Monday, May 31, 2010

Is Your Disabled Child Being Bullied? What Can You Do?

Children are often cruel to other children, and some children can be particularly cruel to a child with a disability. This cruelty can result in bullying. Any child who is different from the rest in any way, is at risk of being bullied. A child in a wheelchair or any child with a disability is at very high risk of being bullied.

Bullying is not a natural part of growing up. A bully often can not be ignored A bully can make life hell. A bully can steal a child's confidence, pride and self-esteem. At the minimum bullying can destroy what should be some of the best years of a person's life. At worst bullying can lead to depression, poor performance in school, early dropout and in extreme cases, further violence and even suicide. There have been too many cases of childhood bullying leading to suicide, for example in the case of Jared High, Phoebe Prince, and Megan Meier

Bullying is not something that will go away by itself. It usually goes on in some form until the bully is stopped. Often a parent is the only ally against a bully, but even more often parents are at a loss to know what to do.

If your child is being bullied, there are steps you can take. If your child has a disability and is being bullied, there are even more steps you can take.

General information about bulling and steps you can take:

* Bully Police: Features a state by state list of anti-bullying laws
* Stop Bullying Now: Has an "ask the expert" section where you can get advice about your particular situation
* Jared Story: Is a tribute to Jared High, a boy who was bullied, became depressed and eventually committed suicide. The website offers tips about what to do if you or your child is bullied.

Some websites discuss legal recourse you can take, for example discusses the difficulties of suing for slander or libel and steps you can take including talking with a lawyer.

There are several excellent books on the subject of bullying. Two books which have been particularly well received are The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander: From Preschool to High School--How Parents and Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle and Nobody Knew What to Do: A Story about Bullying.

If your child is disabled consider finding a peer tutor. A peer tutor is an able-bodied child who has received some training to work with children with disabilities. Try to find a child who is not only bright, but who is also popular. According to the Kentucky Peer Tutoring program, the role of the peer tutor is to "assist students with disabilities ‘blend in’ with their peers and participate as much as possible in the everyday life of a high school student". If a Peer Tutoring Program does not exist in your area, lobby your school administration to create one.

Should all else fail, if your child is disabled and if your school has not taken sufficient steps to stop the bullying, you can file a formal complaint with the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. But before taking this step, get more information about what you can expect them to do for you.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wheelchair Excercises: Fit or Fat The Choice Is YOURS!

Looking for some wheelchair excercise ideas? There are many tips in this article about wheelchair excercise.

One of the best is this video made by Gaël Yonnet, a complete paraplegic and a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician:

But if weight lifting is not for you, find something that is. You will get a start in this article about wheelchair excercise.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meet Champion Wheelchair Racer Ernst van Dyk

In April 2010 Ernst van Dyk won the Boston Marathon Wheelchair Race and with that win he set a record for winning more Boston Marathon Wheelchair races than any other person. Since 2001 van Dyk has one EVERY Boston Marathon men's wheelchair event except for the 2007 marathon when he placed second. In 2004, the South African set the world record by winning the Boston Marathon with a time of 18:27. Van Dyk is also a Paralympian as well as the 2006 recipient of the Laureus World Sports Award for Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability. van Dyk is only 37 years old and has plenty of races in front of him. Watch an interview with van Dyk just before his 2010 win:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mobility Scooter World Record Set In Hervey Bay, Australia

True story:

An organization of mobility scooter owners gathered togther 126 mobility scooter in the community of HERVEY Bay in Australia to create the longest parade of electric mobility scooters. Their parade was even officially recognized with a Guinness World Record! Only 126 mobility scooters? That should be an easy record to break. I asked Julie de Waard, Project Officer, for the Seniors in Focus Project about the process of having your record recognized by the people at Guinness World Records. She told me:

It is not an easy process but well worth the effort once you have success. In order to gain recognition as a world record you need to lodge an application with Guinness World Records which can be done through their website. Once in the site it is easy to find where you need to go, they will then contact you with what else you need to do and the guidelines that you need to follow. Once the attempt is done you are required to supply a number of items in support of your attempt including registrations, video and photographic evidence, signed witness statements etc etc. these requirements change according to the record being attempted.

This is a challenge to all mobility scooter organizations and mobility scooter clubs. Beat the Hervey Bay record and then get the good people at Guinness to recognize it! Post a video on YouTube, send me an email: RehaDesign "AT" and I will announce it here!

Congratulations to the mobility scooter owners of Hervey Bay.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Disability Humor: Funny or Bad Taste?

I got an email from a guy named Chuck Bittner with a link to a website and a note:

Hope you giggle!

Chuck the CAPper

I guess CAPper is short for Handicapped? Ok, I went to Chuck's website and picked at random the performance below to listen to.

Listening to it, I could imagine that this kind of stuff might be a bit controversial. Is it politically correct to make disability humor? Is this stuff funny?

Hell yes it was funny!!! Chuck the Capper is a pretty talented comedian. If you will give it a listen you will agree that Chuck has a gift for humor. Now the big question is, will we ever see Chuck on Conan Or Leno? I wonder if the world is ready for Chuck?

Here is my question for Chuck...Chuck why is there only audio? Listening to this reminds me of the days listening to Bill Cosby Record Albums. Yup! I am that old that I actually listened to Cosby on a Record Album.

Note to Chuck: Get a friend to make a video of your next comedy performance!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NPR: A Disability Will Give A Character Depth

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates's story "Actors Play Beyond Disabilities" is excellent and spot on. But are Hollywood casting directors listening? Bates writes:

Michael Patrick Thornton's
ideal acting job would be one in which nobody ever mentions the chair. It would be just a feature, in other words, like having red hair or being pregnant — part of who the character is, but not the sum total.

Exactly. There are millions of disabled people in the world. Lawyers, doctors, teachers use wheelchairs everyday. In the real world, not all discussions, not all conversations are focused on the wheelchair. Sometimes, the wheelchair is just a piece of furniture hauling the occupant from point A to point B. Why can't Hollywood get that?

It is time for Hollywood casting agents to drop the barriers and start actively recruiting actors with disabilities for all kinds of acting roles.

What is the benefit to Hollywood? The character will be more believable. The character will have more depth. What is the benefit to society? The more people see people with disabilties as people first and disabled second, the less disablism there will be.

Listen to this excellent NPR broadcast:

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wheelchair Rappers : 4WHEELCITY

If rap is your thing you might be interested in the story of 4WHEELCITY. Rap is not my thing, but this blog is about cool wheelchair users and 4WHEELCITY is pretty cool.

4WHEELCITY is a hip hop group. Two guys in wheelchairs, Namel "Tapwaterz" Norris and Ricardo "Ricfire" Velasquez, both victims of gun shot wounds. They must be pretty good, 4WHEELCITY is being promoted by some pretty big names in the Rap Industry. For example, here is a video of 4WHEELCITY together with Snoop Dogg:

Here is a video of 4WHEELCITY performing together with 50cent, jadakiss, dmx and biggie smalls:

4WHEELCITY writes on their website:

Our mission is to use hip-hop music and culture to create more opportunities for
the disabled and inspire people not to give up in life.

That is pretty cool stuff. You can find out more information from the 4WheelCity Website or the 4WHEELCITY Myspace page.

Good luck guys. If you read this and are interested in an interview, contact me: RehaDesign "AT"

Friday, May 14, 2010

"The Specials" Win A Webby Award

The 14th Annual Webby Awards Winners have been announced and The Specials is the Webby Award Winner AND People's Voice Winner for best Reality Website.

Hopefully the selection of the Specials, a web-based reality show, will make TV broadcasters rethink their decisions. Perhaps we will one day see The Specials on TV as well as on the internet. Well done Katy Lock.

Watch a cool video of The Specials learning that they WON!

We won a Webby! from KADA Films on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Paralympian, Artist and Motivator Josh Vander Vies

Josh Vander Vies has the right attitude:

No matter what circumstances you find yourself in, you have the ability to surprise yourself.

Josh is a top Boccia, he has competed in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. Josh is an artist. Josh is a public speaker, watch this video of Josh out there teaching kids:

Josh has surprised alot of people. Josh' messages is to reach for the stars and not let difficulties, challenges and perceived barriers get in the way. Josh has the right attitude.

Now, ask yourself: What have you done lately?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Watch Wheelchair User Zack Weinstein On Glee on 11 May 2010

Tomorrow, 11 May 2010, wheelchair user Zack Weinstein will be appearing on Glee. As you know, there are not alot of television or film roles for real wheelchair users. So, when a few come along, it would be GREAT if the entire disability community turns out and gives its support.

Please support Zack Weinstein by watching Glee on May 11 after American Idol on Fox. Please join me in asking everyone you know in the disability community to do so as well.

Read this interview with Zack Weinstein.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Disneyland Like Paradise Designed For Kids With Disabilities

This is an amazing story, with a very touching ending. This story is about the love of a father for his child and the amazing gift the father gives to the world, with her name on it.

This is a story of "Morgan's Wonderland" a paradise on earth for kids with disabilities. This is a land where dreams really can come true. Dreams for kids who may have never imagined that there is such a place on earth. What is more, for children with disabilities, this paradise is FREE! (Mom and Dad, you are going to pay five bucks...not bad for a ticket to paradise).

Here are JUST A FEW of things you are going to find at Morgan's Wonderland:

* The Sensory Village: Each one of these themed environments not only inspires imaginative play but also offers interactive sensory stimulation through the use of colors, lights, sounds and textures. (Sounds wonderful, but I can not quite grasp what it is).

* Wonderland Express & Depot: Our beautiful locomotive, truly a train-lover’s delight, pulls multiple cars with specially designed wheelchair-accessible ramps so the whole family can enjoy a fun and relaxing ride together.

* Off-Road Adventure Ride: enabling individuals in wheelchairs and their companions to enjoy the ride comfortably.

* Carousel : adaptive animals that serve as special seats for guests incapable of sitting upright. Unique benches allow a special-needs guest to be safely secured and sit next to a friend or caregiver, and guests in wheelchairs can enjoy the experience with custom chariots

* Music Garden: Nine large, shaded outdoor instruments along a winding garden path combine for a great sensory experience involving the visual beauty of the garden, the smells of the flowers and the sounds of music.

This is just a beginning, there is much, much more. Watch a little bit about Morgan's Paradise:

What a magical place! And the fact that it was inspired by the love of a dad for his beautiful child just makes it all the more special. (Thanks to Wheelie Catholic, I learned about Morgan's Wonderland from reading her blog).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Letter To Melanie Reid

Melanie Reid is a reporter for The Times from Scotland. Unfortunately about 1 month ago, Melanie had an accident while riding a horse and severely damaged her spine. Melanie is now going through Rehab and is struggling. She has been on a ventilator and she has had pneumonia. But Melanie is on the road to recovery and is coming to terms with her disability. Melanie is starting to write about her recovery. At the moment she is dictating her thoughts. Melanie writes:

In the space of 15 minutes I have gone from someone whom I considered to be a fairly high-achieving mistress of her universe to what looks like a tetraplegic.

Unfortunately, that is often the way it is with a spinal cord injury. Life is going along normally and then, due to a car accident, a sporting mishap or even a nasty fall, life as you know it is over. Melaine also writes:

But there’s no point in dwelling on the might-have-beens of my story — they get you nowhere. Instead, I am facing a long hard process ahead. It’s going to take some months, and there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs. As to the outcome, I can’t guarantee anything — but I’d love to think I’m going to walk out of here.

This is my message to Melanie Reid:

Melanie, the road you are about to travel is a tough, long and lonely road. But you should know that there are thousands of people around the world who are going down exactly the same road right at this moment. You are far from alone. Many, many people have come back from a severe spinal cord injury and are leading rich and rewarding lives. Below are just a few. Listen to their words of wisdom:

Tiffany Carlson: Writer and Website Owner

Erika Bogan: Ms Wheelchair America

Zack Weinstein : Actor

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Watch Glee On 11 May and Spread The Word!

On 11 May Zack Weinstein will appear on Glee. Zack is a quadriplegic. Read an interview with Zack Weinstein.

I think that the more able-bodied people see real people with real disabilities, the less disablism there will be. Most "isms" (racism, sexism, disablism etc) are born out of a fear of people we don't know. Getting to know these people we are afraid of, even if just on TV helps, to alleviate that fear.

Think about this: The more we see gays on TV, the more gays have moved towards equal rights. The more people of different races we have seen on TV, the less racism there has been. Similarly, I think that the more real people with real disabilities we see on TV, the less disablism there will be.

The more people that watch Glee on 11 May, the more likely we will see MORE people with disabilties on TV in future programming. By watching Zack, you may make it easier for other actors with disablities to be cast in mainstream TV roles in the future.

So, please help by asking people to ask people to watch Zack Weinstein on Glee:

* Please post it to your Facebook Page

* Please Tweet and Retweet

* Please blog about it.

* Please tell your friends and family

Watch Glee on 11 May in the USA!

(I am trying to find out when this episode will be aired in other countries. Please leave a message if you know.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Interview With Zack Weinstein : Appearing Soon In Glee!

As I previously blogged, a young actor named Zack Weinstein is scheduled to appear in an upcoming episode of Glee. In my blog post, I asked Zack for an interview. Zack contacted me and over the past few weeks we have been doing the interview by email.

A bit of history: Glee was criticized a few months ago by many people from the disability community, including me, for hiring Kevin McHale an able-bodied actor to play a person with a disability. Many people, including myself, found this outrageous because there are so few roles for people with disabilities. So, when the opportunity arose to include a character with a disability in the program, we naturally believe that such a role would be best given to an actor with a real disability.

Zack wrote in a post on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog:

As long as actors with disabilities are given the opportunity to audition and are as seriously considered as able-bodied actors, I have no problem. The best actor should get the role.

That comment caused even more controversy and remarks, including my own. Zack and I address this controversy and more in this interview with Zack Weinstein.

Watch Zack Weinstein on Glee May 11 after American Idol on Fox.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Is the Disability Community Partly To Blame For Disablism?

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2010

When one thinks about minority groups, the first thought that comes to mind are racial groups (blacks, hispanics, asians, etc) or lifestyle groups (gays, feminists, etc).

What do they have in common? They all suffered until community leaders gathered the masses together. These community leaders organized themselves and often through personal sacrifice, they raised their voices and told the rest of the world that it was not ok to discriminate.

Leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, César Chávez did so much to bring their community groups forward. Gay leaders have done much to make the world accept that gays have rights. Women's groups have done much to bring equality to the sexes. Their struggles are not over, but much progress has been made. In my lifetime (yes, I am probably a bit older than most of my readers) I have seen all of these minority groups make incredible strides. All but one. It seems to me that the disabled community is the one left behind.

It is not an issue with numbers. According to Wikipedia, the disabled community is the third largest minority in the USA.

So, what is the problem with the disabled community? Where are the leaders? Where is the outrage when there is blatent discrimination everywhere? Where is the organization? Where is the voice of the disabled community?

For example, what if we had a "BAD Bloggers Wire"? If there was an event or a message we wanted to get across, the wire would be sent out and all BAD Bloggers would be asked to put the message on their blog? If a BAD blogger witnessed an act of disablism, the message could go out and bloggers everywhere could write about it. Such an outcry, if focused on issues that really mattered, could make a difference.

To make any inroads into disablism, we need much more than one annual Blogging Aganist Disablism Day. The disability community needs leadership and organization. The disability community needs a network of activists who share a common vision and a common goal. Without those things, I fear that we will be having the annual BAD Day for a long, long time.