Amy Purdy–Living Beyond Limits

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Amy Prdy collage of images including snowboarding and dancing witht he stars

By Brady Rhoades

If you were to read Amy Purdy’s medical history, you’d be introduced to a journey that, for many, could feel incredibly daunting.

If you were to check out her accomplishments as a snowboarding champion, a renowned motivational speaker, a dancer, an actress, a model, a podcaster, a New York Times bestselling author and a philanthropist, you’d be introduced to her toughness and will.

And if you watched her shredding the slopes on her way to medaling in the Paralympics or ball-rooming her way into America’s hearts on “Dancing with the Stars,” you’d start to see the big picture.

Purdy’s mantra? “Live beyond limits.”

“Live beyond limits became my mantra very organically. I personally never liked being told what I could or couldn’t do,” said Purdy, 41. “I always wanted to figure out what the possibilities were. Snowboarding, for example, felt impossible at first, and I could have just walked away but I got creative, made my own feet and figured out a way to not just do it again but to excel at it. I’m so grateful that I never gave up.”

The Fight of Her Life

Amy Purdy dancing with Derek Hough in front of live audience outside
Adaptive snowboarder, Paralympian, motivational speaker and actress Amy Purdy poses for a portrait while snowboarding. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Born in Las Vegas in 1979, Purdy was just 19 years old when she contracted bacterial meningitis. She was given a two percent chance to survive. She lost both of her legs below the knees, lost both of her kidneys and her spleen (she later received a kidney transplant from her father).

Purdy met the challenge head-on, weathering unthinkable surgeries and rehab, teaming with medical experts, designing her own prosthetic feet and legs (through trial and error, sometimes with chunks of wood) and never losing sight of her goals.

“There’s always going to be something preventing you from your goal, whether it’s a loss of legs or anything else, but you’ll never be happy if you surrender to circumstances,” she said.

Purdy’s immediate goal after her initial diagnosis was to snowboard again. After getting prosthetic legs, she achieved that. It turned out to be the start of big things.

Purdy eventually won a bronze medal in snowboarding at the 2014 Paralympics and a silver in 2018. She formed a non-profit organization — Adaptive Action Sports — along with her husband, Daniel Gale, who is also a competitive snowboarder, to get snowboarding included in the Paralympics. Adaptive Action Sports, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, targets those with physical disabilities who want to get involved in action sports (snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing). Their organization, founded in 2005, also trains athletes with physical disabilities to qualify for the U. S. Snowboard Team. Purdy believes part of her mission is helping others with health challenges.

Amy Purdy snowboarding
Adaptive snowboarder, Paralympian, motivational speaker and actress Amy Purdy snowboards at Arapahoe Basin. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
“It was an evolution from losing my legs, relearning to snowboard, helping others learn to snowboard and finally getting it into the Games.”

Purdy began snowboarding seven months after she received her prosthetic legs. About a year after her legs were amputated, she finished third in a snowboarding competition at Mammoth Mountain.

On Her Own Two Feet

In 2003, Purdy was recruited by the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) as a spokesperson. At the time, she didn’t live far from the CAF headquarters, as she and Daniel had moved back to San Diego to pursue surfing.

In San Diego, she continued her pre-amputee profession as a massage therapist. She also started working for Freedom Innovations, a prosthetic feet manufacturer, as its Amputee Advocate.

On top of all that, Purdy has numerous television and film credits. In 2012, Purdy and her now husband Daniel Gale participated on the 21st season of The Amazing Race.

After nearly winning the first leg of the race, they were the second team eliminated and finished in 10th place out of 11 teams.

In 2014, Purdy was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.” Paired with five-time champion Derek Hough, Purdy was the first double amputee contestant to ever appear on the show. Hough was, at the time, fresh from winning his fifth Mirrorball trophy and did not plan on coming back to the show.

Amy Purdy signs copies of On My Own Two Feet at Bookends Bookstore
Amy Purdy signs copies of On My Own Two Feet at Bookends Bookstore. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
However, he changed his mind when Purdy joined the show as a contestant. Purdy wowed judges from the get-go, and kept improving. She never received a score lower than 8. She received her first perfect score (40 out of 40) for her eighth dance, the Argentine tango, after having an intense back injury the week prior. She eventually made it the finale, where she finished as a runner-up to Olympic gold medalist Meryl Davis.

In 2015, Purdy was featured in a Super Bowl advertisement for the Toyota Camry. The ad showed Purdy snowboarding, dancing and adjusting her prosthetic legs to a voiceover of Muhammad Ali’s “How Great I Am” speech.

Purdy has penned a memoir titled, On My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life (HarperCollins), created a podcast (“Bouncing Forward”) and carved out a lucrative and inspirational career as a motivational speaker.

Among her accolades, along with two Paralympic medals, are being named one of ESPNW’s Impact 25 and one of Oprah’s SuperSoul 100 visionaries and influential leaders.

Purdy says that healing is never a linear process; it’s full of ups, downs, twists, turns, setbacks, victories.

And it’s lifelong.

Moving Forward

After experiencing medical setbacks — including an injury to her popliteal artery — in 2019, Purdy has undergone 10 more surgeries, including amputation revisions on her left leg.

“Phase one of my journey was all the surgeries and trying to find stability with the injury and phase two is getting legs that I can live comfortably in,” she said of her latest plight. “Once they are comfortable, then I’ll be able to snowboard again.”

Amy Purdy poses with her husband
Daniel Gale (L) and his wife, paralympic athlete Amy Purdy, attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Meantime, she continues to move forward on myriad other projects. She continues, in other words, to live beyond limits.

“I’m currently excited to be planning the second season of my podcast “Bouncing Forward,” and I’m always looking for new ways to help others live their possibilities,” she said.

“I have a handful of projects I’m working on in TV that I can’t talk about yet and some that are online. With COVID, I went from doing many live speeches to doing virtual speeches, which has been fantastic, although I want to go to even a deeper and more immersive experience with my community.

I’ve been so grateful to connect with so many amazing people in real life and on social media that I’m really inspired to create ways to connect even deeper.

That’s what life is about: living, learning and growing, and helping others do the same.”

Click here to read the article in the digital magazine.

California man scales Machu Picchu in off-roading wheelchair

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An off-roading wheelchair allowed Robert and Nelly Kapen to visit Machu Picchu with several family members.

By

On an unseasonably cold December afternoon in Southern California, most Angelenos have retreated to their homes. But at Miramar Park, a narrow strip of green space overlooking Torrance County Beach, Robert Kapen and his wife Nelly are out for an adventure.

For Kapen — whom Nelly is pushing in a special, off-roading wheelchair — wintry weather is a relatively minor obstacle. During the first 23 years of his life, Kapen was a healthy, outdoorsy person. Then in 2011, he suffered a brain stem stroke that left him paralyzed.

Doctors told his family that he had a 1% chance of survival, and that if he lived, he’d likely be in a vegetative state. Kapen beat those odds. His mental faculties were unscathed, and he slowly regained some movement and speech through therapy. Eventually, he was able to communicate, eat, operate a motorized wheelchair and write a book. He had another big dream, too.

“Growing up, I fell in love with hiking, being outdoors and the beauty of nature,” he says. That was taken away from him for 10 years, Kapen says, but very recently, a new set of wheels has allowed for his return. It’s called the AdvenChair.

The orange, “all-terrain” wheelchair is human-powered and designed to help people with mobility challenges to venture into the wild. Its wheels, tires, brakes and handlebars are all premium mountain bike parts, and the large tires and suspension system offer a comfortable ride. Thanks to a versatile system of pulleys, bars and straps, teams of one to five people can assist in navigating the AdvenChair over just about any landscape.

The AdvenChair recently enabled Kapen to visit Machu Picchu. Over in Palm Springs, Floyd McGregor — who has an autoimmune disease of the muscles called myositis — is raising money for an AdvenChair pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. Isaac Shannon, a Southern Californian with mitochondrial disease, has been using his AdvenChair for regular jaunts around Southern California.

“It’s rejuvenating to be outside, especially as a person with a disability, because these resources are not exactly the most accessible,” Shannon says in a video created for the Denver Channel. “So when there is a tool that allows a person to be able to experience life in the most average way possible, I think it’s healing, and it’s nice to be out in nature where you’re not around people.”

The man behind AdvenChair is Geoff Babb of Bend, Ore. He grew up backpacking, climbing and mountain biking, and worked as a fire ecologist for the Bureau of Land Management. At age 48, a blood clot in his brain caused a brain stem stroke, and just like Kapen, he nearly died. Babb lost the ability to walk and much of his strength, but he wasn’t going to let that stop him from visiting the outdoors.

Babb started looking around for a wheelchair that could help him navigate rugged terrain, and found a couple of options: the GRIT Freedom Chair and the Mountain Trike. The designs were good, he says, but they didn’t work for him.

“They all relied on the rider having enough upper body strength to push the levers,” Babb says. “But myself and a lot of people, we don’t have the body strength.” So Babb decided to invent his own.

Click here to read the full article on SFGate.

Bob Saget: How a family tragedy turned him into an activist

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Bob Saget headshot

By Lisa Respers France, CNN

Bob Saget channeled his grief into helping others and now some of his famous friends are doing the same in the wake of his death.

The comedian who became known as America’s dad after playing Danny Tanner on “Full House” died Sunday at the age of 65.

But it was the death of his beloved sister Gay following a battle with the autoimmune disease scleroderma which transformed him into an avid advocate for raising money to find a cure.

The star actually first became involved with the Scleroderma Research Foundation (SRF) prior to his sister’s diagnosis with the chronic disease, which can lead to a hardening and tightening of connective tissue and skin.

Saget told NIH Medline Plus Magazine in 2019 that years before he “got a call from someone I did not know asking me to host a comedy fundraiser for a disease I knew very little about.”

“I said yes and hosted the event, which starred Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, and others.” he said. “Little did I know that just a few years later, my sister would be diagnosed with the disease.”

Saget shared that his sister was 44 and a Philadelphia-area teacher when she was first diagnosed. Drugs including prednisone and cortisone were used to treat her, he said, but it only addressed her symptoms.

“She had to move to Los Angeles to live with my parents because she needed so much help,” Saget said. “She passed away just two years later.”

The “America’s Funniest Videos” host went on to serve on the SRF board for nearly two decades and hosted their events for more than 25 years.

Following the announcement of his death, fellow comic Amy Schumer posted on her verified Instagram account that she would be donating to SRF in Saget’s honor and the organization posted a tribute to their most famous advocate.

“In loving memory of Bob Saget, a cherished colleague, friend, and Scleroderma Research Foundation Board member for over 20 years,” the caption to a photo of Saget posted on the SFR Instagram account read. “Bob was a relentless champion for scleroderma patients and the mission of the SRF—finding a cure for scleroderma. He will be dearly missed.”

Read the original article posted on EyeWitness News.

Changing attitudes toward disability, one vlog at a time

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Vlog star, Zhao Hongcheng, a 31-year-old vlogger on the video-sharing platform Bilibili

By Lin Lixin, Shine

At the end of 2021, two videos evaluating the worst and best experiences of barrier-free facilities in Shanghai received a lot of attention on the video-sharing platform Bilibili.

The uploader, Zhao Hongcheng, 31, is a wheelchair-user woman who was born in Shaoyang City in central China’s Hunan Province. She was diagnosed with poliomyelitis at the age of 1. She currently lives in Shanghai.

Zhao became a vlogger in early 2019 with the username “Dachengzi Haomeimei” and found fame after uploading a video of a trip to Guangzhou. In two days, the video had been viewed more than 2,000 times.

As a full-time blogger now, she has released 65 videos and shares her daily life with her nearly 76,000 followers. More importantly, she tries to assist persons with disabilities and help them better integrate into society.

In one of her posts, she narrated her experience at Tsutaya Books in Shanghai. The bookstore would not allow strollers and wheelchairs inside and demanded that they should be stored “at the front desk.”

After waiting outside the store for over ten minutes in the hope that someone from the store would help them out, Zhao’s boyfriend Xie Lipeng went inside to negotiate with the manager.

Eventually, they were allowed in but it left a sour taste with Zhao.

“Do you think everyone sitting in a wheelchair can stand up after entering the store? Each one of us wants to play and have fun. So why is it a mistake on my part?” she commented.

She narrated another incident, this time at the prestigious Bund One Art Museum. Zhao and Xie were told that because it was crowded on weekends, they would not be allowed in. This was despite the fact they were selling concession tickets for people with disabilities.

Again, they managed to get in but felt like “outsiders.”

On December 6, Zhao received a message on her Weibo account stating that Tsutaya Books had improved facilities for wheelchair users.

A notification at the entrance of the bookstore now reads: “People with strollers and wheelchairs, please pay attention to safety. Ask shop assistants for help if necessary.”

But Zhao also stated she felt the warmth of the city and went on to post videos of her “three best experiences” in the city.

“I would give Shanghai 7-out-of-10 marks,” Zhao told the Chinese-language Shanghai Morning Post.

Zhao was impressed with the facilities and services at the Shanghai Natural History Museum and Museum of Art Pudong.

ET Stage found a special mention in the videos. It wasn’t particularly well-equipped with facilities for persons with disabilities but the helpful staff members won her over.

Zhao moved to Shanghai in August 2019 to work with Meituan. She uploaded a video of her taking a bus in Shanghai. Although the bus had facilities to deal with disabled people, the driver wasn’t trained and took a long time to get her onto the bus.

The video was viewed nearly 160,000 times but nothing more came out of it. Zhao was told to write to Shanghai municipal government’s proposal collection office. She got a prompt reply which led to better training of bus staff in dealing with people with disabilities.

Statistics from China Disabled Persons’ Federation showed that China had 85 million disabled people in 2020.

Shanghai has been trying to improve barrier-free facilities since the 1980s, the most recent being a regulation released in June 2020.

At the Shuicheng Road Station, on Metro Line 10, there are maps and information in Braille for students at the nearby Shanghai School for the Blind. An “Accessibility Guide Manual” was released in 2020, and includes information for visually impaired, deaf and mute and physically challenged passengers.

Click here to read the full article on Shine.

Why New York City May Soon Be More Walkable for Blind People

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Accessible Pedestrian Signals help blind and visually impaired pedestrians cross city streets.

A federal judge on Monday ordered New York City officials to install more than 9,000 signal devices at intersections to make it easier for pedestrians who are visually impaired to safely cross the streets.

In an opinion released Monday morning, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer criticized city officials for failing to make the vast majority of New York’s more than 13,000 intersections safe for thousands of blind and visually impaired residents. He ordered the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the installation of the signal devices, which use sounds and vibrations to inform people when it is safe to cross a roadway.

The ruling will change the face of New York City’s street corners, the vast majority of which are only governed by visible cues like flashing countdowns, red hands and walking figures. It also marks a significant advancement for disability rights in major urban centers, many of which have not fully embraced accessible crossings for blind residents.

“There has never been a case like this. We can finally look forward to a day, not long from now, when all pedestrians will have safe access to city streets,” said Torie Atkinson, a lawyer for the American Council of the Blind and two visually impaired New Yorkers, who filed the suit. “We hope this decision is a wake-up call not just to New York City, but for every other transit agency in the country that’s been ignoring the needs of people with vision disabilities.”

Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the city’s Law Department, said that the ruling acknowledged the “operational challenges” the city has faced in its attempts to install the systems over the years.

“We are carefully evaluating the court’s plan to further the city’s progress in increasing accessibility to people who are blind and visually impaired,” Mr. Paolucci said in a statement.

The case, which was filed in 2018, accused the Department of Transportation and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, making roadways treacherous for those who cannot see. Last October, Judge Engelmayer ruled in the plaintiffs’ favors, saying the city had violated the law hundreds of times by failing to install accessible signals.

While the city ramped up installation after the lawsuit was filed, it still lagged far behind the pace needed to make its infrastructure widely accessible for blind residents, the judge said, adding the city’s decision was not rooted in financial concerns or logistical hurdles but in political will and budgetary priorities.

The failure to install the technology more widely, the judge wrote, impedes the independence of people who need them, by making it difficult to cross streets safely in a timely fashion.

Accessible pedestrian signals, or A.P.S., are present at less than 4 percent of city intersections. They communicate when it is safe to cross through voice recordings, beeps and other sounds. They also vibrate to communicate to deaf and hearing-impaired residents.

Despite being seen as critical safety measures, the devices have not been embraced on a large scale in New York, the country’s densest city, where around 2.4 percent of residents are visually impaired. The first accessible pedestrian device was installed at a city intersection in 1957, but the rollout in the decades since has been halting. Current estimates say that nearly 65 years later, the city has installed fewer than 1,000 of the devices.

“On a daily basis I have to deal with trying not to get hit by cars because there is no A.P.S. telling me when it is safe to cross,” Christina Curry, who is deafblind, a term used to describe someone with combined hearing and sight loss, and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a statement. “Installing so many A.P.S. over the next 10 years means that I and tens of thousands of deafblind New Yorkers will have access to street crossing information and be able to travel safely, freely and independently throughout the city.”

Click here to read the full article on the New York Times.

I run a talent agency for models and actors with disabilities and visible differences. We’ve cast for Disney and Gucci — our clients’ success is the best part of my job.

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Zebedee Management Director Laura Johnson (left) and model Sarah D.

By , Insider

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with talent agent Laura Johnson. It has been edited for length and clarity.

The idea for a specialist talent agency came to me and my then-friend, now-sister-in-law Zoe while we were walking on the beach one afternoon in Eastern England.

It was 2017 and I was on maternity leave from my job as a social worker. During our walk, the conversation turned to the performing-arts classes Zoe led for children with disabilities.

While the children were talented and many were passionate about pursuing modeling and acting, there was sadly a lack of inclusion among traditional fashion brands, advertising, and media for those with a disability or visible difference of any sort. Not only did this lack of representation seem unfair, it also wasn’t exactly business-savvy considering people who live with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world.

The more we discussed it, the more we began to ask ourselves, “If no one out there is representing people with disabilities and differences, why don’t we?” Between my social-work background and Zoe’s work as a model and drama teacher, we had experience working with underrepresented groups.

Despite the fact that neither of us had ever worked at a talent agency before, we decided to join forces and launch Zebedee Management representing disabled and visibly different models, actors, and influencers who up until then had been virtually excluded.

We began by inviting Zoe’s students to apply and reached out to various disability groups seeking talent from within their community.

Talent was never going to be our challenge — getting clients to sign our talent was the biggest obstacle. We decided instead of waiting for jobs to come in casting people with disabilities or visible differences, we would simply pitch our talent for traditional commercial jobs.

In the beginning. it wasn’t easy. Many casting agents simply paid us lip service with no intention of actually booking our talent, but we continued trying.

Then a month after launching, we locked in two major bookings. One was for a print ad for Disney with child model Grace Wharton, and the other was for the Teatum Jones runway show during London Fashion Week with model Vicki Balch, who lost her leg in the Alton Towers accident.

Every time we get a call or receive a note from one of our models sharing their positive experiences with us, it just reinforces our mission.

One of our models named Louisa sent us a note saying: “I was always scared of what society would think of a young person in a wheelchair and I was afraid that people would judge, but then I found Zebedee, who wanted me for my disability rather than looking at my disability as a bad thing. They wanted me to spread awareness and make disability beautiful and change society’s thoughts and how they see disability.”

Another of our model’s named Roisin said: “I honestly feel so grateful to be part of something so special. The opportunities that Zebedee has given me are amazing. If me two years ago spoke to me now, she would be astonished and so proud, and that is because of the Zebedee community. Sometimes I feel like pinching myself because I feel so lucky. Also, I am amazed that I am part of the change I want to see.”

Click here to read the full article on Insider

What you need to know if you’re teaching a student with a disability

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Dean Pan is studying secondary teaching, specialising in Technology Applied Studies. He lives with a spinal cord injury, and despite his disability, he continues his interest in woodworking.

By Dean Pan, ABC

Over my 9 years in a wheelchair, I have learnt to adapt to many situations.

People often doubt my ability to do basic tasks, and even though that’s sometimes true, through hard work and passion, and with the help from others, I constantly find ways to go against the stereotype.

Having a disability comes with its limitations but it won’t completely hold someone back.

Currently, I’m in my final year of teaching, and the biggest incentive for me being a teacher is the opportunity to improve the lives of younger individuals.

During my placements, there have been countless positive experiences in the classroom. One standout was teaching a student who used a wheelchair and found woodworking quite difficult. It appeared she may have been seeing her disability as the cause, yet I saw she was trying to use the handsaw incorrectly. It wasn’t her disability holding her back, it was her mindset. Her eyes lit up when she realised she could do it.

When I was younger, I struggled with using hand tools, but when my teacher found a way around it, I felt like I could build anything then topped the class in HSC Industrial Technology: Timber.

Teaching a student with a disability may be one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have, but it comes with its challenges.

Differentiation is crucial
You’ll need to adapt the way your disabled student can complete tasks.

Afterwards, ask the student to give you feedback on the tasks you’re giving them, to make sure they feel like they have the best opportunity for academic success.

Be approachable
It helps to build rapport, so use break times to go into the playground and have lunch with the students. Relationships are key to engaging your students.

Too often I hear stories of teachers being overly strict, and students express to me that their teachers aren’t listening to them. Reflect on yourself and your teaching practice. Ask yourself, “When a student is in my class (or talking to me), what are they up against?”

Avoid deficit thinking
Your student would be a regular developing individual like everyone else if they didn’t have their condition. So, speak directly to them, not to their teacher’s aide or support worker.

Often when I’m out for dinner with my wife, the waitstaff will speak to her first or even say, “What will he be having?” Avoid this at all costs. My school was very on top of this, and I was always included in the classroom discussions, just like everyone else. Same goes with calling students inspirational — this is borderline objectification. People with disabilities don’t exist to make others feel more inspired.

Have a growth mindset

The goal of learning and assessment is based on knowledge and skills, not physical ability.

All students need to know that they have the ability to learn new skills — just as though they’re learning a musical instrument. A growth mindset is their ticket to becoming an adaptable and teachable individual, ready to explore the world.

It also helps if you encourage a passion for long term goals.

Click here to read the full article on ABC.

Val Kilmer Gets His Voice Back with AI Technology

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Val Kilmer leaving a building and smiling

By Natalie Rodgers

In 2015, beloved actor Val Kilmer, perhaps best known from the iconic ‘Top Gun’ movie, was diagnosed with throat cancer. Though he won the battle against cancer, one of his throat treatments took away a majority of his ability to speak vocally. Now, over half a decade later, Kilmer has his voice back and it’s all thanks to artificial intelligence.

In correspondence with the debut of his new documentary, “Val”, Kilmer gave an epilogue of sorts to his biography with the reveal of his new voice, which he was able to recreate with the software company, Sonantic.

Working closely with Sonantic, the team was able to feed pre-recorded audio of Kilmer’s old voice and its transcript into an artificial intelligence algorithm, which then learns the inflections and tones of his voice to create a vast library of speaking patterns. The team then edited the audio to give it a more lifelike tone than the more robotic inflection heard from other AI systems, such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. The firm says their team of engineers was able to create 40 different versions of Kilmer’s voice and selected the one that closest resembled his natural one.

According to a statement done by Sonantic, the voice engine can translate the meaning of written words and cues to demonstrate emotion in voice from passive conversation to an angry tone. This means that Kilmer’s voice is not only capable of reading lines of text, but of conveying information in a more personable way. Sonantic stated that Kilmer is welcome to use his voice in any capacity that he chooses.

“Val’s team wanted to give him his voice back so that he could continue creating.” Sonantic CEO Zeena Qureshi explained to the Washington Post, “It’s exclusively his model. He could use it for personal use or professional use if he wants to.”
Though the exact logistics of this process and its ethical connotations are still in debate, it’s no doubt that this technology seems promising to help other individuals in similar situations who desire to express themselves through an audible speaking setup.

“People around me struggle to understand when I’m talking,” Kilmer stated, utilizing his new technology, “But despite all that I still feel I’m the exact same person. Still the same creative soul. A soul that dreams ideas and stories confidently, but now I can express myself again and bring these ideas to you and show you this part of myself once more. A part that was never truly gone. Just hiding away.”

While there is no official confirmation to date on what Kilmer’s voice will be used for next or whether or not it will be used in a professional capacity, the actor expressed his gratitude for the groundbreaking technology, stating: “I’m grateful to the entire team at Sonantic who masterfully restored my voice in a way I’ve never imagined possible. As human beings, the ability to communicate is the core of our existence and the side effects from throat cancer have made it difficult for others to understand me. The chance to narrate my story, in a voice that feels authentic and familiar, is an incredibly special gift.”

Source: The Washington Post, IndieWire

Photo Credit and Caption: Actor Val Kilmer attends the 2019 annual Thespians Go Hollywood Gala at Avalon Hollywood in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

How To Make Your Holidays More Accessible

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how to have an accessible holiday

By Andrew Pulrang, Forbes

The year-end holiday season is a complex time for people with disabilities, and for their family and friends. It’s a time for celebration, sharing, and togetherness that can provide a break from everyday cares and strengthen supportive bonds. At the same time, the holidays bring disabled and non-disabled people together in more extensive and sometimes demanding ways that can put inclusive values and good intentions to the test.

Amid all the joy and celebrations, familiar routines and coping mechanisms are disrupted. Disabilities we know about in theory become suddenly very real and immediately practical. Disabled and non-disabled family and friends struggle to anticipate and accommodate each other to ensure everyone has a good time and nobody feels put upon or left out. And that’s in the reasonably functional families and friend groups. In others, the holidays often uncover hidden layers of ignorance, ableism, exclusion, and petty resentment.

So how can we make the holidays better all around for disabled friends and family?

1. Ask disabled people

Most disabled people know on some level what they need, and what they are and aren’t comfortable with. So the first, best source of help is to ask disabled people themselves. It’s not hard. Just ask, “Is there anything we can do to make it easier and more comfortable for you?”

Of course, if you have specific questions or ideas, ask about them. For example:

How do we provide comfortable places to sit and rest where disabled guests can be fully a part of the group?

Are there accessible pathways to places where different activities will be happening?

What can we do for family and guests who are deaf or hard of hearing, especially where background noise can make individual voices hard to hear? What about people who may be neurologically sensitive to loud or startling noises, like sudden laughing or cheering?

Dim lighting helps set a holiday mood and highlight Christmas decorations, but it also makes it hard for people with visual impairments to get around. What can we do to compensate?

Are there easily accessible and comfortable areas where guests can get away from the main group and rest for a bit?

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Rose Ayling-Ellis Wins ‘Strictly Come Dancing,’ Becoming Series’ First Deaf Champion

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Rose Ayling-Ellis on the show stricly come dancing

By Selome Hailu, Variety

Series 19 of British dance competition series “Strictly Come Dancing” has its winner. Actress Rose Ayling-Ellis became the first deaf contestant ever to be crowned the series’ winner on Saturday night.

Along with her professional dance partner Giovanni Pernice, she beat out competitors including chef and 2012 winner of “The Great British Bake Off” John Whaite and television presenter AJ Odudu, who exited the competition on Friday after injuring her ankle.

Saturday’s win was also the first for Pernice, who has danced on the show since 2015 and made it to the final stage in 2015, 2017 and 2018 with partners Georgia May Foote, Debbue McGee and Faye Tozer, respectively.

Ayling-Ellis is known for starring in popular BBC One soap opera “East Enders.” She plays Frankie Lewis in the series, which has been running since 1985 and follows the daily lives of residents of a fictional East London borough called Walford.

As a deaf person and an advocate for deaf awareness, Ayling-Ellis has garnered much attention for her participation in “Strictly Come Dancing.” She is not only the first deaf winner of the competition — she’s also the first. The series had never had a deaf contestant at all before her.

During a performance in a Nov. episode of the show, she and Pernice danced a 20-second interlude without music. Before the final, Ayling-Ellis shared a video on Instagram that featured several deaf children wishing her good luck. “Because I’m deaf, I like seeing deaf people on ‘Strictly,’” one little girl said. “Look, Rose, I’ve got special ears, like you!” said another. ​​”Always be proud of who you are,” Ayling-Ellis wrote.

Click here to read the full article on Variety.

I’m A Black, Disabled Actor. This Is How I’m Making My Place In Hollywood.

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Danielle Perez, 36, actor, writer and stand-up comedian

By Regina F. Graham, Refinery 29

One in four adults in the U.S. are living with a disability, but you wouldn’t know it given the lack of representation in the workforce, Hollywood, and media coverage.

Voices of Disability celebrates the real stories — not the stigmas or stereotypes — of this dynamic and vibrant community of individuals.

Lauren Ridloff, Danielle Perez, and Diana Elizabeth Jordan all have one thing in common: They are passionate and dedicated to the craft of acting. You might not know their names, though. The women, who hail from across the U.S., now primarily reside in Los Angeles, and represent a variety of ages, backgrounds, and circumstances. But they share a common thread: Throughout their careers, they have all found it difficult to land leading roles as women of color who have a disability.

Jordan is a 57-year-old actress and director who has cerebral palsy; 36-year-old Los Angeles native Perez is an actress, writer, and stand-up comedian who uses a wheelchair; and Ridloff is a 42-year-old award-winning Deaf actress who is slated to make history playing a Deaf superhero in Marvel film The Eternals, scheduled to be released in 2021.

Since #OscarsSoWhite became a trending topic in 2015, A-list stars, producers, and directors have all spoken up in various settings about Hollywood’s systemic color issue and lack of diversity. Viola Davis, Shonda Rhimes, and Issa Rae are just three prominent figures who have been critically vocal about the lack of diversity in casting people of color in blockbuster movies or major TV dramas. It’s a conversation we’ve had the displeasure of annually revisiting since April Reign first created the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite five years ago. And while it might not seem like any progress has been made, at least the conversation exists in the public discourse.

Very little, if any, attention has been paid to the lack of disabled women of color being considered for roles. A 2018 study from the Ruderman Family Foundation found that 80% of disabled characters on television are portrayed by non-disabled actors. The research covered about 280 networks and streaming shows from that year. In addition, 26% of the U.S. population (one in four people) has a disability, but fewer than 2% of all television characters do, according to the same study. Of that extremely small number of disabled characters on screen, nearly all are white. In addition, a study from the University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative that combed through 900 popular movies from 2007 to 2016 found that only 2.7% of characters with speaking roles were portrayed as disabled.

Ridloff, Perez, and Jordan don’t see their disabilities as hampering their ability to do their chosen craft, nor should the color of their skin be an additional barrier to entry to Hollywood. Here, they speak to Refinery29 about their experiences fighting for a major shift that is long overdue in the industry.

Click here to read the full article on Refinery 29.

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  1. From Day One
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  2. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
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