Tuesday, March 30, 2010

STARS Youth Ski and Ride Camp a Huge Success!

The third weekend in March is always a fun one for adaptive sports, as 20-25 kids of all ages and their families descend upon Steamboat Ski Area to rip up the slopes. And rip they did.

The campers come from all over the country, as far as Pennsylvania and as close as Steamboat, the group totalled about 75 participants, coaches and volunteers. Coaching and support came from Steamboat partners Adaptive Adventures and STARS, teaching sitting and standing skiing techniques both on the slopes and in the racecourse.

Steamboat's support comes in by the truckload, with lodging, lunches, dinners, prizes, and goodies for all the kids, families and coaches.

This is STARS' second annual Youth Ski and Ride Camp, fitting into a lineup this year that will triple Steamboat's existing camp series to about nine camps in all seasons. Existing camps included adult and youth skiing in the winter, and all ages waterskiing in July. New camps will include a fly fishing camp set for June 25-27, road and mountain cycling, rock climbing, rafting, and hunting.

For images, view our new online gallery at www.accessanythingphotos.net.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Changes to Airline Security on the way... not just for PWD

One good part about being on the Continental Airlines Customers with Disabilities Advisory Board is that we get some advance warning from other companies outside of Continental such as the work mentioned in my previous post about POCs and Advanced Aeromedical.

This meeting we got a significant update on the upcoming changes to TSA Security Check Points at all US airports, rolling out later this year. Because of the recent switch in security from metallic threats to plastic ones, TSA and related security agencies are working on two advanced imaging technology that will begin to phase out the current walk-through metal detectors. These changes began as early as 2007, but due to the fact that the imaging created was quite graphic, changes had to be made to make sure privacy was ensured. These changes are finally going to be visible in the travel experience this year.

TSA uses two types of imaging technology, millimeter wave (radio frequency) and backscatter. Currently, there are 43 imaging technology units in use at 20 airports. There are 40 millimeter wave units in use at 19 airports and three backscatter units in use at one airport.

This month, March 2010, TSA began deploying 150 backscatter imaging technology units, which were purchased with American Recovery and Reinvestment Art (ARRA) funds. TSA plans to deploy a total of approximately 450 imaging technology units in 2010.

While this seems like an "electronic strip search," there are a lot of privacy mechanisms in place, TSA ensures. The images are viewed by someone in a completely different area so they do not know which person they are scanning, the imaging blurs the face and body parts of the passenger, images are deleted immediately after approval so they can not be stored, printed, saved, or sent, and no cameras or cell phones are allowed in the scanning areas.

The radio frequencies and backscatter technologies are also very safe medically; the radio frequency is 1000 times less than a cell phone, and the backscatter imaging is similarly less than an xray, even though the scanner will shoot about 10-12 images per passenger for various angles to check for plastic explosive devices.

While this new technology is great for people with metal implants that previously set off the older metal detectors, it will slow down security for people with service animals, wheelchairs and external medical devices as they will all now have to be screened. But this will also change. Where previously individuals in wheelchairs were scanned with the "wand and felt" technique, the agent will hold a small unit the size of a briefcase and will be checking people's hands at random, also for plastic.

Additionally TSA will be working more on training for handling passengers with traumatic brain injury, autism, diabetis, and other hidden disabilities and how these new technologies may affect this group.

For a complete report on this TSA technology visit http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/imaging_technology.shtm

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 Vancouver Paralympics March 12-21

As standard, about three weeks following the regular Olympic Games, the Paralympics fall between March 12th and 21st in Vancouver this year. The overall schedule of these games can be found here. Contact your local provider for viewing information or use Paralympic.TV for viewing on your computer!

Athletes with disabilities began competing in the Olympic Games as early as 1952, and were more officially organized by 1960 in Rome. The first official Paralympic Games, held during a separate date period, was at the 1976 Winter Games in Sweden. The Games have grown significantly in those 30 years, starting with just 400 athletes from 23 countries to nearly 4,000 athletes from 146 countries at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Winter Paralympic sports include Alpine and Cross Country Skiing, Biathlon, Curling, and Sledge Hockey. Skiing classifications include sit- and standing-skiers as well as visually impaired skiers in three vision categories. Male and female athletes compete in the same competitions as the able-bodied Olympians do: Downhill, Super G, Giant Slolem, and Super Combined. Although the Vancouver Games are the first to see the Skier Cross event adopted from the XGames, the adaptive version MonoCross event has not yet been added yet, but we hope to see it in Sochi! Click here for a full schedule of the upcoming games.

In 2006, the Russian Paralympic Team went away from Torino's games with 33 Olympic medals, and the US Team was 6th behind Ukraine, Germany, France, Austria and Canada, in that order. Don't forget to support these athletes who work hard to train, prepare, and overcome obstacles of pain, disability, equipment and other challenges associated with travel and attending this global event.

As always, Vancouver has done a magnificent job at making the area hospitably accessible, including focus on transportation and shuttles, spectator viewing areas, and assistive hearing devices to name a few.

Learn more about the US TEAM here!

Click here to find out more!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Fly the Accessible Skies" with Continental. Why? Because they care about PWD.

Continental's mission is to "ensure to offer the highest standard of clean, safe, reliable, and accessible, transportation to their customers." Until recently, that fourth standard was a bit of a mirage, but this past Tuesday however, it seemed to become more of a reality, as Staff Vice-President of Field Services Stephanie Buchanan included the entire mission statement, fourth standard included, in her opening welcome to the astonishment and awe of the company's entire Customers with Disabilities Advisory Board (CDAB).

Twice a year, Continental Airlines hosts two days of meetings to discuss some very important issues in the disability community. As always, what is discussed for future progress is strictly confidential, but what is updated as past progress is not. We are proud to say that Continental is highly dedicated to the issues of the disability community, and to maintaining this board- a feat in itself in the current economy. But if it saves the company just one astronomical DOT382 fine per year, it outweighs two annual meetings by far.

This was the CDAB's 4th meeting since its inception in fall of 2008, and the progress in those two years has been astounding. Board member Dee Hepperly of Ohio, hearing impaired, said it best when she stated that what started out as emotional and defensive interactions between the board and 30 employees, in ignorance truly of the other sides' experiences, has now become more of a family get together with understanding, patience and progress for handling people with disabilities (PWD).

Continental doesn't just want to comply with the new DOT382 regulations, they want to be the best at handling customers with disabilities. We have seen a great shift in the attitude of their employees, the awareness has spread like wildfire, and as Board Coordinator Bill Burnell, Manager of Customer First and Regulatory Programs stated, "The results from this group have been extremely positive," and the other airlines, both domestic and intertnational, are taking notice.

This was our highest attendance for these meetings yet, with over 50 Continental Employees in attendance on the first day of meetings.

Some of the highlights include:
1. Where once you weren't allowed to even turn on your Personal Oxygen Concentrators (POCs) onboard the aircraft while in flight, Continental Airlines and Advanced Aeromedical have worked together with the manufacturers to approved 11 new devices for flight. Passengers need to clear their equipment at least 48 hours before each trip still with the "Oxygen Desk," (800-228-2744, open 24/7) but this is significant progress for this particular group of PWD. The Oxygen Desk has now been renamed the "Special Requests Department."

2. Verification of emotional support animals now also need to be approved by the Special Requests Department, also a big step in eliminating illegally traveling "service animals," and an even bigger step for acceptance of truly qualified emotional support animals, validating their need and legality. Support animals must give advance notice as well, with enough time for the employees to approve the Dr's licencing and the passengers' need of the animal.

3. Attentiveness to the needs of the Deaf and Blind communities is on the forefront of this progress as well. From added training on the needs of these customers to increasing work and progress on technology advances for communications with these passengers, we look forward to giving some amazing updates in the coming year.

4. One particular specific request made it to the forefront this year: everyone on the advisory board agreed that a "Lead Flight Attendant" pin, signifying the "boss" or manager on the plane for any particular leg, would help people with special needs speak with the right person. Often times our hearing impaired board members felt ignored by the flight staff, and were frustrated by having to tell each individual attendant that they had some special needs or requests. By designating the lead flight attendant with a pin or button, the board and Continental staff agreed that this would assist with the responsibility and follow through of handling these customers with special needs. In just one year it has made a huge difference, and the three members with hearing disabilities already report a heightened awareness and positive response during their recent flights with the company.

5. Continental's Wheelchair Stowage Placard (page 1, page 2) is being rolled out on a wider basis now and more and more gate agents are familiar with tagging your wheelchair with this informational piece. For the safety of your devices we recommend labeling it with this or a similar info sheet designating the brakes and general operation of your mobility device.

6. Continental and the Open Doors Organization out of Chicago, Il, have begun working together to train the ground operation crews at various domestic airports. This has been so successful that American Airlines has taken notice and wants to do the same. The trainings include a full day of awarenss training on handling mobility devices. The airlines spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year replacing damaged devices, and the ground crews have been extremely and positively receptive to these trainings, having never had anything like it before. To be able to "tamper" with some example devices to learn how to maneuver, lift, and stow these devices (sometimes up to 100s of pounds) safely and securely for both the device and the staff is integral to the protection of the device, which can cost up to $50,000 each. This is ground-breaking training! (Excuse the pun!)

I want to reiterate how proud we are to be a part of this inspiring and influential group. Every board member brings a wealth of experience and similar pride to these meetings, but just as importantly, so do the Continental employees, who are such a dedicated and caring bunch that its a blatent surprise they're still in this industry. It just goes to show that customer care trickles down from the top.

We look forward to giving more updates on this board, and hope to eventually provide some quantifiable, measurable financials and metrics to support the overall successes of this progressive group.

While Craig and I have spent years flying together, we've never had reliable politeness and knowledgable staff that we can depend upon until we started flying Continental. I'm not biased, it's the simple truth. Only one other airline in the world has a disability advisory board, and many don't even do disability awareness trainings, ground operation trainings, or regular inter-company write ups about issues, rules, rights, and awareness about the disability community and these passengers needs. While there are some airlines we won't fly anymore because of the reliability of their mistakes and dagame to our equipment, there are also a few airlines with staff that are helpful, friendly, and even occasionally knowledgeble about the needs of customers with disabilities, but never has it been so reliable as with Continental.

I truly believe this stems from the awareness that spreads from these meetings, and am thankful that Continental cares enough about all passengers to have them. Flying anything else for us is simply a gamble we are no longer willing to take for the sake of saving $20 or $50 in airline tickets. We hope you take our advice to heart and test out the Accessible Skies of Continental Airlines.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Support "Nobody's Perfect," Deaf Awareness Musical

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and VSA arts present

“Nobody’s Perfect”

Based on the children’s book by Marlee Matlin and Doug Cooney

This play is performed in both American Sign Language and spoken English with Open Captioning.

Youthful gusto and a generous heart. Outstanding production values and top-notch cast.
An infectious score... three-and-a-half stars!"
- The Washington Times Read the full review

Nobody's Perfect delights with comic numbers and an excellent young cast.
The songs are not only catchy but also infectiously performed. Bright 'n' lively!"
- The Washington Post Read the full review

Fourth grade is not easy and after spending a year planning her "positively purple" birthday party, Megan finds herself at odds with new student Alexis. To Megan, Alexis has it all: beauty, brains, and athletics--she's practically perfect in every way. Though Megan tries to be nice to her, Alexis is anything but friendly, making Megan wonder, "Does she not like me because I'm deaf?" When they're forced to collaborate on a science project, Megan discovers Alexis's secret. Based on the children's book by Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin (Best Actress, Children of a Lesser God) and Doug Cooney, this touching new musical--simultaneously performed in spoken English and American Sign Language--with Open Captions, is a poignant reminder that despite first impressions, nobody's perfect. For ages 9 and up.

For a behind the scenes tour and interviews with the cast and director in ASL or English with captioning visit: http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/nobodysperfect/

Please support this performance by purchasing tickets and enjoying the show when it comes to your town!

· March 2-4 - Las Vegas, NV - Gilbert Magnet School

· March 9 - Cerritos, CA - Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, www.cerritoscenter.com/index.aspx

· March 16 - La Crosse, WI - Fine Arts Center, Viterbo University, www.viterbo.edu/finearts1.aspx

· March 19 - Lincoln, NE - Lied Center for Performing Arts, www.liedcenter.org

· March 22 - Springfield, IL - Sangamon Auditorium, www.uis.edu/sangamonauditorium

· March 25 - Paducah, KY - Carson Four Rivers Center, www.thecarsoncenter.org

· March 30 - Des Moines, IA - Civic Center of Greater Des Moines, www.civiccenter.org

· April 1 - Junction City, KS - C.L. Hoover Opera House, www.jcoperahouse.org

· April 7 - Memphis, TN - The Orpheum Theatre, www.orpheum-memphis.com

· April 12 - Elyria, OH - Stocker Arts Center – Lorain County CC, www.lorainccc.edu/Stocker+Arts+Center

· April 13 - Sylvania, OH - Franciscan Center, www.franciscancenter.org

· April 16 - Greenville, NC - East Carolina University, www.ecu.edu/cs-studentlife/mendenhall/wrightauditorium

· April 19 - Spartanburg, SC - Chapman Cultural Center, www.chapmanculturalcenter.org/index.php

· April 22 - Orange Park, FL - Thrasher Horne Center, http://thcenter.org

· April 23 - Punta Gorda, FL - Charlotte Performing Arts Center

· April 26-27 - West Palm Beach, FL - Kravis Center for Performing Arts, www.kravis.org/index.cfm

· May 3 - Pembroke, NC - Givens Performing Arts Center, www.uncp.edu/gpac/

· May 7-8- New York, NY - Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts @ New York University, www.skirballcenter.nyu.edu

· May 11 - Brooklyn, NY - Brooklyn Center, www.brooklyncenter.com

· · May 12 - Flushing, NY - Queens College, http://kupferbergcenter.org

· · May 13 - Buffalo, NY - Shea’s Performing Arts Center, www.sheas.org