Wednesday, July 29, 2009

ADA Zoo Day (pt. 2)

All I can say is... WOW!

As I expected, the 9th annual "ADA Day at the Zoo" event was a rousing success. With almost perfect weather, and nearly all of the 100 expected vendors attending, there was plenty to see and do... and to learn.

My wife and I arrived shortly after opening at 10 am -- and I'm glad we arrived when we did. The main parking lot was already almost full (we got lucky and found one of the few remaining "permit only" spaces near the main gate) and I watched in awe as several buses loaded with kids arrived only seconds behind us. It was going to be a busy and crowded day at the zoo.

I was pleased to note the large number of scooters and wheelchairs gathered nearby as we all made our way toward the admissions gate. The success of an event such as this depends greatly on drawing a large crowd, and so far, it was looking good. Wearing my official "Buckeye Barrier Busters tee-shirt" and with business cards firmly in hand (well okay, in my wife's purse) we crossed the bridge and headed toward the first cluster of vendors.

The purpose of this event for me was to introduce myself to the other attendees and hopefully introduce as many people as possible to my now officially launched organization, and of course, this Disability Awareness Blog. To my joy, I found most of the vendors to be very positive and complementary about my efforts and message. I know I made a few new friends, and I hope to keep in touch with them now that they know where to find me.

To mention all of them in today's posting would be almost impossible, but I did collect at least ten pounds worth of handouts and business cards. Expect to see the results of that collection in future blogs. But, before parting for this week, I do want to make mention of a few people I found of special interest.

One young woman, Kimberlie Sherman of Breaking Barriers, was especially memorable. I wish I had half her energy. As a professional Disability Consultant, she specializes in helping folks to find programs and resources specific to their disability -- and not just locally, but nationally. If you haven't had much luck with winding your way through the system, give her a try. I'm sure she'll do her very best to help you out.

Another very nice lady I met that day was Kay Bennett of The Arc of Lucas County. They offer support, education and advocacy for people with developmental disabilities, and have been doing so for over fifty years. Kudos, Kay -- you and your fine group are doing an excellent job!

I also had the pleasure of meeting Steven Kiessling, the executive director of Camp Courageous. Since 1963, this fine organization has been providing "the outdoor experience" to our area's special needs children. Steven was nice enough to extend a personal invitation for me to come out and see their camp for myself, and I just might do that. I'll even bring the marshmallows, Steve! :)

As I said, these were only three of the many friendly and committed people I met last monday, and I'll certainly introduce you to a few more in the coming weeks. In closing, I had a great time at the ADA Zoo Day this year, and I'm already making plans to attend next year. I hope you're doing the same.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

ADA Day at the Zoo

Come for the info, stay for the animals!

Summer is here, and once again the Ability Center of Greater Toledo will be hosting it's annual "ADA Day at the Zoo" event. They'll be on hand with plenty of free information to educate the public about the wide range of goods and services available to help our area residents who live with a disability.

This is their ninth annual event, held to celebrate the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. It is an opportunity for those interested from NW Ohio and SE Michigan to gather and share information about a wide spectrum of disability-related goods and services. There will be 100 booths lining the walkways of the zoo this year, manned by representatives of area agencies and vendors who offer all manner of goods, services, information and support.

This year the ADA Day at the Zoo will be held on Monday, July 27th and will run from 10 am to 3 pm. (Remember, admission is free to residents of Lucas county on Mondays if you arrive before noon.) If you need additional information on this event, please call Barb Manning at The Ability Center: 419-885-5733 or Toll Free at 866-885-5733.

Need Toledo Zoo information? Visit their recently updated website here. Oh, and they do have a limited number of wheelchairs and motorized scooters on hand for rental, so don't let that stop you. Just arrive early, or call ahead if this is something you need.

I plan to attend this event, and I hope you will too. If you've never been to the Toledo Zoo, this is the perfect time, and know that our zoo is nearly 100% accessible, guaranteeing a great time for everyone! Come and meet me at the zoo!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Odds & Ends

A little bit of everything...

I'm trying something a little bit different this week. Instead of my usual "topic of interest" I thought I'd share what's happening in my real life for a change. Some of you may enjoy this "detour" and some of you won't -- for you in group two, I'll return to the old format next week. Group one folks? Here we go!

Item 1: As some of you know, last year I applied for services from the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation. My decision to leave my previous occupation (Licensed Massage Therapist) was a bittersweet one, having made some very good friends along the way. I kept the friends (good news there) but decided to leave the profession because I was no longer able to meet the physical demands of such work.

Almost a year later, I have passed the testing and evaluations. I have successfully interviewed professionals currently working in the Toledo area. Based on those interviews, I have chosen a new profession and I have the approval of the B.V.R. to go ahead and start evaluating schools.

As of this moment it is down to two: The University of Toledo, and Lourdes College. I must now make appointments to visit the schools before making a final decision. Oh, and my new chosen profession? Substance Abuse Counsellor/Case Worker. A bit of a change from massage therapy, yes? I'll let you know how that goes.

Item 2: If you've read earlier installments of this blog you are aware that I am having a ramp built onto the back entrance of our home, thanks to the kind generosity of The Ability Center of Greater Toledo. The bids are in, and a final decision was made, leaving nothing left but to sign the paperwork and watch in awe as craftsmen (and perhaps craftswomen) construct a ramp which will enable me to better exit and enter our home. I plan to take "before and after" photos and post them here sometime after the sawdust settles. Stay tuned.

Item 3: Not many of you know that since around January of this year I have been working on a secret project. The project comes in three parts, and I'm ready to unveil the first two parts today.

Part 1a. Introducing Buckeye Barrier Busters. Since my arrival here over a decade ago I have become (sometimes painfully) aware of the hit-or-miss nature of accessibility to buildings and events here in the Toledo area. We need education and awareness, to be sure, but a little activism now and again probably won't hurt either.

To that end, I have created -- an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the barriers to access within our community, and working to remove those barriers. The website still needs a lot of work, but it's up now, and everyone is welcome to sign up for a free membership. We need your voice, so I hope you'll consider lending yours to our cause.

Part 1b. I'd also like to introduce you to our online community site, the Buckeye Barrier Busters Forum. Free to join and use as well, we have discussion groups, support groups, live chat room capability, streaming music, a photo album, an events calendar, and more being added all the time. Please come visit, and feel free to post a hello. Oh, and tell your friends too. The more the merrier!

Item 4: Just so you don't think this is all about me, I did want to tell you about the coolest new application (for the iPhone) I learned about earlier this week. Called the RunPee, this app does pretty much exactly what the name implies -- it tells you when the "slow parts" of a movie are coming up, so you can "run for it" and get back in time so you don't miss anything important or exciting. Just start it when the movie begins, and then if nature calls, you can just look at the screen on your iPhone and read when the next window of opportunity will arrive. It even fills you in on what you missed (via scrolling text) while you were away. While not created exclusively for the disabled, I know from personal experience just how useful such a device can be. If you've got an iPhone, you may never see a movie the same way again. :)

And that brings this week's posting to a close. I hope you've been enjoying the wonderful weather we've been having... and until next week, Go Buckeye's!