Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Special Needs Kudos! -Dorothy Hamill's I-Skate Program for Kids with Special Needs

Dorothy Hamill may best be remembered for her 1976 Olympics gold medal win in women's figure skating. But Hamill recently joined with the Physically Challenged Sports Program at Kennedy Krieger Institute to give kids with special needs a chance to take to the ice after she saw a young girl with leg braces unable to take part in skating activities.

The skating program called I-Skate, began in 2009 and allows children ages 5 to 18 with physical disabilities to skate with the support of adaptive equipment. Good for health and self esteem!

Now, that's pure gold.

For more info, visit the links above.

Photo Judy Winter 2010 Conductive Learning Center (CLC), Grand Rapids, Michigan

Special Needs Shoutout!- Actress Bo Derek Helps Support Canine Companions for Independence

Actress and author, Bo Derek, has created a line of pet-care products called Bless the Beasts. A protion of all sales go to support Canine Companions for Independence, a wonderful organization that trains dogs to assist children and adults with disabilities free of charge.

Jack and I rate that effort a "10."

Photo Judy Winter 2010

TV Alert! -Monica & David: A Love Story on HBO

This notice is from my friends at the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles (DSALA): In celebration of National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, HBO will premiere the Tribeca Film Festival Best Documentary Award Recipient, MONICA & DAVID, Thursday, October 14th, 2010. The film explores the marriage between two people with Down syndrome. HBO 1 - 8 PM ET/PT, 7 PM CT (check local listings for Mountain Time)
HBO Latino - 8 PM ET/PT, 7 PM CT (subtitled in Spanish).

Visit the
Monica & David website for more information.

TV Alert! -Night of Too Many Stars/Autism

Night of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Concert for Autism Education, and a benefit for autism education and family services programs nationwide, airs this Thursday, Oct. 21st, on Comedy Central at 9 p.m. E.T.

Laughter is good medicine for the soul and this important cause.

Johnnie Tuitel & Disability Travel Resources

I believe strongly that when a problem presents itself, especially as it impacts those with disabilities, people need to be proactive and find solutions.

In the case of my buddy Johnnie Tuitel, who's making news worldwide after being taken off a US Airways flight after being deemed "too disabled to fly," (see prior blog post), I find it timely and appropriate to share good resources regarding travel and disability. Knowledge is power. with its "Worldwide Travel News and Tips," included the Tuitel story and offers good info and links regarding this valuable topic. Find out more here.

Mission accomplished.

Now, time to e-mail Anderson Cooper 360 to request they cover this important story, too.

An advocate's work is never done.

Friday, October 15, 2010

US Airways Deems Johnnie Tuitel Too Disabled to Fly??

Just when I thought it was safe to take a day off from the blogsphere, a story comes up that hits far too close to home to ignore.

It's a disturbing story about US Airways allegedly taking a man off a late September flight because he was deemed 'too disabled to fly.' An agent then advised the passenger that he could only take the flight with an able-bodied companion who could assist in case of an emergency, a policy stated on the airline's website.

The man they removed from the aircraft is my good friend, Johnnie Tuitel, a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and author of the popular 'Gun Lake Adventure Series,' which features a child with cerebral palsy as its hero. The series is loosely based on Tuitel's life. The author is a family man, a college graduate who has traveled by air 500,000 miles the past two years alone to make a living and help support his family. That family includes three great sons, all of whom volunteer each year at the camp I co founded to honor my son's life called RicStar's Camp. Johnnie Tuitel serves as our camp emcee each year, and as a powerful example of ability for the campers. This year, his unselfish actions earned him our 2010 RicStar Award for Outstanding Community Service.

I met Johnnie years ago. Once you meet him, you never forget him. It becomes easy to ignore the wheelchair. As a journalist who'd recently turned her focus to special needs parenting, I was immediately fascinated by Johnnie's life story and his example of overcoming tough odds to live a productive life. Meeting him helped me see what was possible for my own son in light of his significant physical disability. I met Johnnie Tuitel at a time I most needed his example. Johnnie helped energized me for the advocacy work ahead. I've been forever grateful and we've become great friends.

After publishing a newspaper column as part of a series I did profiling successful adults with disabilities, I decided to also include Johnnie's story in my book. His story and spirit are equally remarkable. Johnnie has spent his entire life challenged by the physical realities of cerebral palsy. Given his big personality, that's not an easy reality. But Johnnie lives life to the fullest and doesn't waste time on 'why me?' He forges ahead, as he will after this recent event. He's smart, funny, hard working and charming, with a tremendous commitment to helping others as he heals from his own sense of loss of mobility. The author doesn't believe life owes him anything because of his disability. That's why this story hits so hard.

The man I know beyond the wheelchair is someone who would most likely help the crew get others off the plane safely in an emergency before even thinking of himself. Then, he'd crawl out if he had to, probably making jokes and laughing on the way out. He has spent his life fighting hard to promote human rights/dignity/independence for himself many others with disabilities, impacting countless numbers of individuals in life-saving ways. If anyone can turn this outrage into effective advocacy and necessary change, Johnnie Tuitel can and will. That's my friend.

Johnnie finally reached his destination to speak at the 2010 National Self Advocacy Conference in Kansas City on Delta, but he missed his professional gig.

I feel the sting of his outrage and the injustice, too. I'm again reminded of how far we've come, and how far we still have to go to ensure the rights of those with special needs.

I'm 'Team Johnnie,' all the way.

See the story/video here.

UPDATE Oct. 11-Fox News
UPDATE: See Johnnie Tuitel on CNN here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

eLEGS Grant New Freedom to Wheelchair Users

A new bionic, wearable device called eLEGS, designed by Berkeley Bionics in Berkeley, California, is enabling some wheelchair users to stand and walk.

Read about this amazing development and see the video here.

Technology continues to offer renewed hope to many people with disabilities.

How cool is that?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Word of the Day -Fall

Because it's my favorite season of all, and beauty is everywhere.

Photo: French Antiques @ Joie de Vie /Petoskey, Michigan / Judy Winter 2010

Alright! Stevie Wonder at White House for Signing New Technology Bill

While I was scarfing down sinful chocolate-coconut fudge and waving adios to summer last Friday on Mackinac Island (one of my fav escapes), Stevie Wonder was at the White House to witness signing of the 21st Century Communication & Video Accessibility Act to significantly increase technology access for those with disabilities, including on the web.

Upon its signing, President Obama remarked, "The bill I'm signing today into law will better ensure full participation in our democracy and our economy for Americans with disabilities."

Long overdue.

Check out details of the new law and watch video of the signing here.

Friday's important action followed on the heels of the bill Rosa's Law, which was signed by the President on Oct. 5th and replaces the term mental retardation/mentally retarded from many areas of federal government with the new accepted terminology Intellectual Disability (ID).

In a word, progress.

Note: I've always loved Stevie Wonder's music, and the fact that he was born/schooled in Michigan. But think I may love him even more in his new role as United Nation's (UN) Messenger of Peace and power activist for the disability population. Celebrity often allows easier entrance into places where mere mortals rarely tread. Wonder helps fill a huge void/voice in the disability world left by the deaths of Christopher Reeve and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

I think that's lovely, and great news for the rest of us activists.

Photo by Judy Winter 2010: My good friend, Dr. Al Swain, associate director Michigan's Capital Area Center for Independent Living (CACIL), and friend to Stevie Wonder, at Michigan's 20th ADA celebration. Like Wonder, Swain is blind.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Word of the Day -Compassion

Because in today's fragile world, where bad news too often dominates the headlines and self involvement rules, we could all benefit from spreading just a little bit more of it around.

Feel the love?

Judy Winter 2010

Judy Winter

Jennifer Aniston & the R-Word on Regis

I've avoided this post because I had hoped it would soon become a non issue. Wrong.

Seems those of us who care about people with disabilities are still waiting for America's 'sweetheart' Jennifer Aniston to apologize to the millions of people with intellectual disabilities and their families after her casual, insulting use of the r-word on an August episode of 'Live with Regis and Kelly.' Equally disturbing was the awkward laughter that followed from the co hosts and audience.

So far, the actress remains mum about her hurtful slip of the tongue. Why is it that in 2010 so many people are still so unenlightened about why the use of this word is so offensive to so many? Anyone who says that retard(ed) 'is just a word' has never had to fight like a dog for basic human equality and dignity and access to education and employment in the ways that this population and their families have. Make no mistake, words do hurt, and they help keep outdated stereotypes and discrimination alive and well.

So what's your take? Should Ms. Aniston or should she not speak up once and for all to make the wrong right?

You know my answer.

Special Needs Shoutout!- CVS Caremark

CVS Caremark: All Kids Can, which is part of the CVS Charitable Trust, has announced a new Facebook page to help support it's $25 million dollar, five-year commitment to make life easier for kids with disabilities by supporting non profits that focus on realizing/championing the abilities of children with special needs. The CVS Caremark: All Kids Can program began in 2006.

You can learn more about this important effort and new FB page here.

Kudos, CVS!

Logo used with permission.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Hear Yee! -October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. According the the Department of Labor's website, this year's theme is 'Talent Has No Boundaries: Workforce Diversity Includes People with Disabilities.'

We need is to respond to the serious employment challenges facing those with disabilities everyday of the year. This is a start. Read the entire proclamation and words of Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis, here.

When given the opportunity, people with disabilities prove to be some of the finest employees a company will ever hire.

Photo Judy Winter 2010 ADA 20th Anniversary Celebration Lansing, MI

Monday, October 04, 2010

Casting Alert- Special Olympians for Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble is looking to cast a Special Olympian and his/her mom for a national television commercial. Deadline for applying is this Friday, Oct. 8th, so don't wait.

Read details here.

Photo of another talented RicStar's Camp musician by Erik Taylor 2010