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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.  

  • 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.

  • 21 Jan 2022 3:02 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    Ed Roberts Day – Jan 23rdBlack and white photo of Ed Roberts with his breathing tube bit between his teeth

    • Known and widely recognized as being the father of the Independent Living and Disability Rights Movement.
    • Contracted polio at age 14 and became paralyzed from the neck down
    • Became the first student with severe physical disabilities to be admitted into the University of California, Berkeley
    • Forced to live in hospital wing as a student at UC Berkeley because they didn’t have housing to accommodate for his power chair & Iron Lung.
    • Led student advocacy group of students with disabilities, which became known as “rolling quads”.
    Ø Here he founded the First disability-led student organization in the United States.
    Ø They provided disability services, such as transportation, personal aides, wheelchair repair, and advocated for greater physical access to their campus, including taking sledgehammers to curbs in order to create curb cuts. 
    • After college, he co-founded the Center for Independent Living, a non-profit advocacy group run by people with disabilities for people with disabilities.
    Ø It started with a staff of just two people. “We know that even the most severely disabled folks can live in the community, and it’s up to us – those of us who are lucky enough to be out and who feel the power of the process. Because every time we reach out to help someone else we empower them for ourselves,” he said. (https://www.accessliving.org/newsroom/blog/ed-roberts-a-pioneer-for-equality/)
    Ø Passed away March 14th, 1995.
    Ø His power chair has been on display at the Smithsonian asEd Roberts in his power whelchair and a woman standing beside him part of the collection of the National Museum of American History.
    More information and videos on this pivotal icon of the Independent Living 
  • 27 Aug 2021 2:38 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

              Just before the Emergency Preparedness Month of September, powerful storms in mid-August wreaked havoc and knocked out power for people all over Michigan.  Those without generators for backup power were left with no working lights, no running water, no AC, no Internet or TV, and we continually flipped light switches as we entered rooms only to remember that there wasn’t any power.  Planning is the key to making emergencies and power outages more manageable.  That’s what Emergency Preparedness Month is all about.

              Here in Michigan, the most common natural disasters include floods, severe storms (rain and snow), wildfires, power outages, and tornadoes.  Make a plan for the household of personal responsibilities and a location to safely meet depending on the circumstance(s).  If a tornado is coming, establish which room you are going to for safety or in case of a fire, where the household will meet outside. 

              Equally important is to make a kit/bag of supplies that can be tucked away but easy to get in the time of need.  The kit should include some basics that will be handy no matter the situation. Those basics are items without expirations like cash (credit card machines will not work), radios, and a written list of contacts and current medications.  Store shelf stable items such as distilled water, batteries, flashlight(s), non-perishable foods and a manual can opener, first-aid kit, and even a whistle to notify people are a good way to start. Also consider other unique needs you may have such as pets, baby food, etc. 

              To make emergency planning easier, use a system like www.do1thing.com to break the preparations into categories and by the month.  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, next month you focus on getting a 3 day supply of food per person, and the month after that you identify the best storm shelter in your home and practice getting there. 

              For people with disabilities, emergencies and power outages raise other concerns such as:

    • ·        How to charge a power mobility device or ventilator
    • ·        Alternative exits to using an elevator or a lift if they lose power
    • ·        How to keep insulin/medications viable and accessible
    • ·        The easiest exit to use in various emergency cases
    • ·        Hauling a kit with physical limitations

              These are major health and safety risks for people that rely on those machines for daily life.   

              There are many scenarios we don’t think about normally that become essential during unexpected circumstances.  Take the opportunity of Emergency Preparedness Month to become more aware. 

    People living in Jackson, Hillsdale, and Lenawee Counties can give key data to their county to keep on file in case of an emergency. People provide as much helpful info as they want.  Examples would be if someone is deaf, blind, uses a wheelchair, where bedrooms are located, information on pets or service animals, or any severe allergies, etc.  

    Alerts are sent to a smartphone during any nearby dangers such as severe weather or a missing person.

    Jackson County use this link

    Lenawee County use this link

    Hillsdale County use this link

    For even more information about emergency preparedness and ready kits go to https://www.ready.gov/  


  • 29 Jul 2021 12:48 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    Written by: Holly Peterson

    Let's start with babies... you may have concerns with your infant or toddler's development, you can't quite pinpoint what it is, but you are just concerned. You have talked to your doctor and they told you to wait a little while "because all children develop a little differently at their own rate". This isn't yet settling to you because this is YOUR child and you want them to excel! It's a pretty easy answer~ all you have to do is contact Early On by calling 1-800-327-5966. They can talk to you about your concerns and offer free evaluations.

      Now, let's say your child is in elementary school and you have concerns about his/her ability to keep up with other students. Maybe your child has Cerebral Palsy, ADD or ADHD and focus is a big concern in their learning. There is a way to ask for help and to have assistance in a "formal plan" for their education..... This could happen with an IEP (Individual Education Plan) or a 504 Plan. First, an evaluation must be requested. In order to learn about his process ~ you can call us at disAbility Connections or contact Michigan Alliance for Families ~ michiganallianceforfamilies.org They have a most wonderful website full of information AND there is also a local parent mentor who can help you. I can't recommend this resource enough!

      Next, let's assume your child has a 504 Plan or an IEP providing the extra needed services already. Be sure that you understand how to make the most of that plan to best fit your child! We as parents need to educate ourselves so that we can best advocate for our child! We need to know how those supports will look as we transition from one classroom to several. Some special education settings and some inclusion classroom settings. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the "diploma" track or "certificate of completion" track. Some students qualify for services to the age of 26 in Michigan while others do not. Be sure you know the options.

      Graduation...this can be a scary process! This is something that you need to plan for far before 12th grade! Students with an IEP or 504 Plan may qualify for other community resources. They could come through providers like disAbility Connections, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, Kit Young's ~ Young Adult Program Lifeways, or others. I am sorry to tell you that if you don't know about them ...you may not be told about them! Let me repeat... EDUCATE yourself!

      College, trade programs, and even volunteering can be your next level getting you closer to employment. Maybe college isn't for you, but getting work experience through employment or volunteering will be your "education". Showing employers that you are reliable, willing to learn, and work to your abilities is what will get you closer to paid employment in the end.

      Transition to "adulthood" is huge for both students and parents! I can NOT stress enough that you can contact me or other individuals in the know! Jackson County ISD contracts with me to work with families on these issues including guardianship, community resources, SSI, trusts, CHORE services, food benefits, respite, social programs, and job coaching to name a few. Typically I will meet with a family a few times to go over all that is available that fits the student, adult, and their needs. I can help direct and get you enrolled with LIFEWAYS, DHHS, SSI, and more. We will also talk about the future, what plans are for housing, living supports, finances, and more. As a parent of an adult child with special needs, I understand these programs and services first hand.

    There are additional programs through disAbility Connections that work with local students to build on work and self-help skills.


  • 26 Jul 2021 1:53 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    The Dahlem Center Provides Nature for All

    By: Brian Elliott

              Looking for a way to connect with nature and take a break from theA sign outside of the main office shows the route of the nature for all trail and provides a legend of the trail route and sites along the way hustle of daily life?  The Dahlem Center just outside of Jackson at 7117 South Jackson Road, is an incredible natural environment of nearly 300 acres. The Dahlem Center provides educational classes, summer camps, and a little something for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy.  Dahlem showcases 5 miles of natural hiking trails and a 2 people, 1 in a power wheelchair and the other in a manual wheelchair go down the crushed limestone accessible trail through the woods that line each side of the trail.nearly ½ mile accessible “Nature for All Trail” made of crushed limestone.  The Nature for All Trail takes people on a loop from the main entrance out through the woods and back to the main office building.  The trails are free to use and are open dawn to dusk year-round (including holidays). 

              My favorite part, aside from having an accessible trail, is the newest additions to the “Nature for All Trail” installed at the beginning of 2021.  New stations (developed in collaboration with Henry Ford Allegiance Health) posted along the trail (as shown in the photo below) demonstrate how to do some simple stretches or movements such as yoga poses, jumping jacks, plus arm/leg stretches.  Performing the exercises are a calming experience as you take in the natural sights and yoga station sign along the nature for all trail provides three yoga poses and instructions for doing the movement.sounds.  No longer do you hear the daily bustle of traffic and machinery.  Your eyes aren’t focused on a phone, television, or computer screen in front of you.  Instead, your senses can take in the rustling of leaves in all colors and sizes, and wildlife like birds and the scrunching of a squirrel as it scampers from one tree to another.  It is you and nature.  Simply, back to the basics. 

              Four spinning infographics are also posted along the accessiblealong the trail is posted 4 infographics on a post that people can spin and get information on trees and wildlife trail.  The infographics provide images and descriptions of what you can see as you look around the trail as you go.  The whole of nature is beautiful, and now you know what you are looking at.

              Next time you think you can use a break and unplug, check out the Dahlem Center.  A great place to connect with nature and see all of its stages from bloom to hibernation and everything in between. #Awareness

  • 23 Jun 2021 3:37 PM | Brian Elliott (Administrator)

    Think First – Feet First

    Beware of diving into shallow or unknown waters

    By: Brian Elliott

              Diving is the fourth leading cause of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) among males and the fifth leading cause among females according to the Shepherd Center (a not-for-profit hospital based in Atlanta, Georgia).  I can still remember that Friday back in 2005 fairly well.  I got off of work and met up with some friends at a nearby lake to hang out.  A couple of hours later I was on a life-flight to Toledo after I dove off the pontoon boat.  In the following weeks, months, and years I have had to learn how to live as a person with a complete spinal cord injury

             According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, an estimated 11,000 spinal cord injuries occur in the United States each year800 of those spinal cord cases per year are caused by diving, with 90% resulting in paralysis (American Academy of Neurology).  One simple tip for staying safe and avoiding joining me in the SCI Diving Club:

    •  Feet first – ANYTIME you are entering a body of water for the first time.  This allows you to know what is under the water surface such as how deep it is and if there is something such as a log or sandbar that was not visible from above.  One exception is the deep end of a pool that is clearly visible to the bottom, labeled for diving and filled with water to the proper amount.

              Put in simple terms, learn what you are getting into before potentially making a fatal or tragic error.  I personally guarantee that a leg injury of some sort will be less costly (physically and financially) than any SCI.  Diving accidents can also happen when diving into oncoming waves, as is commonly done by people in the oceans.  Although, this can also happen to people that do the same thing in Michigan's Great Lakes or when waves throw people around under the water as seen in the photos at the bottom of the page.

              The unfortunate truth is that diving accidents are the most avoidable of the SCI.  People are going to lakes, rivers, pools, and more to keep cool as the weather heats up.  While these are great ways to relax and recreate, please do so responsibly!  Michigan provides some great water opportunities and we want you to enjoy yourself.  The best way to stay safe and avoid joining the SCI Diving Club is to remember and share “Think First-Feet First”.

    Read a first-hand experience with a diving SCI

    2 SCI mechanisms of injury are shown with color illustrations. on the left is a woman under water beneath a wave. her head and right arm are on the ground, her right arm is extended behind her back. her legs and other arm are above her and the wate is forcing them in the opposite direction, creating a rotational injury of the spinal cord. a red circle highlights a spot on her lower back and an inside look shows this movement caused fractured vertebrae along with twisted spinal cord. The image on the right is a man that has hit the ground with chin, bu his legs are still up in the air and are out of the shallow water. A red circle highlights the back of neck as it is hyperextended back toward the shoulders resulting in a ruptured ligament and spinal cord.2 mechanisms of injury are shown in color illustrations. on the left a woman has dove into shallow water and hit the top of her head on the bottom. and her legs are straight above and still out of the shallow water. there is a red circle highlighting the back of her neck as a vertical compression. the impact shows a compression fracture and compressed spinal cord injury. The image on the right is a man tat is under water below a wave that has forced him into a forward somersault. his head is on the ground but his body is above him and rolling over. a red circle highlights the back of his neck and hyperflexion. His head and chin are being forced to his chest resulting in a compressed fracture and compressed spinal cord with stretched ligament

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