5th Suspect in Philly Basement Cruelty Case

Heather Smith - Monday, February 06, 2012

A judge has ordered a man to stand trial in the case of four mentally disabled adults found locked in a Philadelphia basement.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Thursday's decision reverses an earlier ruling that dropped all charges against Eddie Wright.

The 51-year-old will now face trial on assault, kidnapping and related charges. Prosecutors said Wright played a role in a scam to imprison people and steal their government benefits.

In December, a different judge dismissed charges against Wright. He said testimony showed that Wright was also a victim of Linda Weston, who prosecutors said was the scheme's mastermind.

Weston and two others are being held for trial.




The Baby Boomer Generation Affects Accessibility

Heather Smith - Monday, February 06, 2012


The Baby Boomer Generation Affects Accessibility


In 2011, the first baby boomers reached the traditional retirement age of 65.  By 2025, baby boomers will comprise about 25 percent of the total U.S. population. As this demographic ages, decisions concern them about their homes and their choice of lifestyle.

According to a 2003 AARP study, more than three quarters of respondents said it's important to have nonslip floor surfaces and bathroom aids such as grab bars or a bathing stool. But while 80 percent feel that bathroom aids are important, only about one third have them in their homes.

Recognizing a need in the market, bath companies are providing elegant and high-tech options for the elderly and/or disabled.

One of the things that people who are aging often have to sacrifice is that they can no longer enjoy a deep soak.  But the latest accessible bathtubs on the market allow the aging to bathe in a tub that's not only high-tech and safe, but includes elderly specific features to meet their needs.

An accessible bathtub needs more than just a few grab bars. These tubs usually incorporate a soaking tub style, built-in seat and walk-in door. This way, the bather doesn't need to risk losing balance by stepping over the high wall.

The typical walk-in bath has a hinged door that can be latched and unlatched. A new alternative is a rising wall bathtub, in which the entire outer wall of the bathtub raises and lowers easily. The extra-wide door opening allows a person to lift legs in and out of the bath and transition from a wheelchair.

Besides accessibility, bath manufacturers add other features that appeal to aging customers.

A concern that some people forget with walk-in tubs is the need for quick drainage.  We all area aware of the steps to getting a bath.  In order to get out of a walk-in bath, you have to open the door, but before you can do that, the water has to drain.  Think about how long it takes your bathtub at home to drain.  The average is probably somewhere along the line of 5-7 minutes in a typical tub.  That's quite a bit of time to sit in the water, but the quick draining feature eliminates water in under 2 minutes in a normal-sized tub.

To ease aches and pains, many accessible tubs offer jetted features that provide hydrotherapy benefits in everything from air jet systems to an invigorating jetted system to vibroacoustic technology, which is the use of sound to produce mechanical vibrations.

Its crucial for on to investigate the effectiveness of these features for various tubs before investing. Really look into the type of feature you want and research which tubs offer those.

A walk-in tub or rising wall bath can cost as much as $5,000. Some models might easily retrofit into an existing bath space, but hiring a professional to do the work will add cost. 

Those looking for a simple bathing experience might find that a low-threshold shower with a sturdy stool is all they need to get the job done. Otherwise, nonslip floors and grab bars provide some peace of mind for those who need to be extra careful stepping in and out of a bath.




On stands soon!!!

Heather Smith - Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Be sure to check out the Erie Reader on stands February 8th for an article highlighting the Bay City Thunder and Lightning Wheelchair Basketball team!




RIM-AU Invitational Wheelchair Basketball Tournament Summary

Heather Smith - Monday, January 30, 2012

Seventeen teams competed in the 3rd Annual RIM-AU Invitational Wheelchair Basketball Tournament on January 14-15, 2012, at the City of Southfield Beech Woods Recreation Center.  Thirteen teams competed in the Men’s Division III and 4 in the Junior Division.  With the exception of the teams from Grand Rapids who were only available for 2 games each, each DIII team played 5 games; the remaining Junior teams played 3-4 games each, with an opportunity to all play each other.   Each team completed a ballot for All Tournament Teams and Denver Branum MVP Awards, teams were not allowed to vote for players on their own teams.  Tournament ranking was determined according to win-loss record.  In the event of a tie, head-to-head comparison was considered; if teams played each other, then the total number of points scored across all games was compared.


Men’s Division III

Teams included:  Detroit Diehards, Bay City Thunder & Lightning, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Fire, Wisconsin Thunder, Music City Lightning, Turnstone Bandits, Pittsburgh Steelwheelers, Grand Rapids Pacers, Motor City Firestorm, Forest City Flyers, Moraine Minutemen, and Kentwood Rollers.

Heart Health and Wellness Meeting

Heather Smith - Friday, January 27, 2012

2012 Boro Shootout!!! Come Show Your Support!!!

Heather Smith - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

United Nations Gives Boost

Heather Smith - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Beginning this year, the United Nations — and all of its member countries — will set aside a special annual day to recognize Down syndrome.

A resolution approved by consensus vote in the U.N. General Assembly late last year named March 21 World Down Syndrome Day. Accordingly, member nations will be asked to promote awareness of the chromosomal disorder starting this spring.

Now officials at the U.N. say they will mark the day by gathering members of the Down syndrome community at U.N. headquarters in New York for a conference tackling issues ranging from education and independent living to research and working with the media.

Organizers with the Brazilian delegation, which spearheaded the effort, say they’re hoping to get representatives from as many countries as possible to attend the event.

For at least six years, Down syndrome advocates have promoted an awareness day on March 21. But the U.N. action stands to bolster their efforts. The date, 3/21, is considered significant because Down syndrome occurs when an individual has three copies of the 21st chromosome.

In addition to World Down Syndrome Day, the U.N. previously set aside an annual day to honor autism. April 2 was named World Autism Awareness Day in 2007.

Obama's Reform What Has Been Done

Heather Smith - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The President is committed to nurturing a society that values the contributions of all of our citizens and residents, including the approximately 50 million people in this country living with disabilities. While people with disabilities are integrated into society as never before, we must do more.  President Obama and his Administration have achieved real results, motivated by the following guiding principles:'

Strengthen Health Care

The President signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which establishes a National Alzheimer’s Project within the Department of Health and Human Services and an advisory council on Alzheimer’s research, care, and services.

  • The President signed into law the reauthorization of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act, which provides funding for screening, intervention, and research of hearing loss, strengthens language to ensure better services, and requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a postdoctoral fellowship program to foster research and development in the area of early hearing detection and intervention.
  • The President signed into law the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first piece of comprehensive legislation aimed at improving the lives of Americans living with paralysis.
  • The President issued an Executive Order repealing the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.
  • President Obama placed comprehensive health reform at the top of his domestic policy agenda. The President signed into law the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provides many benefits for people with disabilities.
  • The ACA ends discrimination on the basis of pre-existing condition and bans caps on lifetime benefits.
  • The ACA, starting in 2014, bars insurance companies from discrimination on the basis of medical history or genetic information.
  • The ACA establishes the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program, a self-funded and voluntary long-term care insurance choice that would help people with disabilities remain in their homes, communities and jobs through cash benefits to pay for community support services.
  • The ACA advances community living by extending the Money Follows the Person program, improving the Medicaid home-and-community-based services (HCBS) option.
  • The ACA establishes the Community First Choice Optioncovering community-based attendant services and supports to help Medicaid beneficiaries with daily activities and health-related tasks.
  • The ACA enhances health care delivery by establishing standards for medical diagnostic equipment so people with disabilities can access vital preventative care. 

Increase Employment Opportunities

President Obama is committed to expanding access to employment for people with disabilities by ensuring that his administration: hires people with disabilities; enforces existing laws; provides technical assistance and information on reasonable accommodations; removes barriers to work; and identifies and removes barriers to employment encountered by people with public benefits.

  • The President issued an Executive Order to make the federal government a model employer of persons with disabilities.  The Order requires agencies to create hiring plans and holds agencies accountable for their hiring practices.
  • The Department of Labor and the Department of Defense made available the 2011 Workforce Recruitment Program Database to help college students and recent graduates with disabilities find jobs in the public and private sectors.
  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) launched a new initiative, Add Us In, designed to identify and develop strategies to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities within small businesses owned and operated by minorities.
  • In February 2009, for the first time, the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting the employment situation for people with disabilities.
  • The Administration hosted a Disability Job Fairto bring qualified candidates with disabilities and agencies together to help increase federal employment for people with disabilities in the federal government.
  • The Office of Personnel Management created a series of quick training videos to encourage the use of ScheduleA for disability hiring in the federal government.
  • The President issued a memorandum supporting the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program, which requires qualified blind individuals be given a priority to operate vending facilities on Federal properties. The program provides high-quality entrepreneurial opportunities for blind business managers, who, in turn, have hired thousands of workers.
  • The Department of Labor proposed a new rule to strengthen requirements established in Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act that would require federal contractors and subcontractors to set a hiring goal of having 7 percent of their workforces be people with disabilities. The proposed regulatory changes detail specific actions contractors must take in the areas of recruitment, training, record keeping and policy dissemination — similar to those that have long been required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities. 

Expand Educational Opportunities

President Obama supports improved educational opportunities for people with disabilities.  The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization proposal will increase support for the inclusion and improved outcomes of students with disabilities, ensuring that teachers are prepared to meet the needs of diverse learners and that assessments more accurately and appropriately measure the performance of students with disabilities.  President Obama also supports expanded funding and increase enforcement for programs like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that ensure all Americans have access to the tools to succeed.

  • The U.S. Department of Education allocated more than $19.9 million in grants to help prepare education personnel to improve services and results for children with disabilities.
  • President Obama celebrated the 35th Anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • The Department of Justice and the Department of Education issued a joint “Dear Colleague” letter to college and university presidents expressing concern about the growing use of e-book readers that are not accessible to blind and low vision students.  The letter reminds learning institutions that under federal law, emerging technology used in the classroom must be accessible to all students.

  • The Department of Education issued guidance in a “Dear Colleague”   letter   to support educators in combating bullying in schools against all persons, including people with disabilities.

Protect Civil Rights and Promote Access to Community Living

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is landmark legislation that has done much to protect people with disabilities from discrimination; however, President Obama will push for more consistent and effective enforcement of ADA, which can do more to prevent discrimination in employment, public services, and public accommodations.  Too many people who need assistance with the activities of everyday life face a difficult choice:  move into a nursing home and face safety and quality of care problems or risk injury or death by staying in the community without adequate services to address personal needs. The President believes that more can be done to show federal leadership toward ending institutional bias and more rigorously enforcing the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, which affirmed that unjustifiable institutionalization of a person with a disability who, with proper support, can live in the community is discrimination.

  • President Obama launched the “Year of Community Living” to identify ways to improve access to housing, community supports, and independent living arrangements.  The interagency collaboration is intended to allow persons with disabilities to live productive independent lives in their communities rather than in institutional settings.
  • The Department of Justice obtained a major comprehensive agreement in the state of Georgia strongly affirming the Olmstead decision, which will protect individuals confined in hospitals from continued segregation and from threats of harm to their lives, health and safety and affirms that people with disabilities have a right to live in the most integrated settings possible.
  • The Department of Justice issued revised ADA regulations includingADA Standards for Accessible Design, setting requirements for newly designed, constructed, or altered public facilities.  These new standards will set minimum requirements for new construction and alterations of the facilities of more than 80,000 state and local governments and over seven million businesses.
  • The President signed into law the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Actand the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Act. These two bills will make a variety of improvements to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s existing supportive housing programs for extremely low-income senior citizens and persons with disabilities.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development also awarded nearly $33 million to fund rental assistance vouchers for over 4,000 Americans with disabilities through its Rental Assistance for Non-Elderly Persons with Disabilities Program.

Support Development and Use of Accessible Technology

President Obama is committed to winning the future through innovation and access to technology for Americans with disabilities.

  • The President signed into law the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act, regarding the establishment of minimum sound standards related to motor vehicles.
  • President Obama signed into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which sets new standards so that Americans with disabilities can take advantage of the technology our economy depends on. As part of this legislation, the FCC established the Emergency Access Advisory Committee to develop recommendations for making next generation emergency services accessible to people with disabilities and the Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee to gather recommendations on ways for making television and Internet programming accessible to people with hearing or vision disabilities through closed captioning and video description.
  • As part of the President’s initiative to make government information available to all Americans through accessible electronic and information technology under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Chief Acquisition Officer and the Chief Information Officer issued a memo to make agencies aware of existing resources and direct agencies to take stronger steps toward improving the acquisition and implementation of accessible technology.
  • The Chief Information Officer Council created its first ever Accessibility Committee in 2010.
  • The White House hosted a Technology Showcase, in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Commerce, where nearly 40 companies, organizations and agencies demonstrated the power of technology to level the playing field for Americans with disabilities.

Support International Disability Rights

The President believes that disability rights aren't just civil rights to be enforced here at home, but they are universal rights to be recognized and promoted around the world.  Today, 650 million people—10 percent of the world's population—live with a disability.

Under President Obama’s leadership, the U.S. signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adding America to the then list of 141 countries signing the first new human rights treaty of the 21st Century.


  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Disability Rights Network signed a Memorandum of Agreement to provide a frame of reference for cooperation in the event of a natural, man-made, or technological disaster. FEMA also has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with theNational Council on Independent Living to coordinate public engagement efforts on preparedness, response, and recovery.
  • The President's Fiscal Year 2012 Budget includes key provisions to win the future for people with disabilities.
  • The President signed the Combatting Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011, continuing critical investments in research, early detection and support and services for both children and adults
  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included a number of provisions of particular concern to people with disabilities.
  • The Act included $500 million to help the Social Security Administration reduce its backlog in processing disability applications;
  • The Act supplied $12.2 billion in funding to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA);
  • The Act also provided $87 billion to states to bolster their Medicaid programs during the downturn; and,
  • The Act provided over $500 million in funding for vocational rehabilitation services to help with job training, education and placement.
  • The Act provided over $140 million in funding for independent living centers across the country.

Leadership and Engagement

Appointed Kareem Dale as the first Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy. Check out the posts of Kareem Dale and other Administration officials on The White House Blog: Disabilities.

The White House conducts monthly disability outreach calls to update the public on disability issues and to hear from constituents. Contact us if you would like to receive alerts about these calls and other announcements related to disability policy.

You can get more information at the Disability.gov website, which has implemented both social media and personalization tools to offer enhanced experiences for all visitors.  Users are able to personalize their experience on the award-winning website by creating a “My Disability.gov” profile, following the Twitter feed, connecting with other users on Facebook and LinkedIn and reading weekly posts on Disability Blog. 

Disability.gov hosted a Virtual Town Hall in July 2011. White House staff from the Domestic Policy Council, Office of Public Engagement, and Presidential Personnel answered questions live on issues such as employment, education, housing, health care, and social security. Watch the virtual town hall.

The White House also hosted an event to observe Autism Awareness Month in April of 2011. Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, HHS Secretary Sebelius, and senior officials from the departments of Education, Justice, and Labor welcomed self-advocates, parents, researchers, health professionals, and local and national leaders to the White House to listen to their insight and to discuss working together to improve the lives of persons on the autism spectrum and their families. Watch the video.

The President and his administration have created three new senior level disability positions and offices:

  • The Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the State Department
  • The Office of Disability Integration and Coordination at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • The Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation at the Department of Transportation

State of the Union Summary

Heather Smith - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

President Obama delivered his 2012 State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, making a bid for 2012 reelection. In a sweeping speech, the President touched upon issues like taxes, the economy, manufacturing and keeping the American dream alive. Though the current "State of the Union" is quite shaky, Obama highlighted the progress being made and attempted to congeal a sturdy campaign base.

Here is a summary of Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address.

  • The war in Iraq has ended with wild success, including the take-down of Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda members.
  • We need to keep the promise of the American Dream alive -- the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.
  • An economic blueprint consisting of: an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.
  • GM is back on top. Chrysler is flourishing; and Ford has invested billions in U.S. plants and factories.
  • Manufacturing must be brought back to American shores. Businesses must plan ways to do this. This could start with eliminating tax breaks for going overseas and giving tax breaks to companies that keep jobs in the U.S.
  • Open new markets for American products internationally.
  • The Trade Enforcement Unit will investigate unfair trading practices in China. This will ensure that no foreign company will have an advantage over American companies.
  • Educate and train more American citizens in a trade.
  • Reward the nation's best teachers and extend the tuition tax credit for college students.
  • Tackle illegal immigration. (*Obama has been recorded making the same statement over the past three years.)
  • Congress must stop the stalwarts.
  • Extend tax breaks to help small businesses grow.
  • Continue providing grants to medicinal and technological research projects.
  • Capitalize on America's natural gas -- which is enough to last America 100 years. Spur energy innovation with incentives like clean energy standards and elimination of energy waste.
  • Pump money into local infrastructure.
  • Americans can now refinance at historically low rates with savings of up to $3,000 a year.
  • Financial Crimes Unit will crack down on large-scale fraud and protect investments so 2008 will never happen again.
  • Everyone must pay their fair share, specifically millionaires who should be willing to abide by the Buffett Rule.
  • Crack down on insider trading in Congress.
  • Consolidate the bureaucracy so the government is leaner, quicker and more efficient in making changes.
  • Prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
  • Create jobs for veterans.
  • Work together in a bipartisan effort.   

Obama concluded his speech with: "Each time I look at that flag, I'm reminded that our destiny is stitched together like those 50 stars and those 13 stripes. No one built this country on their own. This nation is great because we built it together. This nation is great because we worked as a team."

Do they let just anyone run for office?

Heather Smith - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Virginia lawmaker: Children with disabilities are God’s punishment to women who previously had abortions.

On Thursday, Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) spoke at a press conference against state funding for Planned Parenthood. He blasted the organization for supporting a women’s right to choose, saying that God punishes women who have had abortions by giving them disabled children:

“The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children,” said Marshall, a Republican.

“In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest.”

Marshall is also fighting against health care reform, saying that “Obamacare” is trying to take “your soul.” Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has been pushing back against high-profile figures and entities who have been attacking people with disabilities. Will she speak out against someone in her own party?

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