Employer Hosts Abilities Expo

It’s becoming a little bit easier for people with disabilities to find resources that will help them in their daily lives. From accessible equipment in the home to modified desks at work, possibilities are endless when it comes to doing certain tasks.

While there are a number of organizations within our communities that people can acquire accessibility information, the United States government is working to improve the lives its employees.

Edwards Air Force Base in California hosted an Abilities Expo for the disability community to learn more about the wide array of products and services. Accessible vehicles and tank chairs were among the many items on display. A service animal company also demonstrated how dogs serve as companions for people with PTSD and other disabilities.

It’s exciting to see that employers are being proactive about such issues. I’m hoping this momentum continues and we can ramp up employment for people with disabilities. To see photos and read the story, go to http://www.edwards.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123428209.

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How Braille was Created

We’ve all heard the phrase “neccessity is the mother of invention,” but that statement was true for Louis Braille, the inventor of the Braille system for people with vision impairments.

I came accross an article that describes how the then-14-year-old modified an existing code system used by the military in the 1800s to make it useful for who couldn’t see.

Now, braille signs are placed in many places…at elevators, doorways, etc. it’s amazing that something so innovative that can improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Braille allows for people to be more inclusive in their lifestyles, from work, to home and everything in between.

Read more of this remarkable story at http://braillebug.afb.org/louis_braille_bio.asp.

 

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Expect, Employ and Empower

“Expect, Employ and Empower” is this year’s theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The month of October is when our country recognizes the importance of equal employment for people with disabilities.

Individuals with disabilities are just as driven to become employed as much as anyone else. Unfortunately, some employers believe that people with disabilities can’t be a valuable member of the team. Even with the right skills and training, people aren’t being hired because employers are unaware of the accommodations that can be made to assist a person in doing his or her job.

 For instance, adjustable desks can be ordered to raise or lower to the correct height for people in wheelchairs. Ergonomic computer keyboards and other hardware can make doing tasks a lot easier. There are a number of programs like Dragon NaturallySpeaking that will type while a person speaks. Regardless of the disability, there is an accommodation that can be made to ensure that everyone can do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

Gavalas Kolanko Scholarship Recipients

Gavalas Kolanko Scholarship Recipients

 Last night, I went to dinner with several scholarship recipients from the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation. This Foundation provides collegiate scholarships to students with physical disabilities in the Charleston area. From pharmacists to educators to computer scientists – and everything in between – these students are achieving their goals and are ready to join the workforce!

 The expectations are high, but the disability community is ready to be employed and empower the world!

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Sights and Sounds from the Adaptive Recreation Expo

Even though we had to dodge the rain drops, the Adaptive Recreation Expo provided great outdoor activities for the disability community at James Island County Park. Participants enjoyed many sports including kayaking, wall climbing, hand cycling and archery.

Several organizations were on hand to share information about their programs and services. Mobility Supercenter had a ramp van on display and also had an all-terrain wheelchair, called the Action Tracker, available for people to test drive. To see photos from the event, go to https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10100945010638114.1073741845.21310342&type=1&l=621383503a.

As September comes to an end, we also close out Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. Over the past several weeks, I hope you’ve been able to see that the possibilities are endless for people with SCI when it comes living a fulfilled life. The longevity after an injury has increased thanks to the research and improved medical treatments. It’s also an added benefit to participate in recreational activities like the ones in the video below!

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New Mobility Options in Charleston

Gabe Klein, a nationally-recognized transportation expert, has been surveying the city to help improve mobility for everyone! Klein has worked in Washington, DC and Chicago. Yesterday, He presented some creative, yet practical, options to community members for pedestrians, bikers, public transit riders and automobile drivers.

He suggests having streetcar lines, bike-sharing programs and using transportation programs like Uber to decrease traffic congestion.

Although he briefly mentioned the Americans with Disabilities Act, the design options seem to foster accessibilility for people with disabilities. Crosswalks and curb cuts will be better; sidewalks will be wider. Overall, I think the ease of maneuverability will improve!

These plans will take several years to implement. However, in the meantime, we can all advocate for improving existing transportation.

I will share additional details from yesterday’s presentation in the next few weeks. To see pictures and videos of Klein’s work, visit http://www.gabeklein.com.

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Secondary Conditions of Spinal Cord Injury

When living with a spinal cord injury (SCI), there are more challenges than just not being able to walk. There are other healthcare issues that are very important.

Here are a few of the secondary conditions mentioned by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

  • Autonomic Dysrefexia (AD) – AD can be a potentially life-threatening medical emergency if not treated quickly. AD occurs when the autonomic nervous system is overworked usually from pain, urinary tract infections, constipation and pressure sores. People with SCI, their family members and friends should recognize the symptoms like high blood pressure, headaches, increased spasms and sweating.
  • Bladder Management – If the bladder can’t be emptied normally, a catheter is used to empty the bladder. Some people leave a catheter in all day and urine drains into a bag. Others will do intermittent catheterizations every few hours. I do intermittent caths and empty my bladder through a stoma—a surgical opening through my abdomen.
  • Bowel Care – Similar to the bladder, it must be emptied regularly. Some people have a surgical procedure to reroute the bowels to empty in a colostomy bag. Other people use suppositories to help empty the bowels. I use the suppository method.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) – DVT is more common during acute hospitalizations, soon after acquiring a SCI. It is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the lower leg and thigh. It can be life threatening if the clot breaks away from the vein and travels to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism. Doctors can give blood thinners to prevent clotting.
  • Skin Care – People with paralysis are at risk for developing skin problems. Since people do not have sensation or feeling below their injury level, it’s difficult to tell if they have any cuts, abrasions or pressure sores. I’ve had a number of pressure sores—one on my ankle that led to my left foot amputation. Make sure to protect the skin by doing pressure reliefs in the wheelchair or rotating from side to side in bed.
  • Spasticity – Spasticity ranges from mild muscle stiffness to uncontrollable leg movements. Spasticity can be good and bad. Muscle stiffness can be good to help someone transfer from his or her wheelchair to the bed because it builds muscle tone. Spasms can be uncomfortable if they happen in the abdomen or back. Medicine is available to control the spasms.

With proper care and attention to these issues, people with SCI can still have an active and healthy lifestyle!

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Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month

September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, here are some facts about spinal cord injuries:

*There are an estimated 12,000 spinal cord injuries every year in the United States alone.

*More than a quarter of a million Americans are currently living with spinal cord injuries.

*The cost of managing the care of spinal cord injury patients is $3 billion each year.

*The largest proportion of spinal cord injuries (36.5 percent) occurs during car accidents; more than a quarter are the result of falls; and the rest are due to acts of violence (primarily gunshot wounds), sporting accidents, and other less common causes.

*The average age at injury has risen and is now 42.6 years.
80 percent of spinal cord injury patients are men.

My Labor Day Weekend

The statistics may not mean a lot to you if you don’t know anyone living with an injury. But, here’s my take on things I notice when living with a disability. While spending a couple days in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I was able to evaluate the accessibility accommodations of the hotel where I stayed.

Although the room was deemed accessible, there are some features that are overlooked. The room was oddly shaped, making it difficult to get my wheelchair to the side of the bed where it’s easiest to transfer out of my chair.

The second challenge was maneuvering over the sliding door threshold to the balcony. A threshold ramp would solve the problem, but using some unused carpet squares work in a pinch too.

Throughout the month, I’ll share more information about spinal cord injury awareness.

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