Dynamic Ability Blog

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  • 14 May 2015 2:55 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

     

    Michigan to Celebrate 25th Anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act

    Dynamic Abilities Blog 4-15 By: Parrish L. Stahl

    The ADA is nearing its 25th birthday.  It was signed by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990.  It is largely a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of physical or mental disability; similar in some aspects to the Civil Rights Law of 1964, which made discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, and other characteristics illegal.  It specifically addresses accessibility requirements of public accommodations and reasonable accommodations in employment.

    Nationwide and state celebrations are planned this summer. There is a major event happening at the Lansing, Michigan State Capital steps slated for September 17, 2015. The public is invited.  It is undeniable that the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 changed lives. 

    The Department of Justice has announced that people who wish to file ADA complaints can now do that completely electronically.  The person needs to visit www.ADA.gov to fill out the new electronic form.  After the complaint is received the complainant gets a reference number that is then used to track action on the submission. 

    After March 15, 2015 e-mail complaints are no longer accepted.  People are still able to handle the process through traditional United States Mail by calling the ADA Information Line at: 1-800-514-0301 (V) 1-800-514-0383 (TTY) and requesting a paper form.

    It would be interesting to hear your comments on how it has impacted your life or someone you love. In your opinion, what do you see as the ADA’s successes or failures?   Where is there more work to do regarding accessibility both locally and nationwide? For this author, it is frustrating that we have gotten things like pool lifts at public pools and the equipment often sits unused either due to lack of use or knowledge on how to run them.   For any civil rights legislation to maintain lasting change our voices must continue to advocate and be heard.

  • 22 Dec 2014 10:19 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

     

    Temporary Obstacles Can be as Frustrating as Permanent Ones

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    Holidays and crowds are part of life, especially at Christmas time, but do you realize how often the bell ringer and their bucket or that service clubs nut sales display park themselves in the middle of an access isle? But it is only temporary, Right?  Think about it every month presents special occasions that make life and mobility hard for those of us that need accessibility.  As soon as late January those Valentine’s Day displays go up in retail stores.  For a person using a mobility device, it means far too often, that isles that were beautifully designed to incorporate accessibility are invaded by temporary holiday displays.  It is usually only a few inches and when questioned well-meaning workers say, “it is only temporary”. 

    The problem is March is St. Patrick’s Day, then Easter, Memorial Day, Mother’s & Father’s Day and those fireworks on every checkout celebrating Independence Day.   Oh, and then Labor Day and the big back to school push that fills end caps and isles with backpacks and cardboard boxes full of notebook paper and other supplies.  Finally, Halloween rings in fall with ghosts and monsters everywhere with literally tons of extra sweets crowding isles. 

    It is much easier to accept that an eighty year old building has steps and is inaccessible than it is to know an access route is being blocked by a shopping cart because that is a convenient spot for a cashier to put returns.  Her explanation, “it is only temporary, until I find time to put these returns back”.  Recently at a craft show a portable ATM was parked in the middle of a sidewalk only for the day.  When a picture was shared with the financial institution they made a commitment to not let this happen again.  

    Does anyone else have a hard time smiling and asking that things be moved?  Why am I so often embarrassed because I need to move something that after all, is only temporary? One could argue, so is the motorcycle parked in my access isle, the choir risers set up in circulation space, the garbage can that traps me in a bathroom, the pallets, of salt, mulch and soil and other items that change with the seasons, like bicycles, garden tractors and swing sets.   Does it make these obstacles any less of a problem because they change?  Education and the public’s understanding is the key to real change.

  • 11 Aug 2014 3:32 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Striving Toward Accessibly for All Means People Need to be Seen & Heard

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    Recently disAbility Connections launched the “Striving towards Access for All” project.  The first ever recognition was given to the newly renovated Meijer Branch of the Jackson District Library.  It is beautiful in its architecture and simplistic approach to accessibility.  The design is a testament to how seamless accessibility can be incorporated when included in an initial design.  In fact, the facility received a perfect score on the four priorities spelled out by the project, which are:  Parking and Approach, Entrance, Circulation and/or Seating & Restroom.  Perfect scores won’t be common.  Our world is full of obstacles and barriers, but does anyone else want to focus on the positive side of accessibility as we approach the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

    There are places in this community and others that won’t be accessible for years, if ever.  The answer is public pressure and positive voices.  If an entity is not accessible, should not someone ask why?  Polite phone calls and letters often can be powerful.  Does not it make sense to engage businesses and organizations in a dialog as opposed to threatening legal action?  Often changes happen because someone had the good sense to point out a problem in a reasonable way.   Michigan has natural wonders that are in our back yard; public access lake docks and parks are all around and have a long ways to go to be accessible.   Some areas like, Michigan Center, the Irish Hills and the City of Jackson have made strides, but if you love the natural world in the City or outlying communities your voice and actions is the quickest avenue to change.

    One of the simplest, easiest ways you can increase accessibility in any community is to be seen and heard when using accessibility features that already exist;  meaning if you or a family member appreciates something tell a manager in writing if possible.  Just a short thank you note often is extremely powerful.   Another important action is to use what is there.  If a swimming pool has a lift for example, use it!  Often things like pool lifts sit unused and thus are not priorities for overworked staff.   The more people that use and request accessibility design elements the more indispensable they become to the whole community.  Will not real change happen when entities realize the positive economic impact of being accessible?

  • 14 May 2014 4:46 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Is Instant Technology Destroying Manners?

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    Has anyone else’s daily routine been altered significantly by the continual presence of ever increasing technology?  Countless people delay key parts of their morning activities like, the bathroom, breakfast and even avoid conversations with people they live with in favor of checking to see how many likes and comments their bedtime nugget of knowledge produced.  Devices like smart phones, pads, cameras and voice recorders are everywhere.  It is so frustrating sometimes when we have an emotional need for a real interaction with another human being and that person, whether it is a loved one or someone providing a service, seems to be totally or partially preoccupied with a piece of information that by all appearances is more important than you are at that moment .  If you were lucky enough to be raised by people with manners the way generally reasonable people are acting is troubling.

    Remember a time when it was expected that when you meet another person whether for the first time or someone you have known for a period or maybe even your whole life, that a genuine greeting would almost always take place?  Those greetings most of us learn as very young children.  Eye contact, a smile, a hug, a handshake or maybe asking someone how they are, and giving them your full attention as they answer you are getting more rare every day.   Not everyone is comfortable with physical contact and that is really alright but paying attention to another person and giving off real cues that you are listening is a key life skill.

    One trait of successful people is that they tend to be greatly in tuned to the people around them.   There is a time and a place for technology.   The tools technology gives us can help make our lives full and balanced, but only if we work at that balance.  The days of having one employer for 40 years, for instance, are gone.  It will probably be necessary to have a portfolio of jobs.  Few will be hired because of their texting abilities.  Employers love to hire individuals with great interpersonal skills.  Development and maintenance of those skills takes practice throughout the lifespan.  As we live longer lives communicating effectively with care givers is something every family will face.

    Social media, technology and instant access have opened a tremendous number of doors for all people including people with mobility challenges.  Use those tools responsibly and remember to reach out to people in the real world in a polite way.  We do not have to quit cold turkey, but start somewhere.  Do you really need the day’s fifteenth selfie?  Turn off the phone at mealtime and carry on a conversation.  The most powerful tool we have is learning to genuinely care about and interact with each other.

  • 20 Mar 2014 3:32 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    One Movements Success is a Victory for All Others

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    With Black History Month behind us and Women’s History Month ongoing we are surrounded by reminders of the sacrifices made by individuals in both movements.  All civil rights movements have some things in common like passion, conviction and a strong burning desire to change society for the better.  It is interesting if we look back in history we see how different movement untimely are intertwined because of their common goals of human respect, a level playing field and opportunities to excel and build a better future.

    All individual movements that are successful spent time educating people about their situations.   Reaching out to open-minded potential allies, slowly but surely eased people’s fears and that is how we build momentum in any movement.  It is true people fear what they do not understand.

    Martin Luther King stepped through a door that Frederick Douglas cracked open.  Some individuals are heroes in multiple areas.  Helen Keller worked for woman’s equality and the rights of people with disabilities.  Ed Roberts, who many consider the father of the Independent living movement, needed curb cuts and an iron lung to attend Berkley in the late 1960’s.  That advocacy and his leadership led to hundreds of Centers for Independent Living all over the world. 

    Jackie Robinson was the first African America to play in the majors, but his struggles were the catalysts for all sports to be opened.  Do not players from Japan, Latin America and the rest of the world still owe him a debt?  In the news right now openly Gay players in multiple sports are being signed with celebration by the vast majority.  The most talked about aspect is how can they help the teams?    What a proud time to be a sports fan. 

    The Tuskegee airman proved that an African American could be among the best fliers in the world.  Every pilot that was different from the norm that was hired in the decades that followed should be in there debt.  History proves that fair societies eventually get around to doing the right thing.  America and our community have more to do; how fast things evolve is up to you.  Be proud if you believe in fairness because you’re on the right side of history.

  • 22 Jan 2014 4:21 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Fill Yourself with the Spirit of Giving When People Really Need Help

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    Now that most of our holiday decorations are packed away in attics,

    basements, crawl spaces or in the back of that already overloaded, used to

     be, walk- in- closet; most of us settle back into our daily routines.  The charitable feelings so prevalent during the last part of the year give way to

     the stress of leftover holiday bills and the almost inevitable shortage of resources most households experience after the celebrations are over.

    Having extra people over is a joyous part of the holiday season, but having additional bodies around forces stretched budgets to come close to the breaking point.  Extra months to feed, gifts and use of additional household supplies are all realities that families face.

    Does it not seem strange that efforts to help each other tend to diminish

     when we need each other the most?  Do you know a person or a family that could use some help?  One of the most noble of New Year’s resolutions is to

     do what we can when we can to help others. 

    Organizations that help people can always use supplies and household items; if your family has a windfall pass the items on.  If your Mom gets you that deodorant you hate or Aunt Mary provides you with perfectly good

     aftershave that you happen to be allergic to, these well-meaning gifts

     have the potential to help those in need.

    Many churches and non-profits collect items we all use all year long.  Ask around and you may be able to have a major positive effect on families that need your help.  Let’s face it, giving feels good no matter when it happens.

  • 01 Nov 2013 9:25 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Remembering Who Our Allies Are

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    One of the greatest moments in life is discovering where your passion lies.  Some of us are lucky and find out when we are extremely young.  Such is the case when someone knows they want to work with animals for instance. 

    There are always questions to ask ourselves.  Like, will this be a hobby, a

    career or both?  What steps will it take to set up and eventually reach goals? 

     Sometimes life happens and we end up working outside our passions until

    we are much older.  This might be someone who has always had an artistic talent but waits until they are long retired to fully explore that side of themselves.  Life is a timeline with many stops and starts along the way.  Whatever part of the timeline you are on, one thing is certain; you will need friends and allies.  Part of the beauty of being human is that journeys differ

    and vary, but most of us want desperately to help each other.

    Does it really matter at what stage we truly learn to love and understand how powerful our personal passions are?  Do not we sometimes put up our own barriers?  Far too often we hear healthy people with many decades of active

    life in front of them say, If I were younger, stronger, smarter, thinner and the list goes on….. Do you ever wonder why we spend so much of our lives trying

     to talk ourselves out of things?  Fear is a normal thing, but man, it is a lousy motivator. 

    One advantage of being a little older is that it is much easier to understand what and who you need to reach goals.  Almost everyone has access to

    endless information.  Experience teaches us that allies can be a filter for

    sifting out what you really need. Why are public entities like libraries, non-profits & museums busier than ever?  Could it be among the many reasons

     that people are eager to explore their options in life? 

    If you are exploring and looking for reasons why you can reach for a goal, remember to get some help.  There are people that are charged with and

     make a career out of helping other people reach for goals. 

    So often we hear I do not have any help.  That is not necessarily so.  Everyone has help out there.  Sometimes people need assistance learning how to seek help out.  When people learn to come together and within the imperfect systems we have to work with; they do extraordinary things.  Chances are

    you have numerous allies in this world that you have never imagined are in

    your corner.  Negative energy breeds negativity.  Positive energy on the

    other hand is infectious and spreads through your life like a cleansing wildfire.

    If you are planning the next stage of your life, it makes sense to make goal number one to have a positive attitude.  Next list who your allies are; you

    may be pleasantly surprised.

  • 23 May 2013 2:38 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    America’s Growing Pains bring out the Best in People

    By:  Parrish L. Stahl

    Recently the movie 42 came out which chronicles the life and struggles the legendary Jackie Robison, the first African American to play in the major leagues.  Whether you love the game of baseball or not this is a movie everyone should see.  Baseball is part of the fabric of America and during hard times the game is there to say in part to the world, that the health of America over its history; has often been tied to the game.   Excluding African Americans or any deserving athlete was wrong; and thus America was wrong.  Jackie Robinson was a great ball player, but by all accounts he was a good and brave human being.  He literally made so many around him change their minds and see injustice because of the person he was.  Every player and person that followed no matter what their race or individual struggles had doors open because of him.  Our president is our president because of every person who came before him.

    Are not people that open doors of any kind a path of righteousness for our country?  Jason Collins may be the first openly gay player in the NBA but many insiders say he is not the first.  He is the first one to be brave enough to announce to the world publicly who he is.  The response to his announcement has been overwhelmingly positive.  Is not America ready to do the right thing on a variety of civil rights fronts?

    Ed Roberts, who many people call the father of the Independent Living Movement, started the first Center for Independent Living in Berkley, California in the 1960’s.  His message of access, right to choices and working to end discrimination had so many things in common with Jackie Robison and Jason Collins, but what stands out is the bravery it takes to be one of the firsts or the few.  Are not we all better off because of growing pains and the struggles we all endure?  Sometimes people and movements get complacent.  We need to remember that Jackie, Jason and Ed were a beginning; we owe it to them to keep the world moving forward.  What can you do help with what is a continuing struggle?  Can you share your knowledge of how far we have come, but also understand that there is a long road ahead? 

  • 27 Mar 2013 9:43 AM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    One positive aspect of the internet is that we have instant access to vast quantities of useful statistics and information.  For lots of us however, there are just too many statistics and not enough discussions of why numbers trend a certain way.  It should trouble Americans deeply that according to government labor data, of the 29 million working-age Americans, who are over 16 years old, with a disability, only about 5.2 million are employed.  Even those of us that are mathematically challenged can determine that is only about eighteen percent.

    What is the deal with the other eighty-two percent?  We all know there are people that cannot work at all.  Some disabilities are so relentless that they take every ounce of physical, emotional and spiritual strength to deal with.  Maybe the right thing to say is we should not judge our fellow human beings, but that is easier said than done when a person with a bad back claims a disability; is not working, and rides a Harley-Davidson up and down the road.  Even if some disabilities are fraudulent, every person’s battle with disability is different.  The other problem with judging is that there are many more invisible disabilities than those that can be seen with the naked eye.  If someone says they are disabled, who are we to judge?

    There are safety nets built in to the Social Security system, like the ticket to work, trial work period, and protection from medical reviews and expedited reinstatement for those who try to work and are unsuccessful.  None of the programs are ideal, but they can be navigated.  Even people that have not been approved for benefits fear how working will affect their pending case.  Surprise, the reality is that attempting to work part-time can actually help your case. 

    Why are not more people looking for work?  One reason may be getting a job is hard.  The unemployment rate for people with disabilities actively looking is about 13.7 percent compared to about 7.9 percent for the general population.  Is it fear of losing what benefits we have?  Has the system designed to help us actually painted us into a corner?  There is so much talent wasted.  How can we reach out to people to help build them a better life?  Does the system promote fear and discourage people?  How much richer would society be if we could reach even a small part of the eighty two percent?  Do you have any ideas?

  • 08 Aug 2012 4:36 PM | Lora Bigcraft (Administrator)

    Before Success: Someone Had To Believe

    By: Parrish L. Stahl

    As a baseball follower it is easy to marvel at the talent the Detroit Tigers put on the field.  Justin Verlander could possibly be the best pitcher in the game. Miguel Cabrera and Price Fielder are two of the premiere hitters in the history of the Tiger organization.  They are media super stars.  Professional athletes and successful people in general have something in common; someone somewhere along the line believed in them and let them pursue a dream.

    The odds of playing in the major leagues are astronomical.  There are no bad players in the majors; just a select few are elite though and every one of them have had to make dedication and family sacrifice a way of life.  I had a conversation with the mother of Tigers pitcher Phil Coke, and she said half-jokingly, “it is just little league all over again, the foods better though.”  We so often hear about the great salaries and forget the people behind the scenes that spend years supporting other people’s dreams. 

    No one can succeed in any walk of life unless other people are there to support them.  Someone drove every major leaguer to practice for years before they made it.  Before there was the manicured fields, air conditioned club houses, limousines, airplanes and catered food; there were dusty sand lots, burning hot summer days, broken down buses, shortages of equipment and sack lunches.  Even the greatest Tiger of all, Al Kaline, who came directly from high school to the Detroit Tigers in 1953 and has been with the organization as a player, broadcaster and executive ever since, needed people to believe in him at every step along the way.  Another famous man with very small hands wandered into a gym in Louisville, KY, mad because someone stole his bike.  He planned to do something criminal, but was headed off by someone who cared and channeled his passion.  That little boy grew up to be the 3-time Heavy Weight Champion, his name, Muhammad Ali.

    Someone saw potential in Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Elvis Presley and you if you are reading this.  Someone thought it was essential that you learned to read. If you see talent are you supporting it and fostering its development?  How much talent and ability is overlooked because no one was there to help?  We all have the potential to change the world.  Your life is not the only destiny you control.  What can you do to work on a better future?  History is full of little things that became huge victories.

    Even if you never became a professional, if you are successful there was a coach, parent, friend, relative, teacher, bus driver, or a perfect stranger that impacted your life in a positive way.  Roll models and inspirations are not limited to a select few.  Do not sell yourself short; we all have something to give. Let’s talk about your ideas! Who believed in you and what can you do to return the favor?

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