Category Archives: Disability Issues

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month – A time to refocus on what we can learn

As I hope readers know March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.  The month was first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987.  In previous years  I’ve posted tons of resources available to promote the contributions and rights of people with disabilities.  Because this post is late in the month it’s too late for promotion, so I’m thinking more about individual awareness.

In this environment, it’s probably best to take time to really think about our awareness of the potential of people in our community – the writers, the artists, the performers, our colleagues who may see the world from a unique perspective.  We need to see and appreciate their contributions.

Through Voices of Northeast we have interviewed  people who share light on the facts of what individuals with developmental disabilities contribute to this fragmented society.  Their words and the work that they are doing are critical to forming our thinking about the potential of those who offer unique insights.

The interview with Bryan Boyce and writer Vince Fiorilli of Cow Tipping Press is illustrative.

We also spoke with a representative of ArtForce, a Northeast Minneapolis organization that is very aware of the potential of individuals with developmental disabilities to inform our thinking about this world and this society.

Interact is on my short list for learning more.  So many more on my list!  I’m always eager to learn more about individuals and groups that are exploring the ways in which people with disabilities share their special perspectives so that we all increase our understanding of the community, the world, life, the universe and everything. Ideas welcome and appreciated!



Rainy days, Mondays — and a Google alert!

Though we all delight in the Google graphics sometimes we click too fast and miss the message! Slow down this gloomy Monday morning – take time to Explore the work of disability rights advocates in America

It’s a great story, one that reminds us that progress comes not from financial deals and alternative facts but from hard work, commitment and hope.

Thank you Google!

Disability March on Saturday, January 21, enables inclusivity


Activism isn’t always access – and the Women’s March on Washington is no exception. 

And this is why some marchers and march planner have created the Disability March. (

My personal suggestion is that anyone who is unable – or even hesitant – to participate in the march think about clicking in to participate. This applies to anyone who may have problems walking, or who simply doesn’t have the time to participate in either the state or national march

The Disability March is an all-volunteer effort, made for the disability, by the disability community. It’s also an official co-sponsor of the national Women’s March in Washington.

Understand that this is not simply streaming the DC March so people with disabilities can view! As of last week over 50 online “marchers had signed up to participate in the virtual march. They and countless others will participate by sharing their opinions and stories and statements online. All will be uploaded Friday and Saturday to coincide with the DC March;

Sonya Huber,  one of the organizers of the Disability March, is quoted as saying:

I began to wonder about other ways to be visible, especially for our community, besides marching – even though the march will of course include many disabled people…Since the disabled community is going to be so impacted by the Republican agenda, it seemed that giving people a platform to tell their individual series was most appropriate.

This is also a good example of the ways in which resources created by and for people with disabilities serve the needs of a much broader community.

Submissions due by January 20.  To participate online, click here:

Note: I had some difficulty with this link – just keep trying or go to the facebook Women’s March on Washington – Disability Caucus, twitter #disabilitymarch or email




Disabled and Proud! Listen and learn at KFAI

Among the many unsung learning resources of this community, KFAI ( merits high marks – for independence, community support, diversity in coverage, producers, on-air hosts and more.   Though the signal is ubiquitous KFAI expands programming reach to anyone with online access.

The unique personality of KFAI lies in the fact that it is entirely volunteer-based. A committed cadre of audiophiles produce and promote a montage of listening options that reflect their proclivities, aspirations, and commitment to share a message to an underserve community of listeners. The station is also managed by a volunteer community board of directors, staff by a sparse paid staff.  Operating at 900 watts KFAI airs at 90.3 in Minneapolis, 106.7 in St. Paul; the station went live in I978 with several technical upgrades over the years.

My interest in community resources designed to reach members of the disabilities community has tuned me into one of KFAI’s notable programs, Disabled and Proud!  It’s a mix of insights, ideas, discussions and features by, about, and geared to the myriad interests of a large and diverse audience.

Sam Jasmine hosts the show, Charlene Doll helps with research and webmaster Tom Lennox forecasts future shows and archives the recordings for prospective online listeners.

The programming for Disabled and Proud! is inclusive. For example, the January 12 show shares the mission and reach of Helping Paws of Minnesota, whose mission is to further the independence of people with disabilities through the use of a service dogs.   On January 26 the guest will be Bent Renneke, PR manager of the Minnesota MS Society. Past programs have covered a wide range of topics including a series on Alzheimers and dementia took a two-pronged approach; one show dealt with the diseases themselves while a second examined the role, needs and resources for caregivers.

Listen live at 6:30 on Thursday evenings or listen online at Email to sign up to receive regular programming updates.



A DIY design for mapping wheelchair access

We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability. ― Stevie Wonder

And so we celebrate every move towards that goal. A recent Google update, accessible to all, can make life a bit easier for wheelchair users – and many others who will enjoy the most recent application for Wheelmap.

Wheelmap is an online interactive open system, based on the OpenStreet Map ( that identifies and rates wheelchair accessible sites ranging from restaurants to libraries. The system was created by a German-based charity, Socialhelden e.V., the brainchild of the foundation’s co-founder Raul Krauthausen.

The idea of Wheelmap is that anyone can contribute, mark and rate public places according to their wheelchair accessibility – ranging from no wheelchair access, to fairly accessible, to fully accessible. Everyone is free to post and rate yet-unlisted sites. The information is free to all and the system is easy to share. is available as a web app and as an app for iPhone, Android and Windows 10.

Every open system invites creative improvement – which is where a team of Google employees stepped to the fore. Motivated by the famous Google policy that once allowed employees to use 20 percent of their time to make Google Maps reflect resources accessible for people with physical disabilities, a team of Google employees took on the challenge to couple the power of Wheelmap with the power of Google Maps.

For a year the team assessed the needs and possibilities so that today there’s an app for that! Wheelchair accessibility is now listed alongside other Google Map features such as traffic and store hours.

As with many applications originally designed for people with disabilities, the Google Maps info about wheelchair access can be a boon to anyone for whom high curbs can be a barrier to easy access.

Mark the wheelchair accessibility of a favorite hangout by clicking on to find the site, then click on the level of wheelchair access as you know it to be!


Human Rights Day – Respecting our rights right at home

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world. Eleanor Roosevelt

The bombardment of post-election analysis and anecdotes come sometime drown out major events. At least that’s how I missed the fact that today, December 10, 2016, is Human Rights Day.   Late, but not too late, to reflect on the universal theme.

According to the official HRD website, “Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.

Emphasis of the international recognition of Human Rights Day 2016 is on standing up for the human rights of others; clearly the focus is on global challenges. Some starting points:

Still, during this turbulent year we face an unprecedented challenge to focus on the human rights within our own community. We cannot ignore the voices of intolerance or the overt expressions of vicious hate within our community; nor can we gloss over the nuanced indicators of disrespect for our fellow humans. As we pat ourselves on the back for legislative gains it’s clear that man’s inhumanity to man is not written off by legislation.

A quick skim of the daily press – which actually conveys news that takes more than 140 characters – proves the prevalence of intolerance, hatred, and human rights abuse around the world and the nation. Still, it is revealing to take a look closer to home.   Here are some, definitely not all, of the Minnesota organizations that play leadership roles in looking at our politics and values from the human rights perspective. An armchair search of their websites is enough to remind us of the intrusions on human rights we encounter – perhaps overlook – on a daily basis:



Give thanks by sharing access to ideas and information

Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does. Stella Young

This quote popped to mind this week as I pored through the most recent issue of Access Press. ( I remember reading the quote a couple of years ago in an obituary for Stella Young, a physically challenged Australian journalist and advocate for people with disabilities. Her observation may help explain a fact that perplexes me, i.e. why so many people miss the wealth of information and ideas that Access Press generates and every month at free and handy newsstands we pass by every day.

Though this great resource is targeted to the disabilities community, the content is relevant to a broad circle of readers who need to know, to take action and to share with a friend, family member or neighbor. If there’s a missing link in this information chain it’s that too many people just don’t understand the depth and breadth of this robust resource that hides in plain sight on local newsstands or with a click on the keyboard. (

With Thanksgiving on my mind, it seems a good time to share some of the treasures found on the pages of Access Press. As a regular reader I know AP as a unique, comprehensive and an untapped community resource – unrealized because folks don’t know what lies within the literal or virtual pages of the monthly journal. The potential readership of AP extends to individuals challenged by physical or psychological barriers, to those who would love to learn and enjoy activities – and have their ideas shared — without nighttime driving, climbing steps, and to those whose eyesight, hearing or stamina are not what they once were, That reach extends to anyone who knows someone who has yet to discover the resources featured in AP.

So, with thanks to Executive Director & Editor-in-Chief Tim Benjamin and to all who create and support AP, what follows are random links to what I gleaned from the November 10, 2016 issue which is still on the newsstands and forever online:

  • An example of calendar updates are regular updates from the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living that offers skills classes, events and more, all of which are listed on their website. The note in AP includes something I hadn’t seen elsewhere “MCIL activities are “free, accessible and mostly scent-free – the sort of inside scoop readers need to know (

There’s much more, but you get the idea – AP is a dependable, accessible, affordable gift to all of us. The unique treasure trove of information and ideas will be of interest to you and to many in your circle who aren’t yet aware of what they’re missing.

Face it, you’ll be looking for conversation starters during the coming holiday season. Those gathered will thank you in the moment for changing the conversation and in the long-term for sharing Access Press.