Celebrating 25 Years of the Americans With Disabilities Act

ADA25 LogoAccessibility for people with disabilities probably wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was signed into law July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush.

The ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation that prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life. The ability to go into restaurants, to drive my wheelchair down the sidewalk, to have accommodations in the workplace all would be different if the ADA did not exist.

This year, the legislation will be 25 years old. To commemorate this momentous occasion, the ADA Legacy Tour bus is traveling the country visiting cities to showcase iconic photos and milestones in the disability rights movement.

The tour will be in Charleston Monday, June 1. People can take pictures of the bus at White Point Gardens (The Battery) in downtown Charleston from 10:30-11:00 a.m. Later in the day, an ADA Expo will be held at North Charleston Riverfront Park from 4:00-7:00 p.m. The Expo will feature food music and fun! An ADA exhibit will be on display and several local disability organizations will be on-hand. See the flyer below for more details.

ADA Legacy Tour Flyer

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Does Your Disability Define You?

It is easy to describe someone by their disability, especially if the disability is visible. For example, I’ve been described as “the wheelchair guy.” There was even one instance where I was only referred to by the chair as in “let the chair through.” I don’t get mad often, but that was one time that was upsetting and surprising. I informed that person there was more than a chair coming through!

After that interaction, I wondered how often people characterize others simply by their disability. While it is obvious that I use a wheelchair, it doesn’t define who I am. I’m able to accomplish many goals. If anyone doubts their ability to succeed, focus on the skills that you have and not what others think of you.

Even if the person has the necessary skills, the working environment can be a daunting places for those with disabilities. Clear and constant communication with your supervisor is key to making sure that you can complete the job properly. Your employer can provide reasonable accommodations, such as ergonomic chairs and desks, assistive technology and other resources.

A greater focus toward disability employment is increasing  job opportunities. The Federal government has a goal that 2 percent of its workforce will be people with disabilities. The Department of Labor recently announced the theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month: “My Disability Is One Part of Who I Am.”

The observance is held every October. “This year’s theme encapsulates the important message that people with disabilities are just that — people,” said Jennifer Sheehy, acting assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. “And like all people, we are the sum of many parts, including our work experiences. Disability is an important perspective we bring to the table, but, of course, it’s not the only one.”

Each person is a valuable member of the team, regardless of ability. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself; that’s the best way to live an empowering and successful life!

Disability Employment Survey

A Colorado State University graduate student is surveying how people with disabilities perceive themselves in the workforce. If you’re interested in completing the survey, go to http://colostatepsych.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7Un8V3R0Na5KLE9.

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Permobil Power Trip in Charleston

Permobil LogoPermobil is the leading provider of power wheelchairs with mobility products for complex injuries and diseases. The Power Trip Revolution Tour is traveling around the country demonstrating the latest in power wheelchairs, TiLite manual wheelchairs and accessories. Today, they visited Charleston.

Permobil representative shows participant how to use TiLite standing manual chair. Photo courtesy of Barbara Delia

Permobil representative shows participant how to use TiLite standing manual chair. Photo courtesy of Barbara Delia

Unfortunately, I was not able to make it out there, but have heard great things about the event from a few friends. Participants were able to test drive the newest chairs and try features like seat elevation, tilt and recline.

I have been driving a Permobil Street for the last four years. It is the most comfortable chair I’ve ever had. As much cruising around as I do, I definitely need something that is comfortable and reliable. Just a couple weeks ago, I had to get the front wheels replaced because the rubber had worn, and it was causing a bumpy ride.

As much of a necessity these wheelchairs are for people with severe disabilities, many insurance companies are decreasing the funding for complex rehab. Which means that people will not be have certain features, like seat elevation, which allows them to live more independently. As disability advocates, we have to show legislators how much these chairs help us in our daily lives.

Getting back to the Power trip, the tour will be heading up the East coast to their next stop in Washington, D.C. You can follow Permobil USA at https://www.facebook.com/PermobilUSA.

Permobil Power Trip Tour. Photo Courtesy of Mike Duda, Permobil Sales Manager

Permobil Power Trip Tour. Photo Courtesy of Mike Duda, Permobil Sales Manager

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Driving Toward Independence

Alex - VanThere is no doubt that having the ability to drive creates independence and freedom. For people with disabilities, that privilege to be behind the wheel may take longer to obtain, but it is no less rewarding.

May is National Mobility Awareness Month and allows us to celebrate the many life-changing mobility vehicle solutions available today. Looking back at technology, it has improved tremendously over the past two decades.

Chevy Silverado with Mobility SVM Conversion

Chevy Silverado with Mobility SVM Conversion

I remember in the early ’90s, there were only platform lifts on big conversion vans. My mom had a Dodge Ram, and we called it The Dinosaur. Nowadays, in-floor and fold-out ramps are being installed in minivans like the Toyota Sienna and SUVs like the Honda Pilot. Mobility SVM modifies Chevy Silverado pick-up trucks and other vehicles where the driver-side doors detach from the body of the vehicle to reveal a platform lift. It is one of the coolest conversions available.

The options for adaptive hand controls are just as unique as the vehicles. From push-and-pull levers for gas and break to high-tech joystick systems that control acceleration, breaking and steering, driving systems are selected based on the individual’s needs.

Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialists conduct evaluations to determine the proper equipment. I attended the driving rehabilitation program through the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Learning to drive has been one of my greatest accomplishments and has given me the opportunity to be an advocate for others living with disabilities.

To learn more about adaptive driving equipment, read New Mobility’s story, Take to the Road.

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Freddie Gray’s Trauma-Related Spinal Cord Injury

It is sad to see what has been happening in Baltimore over the last 24 hours. While the news has focused recently on the rioters and violence, I want to change the focus to the spinal cord injury Freddie Gray received.

Freddie Gray

Freddie Gray

The amount of trauma that caused Gray’s injury is hard to imagine. It required a lot of effort and force to cause such a disability, especially if Gray didn’t have any history of neurological disorders.

At the time of the injury, it is critical to seek medical attention immediately to minimize the severity of the spinal cord injury. According to reports, Gray rode in the police van for at least 30 minutes before receiving medical aide.

An injury to the cervical level of the spinal cord (C1-C8 vertebrae) is the most severe because it affects the communication between the brain and the nerves that control the most vital organs of the body, the heart, lungs, esophagus and diaphragm.

The Baltimore Sun published an article about how forceful trauma can cause such an injury: http://www.baltimoresun.com/health/bs-hs-gray-injuries-20150420-story.html.

Let’s continue to pray for the people of Baltimore, and that the unrest will end between the police and the citizens of our country.

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Skyping with Brittany Martin of AbleThrive

Skyping with Brittany MartinThe power of technology is simply amazing! After writing my post about AbleThrive, I had the opportunity to Skpe with the founder, Brittany Martin. 

Even though Brittany doesn’t have a disability, she understands the challenges people with disabilities go through because she grew up with her father who has a spinal cord injury.

Through her website, Brittany is able to connect people with each other to share ideas and provide any tips or tricks for making life easier. For instance, she asked her father to make a video of how he transfers in and out of bed. Brittany was able to share that video with a guy who wanted to learn how to transfer himself.

Brittany is also looking for advice. She will be getting married in less than two months and is wanting to know how to slow dance with her dad (who is a C6-C7 quadriplegic). You can send your suggestions to dancingtips@ablethrive.com.

You can view AbleThrive’s blog and read her post about Skyping with me at http://www.ablethrive.com/2015/04/skyping-with-alex-jackson/.

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The Power of Peer Mentoring

scscia-logo-edited.jpgThe South Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association has a Peer Visitor Program to pair newly-injured people with others who have lived successfully with an injury. Peers visit homes, hospitals or anywhere in the community that will help those who are new to living with a spinal cord injury.

I’ve been a peer visitor for several years and find the experience incredibly rewarding. I never know what to expect when I meet a person for the first time, but I’m often amazed at how much I learn from the experience.

Just last week, I met a guy at the hospital who has a C1 injury resulting from gun violence. He uses a ventilator to help him breathe. The doctors and nurses said that he is usually in a bad mood and doesn’t like to be bothered, but the patient allowed me to visit him.

We had a great conversation talking about his favorite football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. He shared his love for watching comedies and spending time with family and friends.

I explained to him that there will be some rough days in between the good days, but don’t let those things keep you down for too long. I was glad to see him in good spirits when I left.

Even though we have different levels of spinal cord injury, we both know what it’s like to go through a traumatic event. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, it takes time to get used to the new normal. You just have to take it one day at a time.

If you know of anyone who could benefit from having a peer visitor, visit the South Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association website at http://www.scspinalcord.org/peers-helping-peers/peer-visitor-program

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