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Friday, September 25, 2015

Grant allows for Fraser park to be place of fun for all kids, including those with disabilities

For information on the Oct. 5 opening day, call Anna Cameron (586) 294-4847

By JERRY WOLFFE

A $300,000 grant from the state is being used to turn a Fraser park into one that is accessible to all children, including those with disabilities, a member of the Fraser First Booster Club says.

"The park will not be exclusive to youngsters with disabilities because all kids will be encouraged to play there, too," said Anna Cameron, 75 and vice president of the booster club, of McKinley Park.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at the park at 11 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 5, with local dignitaries such as Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, said Cameron.

The park will include a pavilion with space for 10 picnic tables, a labyrinth, gardens, a mile-long asphalt-covered walking path, an airplane, fire engine and police car, she said.

There's also an accessible bathroom and a parking lot with a turnaround area large enough to accommodate a bus.

The park is located at 31470 Grove Street in Fraser, north of 13 Mile Road.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Warren church reaching out to minister to the disabled


To find out more information, call (586) 751-1721 or visit www.firstofwarren.com

By JERRY WOLFFE          

A Warren church will start an “inclusion ministry” program on Oct. 1 to focus on helping fulfill the spiritual and social needs of people with disabilities.

“Jesus was the first advocate for people with disabilities,” said Marijo Hockley, who has earned a Master’s of Divinity degree and will coordinate the ministry.

“We want to get people like myself that haven’t (felt included in a faith community) and help them feel more comfortable about coming to services and talking about God,” said Hockley of Madison Heights. She uses a power wheelchair because she has arthrogryposis, a congenital disability where two or more joints in the body are frozen, eliminating range of motion.

Currently, “four or five people with disabilities” attend the accessible church, The First Presbyterian Church of Warren, which is located at 3000 East 12 Mile Road in Warren.

The open house will be from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on Oct. 1 and attendees will have a dinner, see a video, “God’s Beautiful Creation,” and have a time for fellowship, Hockley said. Inclusion meetings will then be held the first Thursday of every month thereafter.

“We want to make sure everyone feels comfortable,” she said. “We’re hoping this program will create a faith-space within our church that will let people with disabilities learn to express their own unique voices as part of God’s good creation.”

The Rev. Julie Delezenne of First Presbyterian helped Hockley win a grant from the Detroit area Presbytery to fund the program for a year.

“When I first started out in ministry, I didn’t want to be the ‘disabled pastor,’ but God called me to do something and I need to show people I have been called to do God’s work,” Hockley said.

Register on the website or call so the church can prepare enough food for those in attendance, Hockley said.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Warren church reaching out to minister to the disabled


Box: To find out more information, call (586) 751-1721 or visit www.firstofwarren.com


By JERRY WOLFFE          

A Warren church will start an “inclusion ministry” program on Oct. 1 to focus on helping fulfill the spiritual and social needs of people with disabilities.

“Jesus was the first advocate for people with disabilities,” said Marijo Hockley, who has earned a Master’s of Divinity degree and will coordinate the ministry.

“We want to get people like myself that haven’t (felt included in a faith community) and help them feel more comfortable about coming to services and talking about God,” said Hockley of Madison Heights. She uses a power wheelchair because she has arthrogryposis, a congenital disability where two or more joints in the body are frozen, eliminating range of motion.

Currently, “four or five people with disabilities” attend the accessible church, The First Presbyterian Church of Warren, which is located at 3000 East 12 Mile Road in Warren.

The open house will be from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on Oct. 1 and attendees will have a dinner, see a video, “God’s Beautiful Creation,” and have a time for fellowship, Hockley said. Inclusion meetings will then be held the first Thursday of every month thereafter.

“We want to make sure everyone feels comfortable,” she said. “We’re hoping this program will create a faith-space within our church that will let people with disabilities learn to express their own unique voices as part of God’s good creation.”

The Rev. Julie Delezenne of First Presbyterian helped Hockley win a grant from the Detroit area Presbytery to fund the program for a year.

“When I first started out in ministry, I didn’t want to be the ‘disabled pastor,’ but God called me to do something and I need to show people I have been called to do God’s work,” Hockley said.

Register on the website or call so the church can prepare enough food for those in attendance, Hockley said.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.

 


 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Robotic exoskeleton helps those paralyzed walk again

By JERRY WOLFFE

BLOOMFIELD HILLS – A 52-year-old Army veteran was on his feet and crossed the “threshold from impossible to possible” by taking a few steps while wearing a robotic exoskeleton.

Gene Laureano of the Bronx incurred a spinal cord injury in 2001 that left him paralyzed from the waist down when he fell 20-feet off of a ladder while working on a welding project in Manhattan.

In early 2013, Laureano joined a clinical trial of the device at the VA Medical Center in his hometown. After being told he’d never walk again, he used the exoskeleton and “stood up. I knew I was about to cross the threshold from impossible to possible.”

He demonstrated the $77,000 exoskeleton at the Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills to the media in mid-September.

After putting on the 50-pound device, he pressed a button and he was lifted up. The exoskeleton is like braces that surround each leg and there’s a thick strong waist harness that holds the torso upright. Laureano uses crutches when walking with the exoskeleton to keep his balance.

The demonstration was sponsored by Fitness Therapy Unlimited of Troy, a provider of massage, land and aquatic therapy for those with chronic and acute physical conditions or disability caused by auto accidents or chronic conditions, said CEO Greg Kirk.

Craig Peters of Milwaukee, a physical therapist for ReWalk Robotics, Ltd., said the exoskeleton was approved after four years of effort by the FDA on June 26, 2014.

“It’s the only one of its kind cleared for use in the home or in public,” he said in an interview. “It does take a fair amount of upper body strength.”

Fitness Therapy works with potential users of the exoskeleton to get their trunks, arms, and shoulders strong enough to help balance themselves using crutches. The high-tech device has several microprocessors to control motion of the joints in the hips, knees, and ankles.

“Some people spend a large majority of their day in the device and others use it for exercise,” said Peters. “The maximum use per day is usually 3.5 hours.”

Kirk of Fitness Therapy said the advantages of the exoskeleton include getting a person’s body back in motion, reduced pain, improved bladder, and bowel function, increased bone density, reduced chance of developing decubiti ulcers on the buttocks and the psychological benefit of being able to stand up and look someone in the eye.

The device was invented by Israeli founder of Argo Medical Technologies, Dr. Amit Goffer who has quadriplegia. The only manufacturer in the United States is ReWalk of Marlborough, Mass. Other manufacturers are in Germany and Israel.

Two Blue Cross Blue Shield plans will cover the cost of the device, Peters said, but refused to say where the insurers were located. However, he said efforts are under way to get “approval from No Fault insurance for purchase of the exoskeleton” so more people who have paralysis can get back on their feet.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Some $120,000 raised in community to keep Lahser respite home open

By Elizabeth Scussel of  C&G Newspapers

BEVERLY HILLS/ROYAL OAK — The Lahser Respite Home, in Beverly Hills, will remain fully operational for the upcoming year, Judson Center officials say.
The announcement was made three months after news that the home may close its doors indefinitely.
Kelli Dobner, vice president and chief development officer for the Judson Center, said that thanks to donations from the community and a number of local businesses, they were able to reach their goal of $120,000 — the home’s yearly operating cost.
“We even had kids coming out of the woodwork to help,” Dobner said, explaining that one young boy came in and emptied his piggybank, while another girl gave a single dollar for the cause. Another group of children, she said, held a drive and collected 6,000 bottles and cans — resulting in a $600 donation.
“It’s really inspiring and energizing. It’s heartwarming,” Dobner said. “We never thought this could happen — this outpour from the community, this fundraising campaign. We realized we’re not alone in this. People really care about the services we provide.”
For more than nine decades, the Judson Center has offered services to aid children, adults and families impacted by autism, developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, abuse and neglect.
Annually, the Judson Center helps more than 6,000 people through programs for children and adults, including counseling and therapy, social groups, vocational services, foster care and more.
While private pay is an option at LRH, financial aid is offered through the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center — a state agency providing services and support for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness.
Due to a decline in mental health funding, state money covers about 50-60 percent of the yearly operating cost of the home, and LRH must raise the additional funds to keep the home running.
The LRH serves as Judson Center’s only respite home in Oakland County and assists 45 families, which, due to the budget cuts, is a decrease from last year’s 61 families. The home also serves as the only respite home in Oakland County for youth ages 18 and younger.
Comfort, care and activities are provided at the home, offering a break to family members and caregivers.
The services provided at LRH, Dobner said, are a necessity, as caring for someone with a mental or physical disability can be unbelievably taxing on families.
News of the home remaining open is travelling quickly around the community.
“(The families) are just overjoyed,” Dobnew said. “A number of the parents were crying. Tears were coming to their eyes immediately. They were just overwhelmed. Lahser is a lifeline for many of these families. One parent actually said, ‘It fills my heart to the point of bursting.’”
One woman overjoyed with the news is Nora Bushman, whose 21-year-old son has frequented the home for more than a decade.
“When I heard it was staying open, I burst out in tears,” she said.
Bushman’s son, Blake, has had a neurological disorder since birth, is nonverbal and portrays autism-like characteristics.
The home, she said, not only allows her extra freedom, but it also exposes her son to other situations and environments.
The closing of LRH would not only send a ripple through the lives of the parents and their children, Busman said, it’s also a matter of the home’s care staff losing their jobs.
“We love the staff,” she said. “Everyone there has been so supportive, and there’s not a huge turnover rate. You see the same faces there for years.”
Bushman said she — as most parents are — was hesitant and leery of leaving her son in the care of someone else.
For parents feeling that way, Bushman said to take baby steps.
“Once I became comfortable sending him there, I thought, ‘Why didn’t I use this before?’ she said. “Just give it a try.”
As of now, annual fundraising efforts must be made in order to keep LRH fully functional, but as far as future fundraising is concerned, Dobner said she’s feeling confident because of the communal outpour they have already received.
“We just have the most immense  and deep gratitude at the Judson Center for these true community efforts. My words cannot do it justice, just so much gratitude for how much they care.”
LRH offers accommodations for six children between the ages of 5 and 17, and their stays can last anywhere from four hours to several days. If a child begins service at LRH before the age of 17, the home will provide services until he or she reaches the age of 26.

LHR is located in Beverly Hills. For more information on the Judson Center or to get involved, visit www.judsoncenter.org. To reach the LHR, call (248) 646-1297.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

DOJ issues guidelines on testing for those with disabilities


By JERRY WOLFFE
 
The Justice Department today issued technical assistance on the obligation of testing entities, both private and public, to ensure that the test scores of individuals with disabilities accurately reflect the individual's aptitude, achievement, or the skill that the exam purports to measure, rather than his or her disability.
 
The document discusses who is entitled to testing accommodations, what types of testing accommodations must be provided, and what documentation may be required of the person requesting testing accommodations. The document also discusses prohibited flagging policies and how test scores for test-takers receiving disability-related accommodations should be reported.
 
For a copy of the Guidance Document or to find out more about the ADA, visit www.ada.gov or call the Justice Department's toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TDD).
 
Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Micghigan job recovery "still a myth"

Labor Day report shows Michigan’s economic recovery still a myth


Michigan League For Public Policy graph

Despite the continued decline in Michigan’s unemployment rate, a new report finds the economic recovery many are celebrating, overlooks those who have quit looking for employment.

The Michigan League for Public Policy’s report released Sept. 3, “Labor Day Report: Economic Recovery Eludes Many Michigan Families,” found that many Michigan workers have simply given up looking for work or have left the state to pursue employment elsewhere.

Many of those employed in the state have had to take part-time or low-wage jobs and are still struggling to make ends meet, and unemployment and low wages continue to disproportionately affect people of color, it said.

The latest jobless rate in Michigan was July when 5.3 percent of the state’s workforce was unemployed. More recent figures are to be released later this month.

By contrast, 71 percent of people with disabilities are not in the workforce, according to
the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
 
“I am as happy as the next person to see our state’s unemployment rate go down, but we can’t all put on rose-colored glasses and lose sight of the real economic struggles that are persisting in Michigan,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, MLPP President and CEO.

“A third of our state’s unemployed have been out of work for more than half a year. Our state has lost nearly half a million workers since 2000. Unemployment for African-Americans is nearly 10 percent higher than it is for white workers, with their median wages almost $5 less (an hour). That doesn’t sound like recovery to me.”

The report makes several policy recommendations to bring true economic recovery for all to the state, including modernizing the unemployment system, more funding adult education and training, restoring financial aid grants for older students and raising the minimum wage.

Unemployment is down and the number of jobs is up in Michigan, but a closer analysis reveals that many of the jobs created in recent years have been low-wage, part-time jobs. Currently, 25 percent of adult workers are in low-wage jobs and 32.4 percent of working families in Michigan are low income, perpetuating the high poverty rate in the state. Michigan’s long-term unemployment rate is also still steep, with 34.8 percent of jobless workers in the state being unemployed for six months or more, said Jacobs.

In looking at the racial disparities in unemployment and wages, the Labor Day report showed that in 2014, unemployment for white workers was at 5.7 percent, with unemployment for African-Americans being almost 10 percent higher at 15.8 percent. Unemployment for Hispanic workers was 8.8 percent. In addition, for 2014, the median wages for African-Americans were $11.79 an hour, or $4.32 less an hour than the media wages for white workers.

“If we are going to truly turn our state’s economy around, we have to look at the big picture,” Jacobs said. “We need policies that reduce unemployment by creating jobs, not losing workers, and close the gap between low-income workers and the rest of the state.”

For more information, visit www.mlpp.org.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.

DOJ issue guidelines on rights of those living with HIV/AIDS


By JERRY WOLFFE

The Department of Justice has published a new tri-fold brochure, Protecting the Rights of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS | (PDF), to explain the rights of persons with HIV/AIDS under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the requirements of the ADA for employers, businesses, non-profit agencies, and State and local governments with respect to persons with HIV/AIDS.

The two-sided brochure (print using “Tablet” setting) summarizes the more detailed Questions and Answers: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Persons with HIV/AIDS |PDF.  Duplication and wide distribution of both is encouraged.

To find out more about the Department’s efforts to fight discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, including how to file a complaint of HIV/AIDS discrimination, visit ADA.gov/AIDS or call the Department's toll-free ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 or 1-800-514-0383 (TDD). 

Jerry Wolffe is the advocate-at-large, writer-in-residence at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

TRIBUTE TO A MAN WHO INSPIRED OTHERS

(Editor's note from Jerry Wolffe: Michael Marchand, who died July 4 at age 48, was the son of Tom Marchand, one of the first parent advocates for children with disabilities, and the late Sylvia Marchand. This is a tribute a friend wrote.)
[
"Tribute to Michael"

He loved to go for a long car ride,
always the first to hop inside,
awkward of gait and powerless to speak,
along with the car he broke free to seek,
Momentum, Grace, Power and Direction,
some thought him luckless in the Game of Life,
denied a vocation, children and wife,
Still his very being bore a special purpose,
Though not apparent at the surface,
Like all good and worthy souls,
Michael had much to teach us
about enjoying life and reaching goals."