I always wanted to have children. And, although I knew there would be unknowns and unique challenges because of my spinal cord injury, I also knew that I was destined to be a mommy. Doctors told me it was possible and that was all I needed to hear. Today, it’s almost unreal that it’s a dream come true. On November 11, 2011, my husband and I welcomed our perfect baby girl into the world.
Despite being completely paralyzed from the waist down, my pregnancy went surprisingly smoothly. That’s not to say it wasn’t challenging toward the end, but looking back, it was so brief. Kamryn Marlee joined us one month early via Caesarean section, without complications, and both of us have been in great health ever since. Our little family feels so natural and right. It’s already hard to imagine life without our daughter.
Learning how to be a mom is probably one of the greatest tasks in the world, but doing it from a wheelchair takes some added creativity. I had the best help in my sweet husband, as well as my mom, but it was important to me to be able to do things on my own. It was evident right away that if I was going to be alone with Kamryn, I would have to figure out how to accomplish some of the basics. At first it was more difficult, as I was still regaining strength and simply learning how to handle a newborn. Even accomplishing something as simple as getting her in and out of her swing or wheeling around the house together took some practice. But with each passing day, we’re getting better and becoming more and more comfortable.
One of the coolest parts about this experience is watching my baby adapt to my abilities and needs. For example, she’s already using those little legs to help push off of things when I lift her up. I appreciate her patience with me as I get my methods down. While her daddy and grandparents pick her up so gently, sometimes I’m a little less graceful, and she doesn’t seem to mind at all. Soon she’ll be hanging on to me, climbing into my lap and eventually, helping me reach things off the top shelf.
As we cherish each phase of her life, I’ll have to continue to be creative if I want to be the engaged, active mom that I plan to be. I think ahead to her toddler years and imagine her running to places that my wheelchair can’t go. But, we’ll figure that out when we get there. Right now, we’re busy conquering the tasks of today. And I must say, the feeling of accomplishment when we manage to do something new when we’re all alone is a fantastic feeling. We still have a lot to learn and a lot to teach each other.
I know there are many women out there who are in a similar situation to me—women who want to start a family, but are doubtful of their own abilities or scared of the unknown. If I could offer a few words of wisdom after the short experience I’ve had thus far, it would be this: Never underestimate the potential of the human body, think positive (try not to worry) and just go for it. This journey is unlike any other and for each ounce of strength and struggle, there’s an endless amount of rewards.
Product Spotlight: Accident & Disability Attorneys of Monge & Associates
Monge & Associates will be exhibiting at the Atlanta Abilities Expo on February 17-19, 2012.
All-too-common scenario: You’ve acquired a disability. Maybe it’s through the negligent actions of another. Maybe it happened suddenly at work. Maybe a progressive condition just progressed too far. Regardless of how you got here, your life has been turned upside-down and you are doing your best to make it all work. You’ve tried to be proactive and contact Social Security or Worker’s Compensation or some other insurance company. Well-intentioned though they all may (or may not) be, your interactions with these behemoth organizations make you wish you would have gotten that PhD in Red Tape. Face facts. You need help.
Enter The Accident & Disability Attorneys of Monge & Associates, shining armor and all! This Northern Georgia-based law firm has made saving the day their mission for the past 20 years.
It was with the goal of providing a superior level of service, both inside and outside the courtroom, that Scott Monge got this ball rolling in the first place. He felt that the key to success was to combine stellar legal services with unwavering personal attention and compassion. He knows that Monge & Associates is in your corner, but he wants you to feel it.
"We do everything we can for our clients; we act as a resource and a consultant to help them through the difficult process of recovery.” Monge explained. “I am so proud of the team here. Each and every one of our team members is committed to our vision of providing excellent service."
From his helm, Monge has directed his attorneys in two distinct, yet intertwined, directions: Social Security Disability Law and Accident/Personal Injury/Worker’s Compensation Law.
Social Security Disability Claims
When it come to handling social security disability claims, both new ones and ones that have already been denied, these seasoned advocates wrote the book. Literally. It’s entitled, 7 Costly Mistakes that Could Ruin Your Social Security Disability Claim. Leveraging their accumulated decades of experience in the SSDI trenches, the attorneys at Monge & Associates know the ropes and are better able to maximize your success.
Bottom line: They know what qualifies, what you should and shouldn’t do, who to contact, what to say, how to work the system and they will do everything in their power to achieve favorable results for their clients, all while keeping them in the loop.
Just ask Jean Roberts of Bridgeport, Alabama. “Anytime I called the office I spoke to someone who knew exactly what was going on in my case and that ALWAYS meant a lot to me. I worked for 35 years and my situation changed with my disease. I thought this would be a long process of two to three years. Thank the Lord I got the letter from Social Security fully favorable on my case. I appreciate EVERYTHING you guys did and that you were always there to listen.”
The Accident Attorneys
Accidents come from out of nowhere and can change your world in the blink of an eye. But when they do, in the words of Franklin, Tennessee client Eddie Mealer, “It pays to have a good attorney.”
The firm handles everything from personal injuries and worker’s compensation, to victims of DUI drivers and medical malpractice, and most accidents in between. Their commitment to success is so strong that if you don’t recover anything in your case, neither do they.
Throughout the entire legal process, the client—in addition to the case—is paramount. To that end, they have instituted a special system to ensure you never feel ignored. In addition to qualified paralegals and an attentive legal staff, a specially trained Client Advocate is there to make certain your voice is heard.
The aftermath of your accident or new disability is daunting enough. Leave the legalities to the experienced attorneys of Monge & Associates who care what happens to you and have the proven track record of success to help.
BlazeSports America will host a number of adaptive sporting events at the Atlanta Abilities Expo on February 17-19, 2012.
BlazeSports America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is the legacy organization of the 1996 Paralympic Games held in Atlanta, Georgia. These games, the first held on American soil, were the realization of the dreams of thousands of Americans involved in the growth and promotion of sports for persons with physical disabilities in the United States.
Seeking to develop a national program of community-based adaptive sports for children and adults with physical disabilities, the Atlanta Paralympic Organizing Committee established the United States Disabled Athletes Fund in 1993. In partnership with the Georgia Recreation and Park Association and its member agencies, the USDAF rolled out a model program called BlazeSports Georgia in 1998. The program, named “BlazeSports” after the wildly popular Atlanta Paralympic Games’ mascot Blaze, quickly evolved into a comprehensive plan providing year-round local programs delivered by the community recreation provider; state-level sport camps, clinics, junior teams and competitions delivered by BlazeSports Georgia; and state and regional competitions sponsored by USDAF and other partnering organizations.
In 2002, USDAF launched a national program, BlazeSports America, in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association. Today BlazeSports America provides direct service in Georgia, across the nation, and internationally in developing countries. Georgia-based programs include wheelchair basketball, track and field, swimming, boccia, bowling, summer camp, a First Work Program and an outdoor education program.
These opportunities to participate in adaptive sports have had an extraordinary impact on the community. According to Becky A., mother to a child with disabilities, “Because of BlazeSports my daughter is more active than ever. I can’t keep her inside!”
In 2006, USDAF officially changed its name to BlazeSports America. In 2007, the organization restructured to create the BlazeSports International Institute for Applied Sciences which includes the Division of Training & Education and the Division of Policy & Global Outreach. These reflect the organization’s historical role in capacity building and creating more local opportunities for disability sports in the United States and the developing world such as Egypt, South Africa, Jordan, Morocco and, most recently, Iran and Haiti.
BlazeSports America is recognized by the United States Olympic Committee and serves on its Multi-Sport Organizational Council. Likewise, it acts as the National Coordinating Body for competitive sports for individuals with cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and survivors of stroke. BlazeSports is also is the national member organization of the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association, a founding member of the International Paralympic Committee.
BlazeSports is led by a multi and interdisciplinary staff and board representing the fields of disability sport, therapeutic recreation, physical education, sport psychology, sports science, nutrition, health promotion and public health.
For more information, visit www.blazesports.org or call 404-270-2000.
You can meet Andrew Angulo at the Triumph Foundation booth at the Los Angeles Abilities Expo, March 30 – April 1, 2012.
It is a new day and another website makes its way into cyber space. However, this website is slightly different. It showcases a photo gallery of subjects with disabilities in a form of fashion and makeup.
“Disabled Life Media” is a new developing website with the vision of highlighting individuals with all types of disabilities through photo and video. This new online venture also incorporates a blog on the main page pertaining to all aspects of disabilities in the news media.
We want to delve into the creative world of media by unique individuals who have disabilities that participate, contribute and perform despite their circumstances. The goal is to show the continual strive all these individuals make and we want to share their stories, their art and their creative talents.
The models we have featured have a disability of some type, such as Kenza Kadmiry. One month before her 18th birthday while crossing at a legal crosswalk on her bike, she was struck by a car that rendered her a C5-7 quadriplegic. Although the accident now requires her to use a wheelchair, she continues on with life by going to school and staying focused on recovery through natural means.
It is through stories like Kenza’s we look to connect with our audience. Whether a person has had disability since their birth or experienced a life changing disability later in life, their images on our site will help both an individual with the same disability and a compassionate viewer relate to their experience.
Through Disabled Life Media, our sights are set on providing the community a different awareness of disabilities altogether. We plan to do this not only through our future projects of photos, video and more, but also through the captivating stories in the main stream media. We feature news reports, celebrity encounters and new innovations from within the disability community that caught our eye and we are sure will catch yours.
Just recently, we came across some cutting-edge technology which allows a wheelchair user with a tongue piercing to navigate his chair without the use of his hands. We also enjoy highlighting any off-the-wall event reported by the news outlets, such as a man in a wheelchair who had the misfortune of being bitten by a woman who thought she was a vampire.
Our vision is to redefine the world’s perception of “disabilities.” Through photos, video, and blog feed, we hope to shed light to the online world that we are “This-Abled to matter.”
As the project evolves, we hope more individuals with disabilities of ALL types will step into our limelight and tell their stories. We all look for someone to connect with and Disabled Life Media is looking to fill that gap.
Our Motto: We all may be disabled, but we are all THIS-abled to matter!
For more information, visit www.DisabledLifeMedia.com. If you are interested in becoming a model for this site, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: As a veteran with a disability, I was given a vehicle grant but it isn't enough to get an accessible vehicle. Do you know if there is an organization that would help?
A: (From Ian) The vehicle grant is to help purchase a vehicle. There is a separate fund in place to help modify the vehicle you purchase. Though the vehicle grant is not enough to out-right purchase a *new* vehicle… the intent was to help offset the economic burden. You can look into purchasing any vehicle, assess your financial situation and add the grant to the purchase price range. Once you get a vehicle, then you can fill out a form VA 10-1394 for the modifications. Your veteran service officer will help you through the process.
A: (From Ruthee) Have you contacted Paralyzed Veterans of America? Have you heard of the Ralph Braun Foundation? Both have web sites to help you get the information you need. Additionally, there is success in doing a general Internet search of foundations and you should check www.grants.gov for more information.
Pose your questions to our Abilities Expo Ambassadors about anything related to disabilities.
Lore Schindler, Teacher and Technology Coordinator for the Visually Impaired at the Los Angeles Unified School District, California, works for one of the largest school districts in the country. She travels from West Valley to East LA and may visit as many as five schools in a day to support students with visual impairments. In her work, Lore provides teachers and students with assistive technology resources and tools.
Her school district is on a mission to encourage more itinerant and resource teachers to provide accessible instructional materials (digital formats) to support students who are blind, have low vision, a physical disability or severe learning disability that affects reading. How will Ms. Schindler and her large school district accomplish this initiative? They will use Bookshare, the world’s largest online accessible library funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). Thanks to the award, Bookshare offers memberships for qualified students and tens of thousands of electronic books for free. Bookshare can help U.S. schools comply with the accessible instructional materials requirements found in IDEA 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Recently, Ms. Schindler walked into a resource room and saw a teacher’s assistant scanning The Turn of the Screw for an English class. She went online to Bookshare, found the novel, downloaded it, put it on a BrailleNote electronic Braille display and the student was reading the same book in Braille as his sighted peers were reading in print. The process took less than 5 minutes. Scanning that book would have taken this assistant an hour. Another student with low vision needed the best-selling novel, Kite Runner, in large print. This request would have taken Ms. Schindler a few weeks, putting her student far behind in reading assignments. A large print book or audio file would also add cost to her school. She checked Bookshare and found the book for free. Her student, Lupita, said, “Bookshare is a good website. I don’t have to wait long after a book is released and most of the time Bookshare has the book I want. Ms. Schindler taught me how to use Bookshare on my own. This works out really good for me!”
How to Log On, Download and Access Bookshare and Use Devices
“It’s easy to access and download ebooks from Bookshare,” said Ms. Schindler. “First, we log on, type in an author or title to locate a book. There’s an area to input advanced search criteria such as ISBN or limit the search to certain categories. If the book is available, it is listed by title with the file formats available for download. The DAISY format can be read by many software applications—including the free applications available from Bookshare—and assistive technology devices. Other formats, such as BRF (Braille Ready Format), work with Braille devices.” If a student needs it, Ms. Schindler can use a format that will work with a web browser or word processor.
Los Angeles Unified has a materials resource specialist (Trena James Cook) who searches for and downloads all books for nearly 500 students with visual impairments. She finds the book and the format she wants and then selects the student who will read the book from a list of qualified student members. The file name of the book will have the student’s name attached to it, letting the student know that this book is for his or her use only, while also protecting against illegal sharing. At this point, the specialist just clicks on the link and downloads the book to her computer.
Students with disabilities benefit from the multimodal (audio and visual) reading that is available through digitized text (etext) gaining from the added reinforcement of listening to a book while seeing the text highlighted. Students who are blind can listen to digitized voices or read the text on a refreshable Braille display.
According to Ms. Schindler, “Teachers use the online library for its convenience, cost and timesaving features. I encourage them to register for their own password and to teach students how to download books so that, together, we can empower students to know what digital books and technologies are available to support their disability.”
“The process of adding new members who qualify for Bookshare is just as simple as downloading,” said Ms. Schindler. “You just type their names, grade levels and birthdates. When you send the verification of eligibility to Bookshare, you can immediately download books. Bookshare is so student-friendly that I encourage high school students to sign up for individual memberships. This option gives students the independence to download unlimited books in and out of school.”
For students who do not have easy access to a computer or to the specialized ebook readers, Ms. Schindler says there is another option—converting the book to an MP3 file with Ghost Reader, a Mac software program that converts text, or TextAloud, similar software for the Windows platform. After one student read her first book using her iPod, Ms. Schindler moved the student to a portable Classmate Reader that provides both large print text and speech in a handheld device. The student was so happy to read accessible books for her high school class, she wrote the following email to express her gratitude.
Dear Ms. Schindler:
I have always enjoyed reading, even as a young girl. I learned to read at a young age, but my eye condition made it difficult and my eyes would tire quickly and it became a frustration to me. Bookshare and The Classmate Reader has given me the opportunity to return to my love of loosing myself in stories that are only real in my mind, yet that has always been fun for me. I just want to take the time to truly thank you for your help.
“Her note truly exemplifies what a difference ebooks can make for a visually impaired student,” commented Ms. Schindler. “You’ve got to try Bookshare!”
Bookshare is the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities. Through its technology initiatives and partnerships, Bookshare seeks to raise the floor on accessibility issues so that individuals with print disabilities have the same ease of access to print materials as people without disabilities. In 2007, Bookshare received a $32 million five-year award from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), to provide free access for all U.S. students with a qualified print disability. The Bookshare library has more than 100,000 books and serves more than 135,000 members. Bookshare is an initiative of Benetech, a Palo Alto, CA-based nonprofit that creates sustainable technology to solve pressing social needs.