every day and the grabber comes in handy! 

              Next, I needed something that would securely hold items in my hand against resistance.  When I would workout at a physical therapy clinic I would need a worker to wrap my hand around handles or weights with elastic wraps so I could do the exercise.  Which technically worked most of the time.  Sometimes the wraps wouldn’t hold, or I could have a finger inadvertently curled over which could be problematic.  But, I couldn’t take the worker(s) with me everywhere for those scenarios and once I was done, I was literally stuck to the machine/equipment until a hand is shown with a glove/wrap that is used to hold items in a person's palm that lacks hand function. image are shown with the person having their hand wrapped around a screwdriver, a weight, a paintbrush, and a hammersomeone could come and unwrap me.  I wanted something I could get on and off by myself.  

              I found these “gloves” that use two thick Velcro straps with rings at the end to wrap around your wrist and then pull over your hand to create a fist with the handle or object in your palm securely.  Using these, I can slip a finger in the ring and pull the strap tight around my wrist and hand.  I have been able to work out without fear of dropping weights onto the floor (or myself), as well as trying them out with golf clubs and using a hammer.  These “gloves” have been a great way to remain independent and active. 

             

    The last little aide I have found to be useful in many different spots have been simple carabiners.  The larger open space is better for me than smalltwo images are shown. On the left it shows a backpack and keys that have carabiners attached. the image on the right shows the keys hanging by the carabiner on the lever for brakes for a manual wheelchair circles in terms of ease and daily use.  Mainly used on zippers for my backpacks or on my keys as a simple and cheap D-ring that I can lace a finger into and pull.  Works great for hanging my keys on a brake lever, quickly being able to get a finger into position to pull a zipper, or easily grabbing with my reacher.  I found the smaller key rings to be too small for me to use quickly and easily, and more difficult to try to use for picking up the items I drop.  Nice to find a cheap fix when all the other gear that is “specialized” for people with disabilities tends to come with a higher price tag.

              What about you?  Have you tried any of the examples I provided?  What were your experiences?  Do you have any equipment you can share that has made a difference in your daily life?  Any equipment that you have tried and want to try again or ideas that people should design to make life easier?  The best advice on gear and life hacks come from others with disabilities.  Help share the knowledge or any hacks you have developed over the years that others can try in their lives.  If you have photos or tips on gear and want to share with others; leave a comment and email them to Brian@disabilityconnect.org.   

  • 01 Jun 2020 10:24 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Covid-19 Brings to Light the Importance

    and Shortages of Caregivers

    By: Brian Elliott

    This pandemic reveals an essentially needed service for some people withtwo cartoon women are shown, one sits on the edge of her bed in an orange sweater and yellow pants while the other kneels in front of her with a grey smock. The one kneeling is a caregiver waiting to help as the other women transfers from the bed into a wheelchair. disabilities.  Whether you refer to them as a Personal Assistant, Aide, Caregiver, or something else, their role cannot be denied importance.  But, what happens if you need to find a replacement on short notice?

    The Covid-19 pandemic has created a world where agencies that can typically staff these positions, are no longer able to meet the demand.  Businesses are closed, potential workers are afraid to go out or calling in sick.  Leaving many people trying to figure out how they are going to get the help they need.

    While the needs of the position will vary by the person, finding an assistant may seem daunting during a time like now, but it is not unachievable and here are a few options that can help to find an assistant.

    Details Matter

    Explaining what your needs are is truly an important part.  It helps to draw people in and allows for them to get a grasp of what you will be asking of them.  People often do not know what it takes to be an assistant for a person with a disability, and the tasks will vary by the person’s needs.  Another important detail is the time of day that the assistant will be needed and the hours that the position will require.  Is it only an hour or two in the morning or night, or full day shifts that will be needed?  How much will the person be paid for their services with you?  One additional tip, remember that cash is king and money makes the world go round.  If you are in a financial position to help boost the pay for your personal assistants, it may help draw applicants and retain their employment, avoiding a revolving door of assistants. 

    Ask Friends & Family

    Friends and family are one of the best resources to ask if they would be willing to help or know of anybody that may be interested.  People are more likely to work for someone they know rather than a stranger. An important detail when searching for a new assistant is explaining what your needs are. If nothing else, letting them know your needs can help in case they cross paths with someone.

    Social Media has a Broad Reach

    Consider using social media sites like Facebook in multiple ways.  You can use it to ask friends and family from your personal page or set up a page to post a job ad.  You will have to start your own page as a business or organization, but it will allow you post under jobs https://facebook.com/jobs.  Not only are there millions of users, but during a time like now, there are many people looking for any aspect of work.  Whether you are able to provide full-time hours or you are in need of just a few hours, you may be a perfect fit for someone in your area.  An added benefit would be seeing if you know people in common and possibly using them as a reference.  The person will be in your home after all, any background or references you can get may be helpful.  Also check if your town has any social media and any local groups you could join.  They may know some people or references that will help.

    Reach out to the Local CIL

    Centers for Independent Living (CIL) are all across the country, divided up by counties in every state.  CIL’s are incredible resources of information for anybody with a disability.  Locate your nearest CIL and contact them for information, as they may know even more resources that you haven’t checked into.  If they are not able to provide anything new, they may be able to assist with the process and help facilitate getting your needs met.

    Summary

    Throughout the searching process, remember that an assistant’s critical role of helping people with disabilities in their daily lives may not be known by the general population and in times of need may make it difficult getting proper help.  The details you provide will be very helpful in your job posting, friends and family are a great first resource, using social media can broaden your reach, and don’t forget to check in with your local CIL.  Don’t let your search discourage you and taking these steps will at least share the needs you have, convey the importance of proper systems to daily living, and help spread the word by letting other people and technology reach people you may not encounter otherwise.   


  • 11 May 2020 10:02 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

              The role of our Nursing Facility Transition (NFT) Navigator helps to guide Medicaid recipients through the steps and processes to leave nursing facilities.  Isn’t it such a relief to get back and sleep in your own bed and be in your own environment after an extended time away?  It is one thing to have been vacationing or on a work trip, a little different story when it is forced because of health related issues.  These aren’t uncommon scenario’s either, our NFT assists about 40 people each year.  Sometimes depending on the needs of the person to be able to return home, some modifications or equipment are needed to ensure a safe environment before being allowed to be discharged.  Especially when it involves challenges that many haven’t faced before or experienced at this stage in their life. 

              A recent nursing facility transition, Kimm, has had a tough couple of recent years with a combination of ailments combining and forcing her into multiple extended hospitalizations and rehab stays.  Through those stopovers at Allegra, she first met disAbility Connections NFT Carmon.  After her most recent hospitalization following a knee replacement, Kimm knew she wanted to get out of there and back home with her boyfriend and their cat.  The most recent knee replacement comes just a few months after having the other knee replaced.  So she has not been able to physically do as much as she would like.  The combination of past health ailments and recent surgery were preventing her ability to be self-reliant and transitioning back home from the nursing facility.  Through some planning and working with Carmon, Kimm was able to go back home with some new equipment and systems in place.

              “Carmon went the extra mile to stay in contact and care for me”, said Kimm as she shared her experience, “she was able to get a ramp installed, helped arrange for chore services to come, and even got me one of those recliners to help me get up”.  Being home has been great for her morale and her health is getting better.  Setting a chair in the turn-back of the ramp works as a “mini-porch”, getting Kimm outside and able to geta small wooden ramp is shown outside of a white house. The ramp turns back on itself creating a landng, the landing has a folding chair on it. fresh air and socialize with neighbors as well from a safe distance as they pass along the sidewalk.  She has been doing physical therapy from home, and trying to lose some weight while hoping to reach some of her goals of gaining more strength and stamina to not needing a walker anymore.  With some grit and perseverance Kimm hopes to be out helping in the yard this summer while being able to enjoy the company of people as they can visit her at home rather than inside of a hospital or nursing facility.


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disAbility Connections, Inc.      409 Linden Ave.  Jackson, MI   49203      Phone:  (517) 782-6054      Fax:  (517)  782-3118

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