New Augmentative and Alternative Communication Speakers Connection

United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (USSAAC) has launched a new campaign called “Amplifying AAC Voices,” designed to provide people who rely on AAC more opportunities to be heard. The initial initiative involves the creation of an online “AAC Speakers Connection,” a web portal that facilitates the matchmaking between AAC Speakers and those that wish to engage them as paid speakers for a wide variety of purposes. 

If you know of any adults who use AAC and enjoy public speaking that would like to join USSAAC’s AAC Speaker Connection, please encourage them to sign up at https://speaker.ussaac.org/

Also, Just FYI from this non-profit —

Their first fundraiser is a Virtual Auction, October 1-15, 2021.  

If You Wish, here’s a sneak peek at the items we have collected for the auction so far.  https://www.silentauctionpro.com/bidonlinegrid.php?groupId=1860

WHAT’S THE MOST FREQUENTLY MANUFACTURED ITEM IN HISTORY?

Recently, the recordings of the 2021 TechSummit have been made publicly available at: https://nisonger.osu.edu/technology-project/techsummit-2021-virtual-bag/

In addition to presentation videos, conference handouts and a complete list of TechSummit 2021 vendors & their websites are available.

As I was reviewing the information from the 2021 TechSummit Conference, and the many technological advancements that give people with disabilities more options to live independently with supports, I am reminded of the importance of a piece of technology much earlier in my life.

Or as Billy Joel put it in part of a well-known song lyric –

“… I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes …”

I am reminded of a portable transistor radio with a single ear earpiece.

Why am I bringing forward this decades old technology when the 2021 TechSummit was discussing some of the newest technology? Please journey with me for a few moments.

Over my numerous surgeries and medical procedures as a person with Cerebral Palsy, many of them entailed 3-4 months or more far away from home in the hospital. Many times, television was only available for an hour or two in the evening. And, as I again betray my age, smart phones and the internet were many, many years away.

But I could have a portable handheld transistor radio with a single ear earpiece – about the size of a small paperback book.

This gave me access to the outside world and intellectual stimulation at a time when most of my energies were taken up with surgery, post-surgical physical challenges joined by considerable pain and rehabilitation. The radio allowed me intellectual freedom with news, sports, music, talk shows and the like from local stations. In a time when physical focus and recuperation was the top priority, this now simple technology kept my thinking brain engaged and kept my energy up for the next day’s physical therapy (also, it gave the nurses, aides, janitors, cooks, and other staff a rest from my constant questions and discussion as I tried to keep my thinking up to date in addition to physical improvement).

Okay, before I relate this discussion back to the 2021 TechSummit, let’s answer the question: WHAT’S THE MOST FREQUENTLY MANUFACTURED ITEM IN HISTORY?

As you may have guessed, it is the transistor (although it may not now be the same type as in my handheld radio).

In a 2018 article, computerhistory.org says “MOS transistors are microscopic electronic devices that serve as the fundamental building blocks of silicon computer chips. Millions could fit inside the period at the end of this sentence.”

It goes on to say, “In 2014 industry analyst Jim Handy estimated that 2.9 sextillion transistors had been manufactured by the industry since the first one sprang to life in late 1947. A sextillion is one followed by 21 zeros—that’s orders of magnitude greater than the number of stars in the Milky Way. He recently updated the total to 13 sextillion. As modern graphics and artificial intelligence chips each contain billions of transistors the total continues to build at an astronomical rate.”

Link to entire article if you’re interested: https://computerhistory.org/blog/13-sextillion-counting-the-long-winding-road-to-the-most-frequently-manufactured-human-artifact-in-history/

Last point, how does my trip down transistor radio memory lane and the 13 sextillion transistors made as of 2018 relate to the 2021 TechSummit and new possible choices for people with disabilities to live more independently with supports and help from the latest technology?

First, listen to some or all the presentations from the TechSummit conference at the link above.

Next, I submit for your consideration that this new technology has the potential to change, support and enrich our lives as people with disabilities in the same way my transistor radio gave me freedom and choices in a time in my life when my choices were not that numerous.

Don’t be afraid of these new technologies and just say I want to keep things the way they are. Learn all you can. That’s what events like the TechSummit are all about (and thanks to all the sponsors you’ll see on the website for making the conference possible). Ask a lot of questions. Try out new things to see if they will work for you.

This new technology might just give you access and support the same way my little radio did so many years ago.

Nisonger Center — Photo Contest + Self Advocates Wanted to Participate LEND Program

From Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities “NewsBits”

Nisonger Photo Contest–Deadline August 1

The Nisonger Center at The Ohio State University has extended its deadline for the annual ‘In Sights’ Photo Contest. Enter for a chance to win up to $500. This year’s theme is Sports and Play Activities. For additional details, call 614-685-3196 or click below:
http://nisonger.osu.edu/photocontest

Self Advocates Wanted to Participate in Nisonger LEND Program

Nisonger Center is recruiting for two self-advocates to participate in the LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) as trainees. Trainees learn about disability, advocacy and will participate in a leadership project. Trainees are paid for 10 hours of work per week. Letters of interest and resumes can be sent to christine.brown@osumc.edu or call 614-688-8472 for more information.

The Mother of Disability Rights

‘Crip Camp’ the Oscars and the tenancy of one legendary activist

Disability rights advocate Judy Heumann in Washington, where she has lived since 1993. (Shuran Huang/For The Washington Post)

By David A. Taylor  May 25, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. EDT

From May 30, 2021 “The Washington Post Magazine”

Judy Heumann’s pandemic year started off extremely well. In late January 2020, she attended a Sundance screening of “Crip Camp,” a documentary about disabled young people — including her — who, after meeting at a Catskills summer camp run by hippies in the 1970s, went on to shape the disability rights movement and change federal law. It was a surprise hit and became an Oscar nominee for best documentary. 

The following month, she published a memoir called “Being Heumann.” (She hadn’t known when the film would be released, so the timing was a coincidence.) Publishers Weekly hailed the book as “thoughtful and illuminating.” 

Then, just days before the world shut down, Heumann — who has made her home in D.C. since 1993 — joined Trevor Noah on “The Daily Show.” At one point in the interview, Noah called her a “badass” and asked her about the time, in 1972, when she “decided to shut New York down” with a disability rights protest. 

In the midst of their friendly exchange, however, Noah made a reference to “able-bodied” people — and Heumann doesn’t like that term. “I call you ‘non-disabled,’ ” she said with a smile, “because the likelihood of you acquiring a disability, temporarily or permanently, is statistically very high.” A slightly dazed look crossed Noah’s face. “Did you just threaten me?” he asked, deadpan. 

If “Crip Camp” and Trevor Noah introduced Heumann to a wider audience, then it’s arguably about time. Susan Mizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Disability Rights Program, calls Heumann “the mother of the disability rights movement in so many ways” — an activist “who doesn’t take crap, never has.” 

Unable to walk since before age 2 because of polio, Heumann, now 73, grew up in Brooklyn, where she felt championed by her parents. Werner and Ilse Heumann were German Jewish immigrants who lost family in the Holocaust. In the early 1950s they didn’t know about access for disabled kids, but they knew their daughter was going to school. When they took her for her first day, however, the school principal physically blocked them at the entrance, saying Judy was a fire hazard. 

America then had no room for disability, and the Americans With Disabilities Act was still four decades away. Judy’s father worked long hours at a butcher shop, so the “day-to-day work of fighting fell on my mother,” Heumann writes in her book. “Telling Ilse Heumann that something wasn’t possible was a big mistake.” Dubbed Mighty Mite by her husband, Judy’s mother simply didn’t hear the word “no.” 

As an adult, Heumann continued the fight her mother had started for instance, suing the New York Board of Education when it denied her application to be a teacher. It was a lawsuit, she told me, that even the ACLU wouldn’t take back then. Yet when the case came before Constance Baker Motley, a civil rights pioneer turned District Court judge, she agreed to hear it. New York settled and gave Heumann a job. 

Heumann laughs in discussing stories that back up her badass rep: shutting down traffic in Manhattan (to protest Richard Nixon’s veto of the 1972 Rehabilitation Act), getting hauled off an airplane by security (for insisting she had a right to her seat) and launching a sit-in at a federal building in San Francisco, with meals provided by the Black Panthers, to try to get a crucial section of the revived Rehabilitation Act enforced and end discrimination against people with disabilities. 

From 2010 to 2017, Heumann served as special adviser on international disability rights at the State Department, working to make disability part of the department’s agenda and to pass an international treaty similar to the Americans With Disabilities Act. More than 180 countries have ratified the 2006 convention, but not the United States because of political division. How to get it ratified? You get around the nos, like her mother did, says Heumann. “You figure it out.” 

New challenges continue to arise: The pandemic, Heumann, notes, has amplified the issues faced by many in the disabled community. For people who need help getting dressed, bathing, cooking or going to the bathroom, the coronavirus and the shutdown created “definitely a more difficult situation” by making it tougher to find helpers who could come into the home. Some disabled friends of Heumann and her husband, Jorge Pineda — who also uses a wheelchair because of a spinal cord injury — had to leave D.C. to live with family elsewhere. 

At a Q&A after a Sundance screening of “Crip Camp,” someone asked: “Why didn’t we know this story?” In our conversation, that question brought Heumann back to her exchange with Trevor Noah, and a truth it revealed. She was taken up short when he pronounced himself “threatened,” but then saw an honesty in that. That’s because non-disabled people do feel threatened, she told me. “It’s one of the big reasons why really getting meaningful, engaged discussion” about disability is difficult. Most people avoid what they feel threatens them — what they don’t know. 

At the Academy Awards, Heumann — wearing a custom Markarian silk suit — joined “Crip Camp” co-directors Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham on the red carpet. Although they would, in the end, leave the Oscars without a statue, Heumann says the film “still won because it’s gotten where it is”: a top feature streaming on Netflix in 29 languages globally with subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and audio description available in 15 languages. 

And if seeing Heumann’s story on-screen brings viewers closer to understanding disability, then it wouldn’t be the first time she has changed minds: During a conversation this spring on her podcast, “The Heumann Perspective,” LeBrecht — who was a few years younger than Heumann when they met at Camp Jened — credited her with inspiring his activism. “You’re the reason I got involved with disability rights,” he said. “And that never left me, and it’s the reason that I didn’t want this story to be lost to history.” 

David A. Taylor is a Washington writer.

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!   

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

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.

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 

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 

Pondering the Meaning of Liberty

Pondering the Meaning of Liberty

By Mark E. Seifarth

As of late, my pen and my keyboard have been a bit silent as I sort through the cacophony of opinions & ideas on the recent nation shattering events.

Then, on an early morning news and comment program, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Jon Meacham gave me a gift, he spoke about a quote from President Ronald Reagan about losing liberty and freedom.

I believe the quote in part reads, “”Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

As we try to put the historic events of the last months into context and relevance, and how to address the deaths and injuries of Capitol Police Officers defending the U.S. Capitol, let’s ponder for a few brief moment what freedom and liberty have meant to the disability community.

Full disclosure, I look at this through the view of a person with a lifelong disability who personally experienced one and more of these current events.

What it has meant thus far, that we still have much liberty and equality yet to achieve for people with disabilities, and perhaps with importance, what it means to lose our liberty and our country’s liberty.

Let us remember just some examples of over more than 50 years of hard work and sweat that achieved liberty:

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensuring equal access to free public education and appropriate special education for children with disabilities.
  • Rehabilitation Act (and its many subsequent iterations) not only giving access to job training services and later independent living services & centers for people with disabilities but also very importantly Rehabilitation Act Section 504 banned discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal funds.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act & subsequent ADA Amendments – The White House archives called the ADA “a landmark moment in history.”    “…On July 26, 1990…America became the first country to adopt a comprehensive civil rights declaration for people with disabilities. The ADA was a landmark moment in history, designed to provide universal accessibility in the areas of employment, public service, public accommodations, and telecommunications.”
  • Olmstead Decision – the United States Supreme Court held in Olmstead v. L.C. that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

With those examples of achievements in the disability movement, we must remember that we have yet far to go under the protection of our Democratic Republic that for over 200 years has espoused freedom and liberty for all, not just those with the biggest club. Just a few examples of yet to do:

  • Repeal Section 14 ( c ) of the Fair Labor Standards Act permitting subminimum wage for workers with disabilities.
  • Equal access to Home and Community-Based Services – so people with disabilities have equal access in our society and to their communities where they wish to live with informed choices.
  • Access to affordable high-speed internet and technology across the country in both urban and rural locations.
  • All have access to affordable health care coverage without having to live in poverty.

So, why the brief history lesson of what has been achieved and the short litany of work yet to be done?

Because perhaps John Meacham and President Reagan have shown us a path to the future.

Without our Democratic Republic with its Three Branches of Government (Executive, Legislative, Judiciary) – where one branch does not attempt to take over the others – we would never have had the opportunities to achieve the equal access we have thus far and continue to work for a fairer more inclusive future.

With respect, do not forget governments in this world that disregarded liberty & freedom and how the rights & lives of people were cast away with that liberty.

Our history teaches us that we must preserve the freedom and liberty of persons with disabilities (and all people) in each generation to come.

Remember when other governments decided our rights and lives had no value and acted accordingly.