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Monday, December 30, 2013

People with Disabilities face irritating discrimination every day


Discrimination is evidence mankind has yet to move into an age of enlightenment.
When one is disabled, the string of discrimination is felt in so many ways. It's not about people being rude, but is about some of us with disabilities being intentionally being mistreated.
Eventually to remain sane and have a healthy self-concept, one learns that he or she who discriminates based on disability, sexual orientation, race, economic status or a religious basis needs our prayers, not anger. Anger just festers in our souls corrupting them.
For some stinging insight into real life with a disability, here are some of the most common examples of discrimination people with disabilities experience every day.
Store employees assume we are stupid.
In a movie theater, store in the mall, a restaurant or any public-type place that has employees, five times out of 10 you'll run into an employee who will automatically assume you're ill-equipped mentally because of an obvious physical disability. Every time at checkout, the cashier will always ask my wife if she wants paper or plastic, directing all her questions towards her, never assuming I'm the one who's paying. Very, very frustrating.
Taxis passing us by.
If you live in a metropolitan area, chances are you've experienced taxis passing you by quite often even though it is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Taxis frequently avoid passengers with physical disabilities, not wanting to deal with our extra needs, seeing them as a headache and not looking at us as an equal customer. Little do they know that we do not demand their assistance. Anyone with a disability hailing a cab solo can likely handle the entire transfer on their own.
Stairs in public spaces.
You go to grab a coffee or meet a friend for lunch, but wait -- you can't get in. This is architectural discrimination at its finest and we encounter it every day. The ADA Architectural Guidelines in the Federal Register require all places of public accommodation to be accessible to someone with a disability, including a wheelchair user. There is no such thing as a building is grandfathered in and need not follow ADAAG. There are a few exceptions for historic landmarks, but they must be accessible as long as making them so does not destroy the architectural uniqueness.
 Despite the misguided notion that certain buildings are grandfathered-in to the ADA and do not need to be accessible, umm no, they do. Any public space must.
The sad part is many owners simply don't care and choose to blatantly discriminate. They just don't get it that our money is as good as anyone else's but I have to get into the store to buy a product.
Wheelchair "quotas."
Some places of public accommodation such as concert venues, airplanes, city buses, amusement park rides have quotas on how many wheelchairs are allowed. Some apparently and wrongly fear a person who uses a wheelchair is more likely to be injured, but this is far from reality and a blatant excuse to discriminate. I'd like to put the venue owner in a wheelchair, have him or her show up at a concert and be told there's no wheelchair seating. One famous landmark in Detroit, the Fisher Theater, still doesn't have wheelchair seating, leaving play lovers such as this writer missing out. Meadowbrook Theater near Oakland University is no better.
Strangers pretending they don't see us.
Once in a while you'll run into someone who's not very pleasant. Maybe they're in line in front of you, or avoiding your gaze when you're looking for someone to help you grab something from a shelf. These folks like to pretend they don't see us, apparently thinking it's easier to do that than interact with us. One way to change the situation is to say hello to that person. In most cases, they'll respond and realize you are just like everyone else and it's no big deal to hand me an out-of-reach item.
People taking our parking spots.
It happens all the time -- able-bodied individuals parking in handicapped parking spaces. The convenience is just too hard to deny. And while this is all fine and dandy when it's in the middle of the night and there's no one else at the store, they generally take our spots in the daytime, especially the good ones that have extra room for our ramps. We know one cannot always tell if someone has a disability because there are invisible disabilities but unless the vehicle has a disabled parking sticker or license plate with the universal wheelchair symbol that vehicle does not belong in a parking spot set aside for those with disabilities.
It is kind of sad, too, that not all wheelchair license plates are recognized in every state. In a visit a few years ago to Georgia, I received a ticket for parking in a disabled parking spot, even though my vehicle clearly had the proper plates. A friend who has paraplegia also received a ticket for parking in a reserved spot in New York because the state doesn't recognize Michigan disabled parking license plates as being legit.
Whatever you do, don't let these daily discriminatory occasions bring you down. Patience is huge in the life of a wheelchair-user, especially if you want to survive and do so with grace. Discrimination may even be your reality for many years. However, if you can use each time you're discriminated against as a teaching opportunity, then you and others are on their way to being treated with respect.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Santa and Shriners made each Christmas special

I remember when a $3 Christmas gift was the greatest present in the world.

Shriners in Santa roles give gifts to children with disabilities.
It was even better that my mother, now 98 and living in an adult foster care home in Shelby Township, was there with me decades ago when the Shriners made the dreams of children with disabilities come true.

Teachers at Detroit’s two major schools for children with disabilities in the 1950s told us a couple of weeks before Christmas that we could ask for a present that should cost $3 or less and the Shriners would make sure  Santa got the word.

On the Friday before Christmas vacation began, we were taken from the schools by buses to the swanky Statler Hotel in downtown Detroit where the Shriners had a big Christmas party arranged. The buses lined the entire street and police officers were on duty to watch them and help us, if need be, get into the beautiful hotel.

We had a wonderful meal at long tables with white linen where turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and other good food was served. Each year, we got the same desert – a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup swirled on top.

After dinner, Christmas Carol in a red outfit with faux fur on the skirt bottom would come down the aisle where we were sitting in folding chairs next to our mother, dad, or foster parent. One of Santa’s talented helpers played Christmas songs on the stage in front of us and we sang along with him and Christmas Carol. A Shriner, always with a big smile, would encourage us: “Come on kids, sing louder. Santa loves to hear your voices.”

After an hour or so, “Here Comes Santa” was played by the piano man and we’d all look for Santa. He was so tall and fat and by using his magic he was able to carry a giant bag of gifts. We could hardly contain ourselves because we knew Santa was real and he was about to give us a gift.

Now I think how much more simple those times were then today. We were happiest, I think, because of the love shown by the Shriners.

After other children received their gift from Santa, it was my turn.

One of Santa’s helpers brought me my first plastic chess set. The pieces had green felt bottoms and the gift included a wooden chess board. “You don’t have to worry about Santa,” mother said. “He always knows what children want.”

I kept that set for years and remember that my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Otto at Leland School, taught me how to play.

Some girls received dolls. Other boys had Wilson baseball gloves which I recall cost about $3.11 in 1952, but no one left empty-handed.

We’d return to the buses and it was always a great ride home with my gift in one hand and mother Carol sitting next to me holding my other hand.

Jerry Wolffe is the Writer-in-Residence, Advocate-at-Large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

MORC offers Supports Intensive Scale overview

(Click on this twice, then click on the second url that appears to go to the SIS info at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center site with info on Supports Intensity Scale.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Common Ground to get new Pontiac home for crisis center

PONTIAC -- A ribbon cutting-grand opening ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 17 at 1200 Telegraph, 32East for the new home of Common Ground's Resource & Crisis Center.
The event will also include a program, lunch, and a self-guided tour.

The facility, which was renovated by the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority will address a community need for increased public resources for individuals who have a mental illness, developmental disability, serious emotional disturbance, or substance use disorder, and are in need of immediate support.  The facility is conveniently situated near a community bus line route and is adjacent to the Health Department and WIC services.

Common Ground’s crisis related services will relocate to the building, making access to the agency’s expertise more convenient for those seeking help. These services include the 24-hour Resource and Crisis Helpline (800-231-1127), Emergency Psychiatric Services and ACCESS services, currently located at Doctors’ Hospital in Pontiac; and the Crisis Residential Unit, currently located on Hendrie Street in Royal Oak.  The scheduled move date is Jan. 10.
The 48,000-square-foot building will also be occupied by PACE (Prior Authorization and Central Evaluations for the Office of Substance Abuse Services), a pharmacy and X-ray lab services. The project was financed by a $14.5 million bond, which was approved by the Oakland County Building Authority. The building will be subleased by OCCMHA from Oakland County, which is leasing the property from the Oakland County Building Authority.

Jerry Wolffe is the Writer-in-Residence, Advocate-at-Large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263 8750.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Common Grounds links up with Crisis Text Line to help youths

Common Ground has entered into a formal partnership with Crisis Text Line, Inc. an organization that serves young people in crisis, providing them access to free, around-the-clock emotional support and information they need via the medium they already use and trust:  text.  
Crisis Text Line, founded by CEO Nancy Lublin, is expanding its services to select cities across the country with the aim of offering nationwide service in 2014.  

Common Ground was chosen to participate because of the success and expertise of its Crisis Telephone Line, online Crisis Text platform and CTL specialists, addressing more than 50,000 calls in 2012.  
Lisa Turbeville, manager of Common Ground’s Crisis Telephone Line, said the partnership with Crisis Text Line, Inc. was a natural next step in expanding the services of the agency’s Online Crisis Text program.   

“We are constantly seeking innovative ways to provide support to our community, close the gaps and link people to services,” said Turbeville. “We’ve wanted to provide Crisis Chat and Text services for several years. It gives us the opportunity to reach out to those we may not otherwise get to connect with.”

The project addresses the need for teens to be able to reach out for help via text and receive it (also via text) from trained professionals.  Many teens find it difficult to communicate about their feelings in a face to face situation.  But now the ability to talk electronically — either online or by texting —has become a way for teens to share what’s going on in their lives and reach out for help. 

“We see Crisis Text and Chat services as a vital piece to help people move from crisis to hope and we are honored to work with Crisis Text Line, Inc. to provide these much needed services to our community, state and across the country,” said Turbeville.
Instead of setting up a staff of in-house responders, is collaborating with partner organizations to actually provide the crisis counseling. Trained specialists will respond to teens, whether they need a supportive listener, resources or help planning how to stay safe and healthy.
By getting as many partners onboard as possible, information will be at the fingertips of counselors more quickly in those critical moments when someone needs help immediately.

 How it works: 

·         A teen texts “hello” to 741741 anywhere, anytime;
·         A live, trained specialist receives the text and responds quickly;
·         The specialist helps the teen stay safe and healthy with effective, secure counseling and referrals through text message using CTL’s platform.

In anticipation of the increased call/text volume, Common Ground is looking for community members who are interested in the experience of volunteering on the Crisis Telephone line and/or the Crisis Chat/Text line. Free, comprehensive training is provided. For more information about volunteering, call Cheryl Ross at (248) 451-2614.