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  • 29 Jul 2019 12:51 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    By:  Parrish Stahl

    We all have to deal with some heat and humidity in Mid-Michigan this

    time of year, yet it is still a glorious time to be outside and active.  Sometimes people feel powerless over disabilities and the state of our bodies, but no matter what, there are things we can do to be healthier.  Part of maintaining an active life with a healthy body, mind, and spirit is working on our nutrition.   As much as we love meat on the grill, we should not overlook fresh vegetables and sweet natural fruit choices.  Especially when they are locally grown.  Farmer’s Markets are a great source for local products and have been popping up all over SE Michigan.  The links below lead to their listings, locations, and hours of operation.  

    CHECK IF Farmers Market accepts: 
    Food Assistance Benefits including SNAP/Bridge Cards, Double Up Food Bucks & WIC Project Fresh

    http://www.localfarmmarkets.org/MIsefarmmarkets.php   = SE Michigan

    http://mifma.org/findafarmersmarket/  =  Search Michigan for a local Farmer’s Market

    https://www.visitlenawee.com/local-farmers-markets/  =  Lenawee County Listings

  • 29 Jul 2019 11:47 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    By: Brian Elliott

    When is the last time you climbed a tree? If you are like me, it’s likely to have been a decade or more. Now there is a place you can get those tree-top views, breeze in your face, plus an added bonus of doing it without the risk of slivers or falling. How, you ask? A field trip up to Whiting Forest by Dow in Midland can help relive those memories. They plan to build a Canopy Tower/Walk into part of their grounds, complete with ADA accessible trails and pathways providing an inclusive experience as you ascend into the trees. The paths and walkways criss-cross, jutting out into various look-out spots and carrying visitor’s to different heights among the branches. Adding to the experience are the ways designers allow for different materials to be used, but also making it so that no matter the height of a person, they can still get the views by looking through the fencing on the sides and with walkways that are slotted metal grates. Allowing visitors the ability to look straight down to the forest floor or into the other trees nearby.

    As I rolled through the grounds in my power chair, a wise move considering the ground distance covered, I passed by other people using mobility devices. There were other power chair users, people using scooters, walkers, manual wheelchairs, and parents with strollers. Youth’s and Elder’s experiencing nature together. How rare is that? A place where age and physical ability do not limit the experience. There is also an audio portion for people. By stopping at the various marked sections, simply call a phone number and enter a number prompt to get a greater understanding of what is in that area. Another great aspect of Whiting Forest is the accessible playground where children of all ages and abilities can be together going wild.

    After spending the day rolling the grounds and looking at the beautiful facilities, snapping pictures of the structures and scenery, I kept thinking of what a great time I had throughout the day. Another aspect which I purposely didn’t mention because I want you to experience the entire complex, is that with admission into Whiter Forest you also can access into Dow Gardens. A beautifully cared for space providing visitors with wonderful sights and smells from the surroundings. Take your date, the family, grandparents, friends, or yourself and be prepared to spend a day looking at lavish grounds and getting back into your childhood enjoyment being among those amazing giants we can’t help but wonder what it is like up in their branches looking out over the land.

    Another awesome outdoor experience is coming to SE Michigan in 2020!  Hidden Lake Gardens (West of Tecumseh on M50 in Lenawee County) is beginning their own Canopy Tower and Walk.  The Tower will be equipped with an elevator through it's center, assisting those in need to take in the views atop the 100' Tower.  For more info check out the video link below by JTV from the Grand Unveiling.

    JTV report of new Tree Tower and Canopy Walk coming to Hidden Lake Gardens.

  • 23 May 2019 2:27 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

  • 22 May 2019 2:43 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    The Great Outdoors

    For those outdoorsy types, remember family camping trips when you were younger?  You know those trips where one time you forgot the bug spray, so the next time you bought out the store.  Determined to either not forget it again or stash cans away in so many places that if you did somehow forget, a can wouldn’t be far away.  We all like those camping type, the person with at least one of everything you may possibly need.  Just don’t like packing or unpacking with that person and their endless supplies.  Now throw in a person with a disability.  The supply list may have just doubled.  Planning needs to be thoroughly considered.  Plans need to be considered for what to take, but do you know what will be available where you are going?

    Much like any other trip for a person with a disability, camping requires detailed planning and an awareness of what you need.  I’m not talking about “Glamping” in a hotel either.  Real camping is what this is about.  Need a power source for a vent, chair, or other equipment?  What about bathroom supplies?  Bedding needs?  Comfort items?  A detailed list of needs vs luxuries will help shrink down the amount truly needed.  A nicety about camping in 2019 is ability to get information and research where you will be.

    Prepare by calling ahead. Knowing what type of camping you want to do and what type of camping is offered is essential to an enjoyable experience.  There are different “styles” of campgrounds and sites.  Are you going in an RV and need electric hookups or going with just your car and a backpack to be “one with nature” in a genuine rustic getaway?  Because those are both options in locations throughout Michigan.  DNR has information available at www.michigan.gov/dnraccessbility describing the campground along with other area attractions.  Attractions such as trails discussed in the July/August 2018 newsletter or now is a great time to visit Jackson's Dahlem Center & Nature Conservancy.  Don't miss the “Nature for All Trail” that disAbility Connections helped to become a reality a few seasons ago.  Get outside, breath the clean pure air and enjoy Michigan’s magical outdoors.    

  • 07 May 2019 2:26 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Changing Signs-Changing Minds- Modifying the International Symbol of Access

    By:  Parrish L. Stahl

    The early spring sun was beaming off the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing on April 24th 2019 when a group of advocates from the 15 Center's for Independent Living in the state of Michigan descended on the Michigan House and Senate for their annual Legislative Day.  Jackson's own disAbility Connections had a contingent on hand as well.

    This year the focus was on Changing Signs - Changing Minds.  Representative LaFave introduced legislation with several co-sponsors to replace the existing access symbol that we've all become accustomed to since 1968 before the modern Disability Rights Movement. Lesia Pikaart, Executive Director of disAbility Connections states, ‘the old logo is a more static symbol and badly needs an update to reflect modern active lifestyles of people with disabilities. This will in a small way help change the public perception of people with disabilities being helpless and reflect an image of people living an active lifestyle and being more productive members of our communities”.

    The groups took the opportunity to visit with various legislators to talk about the new signs and other disability related issues.  The group from the Jackson area talked with Senator Mike Shirkey, Representative Julie Alexander, Representative Eric Leutheuser, Representative Bronna Khale and brought informational materials to several more.  Those legislators and their staff were also invited to lunch in the Capital.  Ms. Wheelchair Michigan Dr. Kimberly Yvonne Kennedy was also on hand looking beautiful wearing her crown and sash.

    The bill would not require replacing all the current signs throughout Michigan.  Instead, it will just upgrade them as they need to be replaced over time. There will be no additional cost to the taxpayers for this project.  There's also an effort Nationwide to eliminate the term “handicapped” from signs and other communications at state and local levels.  The root of the word “handicapped” is an old term that comes from returning veterans begging because they didn't have benefits “with their cap in hand” on street corner.  We hear a lot of negative things about politicians, but remember most of them, like everyone deep down is eager to do the right thing.

  • 29 Nov 2018 2:00 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    2018, nearly 2019 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990.  The move toward a more accessible world for people with disabilities has made some solid progress.  Public buildings are far from perfect, but miles from when the ADA was first enacted.  If you aren’t familiar with the ADA, a simple explanation is that the ADA provides guidelines meant to deliver standardization for places of public use.  Specific standards such as how high light switches should be placed, not just where grab bars should be placed; but how thick the bar should be and it’s distance from the wall, or how many accessible parking spaces should be painted outside along with the best approach to use.  No, not all of these will have a major impact on usage, but surely the primary function of the business should be accessible if the builders followed the law and checked the guidelines of the ADA. 

    If the purpose of the ADA is to provide civil rights and make basic functions of an establishment as accessible as possible, then why are most hotel beds so high off the floor?!?  ADA suggests 20-23 inches from the floor to the top of the mattress.  I think I have encountered this same bed issue in nearly every hotel I’ve stayed since becoming paralyzed in 2005.  The thing is, I expect not to be able to get on the bed easily in any hotel room.  Even wheelchair accessible rooms that have a roll-in shower.  And that is not alright.  I know “accessible” will never be truly accessible for all, but maybe following the law and standards that have been around since 1990 would be a good place to start.  They aren’t hard to find www.ada.gov.

    Unless I’m mistaken, it seems as though the height of a bed is pretty important to the overall function of a hotel.  What good is getting an “accessible” room even equipped with a roll-in shower when the user can’t get on the bed?  A MAIN FUNCTION OF A HOTEL!  Especially in a new hotel.  This one I’m referring to was built within the last year, and is a national chain.  They should know by now what is ADA acceptable and what is not up to the code. 

    A new issue I encountered was as a result of the business trying to be more “Green”.  While good intentioned, made it difficult for me without having finger dexterity like a “typical” person.  This new feature worked the lights.  Once inside the hotel room, the occupant is supposed to slide a door key inside this slot and leave it there and the lights in the room will work as normal.  Remove the key, and the lights will turn off after a minute or so and flipping lights on no longer works until a key is placed back in the slot by the door.  So naturally what happens when I try to go to the bathroom at night?  I went to put my key in the slot by the front door, because bathroom light won’t turn on without it in there, and dropped the key to the floor.   Also note that the slot is not at a low and convenient location but above the light switches.  As a result I ended up using my phone’s flashlight and the TV as my only light sources.  Hindsight Tip: Leave the key there over night and my incident would've been avoided .  I applaud the initiative to try and be “Greener” or more “Accessible”, but seems like a little more fore thought and input from some of the people the changes would impact could have prevented this.

    *The hotel bed I needed to raise my power chair up to transferhotel room bed

     *The card key slot above the light switches and hotel key I droppedcard slot and card on floor after being dropped trying to insert

     *Close up of card slot above light switchCard slot above light switch

     *Great roll-in shower, but don't think a seated person on the bench0 can reach the water controls or the soap dispensersRoll-in shower with bench, all controls out of reach

    *Room thermostat placed in hard to reach spotthermostat in hard to reach spot for me in a chair

    Different hotel, accessible room, same issue with the bed and Temperature control

    man in power chair sitting beside hotel bed to compare heights

    man in power chir beside hotel bed to show height

  • 28 Nov 2018 3:32 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    No matter how beautiful you think the snow is, you can be sure that most people with disabilities prefer mild temperatures and light precipitation during the winter months. Probably the most important resource we have, our support systems, get stretched to the breaking point this time of year even under the mildest weather. Most of us realize how important you are to our continued independence and don’t want to go to the well too often to ask for help. 

    Those of us that are from Michigan know that it is wise to keep the shovels handy and the snow blower gassed up and ready. It is only a matter of time before the white and ice arrive. It is important to remember that the City of Jackson residents are required to clear sidewalks to a minimum of 3 ft. in width adjacent to their property when more than four inches of snow accumulates. The ordinance also authorizes the city to remove snow and ice that is a threat to public safety at the property owner expense, sometimes without written or verbal warnings.

    If a property owner is unable to clear their own driveway or sidewalk there are sometimes options including volunteers. It's important to let the city or your local municipality know when you have a problem. They can sometimes work out a solution or help you come up with a plan of action. In the city of Jackson you can call (517) 788-4170 or visit their website for more information www.cityofjackson.org. Call your local government to see if they have similar solutions to snow and ice issues for Seniors or those with disabilities.

    City of Jackson Snow Removal Code at a Glance

    • Persons living in or the owner of any home within the City limits shall clear ice and snow from sidewalks.
    • The clearance ice and snow shall be at least 36 in wide and the entire length of the sidewalk in front of the owner’s home.
    • Snow 4 in. deep or more shall be cleared from sidewalk within 24 hours after snowfall stops.
    • Any amount of ice shall be cleared from sidewalk immediately after storm producing the ice has stopped.
    • If ice or snow is not cleared from such sidewalk per City code the City will move snow or ice and charge the owner at least $35 or the actual cost of removal whichever is greater.

    (Code 1977 & 4.47; ordinance number 2001.17 & 2, 8-14-01)

  • 01 Oct 2018 4:30 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Just like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube, daily life with a disability is about problem solving.  While the typical daily issues aren’t as complex as a Rubik’s Cube and after a time or two of the same obstacle, the problem/task becomes easier.   How you go about solving and working through problems are completely up to you.  Often through trial and error we can get to our end goal.  Just may not be in a time effective manner.  After enough time, problem encounters, and going through strategies a person with a disability practically has earned their Ph.D. in Adapting and Problem Solving.

    First things first, patience is an underrated virtue.  Personally, as a Quad with no dexterity in my hands I encounter this on a nearly daily basis.  How will I “grab” something, open it, pick it up, hold it in my possession without dropping/spilling/breaking or opening it inadvertently?  That’s a big part of why I don’t have nice things.  I know I will drop anything in my possession, at some point, if I handle or hold something long enough, it’s going down.  However, losing your control and getting upset typically won’t aide in solving or adapting to a situation.  In fact, will often take you off track and leave you with anger over not getting what you wanted in the beginning. 

    You will fail.  Everything is not going to go right for you. 

    Take the time to step back and evaluate what you did.  Maybe a simple tweak here or there will give you what you wanted.  Maybe you need to take a completely new approach to find what works best for you.  What is good for others, may not be best for you.  Just like the way you do something may not work for other people. Creativity, willingness to try, and adaptability are important.  Getting advice or ideas from other people with similar disabilities is a great resource and honestly probably the best resource!  People that have been there and done that. Occupational Therapists are another resource, they love sharing or thinking of how to adapt equipment or know of where to look for assistance.  

    The key is to not give up and keep trying.  If you want to do something bad enough, there is probably a way to do it.  Maybe a new perspective from a separate person is what is needed.  Whatever the reason, having the patience to consistently move forward and not throw in the towel or get so frustrated and quit are key to adaptation and life with a disability.  Through various experimenting a solution will come around for you.  If not, if all else fails, take the stickers off the Rubik’s Cube and put them where you want them.  That’s the only way I ever solved one of those things.  Sometimes a simple life-hack is all that is needed between you and obtaining your own Ph. D. in Adapting and Problem Solving.

  • 01 Oct 2018 2:01 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Did you know that people with disabilities are much more likely to struggle with a dependency on substances because of preexisting conditions?  It is always a delicate balancing act between controlling pain and addiction.  Anyone can find themselves in the perfect storm like Duane after a recent back surgery.  It took some work to give up the pain pills, with the support of his wife Beth, Dog was able to shed the meds.  When you're arguably the most famous bounty hunter in the world; dealing with people caught in the grip of addiction is just part of the job.  Duane Chapman better known as Dog the Bounty Hunter and his beloved wife Beth, a recent cancer survivor, have made it their mission to make a difference.

    Dog brought his message to the Michigan Theater in Jackson of never give up on anybody. There is always hope.  He asked the intimate gathering; “Do you know of people that need treatment?  If you do, get them to me and my friends and we will work to save their lives".

    There's hardly a family out there that isn't affected by addiction and Dog and Beth's family is no exception.  Fourteen years ago on the eve of their wedding their daughter Barbara was killed in a car accident while under the influence.  After that terrible tragedy they searched for a program that actually worked and didn't cost an arm and a leg and ended up partnering with Treatment Partners of America.

    About a hundred and twenty people were in attendance.  Dog said they did very little advertising of this event because he wanted to keep it small in hopes that they might not make anyone seeking help feel overwhelmed.  His voice cracked and the tears rolled down his face as he talked about how addiction has affected his life and the people around him.  A lot of people talk about the opioid crisis, but Dog and Beth are two people who are actively working towards solutions.  The veteran reality stars constantly give back and ultimately give thanks and credit for everything they do to their Christian faith.  If you or someone in your life needs help call 1-888-734-3175 or log on to www.treatmentpartnersofamerica.com

  • 21 Sep 2018 2:56 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    There are many words/emotions that people can feel after receiving new information or statistics. Emotions such as surprise, disgust, doubt, pride, anger, shock, fear, happiness, or awe are a few emotions we have all encountered … Often, those responses and words depend on the background of a person and their base thoughts, perceptions, knowledge, biases whether known or unknown, personal experience(s), or any number of other factors that can influence our response upon being presented with new statistics or information. Also, how this new info or stat is presented to us along with our interest level may impact our response. Clearly, there are numerous factors I just mentioned and probably many others not mentioned that help sculpt our decisions once presented with something new. 

             I brought all of that up, spoiler alert, because I want to share some information and statistics with you. Hopefully by bringing you aware of all those underlying factors you will take this in with an open mind and take a moment to process what I give you. As a person with a disability (I am a C-6 Quadriplegic of over 13 years), I’m an easy target to somebody that wants to commit a crime of some sort. Plain and simple, people with disabilities present opportunity to a predator. 

    ·       Bureau of Justice Statistics did an analysis from 2009-2015 of crimes against persons with disabilities, rate of violent victimization towards persons with disabilities were at least twice the age-adjusted rate for persons without disabilities


    ·       DOJ stats only count for ages 12+ and do not include institutions or the nearly 373,000 in group homes

    ·       People with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at much higher numbers — "more than seven times higher than the rate for persons with no disabilities."

    ·       https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/capd0915st_sum.pdf

    Please be careful and aware of your surroundings along with looking out for those you love.  Conduct background checks along with use of references when possible, especially for an employee working with a person with multiple disabilities. People with multiple disabilities are at even a greater risk than somebody with one disability. If you are worried or concerned try and notice if there are signs of abuse or personal items lost. Victims may feel too ashamed or embarrassed to come forward initially. Voice your concerns early and to the appropriate personnel/authorities. With support, understanding, and simple belief in the person about their experiences, we will be able to move forward and put an end to these disgraceful acts against people with disabilities.

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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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