Jeffrey Cooper, Recipient of the Kathy O. Maul Leadership Award at 2017 UCP Annual Meeting

Congratulations to Jeffrey Cooper, President, and CEO of UCP of Central Pennsylvania on being named the recipient of the Kathy O. Maul Leadership Award at the 2017 UCP Annual Meeting in Nashville, TN!

Thank you for all of your hard work, leadership, and dedication to individuals with disabilities!

Jeffrey Cooper, President, and CEO of UCP of Cental PA with Interim CEO of the UCP national office, Rick Forkosh.

UCP of Greater Cleveland Client Shines On The Job and Stuns On the Ice

 

Sharita Taylor is a client of UCP of Greater Cleveland. Sharita has autism, and first came to UCP in October 2009 because she was looking for job opportunities when she graduated from high school. Sharita’s story has a little ‘twist.’ When she’s not working, she’s shining on the ice and is heading to Austria for The Special Olympics World Winter Games!

Sharita Taylor on the ice. [Image description: A young African-American woman in her mid-20’s, wearing a yellow and blue dress. She is wearing ice skates and her arms sterched out in a pose.]

Sharita has been a UCP-contract employee at a bank processing center in Cleveland, OH since November 2009. She works in various departments in the bank, such as statement preparation, lockbox department, and image retrieval. Of her job, Sharita says: “I love the atmosphere and I love the people here!” “They make me feel at home. I love my job too! It keeps me up on my feet!” She says her favorite job is delivering documents to other departments as well as meeting and talking to people outside her division. Sharita also enjoys helping the Statement Prep Department with mailings. Sharita says that jumping from job to job is challenging for her, but she just tells herself to focus. Her job has taught her that multitasking can be a positive thing.

While Sharita thrives at her job at the bank, she is also very interested in theater and hopes to one day have a job in that field. She is active in UCP of Greater Cleveland’s Career Exploration Program, which assists clients in exploring a variety of job fields to see where their true passion lies. Sharita also ushers at the Beck Center for the Arts, a local visual and performing arts center.

When Sharita isn’t working or volunteering, she is an accomplished level-five figure skater, along with her twin sister Shaye. They both became involved in figure skating through the local Special Olympics chapter in Ohio. According to the U.S. Figure Skating Association, a level five figure skater has mastered basic figure skating skills such as a beginning spin and a hockey stop. In an interview with ABC News 5 in Cleveland, Sharita was the only athlete from Ohio invited to participate in the World Games. She will be participating in both figure skating and ice dancing in Austria.

 

To find out more about UCP of Greater Cleveland, you can visit their website here.

 

For a schedule of events for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, click here.

Changing Spaces Aims to Bring Access and Dignity to a Universal Experience

Nobody should have to lay on the floor of a public restroom. While this may seem obvious for some, individuals with disabilities and their families are not always afforded another option. This is because they are frequently faced with bathrooms being unsanitary, cramped, and often inaccessible.

Society has acknowledged the urgency for coat and purse hangers in bathroom stalls to maintain the hygienic safety and convenience for the individual using the restroom, however, often it seems that the same thought has not been considered for some individuals with disabilities. Many times, their caregivers have to change individuals on bathroom floors because there is no other option: the only changing table in most bathrooms is meant for babies. This is not only unhygienic, but also undignified.

Even if toilets are deemed accessible, many times they do not have necessary items for many individuals such as a lift, changing table, or an accessible and supportive toilet. This may fully prevent some caregivers from being able to provide adequate toileting care. Common and important activities such as visiting family or traveling outside the home may become a truly daunting logistical challenge.

Individuals with disabilities and their caregivers are working at the state level in Georgia (Changing Spaces GA), and in other places across the world, to improve public restrooms so that they are accessible and dignified for all methods of toileting. Advocates have two very clear solutions: rather than only having baby-sized changing tables, adult-sized changing tables would be suitable for all age groups. Furthermore, a ceiling hoist would actually reduce the risk of injury when lifting people onto a table, and it does not take up any extra space in the stall (you can view the video from Changing Spaces GA here).

In a society where individuals with disabilities still experience many barriers, being able to change in a toilet stall with dignity should not be another problem that individuals have to face. Changing Spaces is more than a campaign for hygiene, it is about dignity for the individual and those who love them. It is also about providing individuals with disabilities and their caregivers access to a space that has just as much access as for anyone else, allowing them to live life more freely and without barriers; and most importantly, letting them be who they want to be.

To learn more, visit Changing Spaces GA or follow along with the discussion on social media using the hashtag #OFFTHEFLOOR.

Thoughts on the Future of Healthcare

This blog was written from the personal experience of UCP’s Winter Intern surrounding the future of healthcare. This post is intended to express their personal thoughts and experiences. 

On February 7, 2017, I had the opportunity to attend my first press conference as United Cerebral Palsy (UCP)’s programs and development intern. The conference was held by the Committee on Education & The Workforce at the U.S. Capitol. The speakers included several Members of Congress, as well as school nurses and parent advocates. The experience was unforgettable, marking the first time I actually got to witness what goes on behind the scenes of health policy.

As an aspiring primary care physician, health care policy has always meant more to me than simple legislation. When policy changes are made, it directly impacts how doctors can perform their care and how patients can access it. I think it is extremely important that people understand and take charge of their own health, and this is made possible through expansions in health education and health access. Being at the Capitol, and feeling immersed in the actual political process with regards to health, showed me how important it is to continue advocating for these goals– and for my future patients.

One of the stories that particularly touched me at the event was that of parent advocate Anna Crone. She spoke to the room about her daughter who was born with type 1 diabetes. Part of her treatment requires receiving daily insulin injections, and having her finger pricked up to 10 times a day to check her blood glucose levels. In 2012, before the ACA was fully implemented, Crone’s husband had lost his job and was attempting to shop for private insurance. However, he was unable to find anything due to the fact that most insurance companies denied coverage at any cost for those living with pre-existing conditions. He was eventually able to find a job and get back on private insurance, however the family said they felt a significant ease of mind knowing that their daughter would never fully lose coverage thanks to the ACA.

From this story, along with others, I began to truly understand the degree to which the ACA has impacted millions of Americans. As in the case of Anna’s husband, life may get in the way when one least expects it, and it is important to know that you or those you love will still be protected. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to better understand the complexities of our government; and, I know that this will serve to make me a better health advocate for not only individuals with disabilities, but for all.

Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District: Students With Disabilities and “Meaningful” Education

January 11, 2016 marked a momentous day for individuals with disabilities throughout the United States with the Supreme Court hearing arguments for Endrew v. Douglas County School District. The debate revolves around the interpretation of the 1982 Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley case, relating to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 (IDEA).

A family in Colorado and their son Endrew argue that IDEA was intended to provide children with disabilities the access to a meaningful education which also allows for “significant educational progress.” The school district, however, interprets that IDEA has no set standard, and simply ensures that the child receives personalized education which is sufficient (i.e. “merely more than de minimus”). Endrew’s family is concerned that the Douglas County school district did not offer adequate resources for children with disabilities to achieve. After Endrew completed the fourth grade in the Douglas County School District accompanied by his Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), his parents disagreed with the proposed IEP for his fifth year and made the decision to put him in a private school. Endrew and his parents argued that he was not being sufficiently provided a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE), as mandated by the IDEA, and were seeking reimbursement for the tuition of his private school.

Although Endrew and his family lost this case, over the course of administrative hearings and lower court cases, the family and the school district have been arguing over the measure of “some academic progress” and whether the district must meet a “merely more than de minimus” requirement. The federal government supports Endrew and his parents, drawing on Rowley which indicated that a FAPE must provide meaningful access to education which is much higher than “merely more than de minimus.”

Through the course of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. summarized that the main issue at hand is whether or not IDEA places emphasis on the word “some” or the word “benefit” in the phrase “some benefit”, each resulting in both contrasting and notable meanings that has manifested into the current argument: Providing some benefit would achieve the goals of the school district in distributing education that is merely better than nothing; whereas providing some benefit implies that the education be meaningful and allow for academic progress, which Endrew and his parents seek. Justice Elena Kagan also reminded the school district’s attorney of the precedents set in previous cases in which “some benefit” was repeatedly intended to have “some bite.”

The outcome of the Court’s decision will define the quality of education for students with disabilities for years to come. Those interested in following the case, can find a copy of the transcript from this week’s arguments here. United Cerebral Palsy, along with other organizations, has signed to an amicus brief which can be viewed here. We will continue to monitor this case, and will be interested to see how the Court decides.

UCP Remembers Jack Schillinger

Gloria_Jack

On January 4, 2017, UCP lost a great friend, volunteer, supporter, leader and advisor with the passing of Jack Schillinger at the age of 96. Jack was the “face” of the Bellows Committee that he Chaired until recently, was Chair of the UCP Board of Directors in 1991, and was member of the Finance Committee for many years. In 2015, UCP honored Jack with the Chair Award at the Annual Conference in Chicago.

Jack was a huge part of UCP, since 1955,
and we can never thank him enough for his dedication to UCP and to the lives of people with disabilities.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this difficult time. Jack’s obituary can be found within his guest book. To add a note of sympathy, give your condolences to the family, and to share your memories of Jack, please visit the Guest Book.

UCP and the National Council on Disability – “First Responders and Disability”

On December 9, 2016, UCP and the National Council on Disability joined together to host a day of conversation surrounding first responders and the disability community. Bringing together diverse perspectives from across the country, the day was a raw and honest look at the way law enforcement and other members of the first responder community interact with those living with disabilities.

Watch the footage (captioned) below:

 

View the Program Agenda

 

The RISE Act of 2016

RISE Act – The Respond, Innovate, Support, and Empower Act of 2016 (Bill S.2203)

Students living with a broad range of disabilities are enrolling at 4-year institutions more than ever before, but not all are completing their education. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, students with learning disabilities (LD) enrolled at 4-year colleges or universities are completing their degrees at a rate of only 45%. For their non-disabled peers, the rate of completion for a 4-year degree currently stands at 53%. There are multiple factors that could be contributing to this rate. A new bill, The Respond, Innovate, Support, and Empower Act – or RISE Act, was introduced in the Senate on December 7, 2016 by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). This bill seeks to remove some of the most common barriers faced by students, and their families s, by requiring 4-year colleges and universities to adopt more transparent policies for their disability services – making it easier for students to obtain accommodations, services, and the supports they need throughout their college experience.

The RISE Act would amend the Higher Education Act (HEA) to clarify the types of documentation institutions of higher education must accept from students who are enrolling who have a disability. This would allow students to submit the same form(s)of documentation for proof of disability as they have done throughout their K-12 education. As stated in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, sufficient documentation for showing a student’s disability includes:

  • Previous documentation of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), including plans that may be both current and out-of-date;
  • Documentation of a 504 Education Plan;
  • Private school documentation of services;
  • A plan or record of disability from another institution of higher learning

In addition, the RISE Act would authorize $10 million in funds from the National Center for Information and Technical Support for Postsecondary Students with Disabilities (an already existing program under the HEOA). The funds would go towards helping to better equip professors, teachers, and other facility and staff at colleges and universities to meet the growing needs of students with disabilities, including providing training, strategies, and help with providing accommodations. The RISE Act would also require all institutions of higher learning to adopt transparent policies regarding their disability services, and require them to widely share and disseminate that information to parents and families.

United Cerebral Palsy and the National Council on Disability Coming Together for “First Responders and Disability”

UCP-NCD2United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) and the National Council on Disability (NCD) are coming together to host a day long convening on December 9th, 2016, focusing on First Responders and the Disability Community. The discussion will center on first responder reform and the impact on the disability community.

The purpose of this discussion is to gather information and resources to inform NCD’s 2017 policy project focusing on how to transform the policies and practice around First Responders engagement with the disability community. This conversation will include experts in criminal justice reform, disability rights advocates, policymakers, law enforcement organizations, and individuals impacted by state violence directly.

Please join us from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm EST in person or tune in to the live stream.

For more information, including how to RSVP: Please click here.

See the program agenda here.

Read Speaker Bios here.

We’re Partnering With The Mighty!

We’re thrilled to announce a new partnership that will bring United Cerebral Palsy’s resources to the front of The Mighty‘s wide-reaching readership. We will now  have a growing home page on The Mighty , and appear on many stories on the site, allowing us to get many more people involved with our organization.

The Mighty is a story-based health community focused on improving the lives of people facing disease, disorder, mental illness, and disability. It is estimated that 764,000 children and adults in the U.S. manifest one or more of the symptoms of cerebral palsy, and that 1 in 5 Americans live with some form of disability. They want more than information. They want to be inspired. The Mighty publishes real stories about real people facing real challenges.

We’re dedicated to providing comprehensive support and community for children and adults living with cerebral palsy, as well as other disabilities, and their families. With this partnership, we’ll be able to help even more people.

We encourage you to submit a story to The Mighty and make your voice heard.

Here’s an example of the kind of stories you’ll find on The Mighty: Tommy Hilfiger Launches Adaptive Collection for Children With Disabilities