This blog post is different from what I normally post. This is just a free form write up on how having multiple disabilities affects my life.
Having a disability means fighting everyday to prove why you’re worthy of receiving services.
Having a disability means fighting insurance, social security, and medicaid to prove why you need services.
Having a disability means having to explain what it is, what it means to you, and how it affects your life.
Having a disability is answering the same questions over and over again.
Having a disability means I may get judged just for having autism.
Having a disability means I have to protect my health especially in the season of COVID-19.
Having a disability is deciding whether or not to disclose your disability to a friend or not.
Having a disability is deciding whether or not to disclose a disability on a job interview.
Having a disability is deciding when I need to mask my autism and when I don't.
Having a disability means when I mask my autism I pay for it later.
Having a disability means the employer can decide to pay me less or to not interview me at all based on my application.
Having a disability is worry about if I’ll secure housing when I’m older.
Having a disability is worrying about if I’ll be able to provide for myself when I’m older.
Having a disability means having an ABLE account.
Having a disability means signing over power of attorney at age 18.
Having a disability means my parents have to sit in on IEP meetings through kindergarten to twelfth grade.
Having a disability specifically autism is having scripted language so you don’t stumble on words when I speak.
Having a disability specifically autism means I prefer to have text communication over spoken communication.
Having a disability specifically autism means social communication is exhausting for me.
Having a disability specifically autism means having backup communication like text to speech in case of a meltdown or medical emergency where I’m unable to speak.
Having a disability means I’m unable to drive long distances.
Having a disability means time flies by or it goes super slow.
Having a disability means I be hyperfocused on a task for a long period of time.
This blog is also posted on Photography through Autism Blog.
1. Ask for or Request your Accommodations.
This may be the most important thing I talk about in this blog. In public schools, students receive accommodations through a 504 plan or an IEP. For parents whose students still have a 504 plan or an IEP, now is the time to review those plans before the school year begins. In higher learning, universities and community colleges have an ADA office where students set up a meeting and accommodations are given to students. This meeting should be set up a few weeks before the semester starts. Students with disabilities at my community college are responsible for filling out a form with the ADA office every semester to receive accommodations that are on file. At my community college, students are then responsible for giving professors the letter of accommodation on the first day of class. However, due to coronavirus my ADA office has been emailing letters to professors and copying students on the email.
2. Routine, Routine, Routine.
With all the changes due to coronavirus, it is important to have a routine. Some schools are teaching executively online while others are using a hybrid model where students are coming in only on certain days. It doesn't have to be a strict one or where every second of the day is scheduled. Important things to include in a routine: wake time and bedtime, mealtimes (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks), work and/or school, homework, hygiene (showering, brushing teeth, etc.), and chores. Not all of these elements need to be included as everyone's needs are different. If your into technology, putting events into a calendar on your phone is a good idea. There are hundreds of apps that have a calendar function in them as well as scheduling apps for people with disabilities. There is also an app called Tiimo specifically designed for people with disabilities to help with schedules. It can be used across multiple devices. More information can be found here: Tiimo website. Choiceworks is another great app used for scheduling for people with disabilities. Choiceworks allows you to create an unlimited amount of schedules. There is a waiting board for people with disabilities to practice waiting skills. It also includes feelings boards and feelings scales. The user is allow to choose an emotion they are feeling and two coping strategies are shown to pick from. More information can be found here: Choiceworks in the App Store.
3. Get Organized.
This will vary person to person depending on your needs. Some might need a planner or a checklist. Others might need color coded binders, notebooks, and folders. Some might need a tidy desk space. There are also many apps out there that can function as a planner or to help you plan out your assignments. An app I use to help plan out assignments is iStudiez Pro. iStudiez Pro allows you to create multiple types of schedules, input professor's contact information and office hours, keep track of assignments and tests, calendar integration with third party calendar events, export your schedule to share it with others, and to keep track of your grades and GPA. More information can be found here: iStudiez Pro in the App Store.
4. Get Connected.
In this time of coronavirus, it's very easy to get lonely. If you're in high school, look into your school clubs. If none interest you consider starting your own. If you are in higher learning, get connected with your school's student life office. They usually have a list of events scheduled throughout the semester. Student life offices are open to student ideas or starting a club of your own. If you are working, look into your local parks and rec. Many community support groups are now online, including Barrier-Free's monthly Zoom Social Clubs! These social clubs are free to attend and provide opportunities to meet people from all over the world who share some of the struggles you do. Facebook groups, Facebook events, non-profit organizations, and disability are great places to look for social events.
This is an all inclusive resource. It includes visuals, posters, lesson plans, videos, social stories/narratives, sequences, and communication boards with all things needed to know about coronavirus.
“Nothing about us, without us.”
"The 30 anniversary of the signing of the American with Disabilities Act was a few days ago, July 26th, 2020. The ADA was signed July 26, 1990. The ADA put simply is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. The ADA includes those with physical and mental disabilities. It requires reasonable accommodations be provided to those employees with disabilities as well as accessibility to public places. The ADA is often referred to as “ The Emancipation of the Disabled.”
Crip Camp is a documentary film about Camp Jened, a camp where non disabled and disabled people came together in a care free environment. The film shows the perspectives of people with lived disabled experiences. “Crip Camp” also shows disability history in the way our disability ancestors fought for disability rights like they did for civil rights. Many people with and without disabilities are unaware of disability history. People with disabilities are often discriminated against, unable to access public places, and isolated from others. This happened both in history and now.
"Ugly Laws" and State Institutions
Many cities passed "ugly laws" which made it illegal for any person diseased, mutilated , or disfigured were not allowed to show themselves in the public view. Many people with disabilities were institutionalized because their family was embarrassed of them and/or couldn't take care of them. These institutions were state run, had large barbed wire fences, and were forgotten about in society.
Passage of the Civil Rights Act
The passage of the civil rights act laid the groundwork for disability rights legislation.
Center for Independence Living
The first Center for Independent Living is formed in Berkley, California in 1972. It is the first center to be recognized for independent living.
Passage of the Rehabilitation Act
In 1973, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was passed. The law states, “No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States, shall solely by reason of his handicap, be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” This law was intended to prohibit discrimination in federally funded programs and services.
Passage of Education for All Handicapped Act
In 1975, the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Act permitted disabled children to be integrated into the public school environment. This act was later renamed into Individuals with Disabilities Act or IDEA. In the same year, the supreme court ruled that people could not be held against their will, or placed in a psychiatric hospital institution, unless they are proven to be a threat to themselves or to others. In the court case named O’Connor v. Donaldson.
Section 504 Sit-ins
In 1977, protesters and disability activists in ten cities demonstrations and occupants of the federal department of Health Education and Welfare or HEW to force the Carter Administration to issue regulations to implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The longest demonstration was held in San Francisco, California it lasted a month long. On April 28, 1977, HEW secretary Joseph Califano signed the regulation.
Passage of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act
In 1980, congress passes the civil rights of Institutionalized Persons Act which allows the justice department to file suit if a person institutionalized rights were violated.
The Capitol Crawl or Crip Crawl was a protest of more than 1,000 disabled people who crawled up the Capitol steps. Jennifer Keelan, an eight year old with cerebral palsy said " I'll take all night if I have to." The Capital Crawl gained much attention and political pressure. This lead Congress passed the ADA within four months and George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law July 26, 1990.
Why is it important to know disability history?
I think it's important to raise awareness around these events in history because not many people with or without disabilities have knowledge of what happened. Also, if we as people with disabilities don't understand our history we are bound to repeat it.
Now and Moving Forward
This blog is also posted on Photography through Autism Blog.
On July 25, 2020, Barrier-Free joined forces with Blue Apple Theatre to share a co-presented "hands across the ocean" workshop. Blue Apple Theatre is a non-profit company in the UK that "produces high-quality theatre, dance and film to challenge prejudice and transform the lives of people with a learning disability."
Similar to Barrier-Free, Blue Apple's programming has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis in our world. These shutdowns didn't stop Blue Apple Theatre's artistic director, Richard Conlon, from getting creative and seeking new opportunities for his actors. Richard began contacting inclusive theater companies from around the world, and in his research he found Barrier-Free! Richard, Britt, and Lauren began communicating via email and set-up a Zoom meeting to lay the groundwork for co-presented theatre workshop.
The video shows the full 75-minute workshop, but if you're short on time, check the video description for time-stamps to different chapters of the workshop for your convenience.
Once the date was set, we needed actors to share in this incredible opportunity. Christopher Anderson, Michael Eaton, Nicole Hurley, Jenny Laatsch, Jared Parrish, and Jen Shillingburg jumped onboard. These Barrier-Free stars committed to two workshop rehearsals, prepared costumes, practiced lines, and more!
On the big day, we spent a fantastic 75 minutes with Blue Apple Theatre, learning about their company, sharing in some of their favorite warm-ups, and hearing speeches and scenes that ranged from Shakespeare to Charles Dickens. Barrier-Free had the opportunity to share our story, inclusive theater process, warm-ups, actor insights, and a modified scene from Cosmic Crime!
We are thankful to Blue Apple Theatre's talented actors for sharing a creative space with us. Using virtual tools, we were able to break down distance barriers and accomplish what may have felt "impossible" just a few months ago. We now have friends and inclusive theater connections across the ocean!
Have you ever considered joining a Barrier-Free theater company but felt hesitant to take the plunge?
Want the inside scoop on how Barrier-Free shows are brought to life?
Look no further, as Sam Silverman, Company B actor, is telling all in his actor spotlight!
View Sam's video responses with full transcripts below.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself - name, age, current city, education/school.
A: My name is Sam Silverman, I’m 18 years old, going on 19 in May. I go to school at Kennedy Krieger High School Greenspring Campus in Baltimore Maryland.
Q: How and when did you become involved in Barrier-Free?
A: Well, it was actually you [mom, Shari] who asked me. You were showing me two different groups to try, the Monday night group and the Wednesday night group. I went in for both and I seemed to like everyone in the Wednesday group, like I got along with them.
Q: What is your favorite part of the theater process?
A: I’m going to have to say, coming up with the characters because it gives you a chance to be someone you’re not. When you’re normally told to “be yourself,” you get to be a completely different person.
Q: How do you decide what character you want to bring to life each season?
A: Well, once we have the scene and theme and genre down, I basically start thinking from there. For the past two performances I was kinda a bad guy but this year I thought, well, I want to make a character where I can use my sarcasm so I came up with a bartender.
Q: How has Barrier-Free impacted your life?
A: It has allowed me to meet friends who are more in my age group and have something to do rather than stay home and sleep.
Q: What activities do you participate in outside of Barrier-Free?
A: Well as you probably already know, I’m big in the combat robotics scene as I have a story every few months to tell you guys.
Q: What would you tell someone that is interested in becoming involved with Barrier-Free's Inclusive Theater Companies?
A: If we’re talking...well, let’s start... say, with staff for example. You might want to tell them, this isn’t your usual drama group, it helps with adults with developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and autism so, yes we may seem different but just treat us like normal human beings and we’ll get along fine. For performers themselves, just tell them how things are going to run through. Like the first few weeks, we’ll play improv games*, “getting to know each other games,” especially this one with a ball, but you’ll all learn to love it. Once you start making friends, you’ve probably made friends for life like how I met Mike Eaton.
*Learn more about the Inclusive Theater Process here.
Q: What's the biggest change in you or how has Barrier-Free helped you grow?
A: I’d say probably in maturity and being around people my age. It just shows me how, just because we’re older than kids, doesn’t mean we can’t be friends and have fun. The social club if anything has been a great help to help me come out of my shell and help me make more friends.
Q: What do you think is the best part of Barrier-Free?
A: Hm… might be the hardest question on here… I’m going to say - creating loads of different characters and putting input like… for the past two plays (the first play and the second play I was in), in the first play, they needed, some heavy metal music for a makeshift fight scene so I offered up my suggestions and had my input. Then, I’ve had a few little changes, like the biggest thing about this [our recent] play is, you’re on an island and there’s this stuff called “nectar,” I actually came up with that idea during an improv game. We were set on an island and I was like a “witch doctor” and we were trying to think, well… how could we turn them into animals or something and I was thinking “Here, try some of this nectar,” and then poof we have island nectar and “Island Mayhem.”
Thank you Sam for taking the time to share your thoughts with us on Barrier-Free's first-ever actor spotlight!
Interested in being a featured actor? Email us at info@BarrierFreeMD.com.
Ready to join in the Barrier-Free Theater experience?
About our Blog
The Barrier-Free blog exists as a space to share Barrier-Free news, helpful information, and a creative sharing space.