Litigation: Is Your Child A Runner?

a little girl and an adult woman smiling next to a yawning dog
Sticky

Some children with autism, developmental or intellectual disabilities may wander off without any comprehension of possible danger.  This might include running off from adults at school or in the community, leaving the classroom without permission, or leaving the house when the family is not looking. While most children are drawn to water, many autistic children seem even more fascinated by it — and they’re also fearless.

 

On April 29, 2012, Hannah Sackman, a seven year old Autistic little girl drowned when she eloped from a housing development at military housing in Fort Gordon.  When Hannah’s mother was concerned with the size of the fens and the locking mechanism of the fence, she asked the management company if she could install additional locks on the doors that were higher up and out of Hannah’s reach. The house had three exterior doors and all of them had a locking mechanism on the knob and a dead-bolt – both of which could be unlocked from the inside with a simple twist and without using a key and Hannah’s mother was concerned she would figure out how to open them. In response to her request, the management said, “no, it was against policy” and would damage the doors. In 2013, Hannah’s parents sued the housing manager under the Fair Housing Act for the death of their daughter, and the case settled for an undisclosed amount in 2015.

What happened to Hannah Sackman is not unique, and the Fair Housing Act requires housing providers allow persons with disabilities or those associated with them to modify the premises if the modification is necessary for the person with a disability, and is done at the expense of the person with a disability.  For residents of public housing or other housing that is federally funded, the modifications must be done at the expense of the housing provider.  These modifications can be as simple as a lock on a front door, or grab bars in a shower; or as complicated or expensive, such as a pool lift, or installing ramps or sidewalks.

Kim Johnson came to Disability Independence Group because she was afraid to live in a home that would not be safe for her daughter.  Kalia is a 10 year old girl who lives with Fabry disease, which is a rare genetic disorder.  Along with a developmental disability, Kalia  also suffers from episodes of pain, is legally blind, hard of hearing, and problems with her gastrointestinal system and a cecostomy.  She requires twice daily flushing of her stoma which takes hours and hours of time.  Kalia is a runner, and whenever she has a chance, she tries to escape.  She knows how to unlock doors and turn handles.

In March of 2016, Kim was looking for a new rental home in Largo, Florida and found

a little girl and an adult woman smiling next to a yawning dog

Kim and Kalia Johnson

perfect home.  During the showing of the home and throughout the leasing process, Kim and Kim’s Mother, Donna, spoke with the leasing agent, and explained how urgent it was that they move and the needs of Kalia’s disability.  Then, with the help of Donna, Kim entered a lease for the home.    After signing the lease, the leasing agent, instructed Kim on the use of the front door lock.  At that time, Kim said that she would need to install a chain lock on the door to keep Kalia inside since she has a tendency to elope.  As with Hanna Sackman’s mother, Kim was concerned with the locking mechanism and wanted a mechanism that was higher up and out of Hannah’s reach.

The leasing agent refused.  Kim explained that a that the chain lock was the most reasonable modification asserted her rights under the Fair Housing Act, in order for her daughter …”to be able to have an equal opportunity to have safe access to the majority of the home.”  The leasing agent and owner refused to allow Kim to install a higher locking mechanism, as they believed that a chain on the door would damage the door.  Then the lessor refused to return the money Kim spent on the home, and refused to allow her to find another home that would be suitable for Kim and her daughter.

Reasonable modification in housing is the law.  A landlord cannot legally deny a reasonable modification to a home.  In 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued joint guidance on the requirements relating to reasonable modifications under the Fair Housing Act.[1]

Adding a chain lock to the front door is the most reasonable, most effective modification given K.J.’s disability.  The chain-lock modification is the most reasonable modification because the chain lock would be out of K.J.’s reach and would successful prevent K.J. from eloping. Pursuant to HUD’s guidance, adding a chain-lock to the front door is necessary because the other suggested modifications will not be effective.  By denying Kim and her daughter Kalia an accommodation, this landlord denied them a safe home, solely due to Kalia’s disability.

[1] Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice: Reasonable Modifications Under the Fair Housing Act (March 5, 2008),  http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/disabilities/reasonable_modifications_mar08.pdf (last visited May 10, 2016).

Work Incentives Protecting Health Coverage for PWD

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The author of the article smiling

By: Lesly Lopez

Extended Medicare Coverage

For Working People with Disabilities

As long as your disabling condition still meets our rules, you can keep your Medicare coverage for at least 8 ½ years after you return to work. The 8 ½ years includes your nine month trial work Period.

Your Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) coverage is premium-free. Your Medicare medical insurance (Part B) coverage will also continue. You or a third party (if applicable) will continue to pay for Part B. If your Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits stop due to your work, you or a third party (if applicable) will be billed every 3 months for your medical insurance premiums. If you are receiving cash benefits, your medical insurance premiums will be deducted monthly from your check.

Continued Medicaid Eligibility (Section 1619(B))

For beneficiaries receiving SSI

One of the biggest concerns SSI beneficiaries have about going to work is the possibility of losing Medicaid coverage. Section 1619(b) of the Social Security Act provides some protection for these beneficiaries. To qualify for continuing Medicaid coverage, a person must:

  • Have been eligible for an SSI cash payment for at least 1 month;
  • Still meet the disability requirement; and
  • Still meet all other non-disability SSI requirements; and
  • Need Medicaid benefits to continue to work; and
  • Have gross earnings that are insufficient to replace SSI, Medicaid and publicly funded attendant care services.

This means that SSI beneficiaries who have earnings too high for an SSI cash payment may be eligible for Medicaid if they meet the above requirements. SSA uses a threshold amount to measure whether a person’s earnings are high enough to replace his/her SSI and Medicaid benefits. This threshold is based on the:

  • amount of earnings which would cause SSI cash payments to stop in the person’s state; and
  • Average Medicaid expenses in that state.

If an SSI beneficiary has gross earnings higher than the threshold amount for his/her state, SSA can figure an individual threshold amount if that person has:

The state of Florida 2016 annual threshold amounts for disabled and blind beneficiaries is $30,566.

 Other Health Insurance Options for People with Disabilities

Medicaid Share of Cost or medically needy from Department of Children and Families(DCF)

In Florida, the Medicaid Share of Cost program is a type of health insurance for the medically needy. These are people who make too much money to qualify for regular Medicaid, but not enough money to pay for their healthcare needs. They meet all of the standard Medicaid eligibility requirements except the income requirement.

The day your healthcare expenses for the month exceed your share of cost, your Medicaid coverage begins. From that day until the end of the month, you have full Medicaid coverage.  You don’t actually have to pay the healthcare expenses used to reach your share of cost. You just have to owe that much. When Medicaid coverage begins, not only does Medicaid pay for your healthcare expenses for the rest of that month, it also pays for the expenses used to meet your share of cost that month. If you choose to pay those expenses yourself, they’ll still count toward meeting your share of cost, but you won’t be reimbursed by Medicaid for what you’ve paid.  To apply or for more information visit www.myflorida.com/accessflorida.

Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) through? the Market Place

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law on March 23, 2010. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, the law requires all Americans to obtain health care coverage through an employer, an individual health plan or programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, or Children’s Health Insurance Program (Florida KidCare) unless they meet an exemption. Individuals who do not meet an exemption and fail to obtain coverage may be subject to a tax assessment.

On Oct. 1, 2013, the federal government opened the Marketplace where individuals can compare and shop for health care coverage. Each year an open enrollment period will take place for individuals who are seeking Marketplace coverage. Medicaid and Florida KidCare enrollment takes place year-round. If a person applies at the Marketplace and is found potentially eligible for Medicaid or Florida KidCare, their application will be sent to the appropriate agency for processing. The ACA also provides cost sharing and tax credits to assist low-income qualified individuals in purchasing health insurance through the Marketplace.

 

  • Individuals seeking more information about services offered through the Marketplace may contact the Federal Call Center at 1-800-318-2596, Deaf and Hard of Hearing TTY 1-855-889-4325, or go to gov.

 

Community Health Centers like CHI (Community Health of South Florida Inc.)

CHI is a nonprofit health care organization providing affordable quality primary and behavioral health care services to the residents of rapidly-growing South Florida. CHI operates 11 state-of-the-art primary care centers and 31 school-based programs. All centers offer quality comprehensive primary and behavioral health care services. Our physicians are board certified or board eligible. Additionally, CHI is accredited by the Joint Commission and is accredited as a Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). CHI offers a “one-stop-shop” model where the organization and delivery of quality services are seamless, affordable, accessible and culturally sensitive.  For more information visit their website: http://www.chisouthfl.org/about-us/.

If you are an SSI or SSDI beneficiary and need an individualized analysis of your situation please contact the Community Work Incentives Coordinator or benefits planner in your area.  Please check the SSA Website for more details: http://choosework.net.

Annual Family Cafe Cooks Up Feast of Fun and Facts

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By: Andrew Sagona

The Family Café is a free conference for Floridians of all ages with disabilities and their families to learn about the latest developments in the Florida disability community and to attend the annual Florida “Governor’s Summit on Disabilities.” I have been attending Family Café for over ten years, and I still feel the same sense of wonder and excitement now as I did at my first Café.

A group of 10 people sit around a large table and most of them smile at the camera.This is in part because the atmosphere is fun, warm, friendly, and inclusive. There is always something fun to do for everyone and there are new and interesting things to learn at the Café, whether it is information on disability advocacy, an invention that helps people with disabilities, or a law that fights discrimination.

 

However, the main reason for my wonder and excitement – my favorite part of attending Family Café – is getting to meet new friends and see old friends again. Many of the people at Café attend the conference every year, the result being that you begin to see familiar faces at each conference. For some, like myself, Family Café serves as an annual family reunion of sorts. After attending the conference even once, you make some very close friends – to the point that they become your second family. But because of time and distance restrictions, we are unable to see each other at any other time of the year. So when the three days of Family Café rolls around each year, there is a great deal of anticipation, happiness, and joy when you see your “family” again.

 

A banner hangs from inside a multiple-story building that has a man in a chef's hat (the Family Cafe logo) and the words "Welcome to the Annual Family Cafe"")Ultimately, friendship is the defining trait of Family Café. It is the heart of Family Café because there is a sense of acceptance and belonging at the conference that doesn’t exist to the same extent outside of the conference. Many attendees spend all but three days of their year experiencing stares, strange questions, and even discrimination. However, for the three days each June that the conference is held, all of that goes away. For those three days, everyone is kind to each other and no one is viewed as “less than” anyone else. For those three days, everyone is welcomed.Many people stand and sit and are scattered around a large room that has many display posters standing up on tables

 

This year marked the 18th Annual Family Café, and it was held from June 10–12 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Orlando, Florida. According to Family Café founder and organizer Lori Fahey, this year’s conference was the largest in history: approximately 10,000 people in attendance, over 160 training sessions, and more than 100 booths filled the exhibition hall. The Café also featured fun activities, including a Gatorland wildlife show, rock climbing wall, photo booth with Superman, and a fashion show. Each Family Café features three keynote speakers and two and a half days of workshops, which are informational presentations given by professionals, business owners, governmental agencies, and self-advocates covering diverse topics such as Many people stand and sit to watch a group of about 6 people perform.education, employment, starting a business, social security, Medicaid, technology, medicine, and advocacy. In addition, Family Café provides many activities for individuals with disabilities like paddle boarding, scuba diving, and sensory rooms.

The conference also has an exhibition hall filled with booths sponsored by vendors, businesses, and government agencies with the goal of letting attendees discover new products and services, or speak to agency representatives to help them with problems they are facing

 

This year’s “Governor’s Summit on Disabilities” featured information relating to the disability community. The biggest news announced at the summit was the introduction of the ABLE Trust, a savings account for people with disabilities that allows them to save money above the $2,000 limit set by Social Security, as well as the news that, as a result of increased funding, 5,000 individuals will come off the 20,000 people waiver waitlist this year.  The summit was attended by Governor Rick Scott, members of the Florida Legislature such as Senate President Andy Gardiner, and heads of governmental agencies such as Barbara Palmer of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Pam Stewart of the Department of Education, and Florida Surgeon General Celeste Phillip.Governor Rick Scott speaks to a crowd from behind a podium. A sign language interpreter signs to his right.

 

The Family Café conference isn’t just about education and policy, though. It is also about having fun and making new friends–and the fun begins with the hotel. Each year, the hotel chosen for the conference has something for everyone: massive pools for kids to play in, restaurants for families to dine at, and much more. This year’s hotel was no exception. The Hyatt Regency had three pools to choose from, the largest of which featured a water slide and other amenities. The Regency also had numerous eateries, including bars for the adults, an up-scale restaurant, and a 50’s-style diner.

 

The fun continues with the conference itself. Throughout the three-day event, DJs pumped music throughout the convention hall, enticing children and adults alike to dance. Performance groups, such as bands, a choir, and a dance troupe, performed throughout the Café as well, and they entertained large crowds with their talents. And there were lots of giveaways, with prizes ranging from gift cards to PCs.

A crowded room of people, in the background is a structure that resembles the white house.

 

The culmination of the fun was a massive dance party that was held on Saturday night. For more than two hours, hundreds of attendees packed a large ballroom and danced the night away to all kinds of popular music. Children and adults “raised the roof,” breakdanced, and danced free style. There were organized dances as well, with songs like “YMCA” and the “Cha-Cha Slide” bringing everyone together to dance in unison. The sense of excitement and pure joy that filled the ballroom was infectious.

 

For more information on Family Café, visit www.familycafe.org.

Diversity – Does it Matter in the Legal Profession?

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Many hands of all different colors are outstretched and overlapping

By: Matthew Dietz

The Florida Bar is fully committed to the enhancement of diversity within the Bar, the legal profession, legal education, and in the justice system, and affirms its commitment toward a diverse and inclusive environment with equal access and equal opportunity for all.

–The Florida Bar Board of Governors, May 2010

On June 23, 2015, the Supreme Court issued their ruling in Fischer v. University of Texas at Austin, Case No. 14-981, upholding race conscious admissions policies at the University of Texas, as long as it is only a factor in a holistic review as a means of obtaining the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity.     Justice Kennedy issued a muted opinion from the Court touting the benefits of diversity and quoted from a prior decision stating:

[T]he compelling interest that justifies consideration of race in college admissions is not an interest in enrolling a certain number of minority students. Rather, a university may institute a race-conscious admissions program as a means of obtaining “the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity.” … As this Court has said, enrolling adverse student body “promotes cross-racial understanding, helps to break down racial stereotypes, and enables students to better understand persons of different races.” Equally important, “student body diversity promotes learning outcomes, and better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society.”

Diversity also promotes the image of impartial justice, knowing that lawyers and judges that have the panoply of cross-racial, and cross-cultural experiences will not have deep seated stereotypes or prejudices against persons because of who they are, what they believe, or what they look like. However, the diversity within the Florida Bar and the Florida Judiciary does not reflect the population of Florida. If one looks at the statistics of the Florida lawyers and judiciary, as compared to the population of Florida, it is elemental why it is important to ensure that diversity is encouraged to ensure the appearance of justice and the destruction of stereotype.

Category Percent lawyers in Florida[1] Percent Judges in Florida[2] Percent in Jud. Nominating Commission[3] Percent Population in Florida[4]
White/Caucasian 83 84.1 86 55.3
Hispanic 10 8.9 9 24.5
African American/Black 3 6.7 4 16.8
Asian/Pacific Islander 1 .3 2.9
Other Race/Ethnicity 3 2.5
LGBT 3 3.5
Persons with Disabilities 2 13.1

Why does it matter for persons with disabilities?

In an interview, Mr. Trump said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in presiding over the litigation given that he was “of Mexican heritage” and a member of a Latino lawyers’ association. Mr. Trump said the background of the judge, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrants, was relevant because of his campaign stance against illegal immigration and his pledge to seal the southern U.S. border. “I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest,” Mr. Trump said.[1]

 

Mr. Trump has stereotyped a judge solely because of his ancestry and a stereotype that the judge may not be in line with his views.  With a person with a disability, each lawyer, juror, and the judge carries with them a lifetime of stereotypes and misconceptions about persons with disabilities. Most of them start with….”I once had a friend that had a family member that…”  Accordingly, the person’s whole perception of disability is built around the abilities of one person, or, even worse, what people see on television.  So essentially, there is the myth of the “super-crip” or the incapacitated person.

The “supercrip” as superhuman that is lauded by the able-bodied as the inspirational person who “overcame” their disability.   If you have a disability in one area, then you more than make up for it in all other ways. If you are blind, you can identify a person’s footfalls; if you are deaf, you can read lips from two miles away; if you are autistic, you are a mathematical savant.  It is “inspirational” for a person who has a disability to be successful in society, when, in truth, persons with disabilities do not need to act as tools to inspire, but just to live.

On the other hand, the incapacitated person, who is not able to be productive and is essentially invisible is as common.  The person who is shuttered in a nursing home and neglected because society does not provide access.  Society considers these folks “better off” where they can be taken care of, as they have nothing to contribute to society.

Both of these stereotypes are pernicious.

So, as a trial lawyer for a disability related claim, the most difficult part is dealing with these stereotypes and educating my colleagues in the legal profession that people with disabilities are people, just like them.  We all need assistance at one time or another, just like them.  We all need accommodations at one time or another, and we all have something to contribute.

But, when there is two percent of lawyers who have disabilities, a negligible number of judges with disabilities, and no active recruitment of persons with disabilities in law schools, it’s difficult to say to my clients that this judge or lawyer has ever had contact with a deaf person or a blind person.  In every single one of my cases involving a deaf person regarding not being able to get an interpreter for a critical situation in his or her life, the deposition of that deaf person usually includes a detailed description of how a deaf person uses a videophone, drives, or other daily living activities.

So, when Justice Kennedy states educational diversity “promotes cross-racial understanding, helps to break down racial stereotypes, and enables students to better understand persons of different races.”  The same concept includes disability, and disability related stereotypes and attitudinal barriers against stereotypes must be broken down.

[1] http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-keeps-up-attacks-on-judge-gonzalo-curiel-1464911442

[1]2015 Florida Bar Membership Opinion Survey –  In December 2015, The Florida Bar sent an online survey link to a random sample of 3,078 in-state and out-of state, eligible members. By the cut-off date of December 30, the Bar had received 1,074 completed questionnaires, for a response rate of 35%. This response rate is acceptable for this type of lengthy online survey. https://www.floridabar.org/TFB/TFBResources.nsf/Attachments/4ECB247149A8546C85257F41007B6479/$FILE/2015%20Membership%20Opinion%20Survey%20-%20Final%20Report.pdf?OpenElement

[2] The Florida Bar President’s Special Task Force to Study Enhancement of Diversity  in the Judiciary and on the JNC’s, found at https://www.floridabar.org/TFB/TFBResources.nsf/Attachments/A4E41688279C883585257CE1004A0B9E/$FILE/Appendices%20to%20Task%20Force%20Report.pdf?OpenElement

[3] http://www.floridabar.org/TFB/TFBPublic.nsf/WNewsReleases/4F2B3E1B6C00CB3785257C8B00671B0B?OpenDocument

[4] US Census Quick facts for Florida information, found at  https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/DIS010214/12.

For Disability Statistics – ACS Disability Statistics 2010-2014, found at http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_5YR_S1810&prodType=table

For LGBT statistics – http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality_maps/profile_state/10

 

At The Intersection of Disability and Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Myths and Misconceptions

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Two roads intersect to form a cross-like structure

By: Sharon Langer

Domestic violence myths and misconceptions abound. Nearly everyone will have some form of preconception on what domestic violence actually is; why abusers abuse and why victims are victimized.

In the same way as we tend to have a stereotypical picture of what domestic abuse is, we have similar pictures of what sort of person both the abused and the abuser are. We may assume the abused will have originated from a family where abuse took place, or may have been abused themselves during childhood. Some people believe the victim actually enjoys being abused in some masochistic way, or is encouraging it because they enjoy the attention of feeling victimized. Our perceptions tend to be distorted by domestic violence myths, perpetuated both by the media and by society in general, and are unrelated to the reality or the extent of Domestic Abuse. ANYBODY can become a victim of Domestic Abuse.

Following are some of the domestic violence myths and facts:

MYTH: Abuse only happens in certain “problem” families.

FACT :Abuse pervades every ethnic, social strata. White collar workers are just as likely to abuse their wives/partners as are blue-collar workers; financially independent people are just as likely to suffer abuse as are people on low incomes. It is not the social standing, the amount of stress lived under or the company kept which makes an abuser, but the internal need for power, the belief that they have the right to control someone else.

MYTH: Domestic Abuse is a family matter.

FACT: Abusing, battering, assaulting or raping another person is a criminal offence not a family matter.  Domestic Abuse has far-reaching social implications for everyone, affecting the abused person’s ability to lead a productive life and encouraging children brought up in an abusive home to repeat the cycle themselves and having a detrimental impact on their emotional and sometimes physical well-being. A lot of doctors and hospital time and funds are needed to help those who have been victimized or beaten.

MYTH: Domestic Abuse is not such a big problem – very few women are actually badly hurt.

FACT: Domestic Abuse is a HUGE problem. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women live in abusive relationships, and within our lifetime half of us can expect to be the victim of domestic or intimate partner violence. Abuse can be lethal. More women are killed by their partner or ex-partner than by a stranger. And even where physical violence has not occurred, the emotional scars can often have a lifelong effect on the victim.

MYTH: Some women ask for it, provoke it, want it or even deserve it.

FACT: NOBODY deserves to be beaten or abused. Women often have to walk on eggshells and try their best to avoid another incident. The abuser WANTS to abuse. This domestic violence myth encourages the blame-shifting from the abuser to the abused and avoids the stark reality that only the abuser is responsible for his/her own actions.

MYTH: Domestic Abuse is caused by excessive alcohol or the use of drugs.

FACT: A lot of research is going into the link between drug or alcohol use and violence. However, although some abusers are more prone to being violent when drunk, many more abuse when completely sober. Alcohol and drugs may increase the violence, but they do not cause it. Alcohol and drug abuse are separate issues from abuse, though they may overlap. Once again, blaming chemical dependency for abuse is missing the point, the abuser is responsible for their actions.

MYTH: Domestic abuse is a one-time incident.

FACT: Very rarely is abuse a one-time incident. Most often it is part of an ongoing means of establishing and maintaining control over another person. Abuse tends to increase both in velocity and extent over a period of time.

MYTH: It can’t be that bad, or she/he would leave.

FACT: There are many emotional, social, spiritual and financial hurdles to overcome before someone being abused can leave. Very often, the constant undermining of the victims self-belief and self-esteem can leave him/her with very little confidence, socially isolated, and without the normal decision-making abilities. Leaving or trying to leave will also often increase the violence or abuse, and can put both the victim and her children in a position of fearing for their lives. Leaving is the ultimate threat to the abusers power and control, and he will often do anything rather than let her go.

MYTH: Abusers are always coarse, violent, and easily identified

FACT: Abusers are often charming, popular, generous people who can hold positions of social standing. and authority. Abuse is kept in the privacy of their own homes. This “Jekyll and Hyde” tendency of the abuser can further confuse and frighten the person being abused, as the person in private is so different from the person everyone else sees. It can also mean that when the person being abused finally does try to tell his/her friends, family or acquaintances of the abuse, he or she is not believed, because the person they are describing simply doesn’t fit the image portrayed in public.

Amazon Smile

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Lisa Goodman signing the official documents

Raise your hand if you use Amazon.

By: Lisa Goodman

Raise your hand if you use Amazon.

Now, raise your hand if you use our link to make your purchases on Amazon.

Last one. Raise, your hand if you love helping by doing something you already do.

As I write this I imagine some of you actually raising your hands and I appreciate the effort. The rest of you, let’s talk. I want to take this opportunity to tell you about DIG’s Amazon link because before last week, I had no idea it existed.

If you use this link smile.Amazon.com, to access Amazon while you’re doing your normal purchases on Amazon, you are helping us without going out of your way.  The entire shopping experience is the same and most products available on amazon.com are available at Amazon Smile.

The amazon smile home page. A red circle is around text that says "Or pick your own charitable organization:""

The screen will look slightly different depending on whether or not you’re already signed into Amazon. If you’re already signed in, you’ll see a screen like the one above. Simply search for “Disability Independent Group Inc.” Once you’ve selected us everything else functions the same! The most exciting part for both of us- No extra cost is passed onto you and Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase to our organization.

 

Happy Shopping Everyone!

Stereotypes & Misconceptions about Disability

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By: Lorinda Gonzalez

Lorinda smiles next a man also smiling

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world.  Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ― Isaac Asimov

Deaf people can’t dance.  Blind people don’t like art.  People in wheelchairs can’t have sex.  These are just a few of the stereotypes and misconceptions that are common trains of thought about individuals with disabilities.  Many people assume all sorts of falsehoods that are, in fact, not true! Such assumptions can lead to extremely serious mistakes in judgment—and lead to missed opportunities to engage with a group of wonderful people.  In order to break through these stereotypes and misconceptions, we can start by having an open mind and acknowledging that no two people are exactly alike.

Deaf to Dancing – Breaking Barriers One Step at a Time

[1]Nyle DiMarco, an American model and actor, showed the public that a deaf person could not only dance, but win the infamous Dancing with the Stars Mirror Ball.  He was paired with professional dancer Peta Murgatroyd, who had no experience whatsoever with working alongside a deaf person, nor did she have any training in sign language.  Interestingly, as the show progressed viewers saw the couple peel away stereotypes one week at a time by showing America that yes … a deaf person can dance and dance well!  During the ninth week of Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd from Dancing with the stars Season 22 sit next to each other and smile in front of lit up letters "DWTS"competition, the couple decided to show viewers exactly what it was like for DiMarco to dance without sound.  During a powerful Paso Doble dance series, DiMarco performed 1/3 of a minute to this lively style of dance modeled after the drama and movement of the Spanish and Portuguese bullfight.  These few moments replicated the way DiMarco experiences dance; with no sound, yet high energy and passionate emotion.  His success on the show broke barriers and brought us one step closer to breaking the many misconceptions the deaf community faces on a daily basis.

Good Sex with Any Body – Dr. Sheypuk

 The way people with disabilities are viewed related to sex and intimacy is riddled with stereotypes and misconceptions of inadequacy.  Asexual. Not able to have sex. Not able to have good sex. Can’t be a wife. Can’t be a mother.  Can’t be a good mother. Weak. Infertile. Can’t be a good father[2]All of these and more are inaccurate patterns of thought that challenge equality and make it an unfair playing field for individuals with disabilities.  Dr. Danielle Sheypuk is a Clinical Psychologist in New York City, who specializes in socialization and sexuality amongst individuals with physical disabilities. According to Sheypuk, “Societies misconceptions and inaccurate assumptions are the largest obstacles we face in this area with a disability, and let me tell you…it’s the size of Mount Everest.” There are hundreds of different disabilities and even more variations making each person completely different from one another.   Through her public appearances and private practice, Dr. Sheypuk is initiating a new trend of accepting that people with disabilities are in fact capable of having healthy, active, and mutually enjoyable intimate relationships.  Her work has caught the public’s eye, as she’s been interviewed and featured in Fox News, Elle Magazine, Daily Mail, The Guardian, and presented a Ted Talk.

Personal Thoughts – Don’t Assume, Just Ask!

 I have found that some of my relationships were more open and honest while others were closed off and full of assumptions, since my suitors varied in their previous experience with a person in a wheelchair.  The key to the most enjoyable of my experiences has been open and honest communication.  I always encouraged them to ask me any questions that may pop up rather than assuming there was anything we couldn’t do.  This same piece of advice goes beyond relationships and can also be used as a way of integrating individuals with disabilities into all societal activities.  This is the first step in eliminating misconceptions and combating stereotypes surrounding disability.

[1] Nyle DiMarco and Peta Murgatroyd, DWTS Season 22.  Retrieved from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3609242/Peta-Murgatroyd-celebrates-DWTS-win-Nyle-DiMarco-GMA-Erin-Andrews-let-pregnancy-news-slip.html

[2] Dr. Sheypuk TED Talk.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PwvGfs6Pok