Disability News Service, Resources, Diversity, Americans with Disabilities Act; Local and National.

Friday, August 30, 2013

National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month - September 2013

PRESS RELEASE : August 30, 2013
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

A statement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
This year, thousands of American women – our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, and friends – will die from ovarian cancer. During September, we observe National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month to recognize those who have died and recommit ourselves to helping the women who are fighting for their health.
Every year, more than 20,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which is the fifth leading cause of cancer death for women and accounts for more than 14,000 deaths a year.
The administration advances scientific research to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment. When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective, but, there is currently no proven method to screen for ovarian cancer in women.
That is why awareness is key to women’s survival. Ovarian cancer often does have signs and symptoms, so it is important to pay attention to your body –to be aware-- and know what is normal for you.  If you have vaginal bleeding that is not normal for you, see a doctor right away. Also see your health care provider if you have any of the other signs that are not normal for you, such as pain in the pelvic or abdominal area or bloating, for two weeks or longer.
Know your risk factors. All women are at risk for ovarian cancer, but older women are more likely to get the disease than younger women.  There are some factors that may increase your risk, including if you have genetic mutations calledBRCA1 or BRCA2, have had certain cancers, breast,uterine,or have never given birth or have had trouble getting pregnant.
Having any of these symptoms or factors does not mean you have or will get ovarian cancer. But you should speak with your health care professional about your risk and whether you need genetic counseling and further examination.
The Affordable Care Act is making health care more accessible and providing important protections for women. Insurers must cover –at no out-of-pocket cost -- an annual well-woman visit, which is a good time for women to discuss their concerns about ovarian cancer with their health care provider. The law also guarantees coverage for genetic counseling and testing for certain women at high risk for ovarian cancer.
Women who are enrolled in Medicare part B can discuss any concerns at the annual wellness visit, which is available without part B coinsurance or satisfying the deductible. We also know that women-- and men -- without insurance are less likely to get the primary health care that they need to get healthy and to catch serious conditions like ovarian cancer in their early and more treatable stage. The good news is for millions of Americans who are uninsured or under-insured, new options for affordable, quality health insurance are around the corner.
In just a few weeks, every state will have an online Health Insurance Marketplace where people can find a plan that fits their budget and needs. Open enrollment starts October 1 for coverage that begins as soon as January 1, 2014.  You can find information and updates at HealthCare.gov – and the Spanish-language version at CuidadoDeSalud.gov. Sign up now at either site for a personal account to begin the process.
Also, in 2014, the health law makes it illegal to deny coverage or charge more if a woman has ovarian cancer or other pre-existing condition.
Remember: Being aware of what’s normal for our bodies and having access to quality health care are vital weapons in the fight against ovarian cancer.
Learn more about the risks and symptoms of ovarian and other gynecologic cancers.
See the National Cancer Institute’s What You Need to Know About Ovarian Cancer booklet and check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer campaign and read survivors’ personal stories.


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other news materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
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Follow HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Twitter @Sebelius exit disclaimer icon.
Last revised: August 30, 2013

New Documentary Shows How Hollywood and Disabled Characters Have Fared over the Decades

CinemAbility Director Jenni Gold on Hollywood and Disabilities

By Bryant Frazer | StudioDaily | Aug 26, 2013

YouTube by goldpictures  Published on Aug 19, 2013
From the early days of silent films to present day, from Chaplin to X-Men, disability portrayals are ever changing. This dynamic documentary takes a detailed look at the evolution of "disability" in entertainment. Our in-depth investigation goes behind the scenes to interview Filmmakers, Studio Executives, Film Historians, and Celebrities, as well as utilize vivid clips from Hollywood's most beloved motion pictures and television programs to focus attention on the powerful impact that entertainment and the media can have on society.

Do disability portrayals in the media impact society or does the media simply reflect our ever-changing attitudes? In this important documentary we see if media has had a hand in transforming the societal inclusion of the disabled and determine if an enlightened understanding of disability can have a positive impact on the world.

CinemAbility is a new documentary looking at how films and television shows have portrayed disabilities through history. Combining interviews with actors (including Geena Davis, Gary Sinise, Marlee Matlin, and William H. Macy) with supporting film clips (from titles such as Freaks, Forrest Gump, Edward Scissorhands, and Game of Thrones), director Jenni Gold shows some of the ways that the media and popular culture have impacted society's attitudes toward people with disabilities. The film recently screened in Los Angeles, and is slated to debut at the Regal E-Walk 13 in New York City on September 20, followed by screenings in Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale. (Check the film's website for more details.)

But that's not all her work is about — Gold is currently developing a suspense thriller, a romantic comedy, and some family films, and she's a director member of the DGA. In 2001, she founded Gold Pictures to handle development and production of her own projects. Via email, we asked her about CinemAbility, her career, and what filmmakers can do better in the future.

StudioDaily: Tell us a little about how CinemAbility began. Was there a specific event that led to you making this film?

Jenni Gold: It's hard to believe, but it's been eight years since this whole thing began. It started with a couple filmmaker friends of mine coming to me and telling me they wanted to make a film … about me! The type of film where they follow you around with a camera all day and show what it's like to be Jenni Gold, and I remember thinking, "That sounds awful." Besides, I'm not important. I remember telling them, "If you are interested in doing something about disability, I have a better idea," and right then I pitched them a film documenting the changing portrayals of disability in film and TV. They said no, they weren't interested, because that idea sounded like too much work. I told them that I might do it one day. That idea became CinemAbility and, well, they were right. It was a lot of work. But it was worth it.

Why do you think so many recognizable stars and filmmakers agreed to be interviewed?

We have been extremely fortunate to have garnered the kind of support we have from Hollywood, and it would be hard for me to speak on everyone's behalf, but I think a big part of the reason we were able to draw their support is due to the fact that these people are caring individuals who want to participate in vital social discussions, especially one that may improve the inclusion of people with disabilities. Once I explained my passion for film and TV and what CinemAbility was about, they were all in and we are very honored to have their continued support.

What are some common stereotypes filmmakers indulge in that you think contribute to regressive attitudes toward the disabled?

Most of the common stereotypes these days are characters whose disabilities serve a purpose to fuel their motives. They are usually written to be defined by their disabilities when in real life it is not the main focus of one's life. In the superhero films, still today, the bad guy is often a disabled person who seeks revenge or will risk everything to become cured. The Amazing Spider-Man did this with the character of Dr. Curt Connors, aka the Lizard. Iron Man 3 even had the vice president of the United States become a traitor in order to "heal" his daughter. This reinforces the notion that nothing is worse than a disability.

You have been in a wheelchair since the age of 7, and yet you’re an active filmmaker. Have you faced discrimination, pigeonholing, or other barriers to success in the entertainment industry due to your own disability?

I think that having grown up with a disability has been an asset to my directing, because I learned how to communicate, observe, and get things done despite the obstacles. While I was in film school I realized that my path would not be the same as the others who could get a job as a PA and work their way up. I needed to write scripts that I could control and then produce so that I could hire myself as the director. The numbers for working female directors in Hollywood are very low and in the DGA, to the best of my knowledge, there are only two directors with visible disabilities — me and Ben Lewin. Ben is very talented and had a huge success last year with his wonderful film The Sessions, which he wrote and produced independently. I think most working professionals with disabilities understand that you have to create your own opportunities because there are barriers.

Have we reached enlightenment in the 21st century? If not, have we made good progress? And do you have any advice for filmmakers who’d like to treat these topics with more sensitivity in the future?

Have we reached enlightenment? I'm afraid not. But have we made exponential progress in the 100 or so years film has been around? Absolutely.

Do I have advice for other filmmakers? When writing: add a character who has a disability to the world you are creating because that is more like real life. But don't rely on stereotypes to define them. Give them full lives and don't make the disability the focus. For example: I am a woman, a blonde, a producer, a writer, a DGA director, a football fan, a valley girl, and a wheelchair user. If I were filming an action film, I'd be spending my day thinking up the best shot for when the car explodes! I don't spend time thinking about disability. Well, because of this film I am now — but usually I don't.
- See more at: http://www.studiodaily.com/2013/08/cinemability-director-jenni-gold-on-hollywood-and-disabilities/#sthash.kxRNysSd.dpuf

The integrated care program and the new drug policy: Illinois Hearing in Chicago Sept 17

The Illinois House Human Services Committee will hold a hearing about the integrated care program and the new drug policy Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 1:00 PM
. The hearing will be at the Michael A. Bilandic Building, C-600, 6th Floor, 160 North LaSalle St, Chicago, IL.
As more information becomes available, we will update the post.

There has not been any specific legislation identified that will be addressed: http://www.ilga.gov/house/committees/hearings/98/H_12_1190_11269_9e0ee41b-8c90-475b-ad2e-87ed39cf34c3.pdf

Blind Comcast exec developing a talking TV channel guide

Comcast's Tom Wlodkowski, who is blind, demonstrates the talking TV channel guide, which the cable company expects to make available next year. It is part of a project to make products more accessible to customers with disabilities.
Comcast's Tom Wlodkowski, who is blind, demonstrates the talking TV channel guide, which the cable company expects to make available next year. It is part of a project to make products more accessible to customers with disabilities. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)

POSTED: August 29, 2013

Comcast expects the talking guide to come with its next-generation X2 platform in 2014. The cable giant demonstrated the talking guide this year at a California technology conference and at the cable-TV-industry trade show in Washington.How does a blind person find what to "watch" on a TV with 200 channels and 46,000 video-on-demand choices of movies, shows, and clips? Tom Wlodkowski, a blind executive at Comcast Corp., thinks he has the answer: a talking TV channel guide.
No joke.
"The television is not strictly as visual a medium as you might think," said David Goldfield, a computer technology instructor at the Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. "Radio drama in the U.S. is more or less dead. If you are blind and you want a good story, you're still going to get it on television."
Comcast also market-tested the guide with 20 average-Joe-type sight-impaired individuals in Philadelphia, arranged by the Associated Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
The interactive, cloud-based guide - the current voice is a woman, but users eventually could choose the voice, as they can with a ring tone - responds to buttons the person pushes.
This is part of a year-old project at Comcast to make the company's products more accessible to customers with disabilities. Wlodkowski has an "accessibility" team and will soon have a lab in the Comcast Center.
Comcast isn't doing this just to reach out to the nation's 1.3 million blind individuals who fear being left behind as popular culture and media go digital on the Internet and TV.
The Twenty-First Century Communications and Accessibility Act of 2010, passed on the 20-year anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, is forcing technology companies to integrate accessibility functions into products. It's believed that, in three years, talking interfaces will have to come with TV products.
Wlodkowski thinks he also can drive business. People with disabilities account for $200 billion in discretionary spending power, and catering to their needs, he believes, can boost brand loyalty.
"We will meet the requirements of the law, but we also believe there can be innovation," he said.
Wlodkowski is looking to develop products that could help older Americans "age in place" through the Xfinity home products, which now include home security.
Generally, technology companies - with the exception of Apple Inc. - have received poor marks in the selling of blind-friendly products.
"We see it as a civil right, and we see manufacturers embracing accessibility way too slowly," Lauren McLarney, government affairs specialist at the National Federation of the Blind, said of consumer electronics and technology companies. Comcast's talking guide sounds "worthwhile," but she hasn't seen it.
The association offers a channel guide by zip code called "newsline" that last year was accessed 600,000 times.
Before the talking guide, Wlodkowski said, he would have to recognize Matt Lauer's voice at NBC or Anderson Cooper on CNN. He also memorized channel numbers. But most times, he had no idea what was on the channel.
"The only way I could navigate TV before," Wlodkowski said, "was to go up and down the channels and listen until I found something that I liked."
Recently, he was fiddling with a talking TV guide and stumbled on Brady Bunch reruns. "They still syndicate that? Wow," he said.
Formerly with AOL Inc., Wlodkowski is the vice president of accessibility and said his team at Comcast had four goals:
To seek information from disabled customers about what they need and how they interact with Comcast's products.
To integrate functionality into products so they can be more easily used by disabled subscribers.
To introduce specific products, such as the talking guide.
To enhance customer service for disabled subscribers.
Wlodkowski, who was born blind, was raised in Southington, Conn., with three older brothers. His parents insisted on a regular childhood. He rode a bike in the neighborhood, skied with a guide, and marched in the marching band (he beat the snare drum).
His most popular sitcom was Cheers because, he said, "it was relatively easy to follow. When Norm walked in, everybody said, 'Hi, Norm.' "
He attended Boston College, majoring in communications. His first media job was with WGBH, the public broadcasting station in Boston. While there, Wlodkowski developed, with a federal grant from the Department of Education, a prototype of a talking TV interface. It was never commercialized.
Wlodkowski said he was happy to be back in a city with mass transit and lives in an apartment at 17th and Arch Streets. His wife, Michele, and 15-year-old son, Colin, will relocate from Virginia, and he intends to buy a suburban home near a rail line.
One challenging experience in Philadelphia has been mastering the elevators at the sky-high Comcast Center. There are more than 30 elevators, and some go only to certain floors.
"Catching the elevator in this place," Wlodkowski said, "is an art that I don't think I have figured out."

Contact Bob Fernandez at 215-854-5897 or bob.fernandez@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @bobfernandez1.

WARNING! Tele-frustrating! Illinois tops nation in telemarketing complaints

as shared from the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) ...

Posted on  by 

A decade after the federal government created the Do Not Call list to combat telemarketing calls, Illinois has the nation’s worst complaint rate for people who are on the list but still get annoying phone pitches, USA Today reports.
Tuesday’s report was just the latest development this week in Illinois’ battle against unwanted telemarketing calls. On Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed new legislation to toughen telemarketing protections. Also this week,Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called on major phone companies to do more to stop computer-generated telemarketing calls, or “robocalls.”
The Federal Trade Commission, which maintains the list, says that 234,473 Illinoisans filed complaints about telemarketing calls in 2012. That’s a rate of 1,822 complaints per 100,000 Illinois residents—tops in the nation. Nationally, the average monthly complaints from people on the list but still getting annoying calls shot up 63 percent from 2011 to 2012.
The Do Not Call list is a rarity among federal programs—something that has enjoyed almost universal popularity since it began in 2003.  (More than 51 million phone numbers were added in its first year alone.) So what gives with all the complaints?
The FTC says the big culprit is more sophisticated technology that makes it easier and cheaper for illegal robocall operations to send out thousands of telemarketing calls at a time.
The agency’s answer is to fight technology with technology. “Nomorobo,” software that intercepts and hangs up on robocalls, recently won the FTC’s public challenge to techies to find ways to stop unwanted calls. USA Today reports that the software will be ready for public use soon, with a basic version for free.

About Jim Chilsen
Jim is director of communications for the Citizens Utility Board (CUB)

Handicap International : projects in over 60 countries - resources, info...




Handicap International is an independent and impartial aid organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster.
We work alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable populations, taking action and bearing witness in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.
Together with local partners, we develop programs in health and rehabilitation and social and economic integration. We work with local authorities to clear landmines and other war debris and to prevent mine-related accidents through education. We respond fast and effectively to natural and civil disasters in order to limit serious and permanent injuries and to assist survivors' recovery and reintegration. We advocate for the universal recognition of the rights of the disabled through national planning and advocacy.


Handicap International teams are currently making a difference in 61 countries.


There are eight national associations in the Handicap International Federation: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Together, we mobilize resources and raise awareness of Handicap International beneficiaries and programs. Handicap International Federation implements these programs.
For Handicap International website: CLICK HERE
YouTube Published on Jul 19, 2012
Handicap International celebrates its 30th anniversary on Thursday 19th July 2012. Present at the scene of major humanitarian disasters and conflicts, Handicap International is committed to supporting vulnerable and disabled people in situations of poverty and exclusion.

Running over 320 projects in nearly 60 countries, the organisation has evolved and transformed to be able to respond to the new humanitarian challenges posed by the rise in the number of disasters, a break-down in security, and the worsening of situations of extreme poverty. Our goal is to remain present during emergencies while planning our actions over the long-term.

© Handicap International 2012.

For Handicap International website: CLICK HERE

Frequency of Medicare Recertification Surveys for Hospices Is Unimproved; report 08-29-2013

Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 
330 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20201

Report (OEI-06-13-00130)

Complete Report

Download the complete report
Adobe® Acrobat® External link is required to read PDF files.



This memorandum report follows up on the 2007 OIG report Medicare Hospices: Certification and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Oversight (OEI-06-05-00260), which found that the most recent recertification survey for 14 percent of State-surveyed hospices had occurred more than 6 years previously, with an average of 9 years. Further, when surveys did occur, 46 percent of the surveyed hospices received citations for health deficiencies, with the most frequently cited deficiencies related to care planning and quality issues. We recommended that CMS seek statutory or regulatory timeframes for the frequency of hospice recertification surveys by State survey agencies, and suggested a timeframe of 3 years. CMS did not concur with the recommendation, indicating that conducting more frequent surveys would require congressional action to allocate additional resources. CMS policy sets targets for the frequency of hospice recertification surveys by State survey agencies. These targets vary over time based on available resources and priorities.


We analyzed national survey data for all hospices that had Medicare payments in 2011 and that were subject to surveys by State survey agencies on behalf of CMS, a total of 2,483 hospices. We determined the certification survey frequency for each State-surveyed hospice by calculating the time between the date of the most recent certification survey (either initial certification or recertification) and the index date, February 28, 2013. We determined the proportion of hospices that had not been surveyed within the 6 years preceding the index date, both nationally and by State, and compared those results to our prior findings.


We found that the frequency of recertification surveys has not improved since 2005. Seventeen percent of State-surveyed hospices had not been recertified within the 6 years prior to the index date of February 28, 2013, with some hospices experiencing longer intervals since their last survey. We also found that in 12 States, more than 25 percent of hospices had not been recertified within the previous 6 years. These findings illustrate that CMS's use of fluctuating annual targets does not ensure timely recertification surveys of all hospices and raises concerns about whether CMS and contracted State survey agencies can ensure hospice compliance with Medicare CoPs and quality-of-care requirements for hospices.
Therefore, we reiterate the recommendation that CMS seek statutory or regulatory timeframes for the frequency of hospice recertification surveys. CMS could consider setting this survey frequency standard at 3 years, to match the 3-year interval used by accrediting organizations (as approved by CMS); however, given resource limitations, setting a mandatory frequency-even for an interval of more than 3 years-could help to ensure improvement in survey frequency and avoid lengthy intervals between surveys for individual hospices.
Copies can also be obtained by contacting the Office of Public Affairs at Public.Affairs@oig.hhs.gov.

Fast Action Needed to Support International Disability Rights!

as shared from our colleagues at Access Living of Chicago;
 Ability Chicago completely SUPPORTS this important effort of so many...

Dear Access Living friends and allies,
Almost 6,000 people have signed an online petition in support of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). We at Access Living want to urge you, our fellow advocates for disability rights, to add your name to this petition, which our advocates in DC will be able to show to US Senators. The link to sign onto the petition is at http://www.handicap-international.us/support_the_disability_treaty. Help us get to 10,000 signatures by sharing this message widely!
Also, yesterday the American Legion officially offered its support of the CRPD by passing a disability resolution. A huge thanks to the American Legion! See White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett’s tweet applauding this effort: https://twitter.com/vj44/status/373181991581016064.
SIGN SIGN SIGN! It only takes a minute. Then SHARE SHARE SHARE with your friends and family! People with disabilities in America deserve a seat at the table on international disability rights!
Amber Smock
Director of Advocacy, Access Living


Please visit and read the "Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities / Preamble

Thousands Of Americans Use "Fake Service Dogs" To Gain Preferential Treatment

By  | MEDICAL DAILY | Aug 21, 2013 

The trending practice of disguising one’s dog's as a service animal to gain conveniences — such as preferential seating or service afforded to the disabled — is surprisingly common, according to advocates for people with disabilities.

So pervasive are these fake “guide dogs” that Canines for Independence, the nation’s largest organization of service dog breeders and trainers, has asked the U.S. Justice Department to prohibit the online sale of materials used to fake the act, such as documentation and identifying patches placed on the dog.

Thousands of people have purchased such materials to use dogs for preferential treatment while shopping, traveling, and even nightclubbing. “People think what they’re doing is harmless but it’s not — it’s very harmful,” Marcie Davis, a paraplegic who uses a service dog, told CBS News. “This is jeopardizing people like me who really need a service dog. It’s jeopardizing our ability to be a working team out in public.”
Davis, who founded International Assistance Dog Awareness Week, says the canine fakery undermines advocacy work seeking public acceptance and accommodation of people with disabilities, a generation after the Americans with Disabilities Act first outlawed discrimination against disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and government activities.
The New York Post this summer wrote of several dog owners who have faked the routine, taking their act to malls, movie theaters, and nightclubs. “He’s been to most movie theaters in the city and more nightclubs than most of my friends,” a 33-year-old New York City resident said of his Yorkshire terrier.
Another dog owner also described the unscrupulous scheme in an online video. “I took Bubs out for a walk and it started raining and I don’t feel like walking him home so we’re going to get on the bus and I’m going to make him a disabled dog,” he said. “This service dog scam works pretty good.”

Federal law requires people with service animals to possess basic documentation certifying the animal, but forbids anyone from asking about the nature of the disability. Thus, fakers may simply pass themselves off as emotionally fragile creatures requiring a “companion animal,” without faking blindness or severe physical disability.

Davis and other advocates for the disabled describe the ease of purchasing such fakery materials online. “If you provide a photo, then you can get an ID,” Davis said. Indeed, an online search by Google on Wednesday for “service dog vest” yielded 1.8 million hits, with a plethora of options for terrier-sized dogs in the $32 range.
Dog owners employing a service canine without proper documentation do the disabled a disservice, Davis said. “My second assistance dog was actually attacked by a dog at a professional conference by someone who was trying to pass off their pet as assistance dog [but] had no business being in public,” she said. “They’re disruptive, they’re eating food in restaurants and they’re acting very inappropriately,” Davis added, contrasting the behavioral profile to the trained dog, quiet and calm in public. “They’re supposed to very quiet and go under a table or chair and really be unseen when they are out in public.”
Although several states may update disability law to prohibit the fakery, New Mexico is the only state that currently outlaws the con.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Illinois $47.5 Million Investment to Complete Chicago Veterans Home, Outreach Programs; Encourage Veteran-Owned Businesses to Bid

August 29, 2013

Governor Quinn Announces $47.5 Million Investment to Complete Chicago Veterans Home
Outreach Programs Sept. 5 and 10 Will Encourage Veteran-Owned Businesses to Bid on the Facility’s Construction
CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced a $47.5 million investment from his Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program to complete the new Illinois Veterans Home at Chicago. The investment announced today is in addition to $23 million from previous years to build the $70.5 million facility. Outreach programs on Sept. 5 and 10 will encourage veteran-owned businesses to submit bids for the construction project, which will begin in 2014. Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to honor and support the men and women who have served our nation.

“The Veterans Home at Chicago will provide a high-quality, modern facility that will meet our veterans’ needs and improve the quality of their lives,” Governor Quinn said. “The facility will create hundreds of construction jobs, 250 permanent jobs, and care for 200 of our nation’s heroes.”

The Illinois Veterans Home at Chicago will be built on 7.8 acres of land at the southwest corner of Forest Preserve Drive and Oak Park Avenue. The location was selected because of its proximity to the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital and its accessibility to public transportation. Units will provide special care for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, long term, and secure special care needs.

“Well over half of Illinois’ 764,000 veterans live in the Chicago area, and we’re proud that this new facility is being built to serve them,” Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs (IDVA) Director Erica Borggren said. “The Veterans Home at Chicago will be a tremendous benefit for veterans and their families in northern Illinois.”
The five-story home will feature single occupancy rooms with private bathrooms and common areas for dining and meeting with visitors. The facility will be built to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver standards, a testament to its energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly design. The construction project will be managed by the Illinois Capital Development Board.

“The Illinois Jobs Now! program has stimulated the state’s economy for several years with construction projects like the Veterans Home that address our vital needs,” Capital Development Board Executive Director Jim Underwood said. “As a result of this program, we have better roads and bridges, updated educational facilities, and places like this Veterans Home to serve those who have served our country.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has approved federal reimbursement for up to 65 percent of the eligible construction costs on the project. This means as much as $45.8 million of the construction cost could be covered by the federal government.

Chicago Veterans Home Project Outreach Events are set for 1 p.m. on Sept. 5 in Room N-505 and Sept. 10 in Room N-502 of the Michael A. Bilandic Building at 160 N. LaSalle Street in Chicago. The events will inform veteran-owned businesses how to get certified as veteran-owned contractors, sub-contractors or supplier businesses so they may be considered for participation in the Veterans Home construction project, which has specific veteran and minority business participation goals. Immediately following these outreach events, the Capital Development Board will host pre-bid meetings to discuss the procurement process in detail. These pre-bid meetings are a great opportunity for veteran-owned businesses to network with contractors in order to communicate their company’s services and status as a veteran-owned business and learn about the project itself.

The Illinois Veterans Home at Chicago will be the fifth veterans’ home to be located in Illinois and the first in Chicago. It will be operated by the IDVA, which also supervises veterans’ homes in Anna, LaSalle, Manteno and Quincy. IDVA also operates the Prince Home, a 15-bed permanent supportive housing facility for homeless and disabled veterans at Manteno. When completed and after certification of the Home, the Department will be able to receive USDVA per diem payments that will provide over one quarter of the annual operating budget of the Home.


Working to Get Children with Physical Disabilities “Off the Sidelines and into the Game”

as shared from Disability.gov blog...

Sports for All: Working to Get Children with Physical Disabilities “Off the Sidelines and into the Game”
Sports for All: Working to Get Children with Physical Disabilities “Off the Sidelines and into the Game”

CATEGORIES: Community LifeHealth
Terri Grunduski IIBy Guest Blogger Terri Hickman Grunduski, Co-Founder, Grunduski Groupand mother of two
The weather is cooling down, traffic is picking up, and school busses full of eager students adorn the streets early mornings; it is that time of year again – everyone is going back to school!  When I think of going back to school, I think about all of the fun experiences that accompanied my full days of learning – making new friends, taking new classes, and playing sports after school. Being active was part of who I was, and playing team sports – softball, basketball, dance team and swimming – prepared me for many of life’s lessons as I’ve traveled life’s road. These lessons included teamwork, working towards a common goal, perseverance, determination, and even how to be a gracious winner (as well as how to be a good sport, especially when I didn’t win). Sports and life were intertwined for me.
Although I wasn’t the best player on these teams, I now know the lessons I learned through sports were important to my development and confidence building, not to mention crucial to my understanding of being cardiovascularly fit, and contributing to my health and well-being. As a mom with two children of my own, the sports legacy and lessons continue, with my family spending most weekends either at the ballpark or the gym, playing baseball, soccer and basketball.
I can’t imagine a year without these opportunities and yet, as I go about my day-to-day work, I’ve encountered many children that have gone a lifetime without picking up a ball of any kind, playing on a team, or even looking forward to being active. Many children who have not had the same opportunities that I have had. That is, until now.
How can this be? Can it be true that there are young people with physical disabilities who have NEVER had the chance to throw a football, dribble a basketball or play on a team? As a parent, I can’t imagine my children not having the opportunity to play organized sports – to not have had the opportunity to experience the thrill of scoring the winning goal, feeling the passion of competitive play, or even working with teammates whose relationships can last a lifetime. Many young people with disabilities have never even been asked to play a sport nor had any type of team sports opportunity presented to them. It is a difficult concept for me to wrap my brain around, but I blog today to share this story and to help bring awareness to this issue.
Eleven years ago I was asked to join the Board of Directors for a then, young charitable organization in Georgia called AAASP – the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs.
I had worked for the local hockey team, the Atlanta Thrashers, and was introduced to AAASP through a mutual friend.   AAASP works in partnership with education agencies in the U.S. to establish programs, policies, procedures and regulations in interscholastic adapted sports for students with physical disabilities. They provide services to local education agencies, state high school associations, and state departments of education in extracurricular adapted athletics for children with physical disabilities attending grades 1-12. (AAASP programs improve student well-being, while positively influencing total student development.)
I attended many games – from power hockey to wheelchair basketball to wheelchair handball.  I saw young athletes enjoying the many benefits of being active – and thriving in team sports. I was amazed at the level of play for many of these athletes, and smiled to see them compete on different levels, bonding with each other and enjoying it all! Yet I am sad to share that many years later, people with disabilities in other parts of the country are still sidelined, struggling to find opportunities to play.
In January of this year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague” letter, sharing guidelines to help schools meet their obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to provide extracurricular athletic opportunities for students with disabilities in their school communities. It was a wonderful reminder to all of us that schools, charitable organizations and communities need to continue working to provide opportunities for these “sidelined” students. Not only because it is the law, but because it is the right thing to do.
ALL students should have equal access to opportunities – regardless of gender, race, religion and physical abilities. I am encouraged to hear about the partnerships beginning to form to build an infrastructure for the nation’s sidelined athletes. However, we all must get involved and share our stories so that children with physical disabilities have these opportunities now.
Building a sports program at your school or in your county for people with physical disabilities is doable. It requires the same effort as programs for able-bodied students – and can leave a legacy for years to come. AAASP has built a five-step template for school systems to get started; it just takes a dedicated person and a cooperative Athletic Director to make it work. It’s simple. And needed. Sports is that universal language that pulls people together, and now is the time.
We’re reminded by so many today – doctors and others in the medical profession, activists, physical trainers – to exercise at least 30 minutes a day for better cardiovascular health.  Let’s work to get children with disabilities “off the sidelines and into the game,” to encourage everyone to be healthier, and try to avoid many of the pitfalls people with disabilities face. Let’s support sports for all!
For more information on sports for all in our nation’s schools, please visit the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs atwww.adaptedsports.org/.
Terri Hickman Grunduski co-founded the Grunduski Group to fill a need in the sports and philanthropy worlds, and to help support and guide those interested in building their legacies through Family Foundations and other philanthropic endeavors. Terri was formerly a Board Member for the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs (AAASP), and is now working with the association to further their mission through public relations support, partnerships and awareness.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

For Kids With Special Needs, More Places for Playgrounds

August 27, 2013

Remember running around the playground when you were a kid? Maybe hanging from the monkey bars or seeing who could swing the highest?

It wasn't just a mindless energy burn. Many have called play the work of childhood. Play teaches children how to make friends, make rules and navigate relationships.

But for kids whose disabilities keep them from using playgrounds, those opportunities can be lost.

New federal requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act are changing the landscape for public playgrounds, requiring them to include equipment, materials and designs that provide children with disabilities the same play opportunities as typical children.

But as NPR sought to explore the effects of the new rules, it found that parents and advocates are making the real difference — not the federal government.

The higher cost of "inclusive" playgrounds means many local governments can't afford them. And in places that do offer the kind of shared playing experience contemplated by the ADA, a group of frustrated parents is typically behind it all.

To understand the phenomenon, NPR visited a playground in Pocatello, Idaho.

A yellow-brick road leads to its entrance. Inside there are a pretend John Deere tractor, a make-believe general store, a clock tower and a tall rocket ship.

Seven-year-old Brooklyn Fisher plays while her dad, Jonny Fisher, watches.

"I get scared you might run me over," he tells her. "You go flying down those ramps."

Brooklyn says back: " 'Cause I let go of my wheels, that's why."

he wheels she's talking about are on her wheelchair.

This playground, a sprawling, colorful mix of whimsy and history, is named after her: Brooklyn's Playground.

It's designed so that children like Brooklyn, who have disabilities, can more easily play alongside typical children. "You create a place where kids of any ability are going to be playing together," Fisher says. "So now those kids with disabilities are going to be shoulder to shoulder with their peers, who they normally cannot be shoulder to shoulder with."

That's the same idea behind new federal requirements that require accessible playgrounds. Last year, the federal government made access to play areas a civil right under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Play areas are not just places where kids have fun," says Eve Hill, a civil rights lawyer with the Justice Department, which enforces the ADA. "They are places where kids learn to interact with the world, and with each other." That places playgrounds in the same category as other civil rights touchstones.

"Recreation was one of the places where the civil rights movement started, with desegregating pools and desegregating lunch counters and movie theaters. These were not unimportant," she says.

Building Brooklyn's Playground

In Pocatello — an old railroad town bordering the Fort Hall Indian Reservation — Brooklyn's Playground sits on a flat, often windy park with a view of the Rocky Mountains.

That it's here at all goes back to a minor domestic squabble and a bump on the head.

When Brooklyn was 3 years old, her dad took her to another playground, and put her in a regular swing. "I thought she could handle it," Fisher says, "So I put her in there, and my wife said, 'I wouldn't do that.' "

Brooklyn was born with spina bifida and has difficulty controlling her muscles. With no back support, she flipped out of the swing and hit her head.

"So it was at that time that my wife said, 'We need to do this. We need to bring a playground for her, for the other kids in our community, to Pocatello.' "

Inclusive designs have been evolving for decades. Federal accessibility guidelines have been around since the 1990s. But in recent years there has been a bigger push by parents, advocates and designers, amounting to an inclusive playground movement.

"We have the therapeutic swings," Fisher says. "These have got backs, so kids that don't have that muscle tone can get in there completely, and feel safe and secure and swing."

One of the elements that legally define an accessible playground is literally the ground.

"We have ramps leading up to all the play structures. You have the solid surfaces throughout the entire playground. With walkers or wheelchairs it's very easy to go around this."

If the surface weren't smooth, if it were sand or those familiar wood chips, kids in wheelchairs might get stuck, or their parents would have to carry them.

But ramps — and other inclusive playground features — drive up costs. For example, the smooth, resilient surface at Brooklyn's Playground cost more than $150,000.

Also, at 15,000 square feet, this playground is something most municipalities wouldn't have the funding to build on their own.

So the Fishers, with the help of a local civic group, started raising money.

Over eight months, the money poured in from grants and hundreds of individual donations, bake sales and garage sales. "We raised $580,000 and it cost $560,000 so we have $20,000 in the maintenance fund," Fisher says.

And when it came time to build the playground, 3,000 people showed up to work. In a week, it was done.

But public playgrounds are generally the responsibility of local governments. So, couldn't the city of Pocatello have built it?

"Absolutely not," says Mayor Brian Blad, "not on the budget we have."

He and officials from other municipalities tell NPR that a weak economy has put many local governments in survival mode — providing basic services and not much more.

"The resources just wouldn't be there for a playground like this," Blad says. "The money is needed in so many other places."

But as of March 15, 2012, federal law requires that public play areas include wheelchair-friendly surfaces and equipment that help kids with physical challenges move around. So if a town does build or renovate a playground, it must meet specific accessibility standards. And, localities must provide their residents with "program accessibility," which means there are equal play opportunities for everyone in the community.

An Inspiring Moment

Brooklyn's Playground and the kids who use it were enough to inspire a woman who stopped in Pocatello last fall during a family road trip.

"I was definitely tearful, and a bit overwhelmed," says Amanda Bakker, who visited from Salinas, Calif. "My heart was pounding out of my chest; I had chills all over. I knew that it was a pretty pivotal moment for me."

Bakker had her daughter, Tatum, with her. Tatum, who was almost 2 at the time, has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.

"I put Tatum in a swing and kind of sat back and absorbed it all," Bakker recalls. "I looked up and saw an older child, maybe 10 or 12, a little girl, in a motorized wheelchair, up on the pirate ship, surrounded by three or four friends her age who were able-bodied children, playing and laughing."

After a minute, it sank in: "That's when I really was struck with this idea of this is what it means to be included," Bakker says.

She wanted that back home.

"It was literally the next breath where I just knew that we were going to have to find a way to make an experience like this possible in our hometown as well."

The City of Salinas approved Bakker's request to build the playground in a public park. She has raised about $400,000 so far, and expects construction to begin next month.

We want to thank National Public Radio (NPR) for such a wonderful article...