ADA’s passage brought rights, responsibilities

Day by Day

ADA’s passage brought rights, responsibilities

By LIZ THOMPSON

 July 20, 2015
This Week News

The signing of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990, was in some ways just a start. But in many ways, it was a long time coming.

Something this momentous doesn’t fall from the sky, as I’ve heard said. It happens because thousands of people with disabilities have said, in one form or another, “See me. Hear me. I’m a person with rights, just like everyone on this earth.”

The ADA is the nation’s first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations and telecommunications.

President George H.W. Bush stated, after signing the ADA, “Three weeks ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day. Today we’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another ‘independence day,’ one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark ADA, every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”

Those doors Bush speaks of are literal and symbolic. Yes, entry into a physical door, for someone using a wheelchair, was nearly impossible, but entry into employment and many educational situations held the same barriers.

Legally, the historic shift in the direction of the 25-year-old ADA began notably 42 years ago, in 1973, with the passage of Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act.

“Section 504, which banned discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of federal funds, was modeled after previous laws which banned race, ethnic origin and sex-based discrimination by federal fund recipients,” said Arlene Mayerson of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.

Mayerson also wrote that it was the first time that excluding people with disabilities was viewed as discrimination. Generally, it was assumed that problems faced by this group, such as unemployment and lack of education, were “inevitable consequences of the physical or mental limitations imposed by the disability itself.”

Before public education showed what could be done to include those with disabilities in society, it was an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Ramps and curb cuts were rare, if in existence at all.

Here we are talking about the physical limitations, but many disabilities are invisible, such as hearing loss and emotional or psychological struggles.

The word disability seems to hold a negative impact. Whereas, in the past, the word handicapped was widely used, then disability, now special needs is being used more easily. The dictionary defines disability as “a disadvantage or deficiency, especially a physical or mental impairment that prevents or restricts normal achievement.” Separate the word as dis-ability and put special in front and you have special ability.

Defining normal achievement might be impossible. What is normal for one person might be an exceptional achievement for another.

Learning to adapt to restrictions, even as we age, is status quo for many, even without a defined disability. Conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, insomnia, diabetes, depression, and knee and other joint problems all create some sort of need to change how things get done.

Besides medication, it might mean physical therapy or special diets. But I am convinced, since our bodies will never be perfect, that we all struggle with some kind of deficiency, or lack of ability to operate at full speed. Call it disability, if you will, because we are not performing at optimal ability.

At the 10-year ADA anniversary celebration, U.S. Sen. Bob Dole said, “Disabilities do not discriminate. At any moment, anyone can become disabled.”

He knew this personally as he became disabled with a serious war injury. His recovery was slow, leaving him without the use of his right arm. He said a doctor who treated him “inspired me to focus on what I had left and what I could do with it, rather than complaining what had been lost.”

Those of us with disabilities with a medical diagnosis do just that: focus on what we can do, not what we cannot.

Many of the outcomes of the ADA are good for society as a whole. Ramps and curb cuts allow everyone to cross a street without stepping off a curb; automatic doors, and ramps into these same doors, make entry into any building a breeze. And if we find our physical or psychological needs changing, we know we can safely talk with our employer to accommodate us, even for the short term.

Thank you to the unsung heroes who stepped forward for those who could not.

 

Baseball field fulfills special sports dreams

Day by day

Baseball field fulfills special sports dreams

By LIZ THOMPSON
June 22, 2015
ThisWeekNews.com

Playing baseball and cheering your team on from the dugout or bleachers is a dream of many young people.

Omar Berete, 16, of Grove City, is one such boy. “My nickname is OB. I love to run the bases!” he said, smiling.

Crystal Carter, 15, of Galloway, said, “I keep playing hard, just like a baseball! I’ll never give up till I get a home run!”

In 1950, the very first Central Ohio Little League team was formed in Grove City. The Lions Club was the original sponsor and 65 years later continues in that role.

“Some of us played in the Little League in the 1950s and got help. We are giving back,” Ron Gabriel said.

Along with Gabriel, Jack Widner, Larry Thomas, Jay Pozz and Jimmie Harris all played and still play today, only in a different way. These men are members of the Grove City Little League Executive Board.

Gabriel said there are a lot of children who need a lot of help. These children have special needs. Omar and Crystal are two of many.

The Miracle League, started in 2000, allows the fulfilling of children’s dreams to do the typical baseball moves that thousands of children perform. Boys and girls who need assistance physically to walk and move, whether by canes, crutches, walkers or wheelchairs, are able to play baseball and feel the thrill of the game.

Using a buddy system, these children get to swing a bat, round the bases and, hopefully, score. The majority of buddies are siblings and parents of the children. Otherwise, All Star ball players make sure the children move safely about the field.

Lexi Spohn, 10, of Grove City said, “I love playing ball with my buddy!”

“The children have nicknames and get excited when they hear it called over the PA system,” Widner said.

Zach Attack, better known as Zachary King, 20, of Columbus, said, “I love hitting the ball!”

Currently, there are Miracle Fields in Dublin, Zanesville and Cincinnati. But this summer one is being built in Grove City. Right now, the closest Miracle Field for Columbus and surrounding areas is Dublin and it is swamped with kids playing.

“We are members of the Miracle League but we chose to call our field the Dream Field,” Widner said. “We have kids from all the suburban neighborhoods around Columbus. We have children from as far as Ashville, Circleville and Chillicothe. We get calls from all over and recently a resident from Madison County called hoping to have kids play.”

Widner told the caller they don’t turn anyone down but all must abide by the rules. There is a committee that is responsible for the field and all aspects of the operation.

The executive board has been told that at least 250 children would play at the new Dream Field. The season lasts from 12 to 14 weeks, one to two days a week. When the special needs children aren’t using the field, it will be open to T-ball players.

“We want to fill the void to give special needs kids a chance to play organized baseball,” Gabriel said. “There are so many children wanting to play. There are no losers, only winners.”

That includes players such as Joshua Johnson, 21, of Columbus who said, “I love to hit!” and Haylee Shaw, 15, of Grove City whose aunt, Ashley Valentine, said she looks forward to it every month.

Grove City’s Dream Field is being built at Windsor Park and is fully accessible. The parking lot was built first, followed by the concession stand, and plans are to have the field completed by the end of June and open in July.

To make the field safe and smooth for people using mobility aids, it takes three semitrailers full of tires to make the tiles.

“It costs about half a million to build the field,” Widner said. “The Little League’s portion is $252,000 and Grove City is paying the rest, which is the entire infrastructure.

“It’s important to note we are doing this with all private funds, no tax dollars. The community has been fantastic.”

Organizations helping include: Community Club, Lions, Noon Lions, Rotary, Sertoma and the Women’s Civic Club of Grove City.

The Miracle League brochure says it all: “If you build it, they’ll have fun.”

Curtis Greczyn, 22, of Grove City, fist bumps his buddy and said, “fans and friends” make it fun.

To donate funds, call Widner at 614-906-6500. For more information, go to gclittleleague.com and miracleleague.com/history.

I am only one…

“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” Edward Everett Hale, American Clergyman and writer 1822-1909

This quote was in a memorial service program of a woman I grew up around the corner from in Westerville in the 50s and 60s.

I read about a woman who was employed in her adult life as a housekeeper in the White House. Each day she cleaned the Oval Office, she knelt and prayed for the president.

A small thing? Time wise, yes, but powerful .

One person, one prayer, something each of us can do. Maybe not in school any longer, but silent prayers are heard as well.

We all need kindness. Often the simplest act can make our day and these are typically done by one person. Someone opens the door for us, and smiles. A neighbor leans over the fence with a bag of red tomatoes (and probably zucchini!) from their garden. Somebody walking down the street replaces windblown garbage can lids. A friend calls to say hello. We receive a letter from our grandchild.

It doesn’t take much to make a person’s day a little brighter.

I always believed God let me become deaf for a reason. He allowed my two cochlear implants to restore my ability to hear clearly for that same reason: To enable me to listen and show His love one person at a time.

Reading the quote above, I know I can’t do everything – and don’t really want to – but it’s not all about me. No matter how small, or seemingly insignificant, I believe God is the orchestrator and someday it will all make sense.

Meanwhile, during these turbulent times in our country, each of us can do something. One day we will learn how the dots are connected and see the whole picture.

Cursive-writing instruction has proven benefits

Day by day

Cursive-writing instruction has proven benefits
By
LIZ THOMPSON
May 27, 2015
This Week News

Westerville was a village when I was born. I innately knew my neighbors — along with people at church, librarians, teachers, firemen, policemen, doctors and all people in authority — were there to protect and care for me.

School was never an option for me, nor did I want it to be, at least till third grade. On the first day, a friend of mine was talking to me, yet I was put in the corner by my teacher. No excuses. I got my marching orders.

This was the year to learn cursive writing. I was working on my alphabet on lined paper, likely sticking my tongue out one side of my mouth in concentration, when my teacher peered over my shoulder.

“Fix that F,” she said sternly.

I tried again and again and I still didn’t have the top loop open enough — and she told me so. I was near tears when she said, “You’ll never learn to write, Elizabeth.”

I hear you — if these were my worst school experiences, I got off easy comparatively. I know this now, but then I did not. I worked to write better, and with my mom’s help, I succeeded.

Writing cursive was and still is much easier than printing. As a writer who relies on her computer, I still begin all my writing in cursive on paper.

Today I know many of these same figures of authority are working to protect children in much the same way, although laws and rules have changed.

One change found lacking in the Common Core is the removal of cursive-writing instruction from school curricula. This fact is up for discussion.

Two such protectors of education are state Reps. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) and Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City). They sponsored House Bill 146 in April, requiring cursive writing to be taught in all elementary schools.

Specifically, the bill requires: “Handwriting instruction in kindergarten through fifth grade to ensure that students develop the ability to print letters and words legibly by third grade and to create readable documents using legible cursive handwriting by the end of fifth grade.”

This bill, with 13 co-sponsors, including several minority Democrats, follows a state law that went into effect last year, requiring students to read at grade level before they are promoted to fourth grade.

Even in this digital and app-based era, if they cannot write it, they likely cannot read it.

“Research proves cursive writing is essential,” Brenner said. “There is no contraindication for it. The Common Core does not require this in the curriculum and we need to have it back.”

Brenner has served as vice chairman of the Ohio House Education Committee for three years and hears from people who are surprised it is not being taught. The vast majority of those are in favor of teaching cursive writing.

“Cursive writing is a necessity, like learning to read,” Brenner said. “The arguments (against it) are that it is a modern day. Even though we have calculators, students need to know the basics of math to connect. Writing cursive is literally connecting one letter at a time.”

In Psychology Today, William R. Klemm wrote that writing cursive develops eye-hand coordination; to write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed.

“Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual and tactile information. The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument,” he wrote.

Grossman said she knows technology is important, yet learning cursive is equally important for different reasons.

“Research conducted by Columbus-based research firm Saperstein Associates shows that handwriting is a foundational skill that positively can influence students’ reading, vocabulary, memory and critical-thinking abilities as well. Studies report that longhand writing has also been shown to assist kids with dyslexia, helping them to become better students. Studies indicate that individuals retain much more of the content when notes are taken in cursive,” she said.

“I have been amazed to hear from teachers, parents and friends how much they support requiring handwriting be taught in elementary school,” Grossman said. “This can be accomplished with as little as 15 minutes being spent on this per day and can also be incorporated into other subjects.”

The problems with Common Core should be replaced by common sense.

I obviously overcame my third-grade experience. What challenges us makes us stronger, so let’s challenge our children in a good way.

When we look over their shoulder, instead of saying, “You’ll never … ,” let’s say, “Here, let me help you.”

 

Hearing loss symptoms should prompt call to doctor

Day by day
Hearing loss symptoms should prompt call to doctor
By Liz Thompson
April 29, 2015
This Week News

As a youth, I loved swimming underwater. Watching the air bubbles rise to the surface caused my head to lift and see blue sky. Underwater I didn’t worry about hearing and I felt normal. Underwater everyone heard like I did.

Needing air, soon I’d burst through the water’s rim gasping. Then I’d hear it: noise. Laughing, slapping of water, yelling and the lifeguard’s whistle. I’d dive back under for peace.

By 50, I was almost deaf, wearing hearing aids, reading lips and body language. The miracle of a cochlear implant restored more than 90 percent of my hearing with clarity I’d never experienced. A few years later, a second implant gave me “surround sound.” I am permanently above water, living in a world of clear sounds, not mere noise.

Hearing loss is invisible. No tests existed in 1951, my birth year, to check babies’ hearing. Today a problem can be found within days of a child’s birth, giving way to treatment or therapy.

The American Speech-Language Hearing Association teaches that signs of hearing loss in a child include: lack of attention to sounds (birth to 1 year); not responding when calling his/her name (7 months to 1 year); not following simple directions (1-2 years); delays in speech and language development (birth to 3 years); pulls or scratches at his/her ears; once in school, has difficulty achieving academically; socially isolated and unhappy in school; and persistent ear discomfort after exposure to loud noise.

I encourage those who suspect hearing loss in their children to seek an accredited audiologist and ear, nose and throat physician to have your child examined.

Likewise, I urge adults who suspect hearing loss to be tested. It’s easy to ignore signs stating hearing aids are expensive — and they are — or they won’t work for them. I lived with both thoughts until I finally got a hearing aid at age 39, knowing since 29 I needed one.

I have learned the average person waits seven years to get a hearing aid after being told it would help. Do the math: I waited 10 years. Stubborn.

Signs of hearing loss in adults include: inattentiveness; buzzing or ringing in their ears; failure to respond to spoken words; persistent ear discomfort after exposure to loud noise; muffled hearing; constant frustration understanding speech and other sounds; avoiding conversation; social isolation; accusing everyone of mumbling; and depression.

Heather Pliskin, director of speech services at the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center, said that communication skills are directly related to academic success.

“Speaking, listening, reading and writing are the foundational skills for school and for life. Early intervention is the key. The earlier a child receives speech-language therapy, the faster the progress can be made,” Pliskin said.

Red flags for possible communication delays include: age 1, not saying a few words or pointing to pictures and objects; and age 2, not using simple two-word combinations and not being understood 70 percent of the time.

Preschool/early elementary school: age 2-3, not following one- to two-step directions; age 3, not using correct common pronouns and not being understood 80 percent of the time, 90 percent by age 5.
“When a child is young — especially before age 3 — it is especially important to involve the parents and/or caregivers in the process,” Pliskin said.

Audrey Tobias agreed.

“Speech therapy has improved the lives of every member of our family. When our son started receiving therapy at 2.5 years old, he had a vocabulary of zero spoken words. He couldn’t even say ‘no.’ We were scared to leave him in the care of anyone else because there was no way for him to tell us if anything went wrong.

“Now, two years later, he is a funny chatterbox! He cracks jokes all the time and loves to make complicated, exciting plans. We know what is going on in his life and what he’s thinking. For the first time, we feel like we really know who our son is as a person. It’s been an amazing transformation. We are extremely grateful for the skilled help he continues to receive.”

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month. Columbus Speech and Hearing Center is giving away two hearing aids to the essay winner who is most in need to understand the world around them. Go to columbusspeech.org and click the Hearing What Matters link before May 11 to learn how to enter.

The music of this world is up for grabs.

Come out from under the water and listen, and tell me all about it.

For more information, go to asha.org, dangerousdecibels.org, apraxia-kids.org or playingwithwords365.com.

Being green: A little effort nets big payoff

Day by Day

Being green: A little effort nets big payoff

By LIZ THOMPSON
March 31, 2015
ThisWeekNews

Kermit the Frog, from the children’s show, Sesame Street, made the phrase, “It’s not easy being green,” popular.

Today it is easier to be green than ever before and has quietly become an everyday event, less a social statement than a way of life.

Recycling is not new, as archaeologists have found evidence of it as early as 400 B.C. What we recycle has changed from turning brass coins into statues to disposable material, but not exclusively.

Before mass production, it was cheaper to reuse than buy new.

When we got married April 22, 1978, I had no idea that was Earth Day and had been since 1970. It’s appropriate as I married a man raised on a farm and I always considered myself an outdoor girl.

I’m a fan of being responsible and taking care of what I have. I try not to obsess, just keep our home tidy.

Years ago, our son saw me sweeping the front porch at a home we’d recently moved into.

“You really like this house, don’t you?” he said. Yes was my answer. How did he come up with that? Likely it was because I was taking care of the house, wanting it to look its best. He knew I liked to sweep — don’t ask me why, I just do. I never asked him but I was amused at the time, and the memory makes me smile.

After a hard winter, our new seedlings are growing tall in their temporary home in the basement. Little tufts of green hold promise of plants. We are planning where to put everything again this year, rotating from last year in our smallish backyard. I’m ready.

Thanks to a neighbor, we obtained a composting bin he no longer needed. This year we’ll have some really black, rich soil to add to our ground. After we plant our garden, we will care for it by watering, weeding and adding natural nutrients.

Our reward will be harvesting fully grown vegetables literally ripe for the picking. I am eager for those days again this year.

I’ve always been a proponent of taking care of our earth. I’m no expert and can’t claim that I know where or how our planet’s environment will progress. But I know that I can take care of my little section by responsibly recycling, educating myself on what we put on our lawn and garden, and not adding to any kind of pollution. The website growingagreenerworld. com is a great resource.

Again, I don’t obsess or think that catchphrases make up the whole of our world. Our air is cleaner than many other parts of the world but sooner or later, we all share the same air. It’s not as if we can block the borders in the air.

Our youngest grandson always lets us know of the best movies — often animated. He told us about WALL-E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class). The story is a worst-case scenario for the people on earth who didn’t get pollution, materialism and waste under control.

WALL-E is a sanitation robot whose best buddy is a roach. Interesting the makers of this movie chose that as the only living thing left on earth. WALL-E spends his days collecting, compacting and piling trash, almost like building blocks.

In this movie, mankind’s current home is a giant spaceship where humans float on personal hovercrafts, interact with others via screen phones and have grown so obese and sedentary that they’ve forgotten how to walk. Because of WALL-E and another robot, who find a green plant which signals it’s time for humans to return to earth, a chain of events occur that puts people and the planet back on a healthier path.

It makes me think we should use up and use wisely our material possessions instead of buying frivolously simply to have new items. I’ve always liked using cloth and canvas bags for most shopping, yet I don’t always succeed. I’m glad most stores have reusable bags available for purchase.

Noticing our stockpile of plastic bags, I remembered a story of people who use them to make mats for the homeless. After finding the instructions, we gathered our bags, my husband cuts them in strips, I weave into “yarn” and crochet small mats to use when we’re camping.

But more than anything, I love our earth and will continue to take care of my little corner. We each can do that because, unlike poor Kermit, it really is easy to be green.

Living with MS requires positive attitude

Day by day

Living with MS requires positive attitude
By
LIZ THOMPSON
March 3, 2015

It’s a good thing I didn’t take up dancing for a living.

My daughter has always been good about documenting our family times with videos and beautiful photographs.

Not long ago, she told me she found a video taken of me “dancing” with two of her children — obviously, my grandchildren — when they were very young. They are now 18, 16 and 14. So this was about 15 years ago.

She told me the children realized they didn’t remember ever seeing me without a cane.

“Want to see the video next time you are here?” she asked. “I don’t want to make you feel bad or anything.”

I told her I’d love to see it.

On our next visit, I watched the video and smiled the entire time. I wasn’t really dancing but bouncing to a VeggieTales video with Jacob, then about 3, and Elizabeth, about 2.

That’s when I said, “Good thing I didn’t take up dancing for a living!” while laughing. We all laughed.

In 2000, I was starting a career as a reporter. I didn’t use a cane and didn’t own one. While attending a meeting in downtown Columbus, I fell in a crosswalk on Spring Street. My papers and purse went sliding ahead of me as I lay face down on the street. My first thought was that I was glad I hadn’t worn a skirt that day.

The people were wonderful and helped me stand, gathered my things and a woman with a young daughter walked with me to the sidewalk. These two stayed with me till I caught my breath and took stock of any injuries, which was only a skinned knee. Later I thought about how that woman’s kindness taught her daughter a life lesson in compassion.

Since 1998, I have written this column, the duration of which includes two years in Arizona. I’m typically inspired by life experiences, and this certainly was one to write about. When I wrote about the fall in downtown Columbus, the editor titled it, “The people of Columbus are still picking me up.” Perfect.

And, yes, I bought a cane — a rather funky, handmade cane.

With my day-to-day advocacy for people with any disability, I find a common thread of need that everyone shares, disabled or not: to be treated with respect.

I’m on Social Security disability. Curious, I called the Social Security information number and asked what happens when I’m of retirement age in a few years. “Then we don’t consider you disabled, only aged,” the woman said.

I asked if that meant my multiple sclerosis would be gone then and she laughed. But aged? Wow.

March is MS Awareness Month and I support this awareness together with understanding.

I let people know what I need to safely get from point A to point B without falling: lend me a strong arm or hand up; remove the items from the floor for a clear path; reach that item up high for me; carry my hot drink. These are examples that give others a chance to do something to help, just like the people who helped me in the street when I fell.

But making sure my attitude stays positive makes life more enjoyable. Then hopefully friends and family won’t run the opposite direction when they see me coming their way. Instead, they will smile and ask how I’m doing. MS simply becomes a part of who I am, not the definition of my life.

I have talked with many people also living with MS who really were dancers and physically active in all aspects. Many are parenting young children, which is an active sport in its own right and just as physically challenging as playing some sports. Most have not given up. Instead we adapt.

My first symptoms appeared 45 years ago, but I am grateful I can still move. My middle name became “adapt,” as my MS became more active than me. Some people with MS literally stop moving.

There are more than 400,000 men, women and children in Ohio living with MS.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, “More than 2.3 million people are affected by MS worldwide. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not require U.S. physicians to report new cases, and because symptoms can be completely invisible, the prevalence of MS in the U.S. can only be estimated.”

For more information, see nmss.org.

By the way, I still dance but only to slow music when I’m being held in my husband’s arms. No cane.

There are more than 400,000 men, women and children in Ohio living with MS.

 

My grandchildren
My grandchildren
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