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I’ve got to admit that when I joined the “special needs” community 3 years ago by way of Moxie, I was confused with all the “special needs” this and that. “Disability”, I was and am completely used to. But “special needs”? I wasn’t sure about it all, it really didn’t seem to make sense.

It seemed to me that the words were being used fairly interchangeably, but that most parents of kids with non-visible disabilities like Autism or with less-visible disabilities like Down syndrome, preferred the term “special needs” and used it way more than they’d use “disabled” (- if “disabled” was even used at all).

So what do they both mean anyway?

dis-a-bled: [dis-ey-buh-ld] adjective

1. crippled; injured; incapacitated.

noun

2. (used with a plural verb) persons who are crippled, injured, or incapacitated

I’m disabled – but I’m not, as dictionary.com puts it, “crippled, injured; incapacitated.”

No, in fact, I think I’m quite highly able and in full capacity of my own self.

So what do we have here? To me, we have a pretty inaccurate descriptive word that doesn’t mean a lot. It’s a word that harkens to the “medical model” of disability; that is, ” a sociopolitical model by which illness or disability, being the result of a physical condition intrinsic to the individual (it is part of that individual’s own body), may reduce the individual’s quality of life, and cause clear disadvantages to the individual.” (- see wikipedia).

It’s saying that because I can’t hear without hearing aids, because I can’t see without glasses, because I can’t mentally function without drugs or care and because my brain switches off when under stress, I’m “crippled, injured; incapacitated.”

And that would be a definition of “disabled”, of “disability”.

What then is are “special needs”?  Are they any different from typical needs, or from the definition of disability/disabled?

According to dictionary.com, “special needs” are:

Special Needs: (plural noun)

The special educational requirements of those with learning difficulties, emotional or behavioral problems, or physical disabilities.

So it appears that they are educational requirements.

“Special needs” is about education “disability” is about your body, your brain, your senses being wired and tapped in a unique way.

I have a hunch that it’s more than this, of course, as used by parents of kids with disabilities.

“Special needs” has a softer sound to it. Like, “my kid is NORMAL; s/he just has some needs that are singular, uncommon!” “Special needs” doesn’t sound quite as stigmatized as “disabled” does; doesn’t sound as… oh, “wheelchair bound” or “crippled“.

It’s just kind of like, ‘little Johnny is remarkable’ and not so much ‘little Johnny has constant seizures.”

I think a big problem in all of this is the cloak of doom n’ gloom that surrounds the word “disability”. We – as a society – seem to dislike the word “disability”. We just don’t dig it.

But we don’t have an actual word to replace it that works.

So people within the disabled community have gone about reclaiming the word “disabled”, taking it within the tribal sort of context, placing the social model of disability on it, and giving the medical model the bird. Cool, that works, we can do this.

Only, by keeping “special needs” on the mainstream market, by using “special needs” interchangeably with “disability”, we are weakening both, losing the value and meaning of both.

The words are not interchangeable.

Many kids without disabilities are on the special needs track in school; many people with special needs do not have a disability. Many people with a disability do not have special needs.

 “disability” DOES NOT EQUAL “special needs”

And – while we are talking about it – “special needs” is just as inaccurate term as “disability” is – because who on earth does not have special needs? WE ALL DO. The word is, in and of itself, just flat out misleading, grouping together people in an educational setting and saying, “these kids need to be taught differently than everyone else” – but as a former teacher, I can tell you with conviction that EVERYONE needs to be taught differently than EVERYONE else! We all learn in unique ways; we all have needs that are special unto ourselves!

“Disability” does not need to be such a scary, unsexy, stigmatizing word. We are the ones that give words their power, after all.

If we use it, and use it well, use it often, use it in good ways, in describing ourselves, our children – all those who have a way of using their minds, senses, bodies (- and in my opinion, feelings) in a way that currently signals “impairment” – then we change the power that lies in the word. We transform it. And we have that power, you know. We can transform words.

“Disability” does not need to be a dirty word. It does not need to be something to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Rather, it holds the potential to a power to see and experience the world in a completely different way.

The post The Difference Between "Special Needs" and "Disability" appeared first on Meriah Nichols.

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Disclosure: There are some affiliate links below, but these are all products I highly recommend. Please read my disclosure page for more info.

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There is no time like the present (is that a pun?!) to utilize this ultimate gift guide for disability – that is, the ultimate gift guide for supporting  businesses with a positive connection to disability.

This list is called the “Ultimate Gift Guide” and while it’s all of that, it’s far from complete. There are a lot of fantastic businesses that should be mentioned but I didn’t have the links or I didn’t know about them. So please, do me a favor and leave the links to artists and businesses that I’ve missed in the comment section of this post.

I’ve organized this into three categories to make your shopping a little easier, according to who you most want to support – Disabled Entrepreneurs, Allies of the Disabled, or Businesses that Work with the Disabled and/or Give Back to the Disability Community.

Gift Guide for Disability: Supporting Businesses with a Connection to Disability

1. Businesses that are run by disabled artists/entrepreneurs.
This means that the product is made by the individual with the disability and the store is run largely through their own efforts.
Allie Art

Holy Mother of WOW! Allie’s art is gorgeous! Vibrant, color-rich and reasonably-priced. She has jewelry, too.

Oliver Hellowell Photography
Gorgeous photos. Lots of nature-shots.
Alana Designs
Alana Theriault is a friend of mine. She sells lovely prints and cards that she made. Her drawing is amazing.
My Imagiville, by DJ Svoboda
DJ Svobada is autistic. He creates this alternate-world, “Imagiville” with different kinds of people in it. He sells all kinds of super-cool things on his site.
Christian Royal Pottery:
Oh. My. Lord. Wait till my mom sees his stuff!! Ma, you are going to LOVE THIS!!!! Gorgeous, gorgeous pottery. Those leaves?! The designs? Brilliant! I think his slogan should be, “Stoneware with Impeccable Charm.”
The Nth Degree
Thoughtful, thought-provoking clothes, bumper stickers, pins and posters representing the disability spectrum (like this t-shirt that model Christina Mills wears, saying “Feel the Power of the Disability Vote!”
Soul-Made Goods
Wood-burned art and paper goods with inspirational (and many religious-themed) messages. My favorite was probably the “kissing hand pocket charm” – sweet little hands shaped into the ASL sign for “I love you.”
Tazia Fawley
She makes cut-outs and paintings that are simply vibrant and bursting with energy. She is also the famous artist who gave Prince George one of her paintings, which was displayed in his nursery.
Suzy Norris
WOW. Get ready to be blown away by some powerful art. Suzy’s stuff comes with a money-back satisfaction guarantee, and most of her art is available in any form: phone case, t-shirt, print, poster, etc.
 Artlifting
Dreamy, often abstract art from the brilliant Andrew Weatherly. He has a wide collection of everything from rainbow swirls to sunrises.
 Meriah Nichols
*blush* Yeah, that’s me. I’m selling some of my photos now – you can get them printed onto canvas, metal, or regular paper directly through my shop.
Megalogy
Megan Bomgaars is one of my favorites from the hit series, “Born This Way,” because she reminds me a lot of my daughter, Moxie. She is also a total rockstar of creative awesomeness, selling everything from her hand-dyed silk scarves to yoga pants.
Haley Brown
I remember when Haley wanted to get set up as an artist, so I can’t even begin to tell you how THRILLED I was to see her site!!! It is amazing. She has beautiful drawings, cards, and this “Coping Calendar” which I just ordered for myself, because that’s exactly what I need in a calendar: reminders & beauty.
Sweet Heat Jams
Pineapple and Jalepano jam?! Don’t mind if I do. This stuff sounds divine. If that’s not your cuppa tea, there’s a lot more for ya on the site shop.
 Healing Boxes

Remember when I interviewed Grace Quantock over on Two Thirds of the Planet? Of course you do! She’s the driving force behind the rad “Healing Boxes”, which offer “delightful, practical and ethically filled gift boxes for people dealing with illness or tough times.” They have all kinds of boxes – from “Hospital Boxes” to boxes for those recently engaged in Traumatic Brain Injury.

T-Shirts:
  • Tee-Public, by Mike Mort – super awesome t-shirts that go across the disability spectrum, something for everyone
  • Group Hug Apparel – very popular t-shirt company run by Andrew, who has Down syndrome
2. Small businesses that are run by allies of the disabled – namely, friends and family of the disabled
T-Shirts:
3. Businesses that work with the disabled and/or give back to the disability community
Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty
I’ve been buying this stuff for my kids for a while now, so imagine my delight when I found out that Aaron is a large employer of people with disabilities?! Rock on. Moxie’s favorite is the neon pink. Of course.
 Arc Barks Dog Treats
I have a service dog and I had no idea about these! Pure awesomeness. Preservative-free dog treats made by people with disabilities?! Count me in.
Yo! Disabled and Proud

This is an organization that helps empower youth and others with disabilities. They have a fantastic online gift shop, chock-full of great stuff like books related to the disability rights movement, disability pride and power. Check it out.

 The Big Guns:

Ever want to know what businesses have a good track record with disability? That is, that recruit, hire and retain employees with disabilities, that support accommodation and more? Check out Return on Disability’s 2016 Annual Report. They have deeply analyzed almost every aspect of employment and disability within major firms, and make it easy for you to decide where you want your money to go. Added to that, they cover both the United States and Canada.

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That’s it for now, folks.
Many thanks to Missy Skavlem for her 2013 post, “Businesses Owned by People with Down syndrome“, and Michelle with her 2012 post, “21 Days of Giveaways.”
Please share this post and support businesses that have a positive connection with disability. Feel free to leave links to businesses that you know of that were not included in this post.
Happy shopping!
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Adults with disabilities: 25 years old and older. For people younger than 25, click HERE to go my post on Free Stuff for Kids with Disabilities

This article is all about free stuff for adults with disabilities (and/or special needs*) Why? Because there are a more than a few lists of free things, resources and help out there for kids with disabilities (and/or special needs*), but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one for adults with disabilities.

Which is either flattering or really depressing. Flattering, because it implies that we adults with disabilities have it all together and don’t need help, or depressing because there just isn’t much out there, and resources think that they are promoting them so well that lists of this type don’t seem necessary.

Either way you have it, I think it’s time to compile a handy list, and to update it as often as possible.

Scholarships

Personal story: I was kicking myself after I completed graduate school (on my own dime, time and with private loans) and found out that being deaf is considered a disability! As an honors student straight through, I could have easily gotten a scholarship, but I had no idea that I counted as “disabled”. Don’t be like me. Check these out:

JLV Counseling’s Clearinghouse of Scholarships for People with Disabilities: Comprehensive list of scholarships available to people with disabilities, categorized by disability.

Ruby’s Rainbow: Scholarships for people with Intellectual Disabilities to attend higher education.

Department of Vocational Rehabilitation: the point of DVR/DOR is to help people with disabilities find and keep jobs that suit them. If you need higher education in order to find and keep a job that suits you, DVR/DOR should help. This is not a rule but it is definitely an avenue to explore.

Financial Aid at Your Local University:

  • sit down with a financial aid counselor (not a student helper!) and request information on all relevant grants, scholarships, opportunities, etc related to disability.
  • meet with the disability services at your local university and request all information related to grants, scholarships, opportunities, etc.
  • meet with the career counselor who works with disability/disability services at your local university and request information related to grants, scholarships, opportunities, etc. They might also have information on work opportunities.
Financial Planning

Financial planning is incredibly important for us adults with disabilities. Here are some free resources to help:

ABLE Account: understand the ABLE accounts. We can save money in an account that will not go against SSI/SSDI.

The Red Book: on the heels of understanding ABLE accounts is “The Red Book” – Social Security’s annual book on benefits. The link provided is to a pdf of the book.

Disability Benefits 101: tools and information on employment, health coverage, and benefits. Not all states are set up with the calculator, but World Institute on Disability has a lot of other information on financial planning and benefits – check out their books and resources here.

PASS Plans: “A Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) allows a person with a disability to set aside otherwise countable income and/or resources for a specific period of time in order to achieve a work goal. Any person who receives SSI benefits,or who might qualify for SSI, or any person receives SSDI (or a similar benefit) and could qualify for SSI, may be able to have a PASS. There is no limit to the number of successful PASS plans a person may use in a lifetime.”

Free Passes

National Park Service: free lifetime pass to US national parks and more. There are some requirements and stipulations, so read through the application – which is linked here.

State Park Service: state parks have a disability discount – look up your state for more information and for the application. California’s is linked here.

Disney Disability Pass: this is changing as a result of the abuse, but it still helps us adults with disabilities.

Travel

I’m deaf, with PTSD & TBI and I have never had much money. I’m also a travel junkie. I have found ways to travel the world for free or cheap on numerous occasions.

Obviously, my travel parameters are going to be different from those who have disabilities different from mine – I don’t use a wheelchair, I don’t use an attendant, and I can speak for myself.

BUT the first rule of travel is something like, “If you don’t believe it, nobody will.”

You have absolutely got to hold tight to what you want and what your vision is. There is a way to accomplish it, if you are willing to do the research to figure out how to make it happen (on a dime that is not yours).

Here are some places to start:

MIUSA: Mobility International. These guys are awesome – I want to work for them! They have a ton of information on traveling abroad, financial resources, etc, listed clearly and cleanly in their fantastic website. They also have staff that you can contact with  more direct and trip-specific questions. I did, when we were going to Mexico, and they were helpful. Furthermore – they have information for Americans going abroad and people outside the US coming to the US.

The Foundation Center: search foundations to apply for funds. Don’t forget your intersections – that is, if you are poor or a female or a racial minority or LGTBQ, search under those groups as well for foundations that apply to you.

Transitions Abroad: one of the king-beasts in websites for living/working abroad (along with Dave’s ESL Cafe) – definitely opportunities to find free ways to travel or jobs.

Google: I don’t mean to be flippant, but you have to research. A simple query of “free travel” led to this good (and recent) article.

Articles like that are good but don’t feature people who use wheelchairs in the photos, nor do they have people walking around using canes and service dogs! Here we go back to the first rule: “If you don’t believe it, nobody will.” You have to see yourself doing what you want to do, and really believe you can do it – and then reach out. Do you disclose? Do you have to? You can treat a lot of these travel opportunities as a job, and use JAN’s handy disclosure articles to help you. Linked here.

Medical

Deshae Lott Quality of Life Grants: “works to help American citizens with severe mobility limitations maintain hopeful, purposeful, engaged lives by providing some financial support for medically-necessary home-health-care services not covered by insurance, private or governmental, and not covered by any other non-profit organization.”

Medicaid: from a friend, “the full range of benefits from medicaid sometimes goes overlooked. they will pay for changes in your house so it is more accessible (5k every 5 years), they offer rides to appointments, reimbursement for travel to appointments, a case worker you can contact directly, and in-home caretaker hours..”

Easterseals: I feel a little guilty putting this in because the site is so vague and huge. Evidently though, they can be useful? You are supposed to find the branch office close to where you live, and see what they are able to offer you. Sounds like fun!

REquipment: wow, ’bout time. Used medical equipment, for free, without hassle from insurance.

Department of Vocational Rehabilitation: the point of a DOR/DVR is to help people with disabilities find and keep jobs. If you need some medical equipment (or something along those lines) in order to find and keep a job, they will usually help you. I got my digital hearing aids that way, years ago, and those bubbas aren’t cheap.

Assistive Technology

Department of Rehabilitation: The point of DOR/DVR is to help people with disabilities find and keep jobs (I know, I sound like a broken record player, I think that’s the 3rd time I’ve said that in this post). It’s an enormous goal and huge in it’s variables. Say you need a speech device in order to go to school so you can receive training so that you can be a train operator? = DOR will consider paying for your speech device AND tuition that is not covered by financial aid. A blind stylus? What about an iPad for deaf people, for Facetime/Skype online learning? I mean, DOR covers a lot of stuff, but you need to be able to fit what you are asking into the framework of being able to find and keep a job.

Center for Accessible Technology: they have an iPad loan program (and more, they are awesome, make sure you get to know them).

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (gotta love that name!): their description of what is out there is comprehensive and pretty accurate. It’s a good place to read through, then move on to their list of helpful organizations to reach out to, linked here.

Books

National Library Service (for the Blind & Physically Handicapped): free library program of braille and audio materials circulated to eligible borrowers in the United States by postage-free mail.

Bookshare: An accessible online library for people with print disabilities.

Learning Ally: Audio books and learning tools.

Discounts

There are a ton of discounts out there for us, way too many to list. I think instead of listing, it might be helpful for me to remind you to just ask.

Now, that can be a real pain in the butt, and you have to have enough spoons on hand to go through that whole, “hey! do you have a discount for people with disabilities?” and wait while they kind of look you up and down while searching through their memory banks.

If this is trying for you, some tips:

  1. Do you have a kid? Say it’s for your kid, until they are old enough to glare at you (‘Mom, why are you asking for a discount on your bifocals for me?‘)
  2. After you ask, look pointedly at your companion. Extra points if your companion doesn’t seem to have a disability!
  3. Do a little homework first and find out if the place has a reputation or not for being good community members – if not, then you are “offering an opportunity” and if so, you are “glad to be doing business with people who care.” Or something like that. 
  4. Keep it light and friendly. If you can’t, don’t ask because it’s not worth the energy.
  5. Keep notes! Take down the person’s name and address them by their name! Write a thank-you note if they were awesome.

Want more? Here’s a HuffPo article on discounts/disability (thanks, Amy!)

That's it

That’s all I have now.

Many thanks to everyone on Facebook who helped with leads. Since this is the first “Free Stuff for Adults with Disabilities” post that I’ve ever written, it would be incredibly helpful to me and to everyone reading if you would add whatever leads you know of in the comments, along with the link.

Sharing is caring, right?!

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*Note: 

“Special Needs” do not equal disability. These words should not be used interchangeably. Some people may have a disability but no special needs; others may have special needs but no disability. “Special Needs” is an education term; “disability” is a physical/cultural term.

The post FREE Stuff for Adults with Disabilities (and/or Adults with Special Needs) appeared first on Meriah Nichols.

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This post is about the best sites to learn ASL online. It is meant to serve as a resource to others who would like to learn ASL but may not have access to physical classes.

My interest in learning American  Sign Language (ASL) was a long time coming. Although I am myself deaf, I tried to “pass” as hearing and focused on lip reading to get by. This is exhausting, and with my profound hearing loss, I would like to be able to relax and communicate with others.

As we live in a very isolated area when we are in the United States, and on the road in Mexico when we are not, I need to learn ASL online. Here are some sites that I have found useful to learn ASL:

(note: the links are in the headings)

Lifeprint

Super awesome site. Free lessons, fingerspelling, dictionary, the whole shebang. Oh, and my favorite, Deaf Jokes page!!

Two Deaf men are signing to each other.
The first man asks, “What did your wife say when you got home late last night?
The second man replies, “She swore a blue streak”
And the first man asks, “What did you do then?”
And the second man replies, “I turned out the light.”

ASL Pro

This site kind of overwhelmed me with all the ads and stuff for sale. So far it seems like a lot of dictionaries, including “religious” ones (- if you are wanting to teach your child Bible signs, this is probably your stop).

Apps

There are a lot of fantastic apps for learning ASL online – here are some of the best:

  1. ASL Dictionary: comprehensive ASL dictionary with videos of more than 5,000 signs
  2. The ASL App: a hip app designed by Deaf ASL users to teach ASL (the one that Nyle is in!)
  3. Signing Savvy: learn ASL and join in conversations and more with the membership site
  4. SignSchool: vocabulary builder, dictionary
  5. YouTube: subscribe to Deaf YouTubers, search for classes. Download them through YouTube Red.
  6. Marlee Signs: learn ASL with Marlee Matlin
  7. ASL Translator: type in the English and get the ASL translation
  8. ASL Dictionary: over 5,000 signs, multiple ways to sign the same word and does not require internet
Described and Captioned Media Program

You are able to “check out” videos, DVD’s and books, a’la netflix.

They even give you a postage paid mailer to send them back. In addition to the DVD’s, they have streaming online videos and offer all kinds of things for ASL instruction, deaf culture and children – really, really cool site.

Check out the lessons available for ASL instruction here. Sweeeeeet!

 Start ASL

This has a ton of online ASL classes here – both free and paid courses with homework and everything. I love that they have a section for homeschoolers, they have tutors and an online practice community too!

Babies and Sign Language

This is primarily a site for baby sign – which I am not looking for. But they are some cool links to places to learn other languages – Latvian sign, anyone?

Signing Savvy

It’s an app (see above) and also a site. It’s a brilliant video-based signing dictionary. Very easy to use and free.

Deaf Read

This is the Deaf blogging community. It’s awesome because there are a lot of vlogs – video blogs – a great way to interact with real people, virtually.

Signing Time

If you haven’t already tapped into this truly astonishing system of catchy music + signs, well, here’s your introduction now – it is the easiest possible way to teach babies and kids basic ASL, both online and with DVD’s.

They have a slightly more advanced system with sentences and grammar, etc, but it does not go much beyond basic functioning ASL (“what’s your name?” and so forth.

YouTube

YouTube has a lot of kick-ass d/Deaf vloggers now. Here’s a post on some of the best vloggers to check out.

The post The Best Sites to Learn ASL Online appeared first on Meriah Nichols.

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"Kids" with disabilities = 25 years and younger. If you are over 25, please click here to read my post on Free Stuff for Adults with Disabilities
Free Stuff for Kids with Disabilities

We all love free stuff, but sometimes when you are raising a kid with a disability or special need, you REALLY love free stuff – or more accurately, you really NEED the free stuff, because disability or special needs can be expensive. Here’s a short list of some great free stuff for kids with disabilities or special needs*, focusing on products, services and money.

Scholarships

Ruby’s Rainbow: Scholarships for people with Intellectual Disabilities to attend higher education.

JLV Counseling’s Clearinghouse of Scholarships for People with Disabilities: Comprehensive list of scholarships available to people with disabilities, categorized by disability.

Fun Stuff

Challenge Air: A child with a disability can learn to fly a plane!

Dream Factory: dream wishes fulfilled for kids of all different disabilities.

Make-A-Wish: Kids have to have a ‘life-threatening condition’ and be between the ages of 2.5 and 18 to get their wish of a lifetime.

Sunshine Foundation: dream wishes fulfilled for kids of all different disabilities.

Children’s Wish Foundation International: more dream wishes fulfilled.

Financial Planning

Financial planning is incredibly important for families in which disability is present. Neglecting this might mean that your child will be left destitute or institutionalized upon your passing. Here are some free resources to help you plan:

ABLE Account: understand the ABLE accounts.

The Red Book: on the heels of understanding ABLE accounts is “The Red Book” – Social Security’s annual book on benefits. The link provided is to a pdf of the book.

Disability Benefits 101: tools and information on employment, health coverage, and benefits. Not all states are set up with the calculator, but World Institute on Disability has a lot of other information on financial planning and benefits – check out their books and resources here.

Free Passes

National Park Service: free lifetime pass to US national parks and more. There are some requirements and stipulations, so read through the application – which is linked here.

State Park Service: state parks have a disability discount – look up your state for more information and for the application. California’s is linked here.

Disney Disability Pass: this is changing as a result of the abuse, but it still helps families with a child with a disability or adults with disabilities. Check it out.

Bikes & iPads (and more)

Bikes: here’s a comprehensive list from the Friendship Circle’s blog of places to turn to for an adaptive bike. (note: scroll down – the formatting of their post is a little different and it kind of threw me off for a minute).

Bikes, Wheelchairs, Adaptive Equipment and more: Variety’s “Freedom Program” funds a lot. Check out the program here. Apply for help here.

Bikes, iPads & More: Gifts from the Heart for Down’s funds pretty much anything for kids with Down syndrome. Their application list is full as of 12/16; bookmark it if it’s relevant to you, and check back later.

iPads: Danny’s Wish awards iPads to kids with Autism. Applications are open from Sept-December 31st every year; iPads given out in April.

iPad Loans: Center for Accessible Technology has an iPad loan program, whereby you can try out an iPad and apps to see if it’s a fit. They will also work with you to see what will be helpful for your child.

Foundations & Grants

Foundations and Grants are a fabulous way to go. Finding the right fit can take a little research, but it’s well worth it. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Check in with the local disability-specific organization that your child matches (- for us it was the Down syndrome Connection of the Bay Area). Ask for information they might have about grants, foundations, etc that will help cover costs of bikes, iPads, etc. Apply that way.
  2. Google locally, “location-name + disability + grants foundations” – keep playing with the key words.
  3. Look into the Foundation Center: they have information on foundations all across the world (not just the United States).

Some Foundations to Put on Your Radar:

Danielle’s Foundation: helping kids with Cerebral Palsy and brain injury gain access to therapies, equipment and other benefits.

Lindsay Foundation: comprehensive help for kids across the disability spectrum (from therapy to equipment and much, much more)

First Hand Foundation: worldwide. Help in all areas of the disability spectrum, providing assistance to getting a hearing aid or wheelchair to transport to and from therapy.

ACT Today! : Helping families who have a child on the Autism Spectrum with care and treatment.

Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism: “helping families live life to the fullest”

Transport

Angel Flight: free air transportation for any legitimate, charitable, medically related need.

First Hand Foundation: providing gas money, parking and transportation related to a child’s care, vehicle medications, equipment and more.

Books

National Library Service (for the Blind & Physically Handicapped): free library program of braille and audio materials circulated to eligible borrowers in the United States by postage-free mail.

Bookshare: An accessible online library for people with print disabilities.

Learning Ally: Audio books and learning tools.

*Note

“Special Needs” do not equal disability. These words should not be used interchangeably. Some people may have a disability but no special needs; others may have special needs but no disability. “Special Needs” is an education term; “disability” is a physical/cultural term.

PS

Thanks to everyone on Facebook who helped me out with this list – especially the incomparable Amy Allison!

Please add links to places that you’ve found to be helpful or know about in the comments so that everyone can benefit. Thanks!

The post FREE Stuff for Kids with Disabilities (and/or Kids with Special Needs) appeared first on Meriah Nichols.

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The post Poll for the Next Lit League Book Club Choice appeared first on Meriah Nichols.

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Why Hire Someone With a Disability? The point of the post is to flesh out some of the general areas of discussion in this topic as well as my opinions on them.

A bit of background on myself: my Master’s degree is focused on Human Resource Development and Training (I read Harvard Business Review and Society of Human Resource Management stuff for fun!). I have worked in the career counseling and employer relations field for over two decades, from all sides of the table. That means that I’ve been on the hiring end, the job-seeking end and also the end that works with developing relationships with employers in the hope that they’ll hire someone from the program that I manage.

I have disabilities. I am deaf, have traumatic brain injury (TBI) and complex post traumatic brain disorder (C-PTSD).

Why hire someone with a disability?

When employers are asked this question, they usually strum up some stuff about “doing the right thing” or “being inclusive.” Sometimes it will hover over to “retention,” sort of like being that if you hire someone with a disability, gosh darn it, they’ll be so grateful, they’ll just stay working for you forever, so you won’t have to pay as much with retention and recruitment!

…that makes no sense

All of that boils down to hogwash in the end, because you know as well as I do that there is no such thing as “doing the right thing” when you hire someone. You hire people you like, people you think are capable and qualified to do the job, and that’s it, full stop.

Furthermore, employees are not going to look around and be like, “oh geez, Ernst & Young hired another deaf guy, I think I love them and want to work extra hard for them because they hire people just like me!“

That being the case, let’s take another look at why anyone should hire a person with a disability.

1. Our Numbers

People with disabilities – I’m talking across the entire disability spectrum (deaf, blind, low vision, intellectual disability, neurodiverse, physically disabled, learning disabled, etc) represented some 19% of the US American population in 2010.

Now, that was 8 years ago, so you know that number has only gone up – you also know that many people were not even counted on the original number.

Americans with disabilities make up a huge portion of the population.  

What that means to me as an HR professional, is that certain careers are going to be really wanting/needing the perspectives and voices from the disability community.

Take marketing for example.

You saw what happened when Target started including kids with Down syndrome in their ads, right? The ads went viral, business boomed from within the target population, so much so that Target went and developed an Adaptive Clothing Line.

It makes sense to me that any and all businesses will want to have actual people with disabilities on their marketing teams to lend their professional perspectives on where and how to include us with disabilities in marketing campaigns. You are going to have Latinx, Asian and African-American on your teams, because no white dude can give accurate information on how to reach those populations.

Well, you can’t get accurate information on how to reach disabled populations – those 57+ million Americans with change to chunk – unless and until you really bring them and their expertise on board to your teams.

2. Our culture

This is where it can get a little weird, because of disability being (as they say) the only minority group anyone can join at any time.

There is a big difference between people born with their disabilities (or having acquired them very young) and those who become disabled as adults.

Those of us who grew up disabled tend to be savvy problem solvers. We have had to work hard all of our lives to figure stuff out, to be included, to make change, to attend that class, to get through that door. We’re also used to our respective disabilities. We know what types of accommodation we need, we know the flow.

This does need to be taken with the generational piece though, because, just like with the non-disabled, we have some pretty big differences between the baby-boomers who grew up with disabilities, gen x, y, the millennials and gen z’s coming around.

So, when you are looking at the disability community, you have to remember that cultural layers exist in our community, just as it does in every other mainstream community.

Within the disabled community though, there is culture. There are norms.

I hesitate to talk about the norms because I don’t want to promote stereotypes or the notions that we are what we call, “super crips.” Every person with a disability should be allowed the inalienable right to have really boring, dull lives without having to ever prove anything or be objectified as being “more than” on the basis of their disability (or worse, being an “inspiration” on the basis of their disability).

One of the norms, though, is being out-of-the-box thinkers.

Not all of us are. But a lot of us are.

We can’t help it, really, because we naturally think, hear, see, move, perceive, feel and sensate the world in ways that are less mainstream than most. We can’t help but be able to understand things that people without disabilities can’t.

Any HR professional worth their salt wants this on their team. Different perspectives and out of the box thinking equal new solutions to the same problems. It means being able to reach new audiences, it means an expanded market, it means MORE MONEY for the company.

3. Who we are and what that means

I chose this image as the featured image for this post because this is actually a hell of a lot more descriptive of a lot of people with disabilities than the one with the suited guy using a wheelchair.

The vast majority of those of us with disabilities have non-visible disabilities.

Now, as I’ve said, a “disability” is a particular way of seeing, hearing, moving, feeling, thinking, sensating, learning (for more on the definition, read this post).

The numbers of our population grow every day, often with the inclusion of new disabilities. Our culture – both disabled and mainstream –  likewise evolve. Lady Gaga comes out as having fibromyalgia, Mariah Carey is bipolar and Halle Berry is nearly completely deaf in one ear. The list of famous people with depression and mental illness is a mile long.

What does this mean?

It means that disability – both non-visible as well as visible – is a part of the big ticket now. It means that when you include disability as a component of diversity into your hiring initiatives, and when you value what disability brings to the table by dint of hiring someone with a disability, you are making a statement that you (as an organization) are growing, moving and evolving with the times.

4. Access: Go beyond “wheelchair thinking”

One of the most important things is for you yourself to challenge the way you construct “disability” in and of itself.

You have got to get your mind out of “wheelchair thinking” – we don’t all use wheelchairs, quit thinking we do. We don’t all need particular types of access; quit thinking you know what we need (we will tell you when the time comes, so don’t jump ahead of yourself there).

In that reframing of your “wheelchair thinking,” consider what good HR is really about. Good HR is about creating an environment in which people’s knowledge, skills and talents are being used to the best of their capacity. It’s about strengthening your organization through diverse expertise.

When you work with anyone in your organization within an HR context, you need to figure out how that person best works. The beauty of working with people with disabilities is that most people with disabilities know that already.

That is, we already know what we need to do well at work – we’ve had years of trial and error at school, years of honing our accommodation needs and access requirements. We make it easier for an organization to work with us by dint of our ability to articulate what we need.

People without disabilities, by contrast, also have needs but lack the experience of having to articulate or hone their needs, so often cause more hiccups with managers than a person with a disability would.

So access needs are actually a positive, not a negative.

So, Why hire someone with a disability?

First of all, hire someone with a disability because they are qualified for the job.

Hire someone with a disability because you think outside the box and appreciate others who do, too.

Hire us because we bring a unique perspective to the table.

Hire us because you care about your bottom line and you realize that we can help you meet your goals.

Hire us because we’ll probably make your life a little easier.

Hire us for our good looks. Hire us for our sheet talent. Hire us cuz we made you think. Hire us for all of these reasons and more – but don’t hire us because it’s the “right thing to do”; it’s not.

It’s just the smart thing to do.

The post Why Hire Someone With a Disability? appeared first on Meriah Nichols.

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This post is about why your use of the word “retarded” actually makes you look stupid.

This is not a post about being politically correct and if you say anything about “being pc” I will reach through the computer and sprinkle legos all over your floor in the middle of the night, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I was humming along my Facebook feed when I came upon what started off as a really funny post about texting messages with a tattoo artist. It started off as funny, but then got old real fast when they slid down the slope of saying “are you retarded?” when the person was being completely dense and stupid, and I was left shaking my head with my face in my palm. I wasn’t angry or anything, just blown away that someone is still equating “retarded” with “stupid”.

So I’m writing a short post about why you should quit saying it, and I’m going to list them because not only do I love lists, but it’s proven that listicles do better as blog posts, and as a blogger, I’d like to see this actually read.

  1. “Retarded” Does NOT Equal “Stupid”

First of all, if you are saying the word “retarded” the way you think you want to be using it – as a pejorative to someone’s intelligence, you are wrong. “Retarded” as it used to relate to someone intelligence means “delayed.” It never meant stupid. It only meant delayed.

But that’s not even used any more.

No-one even uses it anymore, because we’ve gone beyond all that (except for some stragglers apparently). So your use of an outdated word, and your incorrect use of an outdated word to boot, makes you just look…kind of stupid.

2. Learning Disabilities or Developmental Disabilities Do Not Equal Stupid Either

Learning disabilities do not equal stupid. Developmental disabilities do not equal stupid either. Good grief, I wish I had a dollar bill for every time someone said something like, “she doesn’t have a learning disability; she’s not stupid!” or “wow! your child [with the developmental disability] is actually pretty smart..”

I can’t believe we are having this conversation, or that anyone still says or thinks that a correlation between learning disabilities, developmental disabilities and stupidity exist.

I mean, we’ve watched all the movies. Forrest Gump comes immediately to mind, but there are a ton of movies (linked here) about disability. The common theme in them all is that of someone being misunderstood (and usually thought of as stupid) by dint of their disability, then the world is proven dead-wrong by the person with the disability. Amiright?  I mean, this is a THING; this is a trope, a norm – it’s all over the place with eye-rolling amounts of regularity.

And I say “eye rolling” because:

a) it’s annoying to me when we with disabilities are just not allowed to fail in movies, or we are not allowed to just be people, flaws and all. We have to be the supercrips (or super-whatever) and inspire the non-disabled.

b) it’s obvious that the trope – even used as often as it is, for whatever reason it is – is a fail for disability acceptance because people are still equating learning disabilities and developmental disabilities with stupidity!!

3. Quit Saying “Retarded” At All!

Like I said already, most of us have moved on from saying “retarded” for any reason at all anymore. Have you heard of “Spread the Word to End the Word“? There is a whole organization dedicated to getting the “r-word” off the radar once and for all. This is directly because people with developmental disabilities – who have historically been called “retarded” have asked everyone else to.

They’ve asked. We need to respond and hold up our end and find better words to use, words that actually mean what they say and say what they mean.

And if we don’t, we’re just being… stupid.

The post 3 Reasons Why Your Use of the Word “Retarded” Makes You Look Stupid appeared first on Meriah Nichols.

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