Browse By Topic: Self-Advocacy

Mental Health Awareness Month: Action Steps

Coordinated by Sandra Burgess, MSW, LCSW Mental Health America and its partner organizations have coordinated the observance of May as Mental Health Month throughout the United States since 1949. During this month, information to promote good mental health and treatment for common mental health issues is disseminated via media outlets, free depression screenings, and other community events. This year, Mental Health America is highlighting a campaign called Risky Business, an effort to educate the public about some habits or behaviors that can lead to mental illness, be warning signs of present mental illness, or


Understanding Models of Disability

Editor's Note: In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, VisionAware is happy to share the inaugural post of a new series on disability led by Steven Wilson. Steven was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome at the age of 41. (Usher Syndrome is an inherited condition that causes partial or total hearing loss accompanied by gradual vision loss resulting from retinitis pigmentosa.) He is enrolled at the University of Arizona and plans to get his master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. <img src="http://www.afb.org/image.asp?ImageID=7701" alt="Steven sitting at a desk with a laptop using CART"


During Older Americans Month, Meet the Challenges of Aging with Vision Loss

How Can We Add More "Life" to Our Life? Science and medicine have added more years to our life, but how can we add more "life" to our years? Growing older is not just about loss and decline, it can bring new opportunities and adventures. We all want to age gracefully and maintain our independence, but what is the secret to positive aging and satisfaction in this stage of life? A growing number of Americans are aging with disabilities which threaten their independence. According to the 2010 Census, almost 50 percent of respondents over age 64 reported some level of disability. Specifically, the prevalence of vision loss is growing


Four Things I Learned from the 1Touch Self-Defense Project

In March, I attended the AFB Leadership Conference in Alexandria, Virginia. One of the numerous workshop sessions on the agenda that I found interesting was on the 1Touch Self-Defense Project. I had taken a self-defense class for people with visual impairments, but it was many years ago, and I have to admit I was pretty rusty on the topic and even more on the physical techniques. So, I decided to attend the class to get a refresher and update my skills and knowledge. The session was only for about an hour, but I learned a wealth of information that I want to share with you in this post. <img


The 1Touch Project™: Personal Safety for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Editor's note: With this post, VisionAware is rolling out a new series on "Dealing with Crime or Domestic Violence As a Person with a Disability." In this series, you will find articles on the disturbing statistics on crimes against people with disabilities, information and resources on domestic abuse, and personal stories that two peer advisors have written about their own experiences. We are also offering information on self-defense techniques that have been adapted or developed for people with vision loss, including the 1Touch


Senior Center Without Walls: Opportunities for Connection and Community from Your Home

As you go through the holidays and start thinking about the new year, I am sure that, like everyone else, you are considering what's ahead for you. Based on my own experiences this past year, I highly recommend that you consider involvement in the Senior Center Without Walls, as a volunteer and/or participant. Find out why! What is Senior Center Without Walls? Senior Center Without Walls (SCWW) is an innovative outreach program for seniors which offers activities, education, friendly conversation, and an assortment of classes, support groups, and presentations all done over the phone or computer. Each week, seniors can access over 70 groups or classes by phone or


International Perspectives: Living and Working in Siberia As a Person with a Disability

Editor's note: This is the 3rd part of our series on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Be sure to read Part 1 on useful tips when you meet a person with vision loss and Part 2, "Speak to Me.". And stay tuned next week for Maribel Steel's post on "accepting life as it comes." by Elizabeth Sammons, Peer Advisor "Relax every muscle right now, or you’ll break some bones," the voice in my head bounced through my body as I started


Speak to Me

Editor's note: In this second part of our theme in recognition of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Mary Hiland and Sandra Burgess use real life experiences to illustrate more effective ways sighted people can interact with individuals who are blind or visually impaired. In the first part, Sandra talked about useful tips when you meet a person who is blind or visually impaired. In the third part of our series we will hear from Elizabeth Sammons on a glimpse of life in Siberia for men and women living with disabilities.


International Day of Disabilities Celebrated December 3

On December 3rd, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be observed worldwide. Started in 1992 with support from the United Nations, this day seeks to foster inclusion for all who live with disabilities by promoting dignity, respect, and community inclusion. The theme for 2016 is "Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want." In keeping with the celebration of this day, we will focus on disability etiquette as it applies to people who are blind or visually impaired. Be sure to read, "Speak to Me," Part 2 of this post. A


Feel the Power of the Disability Vote By Using the Accessible Voting Machine

As an African-American who grew up with parents who lived under segregation, I have known and understood the importance and power of the right to vote. My dad, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama, would constantly tell me that when I grew up to always have handy a copy of my government ID, library card, and voter’s registration card. He always stressed the importance of having those three things in my purse. Today, I am a 45-year-old living in Atlanta with vision loss, and guess what I have in my purse? You got it; my government ID, my library card, and my voter’s registration card. All with


Voting Early, A Great Idea

Yesterday, I voted, and it gave me a kind of high. I did it. I got it done. No more indecision, although there was none for me, where the presidency is concerned. But now I can skip any newspaper articles suggesting to me which way I should vote. I no longer have to sit through televised arguments. I don’t care what they are saying about any of the candidates. It’s a done deal, so leave me alone. Voting Privately The ADA voting


Is There Pride in Being Blind or Visually Impaired?

Editor's note: As we approach Labor Day, a day that is a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country, it is important to remember, that people who are blind or visually impaired need and want employment. This post brings up important issues to consider about blindness as a disability that impact every aspect of life, including employment. A Response on Becoming Disabled On August 19, I read a very interesting article


Getting Selected for the 2016 Amtrak Writers in Residency Program

Earlier this year I was frustrated with the way my business was going. I didn't have any ride sales pending. I wasn't getting hired for coaching or being booked for speaking. Heck, I wasn't even sure I could get from here to there if someone did invite me to come share my story with their group. I live in a suburb of Houston where there is very little in the way of public transportation. We don't have a


Nurses with Disabilities Have Great Abilities, Part Two

Imagine after years of preparing to enter the workforce and finally landing your dream job, you begin to lose your vision. You feel defeated and everyone around you thinks you won’t be able to find gainful employment or continue to work. Despite the critics and those who doubt your ability, you must always remember that you are capable. Detra Bannister took those words to heart yesterday in her story, “Nurses with Disabilities Have Great Abilities, Part One” on the CareerConnect Blog. Read how Detra overcame her vision loss and championed her skills into a successful career in today’s story. Nurses with Disabilities Have Great


Respond to the Challenge: Embrace the Magic of Vision Rehabilitation Therapy

Blindness Perceived as Devestating Disability Blindness has long been perceived as the most devastating disability. Society holds that vision loss leaves a person helpless and hopeless. As a direct result of this opinion, many who are diagnosed with a vision loss think they have no hope for the future. Many people who have gone through the experience of a vision loss know the opposite is true. Anyone who possesses any degree of vision loss can return to an active and independent lifestyle. Some individuals report that they have a more productive life after a vision loss! Steps to Return to Active Life Caption: Certified Vision


The Challenges of Applying for a Job Online

Editor's note: As we end the observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the peer advisors decided that another critical topic to address is how applying for a job has drastically changed and what they means to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Online Job Applications Are the New Norm As a visually impaired job seeker you will notice that more and more these day’s employers are offering and sometimes requiring that you apply for positions online. Nearly gone are the days of paper applications or


Taking Your Disability to Work, Part 2: Peer Advisors Offer Advice

Author's note: We are continuing our posts on National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This post provides advice from our Peer advisors on working with a disability. Be sure to read Part 1 of Taking Your Disability to Work. Audrey Demmitt I had been working as a school nurse for some time before I disclosed my vision impairment. It


Taking Your Disability to Work: Part 1

Author's note: Most of the peer advisors at VisionAware are working or have worked with their disability. In talking about what we should write for National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we decided that a critical topic is what employers and fellow employees need to know about employees with disabilities. This post is divided into two sections: Part 1 sets the stage about the overall issues involved and in Part 2 we will share some of the peers' thoughts and strategies. October is a time to celebrate the contributions of America's workers with disabilities. The theme for this year is "My


Crosswalks to Civil Rights

Editor's note: Continuing with our independence and advocacy themes in celebration of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), VisionAware peer advisors Mary Hiland, and Elizabeth Sammons were co-winners of the ADA25 Celebration Essay Contest in Columbus, Ohio. Below is Mary's essay. Here is a link to Elizabeth's post Independence Walk. Life Before ADA In 1963, Crossing the street was a terrifying event. Unsure if the light had changed, as a blind student, I waited on the curb, drew a deep breath, and took my chances.


Stand Up! Advocacy Comes in Many Forms

Disability Rights Disability rights for people who are blind in this country started with actions that most states took decades before the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) passed. According to the National Association of Dog Guide Users, "The United States of America was the first country to pass laws protecting the right of blind individuals to enter public establishments, and to travel on all modes of public transportation accompanied by a guide dog. The first of these were passed in the middle part of the 20th Century." Over the years with federal legislation such as the ADA, whose 25th


July Is A Powerful Month of Independence

In the U.S.A., July is a powerful month of Independence. We started the month with Independence Day- the day we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the 4th, which represented the end of the control, authority and jurisdiction of Britain over the colonies, and, this year, we end the month with the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”) on the 26th, which marks the legal prohibition of discrimination and exclusion of people with disabilities (dubbed the "civil rights act for people with disabilities"). My question for you, have you signed your own personal Declaration of Independence in your


What Helen Keller Means to Me

Peer Advisors Share About Helen Keller Helen Keller's Birthday Today, June 27th, is Helen Keller’s birthday. This incredible woman became deaf and blind at the age of nineteen months. Few could have imagined the leading role she would grow up to play in many of the significant political, social, and cultural movements of the 20th century. She worked for the American Foundation for the Blind for forty years, and until her passing in 1968, she worked unceasingly to improve the lives of people with disabilities. So in celebration, some of the peer advisors want to share how Keller has


Managing Diabetes from Head to Toe

Diabetes Requires Self-Care What a person with diabetic retinopathy sees Diabetes is a serious disease and affects all parts of the body. It demands constant monitoring and a disciplined routine of self-care. There is no taking a break from this chronic condition. Many people who have diabetes become “burned-out” on taking care of it. Some lack the


24 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Anniversary of the ADA: What is the Law and How Does It Apply to Those with Vision Loss. July 26 will mark the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA was created to bring about "equality of opportunity, full participation in society, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities." For too long people with disabilities have struggled with full inclusion into mainstream society and the ADA was passed to even the playing field and provide more opportunity and access. The ADA concentrates its efforts in five major areas: employment, transportation, state and local government, public


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