Technology – We Will Not Go Back

Last week Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, First Lady Fran DeWine, Ohio State University President Kristina Johnson, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Director Kevin Miller, and many others visited Assistive Technology of Ohio. AT Ohio Executive Director Dr. Bill Darling provided an update on the latest technology to assist Ohioans with disabilities to become employed and/or be more independent and interactive in their homes and communities.   

Mr. Brad Whitmoyer – a small businessperson with a disability who is nonverbal – showed us how he uses current technology to communicate and run his own business.  Mr. Whitmoyer uses the Accent 1400 AAC device from Prentke Romich. It is an interactive computer where he selects icons that correspond to words that allow him to quickly build complete sentences. He uses a combination of eye-gaze technology and a switch to select the appropriate icon. 

This meeting brings several important issues to mind that I wish to highlight.   

First, as an Ohioan with a disability, it is good to be represented by elected and appointed folks who have spent many years directly working with people with disabilities, advocates, and many others, supporting our full participation in employment and our communities. FYI, longtime advocates like me remember, as a U.S. Senator, Mike DeWine helped author the original 1999 Workforce Investment Act that ensured that all employment programs work with the Vocational Rehabilitation program for people with disabilities leading to more employment opportunities and additional support for independent living programs. 

Next, with the utmost reverence for the over 580,000 Americans who have died from COVID – 19 and many, many more with long-term illness, I submit that we must not forget or relinquish all the societal and technological advances that have come to the forefront and been widely accepted.   

For most of my life, working from home was forbidden (no job if you can’t be in the office) or required special permission and many, many human resources forms to be sure it was allowed. Now, suddenly, not only is working from home necessary to keep us all healthy; it is also a “great new idea” to increase productivity.   

Of course, this is where technology comes in. A myriad of creative and assistive technology has given all of us new ways to work, communicate, learn, and interact on a daily basis. Because of this – and a once in a century pandemic – society worked out what people with disabilities have done all our lives, figured out more than one way to achieve something in our work, our community, and our lives.   

Governor DeWine’s visit reminded me that we have elected & appointed officials who know, support, and are constantly learning new ways for us to achieve independence and employment in our communities to the full extent of our abilities – And we need more of them.  

Finally, since it seems we have now “learned” that with technology and ingenuity there are many ways to work, learn, communicate, and interact with each other; we cannot and will not return to “the way it was before”.    

If you want a job, to attend a meeting, communicate with family & friends, be independent to the full extent of your abilities, and help in learning and growing new abilities, don’t allow anyone to say you/we can’t do it.   

Suggest a way that works for you. Ask for help or an accommodation to figure out a way to do it. Talk about your abilities and all the things you can do.   

Times and technology will constantly change. The pandemic simply accelerated some of that change.   

We will not go back. There is no going back.  

Thank God!   

Governor DeWine, Ohio’s First Lady, and OSU President Johnson visit Assistive Technology of Ohio

We were honored to host Governor Mike DeWine, First Lady Fran DeWine and the president of The Ohio State University, Dr. Kristina Johnson, to our offices at Assistive Technology of Ohio! We were also blessed to be joined by Kevin Miller, Director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities.

Assistive Technology of Ohio, based in the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University, runs a statewide disability technology lending libary, focusing on the types of technologies that help people with disabilities succeed in employment, compete in the workplace, and live more independent and interconnected lives.

We were able to spend some time with our honored guests on Wednesday, April 28, to show them the types of technologies available to be checked out and tried out by any Ohioan with a disability. The tour included a presentation by Brad Whitmoyer, a small business owner who is non-verbal, and who utilizes a power wheelchair. Brad demonstrated how he uses an Accent 1400 augmentatitve communication device made by Prentke Romich, a Wooster-based company that is a world leader in the area of AAC devices.

“Assistive Technology of Ohio is a hidden jewel at Ohio State,” DeWine said. “What they do can transform people’s lives.”

“Assistive Technology of Ohio is a hidden jewel at Ohio State,” DeWine said. “What they do can transform people’s lives.”

Other technologies which were shown to the governor included portable CCTV devices for people with visual impairments, the Clear Reader+ device, for blind users, which quickly transforms printed text to spoken words. The tour showcased assistive technologies made in Ohio, including HomeSense, made in Akron, which helps prevent kitchen fires by turning off unattended cooking food, as well as the Obi, made by Dayton-based Desin, Inc., which is a robot that puts people with disabilities back in charge of feeding themselves.

Governor Mike DeWine, First Lady Fran DeWine and OSU President Kristina Johnson watch Brad Whitmoyer communicate via a Accent 1400 device from Prentke Romich.

Now to April 26th – Dept of Labor dialogue/input: people with disabilities employment equity in underserved communities

US Department of Labor opens dialogue to ensure equity in employment for people with disabilities from historically underserved communities

Initiative will inform future policy, programs, funding opportunities

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor announced, beginning April 12, it will open a two-week national online dialogue to gather ideas for ensuring equity in employment policies and programs for people with disabilities from historically underserved communities. Those seeking to participate should register at RacialEquity.ideascale.com.

The department will use input received between April 12 and April 26 to help identify strategies for dismantling systemic barriers to employment and participation in workforce services that people with disabilities from diverse backgrounds, communities and identities face. This group includes communities of color, religious minorities, LGBTQ+ persons, rural communities and those otherwise affected by persistent poverty or inequality.

Co-hosted by the department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Women’s Bureau, the dialogue will also help formulate future programs and funding opportunities that respond to the needs of people with disabilities, including people with mental health conditions and those recovering from long-term effects of the coronavirus, from diverse backgrounds. The dialogue follows  Executive Order 13985, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government,” signed by President Biden on Jan. 20, 2021. 

“This national dialogue gives us a unique opportunity to listen to those with lived experience, and opens a valuable line of communication,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy Jennifer Sheehy. “Outreach like this strengthens our understanding and better equips us to ensure equity in our policy work and grant programs and respond to the needs of all Americans with disabilities.”

“The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs plays a vital role in rooting out entrenched employment inequities and ensures that federal contractors – which employ about 25 percent of the U.S. workforce – fulfill their contractual promise and deliver equal opportunity and affirmative action in their workplaces,” said Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Jenny R. Yang. “Hearing what workers with disabilities from diverse backgrounds and identities face will guide our efforts to remove their barriers to opportunity and ensure their access to good jobs.”

“We know that the strongest policies don’t overlook marginalized communities and are designed to work for everyone,” said Women’s Bureau Director Wendy Chun-Hoon. “Engaging stakeholders as we seek to make sure our actions and policies support workers across many identities and experiences, including gender, race, sexuality, ability, religion, geography and wealth, is a core priority that ensures better employment outcomes for all.”

Agency: Office of Disability Employment Policy

Date: April 7, 2021

Release Number: 21-619-NAT

Contact: Bennett Gamble

Phone Number: 202-693-6587

Email: Gamble.Bennett@dol.gov

DeWine and Husted Proclaim April 14 “Assistive Technology Awareness Day”

Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted joined states all over the country in proclaiming April 14, 2021 to be Assistive Technology Awareness Day! We thank the Governor for this recognition and for his commitment to assistive technology and remote supports for people with disabilities.

In 2018, Governor John Kasich declared Ohio to be a Technology First state. Since that time, Ohio has been a national leader in the utilization of remote supports in the care of Ohioans with developmental disabilities. As referenced in the Governor’s proclamation, Ohio has seen a 53% increase in authorizations for remote support since 2018, with 84 of the 88 counties participating.

OOD, Ohio’s state-federal vocational rehabilitation program, has also been a champion of the role that assistive technology can play in the lives of Ohioans with disabilities who are seeking employent. AT Ohio has also increased educational programming to Ohio’s aging population, an increasing group of consumers of assistive technology.

Videos messages were also issued by Kevin Miller, Director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities and by Jeff Davis, Director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.

We thank Director Miller and Director Davis for helping bring awareness to this important aspect of life for people with disabilities.

Happy Assistive Technology Awareness Day!

Spanish Helpdesk line – Milestones Autism Resources

Milestones Autism Resources ofrece ayuda gratuita en español – Milestones Autism Resources provides free Spanish Helpdesk

MAR OFN info card ENG AND SPANISH.pdf

MAR HelpDesk Business Card_SPANISH.pdf

Milestones Autism Resources, located in Warrensville Heights, is proud to now provide a Spanish Helpdesk line, as a part of our work with the Ohio Family Network (OFN) through the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD). We hope that you might share this information with your network. 

The Spanish Helpdesk will serve as a direct line to a Spanish-speaking staff member for help finding individualized local resources. Anyone can use the Spanish Helpdesk to find the best services in their community for their family, friend, or self. 

To connect to the Spanish Helpdesk or learn more about the Ohio Family Network, please contact 216-464-7600 ext. 5. You can also contact informacion@milestones.org or visit milestones.org/services/helpdesk 

The goal of the Ohio Family Network is to connect people with any intellectual and developmental disability and their families to local information and resources within their communities. Through the OFN program, Milestones is excited to be able to expand our Diversity Initiative with the addition of this new Spanish Helpdesk line, as well as the recent translation of our website and downloadable autism tool kits.

To translate milestones.org into Spanish, simply click the Espanol button in the top right corner of any page on the website.

Disability Fakers in the Airline Industry

USA Today recently published an article looking at the growing and troubling trend of people who are (or are suspecting to be) faking a disability in order to get preferred status during travel, especially in regard to airlines. From wanting to board first, to making very questionable claims asserting an accompanying pet is a “service animal,” people are apparently gaming the system to make airline travel easier.

Among the most egregious violators are those passengers who board first, in wheelchairs, and then when the flight is over, walk off the plane and down to baggage claim without any need of assistance. Airline personnel derisively refer to these types of passengers as recipients of miracle healing, as if they had been given divine intervention at 25,000 feet. Other instances are of passengers claiming a pet as a service animal in order to (a) have them with them on the flight and (b) avoiding paying the extra fees for travelling with a pet.

Airline crew members have a name for that kind of fake disability on a plane. It’s called a “miracle” flight.

It’s a unique corner of life because being a person with a disability is generally NOT a status people are clamoring to be a part of. People with disabilities have a harder time moving through the world. People with disabilities, as a general rule, have very low employment rates and are more likely to live in a lower socioeconomic status. There are few areas of life where there are substantive privileges associated with being a person with a disability.

One of those areas, of course, is in the area of long-term disability, especially in the case of accident litigation. Insurance companies and employers have long suspected injured parties involved in legal cases to be faking, exaggerating, or malingering their symptoms. Certainly, there are some people who do not meet the definition of permanent disability who are applying for SSDI, SSI and workers’ compensation benefits. I suspect there is no end to unscrupulous people who will try to game the system, as evidenced by the thousands of people currently fraudulently filing for unemployment during the pandemic.

There are areas of life where it is perfectly acceptable to utilize services or areas that are are also accessible to people with disabilities. That is the entire point of the concept of Universal Design in architechture. I attended Miami (Ohio) University in the late 1980s, and it was, for the most part, a highly inaccessible place for people with wheelchairs at that time. King Library – a 3-story building – had an elevator with a big wheelchair placard on it. Just because the elevator is the sole way a wheelchair user could reach the 3rd floor is not a reason for an ambulatory person to skip the elevator. The elevator is for everyone, including people with disabilities.

If you do not have a disability and you enter a public restroom that is empty, you should generally not use the accessible stalls, leaving them open in case a person with a disability’s arrival is imminent. If it is the only unoccupied stall, however, it is perfectly acceptable to use it. There is no constitutional right for a person with a disability to not have to wait for an elevator or an accessible bathroom stall, only that those options are available in the environment.

But to fake a disability to get a preferable seat on a flight, to avoid a pet fee, and to secure a prime parking spot is contemptible. These are rights of people with actual disabilities which were long fought for and their arrival signaled a tremendous step forward in our society. They are things that represent small steps toward equality. They don’t make life easy for people with disabilities, but they do make life a little less difficult. To fake a disability to do the same thing for yourself is very sad indeed.

Mike Glenn: A Special Player, Person and Pioneer in Deaf Basketball in America

When I was growing up in Carbondale, some of my fondest memories were going to college basketball games. The Salukis of Southern Illinois University have quite a tradition, and there were many memorable nights spent at the SIU Arena. One such evening was January 19, 1978, when SIU hosted undefeated and 4th ranked Indiana State, featuring furture NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird. The Salukis took down the Sycamores, that evening, 79-76, one of the greatest upsets in the history of SIU basketball. The following year, the Bird and Indiana State came to town, again undefeated, ranked #1, and this time escaped with a 69-68 win, on their way to their historic season where they finished runner-up in the NCAA Tournament.

But my all-time favorite SIU team was the team from 1976-77. The team featured brothers Corky and Wayne “Rubberband Man” Abrams, Richard Ford, and Gary Wilson. The unquestioned star of the team, however, was a smooth shooting guard by the name of Mike Glenn, known as “The Stinger.” Glenn averaged 21 points per game and the Salukis went 22-7 in a season which featured a win over nationally ranked Mizzou, MVC regular-season and tournament titles, and a berth in the NCAA tournament. There were only 32 teams in the tournament back then, so the first-round victory over Arizona put the Salukis in the Sweet 16 for the very first time. They would go on to lose their next game to #9 Wake Forest out of the ACC, putting an end to one of the great Saluki seasons of all time.

Mike Glenn, Guard, Atlanta Hawks

Mike Glenn went to Coosa High School in Rome, Georgia. If you wonder how a kid from northwest Georgia winds up in Carbondale, it was because in the early 1970s, many colleges in the south would not recruit black athletes. SIU had an assistant coach, Herm Williamson, who had developed contacts in Georgia high schools, and many talented black players had made their way to SIU in those days. Prior to Glenn, Walt Frazier had come up from Atlanta and future NBA player Joe Meriweather had arrived a few years later from Columbus, GA. Once desegration finally took hold and SEC schools started recruting black players, the pipeline dried up and a golden era of Saluki basketball came to an end.

Mike Glenn’s father was a high school basketball coach – but not of just any high school. Charles Glenn was the head basketball coach at the Geogia School for the Deaf in nearby Cave Spring. Young Mike spent his childhood going to practices, learning the game, and learning to be around deaf athletes and deaf culture. After his stellar career at SIU, Mike Glenn was selected in the second round of the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls and played 10 seasons in the NBA with the Buffalo Braves, the New York Knicks, the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks.

My guess is he was probably the only NBA player fluent in sign language, and Mike Glenn never forgot about the kids back in Cave Spring. Starting in 1979, he established the Mike Glenn Basketball Camp for the Deaf, the first such basketball camp in the country and it still exists to this day. Currently held in Decatur, Georgia, the camp is free to all deaf basketball players and has featured current and former NBA players as well as well as appearences by the Harlem Globetrotters. It helped give momentum to other deaf basketball camps all across the country.

After his playing career, Mike Glenn would go on to be a basketball announcer and color analyst for TNT, ESPN, and the Atlanta Hawks television network. In 2016, he was inducted in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. SIU has always been proud of Mike Glenn, class of 1977, and not just because of his career in the NBA. They are more proud of the person he is, how he always gives back to the deaf community, and how he is a wonderful representive for the university.

Tip of the cap to “The Stinger,” Mike Glenn.

Ohio DD Awareness Day Ohio Tech Ambassador Panel on FaceBook Live + Upcoming Tech Online Zoom Sessions

All five Ohio Tech Ambassadors, listed below, will be giving a panel presentation at 2021 Developmental Disability Awareness and Advocacy Day on Tuesday, March 2 at 10 AM representing each of their specific regions. This will be streamed live on Facebook Live Streaming at the Developmental Disability Awareness & Advocacy Day Facebook Page at: https://www.facebook.com/OhioDDAwareness

 The Southern Ohio Council of Governments (SOCOG) recently launched the Ohio Tech Ambassador Network, a program promoting how adaptive technology use enhances lives and independence for people with developmental disabilities. Five Tech Ambassadors have been selected statewide to discuss how they use supportive technology at home, at school, at work and in the community. 

Tech Ambassadors will share their personal experiences through virtual peer-to-peer mentoring events scheduled through June 2021. Service providers, family members, mentors and individuals with developmental disabilities will have the opportunity to hear from the Tech Ambassadors firsthand about their own experiences, learn more about adaptive technologies that are available today and ask questions live.

Upcoming events with Zoom registration links:

Here’s information on each Tech Ambassador and the Website:

Central: Marci Straughter <mstraughter@ohiotechambassadors.org 

Southwest: Robert Shuemak <rshuemak@ohiotechambassadors.org

Northwest:   Nathan Turner <nturner@ohiotechambassadors.org 

Southeast: Tanner Huff <thuff@ohiotechambassadors.org 

Northeast: Chris Cooley <ccooley@ohiotechambassadors.org 

Website for more information: www.ohiotechambassadors.org 

Friday Spotlight: Ronnie Milsap

There is a town just north of Carbondale called DuQuoin, home to something called the DuQuoin State Fair. My whole life growing up I assumed the DuQuoin State Fair had some connection to the Illinois State Fair – perhaps it was the state fair for folks who felt it was too much to drive the four hours to Springfield. It turns out that is exactly what it is, but it has nothing to do with the Illinois State Fair at all. It is a private business that made a habit of being open the week after the Illinois State Fair, and grabbing some of the rides and atrractions in the process, who only had to move a few hours down the road to keep working. It’s a brilliant plan that I only figured out in the past few years.

The salad days for the DuQuoin State Fair were from 1957 to 1980, when it was host to a very prestigious horse race known as The Hambletonian, which is the first leg of the harness racing triple crown. The race has been around since 1926 and for most of its career it was run either in the state of New York or in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s currently run in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ. But for 23 years, up until I was 14 years old, it was held in good old DuQuoin, Illinois, population 5,761. For a few years in the late 70s, the race was broadcast live on ESPN making it, officially, the biggest sporting event in the history of southern Illinois. Of course, I didn’t realize at the time that in the late 70s, ESPN was also showing tractor pulls and dog jumping competitions — anything, really. But it was still national TV – in DuQuoin!

My criteria for attendance for concerts at the DSF boiled down to one thing: if I had ever heard of them, which was not a given. If I could name a couple of their songs, that was a more-than-sufficient resume for southern Illinois concert goers. One year I scraped together a few dollars to go see Ronnie Milsap, who had been successful enough on the country charts to have some of his records make the top 20 on the pop charts as well. He had easily cleared the bar for my patronage.

I walked into the concert that night not knowing much about him, other than he was blind and had a couple of pop hits. When it was over, it was one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen. I sat there mesmerized by his musical talents, by all the different styles of music he could play. By his voice. I heard country music, soul music, 50s doo-wap, big band songs — he could do it all. He even got up once and danced withone of his back up singers – lifts and tosses! I left that night a forever fan of the amazing musical talent of Ronnie Milsap, and it continues to this day.

His story is remarkable, too remarkable to recount fully. Abandoned by his mother, he was raised by his grandparents in the Smoky Mountains. He was a pupil at the North Carolina State School for the Blind in Raleigh since the age of 5, which had an incredible music program. He turned down an opportunity to be the first blind law student ever at Emory University, choosing instead a life on the road, trying to be a rock and roll singer. After ten years of trying, he found himself one night playing a gig and was told that the great Charley Pride was in the house that night. He broke from his normal set and played a couple of Charley’s hits as a tribute. After the show, Charley Pride came backstage and told Ronnie that he had a future in country music. Charley took him around Nashville to meet some folks, and the rest is history. Forty #1 hits later, Ronnie Milsap is one of the legendary country artists of all time. I’m so glad someone in his management team made him play the DuQuoin State Fair.

In his career, Ronnie Milsap was a tireless advocate of blind students learning Braille, rather than just relying on books on tape. He is huge user and advocate of assistive technology for the blind – it has always helped him stay in contact with his fans. He has been an inspiration to blind and visually impaired people all over the world.

This is one of his biggest hits, and one of my favorite songs by him. It was written by Burt Bacharach and was originally a hit for R&B singer Chuck Jackson. Ronnie took it, made it his own, and had a #1 hit with it. What other country artist could take a Burt Bacharach song to the top of the charts? Legend. Today’s Friday spotlight is the wonderful Ronnie Milsap.

Technology Showcase on March 3 – Email to receive Zoom Link

Technology Showcase on March 3
Marci Straughter, one of the Tech Ambassadors for the State of Ohio, will be having a technology showcase on March 3, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. to show people how technology can be used to enhance safety and independence for people who have developmental disabilities. The showcase will be held on Zoom.
Marci will demonstrate how she uses technology in her home and the community. Marci also serves on the Self-Advocate Advisory Council with the Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities. 

If you are interested in more details or would like to receive the Zoom Link to March 3rd, 10 AM event, send an email to Marci at marci@ohiotechambassadors.org