Gratitude is the Healthiest of all Human Emotions

Left to Right Lazaro Muniz, Lorinda Gonzalez and Angel Pardo

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



Kids Crusaders Corner – Nick’s Adventure in Disney World – Part 3


Welcome back to the March edition of Kids Crusaders Corner. This month I will wrap up the last of my 3 part story that began in January regarding a solo trip that I took my son Nick on for his 16th birthday. (If you haven’t read the first two parts, please do, as it will help to make the story complete.)

Our adventures with traveling solo through Disney were truly that, adventures. In the first 2 articles you could see that we encountered a few obstacles that were “breathtaking” in a special sort of way and a lot of memorable events that occurred which, with no doubt in my mind, makes Disney the Magical place where dreams really do come true.

Part 1 of Nick’s Adventures in Disney;                                   Part 2 of Nick’s Adventures in Disney;

In last month’s article, I explained how the cast members at the Crystal Palace restaurant made Nick’s 16th birthday so unforgettable by giving him a life-sized stuffed animal Mickey Mouse (which I had to creatively find ways to navigate both my son in a wheelchair and this over-sized plush Mickey through the remainder of our day at the Magic Kingdom and back to the hotel.)

And just when you thought the fun had stopped since we were to be flying back home the next day, it had just begun all over again. Disney was absolutely amazing at making sure I had all of the help I needed getting our luggage, Nick with his custom wheelchair, the life sized “mouse” and myself to the airport the next day. Once at the airport, we checked our luggage at the JetBlue terminal counter. This left me somewhat free to once again navigate Nick through crowds with a very large mouse strapped to the front of his wheelchair. As clumsy as this sounded, I felt great pride in the fact that despite a few minor hiccups during our trip, it was an overall success and Nick had an amazing time.

The actual “fun” started when we had to go through the airport security checkpoint. Since Nick is non-ambulatory, he is always taken to a special spot in his wheelchair where he is “inspected”, while I go through the standard “empty all of your pockets, take off your shoes, place all bags on the x-ray conveyor belt” routine. I passed through that rather quickly and joined Nick to watch the somewhat comical routine that we always go through with the TSA agents when they try to “wand” him down. The wand always beeps. Always. Perhaps someday they will realize he is sitting in a metal framed wheelchair. And they are usually pretty good about giving up after changing out the wand 4 or 5 times before they are convinced that it is really just the wheelchair causing the “beeps”.

This particular time was different. Nick absolutely refused to let go of his birthday gift from Disney. A few of the TSA agents had tried to take Mickey away from Nick to place it through the x-ray scanner. This of course resulted in Nick becoming visibly upset, kicking and flailing his legs, making a lot of noise and drawing a lot of attention to where we were. I explained to the agents that because of Nick’s disability, he often has a difficult time with change. And even after I tried to explain to Nick that Mickey was just going through the machine to “have his picture taken” it was still a definite “no” in Nick’s mind. I explained multiple times that this was a gift from Disney to my son for his birthday and asked if they could just use the wand on the mouse instead of making my son more distraught. After waiting for an additional 30 minutes, we had someone from the TSA (I assumed it was a manager) come over to talk to Nick again. Nick was not changing his mind. After much debate about what to do about the mouse, TSA agreed to use the “wand” on the mouse so that it wouldn’t leave Nicks possession. But of course, because the mouse was so big, there were metal pieces in the ears to keep them formed and upright, which in turn caused Mickey to beep non-stop. Now we have the full attention of the TSA. I tried taking pictures but was asked to put my camera away. How many people would one assume that it would take to hand frisk a stuffed mouse? The answer? Too many. It was obvious to everyone that this was just a very large stuffed animal. That beeped. With the use of multiple wands. And it beeped in the same exact spot every single time. The ears!

Growing tired of this excitement, I once again explained and demonstrated how the ears could be moved into different positions (because of the metal wires inside). I was asked to sit down and let them “do their jobs”.  I sat in a chair nearby as I watched at least 4 TSA agents discussing how they should proceed. Confiscating Mickey was not going to be an option (at least not in my book). Out of sheer frustration I said (what I thought was under my breath) “I highly doubt Disney packed Mickey with any explosive devices”….oops. Note to self and others, think it but please do not actually SAY IT. Another hour before the questioning stopped. I had even taken my camera out to show them the pictures of when the mouse was actually given to Nick during dinner at the Crystal Palace. I think it was after seeing the pictures, and truly not knowing how to handle this that they either felt we were no longer a threat or they were tired of dealing with me.

So we cleared security with less than an hour to get to our gate and pre-board. Once again, we flew JetBlue (I cannot say enough good things about flying with their airline when you need any special assistance.) We were greeted with all smiles as we pre-boarded the plane. Nicks wheelchair gets gate checked at the door of the aircraft so that it will be waiting for us at our next destination. JetBlue had seated us in the very first row (always so helpful) and I tucked Nick into the window seat where he could comfortably lean and keep himself in an upright position. The pilot was super friendly and talking to Nick about his birthday trip and what a special gift Disney had given him. (He had no idea that it was about to get even more special.) I buckled Mickey into the seat next to Nick and then buckled myself into the aisle seat. I laid my head back, thoroughly exhausted as the other passengers were starting to board the aircraft. Nick was so happy to be on the plane, as was I. We were to fly from Orlando into New York at the JFK airport. Once we were to land there, I was going to have to transfer Nick back into his wheelchair and change flights 2 gates down that would take us to our final destination, Rochester. I knew this, but also knew I had a couple of hours to nap and regain some strength before having to do all that.

As the plane was filling to capacity, the pilot came out and asked if he could talk to me. Nick was already starting to fall asleep leaned up against the window, clutching Mickey Mouse. The pilot explained that the flight we were on going into New York was a sold out flight, meaning Mickey could not stay strapped in the seat next to Nick. At this point I felt my eyes filling up with tears as I explained the horror we had endured at the security checkpoint and how important this was to Nick. The pilot came out and talked to Nick himself. He asked if we could “let Mickey sleep right above his head where the jackets and pillows were.” Nicks said no. But then when I asked and said Mickey would sleep better there until we got home he said yes. Finally. The problem escalated when Mickey, no matter how much we squished him, would not fit into the overhead compartment. The pilot asked me about gate checking him with the wheelchair. That was not an option since we had promised Nick that once the airplane was up in the air he could have Mickey back in his lap.

So, while the rest of the passengers had buckled in, and listened to the pre-flight safety instructions, the pilot and I were still trying to figure out what to do with the mouse. The pilot asked Nick if it would be ok if Mickey helped him fly the plane. Nick thought this was funny and said yes. Relief. We got the mouse into the cockpit; I snapped a quick picture of him in the pilots chair and then went back to my seat. The pilot said they had a “jump-seat” in the cockpit that he could secure him in there. I should mention this was a late flight from Orlando into New York and we were already 40 minutes delayed because of the mouse dilemma.

With the cabin door shut, and every seat on the plane full (with the exception of one single seat at the very back of the aircraft) we were finally able to take off. Before the plane had even pushed away from the gate, the pilot made an overhead announcement that he was sorry for the delay but that we would be leaving shortly and assured everyone that connecting flights were aware of “our” delay and that nobody would miss connecting flights. I was now buckled in next to Nick and there was a woman reading her book in the aisle seat where I had originally sat. She seemed totally oblivious as to anything that had been going on, engrossed in her book.

I knew there was a problem when the pilot reappeared to speak to me again. Apparently the mouse was too big in the cockpit and was in the way of some of their controls. He did tell me there was one single seat at the very back of the aircraft and he was going to attempt to have the flight attendant take Mickey back there and strap him in without Nick seeing. Fail. He saw and then his world fell apart. He cried and was kicking the wall in front of him while repeatedly saying “Mickey, Mickey”. Everyone was so tired at this point and it seemed like we had run out of options when the engrossed book lady looked up and asked if there “was a problem”. Yeah, just a slight one. So I explained to her what she had obviously not paid any attention to for the previous 40 minutes. I buckled Mickey into the seat next to Nick, which made him much happier and told the pilot I would take the seat at the back of the aircraft. I just asked that the flight crew come to get me immediately if Nick needed anything or seemed upset.

The pilot preferred I didn’t do that, but options were not plentiful at this point. “Book lady” had resumed her reading and as I went to pass by her I politely asked her to alert the flight crew if she thought my son needed me. She asked where I was going (again she had missed another important part of why we were delayed) and she nonchalantly said, “Would it be easier for everyone if I just took the seat in the back? I don’t mind. I’m traveling alone and just want to read.”

The pilot thanked her as did every passenger on the aircraft. I kept saying how sorry I was, but the pilot was so nice. He said “don’t worry about it. Everything has a way of working out.”

We finally arrived in New York well after midnight. Nick was sound asleep against the window with his mouse. I sat quietly and watched all of the passengers get off the plane for connecting flights. Knowing that we would be the last to get off the plane, I just waited. The pilot was thanking everyone for their patience and saying whatever pilots say as people leave. I was just way too tired to care. His wheelchair was waiting outside the cabin door when the pilot looked over and saw it. He looked at Nick sound asleep and said “oh, I forgot all about Nick. Don’t wake him just yet. Where are you flying to?” I told him Rochester, but our connecting flight was 2 terminals down. The plane we were currently on was heading towards Syracuse. He told me to let Nick sleep while he made a quick phone call. He came back and said that he just changed flight plans with the other aircraft. He decided to let Nick sleep and he would fly our plane into Rochester and the other plane that we were supposed to take would switch and fly passengers into Syracuse. I looked at him and wiped my tears away as I thanked him. He said it wasn’t a problem since neither one of them was from this area and a hotel to them was just a hotel. He said it was an easy enough switch. I asked him about the 50 passengers that had already made their way to the connecting Rochester flight. He said they were being sent back to our aircraft. I sat in the seat waiting for 50 angry passengers to return. Instead, as people re-boarded the aircraft their faces softened as they saw Nick sleeping soundly with his friend Mickey (now fully understanding the wheelchair at the gate belonged to him.) My faith in humanity restored.

Nick slept peacefully for the short flight from JFK to Rochester. We arrived after 2 am due to all of the mouse delays and people shuffling. We were the last ones off the plane as I carried a very heavy sleeping Nick and placed him in his wheelchair. I hugged the pilot and said I cannot thank you enough for everything. He smiled and again said it was really no problem at all.

It was not a problem at all until we went to collect our luggage. During the pilots agreeing to swap flights, they had not informed the ground crew, so here 52 of us stood waiting for our luggage that was not showing up. The luggage on the conveyor belt was the entire luggage for the people traveling to Syracuse, which meant everyone’s luggage for Rochester, went to Syracuse instead. When someone had finally figured it out, I felt as if I had 100 eyeballs all looking in my direction. I kept apologizing to everyone and out of the 50 people, everyone said not to worry about it. Only one business class passenger seemed to be really upset. We all had to fill out lost luggage reports which took another hour, but JetBlue assured everyone their luggage would be personally delivered to them by 3pm the next day and everyone was given a $75.00 credit voucher for their airlines for the inconvenience.

Just one of the many reasons I always pick JetBlue as my first choice for air travel.

We made it home and were tucked into bed by 4:30 am. Nick with Mickey tucked safely in bed next to him and my last recollection was collapsing on my bed just trying to piece together the series of crazy but incredible  moments from a trip that made memories to last a lifetime.

So, thank you Disney for making Nick’s 16th birthday a year he will never forget. And a huge shout out thank you to the entire staff of JetBlue for going above and beyond to make my transition home as easy as possible.

That wraps up our incredible Disney adventure. Again, if anyone has any questions about Disney travel, feel free to contact me at . I’m not a travel agent, just a well-seasoned traveler that can give you some of the ins and outs of navigating Disney, or airports!

Until next month, in closing, I would like to share a favorite quote that applies to this entire journey that we are on (not just our Disney trip.)

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” (Princess Diana)Nick and Julie

Peace, love and happiness. You are never alone on your journey!


Litigation – Vindicating a right to an administrative option – McGuire v. Peabody Hotel

Kevin McGuire

Kevin McGuire

Florida now recognizes that when a person is not treated equal because of his or her disability,– this is discrimination, and is actionable under the Florida Civil Rights Act.

In 1968, at the age of seven years old, Kevin McGuire, was hit by a drunk driver and was paralyzed from the neck down. By 1970, McGuire regained the use of his upper body but remained paralyzed from the waist down. Since the accident, he is required to use a wheelchair for mobility. Kevin’s business consists of advising clients on how to make sure that their projects and different venues comply with the disability access requirements. In the course of his business, he was contacted by the Orlando Magic to ensure that their arena complied with the disability access requirements.

Kevin’s office made a reservation, in advance, to stay for two nights at the Peabody Orlando, a Peabody Hotel Group hotel, in Orlando, Florida. At the time the reservation was made with Peabody Hotel staff, Kevin asked for a wheelchair accessible room.On or about June 14, 2010, between two and three AM, Kevin McGuire arrived at the Peabody Hotel. There was only one hotel representative available to check-in guests. Even though Kevin requested an accessible room, it did not have a room available with a roll-in shower. Instead, they sent Kevin to three different rooms which they claimed were accessible. Kevin was brought to one room, which did not have a wheelchair accessible bathroom. He was then brought to a second room. The second room did not have a wheelchair accessible bathroom either. After being escorted to a third room that did not have a wheelchair accessible bathroom, Kevin was upset. Since he was unable to use any of the rooms, he had no choice but to leave the hotel property and was forced to find lodging at another hotel at Three AM in the morning.

May 27, 2011, Kevin filed a Public Accommodations Complaint of Discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations. In its defense, the hotel did not dispute any of McGuire’s allegations, but attributed the failure to have accessible features due to the ongoing renovations to the hotel, but despite Mr. McGuire’s inconvenience, they were now fully Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, and if Mr. McGuire chose to return to the hotel, he would have a different experience. The Peabody Hotel expressed regret at the “inconvenience” that Mr. McGuire experienced.

Instead of attempting to conciliate the case, the FCHR decided to dismiss Mr. McGuire’s claims based upon a lack of jurisdiction. The FCHR acknowledged that the Peabody Hotel is a “public accommodation” under the Florida Civil Rights Act, and also found that Mr. McGuire had to leave the Peabody Hotel as no rooms were accessible to a person with a mobility impairment due to the lack of an accessible shower. However, the FCHR denied Mr. McGuire all relief due to the following statement:

All assertions relate to design, construction and accessibility. The Florida Commission on Human Relations does not have jurisdiction to enforce the ADA. Additionally, as to any issues concerning the alleged failure to provide a room meeting the petitioner’s criteria, it is unrefuted that the Respondent made all efforts possible under the circumstances to accommodate the demands, to no avail.

As a result, the case was dismissed. On January 10, 2012, Kevin McGuire appealed the FCHR’s finding to the appeals court.

The appeals court reversed and in a published decision, McGuire v. Peabody Hotel Grp., 99 So. 3d 984 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2012), found that the existence of architectural barriers in a hotel constituted discrimination, as defined by the Florida Civil Rights Act, as such barriers may deny Mr. McGuire “by denying him the full and equal enjoyment of the hotel’s goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations guaranteed by section 760.08.

Last year, Kevin founded a new business, “It’s called Able Road,” he said. “It’s a Yelp-like, Angie List-like, Zagat-like website and apps that allows you to rate interview and comment on any property, pretty much in the world, from a hearing site, cognitive mobility perspective.” For more information, go to

Accessible Equipment in Miami-Dade County Parks




Eliminating barriers and promoting inclusion at Miami-Dade County Parks
By: Rachel Goldstein

As a fellow for the University of Miami Mailman Center for Child Development’s 2013-2014 Emerging Transformational Leadership Program (“ETLP”), I am working with other professionals in the Disability Rights Community to transform systems of care for individuals with disabilities. Our goal this year is to promote the integration and inclusion of persons with disabilities in Miami-Dade County parks by ensuring the parks, playgrounds, and recreational programs and services offered are accessible and inclusive.

Adults with disabilities often do not have access to health promotion services and physical fitness activities due to lack of access to fitness facilities, inaccessible exercise equipment, and lack of adapted sports programs. Furthermore, children with disabilities are often excluded from playing at playgrounds due to inaccessible paths and play equipment. While we already know that getting outdoors makes people healthier and happier, we want to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to the same opportunities and are able to participate in leisure and recreational activities at Miami-Dade County Parks.

Many of the parks in Miami-Dade County do not have accessible pathways for individuals with mobility disabilities to travel through the parks. Furthermore, almost all of the parks do not have accessible physical fitness or playground equipment. Playgrounds that are accessible for children with and without disabilities should be implemented in our local parks. Also, accessible exercise equipment should be available at our parks, such as equipment that would allow wheelchair users to remain seated in during their workouts. By ensuring that there are accessible paths throughout our parks, accessible exercise equipment, accessible playgrounds, and inclusive programs and services, Miami-Dade County can promote the health, wellness, and integration of people with disabilities. I am eager to help develop and implement this project so that can be replicated in parks throughout South Florida.

The Mighty Equalizer – by Chris Stein

Chris Stein and Morgan the Dog

Chris Stein

Inside a body askew, I ambulate electronically atop four wheels. Alone, I often draw stares as something would from the extra- terrestrial. However, while He prances gleefully by my side, His inviting allure draws a smile from even the most stoic of faces. While as organic as I, He exudes a spirit almost God-like in nature that can be felt by all open to receive it.

Tangibly joined by chain, intangibly joined by all five senses and a sixth; together, we amble through life as one. Apart, we flail aloft as two naked appendages lopped at the soul. Whether about to embark on trundle or slog; I have Him at my side loyally awaiting my every move. With snout held high and ears flapping in the wind with super-hero air, He defies all who question His purpose.

As we end our day, He jumps on my bed and follows by a flick of the tongue on my cheek and bids me a sweet good-night. Curled at my feet, He falls asleep. I wake in the middle of the night to the sounds of His slumber as He dreams the simple dreams of His kind. With a soul as innocent as a three-year-old but as old as the earth itself, He simply laughs off the crazy complexities we add to life. Down there from His perspective, He just doesn’t care. He’s simply a dog. The mighty equalizer.