Wednesday, January 7, 2015

13 years old inventor creates low cost Lego printer to help build litarcy

How do blind people learn to read? It is a question a young man had for his parents that they couldn't answer. His curiosity has lead to a wonderful new invention. Click here to learn more:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

House Approves Tax-Free Disability Savings Accounts!!

U.S. House members have voted to pass the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (A.B.L.E. Act).
This is exciting and wonderful news for individuals with disabilities that historically have been limited to having up to $2000.00 in assets in order to qualify for government benefits. Please read the following report and share with others!

Report by Michelle Diament:
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to approve a bill that would establish a new way for people with disabilities to save money without risking their government benefits.
The Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act passed by a vote of 404 to 17 on Wednesday. The measure will now move to the Senate.
Under current rules, many individuals with disabilities can have no more than $2,000 in assets in order to qualify for needed government benefits. The ABLE Act would dramatically alter that scenario, allowing people with disabilities to establish special accounts at any financial institution where they could save up to $14,000 annually under current gift-tax limitations.
The accounts could accrue $100,000 without jeopardizing eligibility for Social Security and other government programs. Meanwhile, the legislation ensures that those with disabilities can retain Medicaid coverage no matter their ABLE account balance.
Funds deposited in the proposed accounts could be used to pay for education, health care, transportation, housing and other expenses. Much like 529 college savings plans, interest earned on savings in the accounts would be tax-free.
Speaking on the House floor ahead of the vote, the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., said it’s only fair that people with disabilities get an opportunity to save tax-free much like most Americans can already do in order to pay for college, health care and retirement.
“What this does is simply give individuals with disabilities a chance at the American dream,” Crenshaw said. “They have hopes and dreams just like we all do and this will give them the tool to open the door to a brighter future, the way to realize their full potential.”
With significant bipartisan support, the bill is being called the broadest legislation centering on people with disabilities to move forward since passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act a quarter-century ago.
Though widely supported in the disability community, a provision limiting eligibility for ABLE accounts to individuals with conditions occurring before the age of 26 has led to misgivings from some groups including the National Council on Independent Living, the National Disability Rights Network and United Cerebral Palsy.
Meanwhile, some members of the House objected to the bill over concerns that it will be paid for in part through tweaks to Medicare.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Community-based care is better for disabled Ohioans by JACK D’AURORA

Ohio officials, concerned that nursing homes are becoming dumping grounds for mentally disabled people, are expanding a trial program that will transfer 2,000 people with behavioral problems from nursing homes to managed community settings. Opposing this idea are — you guessed it — nursing homes.
Disability Rights Ohio (DRO), the state’s advocacy system for disabled people, believes that more than 8,000 Ohioans with behavioral problems are improperly placed in nursing homes. “The number has grown significantly in the last 10 to 15 years,” says Michael Kirkman, the group’s executive director. “With proper support, many of these individuals could live in the community.”
Changes in funding for mental-health services and cuts in federal aid to subsidized housing contribute to the problem. Placing people with disabilities in nursing homes is an easy solution for some caregivers, Mr. Kirkman says. Some nursing homes with high vacancy rates advertise their ability to deal with “problem residents” in secure “behavioral units.”
Such residents tend to be isolated and have no contact with the outside world, DRO says. Because of anomalies in the Medicaid program of low-income health insurance, they are not served by community mental-health agencies. What care they do get is typically poor and often consists solely of medication.
Home and community-based services are more effective, more humane, and less expensive, DRO maintains. Failure to ensure that disabled people are served in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs is a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court held in the case Olmstead vs. L.C. that states must provide community-based treatment for people with disabilities when professionals determine that such placement is appropriate, the people do not object, and state resources can reasonably accommodate placement.
Based on that ruling, the federal court in Columbus was asked to rule on a suit affecting 12,000 Ohioans with disabilities. The lead plaintiff, Nancy Martin, was a 52-year old woman with cerebral palsy, mental disabilities, and depression. She had lived in institutional settings for more than 30 years, after she was involuntarily committed to a developmental center when her father died and her mother was unable to care for her.
Ms. Martin’s pleas to case workers that she wanted to live in a community setting were futile. Her name was placed on a waiting list, where it languished for years.
She and her fellow plaintiffs alleged that the State of Ohio violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to develop community-based services for mentally disabled people and for hindering the expansion of such services in favor of institutional care — all at greater expense to taxpayers.
The state argued that the law did not require the creation of Medicaid programs that would pay for community-based care. But the plaintiffs were not seeking a new program, just the modification of an existing one. The case was settled in 2004, and 1,500 disabled people were moved from institutional to community care.
Under a law enacted last year by the General Assembly, 2,000 Ohioans with behavioral problems who want to live in the community will be transferred from nursing homes by 2016. The law requires them to get the services they need to live independently.
Most will receive help from HOME Choice, a program administered by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services that helps disabled and elderly people move from institutional care to home- and community-based settings. To qualify, residents must be eligible for Medicaid and need care that can be provided in a community setting. The cost must be no more than 80 percent of what Medicaid would pay for nursing home care.
The nursing home industry responded by lobbying for more state funding to allow 1,000 nursing home residents with behavioral problems to receive enhanced treatment. Gov. John Kasich’s administration balked at the idea, Mr. Kirkman said, but agreed to pay for a study to develop a pilot project — something Mr. Kirkman calls “a big step backwards.”
“We already know that many people with disabilities fare much better in the community than they do in an institutional setting, and helping these people live in the community costs the state less,” he said. “What’s left to study?”

Monday, November 10, 2014

Columbus Children's Theater's Sensory Friendly Performance Season!!!

The Columbus Children's Theatre pr


Wednesday, January 14 at 10:00am and Saturday,    
January 24 at 10:00am
Wednesday, March 18 10:00am and 7:30pm


                              Wednesday, April 15 at 10:00am and Saturday, April 18 at 10:00am

Columbus Children’s Theatre is proud to present another season of Sensory Friendly Performances for audiences on the autism spectrum and with developmental disabilities.  

  • Elimination of loud or sudden sounds
  • Elimination of abrupt changes in lighting
  • Professionally trained staff and volunteers
  • Audience members are free to talk and move around
  • House lights are kept on slightly to allow for safety and freedom of movement
  • Limited seat sales to allow room for guests with spatial issues
  • Quiet lobby area for breaks
  • Communication cards for non-verbal guests
  • Sensory Friendly Resource packages for families, teachers, and caregivers
  • Craft activities
  • Safe and friendly environment

We understand that the experience of coming to see a show begins long before arriving to the theatre. Going to new places can be scary – especially when you don’t know what to expect. CCT has made the following policy adjustments and some materials audiences can download and review with their family before coming to the theatre. These include:
  • Social Stories – A Social Story is a picture book detailing the entire experience from walking up to the front door of the theatre, purchasing or picking up your tickets, choosing your seat, finding the bathrooms…everything! It even includes some pictures of the actors in their costumes. Audience members can review this at home with their family before leaving for the theatre so they know exactly what to expect. Social Stories will be available for download approximately two weeks before the performance. Audience members who purchase tickets to Sensory Friendly performances in advance will receive the Social Story via email.
  • Pre and post show study guide and activities to keep families engaged with the live theatre experience and each other.
  • Trained staff and actors to help guide the audience members through the experience by  creating a welcoming environment.
  • Big Yellow School Bus supports field trips for schools to CCT's Sensory Friendly Performances.
  • Flexible Refund Policy - Normally, CCT does not offer refund for canceled reservations. However, for Sensory Friendly Performances only, we understand that complications arise before show time that may prevent families from being able to make it to the theatre. In these instances we will make our refund policy flexible. Reservations must be canceled by phone in order to receive the refund and must be within 24 hours of the missed performance by calling (614) 224-6672. 
For more information, contact Columbus Children’s Theatre at (614) 224-6672

Thursday, October 30, 2014

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

As we bring October to a close and with it, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we would like to share a wonderful piece written by Elizabeth Picciuto.

Hiring People With Disabilities Isn’t Just the Right Thing to Do—It’s Good for Business

A new study reveals that hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities doesn’t just improve culture—it improves the bottom line.
What kind of employers hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)? You might imagine that they’re like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life—big-hearted souls that sacrifice their business’s profits to improve their communities. A new study, however, shows that hiring people with IDD doesn’t mean that employers have jettisoned their business interests. On the contrary, hiring people with IDD is good for the bottom line. Mr. Potter should have a look.
The study was conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, or i4cp, a company that analyzes the practices of high-performance organizations. Among some of the striking findings are just how many employers believe that their employees with IDD offer specific benefits to their workplaces. More than three-quarters of employers surveyed ranked their employees with IDD as good or very good on work quality, motivation, engagement, integration with co-workers, dependability, and attendance. Many employers reported being initially leery of hiring people with IDD, only to see their concerns dissolve after the employees were on board.
“The positive impact on the workforce is brought about in two ways: hiring individuals with IDD adds highly motivated people to the workforce (which can lead to increased productivity) and it promotes an inclusive culture that appeals to the talent pool organizations want to attract,” reads the study. “The improved customer satisfaction realized can lead to better sales and customer retention. The enhanced employer brand can translate to a better image in the community.”
People with IDD have historically faced enormous hurdles to getting a job. If they worked at all, it might be in sheltered workshops for significantly less than minimum wage—separate and most definitely unequal workplaces. The employment scenario is hardly any rosier at present, with the unemployment rate for people with IDD remaining tragically high: 85 percent percent of people with IDD do not have paid work in the community.
Based on the i4cp study, the organization Best Buddies International, which facilitates job placement for people with IDD, launched a media campaign calledI’m In To Hire. The goal of the campaign is to convince employers that it is not charity, but in their best interests, to hire people with IDD. The Founder and Chairman of Best Buddies, Anthony K. Shriver, told The Daily Beast, “This study creates an opportunity for us to approach a CEO and say, let’s give this a shot.”
Many employers reported being initially leery of hiring people with IDD, only to see their concerns dissolve after the employees were on board.
One of the business bigwigs Shriver has convinced is Carlos Slim, the second richest man in the world (trailing Bill Gates by a mere $1.2 billion). Slim said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, “It is not only good for the morale of the organization but politically it would be very interesting to change something from a debt into an asset. You can change the equation.” As part of the I’m In To Hire campaign, Slim and Shriver co-wrote a Forbes editorial to convince employers of all the business benefits of hiring people with IDD.
On Thursday, the campaign announced it had received 100,000 pledges of support on its website. Celebrities and politicians of all stripes have tweeted their support for #ImInToHire, including Maria Shriver, Martin O’Malley, Cindy Crawford, Kevin Spacey, and Gavin Newsom.
“Best Buddies had a lot of anecdotal data that suggested the business benefits of hiring people with IDD. We wanted to find some empirical data to back those stories up,” said Eric Davis, Creative Director & Senior Editor at i4cp, in an interview with The Daily Beast. “There had been studies conducted showing the benefits of employing people with IDD on the employee, but we wanted to show the talent and business benefits for the employer.”
i4cp defines a high-performance organization by four factors: market share, revenue growth, profitability, and customer satisfaction. i4cp has found that diversity and inclusion policies generally are not a hindrance to organizations. In fact, they are correlated with high performance. High-performance organizations are twice as likely as low-performance organizations to emphasize diversity and inclusion as a matter of policy at the highest levels, and more than twice as likely to specifically include people with IDD in their diversity goals.
The high-performance organizations did not hire people with IDD simply to gain cushy tax subsidies. “All participants are paid minimum wage or higher. Very few of our employers utilize the tax credits,” wrote Paula Johnson, Director of the Best Buddies Jobs Program, in an email. “Our current average hourly wage is $11.95.” Indeed, the study found that high-performance companies are 37 percent more likely than low-performance companies to hire people with IDD for the straightforward reason that they are “good talent matches for open positions.”
Among the high-performance companies surveyed, more than 80 percent reported a positive experience with their employees with IDD, and a third reported the experience exceeded their expectations. “You usually don’t see those kind of numbers from HR departments that have started new hiring initiatives,” said Davis. “It’s likely the employers had anticipated certain challenges that weren’t there, and the resources to support them were greater than they had realized.”
The satisfaction experienced by high-performance companies did not surprise Shriver at all. “They’ve hired an effective and enthusiastic employee, and now have lower turnover in those jobs,” Shriver pointed out. “The culture of our schools have changed since we began inclusion of people with IDD. Our offices can transform as well.”
“CEOs in their 40s and 50s did not grow up with inclusion in the schools and many simply do not know anybody with IDD.”
Younger people today have grown up in an era of increasing inclusion in schools, and are far more likely to be familiar with people with IDD. However, Shriver suggested that much of the reluctance to hire people with IDD stems from lack of familiarity given previously segregated schools. “CEOs in their 40s and 50s did not grow up with inclusion in the schools and many simply do not know anybody with IDD,” he said. “They don’t know who this population is, what their capacity is when they have the right training to support them, or how to train and support them.”
To find out more about how someone with disabilities gets successfully incorporated into his workplace, I spoke with Brian DeAtley. DeAtley is Senior Research Manager at the Institute for Economic Empowerment at SourceAmerica, a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities find jobs. He emphasized that employing people with IDD is a triple win: the employer, the employee, and the federal government all benefit. The federal government currently spends hundreds of billions of dollars yearly on services and support for unemployed people with disabilities. DeAtley argues, “Even given the EPTA [a tax credit for employers hiring people with disabilities], employing people with IDD is budget-positive for federal government.”
I also spoke with Ty Ross, who uses his considerable expertise in computers for his job as a data technician in the Davis County School District in Utah. Ross has cerebral palsy, and the Pathways to Careers initiative of SourceAmerica helped him get his position. Before Pathways, Ross had significant trouble finding a job. “My mom would take me on interviews. We got the vibe walking through the door that they weren’t taking me seriously and it was really frustrating,” he said. “I had a lot of schooling, but that doesn’t make it easy to get a job. That’s only the half the equation. You need to get an interview and get someone to give you a chance to get your foot in the door.”
Instead, like Best Buddies, Pathways argues that people with disabilities can and should be the right person for a given job. And they mean all people with disabilities. Pathways offers employment services no matter the intensiveness of the disability (they have a lottery system).
“The important work is upfront,” says DeAtley. Pathways first works with employers. Many employers don’t have an official open position that could be a fit for someone with IDD, but Pathways identifies how someone with disabilities could nonetheless add value to the company in a different way.
Then Pathways expends a good amount of effort discovering what each client can do and finds a job for him to choose from. With the right person in the right job, the need for on-the-job support is diminished. Kim Stuart, Ross’s aunt and guardian (whom he calls “mom”), agreed that the upfront work was what helped Ross get settled so well. “Pathways spent hours and hours one-on-one learning about Ty. They talked about his strengths, and how to turn them into employable skills.”
Ross started as a paid intern with a internship facilitator who helped smooth any initial bumps with his employer. For example, when Ross’s difficulties with coordination made it troublesome to use the keyboard, his facilitator found him a modified keyboard. At the end of his internship, the Davis County School District decided to hire him.
“We had thought that Ross was going to have to live on Social Security and that was that,” Stuart said. “This job totally changed his life. His outlook on life is totally different and so is the way he feels valued. That’s just as important as his getting a paycheck.”
“I’ve made close friendships. I feel like I’m making a difference when they ask me to ask me to do something and I know I’ve contributed to the overall running of the district,” Ross affirmed. "This is the first month I haven’t been receiving benefits. I’m self-sufficient.”
Shriver wants every workplace eventually to be like Ross’s. “We will finally have integration and inclusion for people with disability. It’s going to happen at some point,” he declared. “Corporations will have people that are focused on diversity, instead of me running around trying to explain the benefits and sending in staff to train them. The company itself would have that training in place. We need to give people an opportunity to demonstrate their skills. We need that door open for them, and then we can go to town.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Let's go Krogering!!!

October is National Disability Employment Awareness month. We salute The Kroger Co. for their on-going support by giving opportunities to individuals with disabilities to have community employment at competitive wages.

I have been living in my community for 15 years now. I have had the pleasure of watching several individuals with disabilities at each Kroger store location develop as strong and valued team members over the years. I know that regardless of which location I visit in my community, I'm going to see a work force that is diverse and committed to providing opportunities to all their employees.

I've watched a young man with a developmental disability progress in his career at Kroger over the last few years at one particular  location. I remember when he first started his employment; he was responsible for carts and clean up. He was very quiet and serious; kept his head down and went about his job.  In time, he was bagging groceries. Still quiet and serious; always careful to do everything just right, rarely making eye contact and seemingly uncomfortable when engaged in small social exchanges. About 6 months ago, I find him in a cashier's position! I exclaimed that he had been promoted and congratulated him. He couldn't contain his smile, made eye contact with me, and said "Yeah, I did it!". He quickly regain his serious composure and completed my order. It was absolutely awesome.

In my professional life, I have been afforded the same pleasure of seeing the commitment of The Kroger Co. to having a diverse workforce where each employee is compensated fairly for the work performed and has equal opportunities for job support and advancement.  We thank the Harper's Point and the Lewis Center Kroger stores for their support and employment of two wonderful people, whom we have the good fortunate to know and support, Greg and Kyra.

Greg P. is a valued Harper's Point Kroger employee for the last 8 years. Of his employment at the Harper's Point Kroger, Greg states that he will never retire!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Many states, including Ohio are making the shift from sheltered workshops to community employment for individuals with disabilities. It has been learned that community employment and community involvement are the ideal environments for all our members of society. During this month of awareness we would like to share stories of people with disabilities that are successfully working in their communities. It is our hope that through these success stories, more individuals with disabilities are given  opportunities by employers to have typical jobs at competitive wages. Click the link to read an editorial about disabled workers!