Sunday, September 30, 2012

Low cost visual schedules and displays - Teachers Pay Teachers

My friend Brittany Tellier sent me this great website. It has low cost Visual Schedules for you to purchase. There are many great low cost resources on this site. Please take a look at it and share it with other people.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A response to the National Forum on Disability and the absence of some invitees

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” (William Bruce Cameron). Our numbers do not tell us what is most important but each of us counts. 

The national Forum on Disability happened on September 28th in Columbus Ohio. This was an important forum and most likely the only one held on disability issues prior to the presidential election. There are many things at stake for people with disability. Those who spoke were passionate, sincere and respectful of those for whom they must serve. Others sent representatives in their place to speak for them. 

People with disabilities may not make up the largest voting block. Some people may not vote due to accessibility or never being supported in learning how. Many voting facilities are not particularly accessible as we have discussed several times. The problem is, our leaders must take the time to listen to all of the voices. Some voices are not heard through traditional spoken language. They may use sign, pictures, symbols, Braille, eye-gaze etc. It can take a lot longer to ask a question and have a conversation.  You cannot tell by looking at someone who they are, what they need or how to serve them well. This requires a direct interaction. 

We have come far in how access is provided to people. Gunnar Dybwad & Hank Bersani talked about the new voices we must hear, cultivate and support. Seeing the value in another human being cannot be directly taught. It has to be experienced and lived. It does not seem that long ago when I was working at a state school for people with developmental disabilities. I had the privilege of working with those who were challenge on multiple levels. Only a few spoke or walked. Many had been there since they are infants or young children. Some of the staff raised them and cared for them as their own. It took a great deal of time to get to know each person. As I did friendships formed, unconventional communication occurred, learning activities were better designed and there was much enjoyment in light of incredible hardship at times. These individuals were born too late to benefit from most of the laws although their living conditions had improved immensely. They taught me so much without saying a word. Their voices were present for those who would listen. They did not vote but they counted in ways which could not be measured. I remember assisting in planning their funerals, providing the music and watching the responses of their lifelong friends and residents at the services. I remember standing in the basement of one of the buildings where the morgue was, looking in silence as the person I had known lay on a metal table, covered and awaiting to move to their final resting place. It is a feeling I will never forget. Someone should watch over as they lay resting. They shouldn’t be alone. No matter what, the life they lived counted and needed to be respected. 

As one of many who assisted in establishing a now infamous research library which was originally located at a state school for people with disabilities, I had the humbling experience of going through the slides of tissue which had been saved many years ago for research. Their voices could still be heard in a different way. Their legacy and sacrifice counted. They most likely never voted yet they were citizens who were silenced by those who society choose to count. I looked at the graves at a State Hospital for people with mental illness which only had numbers on them. No names were present yet these voices need to be heard even now. They count and we need to listen. There are many who have gone before us and many yet to come. We have to slow down and take the time to listen. It does not matter if you are making a donation to a candidate, part of a large voting group or just one individual, the people running for office need to take the time to stop, listen to your voice and think about how their actions impact people in ways they had never realized. There are always unintended consequences to our actions, some being good and some causing duress to others. The only way to know the impact of your actions is to look, listen and respond to those who are on the receiving end.  

We the people are the United States. You do not know who we are by looking at us, assigning us a number or grouping us. Leaders stand beside and as one of the people. Leadership is shared and it is we the people, all the people who have the power to make change. Leaders must listen to the most soft barely heard voices. For in these voices they will find lessons learned that most of us can only stand in complete awe, humbled by the strength, sacrifice and commitment each has demonstrated without recognition, without yelling from the highest mountain. They live their life each day, setting an example we all should pay much more attention to. Please listen to the old, present and new voices. Who knows what wonderful things could come from this!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Yahoo Accessibility Blog

The Yahoo Accessibility Blog is a must read. Please make sure you watch the short video on Yahoo Independence 2011. This blog is a great place to see what is happening in the area of disability, independence and access. If you work in schools, please make sure you share it with your students.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Eunice Kennedy Shriver

On September 22nd there will be a world wide celebration of Special Olympics which was originally founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. There are special events happening everywhere. Please use the links to find events in your area or to read more about Eunice Kennedy Shriver who was an amazing woman. If you have the time, please read one of her original and most famous articles from the Saturday Evening Post.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Free Visual Supports

This page has quite a few free visual supports for learning, communicating, behavioral interventions/rewards, daily routines, and schedule systems. Take a look at it and share it with others! Visual Supports

Saturday, September 15, 2012

New Free Symbol Resources.

This is another resource to add to your list for free symbols. I have also posted it on the Free Symbol Project Page. SEN Teacher

The resource site from Widget offers many free and low cost symbol packages.

Social Justice Part 2: Obama and Romney Present Their Disability Policy Positions - National Forum on Disability Issues

On Friday September 28th, President Obama and Governor Romney will be presenting their positions on issues related to disability. This is a non-partisan forum which can be viewed live by registering at this website: Disabled World. It is important to view all or part of this discussion and talk about this in our classrooms with our older students. Decisions regarding their future will be made as a direct result of the election. For our students 18 years and older who can vote, this is part of how they will inform themselves in the process. It is our responsibility to support the voices of people with disabilities and make sure they are heard. Previously this blog discussed the need for ongoing "New Voices". People with disabilities have to be supported in their leadership roles. This national forum is an opportunity for students and adults to participate in some manner and at the very least, hear what is being said directly from each candidate.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Autism and Bullying in Time Yields Harsh Comments

This was shared on Linkedin today by Gary James. As a parent of a child with Aspergers who has faced a life long battle with acceptance, the comments on this article stung. Autism and Bullying in Time Yields Harsh Comments  It is a stark reminder of how much more we need to do to create opportunities for people to get to know our children, adult children, friends, family members etc. who have difficulties. We talk a lot about people first language but this does not mean that others actually see the person first. Sometimes we jump to conclusions where we give ourselves permission to separate from the situation which makes us feel uncomfortable or requires us to work a bit harder or a lot harder. I would hope that in time we can all stop and think about how hard and uncomfortable it must be for someone to be judged by their disability each day and never being able to separate themselves from the situation so that they could feel more comfortable.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Duty to Learn & Act- Social Justice Part 1

Technology plays a significant role in the lives of our students now and certainly in their future. It is a resource which has opened doors which had remained shut for many years. So many were left in silence because we were not able to figure out how to enable all of their abilities so that they could share their ideas and insights as well as live in a world that should have always been made available to them. The point of the conversation is that as teachers, family members and professionals we have a duty to remain up-to-date on the low and high technology available. In the first free election in Afghanistan, symbols were used to assist in voting because the majority of the population was unable to read. This provided greater accessibility to the voting process and allowed many to exercise their newly formed rights. As we get closer to the elections in the United States, I wonder how many symbols will be present on the ballots. We hear about making sure voters are registered. The two predominant parties spend a lot of time working on this. Why are we not also making sure that the voting process itself is accessible? There are still many Americans who cannot functionally read. This is an issue which needs to continue to be addressed. That being said, everyone still has the right to be informed about the candidates and have an accessible ballot. I would suggest one that is more universally designed so that one does not have to be embarrassed to ask for a symbol supported ballot. This is easy to do. Some may already use pictures and symbols. We need to make sure all citizens who wish to vote can physically access the voting sites and understand or are supported in making the selection using an accessible ballot for the individual(s) they wish to elect.

Here is a great resource on technology, please share it with people you know.

US Paralympic Medals

Hope everyone has had a chance to watch some of the games! The US as of today has 33 medals. Here is a link to the updates: . There have been several records set. Please make sure you are supporting the athletes.