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How to Find and Finance Wheelchair Accessible Vans

Navigating the world of accessible vans can be both a gateway to freedom and a source of frustration for individuals with mobility challenges and their families. Accessible vans are not merely vehicles; they are lifelines that facilitate independence, community involvement, and the joy of exploration.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides comprehensive information on adapted vehicles for individuals with disabilities, outlining how vehicles can be modified or equipped with adaptive technologies to meet specific driving needs. It covers a range of topics including cost-saving opportunities, licensing requirements, finding qualified driver rehabilitation specialists, and ensuring the safe operation of adapted vehicles.

Additionally, you will find information on financial assistance programs, insurance coverage, and manufacturer rebates for vehicle modifications, aiming to support individuals in maintaining mobility and independence through adapted driving solutions. You can search their database to find out if a mobility equipment dealer is registered with NHTSA. For more detailed information, visit NHTSA’s Adapted Vehicles page.

Understanding Accessible Vans

Accessible vans, often modified versions of standard passenger vans, are equipped with various features designed to accommodate individuals who use wheelchairs or have other mobility challenges. These modifications may include ramps or lifts for wheelchair access, hand controls for drivers, and altered seating configurations to ensure comfort and safety for all passengers.

Key Features to Consider

  • Ramp vs. Lift: Decide whether a ramp or a lift best suits your needs based on the wheelchair user’s preferences, the vehicle’s parking environments, and budget constraints.
  • Side vs. Rear Entry: Your choice will affect parking convenience and interior space utilization.
  • Driving Adaptations: From hand controls to touchpad systems, ensure the vehicle can be operated safely by the intended driver.
  • Interior Space and Seating: Consider the amount of space inside the van for both the wheelchair user and additional passengers.

Where to Find Accessible Vans

Finding the right accessible van involves research and patience. Here are some starting points:

Dealers Specializing in Accessible Vans

Many dealers focus specifically on accessible vehicles and offer a wide range of new and used vans, complete with various modifications to meet different needs. They can also provide valuable advice and customization services.

  • MobilityWorks (www.mobilityworks.com): Offers a nationwide inventory of accessible vans and provides detailed information on different models and modifications.
  • BraunAbility (www.braunability.com): Known for manufacturing and selling high-quality accessible vans and mobility equipment.
  • The Mobility Van Store (www.themobilityvanstore.com): Offers new and pre-owned  accessible minivans.
Shutterstock

Online Marketplaces

Online platforms can be a great resource for comparing prices and features from the comfort of your home.

  • The Mobility Resource (www.themobilityresource.com): An online marketplace featuring a wide range of accessible vehicles from dealers across the country.
  • eBay Motors (www.ebay.com/motors): Offers listings for used accessible vans, allowing you to bid or buy outright.

Local and Online Classifieds

Don’t overlook the possibility of finding a used accessible van through local classified ads or websites like Craigslist. You might find a great deal from a private seller in your area. Take precautions and have the vehicle fully inspected prior to purchase.

Shutterstock

Financing Accessible Vans

The cost of accessible vans can be a significant barrier for many families. However, several financing options and assistance programs can help manage these costs.

Grants and Assistance Programs

Numerous non-profit organizations and government programs offer grants and financial assistance to individuals requiring accessible transportation:

  • The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) (www.nmeda.com): Provides information on financial assistance programs and reputable dealers.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (www.va.gov): Offers assistance for veterans requiring vehicle modifications for service-connected disabilities.

Loans and Financing Options

Many banks, credit unions, and specialty finance companies offer loans specifically for the purchase and modification of accessible vans. Interest rates and terms vary, so shop around to find the best deal for your situation.

  • MobilityWorks Financing: Works with several lenders to offer competitive financing options for accessible vehicles.
  • BraunAbility provides the following financing and funding information on their website:

A state-by-state list of nonprofit funding organizations

Veterans programs

Manufacturer reimbursement programs 

Ideas for crowdfunding opportunities

Manufacturer Rebates and Programs

Some vehicle manufacturers offer rebates for modifications made to make their vehicles accessible. Check with automakers directly to see if they have any programs that could help offset your costs.

Maintenance and Warranty

Ensure your accessible van comes with a comprehensive warranty covering both the vehicle and the modifications. Regular maintenance by qualified professionals who understand accessible vehicles is crucial to ensure safety and longevity.

Test Drives and Inspections

Before finalizing your purchase, insist on a test drive and consider getting an independent inspection from a mechanic familiar with accessible vehicles. This can help you avoid costly issues down the line.

Transitioning to Your New Van

After purchasing your accessible van, consider additional resources such as driving training for adapted vehicles and community support groups for individuals with mobility challenges. These resources can be invaluable as you adapt to your new vehicle.

Acquiring an accessible van can significantly enhance the quality of life for individuals with mobility challenges and their families. While the process may seem daunting at first, understanding your options and knowing where to find financial assistance can make it a manageable journey. By doing thorough research and reaching out to the right resources, you can find the perfect accessible van that meets your needs and unlocks a world of independence and opportunity.

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How to Get Back on the Road After Paralysis

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Limb Loss Awareness Month: Advancements in Prosthetics and Resources

April marks a significant period dedicated to enhancing public awareness about limb loss and limb difference. Limb Loss Awareness Month serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by individuals living with limb loss and the remarkable advancements in prosthetics that have transformed lives. This observance also highlights the importance of accessible resources and support systems that provide care, information, and advocacy for individuals with limb loss. In this article, we will delve into the history of Limb Loss Awareness Month, explore the evolution of prosthetic technology, and provide a guide to essential U.S. resources for those affected by limb loss.

The History of Limb Loss Awareness Month

Limb Loss Awareness Month was established in 2010, by the Amputee Coalition, a national non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people who have experienced limb loss or limb difference. The Amputee Coalition has been at the forefront of limb loss advocacy, education, and support, working to raise awareness about the challenges faced by the limb loss community and to promote greater inclusivity and accessibility. The initiative aims to highlight the resilience of individuals living with limb loss, educate the public on prevention and recovery, and advocate for advanced prosthetic technology and healthcare policies that improve quality of life for amputees. Through various activities, events, and educational campaigns during April, Limb Loss Awareness Month serves as a key part of the Amputee Coalition’s efforts to create a more informed and supportive society.

Advances in Prosthetic Technology

The Evolution of Prosthetics

From ancient wooden limbs to the sophisticated, computer-assisted devices of today, prosthetic technology has undergone an extraordinary evolution. Early prosthetics were primarily designed to hide disabilities and were not functional. However, as understanding and technology advanced, so did the design and functionality of prosthetic limbs, making them more comfortable, adaptable, and life-like.

Wooden prosthetic exhibit in Egypt. Remarkable example of ancient Egyptians using wooden prosthetics to replace missing toes. Credit Shutterstock.
Credit JSTOR Daily

The Impact of Modern Technology

The last few decades have seen revolutionary advancements in prosthetics, including myoelectric arms that respond to muscle movements, microprocessor-controlled knees that adapt to walking speed and terrain, and 3D-printed limbs that provide affordability and customization. These innovations have significantly improved mobility, independence, and quality of life for individuals with limb loss.

Resources for Individuals with Limb Loss

Navigating life after limb loss can be challenging, but numerous organizations and resources in the U.S. offer support, information, and advocacy. Here are some key resources:

Amputee Coalition

The Amputee Coalition is a national non-profit organization dedicated to empowering people affected by limb loss to achieve their full potential through education, support, and advocacy. They offer a wide range of resources, including a national peer support network.

National Limb Loss Resource Center

Funded by the Administration for Community Living, the National Limb Loss Resource Center provides comprehensive information and resources for people with limb loss and their families, healthcare providers, and insurance professionals.

Veterans Affairs Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service

For veterans, the VA offers prosthetic and sensory aids to eligible individuals, providing access to a range of services and equipment designed to enhance mobility and quality of life. To learn more visit: http://www.prosthetics.va.gov/index.asp

Prosthetics and Orthotics Programs

In the United States, there are several highly regarded prosthetics and orthotics programs dedicated to training professionals in the field and providing cutting-edge patient care. These programs often offer both educational opportunities for those looking to enter the profession and clinical services for individuals in need of prosthetic or orthotic devices. Here’s a list of some specific programs:

Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center

  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Program Highlights: NUPOC offers a Master of Prosthetics and Orthotics (MPO) degree and is known for its strong clinical and research components.
  • Website: www.nupoc.northwestern.edu/

University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

  • Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Program Highlights: The program provides a Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics (MSPO) and is recognized for its research initiatives and clinical partnerships.
  • Website: www.shrs.pitt.edu/rst

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

  • Location: Dallas, Texas
  • Program Highlights: UT Southwestern offers a Prosthetics-Orthotics Program with a combined Master of Prosthetics-Orthotics (MPO) degree, emphasizing evidence-based practice and interdisciplinary learning.
  • Website: www.utsouthwestern.edu

California State University, Dominguez Hills

  • Location: Carson, California
  • Program Highlights: Offers a Bachelor of Science and a Certificate in Orthotics and Prosthetics, focusing on preparing students for clinical practice and certification.
  • Website: www.csudh.edu/oandp/

Salus University

  • Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Program Highlights: Offers a Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics, focusing on preparing students for clinical practice and certification.
  • Website: www.salus.edu

University of Hartford

  • Location: West Hartford, Connecticut
  • Program Highlights: Offers a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics. There is also a five-year combined BS/MSPO program.
  • Website: www.hartford.edu

University of Central Florida

  • Location: Orlando, Florida
  • Program Highlights: UCF is recognized for its innovative approach to prosthetics and orthotics through its Limb Loss Research and Innovation Center. While UCF itself does not offer a specific degree program exclusively focused on prosthetics and orthotics like some of the other institutions mentioned, its involvement in the field is significant through research and development efforts, particularly in the area of bionic limbs and advanced prosthetic technologies.
  • Website: www.ucf.edu/
Credit University of Central Florida – Limbitless Solutions

Limb Loss Research and Innovation at UCF

UCF’s Limb Loss Research and Innovation initiative is notable for its cutting-edge work in creating affordable, advanced prosthetic limbs. The initiative gained widespread recognition for its development of bionic arms for children, often at a fraction of the cost of traditional prosthetics. This work has been spearheaded by the College of Engineering and Computer Science, showcasing UCF’s commitment to leveraging technology for social good.

Limb Loss Awareness Month serves as a vital reminder of the resilience, achievements, and needs of individuals living with limb differences. By supporting this observance, we contribute to a more inclusive society that recognizes the potential in every individual, regardless of physical challenges. As we continue to witness advancements in prosthetic technology, the future holds even greater promise for enhancing the lives of those affected by limb loss.

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From Service to Support: The Rise in Disability Benefits for Women Veterans

On March 21, 2024, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) revealed that it’s now providing disability compensation benefits to an unprecedented number of female Veterans. Currently, 702,557 women Veterans benefit from these services, marking a 26% increase from five years prior. These women, on average, possess a 68% combined disability rating and receive approximately $26,809 annually in compensation. Notably, 89.2% of female Veterans who apply for these benefits are successful, reflecting the VA’s commitment to this rapidly growing group within its care.

The surge in benefits and services for female Veterans is attributed to the PACT Act, significantly broadening health care and benefits for millions of Veterans exposed to various hazards during service. The VA’s focus on expanding access for female Veterans is part of a wider effort to ensure all Veterans receive the care and benefits they’ve rightfully earned.

Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tanya Bradsher, the first female Veteran to hold the position, emphasized that the VA aims to eradicate past barriers to care and benefits for women Veterans. With record-breaking numbers as a starting point, the VA’s goal is clear: no rest until every woman Veteran turns to the VA for support.

Outreach

Efforts to reach out to female Veterans include hosting outreach events nationwide, encouraging them to apply for benefits through VA.gov or by calling 1-800-MYVA411. This outreach coincides with Women’s History Month, during which the VA’s regional offices are actively participating in 139 events focused on women Veterans. These initiatives have led to significant increases in women Veterans availing themselves of education benefits and securing well-paying jobs, with women Veterans receiving a disproportionate share of Post 9/11 education and Veteran Readiness and Employment benefits in 2023.

The last two years have seen substantial expansions in VA healthcare for women, including enhanced breast cancer screenings, reproductive health services, and maternity care coordination. The PACT Act has played a crucial role in increasing enrollments in VA healthcare among women Veterans. Moreover, the VA recently inaugurated its first Women Veterans Experience Action Center, aiding over 340 women Veterans. The VA, alongside the Department of Defense, is also initiating a Women’s Health Research collaborative to further women’s health research and care.

With designated Veteran Coordinators and Women Veterans Program Managers at every VA regional office and medical center, the VA ensures that female Veterans have dedicated support for their unique needs. The Women Veterans Call Center also offers personalized assistance, highlighting the VA’s comprehensive approach to servicing women Veterans.

For more details on VA disability benefits and women’s health care, visit the VA’s benefits website and the women’s health care page at https://www.womenshealth.va.gov/.

Read the original VA press release here.

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Insights and Resources for World Autism Day 2024

World Autism Day, observed on April 2nd each year, stands as a beacon of awareness and understanding for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This day is dedicated to increasing understanding, fostering acceptance, and promoting advocacy for the rights and needs of those with autism. Let’s delve into the origins of World Autism Day, provide insights into what autism is and its historical context, and offer resources for individuals and families navigating the complexities of autism.

History of World Autism Day

The establishment of World Autism Day dates back to December 18, 2007, when the United Nations General Assembly declared April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). The resolution aimed to highlight the need to improve the quality of life of those with autism so they can lead full and meaningful lives as integral members of society. Since then, the day has served as a global platform to foster understanding, acceptance, and support for individuals with autism.

What is Autism? Understanding the Spectrum

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition characterized by challenges in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. It is a spectrum disorder, meaning individuals with autism can exhibit a wide range of strengths and challenges, with no two people being exactly alike.

The historical understanding of autism has evolved significantly over time. Early misconceptions led to stigmatization and marginalization of individuals with autism. However, advancements in research and advocacy have paved the way for a more nuanced understanding of the condition.

Historical Context of Autism

The history of autism traces back to the early 20th century when researchers began to identify patterns of behavior in children that differed from typical development. One landmark moment came in 1943 when Dr. Leo Kanner published a paper describing a group of children with “early infantile autism,” marking the first significant clinical characterization of the condition.

The understanding of autism has dramatically evolved since the term was first introduced. Another pivotal figure in this journey was Hans Asperger, an Austrian pediatrician who, in the 1940s, identified a form of autism that later came to be known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s research described children who displayed a distinct set of behaviors, including difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, alongside remarkable focus and skills in specific areas. Although Asperger’s work was contemporaneous with that of Leo Kanner, who is often credited with first diagnosing autism, it wasn’t widely recognized until decades later. The acknowledgment of Asperger’s Syndrome broadened the understanding of the autism spectrum, emphasizing that individuals with autism can have a range of abilities and challenges.

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, efforts to understand and support individuals with autism gained momentum. The introduction of diagnostic criteria, such as those outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), provided clinicians with standardized guidelines for identifying and diagnosing autism.

In recent decades, increased awareness and advocacy have led to greater recognition of the diversity within the autism community. The concept of neurodiversity, which celebrates the unique strengths and perspectives of individuals with neurological differences, has gained traction, promoting acceptance and inclusion.

Resources for Parents and Individuals with Autism

Close Up on Hands of a Female Specialist Working on Laptop Computer at Cozy Home Living Room while Sitting at a Table.

Navigating the journey of autism can present various challenges, but numerous resources are available to support individuals and families:

  1. Autism Speaks: A leading autism advocacy organization, Autism Speaks offers a wealth of resources, including toolkits, support groups, and information on research and treatment options.
  2. The Autism Community in Action (TACA): TACA is focused on providing education, support, and resources to families affected by autism. They offer a variety of programs including educational events, parent mentorship, and resources for treatment options to help improve the quality of life for people with autism.
  3. Autism National Committee (AutCom): This advocacy organization is dedicated to “Social Justice for All Citizens with Autism” through a shared vision that emphasizes respect, dignity, and the rights of individuals with autism. AutCom publishes materials and organizes conferences that focus on the rights and interests of autistic people.
  4. Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN): ASAN is a nonprofit organization run by and for autistic people, focusing on advocacy efforts to improve the lives of all autistic individuals. Their work includes public policy advocacy, the development of autistic cultural activities, and leadership training for autistic self-advocates.
  5. Autism Research Institute (ARI): ARI supports and conducts research to understand the nature of autism and to develop better treatments. ARI also provides educational resources for parents and professionals, advocating for the rights of individuals with autism.
  6. The Color of Autism Foundation: This organization is committed to educating and assisting African American families with children on the autism spectrum. The Color of Autism Foundation conducts awareness campaigns and provides resources to help improve the quality of life for families affected by autism.
  7. The National Autism Association (NAA): NAA focuses on safety, support, and education for individuals with autism and their families. They offer resources on a wide range of topics, from early learning and development to adult services. NAA also has a strong focus on issues related to wandering, safety, and prevention for those with autism.
  8. The Autism Society: With chapters across the United States, the Autism Society provides support services, educational resources, and advocacy efforts aimed at improving the lives of individuals with autism and their families.
  9. Organization for Autism Research (OAR): Dedicated to applied research and providing practical resources for those affected by autism.
  10. Online Communities: Platforms such as Reddit’s r/autism and Facebook groups provide spaces for individuals with autism and their families to connect, share experiences, and seek advice from others who understand their journey.
  11. Therapy and Intervention Services: Accessing early intervention services, behavioral therapy, and specialized educational programs can significantly benefit individuals with autism by promoting skill development and addressing specific challenges.

As we recognize the progress made in raising awareness and understanding of autism spectrum disorder, we must also foster acceptance, advocate for inclusion, and provide support services, to empower individuals with autism to thrive. Let us continue to work together to build a world that embraces and celebrates neurodiversity in all its forms.

 

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7 Tips for Creating an Inclusive Easter

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Easter is a time of joy and celebration for many families around the world. However, for children with disabilities, traditional Easter activities may pose challenges that hinder their participation. It’s essential to recognize and address these barriers to ensure that all children can enjoy the festivities. By making small adjustments and fostering an inclusive environment, Easter can become a truly memorable and accessible experience for every child.

1. Understanding Different Disabilities

It’s crucial to acknowledge that disabilities come in various forms, including physical, sensory, cognitive, and developmental. Understanding the specific needs and challenges of children with different disabilities is the first step toward creating an inclusive Easter celebration.

2. Adapting Easter Egg Hunts

Easter egg hunts are a beloved tradition, but they can be challenging for children with mobility impairments or visual impairments. To make these activities more inclusive:

  • Provide alternative ways to participate, such as assigning a buddy to assist with collecting eggs or using adaptive equipment like reachers.
  • Organize hunts in accessible locations with smooth terrain and clear pathways.
  • Use brightly colored or audible eggs for children with visual impairments.

UpBrands

Fidget Zipper BraceletsUpBrands, offer pre-filled Easter eggs with fidget zipper bracelets that provide tactile stimulation, promote focus, and offer relaxation, making them ideal additions in an Easter Basket.

Beeping Easter EggsMaxiAids offers battery-operated beeping Easter eggs for the       visually impaired.

Light-up Bunny Puffer BallsAmazon offers jumbo Easter eggs filled with a light-up bunny to ease stress or as a sensory toy.

3. Sensory-Friendly Celebrations

Many children with disabilities are sensitive to sensory stimuli. To create a sensory-friendly Easter celebration:

  • Consider the environment, opting for quiet spaces away from loud music or crowds.
  • Provide sensory-friendly activities like tactile egg decorating or sensory bins filled with themed materials.
  • Offer ear defenders or noise-canceling headphones for children sensitive to loud noises.

Fun and Function offer a variety of sensory-friendly toys, such as squishy stress balls, textured sensory balls, and more. These items can help individuals with sensory processing differences feel relaxed and engaged during Easter festivities.

Fun and Function

4. Accessible Crafts and Activities

Easter crafts and activities can be adapted to accommodate children with disabilities:

  • Choose crafts with simple instructions and tactile materials that are easy to manipulate.
  • Provide adaptive tools such as grips or stabilizers for children with fine motor difficulties.
  • Offer a variety of activities to cater to different interests and abilities.

5. Inclusive Easter Treats

Shutterstock

When planning Easter treats and snacks, consider dietary restrictions and sensory sensitivities:

  • Offer a range of options, including allergen-free treats and alternatives for children with dietary restrictions.
  • Provide visual guides or labels for children with food allergies or sensitivities.
  • Encourage creativity by incorporating healthy snacks into Easter-themed shapes and designs.

6. Educating and Building Awareness

Promote awareness and understanding of disabilities among participants, including children and caregivers:

  • Offer resources and information on disability inclusion to parents and caregivers.
  • Encourage open communication and empathy among children by teaching them about diversity and inclusion.
  • Foster a culture of acceptance and respect for differences within the community.

7. Collaborating with Disability Organizations

Partnering with local disability organizations can provide valuable insights and support in creating inclusive Easter events:

  • Seek guidance and resources from disability advocacy groups or organizations specializing in inclusive activities.
  • Invite representatives from these organizations to participate in planning and organizing Easter celebrations.
  • Foster ongoing collaboration to ensure that Easter events remain inclusive and accessible in the long term.

By implementing these strategies and fostering a culture of inclusivity, Easter celebrations can become truly accessible and enjoyable for children of all abilities. Every child deserves the opportunity to participate fully in the joys of Easter, and by working together to remove barriers and create welcoming environments, we can ensure that no child is left behind in the festivities. Let’s embrace diversity and celebrate Easter in a way that includes everyone.

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Rhythms of Resilience: Remembering Cola Boyy and His Legacy of Inclusion and Activism

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Cola Boyy, a singer and musician known for his distinctive voice and compelling fusion of disco, funk, and social commentary, left an indelible mark on the music world. His March 17th passing, at the age of 34, is not just a loss of a talented artist but also a reminder of the unique perspectives he brought to the industry, championing inclusivity and the rights of marginalized communities. Let’s celebrate the life and legacy of Cola Boyy, reflecting on his contributions and the void his departure creates in the music landscape.

A Spark of Unconventional Brilliance

Born Matthew Urango in Oxnard, California, Cola Boyy’s journey was anything but ordinary. Facing the challenges of spina bifida, scoliosis, and kyphosis, he turned to music as a form of expression and liberation. His sound—a vibrant blend of disco, funk, and modern electronica—served as a backdrop for lyrics that often delved into social justice, and equality. Cola Boyy’s music was a beacon of hope and resilience, encouraging listeners to embrace their identities and fight for their beliefs.

A Voice for the Voiceless

Cola Boyy’s activism was as integral to his identity as his music. He used his platform to advocate for those on the margins of society, pushing for changes in how we think about disability, race, and class. His lyrics challenged listeners to confront uncomfortable truths about inequality and injustice, all while grooving to his infectious beats. He stood as a testament to the power of music as a tool for change, embodying the spirit of resistance and the fight for a more inclusive world.

The Legacy Lives On

The news of Cola Boyy’s passing was met with an outpouring of grief from fans, fellow musicians, and activists. Tributes flooded social media, with many highlighting how his music and message had profoundly impacted their lives. Cola Boyy’s legacy is not just in the songs he left behind but in the movements he inspired and the conversations he ignited. He demonstrated that music could be a force for change, challenging us to listen more deeply and act more compassionately.

In Memoriam

As we remember Cola Boyy, we are reminded of the power of art to transcend barriers and connect us on a fundamental level. His life was a testament to the strength found in vulnerability and the beauty of living authentically. In his music, we find a roadmap for navigating our own struggles with grace and determination.

Cola Boyy’s departure is a profound loss for the music world and beyond. However, his spirit endures in the melodies he crafted, the lives he touched, and the change he championed. Let us honor his memory by continuing the fight for a more equitable and understanding world, one beat at a time.

As we bid farewell to Cola Boyy, we are reminded of the ephemeral nature of life and the enduring impact of love, art, and activism. In the face of sorrow, we find solace in his music, which continues to inspire and comfort us. Cola Boyy’s legacy is a call to action—a reminder to live with purpose, fight for justice, and cherish every moment of this beautiful, fleeting journey.

In the spirit of Cola Boyy, let us dance to the rhythm of resilience, love unconditionally, and strive unceasingly for a world where everyone belongs.

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How Color Therapy Benefits People with Disabilities

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Color therapy (or chromotherapy) is an alternative remedy that uses color and light to treat physical or mental health by balancing the body’s energy centers, also known chakras. This concept dates back to ancient Egyptians who used sun-activated solarium rooms constructed with colored glass for therapeutic purposes. Today, both conventional and holistic practitioners acknowledge the bright potential of art therapy (which, naturally, includes color). And, although color therapy remains a gray area in Western medicine, enthusiasts are tickled pink over its influence.

How Color Therapy Works

According to HealthyPlace.com, a mental health site, color therapy is based on the premise that different colors evoke different responses in people. Some colors are considered to be stimulating, whereas others may be soothing and, therefore, colors may impact one’s energy level, mood, appetite, emotions and even decision-making. Perhaps that means that color and lighting (i.e. an illuminated form of color) can be useful healing tools in combating an array of aliments.

Color therapy, per HealthyPlace.com, has been suggested (though not proven) to positively impact academic performance, aggressive/hostile behavior, asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, blood pressure, bronchitis, dyslexia and learning disabilities, enhanced athletic performance, epilepsy, insomnia, lethargy, lung cancer, migraine, muscle relaxation, prison reform, stress, uterine fibroids and vision disorders.

Color may also have adverse effects. The Epilepsy Foundation reports that about 3% of people with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy, in which exposure to flashing lights at certain intensities or to certain visual patterns triggers seizures. A study conducted at the University of Goldsmiths London found that certain colors were more likely to cause these epileptic fits. For example, red-blue flickering stimulus causes larger cortical excitation than red-green or blue-green stimulus.

The Chakra Rainbow of Color Therapy

1.    Root: At the spine, the ‘grounding’ chakra impacts survival instincts, stamina and passion. “Red” may stimulate circulation.

2.    Sacral: At the pelvis, the ‘optimism’ chakra connects to pleasure, enthusiasm and sexuality. “Orange” may be an antibacterial agent and ease digestion.

3.    Solar Plexus: At the naval, the ‘willpower’ chakra is associated with happiness. “Yellow” may aid the lymphatic and/or neuromuscular systems.

4.    Heart: At the heart, the ‘acceptance’ chakra is tied to balance and love. “Green” may fight depression.

5.    Throat: At the throat, the ‘expression’ chakra focuses on communication and knowledge. “Blue” may calm breathing and/or the heart-rate and eliminate toxins.

6.    Third Eye: At the brow, the ‘intuition’ chakra is associated with clairvoyance.“Indigo” may aid headaches.

7.    Crown: On the head, this ‘knowledge’ chakra aligns with imagination and spiritual awakening. “Violet” may calm the nervous system.

Color therapy aligns with the body's chakras.
photo credit: YogART

Ways to Integrate Color Therapy

Environment Design

The effects of color should be carefully considered when designing and constructing an inclusive classroom, according to findings published in the Journal of Family & Consumer Sciences Education. That’s because “some students (such as those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorders) may be more sensitive to color in the learning environment due to heightened sensory responses and strong visual processing abilities” and, so, over-stimulation through color could cause sensory overload. For example, exposure to red may cause the heart to beat faster, increase blood pressure and heighten the sense of smell. In contrast, blue may slow the pulse rate, lower body temperature and reduce appetite. Another study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that boys with autism were most overstimulated by yellow, and much preferred green and brown hues.

Environmental designer Frank H. Mahnke addresses academic design in his book Color, Environment and Human Response. He recommended warmer color schemes for elementary schools, cool hues to enhance concentration in upper level grade schools and pale green to enhance quietness in libraries. For ways to integrate color into learning, check out suggestions by the Kaplan Learning Company.

Medical institutes are integrating color therapy and art therapy too. To help ease stress among patients and caregivers, AdventHealth for Children in Orlando installed a Philips Ambient Experience lighting system in both the emergency department and patient rooms to achieve customizable illumination and imaging. “I have seen color therapy applied to the décor [at AdventHealth],” shares board certified pediatrician Stacy McConkey, MD, who says art therapy – such as coloring, painting, beading and music – is an effective distraction for her anxious patients. At her private practice, the Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Dr. McConkey created a sense of tranquility using ocean, jungle and other nature paintings with calming blues and greens. “I’ve seen some neat outcomes with patients that have tried alternative things. I am OK with laying these [approaches] on top of medically-proven care,” she proclaims.

If you’re interested in integrating intentional color selections into your decorating, contact at color specialist, at Sherwin Williams for example, to achieve a mood-enhancing environment.

Color tinted glasses can be used for color therapy.
photo credit: ZEN30

Color Gear

Freelance artists Chantel Rodriguez and Augusto (Goose) Herrera took their vision of color therapy into literal form. “Our glasses are like portable solariums that allow you to choose how you want to feel because colors influence us,” says Rodriguez, who co-founded ZEN30, an eyewear line of seven UV lens corresponding to the body’s seven chakras. Herrera explains that each color emits its own frequency; color enters through the eye and, eventually, reaches the brain which redirects the signal throughout the body. You can take an online test to identify which chakras are overactive, underactive or balanced to select an optimal hue – for recommended daily wear of 30 minutes. Sound shady? Users see results! For example, Camila Sofi, of Fort Lauderdale, says her niece, who has autism, wore a blue pair and displayed more expression and lengthened attention span.

Aromatherapy uses essential oils distilled from various plants. According to the Mayo Clinic, it 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 might reduce anxiety, depression, headaches, pain (especially for people with kidney stones or osteoarthritis) and also improve sleep and quality of life. There is a line of color specific essential oils that can be used in a diffuser or added to a bath. The green oil, for example, claims to balance the heart chakra with a blend of cedarwood, eucalyptus and pine.

Color Therapy Focused Activities

Color Yoga & Meditation

Color yoga blends color concentration with chakra-opening poses. Participants can wear ZEN30 glasses, for example, or practice is a color-lit studio. This type of yoga specifically focuses on the powers of the chakra rainbow. Similarly, to incorporate into meditation while taking intentional breathes, visualize yourself surrounded by your color of choice.

Art Workshops

Research, presented at a cardiovascular conference, found that stroke survivors who reported liking art had an easier time walking, were more energetic and less depressed, and felt happier and less anxious. Plus, their memory and communication skills fared better. Another study, from University College London, found that the same parts of the brain are stimulated when one looks at art as when one is in love; both releasing a chemical dopamine promoting feelings of affection and desire.

Art therapy ─ which, of course, includes exposure to color ─ is considered an effective rehabilitative method to aid physical and emotional health. As with physical therapy, repetitive exercise (i.e. painting strokes) of weaken muscles can help stroke survivors gain elasticity, strength and balance. For mental well-being, art therapy boosts creative expression, ignites a calming effect and can relieve stress. Stroke survivors with aphasia, a language impairment, may especially feel drawn to the creative expression of art, though art therapy can lead to increased visual and/or verbal communication for all survivors.

Color therapy is a form of art therapy.
Valerie Greene explores color therapy and art therapy. photo credit: Bcenter

“Art engages both sides of the brain to combine motion with thought,” says Valerie Greene, a stroke survivor and founder of Global Stroke Resource, also known as Bcenter, a nonprofit providing resources, hope and direction. The left side of the brain’s functions includes communication, repetition and detail; the right side controls imagery, memory and creativity. “Color therapy was a primary focus for my personal art therapy. Specific colors evoke emotion; for instance, blue is calming and yellow stimulates happiness.” Through the Bcenter, Greene has hosted art therapy sessions for fellow survivors.

Vanness Johnson, art director for Heroes of Freedom, a nonprofit serving disabled veterans, agrees: “Art gives [veterans] an avenue to dig deeper within themselves and express,” with a goal to combat post-traumatic stress.

Colorpuncture

Developed by Peter Mandel, a German naturopath and acupuncturist who viewed the body and mind as a single continuum constantly informed by light, colorpuncture involves the application of colored light frequencies to “acu-points” on the skin. Each color consists of different wavelengths and stimulates intra-cellular communication, according to colorpuncturists. Author and teacher Manohar Croke, Director of the U.S. Esogetic Colorpuncture Institute, proclaimed, “I believe colorpuncture is a remarkable adjunct tool to help psychotherapists deepen and enhance their work with their clients” to surface and release the imprints of psychological stress and trauma.

Have you tried color therapy? Share with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Want more holistic information? Read Holistic Therapies You Need to Know About.

Color therapy can be practiced with yoga.
photo credit: YogART

Feature image credit: AdventHealth Orlando

‍For additional resources on Art Therapy for Children and Teens, see this resource.

Nancy DeVault is an award-winning writer/editor contributing to local and national publications. Her storytelling spans a wide range of topics, including charity, disability, food, health, lifestyle, parenting, relationships and travel. Married with two kiddos, Nancy describes herself as a lover of the outdoors, fitness, news, traveling and binge reading magazines while sipping coffee.

Color Therapy Plain & Simple: The Only Book You’ll Ever Need (Plain & Simple Series)
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  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages – 06/01/2018 (Publication Date) – Hampton Roads Publishing (Publisher)
Color Therapy to Empower Your Mental Health: 10 Strategies to Manage Anxiety, Depression, Improve Self-Care and Relationships
  • Bloom, Primrose (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 59 Pages – 11/05/2023 (Publication Date) – Independently published (Publisher)
MoodVues 10-Pack of Color Therapy Glasses with Matching Cases – Healing Colored Chromotherapy Chakra Light Therapy Glasses Eyewear to Support Mood, Relaxation, Focus & More – Colorful Sunglasses
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Color Therapy: An Anti-Stress Coloring Book
  • Hardcover Book
  • Wilde, Cindy (Author)
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  • 128 Pages – 05/26/2015 (Publication Date) – Running Press Adult (Publisher)

Accessible Destinations for Spring Travelers

Spring travel is a time for relaxation, exploration, and making unforgettable memories. However, for individuals with disabilities, planning a vacation can come with its set of challenges, especially when it comes to finding wheelchair-friendly destinations, accessible accommodations, and transportation options. We’ll help make the process smoother by highlighting top accessible travel destinations for spring travel, along with tips on accommodations and transportation.

Accessible Travel Destinations

  1. Orlando, Florida
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Orlando is renowned for its world-class theme parks, and many, such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, go above and beyond to accommodate guests with disabilities. These parks offer wheelchair rentals, accessible ride entrances, and assistive listening devices, making them fantastic options for travelers seeking both adventure and accessibility. When planning your trip, be sure to check out information to obtain an Individual Accessibility Card and Universal Studios’ Attraction Accommodation Program.

  1. San Diego, California
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With its pleasant climate and beautiful beaches, San Diego is a great choice for an accessible spring travel destination. The city’s Balboa Park, home to gardens, museums, and the famous San Diego Zoo, offers wheelchair-accessible paths, sensory programming, audio tours, films with captioning, and more. Moreover, Mission Beach and Coronado Beach have free manual or power beach wheelchairs available (on a first come, first serve basis), ensuring everyone can enjoy the sand and surf.

  1. Washington, D.C.
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As the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., is rich in history and culture, with an emphasis on accessibility. The Smithsonian,  consisting of 17 museums, galleries and the National Zoo provide free admission and are fully accessible, offering a wealth of learning opportunities. All Smithsonian buildings are accessible with free manual wheelchairs, open captioning and audio description are incorporated into the exhibition videos. Sign language interpretation for the public programs can be arranged by contacting the hosting museum in advance. Download the free Aira app to connect to the museums free Wi-Fi and check out Access Smithsonian for individualized programs for people with disabilities.

The city’s public transportation system, including buses and the Metro, is also wheelchair-friendly, making it easy to explore. Need an accessible taxi? No problem. Check out either Royal Taxi or Yellow Paratransit that offer wheelchair accessible taxis.

  1. New Orleans, Louisiana
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New Orleans, often celebrated for its vibrant party scene, is also a fantastic choice for families planning their spring travel. Among its highlights are the Audubon Aquarium, that was the first aquarium in the country to be certified a sensory inclusive aquarium.

Audubon Insectarium and Audubon Zoo that captivates children and adults alike with its diverse range of animals and exhibits. Moreover, New Orleans boasts an array of museums that are both fun and informative. Wheelchairs are available at the Aquarium/Insectarium and Zoo information booths.

The National World War II Museum offers a deep dive into history and is certified sensory inclusive with KultureCity. Check out their accessibility page for more information or email accessibility@nationalww2museum.org. The Old U.S. Mint provides a unique look into the nation’s coinage and jazz history. The building is wheelchair accessible with elevator access to each floor.

Additionally, the Louisiana Children’s Museum stands out as a place where interactive exhibits blend learning with play, ensuring that every family member finds something to enjoy. The museum offers Sensory Friendly Playtime twice a month. Admission is free but registration is required. These attractions exemplify how New Orleans combines educational opportunities with entertainment, making it an ideal destination for families seeking a rich, engaging spring travel experience.

  1. Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Aquarium

The delightful spring climate alone draws tourists to this city in the South, where the absence of a beach goes unnoticed amid the plethora of activities. Home to the United States’ biggest aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium showcases a variety of marine life including sharks, dolphins, sea lions, and seabirds. Check out the aquarium’s accessibility page for information regarding wheelchair and golf cart availability, audio tours, tactile elements within the education stations, immersion encounters, and more. Additionally, prior to your arrival, check out the Georgia Aquarium’s social story to assist you in preparing for your visit.

Visitors can also explore the World of Coca Cola, experiencing tastings and more in the city that hosts the company’s headquarters. Their accessibility page provides information regarding wheelchair and mobility assistance, service animal policy and accommodations for the visually impaired or the blind. For those needing sign language interpreters, email woccattraction@coca-cola.com at least two weeks prior to your visit.

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The Lego Discovery Center offers fun for the whole family. Their accessibility page provides information regarding wheelchair access, tactile activities, and a Certified Autism Center. Download their Sensory Guide here.

Accessible Accommodations

When booking accommodations, look for properties that have clear accessibility features listed. Many hotels offer rooms adapted for guests with disabilities, which may include features like roll-in showers, grab bars in the bathroom, and lowered furniture. Websites like Airbnb have filters to search for listings that are wheelchair accessible, making it easier to find suitable lodging.

It’s important to contact accommodations directly before booking to confirm specific needs can be met. Whether it’s ensuring the room is on the ground floor or verifying the width of doorways, a quick conversation can help avoid potential issues upon arrival.

Transportation Options

Air Travel

Many airlines offer assistance for travelers with disabilities, from priority boarding to assistance with transferring to seats. When booking flights, inform the airline of any specific needs to ensure they are prepared to provide the necessary assistance. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also has programs in place to aid travelers with disabilities through security screenings. The TSA website has a dedicated page for people with disabilities and medical conditions for additional information and those who may need assistance through the screening and boarding process.

Public Transportation

Many popular spring travel destinations offer accessible public transportation options. This includes buses with wheelchair lifts, trains with dedicated seating, and taxis or ride share vehicles equipped to accommodate wheelchairs. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), public and private organization must meet ADA requirements. Researching the public transportation system of your destination ahead of time can provide insights into the best ways to navigate the area.

Rental Cars and Accessible Vans

For those who prefer to drive, many car rental agencies offer vehicles equipped with hand controls and other adaptive equipment. It’s recommended to book these vehicles well in advance, as they are often in limited supply.

Enterprise offers a range of adaptive driving devices such as hand controls, left foot accelerators, spinner knobs and pedal extenders, at no additional charge. Call ahead at least 2-3 days should you need an adaptive device. They do not offer lift-equipped vans for rental.

Alamo offers adaptive driving devices and surrogate drivers for those with disabilities who do not have a driver’s license. Alamo does not offer lift-equipped vans. For more information contact 1-800-651-1223 or TTY 1-800-522-9292.

Wheelchair Getaways is an online network for van rentals. Check out their site to find a location near you: www.wheelchairgetaways.com or call 866-884-1750.

Wheelers Accessible Van Rentals is a rental company that offer wheelchair lifts and other devices for both short-term and long-term rental. Contact Wheelchair Getaways at and Wheelers Accessible Van Rentals at reservations@wheelersvanrentals.com or (800)-456-1371.

Planning and Preparation

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A successful and enjoyable spring vacation begins with thorough planning and preparation. This includes:

  • Researching Destinations: Beyond finding accessible attractions, consider the overall walkability of the area and availability of accessible restrooms.
  • Booking in Advance: Whether it’s accommodations, transportation, or attractions, securing reservations ahead of time can help ensure availability and accessibility.
  • Travel Insurance: Opting for travel insurance that covers medical needs and equipment loss or damage can provide peace of mind.
  • Packing Essentials: Ensure you have all necessary medications, supplies, and any portable mobility aids or equipment that might be needed.

Spring travel is an opportunity to get away from the daily routine and enjoy new experiences. With the right planning and resources, individuals with disabilities can find accessible travel destinations that cater to their needs, offering both fun and relaxation. By focusing on accessible and inclusive destinations travelers can enjoy a wide range of accessible attractions, accommodations, and transportation options, ensuring a memorable and hassle-free vacation.

Remember, the key to a successful trip lies in careful planning and communication. By doing the necessary research and reaching out to services and accommodations in advance, you can pave the way for a smooth and enjoyable adventure.

Like this content? You may also like these travel-related articles:

Airbnb Announces New Updates to Better Serve Travelers with Disabilities

Holiday Air Travel Can Be Dangerous for Passengers with Disabilities

The Best National Parks for Accessible Travel

Best Florida Destinations for Travelers with Disabilities

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Accessibility Disabled World Travels – Tips for Travelers with Disabilities: Handicapped, Special Needs, Seniors, & Baby Boomers – How to Travel Barrier Free
  • Ingram, Tracey (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 64 Pages – 06/18/2018 (Publication Date) – Sovereign Education Media (Publisher)
Air Travel for Wheelchair Users
  • Lee, Cory (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 41 Pages – 11/11/2015 (Publication Date) – Independently published (Publisher)
Everything You Need to Know About Wheelchair Accessible Cruising
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Longmire, Sylvia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 120 Pages – 01/10/2020 (Publication Date) – PreJax Press (Publisher)
22 Accessible Road Trips by Candy Harrington (2012-05-18)
  • unknown author (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 01/01/1849 (Publication Date) – Demos Health (Publisher)

International Women’s Day 2024: Pioneers and Advocates

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In celebration of International Women’s Day and beyond, we want to shine a spotlight on some of the remarkable women from the disability community who have paved the way for rights, representation, and inclusion. These women have transcended barriers, challenged societal perceptions, and advocated for change, inspiring generations. Their contributions span across various fields such as advocacy, sports, arts, technology, and more, demonstrating the incredible impact of their leadership and resilience.

Pioneers, Activists and Leaders

The list below represents just a small sampling of the countless women who dedicate their lives to advancing the rights, representation, and well-being of the disability community worldwide.

Alice Sheppard – A dancer and choreographer who creates movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. Founder of Kinetic Light, a project that explores the intersections of disability, dance, design, identity, and technology.

Alice Wong – An activist, media maker, and consultant. She is the founder of the Disability Visibility Project, an online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture.

Bonnie Brayton – As the National Executive Director of DAWN (Disabled Women’s Network Canada), Brayton focuses on ending the poverty, isolation, discrimination, and violence experienced by Canadian women with disabilities and Deaf women.

Cheri Blauwet – A Paralympic wheelchair racer and a physician specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She has won multiple medals in the Paralympic Games and advocates for the inclusion of people with disabilities in sports and physical activity.

Corbett O’Toole – An activist and author, O’Toole has focused on disability rights and LGBTQ+ issues. Her work includes contributions to disability studies and advocating for accessible healthcare for disabled people.

Dame Evelyn Glennie – A Scottish virtuoso percussionist who is profoundly deaf. Glennie has a successful international solo career and is a leading commissioner of new works for solo percussion, demonstrating that hearing impairment is not a barrier to achieving musical excellence.

Diana Elizabeth Jordan – An actress, director, and producer with cerebral palsy. Jordan uses her platform and work to challenge perceptions about disability in the arts and to advocate for the inclusion of disabled artists in the entertainment industry.

Eliza Hull – An Australian musician, writer, and disability advocate, Hull is known for her work on the ABC series “We’ve Got This: Parenting with a Disability” and advocates for the representation of disabled parents.

Emily Ladau – A passionate disability rights activist, writer, and speaker, Ladau’s work focuses on exploring disability identity and examining how society perceives the disabled community.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) – Although more commonly known for her art, Kahlo is a significant figure in the disability community for her honest portrayal of her physical struggles and pain through her paintings, making her a symbol of resilience and creativity in the face of adversity.

Haben Girma – The first Deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, Girma is an advocate for equal opportunities for people with disabilities. She has worked to break down barriers in education and technology, and she was recognized by President Obama as a White House Champion of Change.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) – An American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. Keller’s activism and writing left a significant impact on the world’s view of individuals with disabilities.

Izzy and Ailbhe Keane – Irish sisters who founded Izzy Wheels, a brand that produces fashionable wheel covers for wheelchairs. Izzy, who has Spina Bifida, wanted her wheelchair to express her personality, leading to the creation of the brand that advocates for fashion inclusivity and self-expression.

Jean Driscoll – An American wheelchair racer known for her eight victories in the Boston Marathon. Driscoll is also an advocate for people with disabilities globally, focusing on empowerment through sports.

Jessica Cox – The world’s first licensed armless pilot, Cox is also the first armless black-belt in the American Taekwondo Association. She is a motivational speaker and advocate for people with disabilities, demonstrating that limitations are only perceptions.

Judy Heumann (1947-2023) – An American disability rights activist who played a pivotal role in the development and implementation of major legislation, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Katie Piper – After surviving an acid attack that led to major facial injuries, Piper founded the Katie Piper Foundation to help people with burns and scars to rebuild their lives. She is a best-selling author, inspirational speaker, and TV presenter.

Lizzie Velásquez – A motivational speaker, author and producer, Velásquez was born with a rare congenital disease that affects her appearance and health. She has become an advocate against bullying and for positivity and self-acceptance.

Lois Curtis – Institutionalized for most of her teenage years and into her 20s was one of the plaintiffs in the landmark Supreme Court case Olmstead v. L.C., which helped affirm the rights of people with disabilities to live in the community rather than institutions.

Maria Town – The President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), Town works to increase the political and economic power of people with disabilities. Her efforts include advocating for inclusive digital and community spaces.

Marlee Matlin – An American actress, author, and activist. Matlin won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her debut film role in “Children of a Lesser God” and is the first deaf performer to win an Academy Award.

Maysoon Zayid – An American actress and comedian, who has cerebral palsy. Zayid is known for her advocacy for disability rights and for using humor to break down stereotypes about disabled people.

Mia Mingus – A writer, educator, and community organizer for disability justice and transformative justice. Mingus speaks about disability, adoption, and the intersections of race, class, and gender.

Minda Dentler – An athlete and polio survivor. Dentler became the first female hand cyclist to complete the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. She speaks on resilience, empowerment, and overcoming obstacles, inspiring many within and beyond the disability community.

Patty Berne – A co-founder of Sins Invalid, a performance project that celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and LGBTQ+/gender-variant artists. Berne’s work focuses on themes of disability justice, exploring the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.

Rebecca Cokley – A senior fellow for disability policy at the Center for American Progress and former executive director of the National Council on Disability, Cokley has spent her career working towards disability justice and advocating for inclusive policies.

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson – A scholar in disability studies and bioethics. She has contributed extensively to the development of the field through her work on the social theory of disability, focusing on cultural perceptions and representations of disability.

Ruth Madeley – A British actress who has become a prominent figure in advocating for better representation of disabled people in the film and television industry. Madeley, who uses a wheelchair due to Spina Bifida, has starred in various productions and spoken out about the importance of authentic portrayal and opportunities for disabled actors.

Simone Aspis – A British activist and campaigner for the rights of people with learning disabilities. Aspis has been involved in various campaigns and organizations aimed at improving the rights and lives of disabled people.

Sinead Burke – An Irish writer, academic, influencer, and disability rights activist. Burke is known for her work in advocacy for inclusive design and has spoken at numerous international platforms about the importance of accessibility in fashion and design.

Tanni Grey-Thompson – A retired British wheelchair racer, a parliamentarian, and a television presenter. She is one of the most successful disabled athletes in the UK, having won 11 Paralympic gold medals, as well as six London Marathon victories.

Vandana Gopikumar – Co-founder of The Banyan and The Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health (BALM) in India, Gopikumar has worked tirelessly to provide care, support, and advocacy for mental health and disability rights.

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Continue the Work

These pioneering women have laid foundational stones in the journey towards a more inclusive and equitable world for people with disabilities. Through their tireless advocacy, creativity and leadership, they have illuminated the path for future generations, challenging us to dismantle barriers and embrace diversity in all its forms.

On International Women’s Day and every day, we celebrate their achievements and the profound impact they have had and continue to have on society. Their stories remind us of the power of resilience, the importance of visibility, and the necessity of inclusion in creating a world where everyone can thrive.

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Developmental Disability Awareness Month: Embracing “A World of Opportunities” 2024

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Feature image artwork “What?” by Lee Waters

March is recognized as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, a pivotal time for raising awareness about the challenges and achievements of individuals with developmental disabilities. Lead by the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), this month is dedicated to promoting understanding, acceptance, and inclusion within the broader community. It is a period marked by advocacy and outreach, aiming to bridge gaps in knowledge and foster a more inclusive society where individuals with developmental disabilities can participate fully and equally.

History and Formation

Developmental Disability Awareness Month has its origins in 1987, when then-US President Ronald Reagan officially recognized the event. The proclamation aimed to increase public awareness about the potential and needs of Americans with disabilities. This initiative encouraged support and resources to help individuals achieve their fullest potential and lead productive lives. The Centers for Disease Control` (CDC) categorizes developmental disabilities as impairments in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions start in the developmental phase, can affect daily activities, and typically last for an individual’s entire life.

2024 Theme: “A World of Opportunities”

For 2024, the theme “A World of Opportunities” highlights the campaign’s focus on celebrating diversity, removing barriers, and creating inclusive communities where everyone has the chance to thrive. The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) leads the observance, emphasizing the inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities in all aspects of community life and acknowledging the ongoing work to overcome existing barriers. The artwork for this year’s theme, “What?” was created by Lee Waters from Anchorage, Alaska.

How to Advocate and Participate

  1. Educate Yourself and Others: Use this month to learn more about developmental disabilities and share your knowledge with others. Spreading awareness can challenge stereotypes and promote a more inclusive society.
  2. Show Support: Participate in events or use social media to show your support. Utilizing the official color orange, symbolic of energy and positivity, can be a powerful way to demonstrate solidarity.
  3. Advocate for Change: Engage with policymakers and support initiatives aimed at improving the lives of those with developmental disabilities. Advocacy can involve pushing for accessible public services, inclusive education, and employment opportunities.
  4. Volunteer or Donate: Consider supporting organizations that work tirelessly to support individuals with developmental disabilities. Your time or financial support can make a significant difference in their operations.
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Resources and Podcasts

For those looking to dive deeper into advocacy or seek resources, the NACDD offers a plethora of information, in several languages, and opportunities for involvement. They, along with other organizations like The Arc and the National Disability Rights Network, provide platforms for education, advocacy, and support for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. In addition, check out the empowering voices and transformative perspectives from the podcasts listed below that are dedicated to the disability community.

BoggsCast – A podcast from The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities where faculty and staff explore best practice, showcase success stories, and help listeners envision possibilities for innovation through interviews with state and national experts.

Develop Abilities – Join advocates from Utah to learn about issues impacting the disability community, and about how self-advocates are working to Develop Abilities.

Disability Visibility – a podcast hosted by Alice Wong features conversations on politics, culture, and media with disabled people. (Note: The podcast ended with its 100th episode on April, 2021 but all episodes are accessible.)

Down to the Struts – Qudsiya Naqui is a lawyer and activist living in Washington DC. She identifies as a blind, South Asian woman, and is dedicated to making spaces and systems more inclusive of disabled people through public education, storytelling, and amplifying the voices of disabled people.

Included: The Disability Equity Podcast – A podcast from the Johns Hopkins University Disability Health Research Center that challenges stereotypes of disability by sharing stories, data, and news.

OurView: Disability Awareness – At OurView, we aim to raise awareness, educate, and change the tone of conversations about disabilities, and those who live with disabilities.

The Accessible Stall – podcast by Emily Ladau and Kyle Khachadurian. This podcast keeps it real about issues within the disability community.

In celebrating Developmental Disability Awareness Month 2024 under the theme “A World of Opportunities,” we are reminded of the collective responsibility to foster an inclusive world. By embracing diversity, advocating for equal rights, and supporting one another, we can create a community where everyone has the opportunity to succeed​.

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