Gratitude is the Healthiest of all Human Emotions

Left to Right Lazaro Muniz, Lorinda Gonzalez and Angel Pardo
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By: Lorinda Gonzalez

Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.

Zig Ziglar

A short cool breeze, early sunset, and pumpkins galore. It’s November! One month before the holiday madness begins, and only days after we’ve been “spooked” and indulged in candy and treats. Aside from pumpkin spiced lattes and Thanksgiving dinner plans, November is marked as a time to remember the people and experiences we are most grateful for. While having a mindset of gratitude is an attitude to embrace year-around, November marks the time where together as a community everything around us reminds us to appreciate the good rather than focus on the bad. Many times, acts of kindness go unnoticed. This month, I’m going to share with you brief stories of two friends whose kindness has made a positive impact in my life.

Center for Social Change – A World Where Everyone Commits to Being the Solution

picture of Center for Social Change, warm and bubbly Community Curator, Naomi L. Ross

Naomi L. Ross

As a grant writer, I rent a small office space where you’ll find me – coffee in hand – writing lengthy proposals and researching funding sources for clients. The ease of opening the front door of a building, the height of office desks & counters, and ease of access to public areas come into play when choosing an accessible office space. Most importantly, working alongside people who are mindful and understanding of my needs are key. After touring eight different locations, Grants Ink found its new home at the Center for Social Change, located at 2103 Coral Way, Suite 200, Miami, Florida. During my first visit to the center warm and bubbly Community Curator, Naomi L. Ross greeted me with a kind and genuine smile. She eagerly showed me around the office, and within moments I felt right at home. She was aware and understanding of my needs for accessibility, but instead of treating me as someone who needed “special attention”, I was just another entrepreneur seeking a workspace. Many times in an attempt to provide accessibility accommodations for a person with a disability to assimilate into the environment, people tend to get nervous and treat them as “different”. It’s easy to tell when the only thing on someone’s mind is your wheelchair, when every other word is a sort of a soft sell of how and why they are “ok with your disability.”

Naomi’s approach was completely different. She made me feel accepted and more importantly normal in the work setting. Sure, I needed a little extra space to get around and yes, my desk had to be repositioned to accommodate my service dog. She didn’t see any of these needs as a burden, but in her own words “An opportunity for the center to become more accessible to all.” I knew immediately that I had found an office space where I could network with like-minded, positive, productive people who saw me as a professional – not a person with a disability. Later I found out that Naomi has an advanced degree in architecture, which has contributed to her superior understanding of what is spatially required to accommodate a wheelchair in an office setting. However, in all honesty I believe that it’s her warm heart and kind demeanor that makes her so good at what she does. I am truly grateful for the Center of Social Change and especially, appreciative of Naomi’s mindful efforts to encourage a connected and collaborative workspace. For her open-mindedness, acceptance and friendship, I’m truly thankful. She makes going to work each day a joy!

DMR Corporation – Finding Better Methods of Mobility and Freedom of Movement

Left to Right Lazaro Muniz, Lorinda Gonzalez and Angel PardoOne morning, I woke up to my personal care attendant informing me that she had found the joystick of my motorized wheelchair lying on the floor. Waking up to a broken wheelchair is equivalent to starting the day with a dead car battery, flat tire, and a lost wallet – it puts a major damper on your plans, to say the least. Luckily, she was able to temporarily tape it back in place long enough for me to find a repair shop, because like most people I didn’t take time to look for a durable medical equipment (DME) provider until things went south. Finding a DME who is available to repair a broken chair on short notice is extremely important to maintaining independence.

After contacting several repair companies – most who didn’t have a technician on staff, others that never got back to me, and one who said they would be able to diagnose my chair… in two weeks, I came across DMR Corp, located at 10418 NW 31st Terrace, Doral, Florida. President Angel Pardo and his wife Rosie have dedicated over 30 years to meeting the challenging needs of the disabled community are proponents of independent living.

After a brief conversation with Service Technician Lazaro Muniz (left, pictured above), it became apparent that this company was different than the others, since he took my situation seriously and was invested in finding a solution. We scheduled an appointment for that same afternoon, and upon arrival, I was greeted and welcomed to the office. Instead of an overly corporate, stuffy environment, DMR made me feel like part of their family. Shortly after filling out the required paperwork, I met with Lazaro, who rapidly put me at ease with his pleasant demeanor. He exuded the perfect combination of humor and humility, quickly turning a stressful situation into a fun afternoon. He knew right away what the problem was, explained what my options were, and got to work on the repair. I felt relaxed and confident in his skill level and knew that there was a positive end in sight. I sat down in the waiting area, enjoyed a hot cup of coffee, and before I knew it my chair was back in working order.

DMR Corp’s motto is making possible what may seem impossible to others. Their hospitality and genuine care is conveyed in their authentic dedication to assisting individuals with disabilities acquire dependable medical equipment needed for independent living. Lazaro is a key player in the company’s success, as his willingness to resolve challenges and dedication to his job is unmatched. Chair repairs are unavoidable, but having someone you can depend on to keep life moving in a forward direction turns a crisis into a minor setback.

This holiday season, take notice of the people around you and be open to expressing your love and gratitude for their presence. A simple thank you can completely change someone’s day. As eloquently said by author William Arthur Ward, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

 

Lorinda on right and IsraelAuthor: Lorinda Gonzalez resides in South Florida with her family and service dog, Remy. She was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at the age of three, and has used a motorized wheelchair for mobility since the age of nine. As an avid writer and reader, she has worked as a grant writer and editor since 2009. With the help of her family, it has grown to become a successful endeavor. Lorinda holds a Bachelor in the Arts Degree in English Writing and Rhetoric, and is currently completing a Masters of Arts Degree in Communications. She is a co-found of NMD United, 501(c)3 and on the board of multiple non-profit organizations. In her free time, Lorinda enjoys spending time with family and friends, painting, listening to music, and traveling to historical locations

 

 

Accessibility and Holiday Shopping

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Accessibility and holiday shopping

By Rachel Goldstein

Rachel Goldstein

Rachel Goldstein

The holiday season is upon us… cold weather (luckily not here in Miami), good food, time with family and friends and of course, great shopping and holiday deals at all of our favorite stores. Many retailers this year are even planning to open on Thanksgiving Day instead of starting their deals on Black Friday. With at least 18% of our population with disabilities, more than 50 million Americans, each is a potential customer. Maintaining an accessible retail store allows for full participation, will bring in new customers this holiday season and will keep them coming back.

Title III of the ADA covers businesses that are public accommodations. Public accommodations are private entities that own, lease, lease to, or operate facilities, such as shopping malls and retail stores, which must comply with basic nondiscrimination requirements that prohibit exclusion, segregation, and unequal treatment. The ADA applies to both the built environment and to the actual policies and procedures that affect how a business provides goods and services to its customers.

There are countless practical ways that businesses can promote access with little or no extra cost including the following:

  •  Make sure accessible parking spaces and accessible routes are clear of barriers including vehicles without proper designation, shopping carts, mud and debris
  • Ensure there are clear and readable signs at the main entrance to direct individuals to the accessible entrance and accessible restrooms
  • Keep accessible entrances unlocked at all times during business hours
  • Plan all routes and displays to ensure that all objects that hang over the aisles like seasonal lightingprovide required head clearance and cane detection for customers who are blind or have low vision
  • Assist customers by retrieving items that are out of reach
  • Remove obstacles, including shopping carts, boxes, equipment, and promotional and holiday displays so that they do not block or spill over into the accessible routes
  • Maintain lifts and elevators and make certain that necessary repairs are up to date
  • Make sure that trash cans and all objects are removed from under the elevator call buttons
  • Eliminate obstacles such as trash cans, chairs and shelving from fitting rooms
  • Ensure that checkout areas are connected to an accessible route and have sufficient clear floor space for a person using a wheelchair
  • Keep accessible checkout aisles staffed during business hours
  • Keep sales counters clear of merchandise and equipment
  • Maintain accessible exits and ensure they remain unobstructed at all times

Equally important to the customer experience and ensuring success this holiday shopping season is staff training.  As part of an ongoing training, and especially before the holiday season officially begins, retail stores should make sure that their staff are aware of all policies to promote accessibility and know how to implement them. Staff should be educated to understand the requirements on modifying policies and practices, communicating with and assisting customers, accessible features of the store and the location and purpose of accessible retail components. Retail staff who work on the front line are an integral part in ensuring the stores accessibility features bring the greatest possible return- repeat and satisfied customers.