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  • 20 Nov 2019 11:15 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

             Approximately 1 in 5 Americans are living with someA person uses active hands wrapping aide. It wraps a persons hand around a handle such as a handsaw or hand trowel for gardening and digs into dirt sort of a disability.  If about 20% of our population has a disability, there has to be some businesses focused on keeping people active or working.  Actually, there are many organizations that will be eager to help those with disabilities enter/remain/re-enter the workforce.  Specifically, what about those people out in the fields and farms that cover the countryside?  Agrability (www.agrability.org) is the answer.  They are not only for those that make their livings outdoors, but for any that enjoy working outdoors in general or for those that dabble in farm living and management. 

            Agrability works with people to help them stay active outdoors.  Through adapting/modifying equipment you use, they work with you to get you back out there doing what you like.  Another really cool aspect of Agrability and their website is their Toolbox of Assistive Technology Database (http://www.agrability.org/toolbox/).  Users can search by category or search item and products will appear that they have reviewed and added.  They then provide where people can get it along with the price range.  They have everything from low cost $15 arthritis anti-vibration gloves to save hands while mowing or using a chainsaw, then have high-end high technology products like hydraulic chair lifts into tractors and combines.  Point being, they have something for everyone on their site.  If they don’t have what would make your tasks easier, contact them and see what can be done.

  • 24 Sep 2019 12:57 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    How truly prepared are you for an emergency?  Sure,there are different types and even different levels of an emergency.  A disaster, such as flooding (#1 natural disaster risk for Michiganders) or a tornado require the forethought to prep ahead.  A sudden emergency because the amateur Lumberjack just cut into their own leg with a chainsaw, doesn’t allow for much more than “Call 9-1-1!” or quick drive to the ER.  The point is, there are really simple steps you can take that will assist when any emergency situation arises. 

              A very important part during any emergency is information.  First responders can do their jobs best when they have as much information as possible upon arrival.  Smart911.com will help provide some of that exact service.  FREE.  To create a profile, it can be as simple as your name, phone number, and address.  However, it also allows users the option to add other important information like medications, emergency contacts, and much more which may be helpful.  Any additional information you provide will be available to the 911 operator and first responders.  Additional info added, such as being a wheelchair user, use a ventilator, deafness, or being diabetic can save precious time.  You can add others in the same residence to your profile as well, even info on your fur babies.  If you get disconnected from them or something happens, they will still have all that info even if you didn’t get a chance to tell them.  If you download the app, the GPS locator follows you wherever you go along with your entire profile.  Country wide.

              Aside from preparing by signing up with Smart911, check for information about any community disaster plans or possible assistance available from police, fire, or transportation services.  Some communities register people with disabilities in advance.  If you are utility dependent make sure the utility company knows you have a disability. 

    Prepare your “go bag” in case of an evacuation, as well as a stash of emergency supplies capable of sustaining you for a few days.  The thought of preparing all your needs in an area for an emergency can be overwhelming and stressful.  What really should go in that “go bag” you ask?  Well that depends on the individual and situation, but there are some basics that will be handy no matter the situation.  Items without expirations like cash, batteries, radios, along with a written list of contacts and current medications should be set into the bag and stored in an easily located and  accessible spot so you can add supplies or grab and go.  Hence why it’s called your “go bag”. 

    I know it is daunting to think about these scenarios and all their “What if’s….”  However, that only makes your preparations even more important.  To help ease the tension, try using a system like www.do1thing.com.  The website helps to break the preparations into categories and down by the month.  So instead of seeing a long list, you know that “x” month is time to focus on water and getting/having a 3 day supply of water per person.  Then the next month may focus on food or any unique needs you may have (pets, baby food, insulin, etc.).  By breaking it down monthly with types of needs, the assembly of your emergency supplies and prep will be complete in no time.  Just like how you would go about eating an elephant.  Remain calm, and take it one bite at a time. 

  • 24 Sep 2019 12:04 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Autonomous vehicles are getting closer and closer to being on the streets around us. There are some already in use shuttlingcars on 3 lane highway, one lane for autonomous vehicles, the two other lanes for normal cars people from point A to point B. They are not yet out picking you up for the next cab or Uber you hail, but that doesn’t seem too far off. Recently, I had the opportunity to provide my input on making these future robot rides easier for mobility device users. It was great to be involved pointing out potential issues, but also the features I liked. Conducting these quick sessions provides researchers the opportunity to hear from users of all aspects and viewpoints. All mobility device users are not created equally, so our experiences and input are coming from those backgrounds. 

    Far too often, the forethought of accessibility is not considered by people outside of the disability realm. Unless the item is specifically meant for people with disabilities or has a high likelihood of our use, we aren’t sought for our input in the testing phase. Making it that much more important to participate in any opportunity to provide input. Getting on a list for a subject pool is a good idea. University of Michigan is constantly doing research and drawing from their research participant pool https://umhealthresearch.org/

    You never know what research is being conducted or future will bear from researchers. U of M is one of the top research facilities in the country. As a person with a spinal cord injury, I get contacted whenever someone is explicitly looking for SCI as subjects. There are also plenty of opportunities where disability isn’t a pre-req, just need people to participate. Often there is some incentive such as money or gift cards for being a participant in research as well. I don’t know how many studies I have been a participant, but I have had some life changing events come after simply replying to a call and taking part in a research study.

  • 24 Sep 2019 11:33 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    In Mid-August, Special Tree rehabilitation in Romulus hostedman with high level spinal cord injury using sip and puff technology to play video games their SCI Mobility & Recreation Expo 2019. Vendors and groups were brought in to showcase various sport & leisure activities for people with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI). A few of the attractions were adaptive sport demonstrations (tennis, rugby, & basketball), accessible vehicles, clothing adaption for buttons, home modification contractor, and even a few rehab clinics, along with many more who were on-site providing information. 

    The attendees were mainly people with SCI, ranging from as recently as a few months post injury to over 20 years. Those in the latter stages have been witness to tremendous advances in rehabilitation, wheelchairs, and incorporation of technology into said equipment. In my various conversations throughout the day among those with long-term SCI, consistently they remarked how they no longer have to have huge, full size vans or how they didn’t have even a quarter of the adaptive equipment available following their injury. A couple of the reasons being that the technology just wasn’t there to facilitate those changes, but neither was the overall desire to make things more accessible. Whether accessibility just wasn’t on people’s minds or without social media and our 24 hr. news cycle to put these common grievances out there publicly, it wasn’t known and was just easier to push aside. Ignorance is bliss, right? But in 2019, that isn’t the case. 

          21st Century is just getting rolling and has already made leaps and bounds to improve lives for People with Disabilities (PWD). Everything has sped up and downsized. No longer are the only vehicle options limited to full sized Econoline vans. Now, PWD have options like a minivan, truck, or SUV that has been equipped with ramp, lift, or hoist. Technology is an integral part of this new wave in accessibility. I watched as high level quad’s played a PC Shooter game with just a mouth piece, no hand/finger movements needed! Which may not seem like much, but for someone with limited mobility, especially very minimal mobility, the chance to try anything you used to do or haven’t been able to do in a long time is exciting and fun again. 

          These advances making more daily life activities obtainable may seem like a minor feat. But for PWD, doing anything independently can be seen as an accomplishment. The ability to move your chair whether it is manually, joystick, or by head controls, is a freedom of its own kind. Most people won’t get it, because you haven’t had to rely on others for literally, everything. Just naming a few but dressing, eating, communicating, moving, or using the bathroom all through another person’s assistance is tough. But, gaining any independence and reacquiring identity as a person are major achievements. There are many things to be watchful of as we progress into the 21st Century, broader accessibility and independence for all people should continue being important public issues and not continually set to the back-burner.

  • 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

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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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