Tag Archives: Disability

A Complete Guide to Hiring Employees With Disabilities

“When you hire someone with a disability, it gives the person with a disability confidence and self-worth, but most importantly, it proves they are like everyone else,” says Justin Farley, founder of UNlimiters, which sells solutions to help those living with disabilities overcome their challenges.

But that’s not why he feels small businesses should give this easy-to-overlook applicant pool a closer look… (Click here to read more)

My Assistive Technology Dream Come True

Whenever I see back to school commercials that talk about laptops, tablets and cell phones, I feel really old. When I was going back to school, only adults had personal computers and only the really important ones had laptops; not a single one of my friends had a cell phone. And now, just 13 years after I graduated high school, most students have one or more of these devices on hand. As a person with a disability, I’m glad I was born at a time when technology was on the rise; I have seen this technology grow and change the lives of people with disabilities. Read here how to spend time effectively.

Thanks to technology, people without the ability to speak can talk, many of the people who want to hear are now able to, and those who cannot walk have more and more options for mobility. Everyday new technology is created that can improve a life, and you have to admit that is pretty cool. I have benefited from many of the new technologies out there, they have allowed me to be more independent and more productive. However, there is a part of me that still waits, hoping that someday technology will come up with something that will allow me to walk hands free.

I have Cerebral Palsy, and like everyone with C.P., my case is unique to me. I am able walk with assistive devices such as a walker or crutches; I can also walk around my house by holding onto the furniture or walls, and I have decent balance. However, despite multiple surgeries, countless hours of physical therapy, and multiple bribes from my parents, I cannot take more than one or two steps unassisted.

This is something that I have come to accept. However, I do wish that there was something out there that would allow me to walk hands free. Having my hands free for reaching items is one benefit I get from using a chair; but when I want, or need, to walk somewhere, my hands are tied up doing other things. They have plenty of handsfree walkers meant for children to help train their muscles for walking and balance; but these walkers are typically bulky and a have ton of straps for support As an adult who just needs that tiny bit of extra support, there seemed to be nothing that could help my cause. At least until I saw this walker.

I can’t help but be a little excited. It does not seem like a perfect solution, and it still seems quite new given the limited information on the site; but the fact that it even exists gives me some hope. Hope that technology is catching up to my needs. Hope that someday, in the nearish future, I might be able to walk down the street carrying a child, holding hands with my husband, pull multiple items out of the fridge in one trip, or grab gallon of milk from the store without needing to put it in a cart first.

Is there anything on your assistive technology wish list?

Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy…

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I am quite happy to say that I have survived yet another Michigan winter. This winter was by far the worst in my memory, and I hope that it remains the worst that I will see in my lifetime. For now though, the snow is a distant memory and I am now looking ahead to another Michigan summer. When I think about summer, a lot of great memories come to mind; boating with my family, swimming with my sisters in the backyard pool, running around the neighborhood until the street lights came on and of course, summer camp.

Summer camp started off as a rocky experience for me. First, there was the fifth grade class camping trip where I was sent home early because the staff didn’t know how to handle my disability with the activities. Then, there was the time in seventh grade when I went to camp with a good friend. I was again excluded from several activities because of my Cerebral Palsy, plus reprimanded when I slept during free period because I was so exhausted from trying to keep up with the other kids. Luckily, both of those experiences ended on a happy note thanks to supportive friends and family; but it hadn’t left me eager to try summer camp again.

When I moved in with my dad in High School, I was once again faced with the prospect of summer camp. My Step-Mom insisted that my twin and I were both going, and there was really no arguing with my Step-Mom. She had been one of my biggest supporters during the 5th grade camp fiasco, so she had found a camp that was exclusively for people with physical disabilities. I would attend this camp for two weeks; I can’t say I was especially excited about the idea. I had been to similar camps before, usually the activities were geared toward kids much younger than myself and I had felt babied.

As it turned out, going to Indian Trails Camp was one of the best experiences of my life. The activities I was left out of at other camps, like archery, swimming and rope courses, were all adapted so that every camper was included. The beds and showers were accessible, the staff was mostly made up of first or second year college students, and they treated us like friends instead of clients.

Indian Trails Camp changed my life. It gave me the confidence to be just me and to embrace my disability, instead of trying to overcome it. It taught me how to adapt things to fit my needs and that with a few adjustment I could accomplish anything. Indian Trails Camp is where I had my first kiss and met my first boyfriend. It is where I made lifelong friends.  It is where I found acceptance and inclusion for the first time.

I know sometimes difficult experiences can turn us off to new things; but if you are from Michigan, have a disability and you’ve never gotten to experience summer camp, I encourage you to give Indian Trails Camp a try. It is never too late; there is even a camp for adults. Give yourself or your child a summer they will never forget.

Simple Sweeping Solutions: Part Two

downloadAll adults know that being an adult isn’t anything we had imagined as a kid. Sure, we can stay up all night if we want to, but we never want to; in fact, most of us are looking for reasons to stay up passed 8PM. It is also true that we can have ice cream for all three meals if we want to, but we don’t because we no longer have the metabolism of a child, plus just looking at ice cream makes our clothes a bit tighter. We also don’t have to go to school, but we do have to work, which is decidedly worse than school, even though we get paid to show up. We do have our own money, but it isn’t going to that American Girl doll I wanted so badly back in the day; instead I use it for really exciting stuff like my groceries and electricity. All of these things make being an adult one giant let down, but there is one thing that I absolutely hate, above all else, about being an adult: house cleaning.

Of course, house cleaning was terrible as a kid, but at least my parents sometimes threw me a couple bucks to compensate; now the only reward I get is a clean house and that typically lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes depending on the day. I hate cleaning the house. I mean, I know I technically don’t have to clean it, but the alternative of ending up on an episode of Hoarders does not appeal to me either.

Because I hate cleaning so much, I am always looking for something to make cleaning a little easier. A few years ago, I purchased the Mint, and I love it. However, the Mint does have its flaws. It is not great at corners or along edges, and I have to pick up all the chairs and stuff from the floor before I use it. So I do find myself sweeping every now and then, especially those small messes that don’t require a full floor clean.

I have a light weight broom that I can use, but I was forever struggling with the dustpan. Additionally, all the dog and cat hair was sticking to the bristles of my broom so I constantly had to stop and pull them off. After a few months of looking, I finally found something that works for me. This upright dustpan is very sturdy. I can lean on it without it collapsing on me, but it’s also lightweight, which allows me to move it around the room easily. The best part is that it has these teeth that help remove at the stuff that gets caught in the broom.

I have come to terms with the fact that I will be cleaning for the rest of my life. Although it might never be fun, it is always good when I can find a product that makes cleaning just a little easier. This dustpan will not only help keep my floors clean between using the Mint, it also saves me from wrestling on the floor with my old dustpan.

Got Too Much Stuff? Donate it– UNlimiters Style!

imagesA few weeks ago my husband and I got a new couch. Well, it wasn’t really new, but it was “new to us.” Unlike our many other pieces of “new to us” furniture, this was very gently used. I love it. Of course, since I use the furniture and the walls to get around my house, we had to make sure that everything was positioned just so; but now that everything has been arranged it looks lovely.However, there is one small problem, and by one I mean two, and by small I mean rather large.

See, despite the fact that our trash company had agreed to take the old couches away for $10 a piece, they are still sitting in my basement, along with the two couches we were using before them. That’s right; I now have four used couches in my basement. Why? Well, that’s a logical question, and if I had an answer there would not be four couches in my basement. I cannot move the couches, so my husband has to do it, and he says that he cannot move them because he needs someone to help him. To date, he has not asked anyone and no one has spontaneously volunteered.

This is seriously enough to drive a woman insane. Fortunately, I have found a way in which I can get rid of some of the other stuff that seems to accumulate when you are a home owner, without needing my husband to help. Donate Stuff is an organization that accepts donations of gently used clothing and household items. The best part? They will pick them up for you on a scheduled date and time. The items you donate will go to a local charity and the pick-up is absolutely free. In my area, the items picked up by Donate Stuff goes to my local Purple Heart, a charity that supports military veterans and their families. It is really easy to schedule a pick – up, you just go to www.donatestuff.com and enter your zip code, then follow the instructions. If pickup is not available in your area, Donate Stuff will send you pre-paid UPS bags to mail in your clothing donations, for free.

Unfortunately for me and my couch situation, Donate Stuff does not pick up large items; they only take items that can be moved by a single person. But they will take clothing, small furniture, small appliances and other household items, which make them a great resource when you clean out your closet at the end of the season, buy a new coffee maker or your child suddenly decides that trains are for babies. You can donate these items knowing that they will be going to new families instead of filling up a landfill or your basement.

So when I look at those four couches sitting in my basement, I remember to be grateful that it is only couches, and not the hundreds of other items I have been able to donate to a good cause. I just keep hoping that someday soon a magic fairy, or a very large man, might come and take them a way.

Single-Handed Cooking: A Few Tips

4817475546_b9f4e4b0ab_zStrangely, despite not being able to move my fingers I’ve grown to love cooking.  I’m slow at it, the kitchen looks like an explosion everytime I cook and I’ve burnt myself countless times, but despite all of that I still cook on a near-daily basis.

Not many quadriplegics do it, but I can’t help myself.  It’s in my genes. My mom is one of the best cooks I know. I grew up always envisioning I’d be a fabulous cook like my mom, and I’m dead set on making that dream a reality.

I will admit it’s not easy. A lot of considerations need to be made in order to cook without too much of a struggle. Good thing is that I have some experience under my belt, and I’m here to help. Check out my single-handed (and no finger-movement) cooking tips below.

Make Sure You’ve Got Your Balance

Safety in the kitchen is paramount and making sure you have your balance is huge when you’re cooking.  If you have balance issues, this is the first thing you need to resolve in order to start cooking. I do the “quad-hook” to keep my balance, but other people prefer to use chest straps.  Whenever you end up using, make sure it’s something you can count on.

Use an Apron; Cut Off the Ties

Since I can only use one hand very well while cooking, you can call me the spill queen. I don’t care what I’m cooking, some of it will end up on my lap (flour by the way is one of my arch enemies). Because of this – I love to wear aprons, but they’re not the easiest to put on when you can’t stand up. I cut the ties off my aprons since they’re not necessary (as I’m not standing). Easing, accessible solution.

Prep Everything Before Turning On the Heat

A really important thing you need to do before turning on the burners is to prep everything you’re cooking with first.  It can take longer to do things when you’re arms and hands are compromised, so make sure you have everything poured, measured out, chopped, whatever, and put to the side just like a cooking show. This will make sure you don’t burn anything while taking too long to prep food.

Know Your Limits

Don’t get too cocky and try to make something that you can’t cook on your own safely, say a pot roast in the oven and pulling it out when it’s done, and ending up spilling it on you. The best thing you can do is accept what you can’t do in the kitchen, be ok with it, and instead try to get really good at what you can cook.

Buy Pre-Cut Foods When Possible

To make things easier, look for pre-cut foods is they’re available. Pre-cut vegetables, meats, cheese, potatoes; if it eliminates one extra step from your cooking process it’s a good thing. And don’t feel like it’s cheating either. You have a great excuse; you don’t want to overuse the strength in your arms over the years as you use them.

Get a Sharp Knife

To help your arms along the way as well, a sharp knife will do you good big time. If and when you do have to cut things, an extremely sharp knife at least will make the job a lot easier physically. A lightweight knife is good as well, such as a ceramic knife by a Cusinart.

Maybe you don’t like cooking and that’s cool, but if you do, don’t ever let your disability stop you. I’ve even seen a high injured quadriplegic stir a soup using a very long stir spoon in his mouth; that’s the commitment I’ve seen to the love of cooking.

With a little bit of planning, smart thinking and a few self-imposed restrictions, becoming a decent cook is possible. I’m living proof (and you should try my bread pudding).

What cooking tips do you have?

Products mentioned

– Ceramic knife by Cuisnart

No More Untied Shoes!

I love shoes. This is a little ironic because my CP severely limits the types of shoes that I can wear. I am envious of women that can wear hooker boots, sexy heels and strappy summer sandals. I will never be able to wear those types of shoes. In college I wore only sneakers; for some reason I was convinced that was the only type of shoe I could put on independently and have it stay on my feet.

Unfortunately, sneakers came with their own set of problems, mainly the laces. I did everything I could to avoid tying my shoes, including just leaving them untied which annoyed my college roommate to no end. If I had a quarter for every time that girl tied my shoes, I’d have enough money to buy my very own shoelace tying robot; which I need now that she doesn’t live close enough to tie my shoes anymore.

Shortly after college, angels descended from heaven and delivered unto the world cute, velcro- sneakers for grown-ups. I thought my life had been made, but then I found there were cute mary janes, flats with elastic sides and boots without laces. I no longer needed to struggle with laces, or ask my husband for help. My sneakers soon found themselves pushed into the deep recesses of my closet, shoved under the bed and forgotten, for the most part.

Except, this bounty of laceless shoes isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. They may be cute and easy to put on, but when I am walking for more than a few minutes at the mall, the grocery store or with my dog, they offer absolutely no support for my feet. This was fine when I was young and spry, but now, I often find myself uttering “oh my aching feet” like the grandma on an 80’s sitcom.

I tried to go back to sneakers for those longer walks, only to find that tying my shoes is even harder than it used to be. Seems that old phrase ‘use it or lose it’ definitely applies to my shoe tying ability. So, as I often do in times of trouble, I turned to the internet and discovered that many of my fellow Ceeps (that’s a person with CP, for all you non-Ceeps) were using something called Lock Laces to solve this dilemma. I decided to give it a try.

These laces are awesome and  relatively easy to put in your shoes. It took me a little more time than some; if you have trouble with fine motor skills you might have to employ your shoe tying robot for assistance, but once you get them in your shoes, that’s it! You will never need help tying your shoes again, and you can retrain your robot for another impossible task, like folding a fitted sheet.

Learning to Ride a Bike

My Dad has always been a huge supporter of me living an “unlimited life”. He never wanted me to be left out of anything because of my disability. When I was little he would help me climb into trees and forts, he took me ice skating and sledding, He and Mom bought me a swing for the backyard play set, and helped my climb a rock wall at fifth grade camp. He has put me on a horse and a Harley – Davidson; he even tried to take me on a helicopter, but mom put the kibosh on that one.

The thing that sticks out the most in my memory, however, was Dad’s campaign to get me on a bike. This campaign lasted well through high school, but it started when we were four and my twin sister and I got big wheels for Christmas. In case you didn’t know, twins always get the same Christmas gifts, it’s in the twin handbook. So even though there seemed to be no physical way for me to ride a big wheel, my dad saw this as a challenge, instead of a hindrance. When my feet kept slipping off the pedals he simply screwed a pair of my tiny shoes to the bike; which solved the slipping issue, but not the coordination issue.

Next, Dad tried a go-cart. He took the wheels off my big sister’s Radio Flyer wagon, a fact she is still slightly perturbed about, and made the body out of wood. He painted the whole thing bubblegum pink, strapped me in using an old belt and sent me off down a hill. It took me approximately six seconds crash into the curb. Turns out, I couldn’t steer, and Dad forgot to add brakes.

When I was 11 or 12 years old, my Mom found an old adult tricycle with a motor and gifted it to me. The motor was shot, but we put some Velcro straps on the pedals, and we found that I could propel myself if I was given a push to get started. That summer, my sister and I spent a lot of time on that bike; we would walk around the block with it, and when we got to the big hill at the top, she would jump in the basket and we would go flying down the hill. I never used the brakes, but I didn’t hit any curbs either. I grew stronger, but I still had trouble with the hills and inclines, so we rigged a pulley system that would help in pulling my legs up, which was where I was having trouble.

It is funny now to look back on these memories; nowadays they have all sorts of adapted cycles for those with and without disabilities. I can just imagine my dad saying to himself, why didn’t I think of that? But his efforts were not in vain; it is from him that I learned how a little creativity and hard work goes a long way, and that as long as you keep trying, you’re bound to get it right eventually.

The Gift of a Doll

For me, living with a disability is all I have ever known. Therefore, I never thought of my life as particularly hard or challenging. The daily struggles I face today are the same, or similar, to the struggles that I have been facing for the last 31 years. Things that able bodied people might consider a struggle are as commonplace to me as brushing my teeth.

That being said, I do have days when I hate the hand I was dealt. Sometimes, I just don’t want to deal with it anymore. It’s usually something small, one too many falls, or a particularly long wrestling match with my shoe, which sets me off. Suddenly, I just want to scream, to punch something, to kick something or break something. My victim during these outbursts is usually my pillow, but a surprise gift from a friend could change that.

See that? Don’t worry, at first I couldn’t figure out what it was either. I thought briefly that the gift had been sent by mistake; or worse, that my friend had lost her mind. I mean, this thing is the kind of ugly that people write songs about. U-G-L-Y. What would I possibly want with it? I started to think it was a gift meant for my dog, (who, as you can see from the photo, also thought it should be for her) until I finally saw the tag stitched to one side.

This ugly little darling is a Dammit Doll. What is a Dammit Doll you ask? The tag declares: “Whenever things don’t go so well and you want to hit the wall and yell, here’s a little Dammit Doll that you can’t do without. Just grab it firmly by the leg and find a place to slam it. And as you whack the stuffing out yell dammit, dammit, dammit.”

Life is funny; I happened to receive this gift right after a fight with my husband. I don’t remember what the fight was about, but I do remember that I did not have to use the doll that day. The absurdity of the gift made me laugh so hard that I forgot about my bad mood.

I still have not slammed my Dammit Doll in to any walls. It’s silly, but a part of me feels bad for her. Most dolls are meant to be loved and cared for. This doll, on top of being ugly, was designed for abuse. It’s a little tragic in my opinion; then again my husband says I am just too sensitive. I don’t know if I will ever use my Dammit Dall the way she was intended; but her presence in my life is now a constant reminder that I am loved, and it is the people who love me that get me through the bad days. They pick me up when I fall, they wrangle unruly shoes and they encourage me to keep challenging myself. They are the real reason I live an Unlimited life. Objects make certain things easier, but their support makes things possible.

Escaping the Wrong Relationship

I’ve been writing for dozens of disability websites for around 15 years, and giving relationship advice has been when of my fortes. I’ve always prided myself on giving people the tough advice no one wants to hear. When you’re disabled like me the tough advice is the most important.

I only bring this up because I’ve been terrible lately at taking any of the advice I have given. I think every girl out there is guilty of doing this – we like to tell everybody what they should do, but we struggle at taking the tough advice ourselves.  When you’re actually in the thick of it – it’s a lot harder to do the right thing.

This is especially the case when we find someone we really really like; the type you’d see a future with. The love that’s there can be strong, but we overlook several things about their personality in the process. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve done this several times. Being a girl can really be annoying sometimes; and I blame these poor decisions wholly on my extra emotions and hormones.

So…what ends up happening is that we fail to end a relationship that needs to end.  Many of us with disabilities are afraid of being alone.  When I was younger, this was something I worried about a lot. I really believed there wouldn’t be that many people out there who would be ok with my paralysis. As it turned out however, there are a lot more people than I thought (oh how I love it when I’m wrong).

Another fear a lot of us hold onto is worrying about no longer having your significant other there to help. When you’re in a long-term committed relationship and you have a disability, chances are your partner will do certain things for you and you might have come to rely on it. A lot of fear can lurk behind losing your independence in a breakup.

But we’re just like everybody else when it comes down to it. When the love isn’t reciprocated both ways it can break your heart, but still…many of us don’t want to fully sever ties. We can be hopeless romantics and hold out hope that things might turn around. At least that’s how I feel that things.Many of us with disabilities are pretty romantic people.  Saying goodbye for good is one of the hardest things to do.

But when the break-up finally happens, a huge relief occurs and your future again looks bright.Maybe you don’t see the brightness right away and all you see is an unending line of mediocre dates, but there is brightness there (you just don’t see it yet). Ending anything you still find some joy from is never easy.  You really have to put on your grown-up pants and just do it.

You should also indulge in your favorite break-up activities.  I myself have a handful of go-to items when a break-up occurs: 1) My favorite chick-flick movies and TV shows, courtesy of my favorite website Netflix (anything that’s a period piece is currently in my queue). 2) Video games, especially RPG ones, courtesy of the online gaming community/network and store, Steam (you gotta love being able to get games for your computer without leaving your house). And 3) Foods that make me happy. This typically involve ordering pizza; Papa John’s with garlic sauce is where it’s at, as well as lots of baked goods (lots), and a nectarine thrown in for good measure so I don’t feel guilty.

Communication and relationships are without question the hardest thing about being human. We’re constantly learning lessons, growing as people and ending relationships is one of the biggest of them to learn. I wish all of you the strength to be able to do this one day.

And when you find that strength, have your break-up kit ready to go. You’ll do fine I promise. I always see the light after every break-up.  It’s hard, but when you see it, it’s the most beautiful light you’ve ever seen.

How have you ended an unhealthy relationship?

Break-up Kit Musts

– Netflix

– OrderPapa John’s online (love this)

– Steam game network

 

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