Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can I Live on SSI?

- By Guest Blogger Stephanie Hickey -

Can I pay the water bill next month? Can the brakes on my car last until October? How long can the roof hold on until I have the money to fix it? Many people ask themselves these questions due to the present economy. However, I ask myself these questions nearly every month because my sole source of income is an SSI check.

A cashier once told me he wished he could get that much money (insert SSI check amount here) for doing nothing. Too flabbergasted, I didn’t respond, but the remark has stuck with me. Is this cashier’s perception of SSI dependants the popular assessment?

It raises a flood of questions: Does getting one lump sum to sustain you through an entire month of living (not to mention being disabled in some way) sound like an easy life, a “free ride”? Do individuals think SSI dependants live high on the hog? For most of us, after rent, utilities, food and other basic necessities--soap, toiletries, clothes, etc…--that grand lump sum we attain for “doing nothing” is gone, leaving us without anything until the beginning of another next month. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

And what of the “nothing”--the reason we get SSI checks. To remind those with “cashier attitude” it’s because of that pesky little thing called a disability. We have to deal with mental or physical impairments for which we didn’t ask, didn’t want. I developed Cerebral Palsy before I could walk, let alone work a job. I am lucky, though: my condition has improved to the point where I can work and want to. But what of the dependants whose conditions haven’t and/or won’t improve to the point that they can work? Does getting that lump sum really provide for them or even out being disabled?

I’m not ashamed of my disability, never have been, will be, nor even consider it a disability, but there are times I wish I could trade places with an individual whose body is completely healthy. It’s not so much for those physical things that would be easier for me to do, but to rid myself of the stigma, the shame I sometimes feel because of others’ beliefs. There are those who take their resentment--for lack of a better word-- of disability benefits further than the casual “cashier attitude”, contending too much of their tax dollars pay for people who, in their minds, do nothing. Do these “hard-core cashiers” think we feel good being dependants, being seen as free-loaders?

And to those who think it would be easy or that it is too much on tax payers, I challenge them to live on an SSI check for one month and see if it is truly enough on which they, or any individual can truly live. In fact, I challenge those sitting in Congress--who freely give themselves generous raises--to do the same and see how their opinions might change after seeing how the “other half lives”. Perhaps that might bring about the real changes this country needs.

Photo Credit Flickr

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Ongoing, Positive Impact of Disability Mentoring Day

The Ongoing, Positive Impact of Disability Mentoring Day

- By Barbara Davis -

From the time the Center became local coordinator of Disability Mentoring Day until the present, I have been involved with it as an assistant coordinator. In this capacity, I have seen first-hand the immediate impact that DMD has on its participants. Since I am still in contact with many of the participants I have worked with through the years, I can also attest to its ongoing influence.
Most DMD participants are teenagers and college students who have never worked. Some are adults who face a career change as a result of a newly acquired disability. Many have no clue about where to start or how to transfer the skills from the previous career to a new one. Participating in DMD gives them a place to start and a chance to see what they can do.
One person recuperating from a stroke found a new career path through direct participation in the first DMD I helped coordinate. He was not hired through the company where he was placed as a mentee, but the person who mentored him recommended him to someone she knew, and he was hired. Other adult participants eventually found work, including one woman who was hired by the company where she shadowed in a previous year. Each of these participants said that the confidence gained from DMD allowed them to apply for jobs they otherwise wouldn’t have.
For youth with high-functioning autism and similar disabilities, DMD has been a miracle. These young people were all eager to work, but faced a number of challenges. Their biggest one has been a lack of understanding of autism, and the stigma and fears from this lack of understanding. Most of these youth were never presented with any kind of opportunity to explore careers. They were always told that doors were closed to them in the area of employment.
Participation in DMD gave these kids a chance to walk through an open door. It allowed them to stock merchandise, answer phones, shadow a security guard, make flower arrangements, and help clean up in a gym. They saw people working together, they were met with acceptance and they were patiently shown how to do things. They also learned about time clocks, time sheets, pay checks, and lunch breaks. This was quite an awakening for them, and they loved it.
After this awakening, most of these kids found the confidence to walk through some other doors to pursue volunteer work and/or vocational training. Nearly all of them eventually found jobs; some with the assistance of a job coach and others, on their own. One youth whom I see pretty frequently, is independently riding the bus, volunteering in the community, and has become more confident in starting conversations with others. He has been on several job interviews, and I believe he will find a job sometime in the near future.
For most, Disability Mentoring Day is not just a one-day experience, nothing more than a few hours of learning about a job. Instead, it means finding that brass ring, grabbing hold of it, and sailing off – maybe after a few years of the “upward domino effect” of the confidence gained – into a bright new world of employment and other community involvement.
If you would like to participate in the 2010 Disability Mentoring on October 20, 2010, contact Keith at 502-589-6620 or

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Preventing Alienation in the Classroom

Preventing Alienation in the Classroom

- By Guest Blogger Samantha L. Henneman -

During my early school career, I was always well-liked. However, I was always treated as the "disabled" girl. My teachers figuratively shined a spotlight on my differences by constantly asking if I needed assistance and/or publicly announcing the modification of my assignments. However well meant, this caused me embarrassment, and made me feel separated from my classmates.

With the concept of inclusive classrooms being more widely accepted, teachers have an easier way to truly include special needs children into the educational and social environment of the classroom. Differentiated instruction can be beneficial to all children, as they themselves scaffold each other in the development of skills. This approach pairs younger children with more capable classmates. However, special needs children can specifically benefit from this approach, in a modified form. If teachers can group children together, making sure each group contained a mixture of special needs and non-special needs children, the non-special needs children can provide the special needs children with socialization and assistance, without teacher interference. This grouping can also build the special needs children's sense of self-esteem and self-worth, as they contribute to the group effort, and build friendships.

Non-special needs children can also benefit from this grouping arrangement. They will have the opportunity to personally get to know and learn about special needs children. This knowledge will increase their acceptance for other children's differences. Having any of their questions answered firsthand will relieve the unavoidable tension that occurs when children are faced with the unknown. As non-special needs children closely interact with special needs children, teachers will be required to "explain" about the special needs children less, and allow more natural participation.

When teachers are relieved of the pressure of having to "find a place" for special needs children in the classroom, they can focus on providing the entire class with an appropriate education. While they will still remain to take on the role of a facilitator in maintaining group cohesion, teachers can focus less on a specific group of children, providing a more natural classroom environment. Overall, the group dynamic will help special needs children develop a broader view of their world, beyond their challenges.

Almost from birth, special needs children are made aware of their differences. They are almost automatically placed in a "separate group" from the rest of society, especially in the school environment. However, this only serves to alienate them socially, emotionally, and educationally from classmates. Intermingling special needs and non-special needs children, through grouping, will encourage socialization and the concept of special needs children as valued members of the class.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How Do You Feel About Jerry’s Kids?

- By Guest Blogger Cass Irvin -

Most disability activists cringe when Labor Day comes around.

The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon may seem like a benevolent event. But in reality the charity mentality and the MDA's use of the "pity approach" to raise money seriously undermines the disability civil rights movement.

The general public accepts the idea that people with muscular dystrophy--really all people with disabilities--are pitiable victims who want and need nothing more than a big charity to take care of them. Or, better, to cure them.

Disability activist like Mike Ervin challenge MDA's representation. He says millions of viewers come away with the idea that disabled people need pity and charity rather than accessible public transportation and housing, employment opportunities and other civil rights that a democratic society should ensure for all its citizens.

Mike Ervin, a Muscular Dystrophy Association poster child in the 1960s, helped organize Jerry's Orphans, advocates who annually protest the MDA telethon because of the debilitating effect it has on people with disabilities.

Before you decide how you feel about this issue, you might want to look at THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, a half-hour documentary about Mike Ervin and Jerry's Orphans.

To learn more, go to:
and/or watch it on-line at: www.thekidsareallright.orgwatch.html

Bye for now,
Cass Irvin

Author Home Bound, a memoir Temple University Press
Free To download Home Bound, Chapter 1 go to and click on Excerpt