Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hello {and a thoughtful post at A Boy With Aspergers}

Hi everyone. I'll be posting on this blog on Alyssa's behalf for the next few months and I will be doing my best to locate and post interesting and thought provoking information about disability.

Earlier this week I read a post on A Boy With Aspergers which speaks about the experience of being excluded from school, and the impact of this type of exclusion upon kids with disabilities. This is a subject that is very close to my heart because in the priviliged world in which we live we should all have a right to an education. Head on over and have a read...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Hi everyone,

Unfortunately I am leaving my work with IDEAS NSW so will no longer be posting on this wonderful blog. I will passing the buck to Emma Doukakis, a very skilled and lovely writer. I have enjoyed sharing with you the stories of many that offer inspiration and understanding while touching the hearts of us all!

I hope that you will be able to share with the world your own story and to really express your experiences, as we all need to come together if we are to see changes and make a difference for the lives of people with disabilities, their families, carers and supporters.

It's been a pleasure writing in this space.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hon. Kelly Vincent MLC featured in 2010 Made You Look Magazine

Hon. Kelly Vincent MLC was featured in Made You Look Magazine 2010 (part of the Don't DIS My ABILITY Campaign) as an inspirational representative for disability and all things related.

After her election to State Member of the Legislative Council in South Australia, Kelly has rised to the challenge of being one of few politicians with a disability. Taking her place as a Member whilst using a wheelchair for mobility has certainly expressed the colours of political culture as we see them today, finally our political landscape moves away from the greys of the conventional and we start to see the greens, blues, pinks and yellows of a new day and age where anybody can be somebody, if you put your mind to it!

The inclusion of Kelly as a Member is remarkable considering that she is only 21 years old! To achieve such a place in society where your words really mean something, at such a young age is what sets her person as an inspiration. In the disability sector, if we can aspire to follow her words, to have our own and to share these with others to really change the society and it's view about disability, maybe we will start seeing some changes to the stand of equality!

Interestingly enough in the article Kelly states "...this wasn't something I was intending to do with my life. I didn't want to be the youngest member of Parliament of South Australia and the youngest woman elected to any Australian Parliament - I wanted to be Paris Hilton!"

I think I can safely represent Australia here and say that we are relieved that this path was chosen, this world can only handle one Paris Hilton and often that is too much!

Well done Kelly!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Story of Josh Vander Vies - Canadian Paralympian

Hi everyone,

I have another treasure to share with all of you today, a story from an inspirational individual who has carried his disability with his head held high and has inspired family, friends, students and others to believe and suprise themselves!

Josh Vander Vies represented Canada at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece in the sport of Boccia. Josh was born without limbs, but has not let this stop him from creating an amazing life, overcoming challenges and having an amazing attitude. Here is his story.

Josh Vander Vies

The stadium in Athens was at its capacity – 85 000. As I lined up with my fellow Canadian athletes, I could hear the roar of the crowd. It was muffled. We were outside the arena and the air was not still. It shook.
When I crossed the threshold, saw the mass of people celebrating, and heard the deafening cheer of voices pounding elite athletes from around the world, I smiled. I had made it. I represented Canada at the 2004 Paralympic Summer Games in Athens, Greece and finished amongst the top Boccia players on the planet.
Some years earlier, my mom Sandy, came out of the caesarean delivery of her first-born very groggy, as her husband Gary waited eagerly in another room. My mom had had an uneventful pregnancy and had to deliver me caesarean style, because I was breech. As she shook off the drugs, she asked the nurse: “Is it a boy?” The nurse replied that it was, with a small smile. Sandy then asked: “Does he have any hair?” The nurse didn’t know – she was preoccupied with other, seemingly disastrous features.
The doctors explained to my parents that I had been born missing all of my limbs and gave a prediction of my future so bleak that my parents blurted out: “Is he going to die?!” The doctors, a little surprised, laughed and said no that I was perfectly healthy, just without most of my arms and legs. My parents wanted to see me.

When I was brought out to them for the first time, they both took turns kissing me all over and telling me that they loved me. They spent the rest of my life, so far, showing me.

They encouraged me to set hard goals and do what it takes to achieve them. Instead of putting me into a segregated school for children with disabilities, like the experts advised, my parents – unilingual English speakers – enrolled me in a local French immersion school so that I would have a bit more of a challenge!
As I grew, I became interested in physical activity. I joined a swim team for athletes with disabilities and soon competed in Swimming, Shot Put, Discus and Javelin. Then I discovered Boccia – the international Paralympic indoor version of the Italian past time – and was hooked on the intense skill, precision, strategy and competition of pushing myself to get better and better.

Not having hands or full legs presents many tough obstacles. And, like any obstacles that seem insurmountable, they can be shattered. Some I overcame naturally: I learned to write, play and draw by watching my friends. Others I had help with before I could help myself: my dad built me parallel bars and my mom encouraged me to use them to practice walking upright. Other obstacles, I stared at head on and came up with solutions: learning to dress myself when I was 13, becoming an early riser in my mid twenties, and the more recent realisation that what others think about me, doesn’t matter.
I love not having arms and legs, and I love myself (maybe too much – ask anyone who knows me!). I love the things I can do. And, I love the things I can’t do, yet.
You should love yourself too. No matter what circumstances you find yourself in, you have the ability to surprise yourself.

Sometimes I wonder whether or not I have an effect when I visit schools, or speak to audiences. My partner, Dalia, and I were watching a show at the Vancouver Centre for the Performing Arts, and at intermission a couple I didn’t recognise, approached us. One of them was a teacher at a local school I had presented at; she told me that the students were organising a sports day – several months after I had presented – and they insisted that Boccia be included in the program. An outdoor version was included, and was a great success bringing students of all abilities and backgrounds together in friendly competition.

Sometimes I surprise myself.

At a recent corporate presentation, the nicest lady approached me afterwards in tears and told me that my message had affected her in a very personal way. Neither of us could find the words to express ourselves further, so we hugged and smiled and cried.

Sometimes I really surprise myself.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Don’t Rush To Christmas

I am very happy to be able to offer our lovely readers a blog post from Rich Fabend, who's words have been very much missed over this time. As always, Rich is offering some of the most amazing stories and has shared them with our avid readers. I really enjoyed his piece below, it seems perfect for the time of the year and is really quite an amazing read! Please enjoy!


Rich Fabend

Before sending this blog to DisCo I went to Wikipedia and looked up holidays in Australia. I was quite surprised to find out there was no holiday similar to Thanksgiving which is celebrated in the United States as well as Canada. In the States Thanksgiving is celebrated on the third Thursday in November while in Canada it's celebrated on October 12. This could just be a lack of knowledge on my part and I think what I've written here can be appreciated by anyone without it having to be a special day.

Before Halloween my wife informed me that stores were already beginning to display Christmas items. We have yet to celebrate Thanksgiving and the majority of the advertisements on television are related to Christmas. I believe retailers are rushing us to Christmas to increase their chances to make a profit. I feel very strongly that the Thanksgiving holiday gives us an opportunity to realise how fortunate we really are. I tell people from the minute I had struck the bottom underwater I am one of the luckiest people in the world.

Travis Roy has said "There are times in our lives when we choose our challenges and other times when challenges simply choose us. It is what we do in the face of those challenges that defines who we are, and more importantly, who we can and will become." Years ago a psychiatrist asked me to identify as many positive things, as I could, that resulted from my accident. After a great deal of thought the only thing I could come up with was that I had met some wonderful people. As I think about the question today I realised that there are many things that I really do have to be thankful for. I have been given a second chance at life. (I had no pulse when I was brought on the beach). Marge, my wife of 46 years, and family have stood by me every step of the way. Everyday Marge goes out of her way to help me enjoy quality of life. My nurses are always willing to go the extra mile. I have many friends who give their time to help me do the activities I love. I have surprisingly good health. I have learned more about human nature and the power that exists within the human mind. I have wonderful memories that I am able to revisit. I have been able to continue being an educator and, I hope, help others to deal with the challenges they face. The kindness that is in others has become very evident to me. When we watch the news we often are led to believe that there is much evil in society in general but I know that is not true. Finally, even though I am in a chair I have much freedom and opportunity. So, don’t allow yourself to be rushed to Christmas without stopping to realise what you have to be thankful for.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I'm attending the Sydney Bloggers Festival 2010 - come and say hi!

Inspirational man of vision!

I have recently come across an article in Links Magazine written by Carla Caruso, which provides a profile of a very inspirational man, Duncan Meerding.

Duncan is legally blind but has not let that hold him back from reaching big and wonderful things! Duncan has become a crafstma, using his touch and hearing to create amazing pieces of furniture. His pieces are inspired by curved lines and surfaces that are based on the wonderful shapes and appearances of nature! The Syney Morning Herald wrote in an article on Duncan, that "The 23-year-old describes his design as a form of artistic expression to explain how he sees the world now: minimalist objects with flowing lines".

Since beginning to lose his vision at the age of 18 due to the degenerative eye condition, Leber's hereditary optic, Duncan has moved beyond the challenges of what were the simplest things in life, to be able to inspire others through amazing and unique furniture designs.

I would highly suggest that you check out the article on him from either Links Magazine of the Sydney Morning Herald, I think that this wonderful story should really tell people that anything is possible if you put your mind to it!

Have a beautiful day,


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Emma Crees featured in Disability Now

Our WONDERFUL blog contributor/writer Emma Crees has had an article featured in the Disability Now magazine and website. We are very excited for her wonderful work as a writer and feel glad that people are beginning to realise her great talents in the public world.

Hopefully we will be able to share many more of her inspirational words with you all! Please visit her lovely article titled 'People Say The Strangest Things'.

Wheelchair forest

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Diana Palmer Speaking at the Access Tourism NZ conference

Our wonderful Managing Director, Diana Palmer, spoke at the recent Access Tourism NZ Conference on the 4th of October 2010. As our organisation is branching out into the Accessible Tourism Industry this was a very interesting Conference for us to take part in.

We pride ourselves on our ability to find the information needed for people to have accessible holidays, in terms of accommodation, travel, equipment, resources and services, etc. Please check out the video of the speakers below. Well done to Diana for your great work!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My First Week with the iPhone

One of the other staff at the organisation I work for, IDEAS NSW, prompted me to read this posting from a very nice guy called Austin Seraphin. Austin writes about his experience having an iPhone for the first week. But heres the catch, Austin is vision impaired. I have to commend him for the way he has spoken and created the 'images' (yes that's right images) that this phone has given him. I am sure that an occassion such as this would be one of the most memorable experiences that one could go through. I have taken a little extract from the blog posting that he has done on his blog Behind the Curtain. I suggest that you follow the link and check out the rest of the post, truly is amazing.

My First Week with the iPhone, by Austin Seraphin

Last Wednesday, my life changed forever. I got an iPhone. I consider it the greatest thing to happen to the blind for a very long time, possibly ever. It offers unparalleled access to properly made applications, and changed my life in twenty-four hours. The iPhone only has one thing holding it back: iTunes. Nevertheless, I have fallen in love.

When I first heard that Apple would release a touchpad cell phone with VoiceOver, the screen reading software used by Macs, I scoffed. The blind have gotten so used to lofty promises of a dream platform, only to receive some slapped together set of software with a minimally functional screen reader running on overpriced hardware which can’t take a beating. I figured that Apple just wanted to get some good PR – after all, how could a blind person even use a touchpad? I laughed at the trendies, both sighted and blind, buying iPhones and enthusing about them. That changed when another blind friend with similar opinions also founded in long years of experience bought one, and just went nuts about how much she loved it, especially the touchpad interface. I could hardly believe it, and figured that I should reevaluate things.

I have seen a lot of technology for the blind, and I can safely say that the iPhone represents the most revolutionary thing to happen to the blind for at least the last ten years. Fifteen or twenty years brings us back to the Braille ‘n Speak, which I loved in the same way, so have a hard time choosing the greater. In my more excitable moments, I consider the iPhone as the greatest thing to have ever happened to the blind, and it may prove so. Time will tell. The touchpad offers the familiar next/previous motion which the blind need, since speech offers one-dimensional output. Adding the ability to touch anywhere on the screen and hear it adds a whole other dimension, literally. For the first time, the blind can actually get spacial information about something. In the store, Mom could say “Try that button” and I could. Blind people know what I mean. How many times has a sighted person said “I see an icon at the top of the screen?” Now, that actually Means something. I want to find a way to browse the web with a touchpad on my computer. It truly represents the wave of the future.


The other night, however, a very amazing thing happened. I downloaded an app called Color Identifier. It uses the iPhone’s camera, and speaks names of colors. It must use a table, because each color has an identifier made up of 6 hexadecimal digits. This puts the total at 16777216 colors, and I believe it. Some of them have very surreal names, such as Atomic Orange, Cosmic, Hippie Green, Opium, and Black-White. These names in combination with what feels like a rise in serotonin levels makes for a very psychedelic experience.

I have never experienced this before in my life. I can see some light and color, but just in blurs, and objects don’t really have a color, just light sources. When I first tried it at three o’clock in the morning, I couldn’t figure out why it just reported black. After realizing that the screen curtain also disables the camera, I turned it off, but it still have very dark colors. Then I remembered that you actually need light to see, and it probably couldn’t see much at night. I thought about light sources, and my interview I did for Get Lamp. First, I saw one of my beautiful salt lamps in its various shades of orange, another with its pink and rose colors, and the third kind in glowing pink and red.. I felt stunned.

The next day, I went outside. I looked at the sky. I heard colors such as “Horizon,” “Outer Space,” and many shades of blue and gray. I used color cues to find my pumpkin plants, by looking for the green among the brown and stone. I spent ten minutes looking at my pumpkin plants, with their leaves of green and lemon-ginger. I then roamed my yard, and saw a blue flower. I then found the brown shed, and returned to the gray house. My mind felt blown. I watched the sun set, listening to the colors change as the sky darkened. The next night, I had a conversation with Mom about how the sky looked bluer tonight. Since I can see some light and color, I think hearing the color names can help nudge my perception, and enhance my visual experience. Amazing!

I love my iPhone. It changed my universe as soon as it entered it. However, as any Discordian knows, every golden Apple has a golden worm at its center.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Love To Laugh

Emma Crees has been a writer for this blog for a while, but I have to say this has to be my favourite of her blog posts. I think that everyone should be able to laugh at themselves sometimes. I know that I do it. It is definetly a point of concern for people who do not have a disability about whether or not they can make a joke in relation to that person's disability, however it is common for someone to make a comment about somebody else because they have red hair, giant eyes or a big nose. Even today one of the people within the office who has vision impairment responded to the comment "You were standing right beside a fellow staff member and you didn't see her"....Her response was "I don't see anything!". If we can't crack a joke towards aspects of ourselves, then how can we truly ever be comfortable being who we are?

Please check out Emma's blog site at

Emma Crees

I make jokes about being disabled, and specifically about myself and my disability. It’s just what I do. I refuse to see being disabled as a bad thing and somethings just are funny. Other times it’s a case of if I didn’t laugh I’d cry and laughing is definitely more fun. People don’t always know how to react to the jokes, disability being such a serious and horrible thing that they don’t know if it’s ok for them to laugh. Or perhaps they just don’t expect it.

I’ve frequently made jokes about my chair. I’ve convinced people that I’m not disabled just lazy. And once that a miracle had occurred because I stood up. When I last had a blood test the nurse commented that my veins were moving. I said “well, at least part of me is.” I thought that was hilarious, she didn’t even smile.
I’m not the only person who jokes about their disability. I know a couple of others who do. I also know a few people who can’t or don’t joke about it. I respect that but for me I need to laugh. I’ve even got a few able-bodied friends who now make crip jokes to me. Usually with the comment “I know I can say this to you…”
I want to share a moment from this evening. I’m really hoping it isn’t one of those “you had to be there moments”. I was really amused by it anyway.
I take a creative writing class. It started again this evening for the new term so we had a few people who’ve been before and several new members. We were just getting started and the tutor made a comment that he thought we had everyone or at least he hoped so because we didn’t have enough chairs for anyone else.
Me being me I just sat there and cracked “maybe if someone else comes they’ll be as organised as I was and bring their own chair.”
And just as I said it the door opened and another wheelchair user came in.
That, my friends, is why I make crip jokes. Because once in a while something happens that just makes it even funnier. I can cope with my life and my disability? But a world or even a life without laughter? I couldn’t cope with that.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Auslan used by Mums for baby talk

I had to share this article with you today, it's just such a neat way of communicating with your child as well as educating them on disability, teaching them to use another language and improving coordination. I think it's amazing that children can use signs at the age of 6 months to tell their mothers what they need. Why haven't I thought of that!!!!!

Check out the article (I have copied it from the website of the Whitehorse Leader).

Mums' way of understanding baby talk
11 Sep 2010 - Stacey Allen

TRYING to decipher their baby’s cries can be one of the most challenging tasks for new parents.

Narrowing in on what a baby wants usually involves a process of elimination as you try giving everything from milk, food and comfort to a clean nappy until they are settled.

Forest Hill mother Amanda Crossland is offering a new option for parents eager to better communicate with their babies - sign language.

Ms Crossland said she was keen to teach her son Ollie sign language and started when he was born, using the Australian Baby Hands book.

“I wanted to go to classes and there weren’t any so I started them myself,” she said.

Ms Crossland said she took out the first Australian Baby Hands franchise in the state and has been teaching Australian Sign Language (Auslan) in Mitcham and Vermont.

She said she started this year and had so far taught 70 parents in her seven-week courses, which are for both hearing and hearing impaired babies from newborns to three-year-olds.

“Babies tend to sign from six months old ... when they can grasp a toy they can start to sign back.”

Ms Crossland said Ollie, now 13 months old, had started to sign for milk from six months old and could now sign when he was hungry or wanted his teddy bear.

“It makes life so much easier when they can tell you what they want,” she said.
Ms Crossland said some people were sceptical of the benefits of signing to a hearing child, but she said it avoided a lot of frustration and could help a baby develop.

“Some people fear that signing with a baby can delay speech but it’s been found to accelerate speech,” she said.

New courses start in October and will also be held in Heidelberg.

Details: go to or phone 9517 7967.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Uprights behaving badly: Footpaths

I am very excited to be sharing with you another posting from IDEAS Board Member Joanna Nicol. I quite like her blog as I think that the view she takes is something quite unique and independent of the usual perspectives on life. Her own experiences are very insightful and her words are a great way to share in with the experiences of a person in a wheelchair.

Joanna Nicol

I’m going to do a series of posts on things I wish those without apparent disability understood or did differently. It is from my perspective as a person who uses a wheelchair, but hope it can be useful more broadly. So to start with:

Footpaths: their use and misuses

My top 5 things six things I wish uprights got about using the footpath:
  1. Don’t just stand there – move something. Standing still at the top of kerb ramps instead of moving off it to allow people crossing to safely and legally get off the road. This is not the place to start a meaning of life conversation or adjust your wardrobe. I, like others need a clear metre at the top of the incline to safely complete the crossing process without tipping myself up or collecting your shins. For many of us who have different mobility issues we need to pick a direction of travel and keep moving as much for safety as energy or anything else so abrupt stopping is never polite. It’s like a car slamming on the brakes every 50 metres instead of going say 30 kph with on-coming traffic coming at you on either side. Also if I am obeying the rules of the road and waiting on the kerb ramp with you jay-walking in the opposite direction please don’t climb over my chair to get off the road.. My footplates are part of my personal space.  
  2. While talking of footpaths they are not the place to mingle with five or six of your friends all looking and talking inwards. Given I am waist high to most of you it can be very hard to attract your attention to keep moving (see above) and am often stuck yelling at people’s belt loops for some minutes waiting for one of the party to look down. Not everyone can sidle past or tap you somewhere that my grandmother would consider polite. I can’t tap you on the shoulder if I’m three foot tall.
  3. Footpaths are still first and foremost designed built and paid for to enable the safe pedestrian movement of all of us. They are not designed to act as a parking lot for prams cars or bikes, a community ashtray, a junk storage zone, a dining room or an extension of your business. While these uses are able to be incorporated in parts and more modern footpathing have integrated these uses, please remember that the narrow footpaths still need to fulfil the movement thing as their primary role.
  4. If you are over 12 do as our parents and the law teaches: please walk your pushbike on footpaths. It’s polite, non aggressive and saves kerb ramps for those of us who have need them to get anywhere not just get somewhere quickly. I know you are doing a good thing for the planet and all that, but polite is still polite. You are still a vehicle. You saving carbon by not using your car is great and something I very much support but the energy flow needed to incorporate your riding on the footpath for me is higher I suspect than for most other people (see point regarding committing to a direction of travel) in the other direction in a need for higher concentration, and the kind of stopping and starting of a machine that you are trying to avoid.
  5. While we are on a roll here can smokers please refrain from lowering your cigarette and it’s plume to get me right in the face. Just as you don’t want it right near your eyes when your not smoking it – neither do I. I have even been ashed in my lap or on my hand or chest more than once. It might also be worth noting that this behaviour is not going to be good for any children in the area either.
  6. This same idea applies to the swinging of handbags and backpacks in the vicinity of my head shoulders or back or failing to look in all directions (up/down as well as forward and back when exiting a shop to re-enter a flow on the footpath. Its like entering a flow of car traffic without checking your mirrors. Bumping the back of a wheelchair isn’t like bumping a chair leg.. I can feel it. If checking in all directions before you move seems exhausting my only solace for you is; if we all did it more we’d probably all have to do it less.
The main things I wish that “uprights” understood about footpath/sidewalk issues are:
  • everyone is trying to get somewhere to be with those we love. I know all the stuff about vibrant footpath culture, but we need to be able to get places to enjoy the culture.
  • everyone comes in different sizes so please look down as well as behind. It can be humiliating talking to belt loops for 5 minutes.

Friday, September 3, 2010

(the IDEAS) of Networking for a Shy Woman

One of the Board Members for IDEAS NSW, Joanna Nicol, writes a magnificent blog about her experiences in a wheelchair, about day-to-day life for a person with disability and about other interesting things that come across her amazing mind. Luckily she has given me permission to share with you one of her blog posts which relates to us. I ofcourse suggest that you have a look at her site though, it is very thoughtful and fascinating.

Joanna Nicol

People find this difficult to believe, but I’m shy. At least in some sense of the word. The way I describe it to people I am not comfortable in a crowd or with starting conversations with strangers. But I see no point in being backward about the obvious factors of my disability.

I might indeed be externally good at socializing but it certainly doesn’t rock my boat and I find it exhausting. Networking especially in a crowded room of people with whom the connection is tenuous is really hard.

Yet there I was the other night in a room full of “uprights” (200 hundred or so of them) representing a NGO I’m on the board of; IDEAS — Information on Disability & Education Awareness Services. We, IDEAS are an information provider on broad base information for people with disability, their family and “supporters”. So basically anything from holiday accommodation with ramps and rails to sign language course referrals to wheelchair repair places and information on the pension; IDEAS can point you in the right direction, at least in New South Wales. For us it’s about enabling participation and choice. (It really is a great service with two other arms too.)

We are a finalist in a category of a small business awards for the local government area. No winners were announced at this event. It was a “networking opportunity” with speeches/advertising from the sponsors. It was crowded. I sat in a corner so that I didn’t knock or get knocked. But I’m proud of myself. From my vantage point I watched people AND talked to people many of whom were I think surprised to see me and us there. I also gave the above spiel, and gave out cards. I wasn’t the first to leave either!

Mission accomplished I think.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Raised Garden Boxes

Hi avid followers of this blog. I have a lovely post from Rich Fabend today. It is always truly compelling to see how he approaches his life and his experiences in creating adaptive equipment for his personal use. Below is a really neat post from Rich.

Rich Fabend

Would you like to raise some flowers and/or grow some vegetables for your own consumption? Raised bed garden boxes will let you do that and it is great exercise. Each spring the soil must be worked up and planted. During the growing season the vegetables must be weeded and thinned. If the weather is not cooperating the plants must be watered. The wilted flower heads must be picked off the plants (called deadheading) which is great exercise for fingers. A box does not take up much room if space is an issue. Prior to placing a box, the area under it must be prepared. This is not necessary if it will be placed on cement or any other solid surface. If placed on the ground you must assure good drainage.

The height of the box opening should be a few inches taller than the armrests of the wheelchair. The width of the growing area should be several inches less than twice the gardener’s arm length which will allow one to cover the entire planting area. Built from pressure treated lumber, the box is open on two sides so one can drive a wheelchair underneath it and work straight on.

The first year my boxes presented some unique problems because of the construction. The 2” by 8” which made up the planting area did not allow for the soil to be deep enough for vegetables so most of the vegetables planted did not grow very well. The following year, as you can see from the picture, we added about 3 inches to the height of the planting area. This allowed adding another 250 pounds of soil to the bed. Also, in an effort to cut down on moisture evaporation we added Hydro-Sorb to the soil. Hydro-Sorb retains water and releases it a little at a time. These two changes made the boxes much more successful. We did not find it necessary to increase the depth of the flower boxes.

I have 6 boxes, four I plant with vegetables and the other two with annual flowers. I enjoy working these boxes very much. I use adaptive garden tools which can be purchased online. The vegetable boxes can grow salt potatoes, broccoli, onions, baby carrots, beets and garlic. Gardening is good for many different reasons.

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  

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 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:

For more information visit the website

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.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Introducing Guest Blogger Melanie

Introducing the amazing Melanie, who is quite an inspiration. I feel very excited about having her publish on this blog. I hope that you enjoy her shared experience. Everyone truly has a story to tell!

Hello. My name is Melanie and I am 26 years old. I am in my second year of studying to become a primary school teacher and I work at IDEAS as an Intake Officer one day a week. I live at home with my mum, step-dad and dog Lilly and look forward to getting a place of my own once I graduate and and have a full time teaching job. I have had a vision impairment since birth. I have congenital cataracts. They were removed when I was 6 weeks old but have permanently damaged my vision. There are no special glasses or laser treatments available that can restore my sight. I have been wearing strong bi-focal glasses since I was two months old.

Did you notice how I started off writing about who I am? There are many elements that make up me. My family and friends, the things I like and the values that are important to me. Sure my disability is a part of me too but it doesn't define who I am. Often something others do without even realising.

I think the only really significant thing that I cannot do is drive a car. That doesn't bother me too much because I have grown up relying on public transport. It is my norm. As far as everything else goes, well, I will always find a way. I have done some pretty out there things including abseiling, canoeing, ice skating, roller blading and bike riding. Hang on a minute… how does a blind person go roller blading, you ask? Well, the same way sighted people do! Putting one foot in front of the other, toppling over and clinging on to someone so tightly that you cut off their circulation!

When I have my vision aids and technology, I am completely capable at fully participating in life. If I need assistance, I ask for it and don't feel ashamed. I used to become quite frustrated with people who would constantly offer to help or do things for me. I couldn't work out why people seemed to feel the need to intervene when I didn't need or ask them to. I've realised that people do have good intentions. Sometimes too good. But the problem is the majority of people don't understand about disability. They don't see it as normal. Quite the opposite in fact. They feel pity and discomfort. When I walk down the streets using my cane, I sometimes hear small children asking their parents what my cane is. 99% of those parents tell their children to be quiet or to stop being so rude. I think I am more comfortable about talking about my disability than most others around me. I want little children to come up to me and ask questions. If they don't, then how are they going to understand that I am a normal, capable person just as they are. Instead they are getting the message that something is terribly wrong. This isn't terribly wrong for me. I don't even think about it all that much. I have had this my entire life so I don't know any different.

A lot needs to change in society. I am really passionate about inclusion. That is, no segregation, no special schools, no institutions, no restrictions. I want to see a society where disability is the norm. It's just as accepted as having brown eyes or red hair. In a perfect world all buildings and forms of transport would be accessible. All written material would be provided in alternative formats such as Braille and audio. Schools would be adequately funded to support children with disability, and include them in mainstream classes. Teachers would be trained to adapt the curriculum to cater to these students. Workplaces wouldn't think twice about hiring a person with disability. The parents of little children would encourage them to go up to people like myself and talk to us rather than shy away. I could go on and on… of course, we are progressing but at such a slow rate. I hope I get to experience a society like this in my time. People often ask me if my vision can be "fixed". They talk about laser, bionic eyes etc. and try and encourage me by saying that technology continues to improve so surely there will be a cure in my lifetime. I don't think about that stuff. As far as I am concerned, nothing needs to be fixed. I'm fine just the way I am.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Little Unconventional

Hello all my lovely followers.

I am taking a step towards being a tad on the unconventional side today with a posting that does make mention of IDEAS NSW. Bear with me! The posting is about an up-and-coming event which amazingly tentalises all the senses, allowing people with hearing impairment to be able experience the thrills and excitement of a musical event. Once informed of the premier of the event in Sydney 2010 - that's right, it's a once in a lifetime event that shows nationally but is making it's special way to Sydney - IDEAS pounced on the chance to be a sponsor. So how are we sponsoring the event!!?!? We are giving away 10 FREE VIP DOUBLE PASSES to the event to make sure that you don't miss out. Read the below to find out how to get the passes and to discover more about the event.


Ideas NSW announces their competition for the hottest inclusive night club event in New South Wales, happening on the 27th August at Home Nightclub, Darling Harbour.

SenCity is a multi-sensory, multi-faceted, special event for people who are hearing impaired and deaf and with any other ability or disability.
 During this spectacular event the emotions and passions of music are converted to all

Special techniques employed at this event include an imported vibrating dance floor, so that people can really feel the music. The vibrating dance sensors are attached to the amplifiers so that the entire dance floor responds to the frequency of the music. Sign singers interpret lyrics.

Visual Jockeys Food Jockeys and Aroma Jockeys are on hand to provide aroma
compositions to interpret music for other senses.
 The chill space has side performances to engage other senses like hairdressers, makeup
artists and masseurs.
 To be part of the 1000 (over 18yrs) people attending this one-night-only experience you can win tickets sponsored by Ideas NSW by:
 1. Registering your email at so that we can keep you updated on the event and announce the winners. This website will be your access to insight into the spectacular event.

2. Provide one of two entry options:

(a) Submit a video of an original dance off which incorporates the IDEAS SMS number which is 0458 296 602, interpreted however you would like. Your entry must then be uploaded to SENCITY WIN Facebook fanpage at

(b) Submit an original still photo shot of yourself displaying the IDEAS SMS number which is 0458 296 602, at the most creative spot that you can think of. Your entry must then be
uploaded to SENCITY WIN Facebook fanpage at

To upload images/video simply go to the write a comment area at the top of the SENCITY WIN Facebook fanpage site and click on the photo/video link, browse for your photo/video and click share. All entries must be uploaded before the end of the promotion period. The promotion will end at 5.00pm (AEST) on the 20th of August 2010.
 There a five double passes for each category. Please make sure you read the terms and

conditions available at before you enter. For more
information call IDEAS NSW on 1800 029 904 or email

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Paula Apodaca - The Day I Drowned at Tin Can Beach

Hi everyone,

As you all know I have been lucky enough to have the wonderful Paula Apodaca writing for this blog, despite the fact that she has her own blog. Today I would like to share with you one of her wonderful successes. Her words and story has been entered on to the site/journal 'Breath & Shadow - A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature Spring 2010, Volume 7, Number 2. Not only do I commend her for her amazing job, I also want to help others to realise the fine ability she has to demonstrate and reveal the truth of disability, her experiences and the changes it has on ones life. I would like to suggest that you all check it out, it really is quite a marvellous achievement for her and I feel very lucky that we have her as a guest blogger on this site. Check out her story titled 'The Day I Drowned at Tin Can Beach'.



Friday, July 16, 2010

Your home need not become your prison

I am very excited about the blog post that I can offer you today. I have made contact with a very inspirational and symbolic individual and have recieved permission to publish her amazing article here. I know that you will all know of her. Cynthia Banham is an Australian journalist that writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, and I believe some other publications on the occassion. Her role as a journalist and her great ability to source stories led her into a dangerous situation that left her with only half of one of her legs. In 2007 a plane crash occurred in Indonesia, claiming the lives of 21 individuals, including 5 Australians. An article described Banham's escape from the fires when she was "airlifted to Perth from Indonesia with back injuries and extensive burns to her lower body after a Garuda Boeing 737-400 plunged off a runway at Yogvakarta and caught fire..." The crash left Cynthia with a disability. However, Cynthia has really proven that one can achieve just as much no matter ones disability. Her future in journalism has been fabulous and she has sent article after article to the Australian population sharing her amazing experiences. One particular article struck my and most of Australia's eyes. From the permission of Cynthia herself and taken from SMH here is her article 'Your home need not become your prison'.

Cynthia Banham

You never plan for a life-changing injury. It's something you just hope never happens. Growing old is more of a certainty. But both events can have a profound impact on the way you feel about your home: a sanctuary, or a kind of prison.

I know this first-hand. Catastrophic injuries from a plane crash changed my world forever. If not for the efforts of a family friend, a builder who extensively modified my home while I was still in hospital, I would not have been able to get in the front door, let alone my kitchen or shower.

But what really came as a shock was the impact my injuries had on visiting family and friends. Dropping in for a meal or a cup of coffee, to stay connected to people, is essential to a person's mental well-being. Yet here I was, left in tears on a visit to my in-laws from the indignity of not being able to use their bathroom without help, unable to visit my parents' home where I'd grown up because I couldn't climb the stairs to their front door.

We have laws about accessibility standards in public spaces, but for private homes there are none and I never imagined this would change.

Then eight months ago Bill Shorten, the parliamentary secretary for disabilities, asked me to speak at a meeting he had organised, with Therese Rein as patron, for executives from the housing industry and the ageing, disability and community sectors, at Kirribilli House.

The subject was "universal design" - building a house to last its occupants' lifetimes so whatever happens, should they get injured or grow old, they will still be able to live independently.

If we introduced some minor, inexpensive changes to the way Australia builds homes - changes many times more expensive if done retrospectively - then no house need be a prison. Making houses accessible from the street or car park, slightly widening front doorways and passages, putting a toilet on the ground floor that could be used by someone with mobility issues.

I agreed, intrigued something could be done to improve the lives of 20 per cent of the Australian population with some kind of a disability, and encouraged this concept could have economic and social benefits for all.

Universal design ideas are already being implemented overseas, in Japan, Britain, Canada and Norway. They are gaining traction in Victoria.

What is the appeal? Like Australia, these places have ageing populations. Given the option, most would prefer to grow old in their own homes, retaining connections with family and social networks where they have spent their lives. But with the majority of homes, this is virtually impossible for older people with mobility issues.

It doesn't stop there. A house built for a lifetime would be easier for mothers with prams and people with temporary injuries.

I started out thinking it was an extremely lofty ambition to get this diverse group to agree there was a case for universal design in Australia. The Property Council of Australia, the Housing Industry Association, Master Builders Australia, the Australian Institute of Architects and the Human Rights Commission are unlikely allies.

But Shorten is a superb negotiator, and the determination he has shown over the past three years to fight for a better deal for some of the less lucky Australians is remarkable.

The final details are being nutted out, but soon this dialogue will deliver concrete proposals to the government. These professionals have surprised even themselves with their ability to reach common ground on an issue that for many will be life-changing, in a good way.

Critics might say they don't want to be told by governments how to build their homes, or they don't want to live in houses resembling hospitals. That's not what this is about. Making a doorway a few centimetres wider does not make a house more sterile, just more liveable.

Is it really that big an ask of Australians to give a damn about their fellow citizens with physical limitations, but still want to engage as fully in society as you, their friends, colleagues, families and neighbours?

You never know, one day you might just grow old.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Story of Jason Ballerini

I have a real treat for the readers of this blog today. I was lucky enough to get a contribution from Jason Ballerini who is an inspiration and prime example of a strong person with a disability. Let him represent all those who are feeling like the challenge is too much. I think that his story really represents the common saying that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. He is truly fabulous and I am very happy to share with you his story!

Jason Ballerini

As a fit, active 16yr old, with my life ahead of me, social work or having a career in the disability sector were the last things on my mind. After a diving accident in 1996 left me a quadriplegic, not only did I lose the ability to walk, I felt as though all my options, dreams and aspirations washed away down that creek as well.

It was not long into my rehabilitation that I began to feel this passion inside of my stomach, the passion to overcome the social attitudes and barriers I was now facing. From that day on it was my mission to never let anything stop me from achieving what I wanted. Although motivated to achieve, I was still uncertain in what? It wasn’t until the last month of my rehab, my rehab lasted 4 months when I was told I’d be there for 8-10, that I realised a lot of the other patients were coming to me for advice, a chat or for guidance and hope. It was then I realised that social work, in particular, the disability sector was my calling.

After completing a bachelor of Social Work, I began working in the Disability Advocacy field. Through my experience, study and work I have had the opportunity to gain an understanding of the demands on the disability sector, but also to advance the rights of people with disabilities in our community. In trying to set an example that we are only limited by our own imagination and that the possibilities are endless to those who work hard to achieve their dreams.

Often we see people with disability who attempt to "pass" in the non- disabled world, who want nothing to do with disability groups, especially consumer-run groups. Of course people who have invisible disabilities are more able to hide their disabilities, if they choose to do so. It's a bit ridiculous for a wheelchair user like myself to consider hiding the fact.

But it leads me to wonder why I would want to. Why wouldn't I want people to know that I have a disability, that I accept it as part of who I am and that I am proud of who I am? Why wouldn't I want anyone to know that I confront physical and attitudinal barriers every day of my life and that I identify with strong individuals who are part of the disability rights movement?

I don't hide my disability and I don't "overcome" it either. It's just something I live with. I am not handicapped. Society is handicapped when it shuts out people like me. I am not physically challenged. Tri-athletes and mountain climbers are physically challenged. And I'm certainly no more differently- abled than anyone is from anyone else. No. I just simply have a disability. I don't deny it, or hide it.

Being "seen" as a person with a disability is a conscious choice, whether or not one's disability is visible. For the way others view us is closely connected with the way we view ourselves. Choosing to see disability as a part of who we are and recognise our strengths and abilities, is all part of a process. We need to recognise that having a disability is not a negative thing.

Looking back at the last 14yrs, I can acknowledge has been mighty tough, but it has also been the best 14yrs as well. I have grown so much, and the passion to succeed in this industry is as strong as ever. I have loved every minute of studying and working in this field, and the feeling of helping someone, advocating for change and changing attitudes and policy still drives me to get up every morning and go to work.