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Christina Mendez and her 16-year-old son Damian drove to John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens, New York on a Saturday afternoon. But they didn’t go anywhere. Mendez was helping Damian, who has autism, get acquainted with flying. He’s never been on an airplane. Damian and his mother practiced checking in, walking through security and boarding a plane. Once on board, they fastened their seat belts; a flight attendant offered them snacks. Then the A320 aircraft pulled away from the gate for 20 minutes so Damian could experience the plane in motion. “He was just so excited to sit in a plane, and to interact with the flight attendants and see the cockpit,” says Ms. Mendez. Around 300 children and their families gathered at JetBlue’s Terminal 5 as part of the inaugural Blue Horizons for Autism, a new program from JetBlue and Autism Speaks that aims to help kids with autism become familiar with flying. ... keep reading »
On Wednesday, Ironside, starring Blair Underwood, debuts on NBC. Although Underwood does not have a spinal cord injury, the character he plays, Robert T. Ironside, does. NBC didn’t fit Mr. Underwood with clothing designed for a seated body type. After all, Mr. Underwood can stand up and go home at the end of the day. Still, if Ironside truly had a physical disability, he would want specially designed clothing for use in his wheelchair. Here are five reasons why this matters—and yes, wooing the ladies is on the list. 1. Rubbing the wrong way. Most likely, all of Ironside’s pants have thick center seams and possibly metal detailing that can cause horrendous pressure sores, whereas clothing for the seated body type does not. Seams can act like sandpaper, rubbing away the layers of the skin. If this goes undetected because you don’t have feeling in your legs to recognize a sore, the skin can erode all the ... keep reading »
American Girl has taken a courageous step towards diversity with the launch of dolls with hearing aids, well as dolls without hair, signaling to the disability community that little girls who are differently-abled are important enough to have their own personalized doll experience. Any 18-inch My American Girl doll can be fitted with one or two hearing aids to make her hard of hearing or deaf, whichever her owner desires. All it takes is a visit to the doll hospital, where a doctor will perform a permanent piercing behind one or both ears for a $14 fee. New dolls also can be ordered with hearing aids already installed. The hearing aids are removable and sell at all American Girl stores, and online, for $14 each. The company also released an adorable service dog-in-training set for dolls who are blind or in need of assistance. The dog, Chocolate Chip, wears a service vest ... keep reading »
Greg Damerow is an honest-talking guy from Ohio who went from working at a plumbing company to becoming a competitive hand cycler, most recently winning two medals at the USA Cycling Para-Cycling Nationals in Augusta, Ga. Hand cycling is Damerow’s sport of choice after losing his ability to walk at age 18 due to a debilitating form of arthritis. Hand cycles are three-wheeled bikes powered by the arms, not legs, and require immense upper body strength. Knees are tucked under the bike. Not content with the current design of hand cycles on the market for disabled athletes, Damerow took it upon himself to start a company, Personalized Cycling Alternatives, to build adaptive bikes, working out of his garage in Richmond Hill, Ohio. He builds custom hand cycles for anyone who orders one, at a cost of about $2,000 for an entry-level, recreational hand cycle and $3,000 and more for a racing bike. When ... keep reading »
I’d like to forgive Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times’ T.V. writer, for his lukewarm review of Push Girls, which premiered last night on the Sundance Channel (and you can also watch it on Hulu.com, iTunes and Xfinity). Push Girl tracks five dynamic women with acquired mobility disabilities –- four paraplegics and one quadriplegic — as they each tackle life, their careers and love. That these five girls “are not representative” of people with disabilities, as the New York Times says, could not be farther from the truth. Tiphany is a pretty blonde who uses hand controls to drive her sports car. There’s Auti, a Latina hip-hop dancer, who has a dance chair with dollar signs on her rims. Mia is a former athlete and Angela is an aspiring model. A fifth girl, Chelsie, will appear in later episodes. True, they are not representative of disability in the same way that Snooki ... keep reading »
For Bill Christiaanse, business is often personal. At Bank of America Merrill Lynch, he helps families of children with special needs figure out how to financially provide for their child over a lifetime. He’s also the father of Matt, a 26-year-old who has autism, which means he knows firsthand what it’s like to worry about making sure Matt’s housing, health and other expenses are taken care of—now, and 40 years from now. As a Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor with the Certified Special Needs Advisor designation, Christiaanse is one of a handful of 1,000 Merrill advisors around the country who can take on the complex and sensitive issues surrounding special needs children and their families. Working out of Stamford, Conn., he’s an expert in Supplemental Needs Trusts, or Special Needs Trusts, which are designed to protect the assets of a person with a physical or mental disability. To aid families through the initial ... keep reading »
There are 13,000 taxis plying their trade each day in New York City, yet people with disabilities have no “meaningful access” to them: Only around 230 cabs, or 2%, are accessible to people using wheelchairs. So when a U.S. judge ruled in December that the city would need to come up with a way to introduce more accessible vehicles, Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission thunk one up. They proposed issuing 6,000 new medallions over 10 years, of which 2,000 would be reserved for wheelchair-accessible yellow cabs. But many city officials think this plan won’t work. In today’s New York Times, former New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission chairman Matthew Daus tried to make the argument that wheelchair-accessible cabs take up too much space on city streets, would cause insurance premiums to rise, and people with disabilities wouldn’t even bother to use them because ... keep reading »
Different Is the New Normal follows the adolescence of Ariel Small, whose family learned he has Tourette syndrome when he was five years old –- noticing his unique motor tics such as blinking. His parents, Robin and David Small, who produced and provided major support for the documentary, struggle to help Ariel fit in at school and at home with his four brothers in the Chicago suburbs where they live. Through vintage home videos and one-on-one interviews between Ariel and his mother, we learn that Ariel is an intelligent, thoughtful 17-year old young man who has a gift for articulating the complexities of Tourette’s and how it disrupts his daily functions. We learn that most people who have the disease exhibit both external symptoms like tics and internal behaviors like obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or learning disabilities. As Ariel talks about his middle and high school years, it’s clear that ... keep reading »
Different Is the New Normal, which premiered last night on WNET, follows the adolescence of Ariel Small, whose family learned he has Tourette syndrome when he was five years old –- noticing his unique motor tics such as blinking. His parents, Robin and David Small, who produced and provided major support for the documentary, struggle to help Ariel fit in at school and at home with his four brothers in the Chicago suburbs where they live. Through vintage home videos and one-on-one interviews between Ariel and his mother, we learn that Ariel is an intelligent, thoughtful 17-year old young man who has a gift for articulating the complexities of Tourette’s and how it disrupts his daily functions. We learn that most people who have the disease exhibit both external symptoms like tics and internal behaviors like obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or learning disabilities. As Ariel talks about his middle and ... keep reading »
The Starkey Hearing Foundation is looking for “ambitious and warm-hearted” young adults age 18 to 26 to participate in a volunteer program that will be turned into a 13-episode documentary centered around Starkey’s philanthropic work in third-world countries. As fans of Celebrity Apprentice know, actor and Starkey Foundation ambassador Marlee Matlin showcased the nonprofit’s flagship program on national T.V. earlier this year. Viewers saw Deaf African children’s eyes light up when they heard sound for the first time with a hearing aid, and Matlin raised more than $1 million for the foundation. Other celebrity ambassadors include Miley Cyrus, Bill Rancic, and Meat Loaf. Volunteers must currently live in Southern California, and if chosen, will travel to new countries to help Starkey succeed in its mission. Week to week, volunteers will be creating robust charitable projects in every country the series visits, participating in an effort that will leave behind the resources, ... keep reading »

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