How do you feel about your disability?

Growing up, I did not want to associate myself with being different or allow myself to think my brain works any different from how anyone else’s does. I would always take things said to me by my classmates as compliments even if they weren’t meant to be taken that way. “You’re crazy” or “There’s the weird kid” was always met with a thank you. Once I got old enough to understand they were being mean, I went through an angry phase where I would get into physical altercations with these bullies. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that my doctors were able to correctly diagnose me with Bipolar Depression and stop the trial and error of anxiety and depression medications. Once I felt like I truly identified with my diagnosis, and got on the correct medication, that was the single largest step I have taken towards understanding and accepting who I am. As an overarching closure statement for the question “How do you feel about your disability?” I would like to say I am grateful for my disability and the different perspectives that I have had over the years on not only my disability, but disabilities as a whole. I feel like It has grown me into a much more caring, loving, and willing to help individual, and I wouldn’t rather have it any other way.

Blog Post by Jake Key

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disABILITY LINK/AAPD Summer Intern

disABILITY LINK/AAPD Summer Intern

Cierra Reid

About me:
Hello, my name is Cierra Reid. I am an entrepreneur and a leader and an advocate for the mental health community. I am self-motivated and a well-organized individual. I offer over 6 years of experience working in customer service, where I learned the responsibility to manage accounting and finances. I am skilled in clerical duties and I was trained in Microsoft Office and in Word. I am a certified CDL driver, trained in transportation and public safety. I am a creative, unique hairstylist and I master in natural hairstyles and braids. I enjoy fashion and I am also a runway fashion model. I recently have been trained in public speaking and in peer support.
I am interning with the Council Members YT Bell and Andrea Cervone at the City of Clarkston. TIME magazine called Clarkston, “The most diverse square mile in America.” In everything I do, I truly enjoy advocating for mental health awareness and disability rights. I have marched in the Martin Luther King Jr Day parade and made personal visits to the Capitol in Atlanta, where I was able to meet and to speak with representatives to better educate then about the disability community.

I have been chosen to participate in The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) Summer Internship Program. AAPD is located in Washington DC has now partnered with disABILITY LINK located in Atlanta. Each summer, since 2002, APPD has selected college students, with all types of disabilities, for a 10-week summer internship program to help develop the next generation leaders in the disability community. Each intern is provided a mentor.

The 5Ws:
What – Clarkston is noted for its ethnic diversity, and is often referred to as, “the most diverse square mile in America”

Where – Located in DeKalb County, Georgia, surrounded by Atlanta, Decatur, and Stone Mountain, off highway 285, the city has a total area of 1.1 square miles, “if you’re anything like me you need directions by landmarks, north of the DeKalb farmers market”

When – The City of Clarkston was officially chartered by Governor Alexander H. Stevens on December 12, 1882. Clarkston was named in honor of Colonel W.W. Clarkston.

Who – With a population of 7,554 people, this very small diverse city has received over 40,000 refugees over the past 25 years.

Why – The City of Clarkston is calling for a special meeting to discuss the impact of Trump’s immigration ban which could impact the refugees’ residents of Clarkston.

My first -hand exposure and experience in the working environment:
My first thought when I was told that I will be interning at the City of Clarkston, “I told myself this should be easy because I had a similar internship opportunity back when Ms. Shirley Franklin was Mayor when I had participated in Youth Program in The City of Atlanta. But since the start of my internship, I have been forced to challenge myself to grow in my professional life and personal life, here are the top 2 valuable lessons I have learned;
1.) Assets Map of Clarkston. Asset mapping gathers information about the strengths and resources in a community, and provides information and can help uncover the solution. My duty as an intern was to create a spreadsheet of the local business and resources.
2.) Community Outreach. Two days out the week I go into the community to identify the local needs and issues, and inform residents of events and resource in the community. I was able to learn how to establish a relationship with the community, so we can share ideas and work together to achieve the goal of a thriving community!

Examples of some of my activities
Door-to-door advocacy
General advertising
Organizing community meetings

Some of the skills I learned
Interpersonal skills
Communication skills
Language skills
Ability to adapt to the community interests

Overall this has been a great opportunity for me! My internship with the City of Clarkston taught me much more than I can even imagine, I was faced with some challenges and I was also able to improve my skills. I learned that being a part of a community is truly about everyone coming together as one.

I would like to thank APPD, disABILITY LINK, and the City of Clarkston, I will always remember this great opportunity in my journey of life.

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disABILITY LINK/AAPD Summer Intern

Beverly Myers

My internship experience has taught me more than I could ever imagine. As a Transportation Planner Intern, I feel my duties are diverse, and ever-changing. Sometimes it’s tough to recall everything I have taken in over the past month, but I feel that these are some of the most beneficial lessons I have learned.

The organization that I work for, Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta on Peachtree Street. ARC’s mission is to “engage local government leaders, community partners, and residents to develop a shared approach for improving metro Atlanta’s quality of life and address a rapidly evolving future.” I am assigned to the Transportation Access and Mobility division’s planning team and some of my diverse responsibilities are:

• Assist in community engagement activities, public meetings logistics and outreach
• Assist in Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Update tasks and pedestrian-related datasets
• Work closely with other ARC planners to come up with creative solutions to various multi modal transportation planning challenges

My favorite experience of the internship by far is attending the board meetings of the top decision makers that deliberate on issues such as:

• The tri-state water wars between Georgia, Alabama and Florida
• The bus expansion in Douglas County
• The Atlanta Regional truck park perplexity
• The action plan for safe streets for walking and bicycling patrons

One of the many perks of working here at ARC, is that I have been provided information to become a volunteer for the 2019 Super Bowl. Also the organization has a program called the GaCommute Gimme Five Program. This incentive is available to the public and will give you five dollars per day up to three months if you have recently switched from driving to a clean commute. If anyone is interested in getting more details about the program, here is the link:…/Ea…/Select-a-Reward/Gimme-Five.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the American Association for People with Disabilities for creating this program and expanding it to the state level. Also, I would like to congratulate disABILITY LINK for being the first recipient of this state level expansion. I am extremely grateful that disABILITY LINK has chosen me to be a part of this movement of inclusion.

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disABILITY LINK/AAPD Summer Intern

Hello my name is Anissa Favors and I am an disABILITY LINK/AAPD Summer Intern , my host site is Atlanta Legal Aid. This is week 4 of a 10 week program, so far my experience during this internship has been great. The many opportunities a person could ask for have been provided in the kindest way. With this experience I am finding out more about myself and I am meeting important people that I would never have dreamt of meeting before this internship. Some of the things I do while interning at Atlanta Legal Aid are; making phone calls, setting dates, handling client’s case files, requesting certain documentation or verification papers, and much more. The level of enjoyment I have by being a small part of something so important to everyone in the disability community really makes my day, I am talking about the Olmstead Decision.  I’m so proud of the Olmstead Decision that gives many people with disabilities the opportunity to get back into their life in the community, it really brings me joy to be a small part of something so important. I am also proud of disABILITY LINK, it is a great place for anyone with a disability, they know what is means to have a disability and the barriers we face.  Sometimes certain things can happen in life, or the difficulties we face, can make us lose ourselves, and disABILITY LINK can support you to find yourself again. At disABILITY LINK they help no matter what.

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How do you feel about your disability?

How do you feel about your disability?

Blog from Emily Shaw, Youth Independent Living Specialist

How do you feel about your disability?  I have been through a wide range of emotions when it comes to this.  I went through a phase where I wanted to try to run away from it, or deny it.  I did not want to talk about my disability or recognize that part of my identity in any way.

My parents always encouraged me to play wheelchair sports or join in different social events.  The way they encouraged me was to make me. But, I actually found that I enjoyed the sports because we never talked about being different, we were just us.  Some of us were better at basketball than others.  I wasn’t great, but I like to think I played a pretty mean defense.

And slowly, through forcible participation in social activities, I came to a point where I accepted my disability.  There were other teenagers like me, and we could talk about our undeniable feelings about our disabilities.  A lot of us were being made fun of in school, so we could talk about being angry and hurt.   I eventually made some good friends.

I found that with acceptance of my disability came unrestrained power.  I started coming out of my shell and goofing off with my best friend.  I had also always been interested in music, but too afraid to share this part of myself. Well, I began writing songs and actually singing them for people. This was a turning point in learning to love all of myself, disability and all.

I tell you my story about denial to acceptance, in order for you to kind of search inside yourself and see where you are on this spectrum.  Are you all the way there to pure acceptance? Or do you sometimes struggle with this part of your identity?  This is definitely a growing process that takes more time for some than others.  I would encourage you to join in as many activities as possible; you might be surprised what you find.

It will also be important for you to make as many decisions for yourself, as you get older.  This is called “self-advocacy.”  Make the choice to be proud of who you are and take charge of your own life, as you get older.  This is the place that it has taken me awhile to get to, but it is very important and empowering. Blog

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“As long as we remain silent, others will tell us what to do.” -Adolf Ratzka

The application process for Paratransit service may include functional evaluation or testing of applicants.

Many of the larger transit systems now require in-person interviews or functional assessments to determine whether a disability prevents the applicant from using the fixed route system. The functional assessment usually involves observation of an applicant attempting to perform functional tasks that simulate a fixed route trip, such as climbing steps, crossing a street, walking measured courses, taking cognitive tests, and other activities.

This added step of approval could replace the appraisal of your chosen referral professional.

Complementary paratransit will always have some people with disabilities who are unable to navigate the fixed route bus and train systems on their own.

And we can agree that  eligibility determination must focuses solely on the person’s functional ability to use the fixed route service.

 Determining ADA Paratransit Eligibility: An Approach, Guidance and Training Materials. Easter Seals Project Action suggest that
“Appropriate professionals” should perform functional assessments. Their examples that are recommend are physical therapists, occupational therapists, or professionals with similar qualifications should conduct physical functional assessments. If assessments are used for people with significant vision loss (legal blindness, the report recommends that “only” Orientation and Mobility Specialists conduct these assessments.

What we may not agree on is that a 30 minute assessment by someone you may or may not have met 35 minute ago knows more about where you can or cannot travel safely than you.

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Georgia Get Out The Disability Vote (GGOTDV)

-Ron Harris, Disability Rights Project Specialist

 disABILITY LINK is committed to GET OUT THE VOTE for the disability community in Georgia  – several studies have shown that 25% of those of us with disabilities choose not to vote in any election…regardless of party affiliations or political persuasions.  Even at this early date, it is hard to deny that the political environment in this country is heating up.  No matter what your party affiliation, no one can deny that the personalities and issues in recent memory have hardly been more opposed and intensely debated than in this upcoming presidential election.

It has been said that all politics is local – let’s examine that idea for a moment.  Aside from the issues and the candidates that are up for election this election year, your choice for President, and his or her party to run the country for the next four years, will affect every aspect of local life in one way or another, through the action or inaction of the executive branch of our government – all decisions from the White House will affect your house.

The one great advantage to think about getting out to vote in the coming year is that there is plenty of time to eliminate all excuses for not voting – let‘s begin eliminating the excuse, “I don’t know where to start” – the Secretary of State of Georgia has an excellent web site that will answer any question you may have and has a handy app. to register on line or to update information that has changed for you since the last time you voted – that web site is – well that wasn’t so bad!

Let’s try to tackle another excuse, “I don’t know where my voting district is located and where do I vote on Election Day?” – call 888 868 3762, this number is for VOTESMART.ORG and is set up to answer that question for voters.

So there you have it, some of the “Who, What, Where, When, and How” of voting – if you have any further questions you can contact me, Ron Harris directly at disABILITY LINK   at 404 687 8890 x108 – and thanks!

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What’s in a Name?

Terminology means a lot. Especially in Congress. The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights has been renamed to just: the “Subcommittee on the Constitution.” I find this troubling there was a rationalization for the change in name; according to Megan Mitchell, a congressional spokeswoman, “We changed the name because the Constitution covers our most basic rights including civil and human rights. We will focus on these rights along with other issues that fall under the broader umbrella of the Constitution.” By not speaking about something explicitly (i.e. omitting two very important items from the name of a subcommittee tasked with oversight of those items) it’s a little too easy to forget them.

Has there been a shift in priority? In a time of such conflict and turmoil over civil and human rights, why get rid of those specific names now? I find it troubling, this from a group of our elected officials who can’t agree on ratifying something as dedicated to civil and human rights as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This is a convention that, at it’s core, is a promise to not discriminate against people with disabilities. It’s honoring the promise of the ADA (on which the CRPD is heavily based).

Some may think that there is needless concern over this, after all, the subcommittee will be  judged on its actions, not just its name. It just seems there isn’t a lot of accountability. I don’t want to run the risk of my rights as a person with a disability (my civil rights) being jeopardized or eliminated. This is the year that the ADA turns 25, a year where I’m so happy and feel so empowered to see “Disability Rights are Civil Rights” in my office and community, but according to some lawmaker that saying should just shortened to “Rights.” I guess they forgot that the reason we have legislation for civil and human rights is because not all people were included in the constitution originally. The ADA is still young, our rights as a community weren’t codified that long ago.  I think our “representatives” need to remember the struggle that people have gone through to earn the rights and access that a privileged few enjoyed for a long time.

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“You’re Welcome”

Those two words had the ability to simultaneously annoy and confuse me this morning. I got off the bus and was waiting to cross the street when a man pops into my field of vision, grabs my arm and yanks me backwards.  I lost balance and staggered, before I could turn my head at him, mouth agape, he says: “you’re welcome.”

Am I?

Am I, really?

‘Welcome?” For what? Was I supposed to thank him for invading my personal space and accosting me? Maybe if I had actually fallen down he would have thrown me a party (after throwing me to the ground). Aside from being physically forced back out of the blue the part that bothered me was the sense of satisfaction this man had at (in his mind) “saving me.”

I want to be clear: I was standing still. I wasn’t moving, I was on top of the truncated domes waiting on the light. There was nothing to be rescued from, other than air pollution, but you can’t really do anything about that for someone else. What I needed to be rescued from was the patronizing attitude of this guy who felt the need to assault me and then, before I had a chance to curse him out , or (again, in his mind) thank him, proceeds to try and force gratitude from me.

I wasn’t grateful.

I was pissed.

After getting my wits about me all I managed to say (because at that point the walk signal had come one) was: “don’t ever do that again.” I’m sure the man was confused at why I wasn’t falling all over myself to thank him (after all, he had helped the falling part earlier), but I didn’t have time to stand on a street corner and explain that he shouldn’t just grab people (with or without disabilities, but I’m sure he’d never grab someone he viewed as competent). It may have been a lapse of advocacy on my part, but it was early and I had a job to get to.

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Noticing Accessibility

I am a huge fan of movies and my tastes range from family friendly to horror. I am also a huge fan of accessibility. Naturally these two passions overlap from time to time and I am thoroughly pleased when I notice accessibility included in film. Over the weekend I saw the movie Big Hero Six and really enjoyed it, at one point there was a chase scene down a street in the fictional city of San Fransokyo and I saw curb cuts and truncated domes on the corners of the streets. I wish this didn’t make me as happy as it did, I long for a day when seeing these items on a sidewalk will be commonplace and mundane. For now, however, I acknowledge that the inclusion of these items wasn’t an accident, it was intentional because this is an animated film and all of the scenery and characters have to be designed and rendered, so somewhere along the line an animator/illustrator intentionally designed a cityscape that would be inclusive and accessible. Unlike other movies that have these barrier removal devices, the cuts/domes weren’t included for a specific character who needed them (although I would have loved to have seen a featured character with a disability) like in The Theory of Everything, they were just there, because of course people with disabilities live and work in San Fransokyo.  Good job Disney Animation!

Bravo! Now we need more films that feature characters with disabilities played by people with disabilities.

A woman approaching a curb cut with truncated domes in front of her

A curb cut with truncated domes. Photo credit: atnetworkblog.blogspot.con

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