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#Awareness Blog

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

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  • 08 Mar 2023 4:18 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    Judy Huemann – A Legacyjudy in her younger days as a protester in her power wheelchair and a cardboard sign covering her legs that says no more negotiation sign 504 other protesters are in the background

              On this International Women’s Day, we acknowledge the legendary life of Judy Huemann.  The disability community – and world - recently lost the iconic disability rights leader on March 4, at age 75. 

    After contracting polio at an early age, Judy’s drive for more inclusive societies smoldered as she transitioned to using a wheelchair to get around.  She felt the discriminatory judgement of ableism very early on as she was considered a fire hazard by school’s twice due to her wheelchair -  first as a young student denied entry to learn among her peers and again by a school board which denied her being a teacher for the same ridiculous fire hazard reason.  In a story about the issues, a newspaper cleverly titled an article “You Can Be President, Not Teacher, with Polio” referencing President Roosevelt. In an interview for the article Heumann told the reporter: "We're not going to let a hypocritical society give us a token education and then bury us."  Suing the state of New York was Judy’s warm up for what she would go on to do throughout her life. 

    After becoming the first wheelchair using teacher in the state of New York, Judy carried the torch of inclusion to California where she joined forces with a growing number of disability rights advocates.  She was involved with getting the Rehabilitation Act legislation passed in 1973 and specifically with getting section 504 enacted to create more inclusive federally offered services.  To ensure the government took their concerns with the enforcement of section 504 seriously, Judy and others with disabilities occupied a government office in San Francisco for 25 days with help from all sectors of the community. 

    Judy would continue her life constantly being a driving force for inclusion and the rights for people with disabilities.  Her impact is unmeasurable for the positive changes she helped provide for people around the world.  In the end, Judy leaves behind a mark on the world that is so big we can’t help but be in awe of all that she helped accomplish.

    Disability Impacted Accomplishments

    She lobbied for legislation that eventually led to:

    Americans with Disabilities Act

    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

    The Rehabilitation Act

    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

    United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

    Served U.S as:

    Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services 1993 – 2001

    First Advisor on Disability and Development at World Bank ’02-‘06

    First Special Advisor on Disability Rights for the U.S. State Department 2010 - 2017

    She helped found:

    The Independent Living Movement

    Berkley Center for Independent Living – the 1st CIL

    World Institute on Disability

    Disability in Action – disability rights protest group

    Board Member of:

    American Association of People with Disabilities

    Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

    Humanity and Inclusion

    United States International Council on Disability

    Co-Author Two Books:

    Being Huemann (2020)

    Rolling Warrior (2021)

    Featured in Oscar Nominated Movie:

    Crip-Camp - 2020

    Archived video footage of a summer camp for youth with disabilities that had participants go on to create massive change for people with disabilities all across the country.

    Judy is testifying at a microphone in her younger years beside her is ed roberts in a power wheelchair and an air hose going to his mouth

  • 27 Feb 2023 1:49 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    Wrapping up February as Dog Training Awareness month and our focus ona group of 10 service dogs of all sizes sit and lay down service dogs, last post we answered some more “How” questions and for our last post we are going over some general questions that haven’t been covered.  This is not meant to be legal advice, but a base for understanding service dogs and the work they do for the people they assist.   This week we go over how to search for an organization, what you can do help the organizations, and are people charged for having a service animal?

    •   Where can you get a service dog?

    There are a variety of organizations that offer service dogs all across the states, even the globe!  First, a person can train their own service dog and there is not a need do go through an organization.  For those that is not an option, prior to seeking a service dog the person needs to identify their needs and how the service dog can assist to complete those tasks.  Will it be assisting the person to see, hear, remember, pick up, move, or anything else?  Some organizations focus more on specific skill sets than others.  For instance, most are able to train a dog to pick up something but not all can offer guide dogs for people that are blind or low vision. 

    Upon identifying those needs, search for the organizations that focus on those services needed.  It will take some homework.  A quick internet search can provide numerous organizations across the states, but you can also search your state or nearby area.  Another way to learn where to get a service dog is talking to those that are using service dogs. 

    Once you have found your best fit, get in touch with them and ask about the application process to follow.  Depending on an individual’s needs and their current dogs in training, you may be placed on a waitlist. 

    •     What can you do to help people with service dogs?

    There are a few ways to help.  First and foremost, know that when you encounter a person in public with a service dog that the dog is working.  You do not go over and pet or engage with the dog.  You may ask their person if you may pet the dog and whether they say "yes" or "no", respect and follow their answer.

    Many service dog training organizations rely on volunteers to assist raising and caring for the future service dogs.  Litter parents, puppy raisers and breeder homes are a humungous help! 

    Litter parents are a giant help.  These are people that take in an expecting mama to their home, then cares for her and the babies in their newborn days.  This person/family helps to nourish and support the dogs through the important early newborn weeks.

    Puppy raisers receive a pup when they are approximately 8 weeks old where they start the training process and help to get them to medical appointments.  They will begin to teach them house manners, provide socialization experiences, and prepare them for their potential future career as a service dog. 

    Breeder dogs need homes too.  Some orgs ask that you care for the mama or papa dog.  For this scenario (and all the before mentioned raisers) you would need to live nearby, let them live with you as you provide their nutrition and exercise needs and also take them to any vet appointments or services for the org. 

    Financial donations are always helpful to these organizations. 

    •     Are people charged for having a service animal?

    Acquiring a service dog from an organization will likely require charges.  Many organizations do their best to keep costs down to as little as possible to help more people but fees may come with applications and for acquiring the service dog.  As far as actually having and using a service dog with you, typical pet fees are not to be charged.  This would be most commonly applied when staying in a hotel type situation or if a person is renting or living somewhere that has community restrictions.  People with service dogs should not be charged the standard cleaning or monthly pet fee either.  Like typical pet fees, restrictions on weight and/or breed do not apply to service dogs either.  It is considered a reasonable accommodation for the entity to amend their policy in these circumstances for the service dog. However, the person can be responsible if damage is done by their service dog beyond normal wear and the person is responsible for proper removal of animal waste.

    A service dog is a tool that helps an individual live their life.  Not a pet. 

  • 17 Feb 2023 2:43 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    This week for Dog Training Awareness month and our focus on serviceup close picture of a black harness on a brown long haired dog. the vest has a patch that says service dog in big white letters dogs we are focusing on “How” questions.  How are they trained, how are they picked to be service dogs and how to pick what is best for the person, how do they help people, and how should they be acting?

    How are they trained?

    • Professionally
    • Through organizations
    • Privately/independently
    • Put through testing focused on the skills they will provide – smell, guiding, pulling – based on their intended function for the person.
    • Can take years and tens of thousands of dollars depending on their intended use.
    • They can fail out – not every dog is built exactly the same – health factors like bad joints, too energetic, too distracted, sometimes it is not the right line of work but they can do other things like being a drug sniffing dog but not a seeing-eye dog.

    How are they picked to be service dogs to train and to be for a person?

    • Dog possess good traits/characteristics and abilities                             Social, confident, calm, smart, desire to work
    • Some are bred – come from parents with good traits
    • The dog should match the lifestyle of the person along with any needs or restrictions.  If the person needs a mobility assistance dog, then a small dog is not going to be beneficial or if they have allergies that needs to be considered.  Plus take into consideration the care that is needed for different dogs as they shed, eat, and have various energy levels. 
    How do they help?
    • Allergy detection – trained to detect and alert to the scent of allergens, such as gluten or peanuts.  Did you know a dog’s sense of smell is so good that when a pizza is made people smell the toppings but a dog can smell the ingredients used to make the pizza dough!
    • Autism – provide constant source of support and comfort, work as a buffer and ice breaker in social scenarios, can be trained to alert others if their person is in a dangerous situation or interrupt harmful behavior.
    • Diabetic – alert their person of deadly high or low blood sugar levels and the person will test then adjust with insulin or glucose.
    •  Guide – help blind or low vision individuals navigate the world – typically wear a harness with a handle for their person to hold.
    • Hearing – provide ears to their person.  The dog will alert their person when they hear a fire alarm, door knock, doorbell, phones, alarm clocks, or even the person’s name.
    • Mobility assistance – retrieve objects, open doors, press buttons, turn lights on/off, assist with transfers or balance.
    • Seizure alert – help before, during, and after a seizure by finding help, providing medicine, get their person to a safe area.
    • Psychiatric – sense a change in their person when they are about to experience negative symptoms.  Guide them from the situation, remind them to take medicine, provide something else to focus on.
    • Many more

    How should they act?

    • Should be under control
              Focused on their person, calm, relaxed, Housebroken
    • Should not be
    Jumping on other people or dogs, growling, excessive barking (single bark could be a signal to their handler), aggressive towards other dogs
  • 10 Feb 2023 4:17 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    Continuing with February as Dog Training Awareness month, last week we answered some what questions and this week we are focusing on how questions.  This is not meant to be legal advice, but a base for understanding service dogs and the work they do for the people they assist.  How do service dogs help people with disabilities, how are they identified, how are they different from others, how are they trained, how many can a person have, and how do people get them?

    How do service dogs help people with disabilities?

    •         They are trained to perform specific tasks beneficial to the person they are assisting.
    •         Some examples would be the ability to recognize early signs of anxiety/panic and guide person to a safe area, guide dogs for people with low/no vision, pull a wheelchair, alert individuals who are deaf to the presence of other people or sound.

    How do you tell a dog is a service animal?

    •      Commonly on a leash and wear a vest/harness with patch signifying service dog.  This is not a requirement though.  The ADA does not require any specific identification, color, or vest for trained service animals.
    •       The dog is under their handler’s control.  Under control means being well-behaved, not wandering away from the handler, not repeatedly barking, obstructing busy walkways, and are housebroken.
    •    Ask 2 questions and only these two:
    1.  Is the dog required for a disability?         
    2. What task has the service dog been trained to perform?
    •     Important to know that there are laws against falsely claiming or impersonating a service animal.

    How do you tell the difference between a service dog, emotional support animal, and a therapy animal?

    •     Service dog is trained to perform a task directly related to a person's disability.
    •    Emotional support and companion animals are not trained to perform a specific job or task that mitigates their handler’s disability. It is the animal’s presence that provides disability-related benefits.
    •     Therapy animals are invited into places of public accommodation to provide stress relief or other therapeutic benefits to individuals with or without disabilities. For example, therapy animals may be invited into hospitals or schools to provide emotional support and companionship.

    How are service dogs trained?

    •   Not specified by the ADA
    •    Independently or Through organizations/trainers
    •    Handlers are responsible of ensuring that their dog is properly trained for their needs and will be under control.

    How many can one person have?

    •     Most people with disabilities will have only one service animal, but there is not a set limit per person.  HOWEVER, remember that a service dog is trained for specific tasks related to specific disabilities and to have more than one service dog requires them to be for separate disabilities and duties in assisting their handler.

    How do you get a service dog?

    •     Self train for your needs.
    •    Through organizations that train dogs specifically for disabilities such as blindness, deafness, PTSD, TBI’s, wheelchair users, and more.
    •   Get a trainer to work with you and your dog.

  • 03 Feb 2023 1:13 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    In recognition of February as dog training awareness month, each Friday in February we will be sharing some basic info on some highly trained dogs, service animals. This week we are focusing information using just a few basic “what” questions about service animals. 

    What makes an animal a “service animal”? 

              According to the ADA, a service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.  The tasks they are trained to perform are meant to specifically help with the disability of the person they would be assisting.

    What type of dog can be a service animal?

              Service animals do not have to be strictly Labrador Retrievers or German Shepherds.  In fact, a service animal can be ANY breed of a dog.  As long as they are able to carry out the responsibilities and duties of a service animal for the person they are assisting. 

    What tasks are a service animal trained to do?

              There is no set list of tasks that all service animals will perform.  Service animals are trained to do specific tasks for the person they are assisting, dependent on their disability.  So the tasks vary.  A wheelchair user may need them to pick things up off the ground, carry items, or even pull them along.  Someone else that walks, but has a history of seizures, may need them to help recognize early signs a seizure can come on or to remind them to take their medication.  Someone with blindness my need them to be their seeing eye dog with the ability to safely and effectively go with them in the community. 

    What do you do if you encounter someone with a service animal?

              Nothing.  They are working.  To do their job and best serve their handler, their attention needs to be focused on their person.  When strangers approach and instantly pet or talk with a dog it interferes with their attention and work.  Before ever touching someone else’s service animal you should ask the person if it is ok. 

    What can’t a service animal do?

              While a service animal does have more rights than any other animal, there are still things they are not allowed to do and places they can’t go.  If a service animal is not under control, the entity can ask to have the animal removed.  The person may return or stay but the animal cannot.  Also, while service animals can go many places ordinary animals aren’t allowed, service animals cannot go places that it would compromise the environment.  Such as a sterile operating room or kitchen of a restaurant.

    What can a business ask about a service animal?

    Neither you nor your staff can ask a disabled customer to show you their service animal’s certification. The ADA does not require an animal to be officially certified to be considered a service animal as long as they can perform the tasks a disabled person needs, are housebroken, and can be controlled.  There are only two questions you may ask a disabled customer about their service animal:

    • 1.   Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?
    • 2.   What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

    You cannot ask to be shown how they perform the task or anything else.  Remember, they are working and their tasks are not tricks to be performed.

  • 27 Jan 2023 3:11 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    How different would the story have been if Victor Frankenstein and the villagers had reacted to the “creature” not with fear and violence, but with “yes and” and “got your back”?

    Watch Jim Ansaldo from the Indiana Institute On Disability at Indiana University, lead this participatory, thoughtful, and fun session. They used improv-- the art of making things up on the spot -- to explore these ideas and co-create new stories of disability that represent our highest aspirations.

    Get ready to follow along in this active and fun presentation, focused around how we can change the discourse about disability.

    silhouette of Frankenstein's big squared head and hole in his neck where the bolt goes

    Link to Watch Video

  • 02 Nov 2022 2:03 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    Regardless of the method you choose, the important part is that you are making a choice to be a healthier you.  For those of us with disabilities, regular exercise is important, maybe even more important than someone without other conditions.  Make the most of what you have control over. A healthier you is important for whatever the future brings.

    ·        Boxing – Boxing is a great exercise for people of all abilities.  Through its movements, the variety of punches help to build strength, range of motion and increase heart rate for cardiovascular health.  Simply by keeping arms up and elbows above your heart, it just takes a few minutes to begin feeling the impact from the session.  Over time there are always the options to build in speed, use longer sessions, or even adding some small weights for true tests of strength and endurance.  If using your full arm isn’t possible, try to just move your shoulder in the motion.  You’ll be surprised at how much you will feel it afterwards.

    ·        Bodyweight Exercise – Our natural bodies and gravity can produce good results without the need for a bunch of equipment or weights laying around.  Plus, most exercise can be modified to fit the ability level of the person.  Squats, wall-sits, push-ups, lunges, jumps, stretches, holds, get-ups, and many more can be altered and performed in some manner to benefit the person. 
    ·        Walks, Running, or Rolling – Again, not much equipment truly needed to participate with walking, running, or pushing a wheelchair.  The steps/distance will add up whether it’s on trails, tracks, treadmills, streets, or standing in place!  If going outside, ensure to have proper clothing and water for cold or warm weather depending on the season and that someone knows where you are going.  Maybe consider looking for local groups you can join that get together every week or so to go out.
    ·        Yoga – Slow everything down for a bit through some yoga.  There are bunches of different versions to follow online or look for local, in –person classes to join.  These guided sessions can be modified to a person’s ability and you do the best that you can.
  • 02 Nov 2022 1:58 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    As the cold weather begins to sink its teeth in for the long winter, staying warm becomes a constant desire shared among people with disabilities.  , There are some things people can do to feel warmer without cranking the heat and adding expensive bills.

    • ·        Dress appropriately – Wearing clothing for the conditions is a must.  Multiple layers will be the ticket for many people.  Loose fitting layers allow air to stay trapped within the layers and warm the body.  A hat for your head, even indoors, is going to help bunches as well.
    • ·        Eating/drinking – Try drinking hot drinks such as tea’s, coffee, or even just water and making sure to eat properly.  Food provides essential nutrients that help to fuel the body, so be sure to get your fruits and veggies in.  Staying hydrated and fed will help to keep you warmer through the day.
    • ·        Blankets – Find a good blanket for your needs.  At the office, maybe a lap blanket for the legs or a wrap for over the shoulders when there is a little chill.  When you are home and have the chance for a bigger option, there are the standard blankets of various materials or you can actually go with a weighted blanket.  Ever try something like a Snuggie?  Something you slip over your head and covers your front and back, maybe even has a hood, yet your hands are free to work or at least still use with ease.  This slip over the head version may be great for trips outside as well, when coats can be too much.
    • ·        Heating pads – When used with caution they can be a great way to relax and warm the body or spots in need of relief.  Options for heat can be electric, rice bags, or even water bottles filled with hot water.  For those without sensation throughout their body, please pay attention to your skin.  You don’t want any burns from using something too hot or for too long!!
    • ·        Increase Blood Flow - Exercise and/or Massage will help you warm up through increasing the body blood flow and bringing up oxygen and nutrients to the muscle tissues.  Colder weather restricts blood flow as the body keeps the main organs warm, taking flow away from our hands and legs.   Doing some form of exercise, even just body weight squats, boxing, jump rope (or just swinging your arms as if jumping rope) that doesn’t require any or minimal equipment in your home will help.  Getting some sort of a massage will also help.  The friction of rubbing or getting deep tissue work done will also make blood move to more places and help the body maintain a good temp.

  • 31 Jan 2022 2:23 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    "You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right."

    - Rosa Parks

    For people with disabilities, February as Black History Month has a special meaning. The fight for disability rights has mirrored African American efforts within civil rights movements – addressing living circumstances, combating stigma and negative attitudes, and working for political and systemic change. Similar to the demonstration protest of 1963’s 250,000 people March on Washington, people with disabilities participated in the Capitol Crawl in March, 1990. People left their wheelchairs, crutches, or walkers and physically crawled or dragged themselves up the 78 steps of the Capitol in Washington D.C. in a show of unity and exhibit of barriers built into our society.

    Brad Lomax and Fannie Lou Hamer are two people that had roles within the struggles for equity in America.  Brad Lomax, was a founder of the Black Panther'sBlack and white photo of Brad Lomax wearing a suit, sitting in his wheelchair on a stage holding a microphone Washington chapter in 1969.  In the early 1970's he helped organize demonstrations at the National Mall in D.C., but moved out to California in 1973. There, he participated in the 25-day sit-in at the San Francisco Department of Health Education Welfare waiting for the signing and implementation of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Brad was able to reach out and bring the support of the local Black Panthers for hot meals to those that were sitting-in. He later went on to open the second Center for Independent Living in East Oakland, CA.

    Fannie Lou Hamer, famously said, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” as she described experiences she and others endured in their quest to obtain voting black an white photo of Fannie sitting at a table with her hands folded together as she speaks rights.  Experiences that included being unknowingly sterilized, long term effects of polio, and beaten so badly in a Mississippi jail, she had kidney damage, a blood clot, and a permanent limp.  She still continued to fight as a voting rights activist and humanitarian.

    Brad Lomax and Fannie Lou Hammer knew there was a bigger picture.  Through their individual actions they were doing what they knew was right.  Their stances were for the benefit of a larger group.  As a Center for Independent Living, disAbility Connections is thankful for the efforts of those before us, and proud to carry on the mission of an inclusive and accessible community for all people.  #Awareness
  • 26 Jan 2022 2:18 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    Frank and Shirley Dick Family YMCA in Adrian

              Staying active has physical, emotional, and mental benefits for  all people and for those with disabilities those benefits are amplified/more important.  However, if adaptions are needed in order to be active it canFigure 1: Zero step entry to YMCA indoor pool. be a little more difficult to accomplish and get those benefits.  The Frank and Shirley Dick Family YMCA near Adrian, MI that opened in October, 2020 put some thought into accessibility.

     The facility includes an accessible 4’ deep pool featuring a zero step entry and an operable lift in the 4’ section, steam room, 2 basketball court gymnasium, group fitness room, child care, locker rooms, and exercise equipment. The men’s, women’s, and family locker rooms are accessible and include an accessible shower and accessible toilet.  The overall layout of this YMCA that is accessible, open, and well lit. There are 5-6 accessible parking spaces near the entrance in a circle drive atop a slight hill.  All other parking spaces are down the small hill and a short walk to the    front doors where there is an automatic opener button for the far right door.    Each component of this YMCA can be used by people with varying disabilities. 

    The Freemotion exercise machines are accessible on various levels.  They feature cable/pulley systems which allow for wider access and use.  A couple provide space where wheelchairs can be used and machines are spaced well.  For those with weakened grips, bringing wraps for your hands and the handles may be beneficial.  If needed, a person with a disability is able to bring in an assistant free of charge.  That person is there to assist with chair positioning, transfers, or setting up equipment.  The assistant cannot use their access as a pass to freely use the YMCA.

    1 of 2 wheelchair accessible Dual Cable exercise machines. The side arms are fully adjustable to fit various positional needs.

    We encourage community members of all abilities to take advantage of resources like The Frank and Shirley Dick Family YMCA.  Please take proper safety precautions and speak with your medical advisor on what is best for you before starting an exercise program.   We are looking forward to seeing what 2022 will provide for each of you, and hope you are able to find enjoyment in some form of activity to improve your overall health in this new-year!


     exercise bike  accessible pool lift seatexercise bike with seat turnedaccessible roll in showermachines built to be accessible for exercise equipment

     Exercise stations with their cable & pulley systems. Each component of this YMCA can be used by people with varying disabilities.

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