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There are prizes for peace, there are prizes for science and now, there is an award that pays tribute to leaders with disabilities. The Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards is in its second year, and while his name might not seem important—it is. Dr. Viscardi, who wore prosthetic legs, advised no less than eight presidents, from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter, on hot-button disability issues of their days. Any individual who has served as a force for change or helped to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities can apply for the 2014 awards. “It’s like the Nobel Prize for disabilities advocacy,” says John Kemp, CEO and President of The Viscardi Center. This year, the aim is to encourage more nominees who can give a “contemporary, international” face to the program, Kemp says. He points to actor Michael J. Fox, who is breaking new ground on prime-time television on The Michael ... keep reading »
Following the success of sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon, a company called AbleRoad is using technology to connect people with restaurants and shops, only this time the venues being reviewed are—ideally—accessible to people with disabilities. The AbleRoad website and app hitches to the crowdsourcing trend and lets people with disabilities review any public space or business. It is integrated with Yelp, allowing users to see both the Yelp and AbleRoad ratings for a business on the same screen. Like Yelp, users can add ratings and upload photos while on location; AbleRoad lets you rate them for many factors relevant to people with disabilities, such as ease of access or the availability of sign language interpreters. AbleRoad’s site and app are accessible to people who are blind or have low vision and use their own screen reader or Apple’s built-in VoiceOver screen-reading technology on the iPhone and iPad. The app is also available on Google ... keep reading »
Losing motor skills or not having full control over your leg or hand is like losing a part of your body.  A brain surgery some years ago affected my motor skills, and I’m now in physical therapy to regain full hand-eye coordination and balance.  I’ve tried piano lessons, sewing, you name it. When nothing seemed to work, I took a hard look at my rehab options and reverted back to martial arts, which I began doing years ago. As scary as it may sound for a brain surgery patient, I now swear by it. I’ve tried many martial arts schools, and the Karate and other uniforms from those free one-month trials are gathering dust. Gentle martial arts like Tai Chi and Aikido were easy to adapt to, but the highly physical styles like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Karate were challenging. I finally selected the kick-heavy Taekwondo, which addressed my weaknesses effectively. I didn’t settle ... keep reading »
I spoke with NPR today on a show called Where We Live. The topic was perceptions of people with disabilities in the media. Apparently I did a good job but I could hardly hear John Dankosky, the radio host; they have a great producer team (Brianna and Catie) who got me some questions in advance, which probably saved the segment. Next time I’ll drive up to the studio in Hartford. Anyway, after I spoke I was thinking about how film and television shows represent disability—both good and bad. A colleague wrote after hearing the piece and said a “good” example is Michael J. Fox’s role on The Good Wife. I agree. Another is RJ Mitte in Breaking Bad. Mitte has cerebral palsy and he even admits to making it seem worse than it is on TV, for effect. It’s not like people with disabilities can just make their symptoms appear on the ... keep reading »