Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Today I am offering you a posting from a regular guest blogger who we haven't actually heard from for a while. Emma Crees has always been an amazing blogger, wise with words and wise with thoughts. I really enjoyed her blog post today, it's quite interesting to realise how children see the world. I think this blog is one for mothers with a connection to disability, as we can all understand that sometimes the dandiest things come out of the mouth of a child. (Please check out Emma's blog site which has recently been renovated, at http://writerinawheelchair.blogspot.com.)  

Emma Crees

A good friend of mine has a four year old son. I’ve known her (and him!) since he was about 16 months old so he’s grown up knowing me.

I use a manual chair a lot of the time and that’s the chair I prefer. But I also don’t drive due to my CP (spatial awareness problems meant when I tried it wasn’t a good idea and I’ve never been back) so I have a powerchair as well which I use most of the time I’m out and about. R (my friend’s little boy) has seen me in both my chairs although I think he’s probably more used to my powerchair.

If you ask him about my powerchair, he’ll tell you it’s a wheelchair. He’ll also show you where the horn on it is and he frequently climbs up for hugs. But if you ask him what my manual chair is? That’s a wheelbarrow. He’s called it that several times even though we correct him whenever he does. It’s really cute and more than a little bit funny.

Then the other day I was talking to someone I volunteer with. She’d taken her granddaughter (I think she said she is 6) camping. Said granddaughter had been desperate for the loo so they’d parked in a disabled space. She said to me that there were about six free disabled spaces and it “wouldn’t matter” (I would have said something about that but you’ve got to pick your battles). Anyway, apparently she asked her granddaughter if she knew what disabled parking spaces were for or who disabled people are or some such, I forget exactly which. And she replied “those people who go round in wheelbarrows”.

I really, really love the way kids see disability and the way they react to it. It’s so refreshing. I wish more adults would take a lesson from their kids and realise that disability is different. But that’s not a big deal, it’s OK. Some do but not many.

And the “Wheelbarrow” comments I keep hearing about (if two kids saying it can be called keep hearing about) do amuse me and make me smile. I can’t remember the last time a TAB adults random disability comment made me smile and laugh like that. I wish I could.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Author Maryanne Harrison

I am very lucky to get some fantastic people writing on this blog, sharing some amazing stories and making a difference in the lives and hearts of others, simply by touching them. I came across the amazing Maryanne Harrison when I was lucky enough to fall on her amazing and inspirational books that she is developing to educate children on accepting difference. Her Ted Books are truly a marvellous invention that really assist parents, teachers, carers and family members to teach children about the fact that on the inside we are all the same! Enjoy her blog post.

Maryanne Harrison

I am a children’s book author and advocate for people with disabilities. When I was three years old I lost most of my hearing after contracting measles, and then mumps, within a few weeks of each other. The doctors told my parents that I would need to be institutionalised but my parents refused, and sent me to Blackburn Primary and Blackburn High School.

It was when I was in my mid forties that the hearing in my right ear starting deteriorating further and my hearing aid was not working for me, so in September 2009 I received a cochlear implant. It was while I was recovering from my operation that I decided to put together a children’s book to try and teach, not only children, but parents on the importance of respecting differences. I had been working with primary school children on a disability awareness program and this also helped to inspire me to write the book.

People who experience hearing loss may also be unable to work and socialise therefore suffering from isolation and even depression. There are around 15,000 middle aged Australians who would benefit from a cochlear implant. This would mean that they could continue working if they so wished, socialise and travel. Having a cochlear implant will take a hearing impaired person from being extremely deaf to just having a minor hearing loss.

As a mother, author and a person who grew up with the challenges of a hearing disability, I understand how critical it is to educate and inspire children from an early age to accept and appreciate all people no matter how ‘different’ they may be; in fact differences are good!

Children generally do not notice when someone has a disability, it is only when someone else, usually a grownup, points it out to them. If my book can teach children and their parents to realise that being different is OK then I have achieved my goal. Everyone is different in some way, we all need to respect this and accept it. In order to build an inclusive community we need to be open to everyone living in our communities. This means not just in the accessibility of our communities but also in the way we welcome everyone into our communities. It is not accessibility that isolates the disabled; it is people’s attitudes. This is what I would like to see taught through my book. If we can change the way children think about the disabled then they will accept this is the way of the future and respect people who may be different in some way.

If teachers can use the book in the classroom to teach children about respect then they are also doing their bit to help educate future generations. Anyone can do what I have done; just put yourself in the shoes of someone who may be in a wheelchair, blind or deaf. Try to imagine what it would be like. Try wearing a blind fold, ear plugs or use a wheelchair to get around. You will soon develop a respect you would never have thought possible for people who live like this every day of their lives. Try getting your students to do any one of these things so that they can also see how hard it is.

My husband, Lindsay, and I are parents of three well adjusted children. (Tommy 17, Annalise 15 and Charlee 10). Lindsay has been behind me every step of the way encouraging and guiding me. His belief in me has been the main reason for me to have arrived at this point with the book – I would not have been able to achieve what I have so far without him. My family have been my strength, and I would most certainly not be where I am today – a published author – without their love and support.

A very good friend and mentor, Derek Barker from Barker & Barker Media in Melbourne, put me onto IDEAS. It is a fabulous link to information for anyone looking for resources to make life easier for the disabled.

At the moment I am concentrating on getting TED’s book out into the community. I have set up my own business from home (Ted Books www.tedbooks.com) and I am working hard on marketing and advertising the book in whatever way I can. I feel that I have been given a voice; the disabled do not need others to speak for them, we can speak for ourselves.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A technology treat

Hi readers,

I realise that it has been a while since this fabulous blog has been updated, but there has been alot of happenings in the IDEAS office as of late. I'm not sure whether it's because the leadup to the silly season has begun, or it's just because we have so many new things happening.

Over my work on the newsletter I came across a really fabulous, new technology that I wanted to share with you. It's designed for people with vision impairment, and it's a program to be used on a Wii console. The great thing about this new technology is that it recognises that ok, adaptive technology that helps people lo live is great and essential for individuals, but this type of equipment allows people to live their lives with a greater level of enjoyment through participation with a technology that has become common to other children. It's all about forgetting difference, and remembering that inside everyone is exactly the same. Check out this little snippet we recieved:

Wii Sports is believed to be a new technological phenomenon that is getting children moving and encouraging activity. The combination of a video game with physical activity has left children and parents happy with video gaming. But what about people with vision impairment?

A video game research project at the University of Nevada, Reno, is in the process of creating Wii
Sports-based PC games that don’t require eyesight to play.

Dr Eelke Folmer and Tony Morelli of the University of Nevada in Reno, Dr John Foley of the State University of New York Cortland and Dr Lauren Lieberman of SUNY Brockport collaborated on the project. They had the goal of creating a gaming device that increases the participation of users with visual
impairments in physical activity, as a means to improve the health of those individuals.

The two games in the VI Fit line are very similar to Wii Sports games. Both VI Tennis and VI Bowling mimic their respective sports through use of the Wii remote. However instead of seeing the ball and visually lining up the strike, visually impaired players interact using their hearing and feel the games through the use of sound and vibrotactile cues.

VI Bowling uses the Wii remote’s vibration motor to help the blind narrow down when to bowl the ball. Voice effects relay how well the player has done.

Both games are available now for free at the Vi Fit website. Both require a Wii remote and a PC with Bluetooth support to play. If you have problems setting up the game or you have feedback, do not hesitate to contact the makers through the email: feedback@vifit.org.

For more information visit the website www.vifit.org/

Note: the article was taken from Vifit

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Another fabulous blog post from the amazing Rich Fabend

I am truly excited to be publishing another post from our amazing blogger Rich Fabend. We've been missing his wise words here, I hope you enjoy the next reading from him.

Rich Fabend

If you had your television on during the last five or six weeks, it would be hard to have missed some life lessons that were taking place. We have been able to watch a variety of world-class athletes participating in the sports that they love. Thirty-two of the world's best football (soccer) teams arrived in South Africa to participate in the World Cup. South Africa was a showcase for what can happen when people choose to work together. In the not so distant past South Africa was in the throws of the racial policy called Apartheid. The South Africans obviously have made great strides under the leadership of their new government.

Generally speaking the teams played with great congeniality. Even Spain, the winner of the World Cup, did not win all their games. We must be careful not to define them as the only winner because by doing so we create the implication that the other thirty-one teams were losers. Winning and success are not synonymous; one can be successful without winning, both in athletics and in our personal lives. While there was joy and heartbreak after every individual game, even the players who lost should not be considered losers. The games were refereed by individuals from all over the world. On the whole they did a wonderful job, but some serious errors in judgment were made by a few referees which had monumental effects on some of the teams. Even in the heat of battle the players generally accepted these decisions with little or no protest. We should recognize that the majority of times most people are making decisions to the best of their ability. There were teams in which the star players failed to fulfill expectations and at other times different players unexpectedly stepped up.

On July 3 another world class sporting event began. The Tour de France is a yearly event which challenges almost 200 top athletes from all over the globe to a grueling bike race which lasts 20 days and covers 3642 kilometers or a little over 2185 miles. Twenty-two teams of nine racers each put their collective and individual skills to the test. On an average day the racers cover over 100 miles. Some stages are flat, some rolling and some are on extremely mountainous terrain. The downhill speeds can exceed 60 miles an hour. The bikers race for personal and team success. This is a great test of human endurance both physical and mental, and if we look carefully there is much to be learned. The race presents different challenges to the participants every day. With the large number of racers moving along in tight proximity to each other there are often crashes. Effects of these can range from “road rash” to broken bones. Even racers with broken bones refused to drop out of the race. This year Cadel Evans, a rider from Australia, rode most of the way with a broken wrist. When mishaps happen to a team leader and he falls behind, his teammates drop back to help him catch back up to the group of riders. The person riding in the front of the line cuts the wind which reduces the work the riders behind him must do by as much as 40%. This is called splitstream or more commonly known as drafting. Team members are constantly changing this front position to keep members fresh. At times racers from different teams will even do this in pursuit of a common goal. Each team has racers called domestiques who keep team members supplied with water. They must drop back to the support cars behind the racers get a number of bottles and then sprint up to the group to hand the bottles out. Everyone works for the good of the team. In the end with the help of his team members Alberto Contador of Spain won the race. However, all the riders were successful just finishing such a grueling race.

Racers also must deal with extreme weather conditions. Over the 21 days in the race riders often struggle with road temperatures that can reach 100°. When they are in the mountains, temperatures can drop as much as 50° from the bottom to the top of the mountain. Often at the summit bystanders will hand them newspapers which the riders place inside their jerseys to help insulate their bodies from windchill experienced on the descent. Sometimes, individual racers will have days when they just are unable to work at professional levels. But like most of the racers on the tour they refuse to give up.

I believe there are lessons to be learned for all of us from watching these professional athletes. We can learn commitment, teamwork to achieve common goals, and refusing to allow pain and fatigue to sidetrack us from our purposes even though we could easily find an excuse to give up. My final observation would be that the challenges and subsequent lessons to be learned here are not just challenges faced by athletes but confront all people in day to day situations including people with disabilities.