Friday, December 31, 2004
[from Joyce Vanaman, The Press of Atlantic City, December 31, 2004]
MILLVILLE - LuAnn Parkin scooted around the bright red, blue and yellow playground equipment at Waltman Park on Thursday afternoon with a big smile.
Parkin, the vice chairwoman of the Cumberland County Disabled Advisory Council to the county Board of Freeholders, who has multiple sclerosis, was the first "official user" of the equipment after the ribbon-cutting by public officials, including David Grennon, director of the county Office for the Disabled.
Earlier, Maria Jiminez, 11, and her 21/2-year-old sister, Juanita, were swinging and sliding and having fun.
"The All-Abilities Playground here in Waltman Park is the first of its kind in our area," said Grennon, who represented Sandra Rosen of Vineland, council chairwoman. Rosen, who had the vision for the playground and has been its chief advocate, was ill and couldn't attend, but had written the message.
"The playground is a place where children with disabilities can interact and play with children without disabilities in an integrated setting," Grennon said. "This playground is not just for children. The accessibility features of the playground allow moms, dads, grandparents and others with disabilities to join in the fun along with the children."
The All-Abilities Playground incorporates various activities that are inter-connected by ramps and decks. The ground cover beneath the playground structure is made of a poured recycled rubber material that allows a cushion if a child falls, but also provides a firm surface that wheelchairs can maneuver over easily, Grennon explained.
Assemblyman Jack Gibson, R-Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic, commented that from an engineering standpoint it is one of the finest surfaces he has seen. The accessible features of the All-Abilities Playground go beyond the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, which some believe have a lot of room for improvement, Grennon noted.
Besides improving recreational opportunities for all children, it will also raise disability awareness and promote positive attitudes about children with disabilities among their peers, according to Grennon.
The playground is the product of four years of discussion and planning by the Disabled Advisory Council, the Cumberland County Office for the Disabled, the city of Millville, the Cumberland County Improvement Authority and others.
Grennon recognized the agencies and people involved in making the playground a reality. He noted that Rich Romanik, Millville recreation department superintendent, obtained a $42,000 state grant. The county improvement authority, headed by Steven Wymbs, donated $50,000 each to Millville, Vineland and Bridgeton; a private donor gave Millville $1,000; and the city of Millville provided in-kind services through the Department of Parks and Public Property.
Also present were Mayor Jim Quinn, Freeholder Jane Christy and Commissioner Tim Shannon, all of Millville; Assemblymen Jeff Van Drew, D-Cumberland, Cape May, Atlantic, and Gibson, both of Cape May County.
Grennon also pointed out that the Disabled Advisory Council will work with John Polaha of the Vineland Recreation Department in the next few months to plan for the All-Abilities Playground in Vineland. It is anticipated that will be dedicated in the coming year.
Contact Joyce Vanaman, staff writer at The Press of Atlantic City
email - firstname.lastname@example.org
phone - (856) 825-2303
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Friday, December 17, 2004
THESE days I find myself, regularly and happily, in the midst of the clutter of New Yorkers you find on the bus. I particularly savor the times when all of us, riders and driver, seem of one purpose: A woman in a tailored suit and a man in slouchy pants stand together, commiserating about the traffic. Old and young, sitting side by side, laugh at a curbside altercation between a spandex-clad Rollerblader and a deliveryman on a rusty bicycle. A young white man jumps up to give his seat to an elderly black woman. It all seems so natural, like something that always was and always will be.
I take none of this -- especially my own presence on the bus -- for granted. I use a wheelchair, and only in the last few years have I been privy to the pleasures of public transportation. I ''went public'' around 1998, when almost the entire fleet of New York buses had been outfitted with wheelchair lifts. I'd tried taking the bus in the mid-80's when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority began installing lifts, but even when a bus that had one showed up, the driver sometimes couldn't find the key. Now the lifts are used more than 63,000 times a month. I account for about 40 of those.
A typical ride goes something like this: The driver sees me at the stop and steers the bus to the curb. The driver opens the door, and, using a key, activates the lift. It descends to the street, I back onto it, and it raises me up into the bus. It goes smoothly most of the time, and takes about two or three minutes. When the mechanism doesn't respond, it can take another couple of minutes.
Still, the people inside, and those at the bus stop, must wait. It can delay their trip and I sometimes see irritation in their faces. I understand that feeling. New Yorkers don't take inconveniences without protest.
But the irritation is rarely expressed in words. There is nothing ''wrong,'' per se, and people know that if they were to express annoyance, they would appear selfish and illiberal. This is all new, and we are all making up the rules and social protocols as we go.
Now that I am a regular, I am particularly attuned to the drivers. They so often do their jobs with grace and good humor. One rainy day, I recall, the president was in town, sirens were wailing and Manhattan had become one big parking lot; yet the driver of the M104 shepherded us down Broadway, paused to give clear directions to a befuddled tourist, and smiled encouragement at a child trying his hand at putting a MetroCard in the slot.
I've even gotten to know some of the drivers. One driver on the crosstown route always wears on his uniform jacket an array of red and gold apple pins, awards for exemplary service to the city. I nominated him for one a couple of years ago. There is an annual ceremony for drivers who have been recognized by disabled people for excellent service. Drivers bring their families, and there are speeches and a big breakfast spread. My nominee gave me a hug when I arrived, and now when he sees me at the bus stop, he says, ''Hey, girl, you riding with me today?''
On a summer night a while back, I met a driver I know only as Maria. When our bus pulled into my stop, she came to the rear door to activate the lift, but it jammed. After a few tries, she ushered the other passengers onto the next bus to arrive. Then Maria and I sat in the back of the darkened bus, with the doors open to let the warm night air in, and waited for the maintenance truck.
We talked about her children and her bus route, the M5. I told her how growing up in New York, my mother and I often took that bus to go on shopping excursions to Macy's. Once I started using a wheelchair in my mid-20's, I could no longer get on the bus and began to drive everywhere, folding my chair and pulling it into the back seat of my lumbering Oldsmobile. Now in my mid-50's, I am back on the bus, and it has been wonderful, I told her, largely because of the drivers.
IT seems, and I may be projecting a wish here, that most of the drivers take pleasure in helping disabled passengers ride the bus -- assuring that the full public is served. I fear, though, that these actions are sometimes perceived as benevolent gestures. One day as I was boarding the bus, a woman stopped to watch. As the lift ascended, she looked up at me and said: ''Now, isn't it nice that they put these lifts on the bus so you can go places?''
''Nice? It's because of federal anti-discrimination law,'' I called after her, but she was already walking down the street. I wanted her to understand how big this is. While there are people at the M.T.A. who have been instrumental in bringing about accessible buses, the changes are largely in response to the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990.
In an article in The New Yorker about riding the bus, the author groused about how a ''guy in a wheelchair held things up for three minutes.'' He said that ''law and propriety dictate'' that buses pick up, as he called us, the ''wheelchair-bound.'' While he allowed that the lift is a ''civic mitzvah'' -- the city's good deed, I suppose he meant -- he said that the municipal employee had been ''reduced, or raised, to a valet.''
I would be embarrassed if I felt the drivers saw their role as personal valet or good Samaritan. They are public employees acting in fulfillment of federal law. They provide a critical service, one that enhances the comfort and safety of all New Yorkers.
So I will nominate a driver this year for a Big Apple Award. It is my personal thanks to the women and men who have given new meaning to the term Public Transportation.
Yet the system will not succeed without a cooperative public. I have been impressed by the steady learning curve of my fellow riders. Increasingly familiar with the routine, they move quickly to accommodate wheelchair users.
One rainy night, a truly collective effort was necessary to get me off the bus. When the lift descended to the street, the front lip on the platform would not go down. The driver jiggled the key, but it would not budge. I offered a solution -- a trick I learned from another driver. I said that if everyone sitting on the right side of the bus moved to the left side, the plate would go down. Reluctantly, he and I asked the passengers if they would move their tired bodies.
It worked, and I rolled off toward home. The driver laughed at this very human solution, and he and the passengers standing behind him waved and bid me good night.
Photo: ''This is all new,'' the writer says of her riding experience, ''and we are all making up the rules and social protocols as we go.'' (Photo by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)
Introductions to Blogs and EndNote
In mid-January, Mike Dorn is going to be offering computer seminars introducing useful tools for those interested in academic publishing and professional networking: bibliographic reference management programs (i.e., EndNote); and weblogs. These trainings will be held in the Instructional Technology Classroom (across the hall from the EEC, 3rd floor of Ritter Hall). He is interested to hearing from folks connected with the College of Education about their interest and availability to attend trainings on the following dates before setting exact times. Trainings will start no earlier than 9:30 am and end no later than 4:30 pm; folks should indicate whether they prefer morning or afternoon trainings.
Thursday, January 13: Weblogs and 'blogging': What's the buzz about? How do you create your own blog? What can they offer to the College of Education? Follow this link for more information on the phenomenon: Introduction to Blogs and Blogging
Thursday, January 20: Using EndNote effectively at Temple University
Please let me know if you have any specific questions you would like me to address in these seminars.
As the College of Education here at Temple University engages in a collective process of rethinking the way that it comes across in cyberspace, we would do well to consider fundental characteristics of this medium. Hence my rationale for linking to this post from Ed-Tech Insider on a recent publication, The Architecture of the World Wide Web, Volume One.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Trustees Approve New General Education Program: Yesterday (Dec. 14), Temple’s Board of Trustees approved a new program of general education (or “gen-ed”) for all undergraduates. The new gen-ed program will replace the current core curriculum in fall 2007. The approved program combines aspects of a proposal forwarded by the administration in October and a proposal approved by the Faculty Senate on Nov. 23. Significant reforms include: a reduction in the number of required gen-ed credits, a smaller menu of gen-ed course offerings, a requirement obligating most students to complete gen-ed coursework while they’re underclassmen and a rigorous new system of governance.
For more information, read the full text of the approved general education program on the Temple University President's Page.
Monday, December 13, 2004
The high prevalence of disability in African societies means that we find disabled people in all stations of life, from being shut away in the home to positions of power in parliament, as we find in the country of Uganda.
Dec. 13, 2004
Vol. IV, Issue 52
The House of Representatives adjourned on December 7 and the Senate on December 8 officially putting a close to the 108th Congress. The first session of the 109th Congress begins on January 4, 2005. The 108th Congress left a large stack of unfinished business for the new Congress, including the Family Opportunity Act, Money Follows the Person Demonstration, and the Lifespan Respite Care Act; and reauthorizations for TANF, the Higher Education Act, Head Start, and the Transportation Act.
The Dec. 4 run-offs for open seats in Louisiana finally brought this year’s election year to a close. Democrat Charlie Melancon won in the 3rd District and Republican Charles Boustany Jr. won the 7th District race. The race finalized a three-seat net gain in the House for the Republican majority. When the 109th Congress convenes, the makeup of the House will be 232 Republicans, 202 Democrats and one Independent. The Senate will be 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and one Independent.
In November, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Patty Murray (D-WA) organized a letter to President Bush urging him not to pursue a policy of block granting or establishing arbitrary caps on the Medicaid program. To date, the letter has been signed by 45 Senators—Senator James Jeffords (I-VT) and all returning Democratic Senators. However, we need at least 51 Senators to make this commitment to fend off efforts to cap and cut Medicaid. We need these Senators to promise that they will oppose any budget resolution or budget reconciliation bill that caps and cuts Medicaid. Senators will likely be under tremendous pressure to go along with the President’s proposal. During the holiday recess, AUCD members and supporters are encouraged to contact your Senators with the message that Medicaid is a critical support for people with disabilities as well as an economic engine that generates crucial financial benefits for states.
AUCD staff attended a celebration of the one year anniversary of the passage of the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) held at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services on Dec. 9. Secretary Tommy Thompson who presided over the celebration noted that nearly 6 million beneficiaries have signed up for the Medicare-approved drug discount card. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Mark B. McClellan was also present. He stated that, "as a result of our outreach efforts, we're helping more beneficiaries faster than ever -- over 1.7 million Medicare beneficiaries have enrolled in low-income assistance in just six months.” The Medicare-approved drug discount cards became available on June 1. On the same day, however, the General Accounting Office (GAO) published a report indicating that the 1-800-Medicare help line was providing inaccurate information at least 30% of the time and no information 10% of the time. For more information about the new Medicare law, see the CMS website or the Medicare information page set up for consumers at Families USA.
At least 22 states now project shortfalls averaging roughly 6 percent to 7.5 percent of their general fund spending, according to a new report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities: http://www.cbpp.org/12-8-04sfp.pdf. The combined deficit is approximately $25 billion to $30 billion. When state legislatures convene in early 2005 to write their budgets for the 2005-06 fiscal year, many will consider cutting services or raising new revenues in order to bring their budgets into balance, the report says. The National Conference of State Legislatures released “State Budget Update: November 2004”, the results of a 50-state survey of state legislative fiscal officers. The report, which can be accessed at http://www.ncsl.org/print/fiscal/sbu2005-0411.pdf notes that almost every state cited Medicaid concerns among their top three fiscal issues to be addressed in the FY 2005 legislative sessions.
President Bush chose Environmental Protection Agency chief Michael Leavitt today to be secretary of Health and Human Services. The HHS secretary oversees Medicare and Medicaid, as well as the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the Indian Health Service. The agency has a budget of more than $500 billion and 67,000 employees. Leavitt, Utah's governor before joining the Bush administration in late 2003, would succeed Tommy Thompson, who recently resigned. As recently as last week, Dr. Mark McClellan, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, had been rumored to have the inside track for the HHS job.
Disability Policy Seminar
“Partnership for Empowerment,” the annual Disability Policy Seminar sponsored by AUCD, The Arc, UCP, AAMR, NACDD will be held on February 28 through March 2, 2005 at the Renaissance Hotel Washington, DC. See Save the Date flyer and watch for a preliminary program and registration materials coming soon. Staff will meet with representatives of AAMR, The Arc and the NACDD today to determine the final program.
AUCD · 1010 Wayne Ave, Suite 920 · Silver Spring, MD 20910 · 301-588-8252 · http://www.aucd.org/
Friday, December 10, 2004
The Iraq war has resulted in the largest wounded ratio in the history of American warfare. The New England Journal of Medicine just release two commentaries warning America about the rising number of severely wounded soldiers returning for Irag. These soldiers will be needing intensive rehabilitation and equipment.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
This is the latest in a fascinating series of posts on the Wampum weblog that deal with some of the trials and joys of raising a child with autism. Enjoy! Mike
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Still accepting abstracts for their second annual conference.
May 31 -June 1/2005
University of Western Ontario: London, Ontario
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Just across the wires: an advertising campaign designed to express one denomination's openness to parishioners of diverse backgrounds [including people with disabilities and gay couples] has been deemed "too controversial" by the networks CBS, NBC and UPN.
See further discussion on political blogs like Talking Points Memo. Entire press release appended below:
CBS, NBC refuse to air church's television advertisement
United Church of Christ ad highlighting Jesus' extravagant welcome called 'too controversial'
Press Release, Nov. 30, 2004
CLEVELAND -- The CBS and NBC television networks are refusing to run a 30-second television ad from the United Church of Christ because its all-inclusive welcome has been deemed "too controversial."The ad, part of the denomination's new, broad identity campaign set to begin airing nationwide on Dec. 1, states that -- like Jesus -- the UnitedChurch of Christ (UCC) seeks to welcome all people, regardless of ability, age, race, economic circumstance or sexual orientation. According to a written explanation from CBS, the United Church of Christ is being denied network access because its ad implies acceptance of gay and lesbian couples -- among other minority constituencies -- and is, therefore, too "controversial." "Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples andotherminority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recentlyproposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS andUPN] networks." Similarly, a rejection by NBC declared the spot "too controversial." "It's ironic that after a political season awash in commercials based on fear and deception by both parties seen on all the major networks, an ad with a message of welcome and inclusion would be deemed ocontroversial," says the Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president."What's going on here?" Negotiations between network officials and the church's representatives broke down today (Nov. 30), the day before the ad campaign begins airing nationwide on a combination of broadcast and cable networks. The ad has been accepted and will air on a number of networks, including ABCFamily, AMC, BET, Discovery, Fox, Hallmark, History, Nick@Nite, TBS, TNT, Travel and TV Land, among others.
The debut 30-second commercial features two muscle-bound "bouncers"standing guard outside a symbolic, picturesque church and selecting which persons are permitted to attend Sunday services. Written text interrupts the scene, announcing, "Jesus didn't turn people away. Neither do we."A narrator then proclaims the United Church of Christ's commitment to Jesus' extravagant welcome: "No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here." (The ad can be viewed online at<http://www.stillspeaking.com/>.)
In focus groups and test market research conducted before the campaign's national rollout, the UCC found that many people throughout the country feel alienated by churches. The television ad is geared toward those persons who, for whatever reason, have not felt welcomed or comfortable in a church."We find it disturbing that the networks in question seem to have no problem exploiting gay persons through mindless comedies or titillating dramas, but when it comes to a church's loving welcome of committed gay couples, that's where they draw the line," says the Rev. Robert Chase, director of the UCC's communication ministry. CBS and NBC's refusal to air the ad "recalls the censorship of the 1950s and 1960s, when television station WLBT in Jackson, Miss., refused to show people of color on TV," says Ron Buford, coordinator for the United Church of Christ identity campaign. Buford, of African-American heritage, says, "In the 1960s, the issue was the mixing of the races. Today, the issue appears to be sexual orientation. In both cases, it's about exclusion."In 1959, the Rev. Everett C. Parker organized United Church of Christ members to monitor the racist practices of WLBT. Like many southern television stations at the time, WLBT had imposed a news blackout on the growing civil rights movement, pulling the plug on then-attorney Thurgood Marshall. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. implored the UCC to get involved in the media civil rights issues. Parker, founding director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ, organized churches and won in federal court a ruling that the airwaves are public, not private property. That decision ultimately led to an increase in the number of persons of color in television studios and newsrooms. The suit clearly established that television and radio stations, as keepers of the public airwaves, must broadcast in the public interest." The consolidation of TV network ownership into the hands of a few executives today puts freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression in jeopardy," says former FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani, currently managing director of the UCC's Office of Communication. "By refusing to air the United Church of Christ's paid commercial, CBS and NBC are stifling religious expression. They are denying the communities they serve a suitable access to differing ideas and expressions." Adds Andrew Schwartzman, president and CEO of the not-for-profit MediaAccess Project in Washington, D.C., "This is an abuse of the broadcasters' duty to inform their viewers on issues of importance to the community. After all, these stations don't mind carrying shocking, attention-getting programming, because they do that every night." The United Church of Christ's national offices -- located in Cleveland -- speak to, but not for, its nearly 6,000 congregations and 1.3 million members. In the spirit of the denomination's rich tradition, UCC congregations remain autonomous, but also strongly in covenant with each other and with the denomination's regional and national bodies.
My source for the press release:
Bill Gaventa, M.Div., Associate Professor
Director, Community and Congregational Supports
The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities
UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
P.O. Box 2688, 335 George Street
New Brunswick, N.J. 08903
Web Page: http://rwjms.umdnj.edu/boggscenter