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Award-winning Filmmakers Fundraise to Support Kids with Disabilities


The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), alongside Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray, announced a fundraiser running through January 30, by making their award-winning film I’ll Push You available for a virtual nationwide screening. Tickets and donations will go towards sending 500 kids ages 8-17 living with neuromuscular diseases to MDA Summer Camp. To purchase tickets from $15 to $150 packages, click here. Donations can also be made directly here.

The heartwarming film I’ll Push You is the story of Justin and Patrick, best friends who completed a 500-mile wheelchair journey across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Justin lives with a progressive neuromuscular disease known as multifocal acquired motor axonopathy. When he was first diagnosed, Justin received care from the San Diego MDA Care Center, part of a network of over 150 multidisciplinary clinics across the country. Since then, MDA has been a source of support.

Both Justin and Patrick understand the importance of adventure, independence, and community. They want every child living with neuromuscular disease to have experiences that open their eyes to the wonder of nature, give them a sense of purpose and identity, and connect them with others who understand the challenges of living with disabilities.

Justin and Patrick’s passion for others to overcome the challenges they face is why they are excited to partner with the MDA. Funds raised will help send kids to MDA Summer Camp, a place where children living with neuromuscular disease learn to push their limits, ask for and receive help, and feel empowered to advocate for themselves; and is provided at no cost to families as part of MDA’s mission. Registration for the 2022 MDA Summer Camp sessions opens in February and includes both in-person and virtual options. The in-person summer camp program is building back up after two years of virtual programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the high-risk community MDA serves. The 2022 program will include in-person summer camp locations across the country and several virtual sessions. For updates and information about the MDA Summer Camp program visit

“Challenges can be hard to overcome, which is why it’s so important to let others support us and ‘push us’ beyond the limitations we set for ourselves,” said Alicia Dobosz, Senior Director of Recreation and Community Programs at MDA. “We’re glad we were able to offer a virtual camp option during the pandemic to keep families connected, and we’re looking forward to building back our in-person camp program so children in our community can have that experience again. For decades, the MDA camp program has given people confidence, independence, life-long friends, and a community of support that they carry through their adult lives. The program enables campers to become advocates for themselves and leaders in the disability community, just like you see in the film.”

Help Us Send 500 Kids With Disabilities To MDA Summer Camp!

“Some of the children supported by the MDA have never had the opportunity to go to camp,” said Justin. “Others have missed out on the in-person experience the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, if it’s their first time going to camp or they’re going back again, every kid deserves this opportunity.”

“Our goal is to send 500 kids to camp,” stated Patrick. “For a lot of campers, MDA camp is an experience of a lifetime. We hope many will join us in the effort to make so many dreams come true.”

I’ll Push You – Film Synopsis:
I’ll Push You is a story of friendship and love, a story of hope and sacrifice, a story that explores the raw, deep human condition and the connections we all long for. The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain serves as a backdrop to the lives of Justin Skeesuck and Patrick GrayI’ll Push You provides insight into what it means to live for one another, what it means to overcome limitations, and what it means to push one another toward who we each long to be. At first glance, this story appears to be an adventure tackling a physical challenge in order to fulfill the dream of a man who lives life from a wheelchair. The reality of I’ll Push You is there are many ways we can push one another. Justin’s perspective on life and the way in which he lives it pushes Patrick beyond his fears and doubts. Join us as we discover what it means to let go of safety and what it means to rest completely in faith. To learn more visit

12 Disability-Friendly Jewelry Gifts for an Extra Special Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of the year when couples shop for heart-shaped chocolate boxes, fragrant bouquets, sappy greeting cards and sparkly jewels. The National Retail Association estimates that Valentine’s Day in 2022 will garner $21.8 billion in sales. Wowzer! Jewelry accounts for approximately 20% of Valentine’s Day gift purchases. And so, AmeriDisability has compiled a list of a dozen disability-friendly jewelry gifts that we know all couples – abled-bodied, interabled and disabled – will LOVE.

12 Disability-Friendly Jewelry Gifts   

  1. ASL Love Necklace | $42-$256

Declare your affection with this necklace engraved with the word “love” in American Sign Language (ASL). Available in solid gold, gold fill, sterling silver and rose gold, this necklace comes in several adjustable lengths. Plus, 10% of sales of this ASL-inspired piece support the Washington State Association of the Deaf. Other signs and/or symbols from this line include “peace,” “rock on” and more. And 10% of those profits go to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, which funds research committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness. Two thumbs up for that!

"hand gesture" links
“Hand Gestures Link” by GLDN
  1. Love Spinner Fidget Ring | $169

Themed with x’s and o’s to symbolize hugs and kisses, this ring by Tula Stone Jewelry aims to remind the wearer that they are surrounded by love. One of the copper rings is intended for fidgeting, which can aid concentration and/or relieve stress and anxiety. This ring, and many other disability-friendly pieces, is sold by Patti + Ricky, an adaptive fashion marketplace featuring accessories, clothing, jewelry and more.

xo fidget ring
The Love Spinner Fidget Ring is sold via Patti + Ricky.
  1. White Gold Ear Cuff (For Hearing Aids) | $190

This 14K “CZ Band” by HearClip is a beautiful gift for stylish loved ones who are a part of our deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Also sold by Patti + Ricky, the white gold finish on this cuff will have jewelry admirers of all abilities feeling green with envy over this fashion-forward piece!

fashionable ear cuff
The White Gold Ear Cuff is sold via Patti + Ricky.
  1. Path of Life Anklet | $32

Alex and Ali’s ‘Path of Life’ design comes as a bracelet, charm or necklace, but we especially adore the 11.5” anklet option. Available in silver or gold, this anklet gives a leg up to life’s twists, turns and miraculous detours. And, of course, many of us within the disability community can certainly relate to that, right?  

Alex and Ani anklet
Path of Life design by Alex and Ani.
  1. Personalized Braille Pendant Necklace | $24

Sensibly priced on Amazon, this sleek rectangular piece is a shining star. The colorful pendant is made of polymer clay pressed into a silver-plated cabochon type pendant blank and has silver-plated metal dots that are raised, smooth and easy to read. Personalize a word, name or saying, and choose the favorite color of your loved one with low vision or blindness 

Braille Pendant Necklace
This personalized Braille Pendant Necklace is available on Amazon.
  1. Intentional Capsule Bracelet or Necklace | $20-$26

Research has found mind-body approaches — such as relaxation, breathing or guided imagery — can help treat many health conditions, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This is because your mind affects your body, and your body affects your mind. This dance between the two can improve your health or make it worse. Your mind has power! And so, the Intentional Capsule invites wearers to use that power by writing a message, mantra or intention; then keep it close – both physically and mentally. The water-resistant, nickel-free capsule is 1” in length and 5/16” in width.  

Intention Bracelet
The Intention Capsule is available as a bracelet or necklace.
  1. Flare Safety Cuff Bracelet | $129

Disguised as a fashionable gloss cuff, the iPhone compatible Flare smart bracelet has a hidden button that allows the wearer to trigger a fake phone call, text friends for help, send a GPS location or even contact 911. Choose from gold, rose and silver metal finishes, and even a textured design. Flare was designed by two assault survivors as a safety item, but Flare may also aid some people with disabilities that require a safety feature. Leather and beaded bands are also available.

Flare safety bracelets
Flare offers an array of safety cuff options. 
  1. Munchables Leaf Sensory Chew Necklace | $14.58-$16.66

Munchables Chewelry and The MunchablesSensory shop on Etsy offers this stylish chewable for adults or teens with autism, ADHD or special needs. This sophisticated piece is a standout among users because most other oral necklace designs skew toward a younger demographic. Available in gold or silver, the leaf is recommended for mild-moderate chewers but reviewers praise the piece for its durability. One reviewer, Lachlan T., said: “As an autistic adult, I was worried that a product geared toward children wouldn’t hold up for my sensory needs. But that fear has dissipated now having this in my possession. Clearly made to excellent quality; perfect for my chew style. It looks gorgeous too, and fits in with my sense of style so I don’t feel like it “stands out” when I wear it in public. The clasp is easy, doesn’t require a lot of dexterity which I love. I highly recommend this!”  

Mucnhables Sensory Leaf
This chew necklace is specifically designed with adults and teens in mind.
  1. Aromatherapy Bracelets | $14-$16

Special Sparkle describes itself as “a special kind of jewelry company.” It’s run by Kelly Neville, who loves all things ‘bling’ and has Down syndrome, and her mother Karen. The pair makes an array of bracelets and key chains. We’re especially drawn to the aromatherapy line, like the True Blue Aromatherapy bracelet. This piece combines amazonite beads with dyed lava stones. Just dab a few drops of your favorite essential oil onto the lava beads to enjoy. According to the Mayo Clinic, aromatherapy stimulates “smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system ─ the part of the brain that controls emotions.” Studies have shown that aromatherapy may reduce anxiety, depression, headaches and pain (especially for people with kidney stones or osteoarthritis), and also improve sleep and quality of life.   

Special Sparkle displays its jewelry line.
Kelly of Special Sparkle displays her large selection of jewelry designs.
  1. Fossil Pendant | Prices vary

Designer Cindy Lou hand-makes natural stone jewelry using raw crystals, fossils, shells, sea glass and other unique materials. Because she has mitochondrial disease, she aims to keep her collection disability-friendly, featuring “necklaces and bracelets that are easy to wear for people with mobility, strength and dexterity issues.” This includes clasps that are easy to open and close and even clasp-free options. Shop online at or via Etsy. Ideal for Valentine’s Day, we love Cindy’s dark pink fossil coral carved into a heart pendant. It’s wrapped in sterling silver wire and strung on a silver-plated chain with a self-closing lobster clasp. Custom designs are also available.  

pink coral heart-shaped pendant
Designs by Cindy Lou are unique.
  1. Emergency Bluetooth Necklace & Removable Pendant | $175

This Trelawear “Sally” Bluetooth pendant features faceted resin stones available in five different colors: opaque black, lapis blue, turquoise blue, white mother of pearl and tanzanite purple. This piece is encased in 12K micron plated gold or imitation rhodium finishes, with a magnetic clasp. It is compatible with iPhone and requires a monthly monitoring system.

Woman wearing an emergency bluetooth pendant
This Trelawear “Sally” Bluetooth pendant provides safety.
  1. Benevolent Bee Stud Earrings | $30

Because honey bees would together, they often symbolize victory, courage and community. Valerie Greene, a two-time stroke survivor and founder of the Bcenter, explains: “The bee has become the metaphoric pillar of recovery (for stroke survivor and the disability community as a whole) essentially because bees are not designed to fly but can; thus, reinforcing how a belief in recovering from a stroke starts with the belief that you can and will.”

Gold bee earrings
These earrings inspire all to “bee kind.”

Here are Links to Jewelry Helpers

For similar content, read these AmeriDisability articles:

Feature image credit: Special Sparkle | Prices and availability are subject to change.

Covid Takes its Toll on Caregivers: Nearly 60% Have Shouldered New Caregiving Responsibilities Since the Pandemic


The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been felt especially hard among the nation’s caregivers, according to the latest findings from Northwestern Mutual’s 2021 Planning & Progress Study. One in five (21%) of Americans report they are currently providing care for someone, and among them six in ten (59%) say that they have had to take on new or expanded caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic.

The majority of caregivers (73%) report receiving help of some kind with their caregiving responsibilities, most often from family and friends:

  • Family – 53%
  • Friends – 25%
  • Community groups – 14%
  • Health care professionals – 11%

However, more than a quarter (27%) of caregivers say they do not receive any additional help.

senior-aged couple using a computer

Caregiving, even in the best of circumstances, poses significant emotional, lifestyle and financial challenges,” said Kamilah Williams-Kemp, vice president of risk products for Northwestern Mutual. “Layer on top of that a global pandemic, which has disrupted and altered many people’s lives in so many ways, and the toll it is taking on caregivers has spiked.”

Financial Impact on Caregivers

On average, nearly a third (31%) of current caregivers’ monthly budget goes toward providing care. Those costs include professional support, as well as expenses for services caregivers provide themselves.

What’s less apparent in the numbers is the financial uncertainty that providing care can lead to. For example, 35% of current caregivers are not sure how much of their monthly budget goes toward providing care.

“This is a difficult topic for many families to address, especially ahead of when a caregiving scenario is actually required,” said Williams-Kemp. “But it’s critical that long-term care be part of financial planning conversations.”

Planning for Long-Term Care

Increased caregiving responsibilities over the last 20 months have prompted many Americans to pay more attention to long-term care. The study shows that a third (34%) of adults have planned for their own long-term care needs. Among them, more than half (53%) say the pandemic has changed their views on long-term care. As a result, they have taken specific steps toward preparing for their needs, including:

  • Increasing their savings – 46%
  • Incorporating long-term care into their financial plan – 39%
  • Talking to their financial advisor – 37%
  • Purchasing long-term care insurance – 36%

senior couple

“Planning for long-term care has been thrust onto the financial radar for many Americans during the pandemic,” said Williams-Kemp. “Long-term care coverage provides flexible options for in-home care in addition to facilities like nursing homes and assisted living centers, giving people access to the type of care that makes most sense for their unique situation. It’s good to see that a growing number of people are taking action, and hopefully this is the start of what will be a longer-range trend.”

Feminine Hygiene Just Got Easier for People with Disabilities


Feminine hygiene can be tricky to navigate and, perhaps, especially so during menstruation for individuals with disabilities. Since menstruation typically occurs monthly, hygiene products like pads, menstrual cups and tampons are necessities. And because they are discreet and likely the cleanliest option, tampons are the most popular product among feminine hygiene customers. Still, for people with physical limitations, chronic pain and other disabilities, ease of use isn’t exactly… well, easy.

However, a brand new product called TINA (Tampon INsertion Aid) is about to improve the feminine hygiene market. And it’s about time… PERIOD!

Identifying an Accessible Product Gap and Demand

Ali Kight, the founder of TINA Healthcare, says the idea for TINA came about during an engineering design class she took during undergrad studies at Georgia Tech in 2016. Her workgroup decided to redesign the tampon because the product, quite simply, doesn’t serve all people as it should. As they dug into the design history of the tampon applicator, the budding inventors found that the tampon hadn’t been significantly updated in about 90 years (since it was first invented and patented by Dr. Earl Haas).

accessible restroom sign

Then, the student team stumbled upon a forum for people with spinal cord injuries, where members were discussing how they dealt with tampon use. “Some members with C6-C7 tetraplegia were struggling to use tampon applicators and were resorting to hysterectomies and pharmacological mitigation of their period because there were no other options. Pads, for example, interfered with their catheterization,” Kight tells AmeriDisability. “This thread inspired us to redesign the tampon insertion and removal experience for accessibility; in particular, prioritizing users with limited dexterity. And TINA (Tampon INsertion Aid) was born.”

Soon thereafter, the team began posting about TINA on social media and immediate interest flooded in from people with varying disabilities and health issues. That sparked the transition of TINA from being an innovative class project into a much bigger product development centered on accessibility and inclusion.

TINA was originally designed for people with mobility limitations, but Kight says it’s evolved to accommodate any and all menstruators. “In particular, we have found that TINA helps those with cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, scoliosis, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, obesity, gender dysmorphia, first-time (tampon) learners and those just looking for an easier way,” Kight explains.

How it Works

TINA is a reusable aid that clips onto off-the-shelf applicator tampons and facilitates easy, comfortable and consistent insertion through simple, upper-arm movements. By replacing fine motor manipulations and adding extra reach, TINA allows for fluid, single movement to achieve application. There is also a feature that helps with removal.

The demand for accessible feminine hygiene products is without a doubt present. According to Kight, initial studies by TINA Healthcare found that 80 percent of people with disabilities would like an assistive aid to facilitate tampon insertion.

TINA for accessible hygiene

“When I saw TINA I thought, ‘Yes, an assistive device that will finally help me!’ I have a connective tissue disease that causes me to progressively lose my fine motor skills. TINA gives me a sense of ‘normalcy’ back,” declares Lacey, who tested the product.

Several hundred potential customers have tested the TINA, and feedback has been put to use. Kight offers, “Ergonomics matter! As an engineer, it is easy to prioritize functionality from first principles. In other words, the first product we created included all of the right tolerances, materials and geometry to get the tampon into the right place when the correct forces were exerted on the device. Once we put the device ‘out into the wild,’ we immediately learned that we had so much more we needed to consider: Was the grip comfortable? Was the design intuitive? Was it easy to misuse? Was the form factor aesthetically pleasing?”

TINA Healthcare is finding the answers to these questions to be varied, and they are committed to evaluating user insight to finesse the design. In fact, TINA has gone through at least eight refinements over its lifetime thanks to tester input. Most recently, TINA Healthcare integrated opinions about the handle to create a better grip and reach while including softer features on parts that encounter the body for optimal comfort.

Empowering Users

TINA Healthcare showcases the identification of yet another accessibility gap and, thankfully, an adaptive solution. Now the company is working to establish widespread availability of TINA, such as through e-commerce platforms and retail stores. Kight says she hopes TINA Healthcare will also inspire others to explore universal design and inclusivity.

Ali Kight, founder of TINA Healthcare, dressed in graduation cap and gown and holding her dog
photo source: Twitter

Kight, who is finishing up her Ph.D. at Stanford University, says TINA Healthcare has been perfecting the product for nearly three years as it’s essential to get the product just right. This includes ensuring compatibility with different tampon brands and sizes.

Early access pre-orders are now available through TINA’s online shop.

Expanding Accessibility through Collaboration

TINA Healthcare received an initial investment through Georgia Tech’s CREATE-X start-up incubator program. While this growing business remains in its infancy stage, it’s advancing through investments of individuals and disability allies. Of course, Kight hopes business will soon boom once TINA hits more and more shelves.

Potential product users can support TINA Healthcare by sharing personal experiences – anonymously or otherwise – via the company’s blog. TINA Healthcare is also unveiling a chat safe-space via Facebook Groups to encourage conversations centered on disability, menstruation complexities and more. This platform will require community ambassadors and group moderators. Those interested in such opportunities can inquire using the online contact form.

TINA Healthcare logo

TINA Healthcare intends to expand its accessible product line to include menstrual cups and disks and, eventually, other grooming aids and make-up.

“Magic Table” Offers New Hope for Those with Dementia and Intellectual Disabilities


Tover, a Dutch-based healthcare technology company, announced the U.S. launch of its “magic table,” a pioneering cognitive stimulation system scientifically proven to substantially increase the wellbeing and quality of life for those living with cognitive challenges, such as dementia or learning disabilities.

Tovertafel is an award-winning serious games system that projects playful interactive light animations on existing dining tables in the nursing home or care environment, benefitting both residents and their caregivers. At a time when the healthcare industry is hemorrhaging employees, Tovertafel can also help retain staff in assisted living facilities because the system helps to lighten workload, reduce stress, and increase employee satisfaction. And thus, resulting in less turnover and significant cost savings for administrators.

Believing in Magic

Tovertafel translates to “magic table” in Dutch, and magic is exactly what this technology delivers. Launched in 2015, the first magic table emerged from research indicating that 90% of nursing home residents with dementia suffer from apathy, which negatively influences their physical, cognitive, and emotional wellbeing. In a controlled study, Tovertafel was introduced to residents in a nursing home environment and found to show a significant increase in physical activity and improvements in social interaction, happiness, and reduction of anger, fear, and sadness.

In a statement released in January of 2022, Tover founder and CEO Hester Anderiesen Le Riche said, “The Tovertafel represents the next generation of technology for people living with cognitive challenges. We are excited to see this evidenced-based play system rolled out across the U.S. in the coming weeks and months and play a role in creating more moments of happiness for those living with cognitive challenges, and their family members, friends, and caregivers.”

In addition to its scientific backing and attractive price point, Tovertafel is the only product of its kind to boast a co-design method, meaning designers and non-designers worked closely together when developing the system, taking into consideration the end-users and their environments.

Bob Van Dyk, President and CEO of New Jersey-based Van Dyk Health Care, is an early U.S. adopter of the system. “I have been so impressed to see the way our dementia residents have taken to the Tovertafel. They love it. Residents with a mild cognitive decline to those with late-stage dementia, everyone including our staff are enjoying and benefitting from this amazing product,” he said.

The Tovertafel has been available across EuropeAustraliaNew Zealand, and Canada since 2015, and has sold over 5,500 units. And, in January of 2022, the company announced plans to sell and distribute the system in the United States.

Meet the Popcorn Company That Burst into Inclusive Employment


January 19th is National Popcorn Day, a day bursting with good taste and good health benefits. National Popcorn Day celebrates one of nature’s most extraordinary snack foods: popcorn! You see, popcorn has the unique ability to literally turn itself inside out, providing whole-grain goodness in a tasty snack form. And as it just so happens, popcorn is also a good choice when it comes to creating a successful inclusive workforce.

Popping into Inclusive Employment 

Steve Bier describes his adult son, Samuel, as fun, bright and energetic. Just like everyone else, Samuel strived to find a job that he loved within a welcoming workplace. But, because Samuel happens to have autism, landing dignified employment proved to be more challenging than it should’ve been.

All parents seem to possess problem-solving superpowers when it comes to their kiddos and, perhaps, that’s especially true when it comes to parents of children with special needs. So when Steve discovered a popcorn company for sale, the idea of an inclusive business model popped to mind. Run by this father-son duo with a team of employees with autism spectrum disorder, Popcorn for the People is a nonprofit company granting meaningful employment to individuals with disabilities. Employees are trained to cook, package and sell delicious gourmet popcorn. And lucky for them, it all happens within a fun workspace full of buttery aromas!

Samuel, of Popcorn for the People, in their facility
Samuel helps lead his team at Popcorn for the People. (photo credit: Popcorn for the People)

Popcorn for the People uses non-GMO kernels and non-GMO sunflower oil, and pops kosher and gluten-free options. They offer 11 gourmet flavors, available for purchase online in bags or tins. Nibble your way through the unique flavors, such as Cookies n’ Cream, Dark Chocolate Espresso and Chicago Baked Cheddar.

A Healthy Snack Attack

Popcorn inspires guilt-free snacking. That’s because, according to Michigan State University Extension, popcorn offers health benefits by being a low glycemic food and offering many polyphenols found in plant foods that help rid the body of free radicals which damage cells and promote aging.

Of all plant foods, popcorn has one of the highest concentrations of polyphenols, containing more polyphenols and antioxidants than most fruit.

Additionally, the USDA Agricultural Research Service says “low GI diets have proven health benefits. They improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with Type 1, as well as Type 2, diabetes. Because they are slowly absorbed, they help in weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Fiber is good for diabetics because research suggests that it helps to control blood sugar levels by slowing gastric emptying.”

bowl filled with Lemon Dill popcorn
Lemon Dill Popcorn (

Here are other nutrition tidbits about popcorn: 

  • Popcorn is a whole grain and provides energy-producing complex carbohydrates. One serving can provide about 70% of an individual’s recommended daily intake of whole grains.
  • Popcorn contributes fiber to the diet. Dietary fiber from whole grains or other foods may help reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
  • Popcorn contains no cholesterol and is virtually fat-free.
  • Popcorn has a number of essential vitamins including folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, pantothenic acid and vitamins B6, A, E and K.
  • A serving of popcorn contributes about 8% of the daily value of iron, with lesser amounts of calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.

Ready to start snacking? Order bags from Popcorn for the People, or pop your own treat using this recipe from

RECIPE: Dilly Lemon Munch

Dill and lemon bring a brightness to this delicious snack.

Yield: 2 quarts


  • 2 quarts of popcorn, popped
  • 2 tablespoons shredded lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon dill weed
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon low-sodium salt


  • Toss popcorn with lemon peel and dill weed.
  • The flavor enhances as popcorn stands.

Nutrition Facts: 40 calories, 2.5 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 5 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 1 g protein, 25 mg potassium

Happy National Popcorn Day!

For more healthy snack ideas, try these: 

Understanding & Managing Complications of Lupus


Many people may recognize the term “lupus” and think of it as an autoimmune disease that can cause joint pain and swelling, but you may not be aware lupus impacts an estimated 1.5 million Americans and can affect many parts of the body.

Who is at Risk?

The disease that causes the immune system to attack its own tissues mainly impacts women, who make up 9 out of 10 lupus patients. Genetics also play a role in lupus. If you have a family member with lupus or another autoimmune disease, you are at greater risk.

Some racial and ethnic groups are also at elevated risk, including those of Black, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American and Pacific Islander heritage. Additionally, Black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian American lupus patients are more likely to develop complications, including kidney damage (also known as lupus nephritis), and these patients tend to have worse outcomes than white patients.

What is Lupus Nephritis?

Lupus nephritis – kidney swelling and irritation caused by lupus – affects up to 60% of patients with lupus, according to the American Kidney Fund. It can cause permanent kidney damage, called chronic kidney disease, which can affect your quality of life. People with lupus nephritis also have a higher chance of heart problems, blood vessel problems and developing certain types of cancer.

Symptoms of lupus nephritis include weight gain, fatigue, joint pain or swelling, muscle pain, fever, high blood pressure and frequent urination. Because some of the symptoms of lupus nephritis can also look like symptoms of other diseases, it’s important for lupus patients to talk to their doctors about testing their kidney function regularly. Testing your kidney function involves a urine test to look for protein and a blood test to check for waste products in your blood.

granddaughter embracing grandmother

What Happens After A Diagnosis?

If you are diagnosed with lupus nephritis, it is important you see a kidney doctor, called a nephrologist. Treatment for lupus nephritis focuses on preventing additional kidney damage. It’s also important to recognize lupus nephritis can impact your mental health too. These tips from the American Kidney Fund can help you navigate your care and cope with lupus nephritis:

  • Ensure your kidney function is tested regularly and you are referred to a nephrologist.
  • Keep records of your symptoms, tests and test results so you can share them with your doctors in detail.
  • Consider medication to lower your blood pressure, if directed by your health care provider, which can help lower the amount of protein in your urine.
  • Write down questions you have for your doctor and bring them to your next visit.
  • Take notes on what your doctor says during your visits.
  • Find healthy ways to cope, such as meditating, journaling or exercising.
  • Take a diuretic, or water pill, if directed by your health care provider, to help rid your body of extra fluid, which can raise your blood pressure and cause strain on your heart.
  • Talk to a professional, such as a mental health therapist, counselor or social worker, to help understand and process emotions, improve coping skills and advocate for your needs.
  • Join a support group to connect with others who have similar experiences.
  • Ask your doctor for handouts or suggestions for where you can go for more information.
  • Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion if you feel your doctor is not taking your concerns seriously.

To learn more and find resources to help cope with lupus nephritis, visit

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Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Remodel with Universal Design in Mind


Local code ensures new construction homes and renovation projects reflect the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Universal design, on the other hand, does more than make living spaces more accessible for those with disabilities. It expands on regulations to create more user-friendly spaces regardless of abilities, resulting in more enjoyable, functional design.

Often, when people think of universal design, they’re thinking of design that reflects the needs of seniors who wish to age in place. That’s not always the case. Universal design can also benefit families with special needs or simply serve as a smart investment for the future.

Principles of Universal Design

To better understand universal design and how it might apply to your project, consider how the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) describes the seven principles of universal design:

  1. Equitable use: The design is useful for people with diverse abilities.
  2. Flexibility: A wide range of individual preferences and abilities are accommodated.
  3. Simple and intuitive: The design is easy to understand regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills or current concentration level.
  4. Perceptible information: Any necessary information is effectively communicated to the user.
  5. Tolerance for error: Recognizing the possibility of accidents, the design minimizes potential hazards.
  6. Low physical effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with minimal fatigue.
  7. Size and space: An appropriate size and space is provided and isn’t affected by the user’s body size, posture or mobility.

Trends in Universal Design

The line between practical universal design and convenience features that drive up a room’s “cool factor” is growing increasingly blurry, according to Gary Grabowski, owner of Greater Home Services and a NARI Universal Design Certified Professional (UDCP).

One example is curbless showers, which eliminate a wheelchair barrier with an appealing design element.

In fact, bathrooms are among the highest demand remodeling projects Grabowski sees, especially for people whose mobility is affected, either personally or for a loved one who visits the home.

Other examples of on-trend universal design in the bathroom are floating, wall-hung vanities. Grabowski said the open floor space that design creates is enticing whether you need to be able to roll a wheelchair under it or not.

Other on-trend upgrades, such as motion-activated fixtures like fans, faucets and touch controls for showers, may feel like a bit of luxury in the short term but could serve an accessibility role down the road.

In other parts of the house, luxury vinyl plank flooring continues to grow in popularity. Not only is it practical and easy to clean, but it’s appealing from a design standpoint and also offers a barrier-free advantage.

image of universal design blueprint and tools
photo credit: National Association of the Remodeling Industry

Getting Started with Universal Design

Because most homeowners only explore universal design when there’s a specific need, the world of options is largely unknown. That’s why Grabowski recommends enlisting the help of a UDCP.

“Knowing universal design and the features that enhance accessibility for all kinds of scenarios, I can suggest ideas that people have never thought of to make a living space easier to use,” he said.

Grabowski also suggests starting at least a year out so you can make plans from a big picture perspective, including ancillary projects that could make your project even more successful.

Find more advice for your next remodeling project and certified remodelers in your area at

Words courtesy of Family Features; photo courtesy of Getty Images.

A New Blind-Focused Foundation Launches to Advance Braille Literacy and Touchable Art


The TouchPad Pro Foundation (TPPF), a brand new 501c3 nonprofit focused on blindness, launched in early December 2021 to serve the disability community. TPPF’s mission is to ‘develop and distribute revolutionary products to children who are blind or have low vision (BLV) and provide these products to those who cannot afford them at low to no cost.’ The nonprofit launched on December 3rd to coincide with International Day of People with Disabilities, a day of activism and raising awareness for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

Quick Facts regarding the BLV community:

  • Only 32% graduate high school
  • Fewer than 16% graduate college
  • A staggering 70% are unemployed

How Important is Braille?

Of those who are employed, an astounding 85% are braille literate. But, unfortunately, according to the National Federation for the Blind: “Only about 10% of blind children are currently learning it.” Also, less than 10% of adults know braille. During the pandemic, braille instruction has been even more challenging, and this points out a great need worldwide.

girl with brailledoodle

These appalling statistics inspired Daniel Lubiner to invent a new product called the BrailleDoodle. Mr. Lubiner is a 25-year veteran teacher of students with disabilities and a teacher of the arts for BLV students. Now he is leading a diverse team including engineers, mobility specialists and educators both with and without sight. Mr. Lubiner states, “Our hope is to develop and distribute the BrailleDoodle as soon as possible. Most Braille-related products are outdated and too expensive for most. The BrailleDoodle is an inexpensive, safe and simple solution.”

The BrailleDoodle is an accessible take on the Etch-a-Sketch that allows the blind to touch what they are drawing. A simple plastic ‘Braille Sleeve’ slips over the device and acts as a stencil, creating dozens of braille cells, giving instructors the ability to teach braille remotely.

The world needs to get to a point where society is fully inclusive and accessible for people with disabilities. Although many factors are at play, learning braille is crucial for success in education and employment for the BLV community. Jacqueline Becker, a Braille Specialist, states, “As a TVI for over 33 years, I am very excited at the prospect of being able to work with the BrailleDoodle. The device’s durability and affordability mean that it can be purchased for in-school use and for many of my students who continue to be remote learners. I look forward to using it!”

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Must-See Movie Alert: “See For Me”

Looking for a new flick? Check this out…


Dir. Randall Okita
(Canada, 2021, 92 min)

In this gripping thriller, Sophie, a blind woman who was a former ski champion, is house-sitting at a secluded mansion and finds herself under invasion by thieves. As the events escalate, Sophie must rely on her resourcefulness and a little help from friends if she’s going to survive the night.

Q+A with lead actor Skyler Davenport
Accessibility included (CART, open captions, and audio description)

Streaming Dec 30–Jan 5, $15
For more info + tickets, click here.