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Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver released a statement regarding President Obama’s comment on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where Obama said his recently low bowling score was akin to “Special Olympics or something.” The president then called Shriver to apologize. According to the statement, President Obama apologized to Shriver in a “sincere and heartfelt way,” saying “he did not intend to humiliate Special Olympics athletes or people with intellectual disabilities.” Still, Shriver remarked that “words hurt” and that “using ‘Special Olympics’ in a negative or derogatory context can be a humiliating put-down to people with special needs.” Shriver, whose mother, Eunice Kennedy of the Kennedy Family, founded the organization 40 years ago, went on to call the experience a “teachable moment for our country” and encouraged “open conversation and dialogue about how stereotypes can cause pain.” Shriver also highlighted the Special Olympics’ upcoming ‘Spread the Word to End the ... keep reading »
President Obama’s gaffe on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night warrants media attention, but not outright fury. The term Special Olympics is most often used (and agreed, unfortunately) among able-bodied people when they are discussing — or more specifically, dissing — their own athletic performance. In its most optimistic form, the term Special Olympics represents a group of athletes who all share in winning medals, notwithstanding perhaps lower scores or slower speeds. In its most negative form, the term Special Olympics is antithetical to athletic. That is not what President Obama meant. And that’s what prompted him to immediately call Tim Shriver, head of Special Olympics, and apologize, as well as invite Special Olympics athletes to the White House for a bowling game. In my opinion, the term Special Olympics is analogous to saying “this nightclub is ghetto” or “that dude is so white bread.” It’s a language ... keep reading »
Before I start blogging about the gadgets and devices that I discovered at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in Orlando, I wanted to write about something I have been chewing on for the last 24 hours, which has ultimately altered the way I am going to approach my upcoming book, The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology (due out in late 2009). While there were lots of cool, new technologies exhibited at ATIA, I also had the chance to attend a half-dozen seminars that, when tied all together, painted a fantastic yet mostly under-reported picture of the future of assistive technology and the driving forces that will allow people with disabilities — whether they are born with one, have been injured during a war, or are experiencing the effects of aging — to live longer and more fruitful lives. Here are five trends that today are shaping the assistive ... keep reading »
President-elect Barack Obama formally announced Sunday that retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki is his pick to be secretary of Veterans Affairs. Obama chose Shinseki, 66, over front-runner Tammy Duckworth, who many believed would be chosen as Obama’s secretary. A decorated veteran, Gen. Shinseki served two combat tours in Vietnam and lost part of his foot. Shinseki has been cited as an example by Pentagon critics who say the former Army chief’s advice was ignored in 2003, resulting in too few U.S. troops being sent to Iraq after the invasion.” The Washington Post obtained a private letter that Gen. Shinseki wrote to Donald Rumsfeld in June 2003 just before stepping down as chief of staff, in which he wrote that “Without people in the equation, readiness and transformation are little more than academic exercises.” The letter was never publicly released. On Meet the Press on Sunday, Mr. Obama said there is ... keep reading »
Barack Obama’s election has left some important seats open in his cabinet and in the Illinois senate. His selection of Sen. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State leaves New York Governor David Paterson, who is partially blind, to appoint Clinton’s replacement. The race for Obama’s Illinois senate seat is also heating up, with Gov. Rod Blagojevich set to name a replacement. Among the handful of candidates being considered, Tammy Duckworth is a popular pick. Ms. Duckworth, 40, served in Iraq and flew combat missions as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. During a mission in 2004, her helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.  Duckworth lost both of her legs — one leg below the knee (BK) and one leg above the knee (AK). After a long recovery process, she uses prosthetics, (such as the Proprio electric-powered ankle shown), that allow her to walk and continue to fly aircraft. Ms. ... keep reading »
What do a professional skier, a Hollywood consultant and a business blogger have in common? A disability, of course. On Tuesday I attended the Disability Innovation Forum in Washington, and met a great group of people who are leading the conversation on hiring and marketing to people with disabilities. The keynote speaker was Bonnie St. John, an African-American leg amputee who became a Paralympic medalist in downhill skiing in 1984. Using comedy and an authenic voice, Bonnie broke down the sterotypes surrounding disability and made everyone in the room feel comfortable. The forum was organized by Working Mother Media‘s Diversity Best Practices division, with the help of Jonathan Kaufman of DisabilityWorks. An education and policy extraordinaire, Jonathan told me he’s about to begin creating a ph.D program in Disability Studies at Columbia University’s medical school. He also consults with Hollywood on movies that feature disabled characters. Some lively afternoon panels ... keep reading »
Americans with disabilities were given a voice last night with President-elect Obama’s victory speech in Chicago. “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer…It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled — Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.” By including the disabled as a specific group, Obama has sent a message that he will put disability issues on the map. No other president of our time has done this ... keep reading »
A few hours ago I read about Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s first policy speech detailing how a McCain-Palin administration would help children with disabilities. In Pittsburgh on Friday, Palin dotted her speech with references to her six-month old son, Trig, who has Down syndrome. Oftentimes, these are the most powerful moments in her speeches, where mothers of special-needs children come to her rallies desperate for a remedy to the educational and health-care failures that have plagued them over and over again. Special-needs children are “especially close to my heart,” she tells the crowds. But Palin isn’t the answer. I repeat, she ain’t the quick fixin’ we’re all needin’ in the disability space. Many months ago, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama published on his website a detailed plan to support disabled Americans. The four-point plan is designed to improve educational opportunities, end discrimination, increase employment rates, and support independent living for Americans ... keep reading »
President Bush on Thursday signed the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, a little more than 18 years after his father signed the original ADA. Bush’s father stood by his side as his son signed the bill into law. Barack Obama, one of the bill’s co-sponsor’s, made a statement saying “it must be a priority for our government to do everything it can to protect and respect the needs of these Americans….Eighteen years ago, enacting the Americans with Disabilities Act was a historic milestone for millions of Americans when it was signed into law. It gave Americans with disabilities better access, more opportunities, and increased independence…While we still have much more to do, this law is an important affirmation of our commitment to Americans with disabilities.” For the record, McCain is a supporter of the 1990 law. Palin, who has a son with Down Syndrome, says she will work to “speed research” ... keep reading »

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