A Toy Guide for All Children

 

#Toys for All Twitter Chat Planned for August 26 at 2:00 p.m.

On Wednesday, Toys”R”Us® released of the 2015 Toys”R”Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids®, an easy-to-use toy selection resource for those who know, love and shop for children with special needs. This annual, complimentary publication is available now in Toys”R”Us and Babies”R”Us® stores nationwide and online, in both English and Spanish, at Toysrus.com/DifferentlyAbled. For more than 20 years, this beloved catalog has been a go-to shopping guide for families in the special needs community, showcasing specially selected toys that aid in the skill development of children who have physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities. This year, Toys”R”Us is partnering with Nick Lachey, father, philanthropist, multi-platinum recording artist and television personality, who appears on the cover of the Guide alongside 5-year old Josephine Gonzalez from New Jersey.

Cover of 2015 Toys R Us Toy Guide with Nick Lachey

While Lachey has worked on numerous exciting projects around the globe throughout his career, he is most proud of being a father of two and an advocate for children’s causes. Inspired by his brother Zac, who lives with Asperger syndrome, Lachey established the Nick Lachey Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children, families and communities in need within the United States in 2007.

“Children’s causes are a huge passion of mine, so I was honored to collaborate with Toys”R”Us to lend my support to something as special as the Toys”R”Us Toy Guide for Differently Abled Kids,” said Nick Lachey. “Building on a 20-year reputation of being a beneficial resource for parents and gift givers shopping for special needs children, the Guide is so valuable because it removes the guesswork, providing trusted recommendations of toys that will appeal to a child with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities.”

#ToysForAll
On Wednesday, August 26 at 2pm, Toys”R”Us, along with its special needs partners, including the United Cerebral Palsy will host a Twitter Chat to provide followers with tips for selecting toys for children with special needs. The company is encouraging fans and followers to join the conversation and support the power of play by using #ToysForAll.

 

Young Girl with Toy

 

Identifying the Best Toys Based on a Child’s Individual Needs
Because all children are unique, regardless of ability, toys in this catalog are not categorized by disability, gender or age, and are everyday playthings that can be enjoyed alongside siblings and friends. Instead, the Guide pairs toys with icons representing a variety of skill sets, such as Auditory, Language, Social, Creativity and more, helping gift-givers choose toys most suitable for the child they are shopping for.

To identify items that best contribute to the development of children with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities, Toys”R”Us has collaborated with the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making play accessible for children of all abilities, to vet each of the toys featured in the 64-page buying guide.

Gift-givers who prefer to shop from home or on-the-go can take advantage of the shop-by-skill option at Toysrus.com/DifferentlyAbled, where they can select a specific skill set to refine their search. The dedicated website also features a special Toys”R”Us App Guide for Differently-Abled Kids, providing recommendations for mobile apps, using the same skills criteria featured within the traditional Guide. The App Guide is available to make app discovery and mobile technology accessible to kids of all abilities by identifying apps that help build individual skill sets, and are appropriate for children with special needs.

To Download Behind-the-Scenes Footage of the 2015 Guide Cover Shoot, Click here: https://toysrus.sharefile.com/d-s98336cb65b84b978.

Charitable Giving at Toys”R”Us
The philanthropic mission of Toys”R”Us, Inc. and the Toys”R”Us Children’s Fund is to keep children safe and help them in times of need. The Toys”R”Us Children’s Fund contributes millions of dollars annually to various organizations. Each year, several UCP affiliates use grants from the Children’s Fund to expand or improve upon toy/play therapy programs for children with disabilities.The Fund also provides grants to leading special needs organizations, furthering the company’s commitment to children of all abilities. In addition to financial and product donations, Toys”R”Us, Inc. hosts in-store and online fundraising campaigns annually that raise millions of dollars for the company’s signature philanthropic partners.

UCP Honors Sprint Relay in Connecticut

 

Over the last two years Sprint has developed a partnership with United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), a nonprofit organization that educates, advocates and provides support services for adults and children with disabilities, in order to increase awareness of Sprint Relay’s Enhanced Speech-to-Speech service. As a result of this affiliation, Sprint Relay’s state services have been able to build a close relationship with their local UCP chapters.

Sprint Relay

Michelle Vicino, Account Manager for Sprint Relay Connecticut, has developed one of these outstanding relationships with the UCP Association of Eastern Connecticut (UCPECT). Michelle’s personal story has led her to have a true passion for the services and solutions that Sprint Relay provides. Michelle was born with full hearing, and went through life easily able to utilize the telephone and keep in touch with family and friends. However, a progressive hearing loss became suddenly noticeable when Michelle found herself unable to understand words over the phone at the age of 25. At the time, she had no access to TTY services, CapTel services, or any other technology those with a hearing loss have in order to communicate. Today, she advocates for Sprint Relay services by providing outreach through Relay Connecticut. She touches the lives of parents who are struggling to find solutions for their children, as well as adults who are unsure how to move forward with a newfound hearing loss.

The outreach provided through Relay Connecticut led Michelle to a request from the UCPECT. Michelle was able to secure a sponsorship that included promotion of Sprint Relay services on the UCPECT website, social media channels, events and more.Sprint RelaySprint Relay CT Award

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a result, Michelle received an award in recognition of the outstanding support provided by Relay Connecticut.

“It’s an honor to accept this award on behalf of Sprint Relay,” said Michelle. “I’m proud to be part of the Sprint Relay team, where we have a strong focus on providing solutions to create communication access for people with disabilities.”

Sprint has served as the nation’s largest 711 Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) provider for more than 25 years, and currently provides relay services in 33 states and exclusively for the federal government, as well as New Zealand. In addition to Sprint Relay services, Sprint offers unique products and services for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, those with cognitive or neurodevelopmental disabilities and seniors. By empowering seniors and people with disabilities through accessible technology, we’re demonstrating how good technology works as a positive force in our society. For more information, visit www.sprint.com/goodworks, for people with Speech Disability: www.sprintsts.com, for general Sprint Relay: www.sprintrelay.com, or for hearing loss/hard of hearing: www.sprintcaptel.com

UCP Receives Motorola Solutions Foundation Innovation Generation Grant

United Cerebral Palsy has received a grant for $20,000 as part of the “Innovation Generation Grant” program from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, the charitable arm of Motorola Solutions, Inc. Through the grant, UCP’s Life Labs initiative will distribute universal design curriculum modules through iTunes U and offer an immersive two-day design challenge, called an Innovation Lab, to engage students across disciplines in human centered design concepts.

Life Labs Logo

The Innovation Generation program awards organizations such as UCP that foster and support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives for teachers and U.S. preschool through university students – especially girls and underrepresented minorities, such as people with disabilities.

“It’s amazing to watch people who participate in an Innovation Lab leave with a greater understanding of the challenges that people with disabilities face and a new confidence that they can participate in solving some of those challenges,” said Josef Scarantino, Acting Director of UCP’s Life Labs. “This program has the power to change career trajectories and open up a new worlds of creativity and innovation.”

Innovation Lab HeaderAfter several successful Innovation Lab events in 2014 and 2015, UCP’s Life Labs shaped the Innovation Lab into a curriculum, which can easily be adapted to any school degree program. Utilizing Apple’s iTunes U education content platform, UCP’s Life Labs plans to build a large national presence of students and open the curriculum to outside academic and industry collaboration. The curriculum and Innovation Lab events will be made available to UCP’s network of eighty affiliates through a toolkit that combines all the necessary resources.

The Motorola Solutions Foundation grant program overall will impact about 900,000 students and teachers, each receiving an average of 100 programming hours from our partner non-profit organizations and institutions. Programs will support special populations including girls and women, underrepresented minorities, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, people with disabilities and the military.

“The Motorola Solutions Foundation created the Innovation Generation Grant program eight years ago to support educational experiences that spark students to turn their dreams into the innovations that will shape our society’s future,” said Matt Blakely, director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation. “Organizations like UCP are teaching tomorrow’s leaders that careers in engineering and technology are not only fun, but also within their reach.”

For additional information on the Motorola Solutions Foundation grants programs, visit: http://responsibility.motorolasolutions.com/index.php/solutions-for-community/ and for more information on UCP please visit www.ucp.org

 

About Motorola Solutions Foundation

The Motorola Solutions Foundation is the charitable and philanthropic arm of Motorola Solutions. With employees located around the globe, Motorola Solutions seeks to benefit the communities where it operates. The company achieves this by making strategic grants, forging strong community partnerships and fostering innovation. The Motorola Solutions Foundation focuses its funding on public safety, disaster relief, employee programs and education, especially science, technology, engineering and math programming. For more information on Motorola Solutions Corporate and Foundation giving, visit our website: www.motorolasolutions.com/giving.

 

 

“Going Solo” gives a voice to single parents raising children with disabilities

This book review was written by one of UCP’s summer interns, Alex Vesey. 

Available through the Woodbine House publishing website for $24.95.

Single parents of children with disabilities face unique challenges. They deal with particular social stigmas as well as the day-to-day balancing act of parenting on one’s own. The book Going Solo by Laura E. Marshak, PH.D., aims to address these issues comprehensively and compassionately. She interviews various solo parents, some who chose to adopt or conceive as single parents and some who became single parents as a result of bereavement or divorce. The parents’ interviews are diverse, candid, and full of the rich details of their lives. After each interview, Dr. Marshak breaks down the “Genius Moments” in this story, to highlight exactly what each parent is doing well and provide advice for other parents. The book is also full of links to websites and information about various organizations that provide support for parents of children with disabilities. 

The opening chapter deals with common challenging emotions for parents, including the grief some parents feel after their child’s diagnosis. The focus, however, is on day-to-day coping and celebrating your child. There are individual chapters for different circumstances including divorce, single fatherhood, bereavement, adoption, conceiving alone, dating as a single parent, military parents dealing with a spouse’s deployment, and parenting an adult child with a disability. The parents in this book come from all walks of life. Many draw strength from religious faith, a recurring theme in several interviews. They seek support from families, friends, support groups, and other parents of children with disabilities. What they do have in common is their commitment to their children, their love and their resolve.  Going Solo puts that love front and center and provides practical advice and resources for other parents in the same position.

*This is a book review. UCP received no compensation, nor is endorsing the above.* 

 

World CP “Invent It” Competition Brings Together Designers to Make a “Sponge House!”

“World Cerebral Palsy Day (World CP Day)” is a worldwide project with the goal to change the world for people living with cerebral palsy and other disabilities and their families.  World CP Day is celebrated on the first Wednesday in October, yet events go on year round. This year, World CP Day aims to make a difference in the local communities of those with CP. Each year the initiative introduces different challenges. From 2012-2014, World CP Day challenged engineers and designers to invent a product that would benefit people with CP.

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This past year, the challenge was to create a ‘Sponge House’ that went beyond only being wheelchair accessible. The Sponge House needed to accommodate to a large group of people with CP by having open spaces, soft floors, rounded edges and low surfaces. The idea of the Sponge House came from 6-year-old Sally Garster who lives in England and has CP and wanted a house made from soft materials that would protect her when she falls.

Winners of the 2015 Sponge House challenge are people from all across the globe. The number one winning team is a group from Canada who created A.B.L.E (Access a Better Living Environment). This team came up with a house that includes a lot of open spaces, mobility equipment, soft surfaces, and rounded corners. The next runner up was a product called The Bubble House created by two women in Australia. This house consisted of round surfaces with furniture that is mounded into the ground to prevent slipping and falling. This house also included a soft and sponge-like floor that is soft when impacted by a fall.

Next up was a project called Super Special Living created in New York! Inspired by their son, Garner Oh and his wife designed a house that has gentle curved bars that little hands can easily grasp along with shelves that encourage reaching and pulling to stand (once they have toys on them, of course). With soft padding on the floor and walls and no sharp edges to bump into, Super Special Living is a house that will not hurt you.

Show Us The Love!

We want to know what you love! Is it a day at the ballpark? Hanging out at the beach with your friends? Being around your dogs? Or does being around your family make your heart swell? UCP is officially launching a “Summer of Love!” We want to show the world that people with disabilities are just as passionate about their pursuits as people without disabilities. Please share a photo on our Facebook or Twitter page that shows us what – or who – you love the most. Whether it’s a snapshot of your sweetheart, or a pic of you engaged in your favorite pastime, we want to see it! There are no rules, just keep it family-friendly. There’s one thread that connects us all—people with disabilities and without, is love. Sharing your photo is easy! Just go to our Facebook page, give us a like and upload your photo on our wall. If Twitter is more your thing, give us a follow on Twitter and tweet us @UCPNational. Whatever way you choose to share, be sure to use the hashtag #SummerofLoveUCP! Follow us on our social media accounts and be sure to keep an eye on our website (UCP.org) to see a gallery of all of the submitted pictures!

The Shriver Snapshot Highlights Attitudes Towards Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities

While America gets ready to host the Special Olympics World Games and celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, The Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century shows a nation that is constantly changing. The poll was conducted by Harris Polling in partnership with Shriver Media and Special Olympics International.

The findings reveal that the more than half of Americans who have personal contact with someone with intellectual disabilities (I/DD) are and have far more accepting and positive attitudes. On the other hand, findings also show that the lack of contact leaves a legacy of misinformation, false stereotypes, ignorance and fear towards those with intellectual disabilities in the remaining half of Americans. So, experience and exposure are found to be the most important factor when it comes to one’s attitude towards people with I/DD.

Dropping the report in the midst of the Special Olympics, which welcomes more than 6,500 athletes representing 165 countries, is a great way to not only advocate how personal contact effects ones attitudes but also to give more people a chance to experience interacting with people with I/DD.

The Shriver report reveals that experience, inclusion and intervention are the best ways to abolish isolation, intolerance and injustice. Yet, 3 to 9 million people with I/D remain isolated from the rest of society. A whopping 42% of Americans have no personal contact with someone with an intellectual disability, and therefore cling to old judgements and stereotypes.

It is great to know that a vast majority of Americans believe that people with intellectual disabilities should be encouraged to be employed (93%), yet one in five respondents said that they would feel uncomfortable hiring someone with an intellectual disability. Because of this, only a shocking 5% of Americans know what it is like to work alongside someone with I/DD.

This study shows that millennial women ages 18-34 have the most progressive attitudes towards, and expectations for people with I/DD. They are in general the most progressive, inclusive, and compassionate group of all groups surveyed. Approximately 62% of these women would feel comfortable having their child date/marry someone with I/DD.

Although 89% of Americans reported feeling comfortable with their child being in a class with a child with I/DD, 4 in 10 Americans don’t believe children with I/DD should be educated in the same classroom as their peers without disabilities. While most of these statistics show a majority of people being accepting of people with I/DD, there is still a large percent of people who showed discomfort when it came to interacting with someone with an I/DD.

The findings highlighted in The Shriver Report Snapshot are both eye-opening and motivating. It is clear that there is still a lot of confusion about intellectual disabilities throughout America and how they should be dealt with. This report will give our country a better understanding of how we are currently dealing with I/DD and what areas we need to work on.

Champions of Change Honored at White House

WHChaps 1This week, staff from UCP National, along with several participants in our summer intern program, attended the Champions of Change ceremony at the White House in Washington, D.C. The program, “Disability Advocacy Across Generations” recognized the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and nine “Champions of Change” selected by the Obama administration. Each champion has been very influential in the disability community and has brought about major changes, while facing obstacles of their own.

Champion Dilshad Ali, a mother of a son with autism, spoke about how disability is something that is hidden and never spoken of in her Muslim community. Ali discussed the importance of being able to access the support of one’s religious or cultural institutions as part of a panel on Effective Disability Advocacy. There was also Dior Vargas, a Latina woman who suffers with depression and anxiety. Vargas emphasized how many times disabilities are ‘invisible’, and therefore go unnoticed. She brought an interesting aspect to the table, and channeled people’s focus on another kind of disability, mental illnesses, which are often left out of the conversation on disability advocacy.

The day’s speakers included Jim Abbott, a former MLB pitcher and Olympian born without a right hand. Abbott has faced physical obstacles his whole life – especially in sports. He spoke about how he had to do things a little bit differently, but that is what got him to where he is today. He showed the audience how he adapted to pitching a baseball with one hand, and told stories about how former teachers and coaches who were open to “doing things differently,” giving him the opportunity to excel.

Another panel on Owning the Future: Disability, Diversity and Leadership included some Champions, who faced more communication barriers than others. Mike Ellis, who is deaf, explained more about his role at AT &T and working to ensure communication technology was accessible to all. Another champion, Catherine Hutchinson, experienced a severe brain injury and is now quadriplegic used a speech synthesizer to communicate.

At the end of the second panel, Derrick Coleman from the SuperBowl champion Seattle Seahawks worked to motivate the crowd to follow their dreams. He lost his hearing at the age of 3 and is the first deaf player in the NFL. Coleman told the audience to be themselves and love themselves.

U.S Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez closed out the event with information about current initiatives to improve upon worker rights, such as raising the federal minimum wage for all workers and echoed some of the panelist’s comments about the importance of participation in the workforce to true inclusion and independence.

Facing the Day with Dignity

Today is the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This landmark legislation guaranteed increased access for people with disabilities in almost every facet of community life. The doors to full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities opened metaphorically and literally in many cases.

11JE04GDAs an organization which serves and supports people with a broad range of disabilities and their families, UCP is keenly aware of the profound difference this singular act made in the lives of so many people – whether they realize it or not.

 

At the 25 year mark, there now exists an entire generation of people with disabilities who have matured into adulthood under the legal protections of the ADA. They expect accessible entrances to public building, wheelchair ramps and curb cuts, closed-captioning and sign language interpreters, and accessible public transportation options. And, for 20-somethings without disabilities, these accommodations have become a part of their consciousness as well. Even if they don’t experience disability personally, many people benefit from the changes brought about by the ADA. Just think of the young mother with a stroller who no longer has to deal with high curbs at each crosswalk.

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However, there are still physical and attitudinal challenges to overcome and advocates are still needed. Every year, investigations are open and lawsuits are filed over issues of ADA compliance. And, every year, government officials, disability experts, lawyers and judges debate the meaning and application of various provisions in the law. Are the drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft independent contractors, not necessarily bound by the ADA? Are service animals always allowed in public school classrooms no matter the circumstances? What, exactly, do the words “reasonable accommodations” mean?

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Like any other law, we will continue to debate the details and try to adapt interpretation of the now decades-old language to a rapidly changing landscape. However, we think that the true accomplishment of the ADA will not ultimately be judged by changes to transportation, education, or access to a local public library. The real victory to be claimed by the disability advocates and allies who worked for the law is the opportunity it provides for people with disabilities to face each new day with dignity that comes with full equality.

 

Regardless of the tactics it employs, the law explicitly states that:

 

“Physical or mental disabilities in no way diminish a person’s right to fully participate in all aspects of society…

 

It makes the unequivocal statement that in the eyes of Congress, representatives of “We the People,” people with disabilities are people, first and foremost, as well as full citizens of the United States. It is a recognition that the aspects of our society which prevent a person with a disability from being fully able to participate need to be addressed and Congress intends to provide a “…national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” It is the law of the land and confirmation that people with disabilities should never again have to accept anything less than opportunities provided to their peers.

Comedians with Disabilities Come Together to Break Down Barriers

Twenty five years ago, before the passage of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there likely would have been physical barriers in clubs and theaters, challenges at airports and in hotels or other issues that would make it difficult, difficult if not impossible, for Michael Aronin, Shanon DeVido, Tim Grill, and Mike Murray to mount a full-fledged comedy tour.

In 2015, accessibility in public places has improved and with it the attitudes of many toward people with disabilities such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment and spinal muscular atrophy. However, for many who don’t have a close friend or family member with a disability, there are still misconceptions and a lack of understanding. Employers can still be reluctant to hire people with disabilities, especially in the entertainment industry where there is a perception that audiences won’t respond well.

So, the comedians set out on a mission to bridge the gap with laughter. Wicked wit forged from a lifetime of dealing with adversity, No Comic Left Behind smashes stereotypes with every joke: people with disabilities are really no different from you and I. Set-ups on relationships, jobs, and family come with punch lines about wheelchairs and the underrated benefits of being deaf.

“Comedy is a great way to break down that barrier that people often have when they’re talking with people with disabilities,” said Shannon DeVido.

The comedians have long understood that laughter is the best medicine. Michael Aronin, who nearly died at birth and now has cerebral palsy, uses humor to coach audiences toward their career goals as a motivational speaker. And, Tim Grill was born with spina bifida, going through thirteen surgeries to enable him to walk. Rounded out by experienced performer and wheelchair user Shannon DeVido and Mike Murray, who was deaf until the age of 40 when Cochlear implants brought him into the hearing world, each comic is eager to raise awareness about disability.

Collectively, performing under the banner of No Comic Left Behind, the quartet is determined to follow their mission across the country in clubs, theaters and universities. Their ultimate goal is to expose as broad of an audience as possible through, raising awareness about the inherent abilities of people with disabilities. Once the audience is laughing, it becomes much easier to talk about the serious stuff and make people think about what they can do to better include people with disabilities in everyday life.

“Think about it,” said Tim Grill. “We can win over 100 or more people with each show just by being funny – which is something we do on daily basis anyway. Then those 100 people go back out into the world feeling a lot less uncomfortable around people with disabilities and help spread the love. They’ll be more likely to think about accessibility and inclusion and more likely to have some understanding of the next person with a disability that they meet.”

 

For more information about No Comic Left Behind, check out their website!

You can also watch a short video featuring the comics of No Comic Left Behind on UCP’s Youtube Channel!