Sunday, November 25, 2012

United Nations - Disability - Google Hangouts

Many of you are already aware of the annual celebration of Human Rights Day held by the United Nations on December 10th of each year. This annual tradition was started back in 1950. This was to mark and celebrate the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10th, 1948 in Paris, France.  It holds the record for being the highest translated and disseminated document in the Guinness Book of World Records - 370 languages & dialects!

As part of this year's celebrations and events, the United Nations Human Rights Office has announced a series of Google Hangout discussions focusing on specific issues related to disability. You can receive updates on everything through any of the social media sites which include Storify at this point! As mentioned much earlier in this blog, is a unique social media site which allows people to discuss and convey areas of interests in a creative manner. The Celebration of Human Rights Day and the Google Hangout discussions are ways to be a part of the bigger discussion across the world on where we are at in terms of human rights and where we need to direct our attention and efforts. This is also a critical topic to discuss in the classroom with your students through age and developmentally appropriate materials as well as adult programs. There continues to be a strong movement to make sure people with disabilities and those minimized by society are able to have access to voting and involvement on issues which directly impact their lives. This is another wonderful place to support access and commitment to hearing the new and old voices of those who we continue to silence and talk over each day.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Special Olympics World Games in January 2013!

The Special Olympic World Games will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea, January 29th to  February 5th, 2013. This is the 10th Special Olympic World Games. As with the Paralympic Games, this is a wonderful opportunity to get everyone involved in learning about the Olympians, providing support and taking some time to look at the various events. They are also offering a really fun activity for everyone prior to the start of the games. You can send in your picture and have it integrated into one of the mascots. This way you can put yourself in the picture. What a fun activity to show our support! They also have a link where you can find the athletes living near you!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

New Technology Resource for Persons who are Deafblind

The iCanConnect project is designed to distribute telecommunications products to people who are deafblind. They provide assessments, training and equipment free of charge. You do need to meet federal eligibility guidelines to access this program. This is a link to the brochure which also comes in Spanish. It is important to find your state partner which in Massachusetts is Perkins School for the Blind. Please make sure you share this information. This is an incredible resource that was developed under the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Think College

Think College is a wonderful program which provides training resources for professionals, families and students. The focus is on support people with intellectual challenges in post-secondary education and training. As we move forward with our focus on full access and inclusion in all of the promises of adulthood, this program offers an opportunity for people with different abilities to make headway in gaining the education and training they need to improve long term outcomes. Please take a look at this site and view some of the videos they have. There is also a documentary on Think College!

When we begin our transition planning, contact should be made with these types of organizations so that everyone is working together to make sure the right sets of experiences and skills are worked on to support better long term outcomes including participating in post-secondary education.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Social-Communication & Autism

We know that a diagnosis of Autism means that there are struggles in the area of communication, social skills and social-communication. There are a number of books and articles written on the hidden curriculum and the need for direct and explicit instruction in this area. Socialization and communication are directly tied and can be linked to greater success as an adult. We know if we build upon play skills and social-communication early on that our students will have much better long term outcomes. One of the things we do not always consider is the difference in social-communication expectations. We apply our social rules to others. To a certain degree this is a piece of what we have to look at when teaching social-communication. However, we also must consider the views of people with Autism. We know that social-communication differs significantly by culture. Although we do not always consider this as much as we should in schools, many more teachers are aware of these differences and how they can play out across environments and in which skills are prioritized. We need to begin to consider doing the same for students with ASD. James Williams, a man with Autism has a wonderful website you should visit. One his website he discusses the 6 Principles of Autistic Interactions. I would recommend reading them and considering how these principles could or should be applied when thinking about social skill development and social-communication skills.We need to work together to support our students. This includes figuring all of this out together with those who know best - the people with Autism.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eye-Gaze Tablet

Crystal King shared this with me. It is an eye-gaze tablet. Eye-gaze technology continues to be refined starting with the Boston College Eagle Eyes and followed buy several other devices using a direct gaze approach: Dynavox EyeMax, TOBII, PRC ECO2 with ECOpoint.

These devices have opened many doors for people with more significant physical disabilities. Communication, language development and everyday social interactions are enhanced through eye-gaze systems. These systems can be more efficient but do not necessarily use less energy. There is a significant fatigue factor associated with eye-gaze. Children and adults using these devices must build-up tolerance slowly. The portability has improved as seen by all of the products mentioned in this post. It will be interesting to see how the tablet technology evolves. We want efficient light-weight devices which do not make people stand-out or form an additional barrier within an interaction. The smaller device can facilitate improved visual regard for others during a conversation and support shared viewing of points of interest without the device becoming a physical barrier in the person's ability to access visually the environment in which they are engaging. The other piece we still must address is battery life. We need to develop systems (all access types) which can recharge based on natural or artificial light.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Right to Vote while under Guardianship

As we move closer to the election we must continue to put effort towards making sure everyone votes, especially those who may not even realize they have the right to vote. Here is a link to all of the rights and supports for people with disabilities by state: Nonprofit Vote. 

 For our students and adult that we support who may be under guardianship, they still have the right to vote unless it is explicitly taken away by their guardian. Take a look at the information from the Disability Law Center.

Voting and voting rights has to be a part of the content we teach our students and adults who may or may not be under guardianship. We have to work much more closely with guardians to support the informed voter rights of everyone. Informed is key. In order for someone to make a true choice, we have to spend the time teaching what those choices are in a non-partisan fashion. The election directly impacts everyone's future.

Please also consider assisting people in getting to the polls. Everyone must be empowered to exercise their voting rights. Lets work together to get everyone out.