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Sensory-Friendly Santa Claus is Coming to Town… This Weekend!

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Santa Claus is coming to town… to host inclusive holiday visits on Sunday, December 4, 2022! Thanks to Cherry Hill Programs, Autism Speaks and Autism Speaks Canada, “Santa Cares” events, featuring a sensory-friendly Santa Claus, will be held nationwide to allow people of all ages and abilities the chance to enjoy a festive, inclusive environment. This includes the opportunity for memorable Santa Magic photo experiences.

Sensory-Friendly Santa Help All Feel Camera Ready 

As the industry leader in experiential photography, Cherry Hill Programs delivers exceptional Santa Magic photo experiences to millions of families across North America annually. Created together with Autism Speaks, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with autism spectrum disorder through research, advocacy, programs and services, Santa Cares events will offer all families the ability to create unforgettable moments during this holiday season.

Santa Cares events make holiday photo experiences accessible to everyone by providing visits with Santa outside of normal venue operating hours. Therefore, these events reduce sensory triggers by limiting the number of guests to reduce crowds and wait times, as well as ensuring that the lighting and music are at reduced and comfortable levels. Santa and his staff are trained to understand and support those with special needs and their families.

“We are committed to serving our communities and providing opportunities to enhance photo experiences so that everyone can enjoy Santa Magic,” said Chris Landtroop, CHP’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications. “We are humbled to collaborate with Autism Speaks to help families with special needs capture their holiday tradition with beautiful photos.”

sensory-friendly santa claus
(Autism Speaks)

“At Autism Speaks, we are dedicated to promoting solutions that help create a world where all people with autism can reach their full potential. Our work with Cherry Hill Programs has brought us one step closer to that vision in creating opportunities for every kid to be a kid, and in allowing all families to embrace the magic of the holiday season,” said Jennifer Schell Podoll, Autism Speaks Senior Vice President of Constituent Engagement.

Cherry Hill Programs is also committed to the Magic of Giving to enhance lives and help build community through philanthropic efforts. Since 2015, CHP’s Santa Cares and Bunny Cares events have collected more than $1 million in support of Autism Speaks. Cherry Hill Programs is now furthering its support by collecting donations at participating locations and online at whereissanta.com.

FYI, Santa Cares is offered as Caring Santa at Simon mall locations, and as SENSITIVE SANTA at Washington Prime Group mall locations. Families can find participating sensory-friendly Santa Cares locations and book their visit with the Big Guy at whereissanta.com. Complimentary registration is required for these inclusive holiday events. Plus, photo packages are available for purchase at the time of the visit.

Support these Disability Nonprofits on GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday will be celebrated by millions of people (with and without disabilities) on Tuesday, November 29, 2022. This annual effort started in 2012 as a simple idea: a day focused on encouraging people to do good. GivingTuesday has now become a global generosity movement that, every year, inspires people to give back and spread kindness. It’s a wonderful opportunity for people of all abilities to support various causes, such as by donating to or volunteering for disability nonprofits.

Last year, 35 million adults participated in many ways on GivingTuesday 2021 in the United States, a 6% increase over 2020. Financial giving in the U.S. alone totaled $2.7 billion, representing a 9% increase compared to GivingTuesday 2020, and a 37% increase since 2019. These lofty totals represent a significant continued trend of increased generosity, which includes support and awareness of diversity and inclusion — within the disability community and beyond.

AmeriDisability has spotlighted numerous disability nonprofits and organizations. Will you support these worthy disability nonprofits on GivingTuesday? Or do you intend to support another organization?

GivingTuesday logo
(GivingTuesday)

[FYI: Click on each nonprofit name below to read a related article by AmeriDisability, or click on the nonprofit website link to reach each of the organizations’ pages.]

Here are some disability nonprofits to support on GivingTuesday: 

  • Adaptive Adventures: Providing progressive outdoor sports opportunities to improve the quality of life for individuals with physical disabilities and their families. adaptiveadventures.org
  • ALS Association: Driven by a mission to discover treatments and a cure for ALS; and to serve, advocate for and empower people affected by ALS to live their lives to the fullest. als.org
  • American Diabetes Association: Working to prevent and cure diabetes, and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. diabetes.org
  • American Heart Association: Working to fund cardiovascular medical research, educate consumers on healthy living and foster appropriate cardiac care in an effort to reduce disability and deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and stroke. heart.org
  • American Parkinson’s Disease Association: Dedicated to fighting Parkinson’s disease and working tirelessly to help the approximately one million with PD in the United States live life to the fullest with this chronic, neurological disorder.   apdaparkinson.org
  • arcBARKS: A dog treat company created by The Arc of Greensboro in response to an increasing need for post-high school options for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. arcbarks.com
  • Autism Society: Working to connect people to autism-focused resources through education, advocacy, support, information and referral, and community programming. autismsociety.org
(Shutterstock)
giving hands
(Shutterstock)
  • Goodwill Industries, Inc.: A secondhand retailer offering a second hand of support by helping individuals, families and communities build brighter futures through the power of inclusive work and employment training. goodwill.org
  • Grow Hub: Cultivating, empowering and assisting adults with disabilities for sustainable living through education, training and job opportunities. grow-hub.org
  • interPLAY Orchestra: A nonprofit inclusive of amateur and professional musicians with (and without) mild to moderate cognitive and physical disabilities. interplayorchestra.org
  • Island Dolphin Care, Inc.: An organization seeking solutions for children and families with special needs, as well as veterans living with PTSD, by tapping into expressive dolphin-to-human interactions. islanddolphincare.org
  • Limbitless Solutions: An organization manufacturing personalized, affordable bionics and solutions for persons with disabilities and limb differences. limbitless-solutions.org
  • Mental Health Association: An organization providing mental health services, support and information to the members of the community. mhacf.org
  • Muscular Dystrophy Association: Working to support people affected by muscular dystrophy, ALS and related neuromuscular diseases through innovations in science and care. mda.org
  • National Alopecia Areata Foundation: Serving the community of people affected by an autoimmune skin disease called alopecia areata, which results in hair loss and emotional pain. naaf.org
  • National Association of the Deaf: Working to ensure that the collective interests of the American deaf and hard-of-hearing community are seen and represented among our nation’s policymakers and opinion leaders at the federal level. nad.org
(Shutterstock)
four hands forming a circle around handicapped symbol
(Shutterstock)
  • Surfers For Autism: A relationship-building organization providing free surf sessions and more for persons with autism and other related developmental delays and disabilities. surfersforautism.org
  • The Reveille Project: Striving to grant wellness-focused guidance to veterans with mood disorders and physical disabilities working to adapt socially, emotionally, physically and spiritually back into civilian life. thereveilleproject.org
  • UCP: An organization dedicated to unlocking the potential of children with and without disabilities through education, therapy services and programs. ucp.org
  • United Spinal Association: Dedicated to empowering people with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D), including veterans, to live successful and fulfilling lives. unitedspinal.org
  • U.S. Pain Foundation: Dedicated to serving those who live with conditions that cause chronic pain, as well as their caregivers and care providers. uspainfoundation.org
  • Yes She Can, Inc.: Helping teen girls and young women with autism spectrum disorders to develop transferable job skills to enable them to join the competitive workforce and achieve greater independence. yesshecaninc.org

Thanks for considering participating in GivingTuesday to support disability nonprofits!

Please note: AmeriDisability is committed to celebrating the impactful efforts of nonprofits serving the disability community. The organizations in this article are some examples of incredible change-makers. If you know of other disability-serving organizations that you think AmeriDisability should highlight, please contact us at info@ameridisability.com.

Limb Loss Occurs Every Three Minutes Because of this Debilitating Condition

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Take a minute (or three) to let this alarming figure sink in: Limb loss occurs every three minutes in America due to diabetes. But, maybe, increased awareness can help combat this debilitating statistic.

The American Diabetes Association announced a new initiative designed to address the urgent public health challenge of preventable amputation called the Amputation Prevention Alliance. Over 154,000 amputations occur every year in the United States, with the majority of those procedures being preventable. But due to challenges in accessing quality care, patients are forced into unnecessary amputations and even death.

The Amputation Prevention Alliance’s work will focus on addressing communities facing disproportionately high rates of amputations and amputated-related mortality, including through advancing needed policy changes, driving clinician awareness of opportunities to prevent amputations and empowering patients to advocate for their best care. This three-year effort will aim to improve care for all people living with diabetes, and enhance access to quality care, technology and necessary interventions.

logo for Amputation Prevention Alliance
(ADA)

The aim is to reduce the number of unnecessary amputations that take place every year in the United States. The right to avoid an amputation is a centerpiece of the ADA’s #HealthEquityNow platform.

Experts Weigh in on Limb Loss

“The American Diabetes Association is proud to announce the launch of the Amputation Prevention Alliance,” said Charles D. Henderson, ADA’s chief executive officer. “This Alliance, through the groundwork laid by the ADA’s Health Equity Now platform, will increase awareness among patients and healthcare professionals of risk factors for amputations and opportunities to avoid these procedures. This initiative aims to advance needed policy changes to ensure that healthcare professionals have the tools necessary to prevent unnecessary procedures and save lives moving forward. We can, and must, do better.”

Access to quality care and earlier intervention remains the challenge that leads to unnecessarily high rates of amputations, particularly among people of color. Black Americans face rates of amputations up to four times higher than non-Hispanic white Americans! LatinX communities are 50 percent more likely to have an amputation and indigenous communities face amputation rates that are two times higher than those among non-Hispanic white Americans.

file folders with label 'amputation'
(Shutterstock)

“Today, 85 percent of diabetes-related amputations are preventable,” said Dr. Jon Bloom, CEO, and Co-Founder of Podimetrics and a Founding Partner of the Amputation Prevention Alliance. That’s why access to quality care, technology and earlier interventions can make a substantial difference in salvaging limbs and saving lives.

“It is without question that diabetes-related amputations unfairly afflict communities of color at an alarming rate,” said Dr. Mike Griffiths, President, CEO, and Medical Director at Advanced Oxygen Therapy Inc. and also a Founding Partner of the Alliance. “When you consider that five-year mortality rates among those having a limb amputated due to diabetes are higher than most forms of cancer, then this situation is as dire as it is tragic.”

Survey data confirms that far too many people with diabetes are unaware of their own risk for an amputation. In a recent survey of people living with diabetes conducted by Thrivable, despite diabetes being the leading cause of amputations, 65 percent of those surveyed said they believed they were not at risk for amputation and just 1-in-4 of those surveyed understood the signs and symptoms of conditions that can lead to an amputation, such as peripheral neuropathy, peripheral artery disease or critical limb ischemia.

Learn more here.

Holiday Gift Baskets That Give Back to People with Disabilities

You can support diversity and, more specifically the disability community, with your purchasing power. The word ‘diversity’ has multiple meanings, including:

1: the condition of having or being composed of differing elements; or

2: the inclusion of people of different abilities, cultures, races, etc. in a group or organization.

Gift baskets feature diverse items and they can be given for all kinds of occasions, like birthdays, get well-wishes, holidays and so on. Gift baskets are a great choice because they are easy to order, customizable, sharable and diversely plentiful. For your upcoming gift-giving needs, here are gift baskets that give back to people with disabilities.

1-800-FLOWERS, Inc.

An estimated 34 million people in the United States face hunger. And according to Feeding America, there is a growing body of literature that demonstrates that living with a disability is a key risk factor for food insecurity.

To help address this alarming issue of food insecurity within the disability community and the community at large, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. launched a holiday campaign to benefit Feeding America, the nonprofit striving to ensure equitable access to nutritious food for all.

Through December 24, for each gift purchased from the company’s Season of Giving holiday collection, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM will donate 20% of the net proceeds to Feeding America. Plus, throughout this 10-week initiative, customers can also make monetary donations to support the cause. Thanks to this effort, the company will help Feeding America provide at least 500,000 meals to individuals in need, including people with disabilities.

1-800-FLOWERS has gift baskets that give back
(1-800-FLOWERS)

This isn’t the first time 1-800-FLOWERS.COM has aligned with Feeding America. In 2021, the company donated nearly $6 million worth of perishable products to Feeding America-affiliated food banks, as well as other nonprofits that provide direct assistance to families facing hunger.

The Season of Giving holiday collection features a dozen curated products from across the company’s collection of brands, ranging in price from $16.99 – $99.99. Here’s a sampling of gift baskets that in back within this collection:

BearHug

These adorable “hug in a box” gift baskets are made by an accessibility-focused company that thrives on inclusive employment and supporting individuals with disabilities and illnesses. The founder, Faye, has Lyme disease. For every fifty BearHugs sold, one personalized ‘hug in a box’ is donated to someone affected by serious illness. There are tons of box themes to choose from but, as per the occasion, try Christmas Box Sets, Thinking of You Box Sets or Corporate Gift Box Sets. There are even options for those who follow specialty diets, like the Vegan Christmas Chocolate Gift Box. Aside from sweets, these gift baskets that give back may include cozy socks, books and more.

BearHug offers unique gift baskets that give back
(BearHug)

Collettey’s Cookies

“Changing the world one cookie at a time” may simply sound like a catchy slogan to some. But, in reality, it’s a serious business strategy addressing disability representation in the workforce. Company owner Collette Divitto shares that it pains her to know that over 80% of people with a disability that are capable of work cannot find paying jobs – a statistic she, an adult with Down syndrome, was once a part of. Described as a “tough cookie” by many, Collette began stirring cookie batter and, more importantly, stirring up the conversation surrounding workplace inclusion.

Collette has earned accolades as a disability advocate and speaker and, of course, as a baker. Her signature treat, The Amazing Cookie, is packed with chocolate chips and cinnamon (available in regular or gluten-free). Other cookie flavors, using organic ingredients, include peanut butter, oatmeal raisin and an unexpected breakfast cookie.

Collettey's Cookies offers gift baskets that give back. Ideal for corporate gifts or for loved ones.
(Collettey’s Cookies)

Collettey’s Cookies online shop features multiple cookie order options, company swag and themed gift baskets that are great for both corporate gift-giving and personal gift-giving to loved ones. Two holiday gift baskets feature Christmas décor in addition to the sweet treats, and Collettey’s sells a holiday doggie treat basket too. Plus, Collettey’s Cookies offers a Happy New Year gift basket that will surely help those craving a sweeter start to the year ahead.

Musee

Musee, an inclusive employer based in Mississippi, makes handcrafted, all-natural bath products. In an effort to provide dignified work opportunities for vulnerable community members, including people with disabilities, Musee bath products make you feel good – both inside and outside. For example, the Words of Encouragement Soap Set features six fresh soap scents, including Santal & Violet, Lavender & French Vanilla, Lily of the Valley, Wisteria & Rose and Grapefruit & Lemongrass. Best of all… the names of these soap scents are powerful, cleansing words: Kindness, Hope, Peace, Imagine, Full of Joy and Thankful.

This fresh scented gift basket gives back.
(Amazon)

ONEHOPE

Inspired by a friend’s battle with cancer, one of the founders started raising money for a health cause by humbly hosting wine tastings. The concept of gathering for wine to benefit an important cause took off and, so, ONEHOPE became an official, intentional winemaker.

ONEHOPE is now one of the largest direct-to-consumer wineries in the world and has proudly donated $9 million (and counting) to local and global causes, mostly centered on access to clean water, education, disability support and health research. One of ONEHOPE’s primary initiatives is aiding members of the autism community. The company has sponsored many children with autism from low-income families to attend camps, therapy programs and receive other educational scholarships. Additionally, ONEHOPE has granted holiday presents, experiences and much more to families with children who have various special needs.

ONEHOPE has plenty of gift baskets that give back.
(ONEHOPE)

Packed with Purpose

Packed with Purpose has a jolly selection of meaningful gift baskets that give back — ideal for loved ones, clients, employees or that person who is just so hard to buy for. This socially-driven company composes handpicked gift packages with diverse goods supplied by over 55 nonprofits and purpose-driven businesses, all of which strive to make a positive impact on society. Packed with Purpose has six focus areas; one of which is supporting inclusive workplace development. Some featured goods are made by companies that employ people with disabilities, such as Aspire Coffee Works, Friendship Circle Bakery, Lambs Farm, Oowee Leather Products and Spectrum Designs Foundation.

Also Try:

Packed with Purpose specializes in gift baskets that give back.
(Packed with Purpose)

Want more content like this? Read: 

This Thanksgiving Staple Helps Prevent Alzheimer’s

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The shopping list for a typical Thanksgiving spread is pretty lengthy: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, rolls, pumpkin pie, etc. But, according to a recent Instacart survey, turkey doesn’t rule the roost on “Turkey Day.” Grocery stores actually sell more cans of cranberry sauce than any other Thanksgiving staple! If you find this holiday data mind-blogging, well know that feasting on cranberry sauce may be smart. That’s because research shows that cranberries help to ward off dementia and, more specifically, prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

A Berry Healthy Way to Prevent Alzheimer’s

The Alzheimer’s Association differentiates that dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life, while Alzheimer’s is a specific disease. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the most common neurodegenerative disease, include gradual memory loss and impaired cognitive ability in aging people.

Aging man prepares cranberry sauce.
(Shutterstock)

There isn’t a single known cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers believe it develops from multiple factors, such as genetics, lifestyle and environment. Some risk factors — like age, family history and heredity — are out of one’s control and can’t be changed. Yet, some other risk factors are modifiable.

Here are ways to reduce the risk of dementia and/or prevent Alzheimer’s:

  • quit (or never start) smoking,
  • engage in regular physical activity,
  • control diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity,
  • practice proper sleep hygiene,
  • maintain healthy social engagements, and
  • consume a heart-healthy diet.

Ways You Can Cran

Boasting the benefits of improved memory and brain function, gobbling up cranberries on Thanksgiving (and year-round) should be a no-brainer. However, respondents to another Instacart survey cited cranberry sauce as their least favorite Thanksgiving staple. In spite of their disdain for this tangy side dish, customers still ordered enough canned cranberry sauce last November to create a stack more than 188,000 feet tall!

slices of canned cranberry sauce
(Shutterstock)

It’s important to note, however, that canned cranberry is usually loaded with sugar; whereas homemade cranberry sauces can be a healthier option. US Cranberries, a marketing committee, calls cranberries “America’s original superfruit!” Antioxidant-rich cranberries aid the body’s digestive health and promote good heart health, and may also improve blood pressure, cholesterol and lower the risk of cancer. Plus, aside from being linked to better brain function, cranberries are known to benefit urinary tract health.

Festive foodies can indulge in either jellied cranberry sauce or whole-berry cranberry chutneys. Try smashing fresh cranberries with apple or orange juice, honey or white balsamic vinegar to achieve the desired sweetness. Use leftover cranberry sauce as you would a standard jam (on toast, pancakes or atop oatmeal). If dried cranberries are your go-to for salad toppings or baking, note that one cup of chopped raw cranberries contains 14.6 mg of vitamin C per serving, while one cup of dried cranberries contains 0.3 mg.

Need a cranberry recipe? For breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert dishes featuring cranberries, which may prevent Alzheimer’s, click here.

15 Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness & Inclusion

Store shelves are stocked with festive decorations! This includes an endless supply of holiday ornaments intended to spruce up Christmas trees. The word ‘ornament’ is defined as “an accessory, article or detail used to beautify the appearance of something to which it is added.” Those that celebrate Christmas sometimes choose to adorn trees in a specific fashion – like color schemes (i.e. winter white), personal interests or other passions. Within the disability community and beyond, advocating for disability awareness and inclusion is a beautiful sentiment indeed!

Here are 15 Christmas ornaments supporting disability awareness and inclusion.

1. ALS Awareness Ornament

This glass ornament is filled with blue and white colored paper shreds, and topped with a silver sparkle bow and ALS awareness ribbon charm. Made by Merry for Cause, this family-run company originally focused on cancer awareness in honor of their daughter. Now, in addition to cancer awareness items, ALS is among many other disability causes available through their product designs. Available on Etsy.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, ALS
(Etsy)

2. ASL Reindeer Ornament

This circular bulb features a cute reindeer face with a red nose reminiscent, of course, of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The white antlers are hands signing “I love you” in American Sign Language (ASL). This ornament has customization options to add a date/year and additional ASL wording. Available on Etsy.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, ASL
(Etsy)

3. Braille Christmas Tree Ornament

This inclusive holiday decoration is handmade of white polymer clay. Shaped like a Christmas tree with a gold star topper, this piece is etched with “Merry Christmas,” plus green braille dots. And it includes a red string for easy hanging. Available on Amazon.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, Braille
(Amazon)

4. Celiac Disease Ornament

This hand-blown glass bulb is filled with shiny green glitter and topped with a sheer black bow. The design features lines eliminating ingredients known to be harmful to those living with Celiac Disease: wheat, barley and rye. A green ribbon, in alignment with Celiac Disease awareness, rounds out this festive piece. Available on Etsy.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, Celiac Disease
(Etsy)

5. Epilepsy Awareness Ornament

This unique, handmade design is intended to support epilepsy awareness in a truly beautiful way. It is comprised of natural amethyst beads, a silver heart charm, a purple ribbon charm and a swirly silver hook for hanging. Available on Etsy.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, epilepsy

(Etsy)

6. Family Christmas Ornaments

There is something extra special about personalized gifts! This ornament can be customized to feature people with different physical attributes. Plus, there is a wheelchair user option. The design features family members positioned in front of a cozy fireplace with Christmas stockings hung. Available on Etsy.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, family of four including a wheelchair user
(Etsy)

7. Healing Light Angel

The Healing Light Angel, one of Hallmark’s 2022 Keepsake Ornaments, is intended to aid in the fight against breast cancer. For every one of these ornaments sold, Hallmark donates $2 to Susan G. Komen. The angel features pink wings, a pink ribbon and a pretty dress design etched with the words Beauty, Strength and Courage. Available on Amazon.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, breast cancer
(Amazon)

8. Heart Disease Support Message

If your heartstrings are pulled by the heart disease hurdles of a loved one, this supportive Christmas ornament is the perfect gift. It reads: “In this family, no one fights alone.” A red and white ribbon composed of hearts adds a charming touch. Available on Etsy.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, heart disease
(Etsy)

9. Heart of Down Syndrome Awareness Ornament

Move over red and green… blue and yellow have arrived to bring some Christmas cheer. The combination of blue and yellow represents Down syndrome awareness. This round ornament displays a delicate pattern of hearts, artistically pairing a blue half and yellow half together. It comes with a shiny gold ribbon for hanging. Available on Amazon.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, Down syndrome
(Amazon)

10. Infinity Rainbow Ornament

Various symbols have been associated with awareness of autism spectrum disorder, such as the color blue, puzzle pieces and a butterfly. Created with the help of neurodiverse advocates, the infinity rainbow was introduced in 2005 for Autistic Pride Day. The infinity rainbow symbolizes “diversity with infinite variations and infinite possibilities.” Available on Etsy.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, autism
(Etsy)

11. Purple Cactus Benefiting Alzheimer’s Awareness

Brush Strokes Pottery specializes in handpainted, colorful ceramic pieces. The artist has several cactus designs, including a vintage-style ceramic Christmas cactus. She offers several items in purple, the color associated with Alzheimer’s disease, in honor of her mother who battled Alzheimer’s disease. The Purple Mini Ceramic Cactus Ornament is adorable but, to go even bigger, opt for the Lighted Ceramic Christmas Cactus as a portion of its proceeds benefits The Alzheimer’s Association. Available via Etsy.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, ALS
(Etsy)

12. Santa Spoon

People who live with chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, lupus, migraines and rheumatoid arthritis, may connect with the spoon theory, an analogy about self-pacing energy. Some people with anxiety and depression also consider themselves to be “Spoonies.” Painted with the likeness of Santa Claus, this spoon ornament is bent to hang easily on a Christmas tree branch. Available on Amazon.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, chronic disease
(Amazon)

13. Silver Multiple Sclerosis Ornament

In addition to cause-themed jewelry, the Inspired Silver brand crafts various Christmas ornaments supporting disabilities. This one is made of brass, topped with a sterling silver finish and embellished with cubic zirconia. The center charm features an orange ribbon in honor of multiple sclerosis awareness. Available on Amazon.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, MS
(Amazon)

14. Willow Tree Angel of Friendship Ornament

This handpainted resin ornament features Willow Tree’s famous angel figurine, dressed in a cream dress and wire wings, and hugging a small brown dog. Topped with a brown elastic cord for hanging, this Christmas decoration is a sweet choice for people who have a companion animal or service dog. Available on Amazon.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, Braille
(Amazon)

15. Wooden Bell Featuring Cerebral Palsy Ribbon

“Jingle Bells,” “Silver Bells” and, as with this Christmas piece, wooden bells are ringing. A traditional symbol associated with the holiday season, this bell-shaped ornament is made from environmentally-friendly wood and perfectly carved with a green ribbon in support of cerebral palsy awareness. Available on Amazon.

Christmas Ornaments Supporting Disability Awareness, cerebral palsy
(Amazon)

Happy Holidays!

For more holiday content, read these articles: 

Will Fetterman’s Victory, Following Stroke, Help Expand Disability Inclusion in Politics?

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Leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, candidates debated an array of hot-topic issues, such as abortion healthcare, climate change, immigration, inflation, marijuana decriminalization and student debt. But the issue of “ableism” seemed to take center stage in the Pennsylvania race for a seat in the U.S. Senate. After Democratic candidate John Fetterman suffered a stroke during the campaign season, some suggested that Fetterman’s opponent, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz — and supporters of the celebrity physician — raised questions about whether Fetterman was fit to serve in the leadership position.

Understanding the Impact of Stroke

In May, which coincidentally happens to be Stroke Awareness Month, Fetterman suffered a stroke. Years earlier, Fetterman had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm, which contributed to his recent health hurdle.

A stroke, also referred to as a brain attack, is a leading cause of disability in the U.S. And it ranks as the fifth leading cause of death. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel feeding the brain gets clogged or bursts. As a result, neither that part of the brain nor the part of the body it controls can then function properly. A stroke is a medical emergency that should be treated immediately.

After Fetterman received the urgent life-saving care he needed, he took to social media to update and reassure voters.

“I had a stroke that was caused by a clot from my heart being in an A-fib rhythm for too long,” he said, adding, “I’m feeling much better, and the doctors tell me I didn’t suffer any cognitive damage. I’m well on my way to a full recovery.”

clot in the brain, which occurs from a TIA or stroke
(American Heart Association)

Fetterman’s campaign shared that he underwent a “standard procedure to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator,” which would help to maintain optimal heart function. Despite his declaration of recovery and restored health, which was validated by his physician in a published report, Dr. Oz and his campaign supporters raised concerns about Fetterman’s capability to hold office. This questioning catapulted the issue of ableism, or the discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities, into this political race and beyond.

Prior to his stroke in May, Fetterman, who had served as the 34th Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania since 2019, was deemed the favorite to win Pennsylvania’s Senate seat. That was until ableism threatened his campaign endeavors. The race garnered much attention, and the campaigns ended with former presidents rallying on behalf of their party’s nominee (with Presidents Biden and Obama campaigning for Fetterman, and President Trump campaigning for Oz).

Ableism’s Influence on Elections

Physical changes that follow a stroke are the result of injury to the brain and may include one or more effects, according to the American Stroke Association. During a televised political debate in October 2022, Fetterman acknowledged his impaired communication skills but shared that his recovery was smoothly moving in the right direction. Depending on the type and severity of a stroke, some people are able to fully recover while others experience varying levels of debilitating effects.

“I was completely ignorant about strokes and stroke recovery – until I had one at age 54,” Luke Visconti, a chairman of the National Organization on Disability, shared with the media. “Many stroke survivors are able to recover – in my case and apparently with Lt. Governor Fetterman, it takes brutally hard work. People have told me that I’m a nicer person since my stroke. I certainly know I’m more perceptive and empathetic. Don’t we all need more empathy?”

Fetterman seems to have a similar perspective. After criticism following his debate performance, he shared via Twitter, “I got knocked down, but I got back up. I’m going to fight for everyone in PA who ever got knocked down and had to get back up.”

Will Fetterman’s Victory, Following Stroke, Help Expand Disability Inclusion?

Apparently, Fetterman’s expression of determination in spite of challenges resonated with voters — with and without disabilities. On November 8, 2022, Fetterman defeated Oz, earning his position as a U.S. Senator.

John Fetterman, on stage in front of Vote Pennsylvania signage
(Fetterman’s fashion choices have also made headlines, as he often wears casual black sweatshirts. Source: Twitter)

Disability activists weren’t surprised that a candidate’s disability – temporary or permanent – could impact voter confidence. Sadly, beyond politics, ableism affects the workforce in general. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 10.1% – a percentage about twice as high as the rate for those without a disability.

“We all know Fetterman has this rough-and-tumble, strong, get-things-done persona,” stated Sophie Poost, the program director at the advocacy group Disability EmpowHer Network, in a CNN report. “He’s adjusting the way he communicates, how he works, how he campaigns, [so] there’s this ablest thinking that says that because these adjustments aren’t ‘normal,’ they’re ‘unnatural.’ Because they aren’t typical to non-disabled people, it’s seen as a weakness.”

Poost’s analysis is an interesting one. However, Fetterman isn’t the first politician with a disability to hold a political position. A number of politicians (currently and previously on the federal, state and local levels) are known to have had some kind of disability. For example, Tony Coelho, who has epilepsy, served in the U.S. House of Representatives; and he was the primary sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who just won re-election in this midterm election, is a wheelchair user with paralysis from the waist down; Senator Tammy Duckworth from Illinois and House member Brian Mast are double amputees, both of which are the result of combat injuries. President Joe Biden has been vocal about being a public official with a speech impediment. And former presidents also aligned with the disability community, including Franklin D. Roosevelt (paralyzed due to either polio or Guillain–Barré syndrome), Theodore Roosevelt (blind in one eye) and Woodrow Wilson (partially-paralyzed due to a stroke).

So, the question is… Will Fetterman’s victory, earned after a debilitating stroke, help to expand disability inclusion in the political sphere (and the workforce as a whole)? Only time will tell. But let’s hope so. People with disabilities are the largest minority group in America and, most likely, a disability identity will affect all of us (either personally or loved ones) at some point in our lives. In our American society, running for elected office is one of the most effective ways members of marginalized groups, including the disability community, can advocate for the needs of such communities.

Will Redefining ‘Healthy’ for Food Packaging Help Reduce Debilitating Chronic Disease?

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Are you buying healthy foods? Is there a chance you’ve been misled by food package labeling? Maybe… But “healthy” proclamations may be redefined in an effort to combat chronic diseases which, oftentimes, are debilitating.

In the fall of 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed updated criteria for when foods can be labeled with the nutrient content claim “healthy” on the packaging. This proposed rule would align the definition of the “healthy” claim with current nutrition science, the updated Nutrition Facts label and the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

More than 80% of people in the U.S. aren’t eating enough vegetables, fruit and dairy. And most people consume too much added sugars, saturated fat and sodium. Therefore, the proposed rule is part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to helping consumers improve nutrition and dietary patterns to help reduce the burden of chronic disease and advance health equity.

Could this Update Benefit People with Disabilities Most?

The updated criteria will likely be especially beneficial for people with disabilities, chronic conditions and certain health ailments. That’s because statistics show that people with disabilities are less likely to be of healthy weight and more likely to be obese than people without disabilities. Data states that:

  • Children and adults with mobility limitations and intellectual or learning disabilities are at the greatest risk for obesity.
  • 20% of children 10 through 17 years of age who have special health care needs are obese compared with 15% of children of the same ages without special health care needs.
  • The annual healthcare costs of obesity that are related to disability are estimated at approximately $44 billion.
women grocery shopping in a motorized cart, with service dog
(Shutterstock)

Time for Healthier Foods

The proposed rule comes on the heels of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, as well as the release of the related national strategy, which aims to end hunger, improve nutrition and physical activity, reduce diet-related diseases (i.e diabetes, cardiovascular disease) and close disparity gaps by 2030.

“Nutrition is key to improving our nation’s health,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Healthy food can lower our risk for chronic disease. But too many people may not know what constitutes ‘healthy’ food. FDA’s move will help educate more Americans to improve health outcomes, tackle health disparities and save lives.”

The proposed rule would update the “healthy” claim definition to better account for how all the nutrients in various food groups contribute and may work synergistically to create healthy dietary patterns and improve health. Under the proposed definition for the updated “healthy” claim, which is based on current nutrition science, more foods that are part of a healthy dietary pattern and recommended by the Dietary Guidelines would be eligible to use the claim on their labeling, including nuts and seeds, higher fat fish (such as salmon), certain oils and water.

“Diet-related chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. and disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minority groups,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D.

He continued, “[This] action is an important step toward accomplishing a number of nutrition-related priorities, which include empowering consumers with information to choose healthier diets and establishing healthy eating habits early. It can also result in a healthier food supply.”

A Hispanic mother and daughter with disabilities cook together
source: Shutterstock</