Tag Archives: disabilities

happy black woman in wheelchair wheeling down the sidewalk in a red shirt

Disability Awareness Tips to Make Public Environments Inclusive

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to discuss how to make the workplace and other public environments more inclusive. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 61 million adults with disabilities are in the United States. Since people with disabilities form such a large segment of the country’s population, being inclusive is good for business and, simply the right thing to do.

Whether your organization is looking to hire or currently employs people with disabilities, or if you serve the general public, some disability awareness and etiquette can go a long way. In fact, you can become part of the solution by doing your part to making our world more inclusive for all.

Use Appropriate Language

The language we use can become habit, and often we underestimate the power of words. Many people with disabilities prefer inclusive language that puts the person first, versus the disability. Examples of person-first language include:

  • a person with a disability
  • a person who uses a wheelchair
  • the individual has a disability

Terms that convey pity such as “handicapped”, “crippled”, “wheelchair-bound”, “suffers from”, and “the disabled” are considered outdated and offensive to some individuals. Others may use these words themselves, but it helps to be sensitive.

Be Aware of the Physical Environmentlong wheelchair ramp

Being ADA-compliant is not enough to qualify a physical environment as inclusive. Careless placement of trash cans and boxes can block wheelchair-accessible entrances or make corridors too narrow for a wheelchair to pass. Common items need to be located where everyone can reach them. For instance, in the workplace, office supplies should be stored where an employee who uses a wheelchair can get them independently.

Ramps are great, but be sure to check thresholds to ensure they’re smooth, and also check electric door openers from time to time to make sure they’re functioning properly.

 

Model Proper Social Interaction

When you’re communicating with an adult with a disability, always address the person with a disability directly. You want to avoid speaking through a caregiver. If your communication is through an interpreter, you should still direct your comments to the person with a disability.

When you meet someone with a disability for the first time, you should offer to shake hands as you would with anyone else. A person who is not able to shake with the right hand may extend the left hand. When a handshake isn’t possible with either hand, a fist bump could be an acceptable substitute. Learn more about greeting someone with limited upper-mobility here.

close up of a fist pound in an office setting

 

When you don’t know someone well, asking questions an individual’s disability is considered poor taste. An individual with a disability wants to be seen as a person, not as a disability. Plus, the details of someone’s disability could be sensitive or difficult to discuss. Respect for other people’s privacy includes the privacy of people with disabilities.

Ask Before Helping

You should never assume that a person with a disability has limitations that require your help without asking first. If you try to help without asking, it’s possible to do more harm than good. For example, suddenly helping a person who is pushing their wheelchair up a ramp can cause them to lose their balance. Or, you could accidentally touch a part of the wheelchair that could

Like most people, a person with a disability values their independence and will usually let you know when he or she needs assistance. 

A good rule of thumb is to help a person with a disability in the same way you would help any other person. If you would open the door for anyone, go ahead and do the same for someone with a disability. And, again, if it looks like someone needs help, but you’re not sure – just ask!

Don’t Touch Service Animals

In public environments, a service animal is there to work. That’s true even if the animal is not wearing a harness that asks you not to pet it. It’s never acceptable to touch or to interact with a service animal without permission. Keep in mind, too, that there are several types of service animals; not just dogs. It’s more rare, but miniature ponies, Capuchin monkeys and even potbelly pigs can assist individuals with disabilities.

service dog sniffing its master who is swimming in a pool

 

Accessible Transportation is an Important Part of Inclusivity

If your organization offers any sort of transportation to the public, even occasionally for specific clients, it’s important that that service is accessible, too. At AMS Vans, we offer a large selection of wheelchair accessible vehicles for purchase and rental (short- and long-term) with nationwide delivery!

To learn more, contact one of our knowledgable mobility specialists at 800-775-8267 or visit us online at www.amsvans.com

Remember the Golden Rule

You can summarize all of these tips with the Golden Rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. As you encounter people with disabilities, just remember they want independence and respect just like you and everyone else.

As public environments become inclusive, individuals with disabilities can be more involved in their communities. That’s a win for everyone!

Celebrating 29 Years of the Americans With Disabilities Act

Disabilities are nothing new. However, the fact that the country has been helping people with disabilities is still relatively new. This month, we celebrate 29 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Developed in 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act was a milestone that has created equal opportunities for people with disabilities.

It Started With the Capitol Crawl capital crawl where people with disabilities climbed the steps of the U.S. capitol building

In March of 1990, there were dozens of activists with disabilities who got out of their wheelchairs in order to “crawl” up the steps to the Capitol building to protest that the government wasn’t sufficiently advocating for those with disabilities.

It took quite a while for the ADA to pass through Congress. It was introduced in 1988 with bipartisan support. Since it took so long to pass, the Capitol Crawl was used to garner support and show that our community wouldn’t be ignored. After that, Congress pushed it through, becoming law in July of the same year.

What the Americans With Disabilities Act Offers

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits people with disabilities from being discriminated, including in such areas as public accommodations, transportation, employment, access to local and state government programs, as well as communications.

A variety of different federal agencies will enforce or investigate claims surrounding ADA. This includes the US Department of Labor, US Department of Transportation, FCC, US Equal Employment opportunity Commission, the US Department of Justice, the US Department of Education, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and even the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.

Developed in 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act was a milestone. Indeed, it ensures that people do not discriminate against the disabled.

Confident business owners planning new business strategies.

Since the ADA was passed, communities have become more and more accessible. This includes everything from mandatory wheelchair accessible parking to curb-cuts. Almost all buses today are wheelchair accessible. Employers can’t discriminate against someone because of a disability. Government buildings have gone through renovations to allow access to all. Service dogs are protected and allowed to serve their owners, regardless of where they are.

The Timeline of Changes

Although the ADA was first developed in 1990, changes have been ongoing, providing even more rights to those with disabilities. For example, in 1991 there were more laws that focused on public accommodations. Then, in 1992, the ADA expanded to include employers with 25 or more employees. In 1999, there were two rulings by the Supreme Court that helped ensure that more people were covered by the Americans with disabilities act, including those taking certain types of medication. Even in 2006, there were updates to transportation regulations.

President Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990

President Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990

By 2008, there was the ADA Amendments Act, known as ADAAA. This was signed into law by Pres. George W. Bush as a way of counteracting the Supreme Court’s narrow interpretation of disability. It provided broader protection from discrimination. Further, it ensured that the definition of disability included having a mental or physical impairment that significantly limits one or multiple areas of life.

While the ADA and the following amendments have gone so far to ensure access and protect the rights of Americans with disabilities, there is still much work to be done. Attitudinal barriers and enforcement of the law continue to be a challenge for many people. We’re proud at AMS Vans to be a part of the fight!

Learn more about becoming a disability rights advocate from United Spinal Association here.

A Solution for Those With Disabilities

At AMS Vans LLC, we have been helping those with disabilities for over 20 years, all across the nation. We’ll work directly with you to provide quality wheelchair accessible vans that provide you with the mobile freedom that you desire. We offer a number of conversions – and you can find long and short-term rentals as well as direct sales to meet your personal needs. With AMS Vans, you can count on nationwide delivery and service, leasing and financing options and unmatched customer service.

Inclusive Technology: 5 Smart Devices That Increase Independence for People With Disabilities

smart phone controlling colored philips hue lights in home

Philips Hue Lights (photo: Engadget.com)

For people with physical disabilities, smart technology is more than just a convenience; it can be the key to increased independence. Today, smart technology is available for almost every aspect of our lives. It has been integrated into homes, vehicles, and mobile phones – and it seems new technologies become available everyday.

Here is some common smart technology that’s available:

1. Smart Speakers

Devices such as the Amazon EchoEcho Spot, and Echo Dot act as virtual assistants, making it possible for you to use your voice to control certain devices in your home. Those with limited hand mobility can now turn on the television, change the channel, and create a shopping list with a few words.

Devices like Alexa and the Apple Home app let you do more than just control devices; you can set up automated scenes as well. These give you the option of controlling multiple devices at once.

2. Smart Lights

The Philips Hue Light Bulbs, for example, can be controlled by the use of your smartphone and their compatibility with Alexa and Google Home allows you to control your lights by voice command as well. It is now possible to adjust brightness, schedule when the lights go on and off or even change their color. So, these cool lights not only improve independence for folks with limited mobility, but they can also change to suit your mood.

3. Smart Plugs

The VOCOlinc power strips make it possible for you to switch off or on appliances that are plugged into the socket. This is done either by a speaker or phone. This proves helpful, especially since most sockets are low and often difficult to reach.

4. Smart Doorbells

Doorbells today such as the Ring Doorbell come fitted with motion-sensor cameras that display footage of whoever is at your door on your phone’s screen. This provides the added security of knowing who is at the door before opening it. Others have the option of letting you speak to whoever is at the door through your phone.

5. Smart Locks

sebastian-scholz-nuki-IJkSskfEqrM-unsplash smart devices

Smartphone held at the door to auto-unlock it.

If you have visitors, you can give them access to your home without having to open the door. You also have the option of doing away with having to lock and unlock the deadbolt or fumble with keys.

The August Smart Lock, for instance, is a device that is attached to your door’s deadbolt and contains a motor that turns the deadbolt. Using either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, you can control the lock on your door. It is also compatible with Alexa, Google Home, and HomeKit, allowing you to operate the lock on your door with a simple voice command.

You are also able to grant people access to your home by sending an invite to their phone. This gives them access to your home but on your schedule. It notifies you each time the door is unlocked or locked and also records who entered your home and when. This could be really helpful to let in caretakers or visitors.

…And There’s More!

Smart devices do not just end there; there is also the option of getting a robotic vacuum cleaner like the Roomba 675 to help keep your home clean. A smart ceiling fan or wifi-controlled thermostat can help regulate your home’s temperature. Smart devices and their implementation in smart homes are continuously giving those with disabilities more independence than ever before.

Speaking of technology that increases independence, did you know we provide more than just wheelchair accessible vehicles at AMS Vans? We also offer adaptive driving aids, powered transfer seats and much more! Learn more here.

Diverse & Inclusive Toys for Kids Who Roll

Lego boy in wheelchair playing ball with his friends in the park as disability-friendly toys.

Lego boy in wheelchair playing ball with his friends in the park

Playing is one of the most important parts of any child’s healthy development. In the past, kids with special needs didn’t have access to many toys or heroes that represented disabilities – and that can impact a young person’s self image. Thankfully, it’s now much easier to find inclusive toys that represent people with disabilities as major toy manufacturers begin to think more inclusively.

We put together a list of cool, inclusive toys and books for kids who roll! #AMSVans #SpecialNeedsKids Click To Tweet

Hot Wheels Wheelie Chair

This cool chair was created to resemble extreme adaptive athlete Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham‘s WCMX wheelchair. You may already know, Aaron Fotheringham is an extreme wheelchair athlete with spina bifida who was the pioneer of WCMX riding, in which people perform tricks and flips with their wheelchairs, similar to the way a skateboarder uses his board.  Aaron travels the globe with groups like Nitro Circus – and has landed amazing tricks, including the world’s first double backflip in a wheelchair. If you get this toy for a kid you know, be sure to pull up some YouTube videos of Aaron doing his thing! But, be sure to mention not to try this at home (at least, not without proper instruction and gear)!

hotwheels wcmx wheelie chair

Photos of the Hotwheels Wheelie Chair in action, courtesy of Aaron Fotheringham.

Lego Wheelchair Minifigure

What kids doesn’t love legos? Fans celebrated in the summer of 2016, when Lego introduced a minifigure in a wheelchair as part of its City line. The tiny figure features a detachable wheelchair in the same style as other Lego accessories. The achievement was in response to an online petition by Toy Like Me, which had over 20,000 signatures and encouraged toy companies to represent more diversity. The petition urged many toy companies to start creating disability-friendly, inclusive toys.

Wheelchair Barbie

Amidst lots of hype from the media, Mattel has plans in June, to introduce a barbie in a wheelchair and a Barbie with a prosthetic leg. Although Mattel has sold wheelchair Barbies in the past, such as Becky Barbie, there are none currently being sold. This summer, these dolls should be available everywhere to promote inclusiveness and raise the visibility of people with disabilities. Kids can expect the traditional Barbie look that they’v grown to love, with long hair and large eyes – but with the diversity we’ve been missing.

barbies fashionistas line including barbie in wheelchair

Soon, Barbies will represent better diversity! Image: Mattel

American Girl

These classic dolls, which are based on the equally popular American Girl books, can represent a wide range of disabilities. American Girl dolls are fully customizable, so you can get a doll that looks just like your child. Then, you can choose from a number of accessories associated with disabilities, including a wheelchair, crutches, hearing aids, diabetes kits, glasses and a walking stick for kids that have seeing impairments. American Girl has long been cherished as a company that provides inclusive toys with diverse representation. The books are also fun, too. They’re full of adventures featuring girls from all over the world and many time periods.

Books for Kids in the Disability Community

In addition to inclusive toys, there are quite a few children’s books about characters with disabilities. A popular one for kids who roll is called Don’t Call me Special: A First Look at Disability. Some other good ones include Meet ClaraBelle Blue by Adiba Nelson, about a little girl living with cerebral palsy, or Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher, about having a parent who uses a wheelchair. This is just the tip of the iceberg for diverse children’s books. For more, search Google or ask your librarian!

mother and baby reading

There are tons of children’s books out there featuring characters with disabilities!

 

Do you have a favorite inclusive toy or children’s book celebrating disability that we missed? Let us know and we’ll include it in a future blog!!