What makes me happy?


By: Lisa Goodman


This month’s topic for the blog is “what makes me happy” and nothing makes me more happy than writing this article while doing what makes me happy- being on vacation.

imagesI’m sure being on vacation makes most of you reading this article happy. How could it not?? It’s so nice being able to take a break from reality and everyday life.

This well-deserved break took months to actually happen since I live in an area prone to hurricanes. I had to cancel vacation plans before but waiting only makes me appreciate it more. I love what I do but who doesn’t love taking a break from it all.


Since I’m on vacation this article is going to be shorter than usual. Back in the ocean!

Hope you all do something nice for yourselves. You deserve it!!!

Summer Fun and Discrimination against Kids (with or without disabilities)!


By: Matthew Dietz

A graphic with a white background and black text that reads keep calm and no kids allowed with a crown above it

Unless the housing facility is a qualified 55 and over housing development, a housing provider cannot have rules that treat children differently, and less favorably than adults. When the US Congress amended the Fair Housing Act in 1988, it prohibited housing practices that discriminate on the basis of familial status.When it amended the Act, Congress recognized that “families with children are refused housing despite their ability to pay for it.” In addition, Congress cited a HUD survey that found 25% of all rental units exclude children and that 50% of all rental units have policies that restrict families with children in some way. The HUD survey also revealed that almost 20% of families with children were forced to live in less desirable housing because of restrictive policies. Congress recognized these problems and sought to remedy them by amending the Fair Housing Act to make families with children a protected class. So any rules, that do not have a legitimate safety justification, cannot indicate a “preference, limitation, or discrimination” against children under the age of 18. This includes rules that prohibit children from common areas in the facility with or without supervision, or limit the facilities of the housing development to adults. All rules must apply to children and adults equally, and cannot solely target children’s behavior.

If rules have a legitimate safety rationale, then such rules may be legitimate. But, again rules such as all children under sixteen must be supervised by an adult does not have a safety rationale, but a discriminatory basis against loud teenagers. On the other hand, a fifteen year old at a gym may injure him or herself on free weights without having supervision.

Summer camp must be inclusive

Over the past fifteen years, I have had several cases involving children who were not permitted to go to the summer camp of their choice, or were segregated in the summer camp because of the child’s disabilities. A summer camp, like any other public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, must provide reasonable accommodations for campers with disabilities, and must not segregate them from othJordan4er students. Camps operated by governmental entities or colleges have a broader duty to accommodate campers with disabilities than some private entities that do
not have the same resources as a governmental entity. Examples of situations which I have encountered over the years are as follows:

  • Children who are Deaf – Deaf kids have the right to a qualified sign language interpreter for all programs and services of a camp that involve communication that is long, complex, or important. Examples of this would be instructions on how to play a complicated game, story time, puppet shows, and educational instruction. If there are games that involve communication, then an interpreter would be appropriate so the Deaf child is included.
  • Autistic kids – If a child who lives with autism has a one-on-one aide at school, for the same reasons, that child may need a one-on-one aide at a camp. Further, if a child needs further instruction in a game, or assistance with social interactions, that would be an accommodation that must be provided.
  • Kids who have a medical condition such as Diabetes – If a child has a medical condition, or needs assistance with a medical condition, such as diabetes or HIV, then the question is whether the child poses a direct threat to his or her own health or the safety of others. If a child needs minor assistance with a medical condition, or can manage his or her own medical needs and monitoring, a camp cannot discrimiJordan2nate against these children.
  • Kids with mobility impairments or other physical disabilities – Camps, like any other public accommodations, must have their facility accessible to children with disabilities. Older camps must do modifications that are readily achievable, easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense, and those camps altered or built after 1991 must be constructed accessibly. The camp is also responsible for making reasonable accommodations for campers with disabilities, which may involve some personal services, such as assistance in dressing, if similar services are available for able bodied campers.
  • Kids with allergies – Kids who have allergies cannot be excluded from camps, and camps must be prepared to exclude certain allergens to accommodate a camper, and be trained in the event a camper has an allergic reaction. It would not be unreasonable to expect camp counselors to learn how to administer epinephrine auto-injector (“Epi-pen”) shots and dispense asthma medication, assist in administering Diastat for seizures in emergencies or otherwise teach camp counselors in basic first aid or CPR.

Parents can choose to send their child to a segregated camp, because some camps may provide special skills or advantages for children with disabilities, but the choice of going to a specialized camp is a choice, such as camps where all children are deaf.
However, all children may not be able to go to integrated camps. For example, there may be children with developmental disabilities or intellectual disabilities who would not be able to care for themselves at a sleep-away camp, and it would be a fundamental alteration of the camp’s programs to develop a program for one child’s disability. Further, if a child is dependent on mechanical supports, a camp would not be required to hire medical personnel to accommodate medically complex children. For these kids specialized camps are a phenomenal way to get out and enjoy the community. For example, Nicklaus Children’s hospital operates the VACC camp for technologically dependent children which includes swimming, field trips to local attractions,campsite entertainment, structured games, “free play”, to promote family growth and development while enhancing these kids’ self-esteem and social skills.

It’s so damn hot – my kid has asthma and needs an air conditioner

Last year, we represented a mother who had a child who lived in HUD-subsidized low-income housing. Asthma is often triggered by inhalation of air particles that contain allergens such as pollen, mold spores, dust mite droppings and animal dander. Air conditioners contain filters that collect and store these particles, keeping intake to minimum. Air conditioning also helps eliminate humidity on hot Florida nights which enables mold and algae to grow much more rapidly than it could if it were living in dry air. Some children and adults suffer from asthma to the degree that not having air conditioning may result in serious harm and hospitalization. Requesting to install an air conditioner unit in a home or apartment would be a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability.

According to the Fair Housing Act, a tenant with a disability can request a reasonable modification. According to HUD Guidance, “A reasonable modification is a structural change made to existing premises, occupied or to be occupied by a person with a disability, in order to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises. Reasonable modifications can include structural changes to interiors and exteriors of dwellings and to common and public use areas.” Under the Fair Housing Act, a housing provider must permit the modification, the tenant is responsible for paying the cost of the modification. If the housing provider is a public housing authority or a housing provider that receives federal financial assistance, the modification must be paid for by the housing provider unless providing the modification would be an undue financial and administrative burden.
Another example modifications can be a pool lift!

Discrimination in Pool Rules

  • No inflatable flotation devices.
  • Water wings, swimmies, floats, bathing suits rings, and other inflatable devices are not permitted in the pools.
  • Absolutely no dogs allowed in pool area

Also, under the Fair Housing Act, persons with disabilities can ask for “reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford … person(s) [with disabilities] equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” So when a person is required to use water wings, floats, special swimming devices, they can do so. In order to request an accommodation, the person needing an accommodation should ask the housing provider, and if the disability is not obvious, then the person may need to obtain verification from a doctor, therapist, or any other provider verifying the disability and need for the accommodation.

In addition, “no dogs allowed” rules do not apply to service or emotional support animals, where their presence is necessary for the person with a disability equal use and enjoyment of the premises. The Fair Housing Act and the ADA does not override public health rules that prohibit dogs in swimming pools. However, service animals must be allowed on the pool deck and in other areas where others are allowed to go.

Cruising with your Service dog


US Navy dog with a sailors hat onDogs have long been the companion of our U.S. Navy Sailors on vessels for their ability to build morale. In the early days, dogs often served a more practical function by leading patrols onto foreign shores to search for food and warn of any dangers lurking out of eyesight. Now, most cruise ships allow service animals on board their ships. While service animals are permitted, emotional support animals or pets are not.

At the time of reservation, you should advise the disability Sailor feeding a dog on board of a navy shipservices office of any disability related needs or accommodations, such as a service animal. Most ships designated relief areas with cypress mulch, paper pellets or sod to accommodate service dogs. The ships are not required to provide food or care for the dog, so you may need to bring your own dog food on board. Many of the ports you may visit will only accept annual rabies vaccinations; however, it is a good idea to research the requirements needed at each port. If the service animal does not have the required vaccinations or documentation the service animal not be able to disembark.

Dog Friendly Hotels


Like all other public accommodations, hotels are required to allow persons with service animals in any room in the hotel, and provide equal accommodations to its guests with service animals. However, many hotels have realized that all dogs, not only service dogs, are part of the family, and vacations would not be the same without the family dog. Now, while I fully believe that service animals are a necessary accommodation and aide for a person with a disability, the goal for most accessibility should be universal accessible design in both architectural design and in policies and procedure. So, the hotels and resorts that I prefer roll out the welcome mat, bowl, and toys for the hardest working dogs in the business.

My favorite pet-friendly hotels is the Kimpton Hotels brand of hotels. According to Kimpton

OK, we admit it. We have an animal attraction. Can you blame us? Finalist in the Kimpton Hotel dog guest contest.  Black Labrador with a camouflage vest with a logo of a star and Warrior Canine patch on it. At every Kimpton boutique hotel, we invite you to bring your furry, feathery or scaly family member — no matter their size, weight, or breed, all at no extra charge. If your pet fits through the door, we’ll welcome them in. There’s more to our pet-friendly policy than just a no-fuss check-in and scratch behind the ear, though. We’ve got all the goodies you need to keep your pet pampered. Plus at certain properties our Directors of Pet Relations are on hand (or paw, as it were) to give you and your buddy a tail-wagging welcome.

Kimpton also has a blog with entries for pets – and a service animal was a finalist for their pet photo contest!

Some other luxury hotels allow dogs for free, such as Indigo Hotels, La Quinta or the Choice Hotel brand of hotels, some other charge per night for the dog. However, all service dogs must be allowed at no charge to the owner, and service animal users should receive the same choice of rooms as any other guest.

Kids Crusaders Corner

 One of the greatest joys I have learned on my journey of raising a Kids Crusaders Logochild with special needs is the magic of “paying things forward.” The act of doing something for someone who least expects it, without expecting anything in return. Often on this journey there is great joy in knowing that the smallest act of kindness can truly turn a person’s life around.We have always been blessed by people that surround us in times of crisis with Nick and that feeling of knowing we are not alone has often been the lifeline that has saved us. Being conscious of being that kind of person for others has always been at the forefront of my daily living. It doesn’t require the act of kindness to be limited to someone with special needs. Truth be told, we all have special needs. We all have really bad days that can be turned around by someone taking a few extra seconds to acknowledge our presence. I read a quote once that has stuck with me. It said “Some of the shells that wash up on the beach were once very beautiful. You never know what kind of journey they had to take to get them in the fragile shape they are now in. Same with people. Be kind.”

Being the pay it forward kind of person that I tend to be, I am never one to expect things from anyone. In fact, during my own personal darkest moments, I often find the greatest light in reaching out to help others. I’m notorious for paying for the coffee at the drive up window for the car behind me, or leaving sticky notes on someone’s desk or car with a positive quote or saying. It’s just a feel good thing knowing that you possibly made a difference in someone else’s life

.Nick with diner owner

We recently returned from a much needed vacation. We had not been on a family vacation for over 4 years due to some pretty severe medical issues with Nick that required major reconstructive surgery. We planned a vacation for last September only to have to cancel it after I had been in a major car accident which totaled my car and left me with a fractured leg. Our reservation was non-refundable and I had not purchased trip insurance. The owner of the condo that we were renting was very nice and stated that under the circumstances she would fully refund our cost. I was so thankful and promised we would book again the following year once I had healed, which we did. This time I purchased the trip insurance, just in case. And as life would have it, my mom passed away 2 days before we were supposed to leave for our vacation. Feeling very defeated in so many ways, I was truly at a loss as to what I was supposed to do. The owner of the condo would have gladly refunded our money again, but we were unable to push out the scheduled week due to restrictions with our school district. She worked with us and was able to push off our arrival date so that I could be home for my dad to help him with arrangements and we all were in agreement that my mom would have wanted us to still go.

It was a difficult decision, but we chose to do just that. We arrived at our destination an hour before sunset. My mom’s hobby was painting. Her specialty was sunsets and lighthouses. As we sat on the beach watching the most beautiful sunset that first night, I couldn’t help but think that was my mom painting for us, telling us everything would be ok.

We made the most out of our vacation. Some days felt more somber than others. Calls from my dad back home were the hardest. But we tried to focus on our family time and the much needed break away from the stress we had been living. The Beach Patrol in Cape May, New Jersey where we stayed, was kind enough to lend us a water wheelchair so that Nick could experience being in the ocean for the first time in his life. His Menu from Rio Grande Dinerscreeches of laughter echoed into the wind with every crashing wave. A random act of kindness from the beach patrol turned our day around and made it very special. By the end of the week we were ready to start our 8 hour car ride home, with 2 separate vehicles as we obviously don’t travel lightly.

The best option was to stop for a good breakfast before getting on the road. We had driven around all the tourist spots and just really didn’t feel like spending a fortune at these obvious places with big neon letters screaming PANCAKE HOUSE. We had done that before only to be disappointed with the food. As luck would have it I had remembered passing a small restaurant on the side of the road where we had stopped for gas. On the side of the building was a small sign that said Rio Grande Diner. Ah, a place where the locals ate. Jackpot! I immediately noticed there was a ramp to the front door and although the parking lot was full, people seemed to be coming and going at a regular pace.

Once inside we were greeted by such friendly staff. You could tell that it was a place where everyone seemed to know everyone. The man at the register immediately asked me where the best place would be to seat us to accommodate Nick’s wheelchair (which impressed me even more than the huge plates of homemade food being carried past us, convincing me that this had been the best vacation find ever!)

We were seated in less than 10 minutes. Our waitress was extremely friendly and had asked us all about our vacation. People seated around us knew the staff by names. It was a place that just felt like home. We had ordered an army of food to prepare us for our impending long car ride. The food was beyond delicious. The service made it taste even better. As we were finishing up our meal and waiting for our check, our waitress came back and said “Have a safe trip home. It was nice meeting you. And your check has been taken care of. You are all set.” With that she made a quick departure into the kitchen leaving me quietly confused and looking around the restaurant. Nobody seemed to be looking at us, so, more confusion. When the waitress reappeared, I asked her who had taken care of our check. She smiled and said the owner had.

It clicked that the owner was the man at the register that had greeted us upon arrival. I asked the waitress to ask him to come over and talk to us. My kids looked at me and said “Mom. Are you crying?” (Yeah, not something I openly do.) He came over and hugged me and said “Don’t cry, you are going to make me cry.” He then walked over to Nick and kissed him on the forehead. He proceeded to tell us that his nephew has Cerebral Palsy and Hydrocephalus. He is 7 years old and has had 17 brain surgeries. As he stood there hugging Nick and calling him “family,” there was nothing to stop my tears. It was truly a random act of kindness that I never saw coming and has touched my heart forever.

In this fast-paced, electronic world we live in, nothing can ever compare to the warm embrace that I felt that day. The feeling of knowing that family is everywhere. It is who we choose and who chooses us. And that day the world became a much smaller place; a safe place with kind hearts and unconditional love and understanding. You never know the journey that someone has been on. Be kind. And know that you are never alone.

Peace and love until next month….Julie

The Miami Foundation is having their 3rd annual Give Miami Day on November 20, 2014.  The event starts at midnight on November 20th and lasts for 24 hours. Disability Independence group will be a part of this amazing event.  Support DIG and join the movement.  http://givemiamiday.org/#npo/disability-independence-group-inc

Vacation Tips for People with Disabilities


As a person with a disability who loves to travel, I have encountered the good, the bad, and the ugly of accessibility (or lack thereof) on my vacations. To help you have the most enjoyable and accessible vacation possible, here are a few tips from my own experiences.

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Stephanie at the Wizarding world of Harry Potter

Stephanie with Mike from the movie monsters inc