August09,2016

Meet Mariah, “No Boundaries” 2016 Participant

"No Boundaries" 2016 participant Mariah sits in her wheelchair behind an office desk.

By Carolyn VanBrocklin, Communications Specialist, Disability.gov Team

When Mariah rolls into the office, she exudes bubbly confidence. Born with cerebral palsy, she wanted to participate in “No Boundaries” because she “thought it would be an amazing experience to show what people with disabilities can do. When barriers are broken down, people with disabilities are able to be active participants in their communities and nationwide.”

Mariah didn’t know a lot of people with disabilities when she was younger. She grew up in an Air Force family, which meant frequent moves, and she was often the only person in her school who used a wheelchair. After her family moved to Texas, she joined Kinetic Kids, an accessible sports and recreation program for young people with disabilities. For the first time, she met other kids her age who also used walkers or wheelchairs to get around. Mariah says the program provides a very positive experience for young people with disabilities. “[Participants] realize they can dream big and know not to limit themselves.”

Mariah says that her disability has impacted her life in a positive light through the extraordinary experiences it has made possible – like participating in “No Boundaries.” Though she doesn’t drive, she’s visited more than 15 states and Washington, D.C., and made close friends along the way. She has a strong support system of family, friends, co-workers and community to help her fulfill her dreams, which she says have enriched her life and helped shape her positive outlook and sense of determination.

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July28,2016

Meet Ines, “No Boundaries” 2016 Participant

Ines stands at a kitchen counter with the ingredients to make an omelete.

By Carolyn VanBrocklin, Communications Specialist, Disability.gov Team

Ines juggles brightly-colored peppers between her hands as she waits for her photo shoot to begin. Her infectious laugh echoes throughout the kitchen, as the peppers bounce off the counter and roll to a stop. The shoot starts, and in between clicks of the camera Ines adjusts the blue scarf looped around her neck, which she chose because it coordinates with the Sjogren’s syndrome awareness bracelet proudly worn on her wrist.

The kitchen is where Ines feels most at home. Since immigrating to the U.S. from Nicaragua 24 years ago, she has honed her cooking skills to become a master of numerous international cuisines. She is well versed in the nuances of Greek, Chinese and Cuban cuisine, to name a few. Her specialty is soup – from hearty minestrone to creamy Avgolemono.

For years, Sjogren’s syndrome was the nameless monster that threatened to limit Ines’s abilities in the kitchen and her occupation as a nanny. Doctors were at first not able to diagnose what originally seemed like an allergy to the sun and a severe case of dry eyes. Some thought she had multiple sclerosis, since Ines also has Raynaud’s disease, which causes parts of the body – specifically the fingers and toes – to go numb as a reaction to cold weather or stress.  It wasn’t until 2012, when she was treated at the National Institutes of Health, that she was finally diagnosed with primary Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder.

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July26,2016

#Disability Blog Carnival: Living in a Post ADA World

Photo collage of children and adults with disabilitiesEditor’s Note: This blog was cross-posted from MomsRising.org.

By Christina D’Allesandro, New Hampshire State Director, MomsRising, and Rebecca Cokley, Executive Director, National Council on Disability.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans are living with a disability, and countless others are deeply involved in caring for and supporting individuals affected by disability. Last year we celebrated 25 years from the passage of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). We highlighted many successes, while realizing that we still have a long way to go.

Those who have grown up under the infrastructure of laws including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the ADA are referred to as the “ADA Generation.” As this generation comes of age their expectations for their lives are different than those who came before. Many have been mainstreamed in schools, some have gone to college and graduated and others went straight from school to the workforce. These outcomes have been shaped by the expectations for their success set forth in policy, and as a result, their perception of the American Dream is one that looks much more like that of their non-disabled peers. This includes the right to be a parent, whether by having biological children, adopting or fostering. While these individuals are seeking out the tools and resources to become parents, the social service system, judicial system and everyone from Babies “R” Us to your neighborhood daycare center is also needing to make adjustments to their definition of parenting.

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July25,2016

A Collaborative Learning Community to Benefit Youth and Young People with Disabilities

Photograph of Jessica Queener  By Guest Blogger Jessica Queener, Communications and Outreach Manager, Youth Transitions Collaborative and the National Youth Transitions Center

The Youth Transitions Collaborative (YTC) is a community of organizations that share the goal of empowering youth and young people with disabilities to create a self-directed path to adulthood and employment, and to participate in and contribute to society. The National Youth Transitions Center (NYTC) provides a single location in the nation’s capital for modeling cross-systems collaboration and improving the transition services available to youth and young people, their families and communities. As an innovative “collaborative community,” the NYTC provides opportunities for nonprofits serving youth and young people to build capacity, create new partnerships and benefit from its national agenda. This national agenda is comprised of policy and advocacy efforts, innovative research and cross-sector collaborations that stimulate new thinking and learning across the country.

The NYTC is the focal point of the Collaborative’s community. This by-invitation-only membership group, facilitated by The HSC Foundation, is comprised of over 50 regional and national organizations with a commitment to serving youth and young people with disabilities. These organizations are united by shared values and a desire to be stronger together, providing direct services, expertise and guidance for the Center. The Collaborative also serves as the basis for The HSC Foundation’s efforts to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations serving the disability and youth communities, and to create a cohesive community among these organizations. They also participate in a variety of programming initiatives that provide further opportunities to partner on topics including advocacy, career preparation and employment.

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July20,2016

Future Planning – It’s Possible and Necessary

The Arc logo

By Guest Blogger Liz Mahar, Program Manager, Individual and Family Support, The Arc

Future planning is important for all families. Yet, thinking about the future can be challenging and emotional. In 2014, The Arc of the United States launched the Center for Future Planning™ to encourage and support adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families as they plan for the future.

There are an estimated 600,000 – 700,000 families in the United States where an adult with I/DD is living with aging family members and there is no plan for the individual’s future. Having a plan is important especially after the parent or caregiver can no longer provide support. The Arc recognized that too many people are facing the next chapter in their lives without a plan and is working to provide help to families and people with disabilities trying to create that roadmap.

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