How would you feel if an internet search about your neurological condition produced a suggestion you be exterminated?
Autism activists have succeeded in getting Google to change the results of its automated search process so that offensive "hate speech" doesn't routinely show up as a suggested match.
Until today, typing "Autistic people should...." into Google's search engine would produce four so-called "auto-complete" suggestions: that they "be killed," "die," or "be exterminated."
In response, an autism activist group staged an online protest called a Flash Blog, which encouraged people with autism to counteract those violent suggestions with poetry and positive awareness of the developmental condition.
Another Flash Blog was scheduled for this Saturday, but Google today announced it would be cleaning up the automatic search results to eliminate results the company considers "hate speech," said Jason Freidenfelds, a company spokesperson.
"That's fantastic news," said Sparrow Jones, an Idaho autism activist who helped plan the protest. Her group had approached Google earlier, but came away empty-handed.
"They weren't dismissive. They said, 'That's unfortunate,' and shrugged," she said.
It will take some time for the change to roll out, Freidenfelds said, as it is not simply a matter of deleting certain words or phrases. A broader net must be cast to take into account the many different ways users phrase their inquiries.
The "auto-complete" function attempts to save time by suggesting the most common searches that match a user's first few words. In the case of autism, three of the four suggestions could double as bumper-stickers for hate speech.
Sparrow acknowledged the search engine algorithm isn't the problem; it is, rather, the frequency of the hostile search terms typed in by Google's users.
"What we are battling is not the computer. It's the societal attitude that produces all those searches," she said. When asked if it might be better to know those attitudes are out there, instead of having Google mask their popularity, she answered, "We don't need Google to tell us we're not terribly popular."
She cited comments made about the Adam Lanza, the assailant in the Newton, Conn., school shootings, and by extension, about anyone with any degree of autism. "They actually think that as a group of people, we could all go out and commit a crime like that," she said.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Posted by BA Haller at 10:22 PM
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Disabled writer Mark O'Brien's 2003 autobiography has been re-released with success of 2012 film, "The Sessions"
University of Wisconsin Press, which re-released the O'Brien autobiography, How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man's Quest for Independence:
“O’Brien conveys his pain, his suffering, his depression, his anomie—without resorting to tugging at our heartstrings.”
—Felice Picano, author of Like People in History
In September 1955 six-year-old Mark O’Brien moved his arms and legs for the last time. He came out of a coma to find himself enclosed from the neck down in an iron lung, the machine in which he would live for much of the rest of his life.
Available for the first time in paperback, How I Became a Human Being is O’Brien’s account of his struggles to lead an independent life despite a lifelong disability. In 1955 he contracted polio and became permanently paralyzed from the neck down.
O’Brien describes growing up without the use of his limbs, his adolescence struggling with physical rehabilitation and suffering the bureaucracy of hospitals and institutions, and his adult life as an independent student and writer. Despite his physical limitations, O’Brien crafts a narrative that is as rich and vivid as the life he led.
Mark O’Brien was a published poet and co-founder of the Lemonade Factory, a California press that published poetry by people with disabilities. O’Brien died in 1999 at the age of 49 after completing a draft of How I Became a Human Being.
Gillian Kendall is author of Mr. Ding’s Chicken Feet: On a Slow Boat from Shanghai to Texas and editor of Something to Declare: Good Lesbian Travel Writing, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press.
Posted by BA Haller at 8:53 PM
Thursday, February 21, 2013
The Huffington Post:
"Switched At Birth" will air an episode told entirely in American Sign Language (ASL) on Monday, March 4 at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.
In the episode, the students at Carlton School for the Deaf protest to keep their school open. Daphne (Katie Leclerc) leads the student protest and arranges a demonstration to take place the night before their production of "Romeo and Juliet," in which she stars. Meanwhile, Bay (Vanessa Marano), one of the few hearing students in the school, is challenged when she tries to join the cause.
This is the first time a scripted series on mainstream television has done this, according to the network. The episode was inspired by the real-life protests at Gallaudet University that took place 25 years ago. Students, staff, faculty and alumni demanded a deaf president be elected after another hearing president of the university was selected in 1988.
Constance Marie, D.W. Moffett, Lea Thompson, Lucas Grabeel, Sean Berdy and Gilles Marini also star in the ABC Family drama. Marlee Matlin guest stars.
Posted by BA Haller at 8:37 PM
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
NBC News Miami:
It’s 10 a.m. and while most people are just getting settled in at work, Lazaro Mendez, most commonly known as DJ Laz, has finished his Miami radio morning show and is onto his second show of the day.
Mendez, who has 18 singles, eight studio albums, a syndicated radio show, and has even received kudos from President Obama for discovering Flo-Rida and Pitbull, continues to push forward without forgetting the hardships his family overcame to guarantee him a better life.
The “DJ Laz Morning Show, Coast to Coast” airs in both Miami and Los Angeles. Mendez, who has been on the Miami air waves for over twenty years says he’s on a mission to become a national sensation. “I’m Cuban Latino, they are Mexican Latinos but we are all Latinos. So we can relate in one way, shape or form,” Mendez said when asked how he appeals to both East and West coast Latinos.
Appealing to the West Coast Latino after success with his native Miami crowd has not been too difficult a challenge for him — because behind the turntables is a man who overcame a serious disability to pursue his American Dream.
Benita Mendez, his mother, left Cuba with her three children and with the hope of a better life. But she had no idea what she would encounter once in the United States, when she became pregnant with her fourth child.
“And the doctors come in and let my mom know, ‘It is going to be physically impossible for your son to walk.’”
Mendez was born with the bottom of his feet touching his chest; he describes himself as a human “pretzel.” He was diagnosed with Arthrogryposis Multiplex. According to the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine, Arthrogryposis Multiplex is a disease where newborns suffer decreased flexibility in their joints.
“She had it super rough, not only — obviously in Cuba and everything else, having to leave and — but for the baby to be all messed up…she went through it,” Mendez says in his studio, sliding his sunglasses on as his voice begins to crack.
Benita was a headstrong Latina mother who fought the odds and let her faith be her driving force. While kids were playing outside, Mendez asked his dad for some speakers and turntables and that’s how his craft began.
After 17 surgeries, Mendez went from wheelchair to knee braces, and was able to walk — albeit with a limp, that he now considers normal.
“If I didn’t limp or have that disability I wouldn’t have the personality or I would not have had the opportunity that I have had in life,” Mendez explains.
Posted by BA Haller at 10:19 PM
The Huffington Post:
In what some are calling a bionic hand breakthrough, scientists in Switzerland reported the development of a "smart" artificial hand that lets amputees feel what they're touching or holding.
The experimental prosthesis connects directly to an amputee's nervous system, providing realistic sensory feedback -- giving amputees "dexterity and the sensation of touch," according to a written statement.
"We could be on the cusp of providing new and more effective clinical solutions to amputees in the next years," lead researcher Dr. Silvestro Micera, head of the Translational Neural Engineering Laboratory at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, said in the statement.
The scientists recently tested the system by implanting electrodes into the median and ulnar nerves of an amputee, who was then able to control a prosthetic hand that was not physically attached to his arm, according to the statement. The amputee was able to wriggle the fingers of the prosthesis, make a fist, and hold objects -- and was able to "feel" needles jabbed into the palm of the prosthesis, news.com.au reported.
Later this year, the artificial hand will be fitted to an unnamed man living in Rome who lost the lower part of his arm following an accident, Dr. Micera told The Independent. If all goes well, a refined version of the prosthesis will be ready for testing within two years, Dr. Micera said.
Dr. Micera discussed the research at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held Feb. 14-18 in Boston.
Posted by BA Haller at 10:02 PM
NY Daily News:
Nike and other corporate sponsors are running away from "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee Olympian who South African prosecutors charged with premeditated murder on Feb. 19.
A Nike spokesman told The Associated Press that the Oregon sportswear company had no plans to use Pistorius, who is accused of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, in future advertising campaigns.
The company has already pulled an ad that shows Pistorius, breaking out of the starting block, with a tagline that says, "I am the bullet in the chamber" (pictured).
Prosecutors said on Tuesday that Pistorius fired four shots through a locked at Steenkamp as the woman cowered in a bathroom at the runner's home.
"Nike felt it was appropriate to take the ad down from Oscar's website recognizing the sensitivities of the situation," spokesman KeJuan Wilkins said.
Nike, still reeling from its relationship with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, had responded cautiously immediately after Steenkamp's death. The company offered sympathy to the families of everybody involved in the incident but said it would not comment any further.
Nike and other companies began distancing themselves from Pistorius just hours after his agent Peet van Zyl told reporters that sponsors were standing by the alleged murderer.
"All sponsors are still on board, and they have give us their commitments toward Oscar, based on the relationships that they have formed with him over the past years," van Zyl said. “They are quite happy to allow the legal process to take its course before they make any other further and formal announcements on the relationships that they have formed with him over the past years," van Zyl said. “They are quite happy to allow the legal process to take its course before they make any other further and formal announcements on it.”
Oakley, meanwhile, announced on Monday that it was also cutting ties with Pistorius.
“In light of the recent allegations, Oakley is suspending its contract with Oscar Pistorius, effective immediately," the sunglasses company said in a statement.
The French fashion house Thierry Mugler announced that it would withdraw all products featuring Pistorius, including a cologne launched last year to commemorate the London Paralympics. The company has also deleted references to Pistorius from its website.
"Out of respect and sympathy to the families involved in this tragic case, Thierry Mugler Parfums has removed all campaigns featuring Oscar Pistorius," the company said in a statement.
Posted by BA Haller at 9:51 PM
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
As Oscar Pistorius offered his first defense against a murder charge, the head of the Paralympics was trying to reassure members Tuesday that the organization has a strong future even without its star athlete.
International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven told The Associated Press he has been in a state of "shock and disbelief" since Pistorius was arrested Thursday in the shooting of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Having been central to plans to maintain the momentum from the record-breaking Paralympics last year, Pistorius has now been forced to pull out of all future races.
The South African helped to generate unprecedented interest in disability sports by becoming the first double amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics. Now Craven is acting quickly to ensure the Paralympics' progress is not damaged by the fallout from Pistorius' high-profile case.
"We've got so many stars coming through that this will not be an issue," Craven said.
"Even since this tragedy happened, it's still been 'London, London, London' and what happened there — a unique moment in times that still continues in the hearts and minds of people."
And in a letter to IPC members on Tuesday, Craven sought to shift attention from the "difficult and traumatic day" regarding Pistorius to remind how the London Paralympics succeeded in creating "a whole host of young world-class, medal-winning athletes."
Craven pointed to British sprinter Jonnie Peacock, who deposed Pistorius as 100-meter champion at the Paralympics, and Alan Oliveira, who took the 200 title in front of a crowd of some 80,000 in the London Olympic Stadium.
"It's upon their shoulders that the Paralympic movement will be moving forward and it's still continuing to be the most exciting times after London," Craven said by phone from the IPC winter sports championships in Spain.
Craven has experienced a "roller-coaster of emotion" since he was awakened Thursday with the news of the killing. Pistorius said at a bail hearing Tuesday that he mistook his girlfriend for a robber and the shooting was an accident, not premeditated murder.
"Shock and disbelief," Craven recalled of his initial thoughts. "I could not believe what I was hearing ... because of this total difference between Oscar, the person I knew — I won't say very well but I had interacted with him on many occasions in press conferences etc. and seen him compete — and the Oscar we were hearing about now in the media and with what happened."
Craven said he had not witnessed any change in Pistorius' mindset at the Paralympics even when the runner created a storm by suggesting rival Oliveira was gaining an unfair advantage by using lengthened blades.
"In the heat of competition — I remember when I was a wheelchair basketball player — the redness would come down particularly if I didn't agree with certain refereeing decisions, and I've seen it in other athletes," Craven said. "I think it's something that happens all the time in athletic competitions.
He said the dispute about the blades didn't bother him, and "didn't make me think there was anything different in London (with Pistorius) to what there had been before."
Craven has not made contact with the 26-year-old Pistorius since the Valentine's Day arrest. The Paralympic chief has expressed the organization's condolences to the family of Steenkamp, the model and law graduate who was cremated Tuesday at a memorial service in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Craven wants IPC members to "respect" the justice system.
"This is a police case and we have to remain impartial at all times," he said. "The South African law courts will decide Oscar's fate over the coming months and only then will the full story of what actually happened emerge."
The case has delayed planned announcements on television rights sales for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The IPC has yet to find a U.S. network to show its competitions live after NBC was criticized for broadcasting only 5 1/2 hours of Paralympic highlights from London.
"Meetings have taken place with U.S. television stations with a view to things being put right, definitely by Rio, if not by Sochi," Craven said.
Posted by BA Haller at 3:29 PM
Newstalk in Ireland.
Giles Duley was an award-winning photographer whose work took him to south Sudan, Angola and Bangladesh.
But it was on a trip to Afghanistan that the British photographer’s life changed completely.
Giles stepped on an IED in 2011 and the blast blew off both his legs and his left arm.
Speaking to Orla Barry last year, Mr Duley said he was determined not only to work as a photographer again but to return to Kabul.
Feb. 18 Giles Duley reappeared on The Green Room to talk about his return to Afghanistan, a journey which was documented by the Dispatches programme on Channel Four.
Posted by BA Haller at 3:20 PM
'This is Emma': Lady Gaga introduces her new wheelchair after cancelling tour to undergo emergency surgery on her hip
The Daily Mail in the UK
She was forced to cancel the rest of her Born This Way Ball tour to undergo emergency surgery to her hip.
And Lady Gaga has now been forced to use a wheelchair as she prepares to overcome the ailment.
Posting a snap of the chair on her Twitter page, in true quirky Gaga style the 26-year-old singer introduced her new walking aid as 'Emma'.
Writing alongside the picture, she simply said: 'This is Emma.'
The Bad Romance singer was been forced to cancel all 25 remaining U.S. dates, after suffering a severe injury to her right hip that had been causing her chronic pain.
A statement was posted on the 26-year-old star's official website on Wednesday saying: 'Live Nation Global Touring has confirmed that the remainder of the Lady Gaga Born This Way Ball performances have been cancelled.
'After additional tests this morning to review the severity of the issue, it has been determined that Lady Gaga has a labral tear of the right hip. She will need surgery to repair the problem, followed by strict down time to recover.
'This unfortunately, will force her to cancel the tour, so she can heal. Refunds for the cancelled performances will be available at point of purchase starting Feb 14, 2013.'
The announcement came just one day after the singer issued a public apology after initially cancelling four shows due the injury and revealed she can barely walk due to the inflammation of her joints, known as synovitis.
Gaga said: 'I barely know what to say. I've been hiding a show injury and chronic pain for some time now, [and] over the past month it has worsened. I've been praying it would heal.
'I hid it from my staff. I didn't want to disappoint my amazing fans. However, after last night's performance I could not walk and still can't.'
She admitted she is 'devastated' about the cancellation and sought forgiveness from her fans, saying: 'I hope you can forgive me, as it is nearly impossible for me to forgive myself. I'm devastated & sad. It will hopefully heal as soon as possible. I hate this. I hate this so much. I love you and I'm sorry.'
The world tour began in Seoul, South Korea on April 27, 2012 and was originally due to end in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on March 20, 2013.
Posted by BA Haller at 3:08 PM
North Carolina psychologist creates new superhero aimed at helping people better understand Asperger's
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A Charlotte psychologist has created a new superhero aimed at helping people better understand Asperger's.
Thirteen-year-old Ricky knows he's a little different.
“I usually wait until we’re friends before I start explaining myself,” he said.
He explains that he has Asperger's. He often misses the social cues that help most of us interact with other people.
Dr. Frank Gaskill works with Ricky. He' s a national expert on Asperger's and fondly calls his patients Aspies.
Dr. Gaskill wrote a comic book about the often misunderstood syndrome.
“They are often seen as different, excluded, ignored, bullied. They don’t get invited to birthday parties,” he said.
The comic, he said, “Makes them feel like they’re normal, that there are other children out there like them.”
“The more people that read this the more they'll understand about Aspies like me.”
The drawings are purposely done in a style that makes sense to Aspies.
“The expression on Max Gamer’s face makes it a lot easier to read that facial expression to understand the emotions that are being conveyed.”
One glance around Dr. Gaskill’s office and it’s easy to find his inspiration.
“I feel Asperger kids are superheroes. There are so many things they can do better than anybody else in the world,” said Ricky’s mom, Laurie Baldwin. “It’s an easy read, so I picked it up – I’m like that’s my kid.”
You can find the comic book on amazon.com or at maxgameronline.com.
Posted by BA Haller at 2:44 PM
Thursday, February 14, 2013
A superhero always pays his debts.
Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage is joining the cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Director Bryan Singer tweeted the news tonight, although he did not specify which character the actor would play.
While we’re of the mind that the charismatic 43-year-old could play any badass he put his mind to, there are a few Marvel mutant characters that would match his diminutive height.
One would be Puck, a strapping adventurer who found his physical stature shrunk by mystical forces — making him smaller, but no less of a forceful fighter.
But it’s unclear whether the character, which was part of Marvel’s Alpha Flight series (which started in 1983) would be covered by 20th Century Fox’s license to make movies based on the X-Men comics. Puck is technically an “altered human,” and he did have various adventures alongside the X-Men team, so it very well could count. We won’t know for sure until Singer reveals more.
Marvel sold film rights to Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and X-Men, among others, before Marvel Studios began making its own movies, such as the interlocked Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and Avengers titles, so it’s always a question of which character can be used by whom. For instance, Marvel Studios can’t use any of its comic book mutant characters in its own films, since those all fall under the X-Men deal with Fox.
The reverse goes for MODOK, another smallish Marvel character whose size belies his chaos-causing prowess as a villain. He would fall under the Marvel Studios/Disney banner, and be unavailable to the Fox X-Men series.
But such speculation sells Dinklage, well, short.
This star of The Station Agent and Game of Thrones has personality that transcends his height, and could being energy and charm to just about character — good, evil, or in-between — that Singer hands him.
Days of Future Past, which is set to debut in July 2014, will also feature Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart as older versions of Magneto and Prof. X, while X-Men: First Class prequel stars Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy will reprise the younger versions of those characters, with Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult and, Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman also set to return.
Posted by BA Haller at 12:03 PM
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA -- Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius has been charged with murder in the death of his girlfriend at his South Africa home early Feb. 14.
Reeva Steenkamp, 29, and Pistorius, 26, were the only two people in the upscale Pretoria home at the time of the shooting, police spokeswoman Denise Beukes said.In keeping with South African law, Pistorius will be named officially as the suspect when he appears in court. The first court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 15.The state will oppose bail, Beukes said.Pistorius will not appear Thursday because the public prosecutor needs more time to prepare the case, police spokeswoman Katlego Mogale told CNN.He arrived Thursday at a police station in Pretoria.Pistorius spokeswoman Kate Silvers said the athlete is "assisting the police with their investigation but there will be no further comment until matters become clearer later today."Police said Pistorius is cooperating with them.There did not appear to be signs of forced entry at the home, Beukes said.She also said there had been "previous incidents" at the home -- "allegations of a domestic nature."Steenkamp was a model. Capacity Relations, the agency that represented her, said she was the victim.Pistorius, nicknamed the "Blade Runner," made history when he became the first Paralympian to compete in the able-bodied Olympics last year.Several South African media outlets reported that the woman was mistaken for an intruder.Beukes said she was aware of those reports, but they did not come from the police force.Pistorius' father, Henke, told the South African Broadcasting Corp. his son was "sad at the moment.""I don't know nothing. It will be extremely obnoxious and rude to speculate," the father said. "I don't know the facts."Beukes said that police were alerted to the shooting by neighbors and that residents "heard things earlier."A pistol was recovered at the scene, police said.South Africa has a high crime rate, and it's not unusual for homeowners to keep weapons to protect themselves from intruders.However, Beukes said, "This is a very quiet area and this is a secure estate."Pistorius, a double amputee, ran with the aid of prosthetic limbs during the London Olympics last year. His legs were amputated below the knee when he was a toddler because of a bone defect. He runs on special carbon fiber blades that led to his nickname.While he failed to win a medal in the Olympics, his presence on the track was lauded as an example of victory over adversity and a lesson in dedication toward a goal.Pistorius was initially refused permission to compete against able-bodied runners, but he hired a legal team to prove that his artificial limbs didn't give him an unfair advantage.He smashed a Paralympic record to win the men's 400m T44 in the final athletics event of the 2012 Games.The athlete was among the men featured in People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive issue last year.
Posted by BA Haller at 11:27 AM
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Media dis&dat posted about Stroker in 2011 when she played the role of Olive in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Paper Mill Playhouse, running at the Millburn Theatre in 2011. At that time, she may have been "the first actress in a wheelchair in American Musical Theatre to have a leading role in a professional musical."
Here's her bio from imdb:
Ali Stroker is the newest “Glee Project” alum to make her way onto “Glee.”
Stroker (who was one of the runner-ups to Blake Jenner on the Oxygen competition this past season) is set to play the role of Betty, Emma Pillsbury’s niece who is attending her wedding to Will during the “I Do” episode on Thursday night.
We don’t know if she has an arc that lasts beyond just an episode or not just yet, but the photo clearly shows her getting her groove on with Artie (Kevin McHale) while out on the dance floor.
Media dis&dat posted about Stroker in 2011 when she played the role of Olive in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Paper Mill Playhouse, running at the Millburn Theatre in 2011. At that time, she may have been "the first actress in a wheelchair in American Musical Theatre to have a leading role in a professional musical."
Here's her bio from imdb:
Ali is a New York York City actress and singer, and has been for over three quarters of her life. She studied at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, concentrated in drama. Ali has been paralyzed from the chest down since she was two years old and uses a wheelchair because of a car accident. She wants to inspire others with disabilities who want to be performers to follow their dreams. She originally auditioned for The Glee Project at a casting call in New York City. Ali is a Mezzo-Soprano but because she is paralyzed, she cannot engage the diaphragm, stomach, or core, she creates her own singing techniques. She's a strong swimmer, and learns to surf with the group Life Rolls On.
Posted by BA Haller at 10:06 PM
It can be easy to overlook the tiny South American nation of Ecuador. Yet Ecuador stands out as one of the region’s most advanced countries for disabled people. A major force behind this effort is Lenin Moreno, Ecuador’s vice president. A paraplegic, Moreno is one of the world’s highest-ranking leaders using a wheelchair.
Lenin Moreno was once a wealthy businessman and politician. But in 1998, he was shot in the back as gunmen stole his car from a parking lot in Quito. He was paralyzed from the waist down. Moreno overcame intense pain and bouts of depression to become a motivational speaker. He’s written books about the healing power of laughter.
He also performs inspirational songs.
In 2006, Moreno was elected vice president. At the time, it was rare to see people in wheelchairs in public. In rural areas, people with severe handicaps were treated as outcasts and sometimes confined to sheds and chicken coops.
But Moreno has tried to change all that. Wheelchair ramps are springing up across Ecuador. People with severe disabilities now receive $300 monthly stipends from the government. And Moreno helped draw up a law that compels Ecuadorian companies to set aside at least 4 percent of jobs for people with disabilities.
In a recent speech, he pledged that the government would reach out to all disabled people who need help. That, he said, amounts to a revolution.
That revolution includes providing free artificial limbs to poor Ecuadorians. Some are being built in a wing of this state-run hospital in Quito. Government officials say the program is the only one of its kind in Latin America.
Jorge Costa, who manages the project, says thousands of Ecuadorians hobble around on crutches because they’re too poor to buy artificial limbs. Now, he says, they can become productive members of society.
One person who has made this transition is Sarita Carlosama. I meet her at a sports club where she’s playing an early-morning game of wheelchair tennis before going to work.
A disease affecting her spinal cord left Carlosama paraplegic 20 years ago. Back then she was studying to be a doctor. But she had to quit because there was no wheelchair access to the fifth-floor classrooms.
Finding a job was tough. But under the new law to bring disabled people into the work force, Carlosama was recently hired by an oil company. Not surprisingly, she’s full of praise for Moreno.
“He has achieved so much,” Carlosama says. “But even if he hadn’t done anything, just the fact that the vice president is in a wheelchair changes perceptions about disabled people.”
At the presidential palace where Moreno has his office, disabled people line up every morning seeking assistance. Upstairs, Moreno’s top aide, Alex Camacho, says other Latin American governments have called on Ecuador for advice on policies for disabled people.
“That’s why we are now advising to Peru, to Bogota, to Uruguay, to Dominican Republic, to Guatemala, also to Haiti,” Camacho says.
The presidential band plays as foreign diplomats present their credentials to Moreno. He’s now Ecuador’s acting president, because President Rafael Correa has taken a leave of absence to campaign for reelection later this month.
But Moreno is not on the ballot. He says he needs a break from the exhausting schedule. Still, many of the programs Moreno put in place are likely to continue, says Monica Alemeida, an editor at El Universo newspaper.
“It’s by far one of the best things this government have done,”Almeida says. “I think that whatever government that will come will really have to follow that path that Moreno have initiated.”
It seems likely that Ecuadorians will see more of Moreno. He was nominated last year for the Nobel Peace Prize. And there’s speculation he will run for president in 2017.
Posted by BA Haller at 5:12 PM
From the Down Syndrome in Arts & Media (DSiAM) and Jamie Brewer Facebook pages:
Actor Michael Cudlitz, who plays Officer John Cooper on "Southland," tweeted this photo of himself with DSiAM's Jamie Brewer who guest stars.
Watch for them February 20 on TNT; check local listings for times.
Brewer played Adelaide in season 1 of "American Horror Story" on FX.
Brewer began her career by taking theater classes in 1999 at a 'College for Kids' class during her middle school years. She has performed in dramas, musicals, comedy's, and improvisations during her theater training at Dionysus Theatre. She appeared/spoke in PSA's for the "Souper Bowl of Caring Houston Food Drive" in Houston, TX for 2 consecutive years which aired on NBC, ABC, and CBS.
Brewer was the youngest to ever be elected President of the ARC of Fort Bend Chapter. From there, she was appointed to the State of Texas ARC Board, then elected to the Executive Board as Treasurer. She was then asked to serve on the ARC Governmental Affairs Committee for the State of Texas. She spoke with Senators at the Texas State Capitol to persuade them to pass the law for Texas to abolish using the "R" word from state legislation, and regarding the needs of people with disabilities in Texas. Texas now uses "Intellectual Developmental Disability" in their legislation.
Posted by BA Haller at 4:57 PM
Monday, February 11, 2013
AARP, Ad Council launch new national multimedia PSA campaign to offer resources, support to 42 million caregivers
WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than half of America’s boomer caregivers, ages 40 to 60, need support and help, according to a new survey conducted by AARP and the Ad Council. The survey coincides with the launch of a new multimedia public service advertising (PSA) campaign created to provide information and support to the more than 42 million unpaid caregivers nationwide, many of whom feel isolated and alone in caring for their loved ones. The new Caregiver Assistance PSAs, created pro bono by ad agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP), illustrate the physical, emotional and mental strain on caregivers, communicating that there is help and “together we can be stronger.”
Family support is critical to the care needed for older adults as they age, but often comes at substantial cost to those providing care. In 2009, there were roughly 42 million unpaid caregivers in the United States, providing an estimated $450 billion worth of unpaid care to adult and aging relatives and friends. A popular misconception is that family caregivers are paid health professionals, providing full-time care to someone in need of daily help, when in reality, most caregivers are also working and managing their own families at the same time. In fact, many caregivers are women of the “sandwich” generation, who care for their kids and their aging parents at the same time.
Caregiving is a major commitment and can be complex and highly stressful work. However, because many family caregivers think they are just doing their duty as a daughter or son, a wife or husband or a friend helping out someone they love, they do not identify themselves as caregivers and as a result, feel isolated and do not recognize there are resources to help them.
“Only those who care for others know what it’s really like to care for others. That’s why we created a community where caregivers can connect with experts and others facing similar challenges,” said Barry Rand, CEO of AARP. “We hope this campaign will help the millions of family caregivers in the U.S. feel heard and supported, in turn, helping them better care for themselves and for the ones they love.”
The new television, radio, print, outdoor and digital PSAs portray the isolation, sense of responsibility, and frustration a caregiver feels with an affirming depiction of family caregivers in typical situations with their loved ones, assuring families in the United States that they are not alone in their struggle, and communicating that AARP has set up a community of experts and other caregivers to “help each other better care for ourselves and the ones we love.” The PSAs encourage caregivers to access these tools by visiting www.aarp.org/caregiving or calling a toll-free hotline at 877-333-5885.
The national survey, released today, shows that 63 percent of caregivers spend, on average, nine or more hours a week providing care to an adult over the age of 50 and nearly one in three (31 percent) describe the task as extremely or very difficult. Most notably, nearly one in three (30 percent) caregivers also has experienced some feelings of isolation. Additionally, 1 in 4 caregivers (26 percent) do not feel confident that they know where to go to find the support and information available to unpaid caregivers, while one in five caregivers (21 percent) do not feel like they have the support they need when it comes to caring for a family member or friend.
“We’re proud to join with AARP on this important and moving campaign aimed to bring awareness to the issue of caregiving,” said Peggy Conlon, President and CEO of the Ad Council. “Our research shows that caregivers feel alone and don’t know where to turn for help. Our PSAs and the wonderful resources and network provided by AARP have the potential to change that.”
A social media program kicking off this week will broaden the reach to campaign audiences on social networking sites and blogs nationwide. Caregivers can visit facebook.com/AARP for campaign resources and to find a community of other family caregivers like themselves.
"This campaign has been a labor of love for our agency. The idea of dramatizing a caregiver’s inner most feelings of isolation and frustration through the technique of a ‘silent scream’ we believe gets to the heart of the issue in a very emotional and powerful way," said BSSP Managing Director, Patrick Kiss.
The Caregiver Assistance PSAs will be distributed to media outlets nationwide beginning this week. Per the Ad Council model, the PSAs will air and run in advertising time and space that is donated by the media. The telephone survey, commissioned by the Ad Council and AARP, was conducted in partnership with Robinson & Muenster Associates. Research was conducted nationwide from July 14 to July 27, 2012. The sample consisted of 500 adults, ages 40 to 60, currently caring for an older adult.
Posted by BA Haller at 2:53 PM
Bailey House, which has served low-income homeless and unstably housed men, women and families living with and affected by HIV/AIDS since 1983 and The Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY (CIDNY), a leading advocate for people with disabilities that has worked for over 30 years to remove physical and social barriers and to ensure that people with disabilities have the tools they need to live independently, provide for financial needs, and enjoy equal opportunities, announce a strategic alliance to improve the health outcomes of low-income men and women living with all types of disabilities – physical, sensory, cognitive, developmental and psychiatric.The two agencies are launching this initiative, Health Matters - which combines their expertise in housing, case management, health coverage navigation, entitlement advocacy and legal advocacy - to end barriers to care for affected New Yorkers with disabilities.Goals of the alliance include ending barriers to health care for disabled New Yorkers who are often forced to use costly emergency and acute care because they are unable to easily access primary care or mental health services in their communities. Three key factors that increase emergency department care by adults with disabilities include lack of access to care and prescription medications, the complexity of individuals’ health profiles, and disability status itself.Susan Dooha, Executive Director of CIDNY, describes the alliance: “Our partnership will help break through the barriers that low-income New Yorkers with disabilities face as they try to maintain their health. Working with our partner Bailey House will ensure that people with the toughest health access challenges get prompt attention and services as a matter of course.”Regina Quattrochi, Bailey House’s CEO, explains the objective of the collaboration: “We are excited to join forces with CIDNY to tackle health disparities often faced by New Yorkers living with disabilities. We know from the recent experience post Superstorm Sandy that some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers - the unstably housed, people with disabilities and the elderly - faced insurmountable barriers to obtaining critical care and services during a crisis.What’s more disturbing, however, is that many face the same insurmountable barriers even when the City is operating normally. Health Matters will serve as a model of what can be done when two agencies with strong track records join forces.”
Contacts:Bailey HouseLauren PalliesAssistant Director, Community Health(212) 633-2500 x332 or email@example.comCIDNY
Director of Communications
646-442-4154 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted by BA Haller at 2:42 PM
Friday, February 8, 2013
The Age in Australia:
One afternoon last month Stella Young (pictured) went to the Glenferrie Hotel in Hawthorn to have a beer with some friends.
But she found the disabled bathroom stacked with cases of wine and it was impossible to get her wheelchair inside.
Earlier Ms Young had been told by staff that the toilet was out of order. Hotel manager Mark Henderson now admits that was a lie.
The cases of wine from another hotel were put in the disabled bathroom by Mr Henderson's business partner, and had been there for 10 days.
''Look, it was a huge amount of stock and there was nowhere else to go,'' Mr Henderson said. ''I came in to find it here. I just took too long in getting it out.''
The episode is not uncommon.
Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, who is blind, has had similar experiences. ''It's unlawful to discriminate against people on the grounds of their disability,'' Mr Innes said. ''If you have an accessible toilet and effectively block its use, then that is just the same as not providing one.''
Patricia Wilson runs excursions for the disability support service, Inclusion Melbourne. She said she stopped going to one council-run facility after it become too burdensome to clean away drug-injectors' blood in the disabled toilet.
On another occasion at a public pool Ms Wilson had to wait with the person she was caring for, freezing outside, while two people had sex.
Ms Young said she was frustrated with the Disability Discrimination Act, which requires a formal complaint, and now prefers social media.
Rather than use the hotel's female toilets with the door open, which she said ''isn't very dignified'', she left, but not before tweeting an image of the crammed room, which has now been viewed almost 3000 times.
Ms Young, a comedian who edits the website Ramp Up, wrote two emails to hotel management, but it was only after she wrote on their Facebook page that she got a response.
''People with disabilities too often feel as though we don't belong in public spaces,'' she wrote. ''We'd really love your help in changing that.'' Four hours later the hotel wrote back, apologising for their ''blatant ignorance [and] rash, senseless and absent-minded decision-making''. The space has since been cleared.
Kelly Vincent is a member of the South Australian Legislative Council and uses a wheelchair for her cerebral palsy. She has seen disabled toilets used for storage at an Adelaide restaurant, and elsewhere to store furniture.
''Having an accessible toilet that is unusable is maybe worse than not having one at all because it sends the message to people with disabilities that it is just a symbolic cross to bear for these business owners,'' Ms Vincent said.
Posted by BA Haller at 9:22 PM
When Bonnie Brown was pregnant with her daughter, Myra, she says she felt a mix of joy and anxiety. (Both are pictured.)
"I hadn't ever been pregnant before," she says. "I never had really an idea of how to take care of a baby."
Brown, who is intellectually disabled, works at Wendy's while raising Myra as a single mom. Despite her disability, she says she never felt like her daughter was too much to handle.
"I think because I'm different it might seem hard for me, but I was going to give it all I got no matter what," she tells Myra, now 15, during a visit to StoryCorps.
Myra says she never realized her mom was "different," until she told her.
"I said to you, 'Myra, I know I am not like your friends' mothers, but I'm doing the best I can.' And you said, 'It's OK, Mommy,' " Brown recounts. "And that made me feel so good."
Myra remembers a time in third grade when her school held a parent-teacher conference. Before the meeting, Myra told her teacher in confidence that her mom's disabled.
"But the day after the interview, my teacher, she said that you seemed really intelligent. And that made me feel embarrassed," Myra says.
"Why?" her mom asks.
"Because I felt bad that I had said that, and then you had gone and you'd been fine," Myra says.
"No offense taken," she responds.
Today, Myra is enrolled in gifted and talented classes at her high school in Lansdowne, Pa., and hopes to attend the University of Cambridge when she graduates.
As a single mom raising Myra, Brown gets help from Community Interactions in Philadelphia, an organization that provides services for her, like cooking and running errands.
Yet Brown says the hardest thing she's had to overcome is emotional hurt. People often blatantly stare at Brown when they're out in public, Myra explains.
"And I would say something [to them]. I guess I am kind of protective," Myra adds.
Brown admits that she's also very protective of her daughter, but only because she cares about her so much.
"I am really thankful because you understand me, and you love me, and you accept me. And ... thank you for that," Brown tells her daughter.
"I don't know, you kind of make it seem like I tolerate you — I love you. You're a good parent, and just because you're disabled doesn't mean that you do anything less for me," Myra says.
Just like other parents, Brown says she wants to see Myra succeed and go on to college. "I want you to make something of yourself," she tells her.
"I want you to know that even though our situation is unique, I'm happy that I am in it because I am happy that I am with you," Myra says.
"Thank you, Myra, and I feel the same way. And I won't never change it for anything in this world."
Posted by BA Haller at 9:18 PM
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
News Channel 5 in Nashville:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Kentucky man who lost both his arms below the elbow when his ATV collided with a powerline just spent two weeks in paradise shooting an episode of Hawaii Five-0.
High powerlines had fallen after a snow storm and Jason Koger (pictured) hit a downed wire five years ago.
"I just ran into it on my ATV and took 7,200 volts," said Koger.
He spent three days in a coma and awoke to find doctors had to amputate both arms below the elbow.
"I knew God would give me the strength to get through it," said Koger, a 30-year-old married father of three.
Instead of feeling self-pity, Koger took it all as a challenge. Initially he was fitted with prosthetic hooks for hands and he could still play with his children. Just a few months after the accident he even went skydiving.
Then, this past month his life took a turn you usually only hear about in Hollywood: Koger landed the role of a lifetime. A casting agent contacted him on behalf of Hawaii Five-0 producers. They were looking for a bi-lateral amputee, white male, Koger's age.
Koger was hired for a two week shoot in Hawaii with the cast and crew of the show.
"I got to go knowing that I'm a double for Peter Weller," said Koger.
Weller is the actor best known for his role in the RoboCop movies. Weller's character in the Hawaii Five-0 episode had lost his hands. The producers wanted to Koger's prosthetics to double for Weller's hands.
"Basically my hands. His face," said Koger.
Shooting the episode was great fun, but it didn't end there for Koger. The cast and crew noticed that he used an older pair of robotic hands. New ones can cost as much as $170,000. So the Hawaii Five-0 crew asked the makers -- Advanced Arm Dynamics and Touch Bionics -- if they'd consider donating a pair to Koger.
"The actors told them, 'He just did a show ten million people are going to watch. And they didn't miss a beat. They said absolutely,'" said Koger.
Koger went to Dallas to be fitted for the new bionic hands and then returned to Nashville where his family met him at the airport.
Koger's new hands can do most everything a real human hand can do. What he likes best is that he can now more easily hold the hands of his children during walks.
"It means a lot to me just to be able to look down and see that," said Koger. " You still can't feel. But I love holding my kids hands."
Koger feels that's quite a gift, and it was all possible thanks to his surprise chance to work on a Hawaii Five-0 episode which aired Monday night on NewsChannel 5.
Koger lives in Owensboro, Kentucky and works to help and inspire other amputee patients.
He has a website at jasonkoger.com.
Posted by BA Haller at 5:38 PM
The Washington Post. (Mark Kirk is the junior senator from Illinois.)
“Am I going to die today?” I asked Jay as we rode together in an ambulance through the streets of Chicago. Jay Alexander was my doctor but also my friend, and I knew he wouldn’t lie. “Just give me a percentage,” I pleaded.
“There’s a 98 percent chance you’re not going to die today,” he said.
It wasn’t the way I expected my day to go, but as soon as I’d felt dizzy and experienced numbness in my left arm that Saturday morning, Jan. 21, 2012, I knew I was in trouble. An MRI soon discovered that the inner lining of my carotid artery had peeled away. The dissected artery was blocking the blood flow to my brain, putting me in imminent danger of a stroke.
Anticoagulants kept my blood pressure down, and for a few hours I seemed to stabilize. But then the numbness and tingling on my left side worsened, and my vision got blurry.
Jay, who had met me at the emergency room at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, ordered me transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which has a certified stroke center. It was on the way there that he gave me my chances and assured me that, given my age and health, my chances for recovery from a stroke were good.
I was in my hospital bed when the waves came and I began to lose control of my body and mind. Unbelievable, I thought. I’m only 52. I didn’t even know anyone who’d had a stroke.
More than a week later, I regained a confused consciousness in the intensive care unit. I knew I was lying in a bed. I thought someone was sharing the bed with me, but it was my own leg. I vaguely remember a party the ICU staff had for the Super Bowl and the smell of the food they brought.
I had two operations to relieve the swelling in my brain and remained at Northwestern Memorial until Feb. 10, when I was transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC). In all that time, I remember only one rational thought: I needed to get out of there and back to reality, back to my job serving the people of Illinois, which has always been the greatest ambition of my life.
I still worried I would die. I dreamed that three angels came into my room and wanted me to go with them, but I said no because I knew where I was, on the ninth floor of the RIC, and why I was there: to begin a long, difficult recovery from an ischemic stroke.
When you’ve been flat on your back for weeks, your circulatory system doesn’t respond well the first time you try to get up. The therapists at the RIC were prepared for that. They strapped me on a table and tipped it upright. I passed out immediately. When I came to, I realized how hard a recovery I faced if I couldn’t even stand up.
I had blood clots in my leg that were treated with anticoagulants. I asked a doctor what would happen to me if one of the clots broke loose. “You could have a pulmonary embolism,” he answered, “and you would die.”
At best, I thought it unlikely that I would recover enough to return to the Senate. I had always been a glass-half-empty kind of guy, a believer in Murphy’s Law.
The staff at the RIC consider that kind of attitude debilitating, and they don’t tolerate it in their patients. My physical therapist, Mike Klonowski, was a tyrant and, God bless him, a great inspiration. The stroke had severely impaired my left leg, but Mike expected me to walk again. He would teach me how to do it, or we would both die trying.
One day he pulled me into a seated position on my bed, but I couldn’t stay upright. He kept pulling me up, and I kept falling over. “Give me a second, will you,” I snapped. “I’m about as weak as you can get.” But whenever I thought I couldn’t do anything, Mike and everyone at the RIC always answered, “You will be able to.”
He had me on the treadmill as soon as I could manage. I regarded my left leg as a lifeless appendage. Mike kept insisting that it would bear weight. The moment I realized that it would, and that I could swing it from my hip and propel myself forward, was the breakthrough revelation of my rehabilitation.
Kept upright by a track and a harness, I wanted to run down the hallway that day — and tried. But Mike stopped me and told me that slow walking was more instructive to my brain. I disagreed; we had a screaming match. He prevailed.
Hour after hour on that infernal machine, trying to do a simple thing that my brain would no longer communicate to my limb, was torture. Once, during an exhausting session, I threw up on Mike. He just looked up and said, “I can’t believe you did that to me.”
I wanted to give up almost every day. I was indescribably fatigued. I wanted to sleep all the time, a common desire in stroke sufferers. But I was beginning to believe. I used the prospect of returning to work, of climbing up the steps of the Capitol and walking the 50 paces to the Senate floor, as motivation. With every swing of my leg on the treadmill, I became more convinced I would do it.
Once, when I was a little down in the dumps, the RIC chaplain read to me from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”
I’m different from what I was. My left leg and left arm might never work like they once did, but my mind is sharp. I’m capable of doing the work entrusted to me by the people of Illinois, but I am forever changed.
I’m an optimist now, grateful for every blessing. Bad things happen, but life is still waiting for you to make the most of it. I want my life to count for something more than the honors I once craved. I believe it will.
My faith is stronger. My humility is deeper. I know I depend on family and friends more than I ever realized. I know, too, that the things that divide us in politics are infinitesimal compared with the dignity of our common humanity.
Climbing the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 3 was one of the greatest moments of my life. It was a goal fulfilled and a message to all stroke survivors: Never, ever give up.
I was the beneficiary of many kindnesses from colleagues on both sides of the aisle after my stroke, and those acts will forever matter more to me than any political differences. I don’t expect to be the same senator I was before my stroke — I hope to be a better one. I want to make my life matter by doing work that matters to others. I want to do it with the help of my friends, Republicans and Democrats, and to share the satisfaction of knowing we have honored our public trust together.
I was once a pessimist. I’m not that man anymore. And that change, brought about by misfortune, is the best thing that ever happened to me.
Posted by BA Haller at 5:28 PM