MTA New York City Transit Hires First-Ever Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility

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For the first time ever, New York City Transit will have a dedicated accessibility chief. 

On Monday, NYCT President Andy Byford announced the appointment of Alex Elegudin as Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility. He’ll be tasked with overseeing and implementing the Fast Forward Plan initiative to expand accessibility to subway and bus customers, as well as improve Access-A-Ride service.

Elegudin, a longtime accessibility advocate, will serve as MTA NYC Transit’s innaugural Senior Advisor for Systemwide Accessibility, an executive-level position reporting directly to President Byford.  His first day on the job is Monday, June 25.

“Advancing the cause of accessibility is one of my top priorities and Alex’s new role will pull together all of our accessibility-related work streams, touching all Fast Forward projects and all NYC Transit departments,” President Byford said.

“I’m incredibly excited to be joining President Byford’s executive team,” Elegudin said.  “The vision set forth in the ‘Fast Forward’ plan will make NYC Transit work better for New Yorkers of all abilities, with a strong emphasis on improving accessibility quickly.  I look forward to being a part of making the plan a reality and helping to make New York City the most accessible city in the world.”

“Expanding accessibility is a priority for all MTA agencies, with the subway serving millions of people a day having particular urgency,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota, who has convened a special working group of MTA Board members to advise on improving accessibility.  “President Byford’s creation of this new position and Alex’s appointment are a victory for all of our customers who need more accessible subway, bus and paratransit service.”

Continue onto the MTA Newsroom to read the complete article.

 

This Fairhaven native actor proves minorities and people with disabilities can take center stage

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Brennan Srisirikul posing in front of an all blue backdrop while sitting in his wheelchair

By Seth Chitwood, Standard-Times

FAIRHAVEN — Brennan Srisirikul knew about the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge, but never had the confidence to submit a film — especially since he’s never made one. But after a crazy year, he knew it was time to go for it.

“With the anti-Asian murders in Georgia, it was personal for me, because I’m a mixed race,” Srisirikul said. “My dad is Chinese and my mom is American.” Srisirikul was born in Bangkok, Thailand and grew up in Fairhaven.

“My race wasn’t really ever something that I thought about,” he said. Srisirikul has cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair all his life. “I’m disabled. So, in my mind, for so long, I thought like that was the only thing people saw.”

But, Srisirikul said that during the pandemic he first faced anti-Asian racism. “The first time it ever happened, someone walked up to me and shouted in my face, ’15 Dollah! 15 Dollah!’”

Srisirikul also is a singer and actor. He wanted to create a short film that not only addressed racism but incorporated his background in musical theater. Alas, “BRENNAN! A New Musical, But Actually A Short Film” was born.

The short film stars Srisirikul opposite John M. Costa as Mike, his therapist. They discuss the impact of COVID-19 and Srisirikul wanting desperately to perform because of his new-found confidence for singing. Srisirikul struggled with his singing voice ever since he was 14.

“The most dramatic thing that ever happened to me was puberty,” he said

Click here to read the full article on Standard-Times

Planning for a Lifetime: 5 Key Considerations (and Resources!) for Parents of Special Needs Children

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Woman with a laptop and girl sitting on the floor by a couch looking at a tablet

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental disabilities affect approximately 17% of children aged 3 to 17 in the United States. As medical advances have continued, it’s become more likely that children with special needs may outlive their parents. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, the average life expectancy of a person with Down Syndrome is 60 today. In 1983, it was only 25.

JAMA Pediatrics suggests the lifetime costs for caring for a person with autism to be $2.4 million.

As parents and caregivers to children with special needs, we’re faced with challenges most can’t imagine. The University of Wisconsin did a study that demonstrated mothers of a child with autism had stress hormone levels similar to soldiers in combat!

This stress emanates from ongoing worry for the health and safety of your child, guilt that you did something wrong, feeling like you need to be an expert on your child’s physical or cognitive impairment, tirelessly advocating for medical treatments, school programs and accommodations — and paying for it all.

Here are five important considerations, along with resources, for parents of special needs children:

  1. Emotional Well-Being for the Entire Family

Parents of children with developmental disabilities have higher rates of physical and mental health issues than parents of children without these conditions.

Are you taking time to look out for your emotional and physical well-being? Having a child with special needs places enormous stress on a marriage and other relationships. Too often, parents ignore their own mental health issues because they are understandably overwhelmed with caring for their child.

You can find a helpful list of support groups for parents of children with special needs here.

  1. Financial Planning

Planning and getting started early is critical for parents of special needs children.

Understand the ongoing estimated costs to help support your child. Set up a third-party special needs trust before your child turns 18. Inform and invite family members to participate in building financial security for your loved one. Anyone can contribute to the third-party trust and every little bit will help.

If your child is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), paying for food and shelter from a special needs trust will cause a reduction in SSI benefits. That may be a worthwhile tradeoff if it’s the only way to meet preferred housing needs. You can pay for things like personal care, vacations or therapies not covered by Medicaid using the trust.

  1. Estate Planning

When you set up your estate planning documents, take the time to understand how to choose a trustee and trust protectors. The job of the trustee is to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries of the trust by safeguarding the assets of the trust and ensuring those assets are used as required by the terms of the trust.

A trust protector’s job is to supervise the trustee and protect the beneficiaries from any misconduct by the trustee. The trust protector can also perform other duties including replacing the trustee, assuming those powers are granted in the trust document.

The appointment of a trustee and a trust protector are among the most important decisions you’ll make to start building a support system for your loved one. A skilled attorney and advisory team can help make this difficult process less overwhelming and will be indispensable to you and your family.

  1. Living Arrangements

As your child ages, don’t wait to start looking for housing arrangements. You’ll want your loved one to be comfortable with the new living arrangements, and you’ll also want to help when you are able. It may be really difficult for your family, but imagine how much harder it would be to find housing when you’re gone.

  1. Letter of Intent

How will your child be cared for if you were no longer alive or able to do so? One thing you can do is start writing down information about your child that would be helpful to a new caregiver. Doing so is known as writing a letter of intent, and it’s one of the most important documents you can prepare for your child with special needs.

The letter of intent should include an overview of your child, information about daily schedules, diet, medical care, education, benefits received, employment, social activities, religious activities, behavioral issues and even funeral arrangements.

Once you address these issues, you may find comfort in knowing you have taken the time and effort to do your best to plan for the transition your child with special needs may ultimately confront.

Jeff Vistica, CFP™ (Certified Financial Planner), ChSNC® (Chartered Special Needs Consultant), AIF® (Accredited Investment Fiduciary) is the co-founding partner of Valiant Partners, a registered investment advisory firm, located in Carlsbad, Calif. Valiant Partners devotes its practice exclusively to serving the needs of parents with special needs children. Visit valiantfutures.com.

Disabled Raccoon Walking on His Own Thanks to His Dog Best Friend and Student-Made Wheelchair

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raccoon crawling on all fours using a custom made wheelchair

By Michelle Boudin, People

Odd couple Benton the Great Pyrenees and Boone the disabled raccoon are best friends helping each other make it through life with a positive attitude.

The duo lives at Nolin River Wildlife Sanctuary in Glendale, Kentucky — a sanctuary dedicated to nursing wild animals back to full health.

“Boone was diagnosed with a rare disorder, cerebral hypoplasia, that makes it very difficult for him to get around,” Mary Key, Nolin River’s founder, tells PEOPLE. “He came to us as a baby, and when it was time for him to start walking, I noticed there was a problem.”

Hoping to help Boone with his walking skills, Key looked up wheelchairs for animals on the internet but found that the nonprofit couldn’t afford the options available. So she reached out to a friend at nearby Central Hardin High to see if the school’s engineering students could help. The engineering teacher, Russ Pike, replied it was the perfect real-world project for his students.

“From the first time they brought Boone to class for the kids to meet him, they were fully on board. It’s pretty neat. Most of the time, you’re trying to get kids involved and engaged. Well, we had to reign them in because they were so excited,” Key says of the enthusiasm for the project.

Over the past few months, Boone regularly visited the high school so the engineering students could measure the raccoon for fittings and make adjustments to their prototypes. After a bit of tinkering, the students came up with a wheelchair — their third prototype — that worked for Boone.

“It’s amazing! The look on Boone’s face when we first put him in it … I was crying. He gets really engaged and gets a very purposeful look, and when he first moved in the chair, you could see him looking like this is different, and this is good,” Key says of Boone’s reaction to the custom creation. “He is absolutely adorable and unbelievably sweet, and now he can get around on his own.”

Click here to read the full article on People.

Singer with disability shines in Ali Stroker’s new kids book

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Cover image of the childrens book of an Ali illustration

By the Sentinel-Tribune

Broadway star Ali Stroker says she always felt like her “most powerful self” when onstage, and now as the co-author of a new book for kids, she’s trying to empower others.

Broadway star Ali Stroker says she always felt like her “most powerful self” when onstage, and now as the co-author of a new book for kids, she’s trying to empower others.

Stroker teamed up with her friend and middle grade author Stacy Davidowitz and set out to create a familiar character: a young girl in a wheelchair named Nat who wants to perform in a local musical.

“The Chance to Fly” — published this week — was a way for the actor to share her own experiences as a person with a disability and big dreams. Stroker, who has used a wheelchair since a car accident paralyzed her when she was 2, says she wanted to help kids with disabilities recognize themselves in the book. Even before winning a Tony in 2019 for her role in the Broadway revival of “Oklahoma,” Stroker served as an example of a person who doesn’t let limitations prevent her from achieving her goals. She made history as the first actor in a wheelchair to win the award and dedicated it to all kids with disabilities waiting to be represented in theater.

Stroker said she was driven to write “The Chance to Fly” because she didn’t have any stories like it to read when she was in middle school. In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Stroker talked about the challenges of writing a story similar to her own, representing people with disabilities, and naming her wheelchair.

AP: Nat loves musicals and performing. How did performing make you feel at her age?

Stroker: On stage, I felt like I was my most powerful self because people were looking at me and staring at me. But it wasn’t just because of my wheelchair and it was a safe place to be different kinds of people. For a long time, I felt like I had to be, you know, like happy and OK and inspirational for other people. And when I was on stage and I was playing a character who was going through something, I got to express all those other things that were living inside of me. Writing this book as well and going back to those really vulnerable, scary, first time moments was so healing. And I think teenage Ali was just really brave and really tough. And I feel so proud of where I am now.

AP: Nat sometimes feels embarrassed about her wheelchair. Was it hard to write about that?

Stroker: It was a challenge for me to go back to those moments. One of the ways I describe it is just like you feel like you’re like so hot and you feel like people are looking at you for the thing that you are most self-conscious of, and maybe the thing that you have the most shame about. And it’s just overwhelming. But I wanted to write it because whether you have a disability or you’re in a wheelchair or not, you have those self-conscious and really difficult moments in your life, especially as a teenager, when you just want to be like everybody else, but you’re not like everybody else. And the reason it needed to exist in this book is because I want young people to know that they’re not alone in feeling like that.

AP: The adult directors of the show cast Nat but tell her she doesn’t have to dance, which upsets her because doesn’t want special treatment. Why was that important to include?

Stroker: What’s so beautiful about living with a disability is that your creativity to solve problems is so accessible. It’s so heightened because this is a part of your everyday life. Nat is really disappointed, but then she goes away and she shares with her friends, her peers what’s going on, and then they offer to help her and they are going to not wait for the adults to solve the problem, but they are going to come up with the answer. That’s an ideal situation when you can ask your home team, the people that you trust the most for help, and then you can come up with a creative solution.

Click here to read the full article on the Sentinel-Tribune.

Chefs and cooks in the disability community share recipes for accessibility

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Chef Regina Mitchell prepares vegetables in her home outside of Las Vegas. Mitchell, who is blind, teaches Zoom cooking classes through the Nevada-based organization Blindconnec

LUCAS KWAN PETERSON

Chef Regina Mitchell’s Zoom cooking class begins like a lot of Zooms: friendly banter, reminders to mute here, some technical adjustments there. A few minutes after the 4:30 p.m. start time, there are about 20 people on the call. The menu for tonight: a vegetable stir-fry and a lemongrass-ginger soda.

“The blind can cook!” she says to the camera and laughs. “People say when you have lemons, you make lemonade. I turn lemons into limoncello. Or a lemon pavlova.”

PHOTO: (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Mitchell, 60, became blind as an adult. She teaches cooking through the Nevada-based organization Blindconnect and its life skills-based program, Angela’s House. On the first and second Wednesdays of the month from her kitchen in the Las Vegas Valley, Mitchell emphasizes fun and skill-sharing to help visually impaired people feel comfortable in the kitchen.

Food and cooking are essential areas where those with disabilities can often be invisible or overlooked. But Mitchell and other advocates are working hard to address the problem by offering classes and resources and putting forth ideas to make cooking and recipes accessible.

Soon, the class begins in earnest. Much of the process is what you might expect — verbal instruction, chopping, peeling, simmering — but Mitchell emphasizes kitchen safety and exploration through touch and smell.

“I encourage you to feel the difference between corn starch, flour, confectioner’s sugar,” she says. At another point, while peeling a piece of ginger with a spoon, she reminds students, “Feel it before you peel it,” to better acquaint them with the rough-skinned root. She suggests students rub spices together in their hands to “wake them up,” which also makes them easier to identify.

Mitchell’s journey to teaching grew from necessity. “It’s a place to come; it’s a place to connect,” she says of her Zoom classes. “It’s a place to gather; it’s a place to be able to say hi. Because really, as blind individuals, we are already isolated.”

Growing up in Compton, Mitchell learned a love of food and cooking from her mother and grandmothers. Thrust into a caretaker role as a teenager after the death of a sibling, Mitchell relied on a couple of go-to dishes to feed her family: enchiladas and tacos.

After she and her future husband, Stan, met at church, the couple moved to Seattle where Mitchell enrolled at the Seattle Culinary Academy. After cooking and consulting for years as a professional chef, which included brief internships with Emeril Lagasse and Julia Child, Mitchell moved to Las Vegas for a job.

In 2011, she began to feel pain — eye pain. At the hotel where she was working, she began to notice a change. Her walking became unsteady; she felt off-balance. “I realized I didn’t have that gait like I used to have,” she says. Her colleagues noticed. “I had to ask people at work to help me read some things, undercover, of course.” Over the next several months, her vision deteriorated.

She was eventually diagnosed with bilateral panuveitis, a condition that affects the middle layer of the eye and robbed Mitchell of her sight. Her doctor wouldn’t let her return to work.

“I lost my vision, I lost my job. What do I do?” Mitchell remembers thinking. At the time, she was 50.

In the United States, 26% of adults, or 61 million people, live with some type of disability. Of those, 6.8% have an independent-living disability — something that would cause difficulty running errands alone; 5.9% are deaf or severely hearing impaired and 4.6% are blind or severely visually impaired.

Studies have shown that food insecurity, or lack of reliable access to nutritious food, is more likely to occur in households where there is someone with a disability, further demonstrating the need for accessible classes, websites and tailored teaching strategies. A study from the USDA’s Economic Research Survey estimated that 38% of households with low food security included an adult with a disability. Poor diet, the study noted, can exacerbate health conditions and disabilities.

“Who, above anyone, could use information on how to cook?” says George Stern, a deafblind writer and disability rights advocate living in Lubbock, Texas. The disabled “benefit as much as anyone from that knowledge, if not more,” he said. But to reap those benefits, companies and businesses must make access for all a priority.

Stern says we must stop thinking about providing accessibility as a burden or barrier because it’s not. “Accessibility goes past the needs of any one disability class. An accommodation that benefits deafblind people benefits sighted people. Accommodations that benefit people in wheelchairs benefit non-disabled people.”

He cited the installation of accessible ramps in front of businesses as an example. Initially, some may complain about the cost or inconvenience, “but then you see the benefits,” for all people: parents with strollers or people making deliveries.

Kitchens and culinary spaces also should be designed with access in mind — not retroactively making accommodations. “Universal design is welcoming from the get-go,” Stern says. “We’re assuming disabled people exist because yes, hello, we do.”

The food industry, from kitchens to restaurants to culinary training spaces, still feels “off-limits” to those with disabilities, Stern says. He recalled applying for a job at a pizza parlor but was told he wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pace. The prevailing attitude, he says, is one of, “I’m going to assume what you can do based on what I assume I couldn’t do.”

Stern, who has written about the importance of alt-text and website accessibility for Serious Eats, wants to challenge traditional thinking about what those with disabilities can or cannot do, and are or are not interested in. “The crucial thing is that disabled people can contribute in ways they’re not thinking of.”

Stern’s partner, Danielle Montour, is an assistive technology specialist and amateur baker who graduated from the Colorado Center for the Blind’s Independence Training Program. She was born with retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer, and is blind. There’s fear in non-disabled communities, Montour said, regarding letting those with disabilities into a kitchen — specifically near knives and stoves. While the fear may come from a place of caring, “It just perpetuates this cycle of blind people who have to go elsewhere to get basic skill training,” she says.

“I understand the intention might be well, but the road to hell is paved with them.”

Montour’s medium of choice is baking, but she found that recipes often relied too heavily on visual indicators. She emphasized the need for different metrics for quality and doneness.

“I don’t want to know when something is golden brown,” she says. “If your only indicator is the color, I’m going to look for [another recipe]. What does it smell like? What should it feel like? What is the consistency of pastry cream? None of the recipes I saw told me what that should be.”

Mitchell, with her adult-onset blindness, was forced to make adjustments in the kitchen, which had been her solace for years. She met Raquel O’Neill, the president of Blindconnect, who introduced her to the concept of blindness skills, which include communication, orientation and independent living. In 2019, Mitchell began teaching cooking with Blindconnect.

Out of necessity, Mitchell’s food vocabulary expanded as a result of her blindness. “I’m trying to describe [food] to my listeners, I’m trying to describe it for the people in my Zoom class: This is what you’re going to be tasting if you do this right,” she says.

She recalls one simple but instructive memory from culinary school, before she had lost her vision. “My professor had us write how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich,” she says. “And at the time as sassy culinary students, you think you know it all. All of us failed it.”

The problem? The instructor wanted the students to write as if the person following it had never read a recipe. “I take five steps to my cupboard, I open my cupboard with my left hand. I take my right hand, I reach into my cupboard. I pull out my bread,” Mitchell recalls. “I pull my drawer out and I reach in with my left hand and I pull out my knife.”

That experience informed her teaching philosophy in a profound way: “That brought back the memory of being descriptive,” she says. “I thought, ‘Ah, that’s how I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna take that approach.’”

Read the full article at LA Times.

TikTok Makes Videos More Inclusive Of And Accessible To Deaf People With New Auto Captions Feature

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TikTok logo on an all black background

By Steven Aquino, Forbes

In a blog post published Tuesday, TikTok announced auto-captions. The goal is to make the service more accessible to those in the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. “Inclusivity is important because when people feel included, they’re more comfortable expressing themselves and engaging with their community.

We’re committed to fostering an inclusive app environment, and that means building products and tools that support our diverse community,” Stephanie Hind, Manager of Creator Management and Operations at TikTok US, wrote in the company’s post. With today’s update, creators are able to turn on captions from the editing page of the app, which then will automatically transcribe spoken audio into text.

Any generated captions can also be edited by the creator for better accuracy. On the viewing side, users can opt to disable captions if they so choose.

TikTok says the captioning functionality is currently localized in American English and Japanese, adding support for more languages is in the pipeline for the “coming months.” The company noted it collaborated with disability organizations such as The Deaf Collective to design and develop this feature.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Autistic student creates film on race and gender equality

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Jack Reddington sitting in front of his computer while turning and smiling at the camera

By Capital City College Group, FE News

A student with autism has revealed how creating an animated short film at college to promote race and gender equality helped him to cope with the condition.

Jack Reddington, 23, was among the students making films on equality while studying for a Diploma in Games Design and Animation at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

The completion of the film coincided with World Autism Awareness Week, a campaign by the National Autistic Society to raise awareness of the condition that affects 700,000 people in the UK.

Autism is a lifelong disability that affects how people communicate and interact with the world.

Jack scripted, produced and edited the film, which features simple animated figures of people from different backgrounds to explain racial, religious and gender equality.

He lives in Enfield and was diagnosed with autism when he was two.

Jack said: “Sometimes I get distracted and find it hard to concentrate. Creating animations has really helped me to focus more and keep my attention.

“I like being creative, coming up with ideas and solving problems with others, and I was very proud of the positive reaction of my teachers and classmates to the film.

“My teachers have been great, and I have learnt a lot from them. They have given me lots of tips and advice. If I struggle with a bit of work, they help me to get it done.”

Jack’s mum Bernie, 56, said: “Jack finds it socially hard and tends to keep himself to himself although we have encouraged him to make friends. The staff at CONEL have been fantastic from day one. They have been very patient with him. Nothing has been too much trouble.”

Jack started at CONEL on a Level 1 course in September 2016 and is expected to complete an Extended Level 3 diploma, the equivalent of three A-Levels, this summer.

During his time at CONEL, Jack has produced many other creative 3D animations during his studies including a sword that turns into a utility tool and then a pogo stick.

He has also attended RGX Rezzed, London’s leading gaming event at Tobacco Dock in Wapping, and taken part in e-sports tournaments with other students on his course.

Click here to read the full article on FE News.

How My Tattoos Have Helped Me Come to Terms With My Disability

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Three woman photographed separately to show off their tattoos.

BY CHLOE VALENTINE TOSCANO

There’s a shared evolution between tattoos and disabilities. Although the experiences are not identical, people with tattoos and people with disabilities have both historically dealt with societal stigma, stereotypes, and misconceptions. So, it was almost inevitable that these two identities would intersect, supporting each other’s growth as discussions once considered taboo started to lose their shock factors.

Photo :  Mira Mariah

I’m one of those people who has both a disability and a bunch of tattoos, but because my body art holds no deeper meaning beyond looking cool, I only just started to understand the greater purpose that can be served by a tattoo. Recently a friend of mine (who also lives with a disability), revealed that her arm tattoo completely changed how she felt about her body. “This was one of the things that reminded me to love my parts, and every time I see it, I feel good about it,” she said to me.

After that conversation, I wanted to understand more about how these permanent additions were helping other people re-envision their permanent conditions. Ahead, three more people share how their disabilities have influenced their tattoo collections.

Perhaps no one is as familiar with this intersection as tattoo artist Mira Mariah, aka Girl Knew York, who both tattoos people with disabilities and lives with a disability herself. After undergoing a leg amputation at 17, Mariah began exploring what it looks like to have a disability. Tattoos now occupy a large part of her mindset. “I was only shown a very narrow vision of what a disability would look like when I was younger. It was so wholesome and buttoned up,” she tells me. “I felt like I had to be this perfect white woman in every way to make my disability more palatable. So to do it in a way that’s like, ‘I’m rock n’ roll,’ and I have all these tattoos, and I’m so happy and having so much fun made it something I became very interested in.”

While someone covered in tattoos might not be what initially comes to mind for many people when asked to picture a person with a disability, Mariah would argue that an edgier physical appearance makes sense. “You have to be punk to be disabled because you’re living in a world that’s not built for you, and you have to reimagine and rework it for yourself constantly,” she explains. “I feel that being disabled is so aligned with being rock n’ roll, and tattoos are just a part of that for me. I think that’s my purpose and my message to the world: Being rock n’ roll and being an anarchist and being like ‘I’m gonna do it myself. I’m gonna figure it out.’ Having that approach to being disabled has really helped me.”

As we talk, Mariah motions to one of her tattoos that started it all. “It’s a backward mermaid: a seashell with human legs but one of them is a prosthetic, like mine. It’s by Mars Hobrecker, an excellent tattoo artist who also identifies as being disabled. And in getting that piece, I feel like I started my journey of glamorizing disability,” Mariah says.

As an artist, Mariah seeks to bring strength to those wanting tattoos of their own. “I always say, ‘this is a decision you make about your body.’ Women, queer, disabled, Black, and non-white people have had so many things done to their bodies throughout history that they didn’t decide or consent to,” she says. “To save up and get a tattoo feels more impactful and celebratory. It feels like an accomplishment. It feels empowering.”

Mariah also explains the peace she finds when tattooing people with disabilities. “An anxiety in me kind of quiets because I know that we understand each other from a place that only two people in the same scenario can.” Mariah then shares a beautiful connection that exists between disability and her work. “I can leave out whole limbs, and no one notices or cares. And I think that that was really cool in the early parts of my artwork was that I could make these women amputees, and no one would even know.”

Read Full article at allure.

What Does it Mean to Be ‘Deaf With a Capital D’? This ‘ Bachelor ’ Contestant Just Explained the Term

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Abigail Heringer wearing a black blazer while seated on a gray couch while on set of a talk show

By Claire Gillespie, Health

Last night during “The Women Tell All” episode of “The Bachelor,” fan favorite Abigail Heringer talked about representing the hearing loss community, what it was like being the first deaf contestant, and how being deaf differs from being Deaf (with a capital D).

“I was really scared when I decided to come on just because I think people view the hearing community and then the Deaf community—with a capital ‘D’—as black and white,” Heringer said. “And I’m kind of that gray space in the middle that hasn’t had a lot of light shown on.”

She went on to explain that while she was born “profoundly deaf” and can’t hear without her cochlear implant, she hasn’t been accepted as part of the Deaf community because she communicates vocally rather than with sign language.

“I had no idea how people were going to receive me,” the 25-year-old said of her time on the reality show. “The response has been incredible. I’ve had so many people reach out and say, ‘Thank you for sharing your story, I have a very similar one.'”

When it comes to the difference between “deaf” and “Deaf” (or “little d” and “big D,” as it’s commonly referred to in the hearing loss community) that Heringer spoke of, it basically boils down to this: To be deaf, means to have the audiological condition of not hearing, while being Deaf refers to being part of a specific group of deaf people who share a language (American Sign Language, or ASL) and a culture, according to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).

For instance, people who are deaf may not attend school for the deaf, describe hearing loss only in medical terms, identify with hearing people, and use oral communication instead of ASL. On the other hand, people who are Deaf typically have a strong deaf identity, attend schools and programs for the deaf, and use ASL to communicate.

That being said, big D and small d are simply reference points—there’s no right or wrong choice, and some people change their identity over time. Another term, “hard of hearing,” is often used by people with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss, but it may also be used by a deaf person who doesn’t have or want any cultural affiliation with the deaf community. As the NAD says, it comes down to choices, comfort level, mode of communication, and acceptance.

In addition to explaining that to the audience, Heringer also shared that fans told her how much they appreciated her showed hearing loss in a romantic light. “Because disability isn’t always romanticized,” she explained.

That meant also talking about the potential tough stuff that may have come up during the course of their relationship. During her time on the show, Heringer told “Bachelor” Matt James that if she was to have a family, there’s a “really strong possibility” that her kids would be deaf. On the February 1 episode, Heringer opened up to real estate broker James, telling him, “I think there’s just something about you, I’m super excited. I literally get the biggest smile on my face when I’m around you.”

Then things got serious, with Herninger revealing, “But I’m also going to be as open with you, obviously, through this process. You want a wife and you want a family and you know I want those things too. But if I were to have a family, there’s a really strong possibility that my kids would be deaf.”

Click here to read the full article on Health.

26-Year-Old Hopes to Be First Woman with Down Syndrome in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

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Mikayla Holmgren photograph headshop, she is pictures smiling and holding her chin with her right hand.

By Jason Duaine Hahn, People Magazine

Mikayla Holmgren has already made history, and she’s hoping to do it again.

The 26-year-old became the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA pageant in 2017 when she entered Minnesota’s competition. But Holmgren is now hoping to cross another barrier by becoming the first female model with Down syndrome to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit.

Holmgren hopes to be an inspiration for many people who have her condition. About one in every 700 people in the U.S. are born with Down syndrome, which occurs when an individual is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 6,000 babies in the U.S. are born with the chromosomal condition each year.

“We tell all our people who have special needs or Down syndrome, go ahead and do it,” Holmgren tells Gretchen Carlson in Friday’s episode of PEOPLE (the TV Show!). “Just follow your dreams and then do things.”

Holmgren recently submitted her audition tape to Sports Illustrated and is waiting to hear back — but she isn’t nervous about the answer.

“I just wait and see,” she says, “and fingers crossed.”

Click here to read the full article on People Magazine

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