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The Definition of “Disability”

Martina Navratilova, a well-known poet once said “disability is a matter of perception. How an accurate statement that is! When many hear the word disability, they may think of someone with Down syndrome, a person in a wheelchair, or one who is blind. A person who has limited function physically or mentally is referred to as disabled. Kris Boehm, my father, defines disability as a person who has difficulty with a particular task. My thoughts reflected such a viewpoint as well. Do I continue to have such an perspective?
In 2010, I lost my sight due to an attempted suicide. I only knew of one other blind individual, so I was unaware of what my future held out for me. Would I be able to pursue the same goals and live an active life as before? Would I be able to partake in the same hobbies activities as before? Initially, I thought not. How can a person with no vision live an independant and fruitful life?
My self-determination and positive attitude aided me in seeking out the education and tools that are available to the blind. I came into contact with other fine examples of blind individuals who did not let their lack of vision hinder them from pursuing meaningful and fulfilling lives.Thus, I feel that just because a person may have a limitation, whether it be physical or mental, with the proper training and education, such characteristics that appear to be a disability are no disability at all! For instance, blindness may be preconceived as a limitation, yet being vision impaired can be easily overcome with technology, education, and the right mindset.
A disability is something that limits you from performing a certain task. Hence, if you have the right training and education and you have learned to perform the same tasks you used to, just differently, how is that a disability? Can a person without an obvious impairment be considered disabled? Imagine a six foot six inches tall man trying to fit in a Mini Cooper. Such a tall person may not be able to fit comfortably in such a vehicle or have the ability to drive the coupe. Could he not be considered disabled by circumstance? I believe so. Therefore, if your physical impairment does not limit or hinder you in your daily activities, is it a disability? I believe not.
I have met doctors, chemists, teachers, golfers, Olympians, and business owners that are blind but “see” no limits as to what they set their mind on. I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Rickobono, the first blind man to drive a self-driving car, hitting speeds up to 43 mph in his first drive! Such examples motivate and reaffirm the notion that the only thing that will hinder me is myself.
Do others perceive the disabled as capable individuals? Unfortunately no! Due to ignorance and the inconsistencies from the media, the majority feel that those with disabilities are helpless and inferior. The disabled have advocated for themselves to legislate for equality in today’s world. For instance, in the United States, an outdated law entitled Section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act, discriminates against those who are disabled; the 1938 act allows companies to apply for certificates in order to pay disabled individuals pennies on the dollar, far lower than the minimum wage. In fact, businesses such as Goodwill pay their disabled employees as low as 12 cents an hour- and it’s legal! These same employers have multi-million dollar owners and managers that exploit the provisions of the Fair Wages Act. They even receive tax deductions, government cutbacks, and other incentives that find their way into their own pockets. Organizations, such as the National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation of the Blind, are working hard to legislate and repeal these unjust standards.
Often, parents and families of disabled children, due to being unaware of the availability of training and sources within hands reach, shelter their child so much that the child feels as if someone has to do everything for them. Such a person’s communication and interaction skills with others suffer due to their sheltered environment. This presents a challenge, but not a challenge that cannot be overcome with the proper training and education.
How does language influence how we view people with disabilities? The misconceptions and attitudes towards the abilities of disabled persons reflect onto the vocabulary and expressions used today. We may subconsciously discriminate against one with a perceived disability. Thus, such language transfers to the conscious mind, affecting our interpretations and opinions. The inaccurate belief that the disabled are not capable of overcoming their ailment highlights the need for further education and advocacy.
So are all ideas of disabilities accurate? No! Even though we live in 2014, much more effort and work is needed to educate the world about disabilities. Organizations, such as the National Federation of the Blind and the American Council of the Blind, lead the front to change what it means to be blind in the eyes of those blinded by false assumptions. Many blind have more vision than a sighted individual; numerous paralyzed persons in wheelchairs have walked through trials and tribulations triumphantly to live happy and satisfying lives! Technology has aided many to accomplish tasks that the everyday person would think be impossible. We disable ourselves only if we limit ourselves in our thinking! I asked my father, since having a son who recently lost his vision, has his thoughts on disabilities changed? He replied, “Yes… At first I thought we would become caretakers…but my viewpoint now is that perhaps the disability for many is their perception of how a person can adapt in order to be a whole person. Given the right opportunity and motivation we all can overcome anything others perceive as a disability… My son has proven that to me.”
So, what are your perceptions in referring to the disabled? Never be “handicapped” by preconceived notions!

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From Hobby To Business

I enjoy creativity. Thus, at age 15, I started working with automobiles in customization and restyling. In 2001, I started my own business “Custom Effects.” In 2010, after 15 years in the business, a new chapter of my life began. Around this time I had lost my sight and was completely blind. I could still run my business, but I took my change in life as an opportunity to try new things that I may have not thought of participating in before. Further, I wanted to train others in assistive technology and empower others to independence and success.
As I embark on this journey, I want to continue to express my creativity and style. Thus in 2011, I noticed that all these mobility canes that the blind used were white and plain. I wanted a dressy cane, something that reflected my style. I searched online with no success. I decided that well then I will be the first. I dressed up my cane in black and fleur de liss accents and a spiraling silver metallic stripe. My cane was a hit. Well, why can’t I take my skills of my former trade and apply them to making canes for others? The rest is history. What was a hobby became a business that I immensely enjoy. I have a website up, http://www.kustomcane.com that receives a lot of traffic. I have now sold canes from the Golden Gate Bridge in California to Stone Hedge in England. I have come up with other accessories to accent the canes, such as charms,mobility bells, personalized braile charms, and Cane Shield, a protective coating. Kustom Cane has a Facebook page and Twitter page that I enjoy sharing products, ideas, and interaction with friends and customers.as well. I look forward continuing my education to empower others while also reflecting their personality on their canes!

James’ Top Five I phone Accessible Apps as of August 2013

James’s Top App Picks
As you open the assisted living magazines pages of the numerous devices that are available for the blind to continue in an independant lifestyle, it is invigorating. If you purchased every device to aid you in your daily life activities-like a money identifier, and color reeno- GPS trecker, OCR scanner and recognition software,Calendar,timers, note recorders,bar code scanners,- to name a few, you would be spending thousands upon thousands and would thus need to invest in a large suitcase on wheels or borrow the local grocery stores shopping cart to transport all the devices with you. Further, you will be spending so much money on these items, that once you have acquired these things, you Won’t have the money to use them because you are broke. How nice Apple has provided us with an alternate solution: one device-that handles all those individual devices, and many times in a superior fashion. So, you begin to comprehend how much time and space you will save without having to haul that Piggly Wiggly shopping cart around.Thus, When you tally all the amounts of the prices of those individual devices,and them compare it to the iPhone and of the many things that is already built into its operating system,as well as purchasing the apps that specifcifically pertain to your needs.The variations of price between the two situations are astronomical.The I phone is todays SwiSS Army Knife. A knife that isconpact,has just what you need, and works well with a purpose.
Here are my top apps. I based this on which apps I use the most, accessibility, ease of use, and reliability. I likewise attempted to pick apps of various purpose.
1. Look Tell Money Reader
Instantly recognizes currenciesand speaks denomination with use of the camera. Works fast and with little effort. 21 currencies supported.LookTel Money Reader provides Voice Over support for several languages including English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Polish, Portugese, Russian, Korean, Finnish, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Japanese, Greek, Hungarian, and Mandarin.
2. Tap Tap See
TapTapSee is a free app that helps the blind and visually impaired become more independent in their day-to-day activities.
Identify any object around

Ability to identify US paper currency

Can determine images, colors, and limited text transcriptions. Automatic flash
Auto-focus sound
3. Blind Square

Top 5 Apps
Blind Square
I have found this to be the best GPS app due to its ease of use and layout. No need to hunt and peck for buttons to get your location or direction. Just shake your phone. Blind Square will give the your current address, the nearest intersection, it’s distance, and uses the clock direction to tell you where things are according to where you are facing. I use this to explore new areas with confidence.
4. In Class
A very helpful app for note taking. Best app I have found to organize your notes according to subject or class. In Class will determine which class you are in and will automatically pull up a note for that particular class. Besides text, add audio, video, Photos, and files to your notes if you wish. Share your notes via Facebook, email, messaging. Easily set reminders for assignments and projects. This app has many features to aid you in being organized and efficient.
5. Text Grabber
I am amazed by the capabilities of this app. Last semester I was able to read my fellow classmates’ papers in a in-class workshop using Text Grabber. Take a picture of a document and let Text Grabber do the rest. Further, the app will translate the scanned text into other languages.Or consider this: You have a document in a different language. Take a photo with Text Grabber and the app will translate the text into whatever language you want and read it to you. Edit the text, share via email, mss, or send toyour Evernote account.
Honorable Mentions:
These apps deserve mentioning 🙂
-I Blink Radio
Bookoos of information on technology, legislation, news,resources,entertainment, blogs, podcast,support groups, and so much more.
-i iVzWiz
A personal visual assistant. Unlike Tap Tap See or other apps like OMB, which use visual recognition software,iVzWiz sends your photo and a short audio recording of your liking to actual webworkers, or your social media to get information.
-NFB Newsline
Get access to local and national newspapers. Read the latest Times, National Geographic, and numerous other magazines or periodicals. Notifies you or current weather conditions and alerts. Many features.
-Smart Recorder
Another app for note taking. Record audio and sync with all of your devices.Easy interface with one of the best audio recording quality I have found.
-Mail Shot Group
Organize your contacts and create groups with ease.
-Focus
For all you Facebook lovers-another way to access your Facebook. A simplified and more consistant interface.
I hope these apps will aid you in your independance,confidence, and day to day travels. New apps come out every day and current app get updates or new features. I strive to keep up with the latest new developments of accessible technology and applications. If you or someone you know would like to receive emails on my latest findings,feel free to share my email with them: jimmydagerman80@gmail.com. The only consistant thing in this world is change. The evolution of technology and accessibility is ever advancing. Working together, we will evolve ourselves into successful contributors of society.