Wednesday, June 29, 2016

10 tips for creating a more inclusive religous organization
Jenifer Laszlo Mizrahi

Ilia Torlin via Getty Images
We are a stronger country when religious organizations of all faiths live up to our values — when we are welcoming, diverse, moral, and respect one another. People with disabilities and our families have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else, even if they face different challenges.
However, as we approach major religious holidays and the eve of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it’s important to remember that faith-based organizations were exempted from the ADA. Thus, many churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious organizations are not yet fully inclusive of people with disabilities.
This is a big challenge as fully one in five Americans (56 million Americans) has a disability. Thus, by ensuring that those who want to be a part of the community are welcomed, respected and valued, we can be a stronger and better nation.
Together we can build more inclusive faith-based communities where our children, parents, grandparents, and other family and friends with disabilities have an equal opportunity to fully participate. Here are 10 tips to do just that:
1. Communicate that all people are of equal value and are to be respected and openly welcomed. Clergy and CEOs of religious organizations, lay leaders, philanthropists, and faith-based media all set the vision, mission and tone of faith-based communities. Leadership must be intentional, not accidental. Inclusion of all must be embedded in policies, budget, staffing and practice.
2. Work with people with disabilities, not for them. People with disabilities want a seat at the table and to be involved in decision-making. If there are no people with disabilities participating in your decision-making process, invite them in. Value their experiences and opinions. Even people who are unable to speak have opinions that must be shared and heard. Remember the mantra: Nothing about us without us. And keep in mind that people with disabilities don’t want to be objects of pity — they want to contribute to making this world a better place, just like anyone else.

3. Take the time to learn “people-first language,” which respects human beings and their rights to be appreciated for the strengths they have, rather than to be defined by their disabilities. An example of people-first language is referring to a child with Down syndrome by his or her name, not “the kid with Down syndrome.” Or, worse yet, the “Down-syndrome kid.” A person who uses a wheelchair is a person first. Their wheelchair is a tool of liberation, and he or she is not “wheelchair-bound.” People-first language puts the focus back on people by speaking of “people with disabilities” (PwDs), not “handicapped” or “the disabled.” It costs nothing to use different language and it goes a long way to making people feel respected and valued.
4. Ensure all program registration and sign-up forms include questions about accommodations people may need to fully participate. Not all programs can meet every need, but often all we need to do is ask. Starting such conversations lets people know you care about including them. When participants indicate they need an accommodation (i.e. sign language, more time to transition from one activity to another, extra tutoring etc.) their forms must go to the inclusion director/coordinator so he or she can ensure that their needs can be met. If you have a question about what a person with a disability needs in order to participate in a program, the solution is easy: ask them!
5. Trust is vital — and must be established before even meeting face to face with a person with a disability. How can you do this? Go beyond encouraging people to share their needs on registration forms. When people share their needs, respect their privacy by treating it just as you would healthcare information. Also, those working with children with disabilities will find that parents can be your best assets: they are already experts in meeting their children’s needs and can help you serve them successfully.
6. Spread the word in your marketing and social media that all people - with and without disabilities — are welcomed and appreciated. Showcase photos of people with disabilities enjoying your programs next to their “typically developing” peers. This sends a message that all are welcomed and valued. Websites, Facebook, Twitter and media can be important tools for sharing your values and what you offer. Post your diversity policy on your website and ensure it states that you are open to all, regardless of ability. Work to make your website easy to navigate and accessible to people who are blind and deaf. Post all of your videos on YouTube, which helps people who are hearing-impaired by creating free captions.
7. Inclusion is a lot less expensive than most people think, but it still takes the right team and training to do it effectively. All religious organizations, schools, camps and other institutions should have trained staff or provide effective training for existing staff in order to achieve success. Also critical is making changes to buildings so they accommodate those with disabilities. Professional training sessions and materials are vital to prepare staff and community for successful inclusion, and much of it is available online and for free.
8. Provide an inclusion director/coordinator to ensure your organization is ready to meet the needs of community members with disabilities. This does not need to be expensive. Trained professionals can be hired on a part-time basis and many people are willing to work as volunteers. Numerous special educators, therapists and social workers working in public schools or other institutions may be available to work, consult or volunteer part-time.
9. Make a commitment to enable people with and without disabilities to develop peer relationships, build social skills and respect and accept each other. In many institutions, one-on-one counselors and educators who provide support to children with more involved disabilities may mistakenly think their job is to be a child’s best friend. It’s not. Their role should be to “aid and fade” so that children with disabilities can make friends with their typically developing peers, and children without disabilities can enjoy diverse friendships as well. Moreover, it’s not a staff member or counselor’s job to fix every problem or constantly hover over participants. Instead, they should help children or adults with disabilities discover solutions on their own. At times a teacher or counselor will need to assist people with disabilities, either physically or in a conversation to meet their needs. But once the immediate need is met, it is important that people are given the space to be as independent as possible.

10. Put diverse and qualified people with and without disabilities on your staff, board and committees. Non-profit and for profit agencies alike should reflect the people they serve. This includes being models for involving qualified people with disabilities. In addition to developing programs with people with disabilities, they should also employ them and make use of their great talents. Organizations can encourage their members to offer internships to young people with disabilities or serve as ‘job coaches’ to help teens with disabilities get on track to a life of independence and success.
We all have hopes, dreams, and a desire to contribute to making a better world. By being intentional about opening our doors to all people no matter their differences, everyone benefits. Each person with a disability, just like those without disabilities, has strengths, purpose, equal value and a place in the community.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How to expand access to people with disability

I had the fortune recently to make connections with an organization called yad chazakah who do some work on helping people with disabilities get better access in their communities.

They have sheets with good outlines for how to help provide better access

You can find it on their website and see the other good things they do:

Student creates comic about aspergers

Student Creates Comic Series to Explain Her Life With Asperger’s

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Siara Hughes studies graphic design and visual communications at Highline College in Des Moines, Washington, and for one of her final projects last quarter, she decided to produce a comic strip focused on her life with Asperger’s syndrome.
“I really wanted to tell a story that would help me explain myself, what autism means for me, what my struggles are, and how I’ve had to work through them,” she told The Mighty.
“This comic is the culmination of dozens of hours of work, lots of frustration, a couple of tears, and an earnest desire to explain myself to other people,” she added on her DeviantArt page.
Hughes, 21, told The Daily Dot she diagnosed herself with Asperger’s after identifying with an autistic character in a book and then doing research. When her younger brother was diagnosed with autism, she noticed a number of similarities between the two of them, and found an explanation for how she’d been feeling.
“Watching him go through the daily challenges of school while having them compounded by ASD reminded me of my own childhood struggles and became a sort of inspiration for the project,” she told The Mighty.
Editor’s note: These comics are based on one person’s experience.
Siara Hughes Asperger's comic
comic about autistic spectrum disorder
Hughes is sensitive to light, heat and touch, and she finds eye contact difficult. Hughes said she’s known she was different for quite some time, but it wasn’t until she learned more about Asperger’s that she began to feel understood.
“If I’m going to understand someone else and befriend them and interact in a positive way, I need to get inside their psyche and understand what’s going on under there,” she told The Daily Dot. “I want to be able to communicate, I want to be able to understand people, and it means I have to learn how to do it.”
Siara Hughes Asperger's comic
Siara Hughes Asperger's comic
Siara Hughes Asperger's comic
So far, Hughes has received a very positive response to the project. “When I turned in the story board, my teachers got really excited about it and asked me if I’d make a poster version for Student Services on campus,” she told The Mighty. “I then decided to adopt the eight-panel story board into a 12-panel webcomic that more completely told the story. I first posted the comic about two weeks ago on DeviantArt and it’s gotten more feedback than just about anything I’ve every posted.”

comic on ASD
Hughes also opens up about meltdowns, and how stressful they can be for her.
“The meltdowns don’t happen on cue,” she told The Daily Dot. “I don’t will them to happen; I will them not to happen. I don’t like falling apart in public.”
comic of Meltdown
Siara Hughes Asperger's comic
comic after meltdown
Siara Hughes Asperger's comic
“My goal in all of this is just to help people understand,” she told The Mighty. “To understand me, my little brother, and all the other high functioning autistic people out there like us. And maybe to help us better understand and explain ourselves.”

Friday, June 24, 2016

Disabled in prision

Tonight, we look at a part of the criminal justice system that tends to get less attention, prisoners with disabilities.
Judy recorded this conversation yesterday.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A new report breaks down public data to outline the scope of the issue.
It says more than 750,000 people with disabilities are behind bars in the U.S., including more than half-a-million with cognitive impairments, at least 250,000 with mobility problems, and 140,000 who are blind or have vision loss.
The report was issued by a nonprofit disability group known as RespectAbility, which also hopes to cast a spotlight on what happens to individuals after they leave prison.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the president and CEO of this group, and she joins me now.
Welcome to the program.
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI, RespectAbility: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Why was this important for you to focus on?
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI: Well, this was a great injustice, because what you predominantly see are individuals of color, people who are African-Americans, Hispanic, new immigrants, whose disabilities were never appropriately diagnosed or addressed.
I myself am somebody with a disability. And so I know it can be harder to get ahead, but if you are doubly disadvantaged, if you have multiple minority status, the school-to-prison pipeline is almost a direct ticket.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I know I was just looking at some census data this afternoon. People with disabilities make up something like 19, 20 percent of population overall.
But your report finds they are over 30 percent of people behind bars in this country. How did that happen?
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI: It really happens when young people who have dyslexia or executive function disorder don’t get the diagnosis, don’t get the accommodations that they need and they deserve in school.
They wind up getting in trouble, getting suspended, dropping out of school. They’re not graduating high school and they’re getting in trouble very early. So you can really see the problem only — already almost predict the outcome when somebody is in the third grade, if these issues are not addressed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Is one of your arguments that they were wrongly convicted?
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI: In some cases, yes, because, in some cases, what has happened is they have an intellectual disability that they don’t understand the charges that are against them, and they have not gotten the legal — the legal support that they need.
And, in some cases, they’re very, very smart, and they might be deaf. There’s all kinds of situation where individuals who are hearing-impaired are not given the right language supports with ASL, American Sign Language, so they can defend themselves.
So, we have real injustice for people who are in jail, and there are people who committed crimes because their path to success wasn’t in place.
JUDY WOODRUFF: To what extent are our jails, our city jails, county jails, and state and federal prisons equipped to deal with these issues?
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI: They are not even remotely equipped to deal. And most of it is not equipment. It’s actually training. It’s awareness.
For example, somebody who lived in a house with lead paint poisoning, somebody like Freddie Gray, who is a case we’re all familiar with, he didn’t have the ability to follow multistep instructions.
And so, in school, people thought he had behavior differences, when it was really learning differences. And so he was suspended, and then he didn’t complete school, and then he was in and out of the correction system.
And then when somebody like that goes into incarceration, again, lots of complicated instructions, and before you know it, they’re in solitary confinement.
JUDY WOODRUFF: To what extent are either legislators, are federal — are the Congress looking at this issue, addressing it? You and I were just speaking about efforts right now to look at prison reform. But you were saying disabilities are not a part of that.
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI: Unfortunately, the data just has not been known.
It’s sort of like the housing crisis, where all the data was sitting there hidden in plain sight, but nobody was looking at it. It’s really this explosive bomb of information that no one was looking at.
So the new legislation that is being proposed does not address any of these issues at all. By the way, I do support these prison reforms. There are people who really shouldn’t be in the prison system because of their long sentences for nonviolent offenses.
But you have got to have a pathway to get a job, because the way things are now, these individuals who leave incarceration, they’re not literate, and they wind up back in prison.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it is — as we said a moment, it is part of the focus of this report, what these individuals with disabilities face once, if and when they are released.
What you see is that three-quarters of individuals who are released from incarceration — and, by the way, that’s 600,000 people every single year — within five years, three-quarters of them are back in jail. The system is broken, and it absolutely must be fixed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How — Jennifer Mizrahi, how do you — how do you even begin to get your arms around this? What are some steps that you argue need to be taken immediately and in the near term?
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI: Well, in terms of thinking about when people reenter the community, you need to be ready to have scaffolding for success, so that people can get a job, so that they can get their medication.
People with significant mental health differences who need medication to keep from having psychotic episodes leave incarceration with no health care, and therefore no medicine, and then it’s not surprising that they’re doing something that’s putting them back in jail.
So there’s basic things on the exit. There’s things you need to do for accommodations while they’re incarcerated, especially around literacy and training, to help them build those skills. And then there is to ensure that the prison pipeline doesn’t continue, starting really very much with early intervention, particularly in minority communities, to make sure they’re getting the tools that they need to succeed.
JUDY WOODRUFF: How should people think — I know there’s been a lot of, of course, publicity about crimes of all sort that get attention in the news media all the time. Public — people read about it and they hear about it.
How do they understand and weigh the difference between a disability that is causing someone to do something to commit a crime, and one that where there’s will involved and a disability, and it’s something for which one has to serve time, must be held accountable?
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI: Well, a crime clearly is something that harms another person. And so if you’re harming people, then there has to be something to be done.
Now, in many cases, you can go to a mental health treatment program or an addiction program or a work program. The alternative sentencing is really important, because America has only 5 percent of the world’s population, but we have 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated prisoners.
It’s incredible; 2.2 million Americans are currently incarcerated.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, with the group RespectAbility, we thank you very much for talking to us.
JENNIFER LASZLO MIZRAHI: Thank you very much for your focus on these issues.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Special needs shiduchim in europe

Antwerp Shidduch Group

Debby Gruzman
(324) 733-50706

Sheindele Lebovic
(324) 979-12009

Serving people with physical disabilities

Chava Most

Voicemail 612-888-7908 
Fax 732-226-8979 24hr
Lakewood, NJ

Specializing in genetic, fertility, physical and chronic health issues, as well as other non-medical but otherwise sensitive situations. Mrs Most also assists in the medical research and has Rabbonim, Specialists & Geneticists willing to help on these issues. All information is dealt with in a strictly confidential manner, with medical info only exchanged with permission of those involved.  Database includes USA, Europe and Israel.

Friday, June 17, 2016

UK makes mandatory autism eduation for teachers

Children in classroom with teacher

Yesterday was a momentous day for UK education, as it was announced that autism will now be part of the "core" learning for teachers. A survey conducted by NASUWT revealed that roughly 60% of teachers had not been given the training necessary to teach children on the autistic spectrum, despite the fact that every teacher will have autistic students in their classes at some point.
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said:
"Today's announcement is very promising and, if followed through, will transform the prospects of generations of children on the autism spectrum. Simple changes, like gradually preparing a child for changes and communicating them carefully, can make a huge difference. Every teacher deserves the right training, and every autistic child needs a teacher who understands them."
Over 1 in 100 children are on the autistic spectrum and 70% of those children are going to mainstream school, meaning they are being taught by individuals unprepared to support their needs. Ambitious About Autism found that because of this lack of appropriate support, over half of parents of autistic children kept their children off school.

Every teacher deserves the right training, and every autistic child needs a teacher who understands them
Having had enough, campaigners decided to launch #EveryTeacher, an attempt to tackle this problem head on. This campaign led to over 7,000 teachers, MPs and members of the public signing a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan about the issue. The letter was launched by The National Autistic Society and Ambitious About Autism urging autism to be included in the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) framework for England, which is currently under review by the Government. 58% of children and young people on the autism spectrum surveyed by the National Autistic Society last year said that teachers understanding would be the one thing that would make school better for them.
Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, said:
"It is crucial that teachers receive training on how to identify a child who may have autism, and how to refer them for further support. Too many children with autism miss out on the vital support they need to succeed at school because their autism isn't recognised. Excellent training is available – through the Autism Education Trust and others – and we need to share expertise in autism better across schools."
The focus of the training is to help train teachers identify the needs of autistic students and accommodate them as you would any other child. This understanding will help create a safer environment for these children to learn and not feel discouraged.
"We don't need every teacher to be an autism expert – but we do need them to know how to help families access that expertise. The lack of autism awareness training for teachers is also likely to have serious knock-on effects. For example, teachers need better support when it comes to recognising the difference between disability and disobedience, otherwise children with autism will continue to be excluded from school due to a lack of support for them to access learning in the classroom. Also, research shows that 40% of children with autism have been bullied. Again, teachers need to be trained to prevent the bullying of children with autism."
Jody Coxon's sons Cameron (13) and Harry (11) are on the autism spectrum and struggled in mainstream schools because they weren't equipped to meet their complex needs. She said,
"My sons look like any other child but have high anxiety in social situations and are so sensitive to noise that they really struggle in busy and loud classrooms. But with more knowledge of autism, their teachers would have been better able to pick up on these difficulties and work with me to help address them. While my children would have always needed more specialist support, this would have made their time there so much easier and probably helped them get the right support earlier."
The Initial Teacher Training framework review is said to report back this summer.

Special needs shiduchim for Israel

Ezer Mizion Strike A Match---Mrs. Leah Reisner

Strike A Match is Ezer Mizion's program to do shidduchim for singles with various types of physical, medical, or genetic issues. They work in tandem with Ezer Mizion's medical referral department to provide clear information to both sides on any condition. Strike A match does both local and international shidduchim. 

Shmaya Center For The Hearing Impaired—Shidduchim Service
 (972) 03-578-3410 
(Fax: 03-5787514)
Harav Povarsky 13, Bnei Brak

Call Mon, Tues, Thurs 4:15-7:15 pm. Leave a message with the receptionists and they'll call back. Confidentiality guaranteed.
Shmaya services also include: Rehab daycare, children's gamin, treatment center, audiology (?) center for hearing tests, rehab afternoon programs, social "moadon" for adults, mainstreaming students, speech therapy, OT, parent guidance

Goldie Fogel of Sos Tassis
(972) 02-538-2076

Young adults up to age 30 with past or present medical & physical challenges.

Mrs. Honig
(972) 02-582-5852

Rebbitzen Rivka Moore
(972) 02-651-9258

Specializing in shidduchim for the deaf and hearing impaired.
Call between 8:30-11:30 pm

Shidduchim Gmach

Shidduchim for light health issues (not mental illnesses)yeshiva boys and Bais Yaakov girls only, up to age 30.

Chava Most

Voicemail 612-888-7908 
Fax 732-226-8979 24hr
Lakewood, NJ

Specializing in genetic, fertility, physical and chronic health issues, as well as other non-medical but otherwise sensitive situations. Mrs Most also assists in the medical research and has Rabbonim, Specialists & Geneticists willing to help on these issues. All information is dealt with in a strictly confidential manner, with medical info only exchanged with permission of those involved.  Database includes USA, Europe and Israel.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tikva Juni advocate for disabilities 36 under 36


When Tikvah Juni was 16, she received her first standing ovation.
“I remember all the people, cheering and smiling,” said Juni, who had been the guest speaker at an event hosted by Yachad: The National Jewish Council for Disabilities.
“That was the first time I really believed the world could change,” she said. Since then, she’s been trying to change the world one speech at a time.
Juni, who has Down syndrome, travels around the U.S. teaching audiences about inclusion. In Washington, D.C., she even lobbied state and federal legislators to increase resources for special needs students.
Though she begins each speech with a thought on the weekly Torah portion, she ends by detailing her experiences as someone with special needs.
“I hate the words ‘disability’ and ‘consumer,’ she said, two words commonly used to describe those with special needs. “People with special needs aren’t takers, and we aren’t incapable. We want to be accepted just as much as everyone else.”
Growing up in the 1980s when inclusion was rarely a topic of conversation, Juni often felt excluded.
“Schools kept closing their doors to me after they heard about my special needs,” said Juni, who grew up in the Orthodox community of Flatbush. Socializing was also difficult, and Juni spent much of her childhood reading books instead of romping with friends.
“People didn’t treat me so nicely. They judged me by the way I looked,” she said.
Even today, audiences are often surprised when she first walks up to the podium. “They’re expecting someone big and important, and here’s this small little girl,” Juni said. “But when I start speaking, they shift their focus. It’s not about my exterior — it’s about what I’m saying.”
When not on speaking tours, Juni works with special needs children. During the school year, she serves as a preschool teaching assistant; in the summer, you can find her at Camp HASC.
To reach an even broader audience, Juni completed a several-hundred page book about her experiences. Though not yet published, she’s hoping one day her story, and her message, can reach thousands.
Capturing color: In her downtime, Juni loves oil painting. She is particularly fond of landscapes. “An artist can see the world in a way no one else can,” she said. “It’s important to notice things other people don’t.”