Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Better Way to Build an Aisle Chair

Barrier Free Travels

Although access to the friendly skies has greatly improved over the past 25 years, it still has a way to go. Take the lowly aisle chair, for example. Some travelers call it a torture device, while others describe the on board transfer process as “beyond humiliating”. Either way, the whole system could use a facelift.
And that’s just what Paul Priestman, founding director of Priestmangoode intends to do. An expert at designing luxurious aircraft interiors, Priestman recently turned his attention to access, and came up with the Air Access concept.
The Air Access system

This combination boarding and seating system is comprised of a detachable aisle chair for boarding and deplaning, and a fixed seating frame that the aisle chair can be attached to, to create a regular airline seat.
Basically this means that you’ll only have to transfer once — to the aisle chair. After that, ground personnel just wheel you aboard and attach the aisle chair to the seat frame. On arrival, the aisle chair is again detached and you are wheeled off the airplane. The chair also has a removable seat pad, so you can comfortably use your own cushion for the duration of the flight.
As an added bonus, the Air Access seating system also doubles as an on-board wheelchair, should you need to use the facilities during the flight. And when the seat isn’t being used by a passenger with a disability, it can be used by an able bodied passenger.
Simply put, the Air Access system is universal design at its best.
Unfortunately now it’s only a concept as no airline has actually ordered it yet. But we can always hope things will change in the future. At least we finally have a great design, and that’s half the battle.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Students tell us why they joined Connect-Ability

Why did you join Connect-Ability?
·       Christa   I became a self-advocate when I moved to New York.  I enjoy making new friends and I was glad to learn about Connect-Ability.  I have been an advocate for the Down Syndrome Association with Valoree (another Connect-Ability member).  I want to thank Connect-Ability for including me and I’ll see you all in 2014.
·       Isabel    I became involved with Connect-Ability three years ago through my older sister, a former editor. I love coming to workshops and learning through the experiences I have had at Connect-Ability such as drumming circles, puppet shows and more. Educating others on disabilities awareness, acceptance, compassion and community is very rewarding to me. I am glad I have Connect-Ability so I can share my thoughts on all of this.
·       Valoree   Connect-Ability means support to me because that is what it has given me. I was a former editor for two years.
·       Zoe       What I like about Connect-Ability is that everyone is so nice and friendly.  I like coming to workshops because they are interesting and thought provoking and I can make a lot of new friends (the food is a bonus). I come to Connect-Ability to share my thoughts and ideas about disability. Each meeting is fun and different so I come to see what’s happening.
·       Morgan   I have been a member since March 2013.  I found Connect-Ability through my mom who works at NYSUT (our sponsor). When I first came it was nerve racking. I didn’t know anyone and was nervous about being asked about disabilities because I didn’t have one. I thought my opinion would be wrong but then I found out that no opinion is wrong.  I was welcomed in like a family member. Once we started brainstorming ideas I knew I was in a great place. I have learned so much about disabilities and disabilities awareness. Connect-Ability has changed my outlook on others and will carry me far into the future.
·       Forest    I got into Connect-Ability as a junior in high school and I loved it. I started because of my love of writing and my own disability.  I wanted to use my own voice to educate people on my own and other disabilities. To me Connect-Ability is about friendship, expression, perception, acceptance, community and the future.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Enjoy the snow Connect-Ability kids!

Blue winter background

Thinking about the spring today and how the next Connect-Ability writing workshop will feature sunny skies and balmy temperatures not like today! Friday and Saturday May 2-3, 2014 here at NYSUT Headquarters. See you then.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hey Connect-Ability kids, check out Raheel's blog at and don't forget to look at the Connect-Ability Facebook page. Katie is doing a fantastic job of keeping it current and interesting with a lot of powerful videos. Let's give Katie and Raheel all the support they deserve! A pat on the back for both of them!

pat on the back photo: Pat on back patonback.gif

Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

I Don’t Think Alligators Kiss

Yesterday my husband, in a good mood, came into the kitchen, swooped me backwards, and gave me a passionate kiss.  When we had finished, I noticed my 13 year old adopted daughter standing there, mouth gaping open, eyes wide, with a shocked look on her face.  ”What was THAT????’ she asked (in American Sign Language.)  ”A kiss,” I told her. “No, no”, she signed, “a kiss is a little peck on the lips” she said as she came over and demonstrated one on the dog.  ”That is the way you kiss when you really love someone, your husband” I said.  ”WOW!  How did you LEARN that?  Can you show ME!?!?!” she signed.   “You don’t learn it, you just feel it.  It is natural when you love someone,” I explained to her.  ”I’m going to wait until I’m 17 to do that,” she signed back, and I said a silent prayer to myself that I should be so lucky for her to wait that long!  I laughed inwardly at her innocence, this worldly child who knew the mechanics of sex more than anyone her age should have to know,  (the reason of which is a discussion better delegated to a more serious blog entry.)  But I doubt she ever saw anyone in love before, and she definitely had never seen anyone kiss passionately, which really surprised me.  The more I thought about it, though, I realized she hadn’t been exposed to it in her young life and the only other way she might know would be from watching television.  Because of her deafness,  she has a low reading level and is not able to understand the captioning enough to get interested in a romantic story or one of the more mature television shows which are all over the television today.  Her favorite tv station is the Animal Planet where great stories are told and no captioning is needed. She knows all about the life cycles of animals, insects and reptiles, including their different mating rituals, but, as preparation for real life, I’m sure she never saw alligators kiss like that!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

accommodating all people at work

Let's take another look at accommodations for people....

Take workplace accommodations. If you think about it, all workers require some kind of accommodation. Need lights to see in order to do your job? My colleague, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Kathy Martinez, is blind − she doesn’t. Same goes for that office chair: a former colleague, Justice Department trial attorney Joy Welan, doesn’t need one because she uses a wheelchair. Accommodating workers with disabilities is generally easy and affordable. In fact, more than half of job accommodations for employees with disabilities cost nothing

US Department of Labor Secretary, Tom Perez

The Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Labor

Friday, December 13, 2013

Painter's Christmas Cards Brighten Season!

{FOR LOCAL } Larry Deskiewicz  who has Cerebral Palsy  paints -- using a brush on a helmet at the Aspire facility   in  Cheektowaga, N.Y.  Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. { John Hickey / Buffalo News}

The artwork Larry Deskiewicz creates by moving the paintbrush affixed to a bicycle helmet on his head relaxes the muscles that his cerebral palsy makes tight and makes him feel good in general.
“It calms down my mind,” he said. His collected works have been growing over the past two decades, since an occupational therapist figured out a way for him to paint without using his hands, which are too constricted to hold a brush.This year, his “Arrival” painting of a rural snow scene with a cabin, pine trees, a creek and footbridge, adorned holiday cards mailed throughout the area.

The Buffalo News

Monday, December 9, 2013

A dad, an architect and an antique toy collector

Talk About Differences Positively

It’s natural for kids to recognize differences and to try to understand what they observe. Young children typically misinterpret what they see, and need someone to provide clarification with enthusiasm. Answer a child’s questions about people with disabilities openly, and frame responses according to the child's developmental level. Emphasize that a person’s disability comprises a very small part of the person’s identity. For example, point out that a man in a wheelchair may also be a dad, an architect and an antique toy collector. The wheelchair enables the man to move from place to place, and doesn't minimize his value as a person.

paraphrased from Mom.Me

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving greeting to Connect-Ability kids

Just to let you know I am so thankful for all the good work you are each doing to help your friends and families learn more about disabilities. Sharing the knowledge of your own disabilities with others has been a courageous act and I admire each of you for the contributions you've made to Connect-Ability. Thanks.  I've learned a lot from you. Catharine McHugh

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Like us on Facebook

Like us on our new Facebook page "Connect-Ability" and learn how to become more aware of disabilities.

There's poetry, photos, personal stories and lots more.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Connect-Ability writing workshops

 Connect-Ability editorial board members got together on November 1-2 at NYSUT headquarters to learn more about marketing. Their goal for 2013-2014 is to inspire more students to use to learn about disabilities and to share what they know with others. At the workshop they agreed to wear t-shirts and to distribute magnets and bracelets to their school friends and neighbors. They also worked on designing cards to leave in libraries and other public spaces to explain the value of disabilities awareness activities. They started a new facebook account for Connect-Ability. Finally, they redesigned the blog home page to make it easier for visitors to use it. This is a hardworking bunch of kids! Let us know what you think.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bullybust is a nationwide bully prevention awareness effort

BULLYBUST and WICKED congratulate the winners of the “Defying Gravity” Essay Contest!

The “Defying Gravity” Essay contest took place in 2010, and hundreds of students from all across the country participated to share how they took a stand, and did not let bullying get them down.


My name is Natalie and I'm 13-years-old. I am interested in reading, writing, and science. My hobbies are Irish dance, ballet, drawing, photography, singing, acting, and running. I love going to school, the library, and hanging out with friends. I also really like spending time with my family. Someday, I hope to be a social studies teacher.
Winning this contest was a big achievement for me. When a person reads this biography, you should know you can always find help and there is always a way out. It is everyone's responsibility to prevent bullying. It may only take one person to bully but it also only takes one person to stop it. You should be that one to stop it. If you don't think you can handle it on your own, just ask a trusted adult for help.

Warwick Valley Middle School - Warwick, NY
Paste this link to your web browser and read Natalie's essay

Thursday, October 24, 2013

2013-1014 Connect-Ability writing workshops


2013 Connect-Ability Workshop Agenda

Friday, November 1st

1:00 Welcoming & Introducing New Members
Katie Dingman, Editor 
1:15 Getting the Word Out!: Why Bother?
Catharine McHugh & Tom Corrado

2:00 Snack break 

2:15 Connect-Ability: Past Present Future
Catharine McHugh
2:45 Accessing & Browsing the Connect-Ability Blog
Tom Corrado

3:00 Blog Bracelets Cards Flyers Magnets T-Shirts
Tom Corrado
 5:00 Dinner and Social
Michael Peluso, Acces-VR

Saturday, November 2nd 

9:00 Group Work on Cards & Flyers 

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Group Work  

3:00 Wrap-Up