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Accessibility Guidelines for Cruise Ships Proposed

Disability Accessibility on Cruise Ships The Federal Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (known as the “Access Board”) has issued proposed accessibility guidelines for cruise ships that are required to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The guidelines will apply to passenger ships that provide public transportation services such as ferries and excursion boats, and public accommodation passenger ships such as dinner or sightseeing cruises, as well as other types of ships.

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Among other things, the proposed guidelines address ramps, gangways, boarding lifts, and other components of accessible boarding; on-board accessible routes connecting passenger decks and passenger amenities within decks; accessible means of escape; doorways; toilets; wheelchair spaces in assembly areas and transportation seating areas; public address systems; general emergency alarms; and guest rooms.

Two of the most notable provisions are:

1) An elevator or platform lift is required to connect passenger decks.
2) A minimum number of guest rooms with mobility features would be required on cruise ships.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) are required to issue accessibility standards for the construction and alteration of passenger ships covered by the ADA that are consistent with the proposed guidelines. To that end, passenger vessel owners and operators would not be required to comply with the guidelines until they are adopted by DOT and DOJ as accessibility standards. The proposed guidelines would not require existing cruise ships to be made accessible until they are altered.

Public comments on the proposed guidelines must be submitted to the Access Board by September 23, 2013. After the public comment period, the Access Board will finalize the guidelines based on the feedback it receives. The Access Board estimates the total compliance costs of the proposed guidelines (annualized over 20 years) will be more than $60 million.

Stem Cells Benefit Those With Disabilities

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Stem Cells for DisabilitiesAn FDA federally-approved clinical trial will determine whether stem cells can improve symptoms of cerebral palsy. The research trial, which is expected to include 40 children, is looking at children that have cerebral palsy and whose umbilical cord blood was banked at birth. The stem cells are thawed and then injected intravenously back into the body during a series of treatments.

So far, 13 of the group have been accepted to the Food and Drug Administration approved research effort. Though early in the study, some participants are reporting progress. Since completing stem cell treatments for one year, a 3-year-old from St. Clair Shores, Michigan has better speech and more use of her legs, according to her mother. The improvements were notable even just two weeks after the treatments started.

This is great news for those with cerebral palsy and hopefully many more successes through the use of stem cells will be visible soon.

Service Dogs

My Service Dog Fred Service dogs are the best friends of the physically challenged. They are not just for the blind. I don’t know what I would do without Fred, my service dog. He picks things up for me, open doors, turns lights on and keeps me company. Wherever I am you will find Fred. Whether at the school where I work or at the supermarket, he’s my companion. I’ve even brought my service dog into an operating room when I had surgery. Sure it wasn’t really necessary, but it was comforting knowing he was there during the procedure.

Service Dog VestFlorida service animal laws are under Title XXX, SOCIAL WELFARE, section 413.08. Basically it states that individuals with disabilities who have a service animal are permitted everywhere that others without disabilities, or without service animals, are permitted. They must also be provided the same services. The law further elaborates that “Allergies and fear of animals are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to an individual with a service animal.” Violations could result in fines as well as 60 days in jail for those who violate the law.

Service Dogs Help Those in WheelchairsService animals serve a very useful purpose. I am in a wheelchair and Fred helps me with multiple tasks. He knows about 80 commands. A service dog costs about $20,000 to train. The training takes about 2 years, and that’s not including the time it takes to train the disabled individual to work with the dog. Not only is Fred my assistant, he is my companion. I’ll be writing more about Fred in the future. He is truly remarkable and astounds me with many of the things he does.

For those who are not aware of the laws pertaining to service animals, here’s some information about the Federal ADA laws. The Department of Justice, the federal agency responsible for ADA compliance, provided us with answers to “COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SERVICE ANIMALS IN PLACES OF BUSINESS”.

U.S.Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section



1. Q: What are the laws that apply to my business?

A: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.

2. Q: What is a service animal?

A: The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

_ Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.

_ Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.

_ Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.

A service animal is not a pet.

3. Q: How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

A: Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. However, an individual who is going to a restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, such documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.

4. Q: What must I do when an individual with a service animal comes to my business?

A: The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.

5. Q: I have always had a clearly posted “no pets” policy at my establishment. Do I still have to allow service animals in?

A: Yes. A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires you to modify your “no pets” policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. This does not mean you must abandon your “no pets” policy altogether but simply that you must make an exception to your general rule for service animals.

6. Q: My county health department has told me that only a guide dog has to be admitted. If I follow those regulations, am I violating the ADA?

A: Yes, if you refuse to admit any other type of service animal on the basis of local health department regulations or other state or local laws. The ADA provides greater protection for individuals with disabilities and so it takes priority over the local or state laws or regulations.

7. Q: Can I charge a maintenance or cleaning fee for customers who bring service animals into my business?

A: No. Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition to allowing a service animal to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets. However, a public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities if a service animal causes damage so long as it is the regular practice of the entity to charge non-disabled customers for the same types of damages. For example, a hotel can charge a guest with a disability for the cost of repairing or cleaning furniture damaged by a service animal if it is the hotel’s policy to charge when non-disabled guests cause such damage.

8. Q: I operate a private taxicab and I don’t want animals in my taxi; they smell, shed hair and sometimes have “accidents.” Am I violating the ADA if I refuse to pick up someone with a service animal?

A: Yes. Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to individuals with disabilities. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with disabilities and their service animals than they charge to other persons for the same or equivalent service.

9. Q: Am I responsible for the animal while the person with a disability is in my business?

A: No. The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of his or her owner. You are not required to provide care or food or a special location for the animal.

10. Q: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

A: You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on your past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually.

Although a public accommodation may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises.

11. Q: Can I exclude an animal that doesn’t really seem dangerous but is disruptive to my business?

A: There may be a few circumstances when a public accommodation is not required to accommodate a service animal–that is, when doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business. Generally, this is not likely to occur in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities. But when it does, for example, when a dog barks during a movie, the animal can be excluded.

If you have further questions about service animals or other requirements of the ADA, you may call the U.S. Department of Justice’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities affect both children and adults. It generally affects more boys than girls. The term learning disability is used to describe the unexplained difficulties someone of average intelligence has in acquiring basic academic skills. These skills are essential for success at school and work, and for coping with life in general. Learning Disabilities StatisticsIt’s a term that refers to a group of disorders, not just one specific one. The disabilities are neurological disorders that make it difficult to acquire academic and social skills. It’s a neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to receive, process, store, and respond to information. Over 2.9 million students in America are diagnosed with learning disabilities. They receive special education services in schools and represent 45 percent of students with disabilities nationwide. It’s a complex disorder that at many times is misdiagnosed.

Those who have the disability are most affected in the following areas:

  • Learning Disability Areas of ImpactSpeaking
  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Mathematics
  • Depending on the type of learning disability, including dyslexia, different kinds of assistance are available. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), those with learning disabilites are protected against discrimination and have a right to assistance in the classroom, if a student, and the workplace.

    The cause of the disability is still specifically unknown, even though there are factors that are associated with it. Hereditary factors have been observed.Learning Disabilities and the Brain It’s not uncommon to find that people with learning disabilities have parents or relatives with similar difficulties. It is also believed that the disorder is caused by illness or injury during or before birth. It may even be caused by the parent’s use of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy, low birth weight, a temporary lack of oxygen during birth and even a premature or prolonged labor. It’s also believed that head injuries, deprivation of nutrients or exposure to toxic substances contribute to the disability. Science will eventually determine the specifics but as of now there is not one single factor that is obviously the cause.


    Massage Therapy for Those With Disabilities

    Massage Therapy for the DisabledMassage therapy is an accepted therapy for those with disabilities. According to several studies, massage therapy has been found to help children with autism, ADHD, cystic fibrosis, and cerebral palsy. The combination of strokes and passive stretching benefits most people. It is also very important for adults in that it keeps the muscles stretched and smooth.

    Neuromuscular therapy, trigger point therapy and active release technique are just a few options. Active Release Technique (ART) is a soft-tissue management system created by Dr. P. Michael Leahy. These two therapies along with ART can be used for children who have gone through surgery, as it helps decrease scar tissue. When choosing a therapist, it’s important to find one who is well versed in a number of techniques and has a good knowledge of pain disorders and dysfunctions.Massage Therapy Helps Disabilities

    Basically, massage is the practice of soft tissue manipulation with physical and psychological purposes and goals. Massage involves acting on and manipulating the body with pressure. This can include structured, unstructured, stationary, or moving tension, motion or vibration.  There are over eighty different recognized massage modalities and most states require that therapists be licensed. Always use a licensed massage therapist as if the therapist is not properly trained, he/she can aggravate the condition of the muscles.


    Behavioral Therapy for Those With Disabilities

    Behavioral Therapy & The Brain - Click for Larger Image

    Behavioral Therapy & Brain - Click for Larger Image

    Behavior therapy is a form of psychotherapy used to treat depression, phobias, anxiety disorders and other forms of psychopathology. The therapy is important for individuals with disabilities, specially developmentally disabled children, as it will help break unwanted behaviors that exist as a result of their physical and mental condition. 

    Behavior therapy is based upon the behavior modification principles of classical conditioning. Behavior modification is used as treatment in most cases. It is the use of empirically demonstrated behavior change techniques to improve or change behavior, such as altering an individuals’ behaviors and reactions through positive and negative reinforcement of adaptive behavior and/or the reduction of maladaptive behavior.

    Social skills training is also an important part of the therapy. It teaches patients skills to access reinforcers and lessen the unacceptable behaviors. Operant conditioning procedures in meta-analysis had the largest effect size for training social skills, followed by modeling, coaching, and social cognitive techniques, in that order.

    Autism and the Disabilities of those with Autism

    Autism_Disability_AwarenessAutism is a pervasive developmental disorder of children that is characterized by impaired communication, excessive rigidity and emotional detachment. Autistic children have impaired social interaction along with restricted and repetitive behavior.

    Autism and the Brain

    Autism and the Brain

    Autism is thought to be the result of genetics. The genetics of autism are complex and it is unclear whether autism is the result of  multi-gene interactions or by genetic mutation. Autism is also at times associated with agents that cause birth defects. Other probable causes include childhood vaccines, the use of drugs and chemicals by the mother and/or father prior to childbirth, or environmental agents, though there has not been any convincing scientific evidence of these relationships.

    About one out of 150 people are autistic, with about four times as many males than females. The amount of people with autism has increased dramatically due to changes in the diagnostics, and the push for early diagnosis in order to assist those with disabilities.

    Autism affects many parts of the brain and signs of the disorder are usually visible in the child’s first two years. There is no known cure but early behavioral and cognitive intervention can help children gain self-care, social and communication skills. While the disability community strives for as much independent living as possible for those that are Autistic, many with Autism will always require assistance from others and may never reach full independence. Even though it is a disability, many manage to live independently and some have become successful in the world of business.

    Autism Symptoms

    Autism Symptoms

    The chart on the left shows the signs of autism. Click on the image for a large version. These autistic behaviors will give the parent notice that the child needs to be properly tested and diagnosed. Autism is not distinguished by a single symptom, but by multiple symptoms. Autism’s individual symptoms occur in the general population, so detecting the symptoms requires medical intervention. A full positive diagnosis  must include exhibiting at least six symptoms total, including at least two symptoms of qualitative impairment in social interaction, one symptom of qualitative impairment in communication and one symptom of restricted and repetitive behavior. Remember that an early diagnos is is important.

    Blind is a Visual Disability

    Blind is a visual disability and the condition of lacking visual perception due to physical or neurological factors.blind_disability Various scales describe the extent of vision loss. Total blindness is the complete lack of form and visual light perception. Clinically it is called no light perception. Blind is frequently used to describe severe visual impairment with residual vision. Those described as having only light perception only have the ability to tell light from dark. A person with only light projection can tell the general direction of a light source.

    In order to determine which child and adult may need special assistance because of their visual disabilities, various definitions of blindness have been developed. Legally blind is defined as having 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best correction possible. This means that a legally blind individual would have to stand 20 feet from an object to see it, with vision correction and with the same degree of clarity as a normally sighted person could from 200 feet. About 10% of the legally blind have no vision. The rest have some vision, from light perception alone to relatively good acuity.

    While I am legally blind, in a future posting  I will go into the surgical procedure that has substantially improved my vision. Now I can actually see many things that I thought I would never have the ability to see, including reading and typing in my laptop.

    Disabilities and Hip Pain

    Disabilities and Hip Pain

    Disabilities and Hip Pain

    For the past year I’ve had bad hip pain. I guess that it’s a side effect of being in a wheelchair, and the lack of movement or walking. We recently found out it was my S.I. joint. The S.I. joint is the joint or articulation between the sacrum and ilium. The doctor gave me a Lidocine and Cortisone injection in the joint. Since I tend to have involuntary muscle movements, they gave me Twilight anesthetic to put me out and it was performed in the hospital.

    One of the biggest culprits for referring pain to the hip is the SI joint in the lower back. The SI joint is where your pelvis meets your sacrum. This joint  can also be a problem with athletes, especially if they have core weakness or are over training.

    Pain that comes on gradually, or moves around from the front, back, and side may be S.I. referred pain. If you have disabilities and feel hip pain, have your doctor check your S.I. Joint.

    Disability ART Program in Miami


    ART Program for the DisabledA few months ago we had our 2nd annual ART exhibition “Colours Erupted”. Twenty disabled artists displayed their work at the MAC center in Coral Gables, Florida. It was held to support the ART program and I sold all my pieces! We even had a mosaic composed of  individual pieces by the artists. I also sold all of the pieces on it! All my family and friends came to support me.

    The picture on the left was taken at the ART show. It’s of me (in the wheelchair), my A.R.T. Disabilities Program Eventworking dog Fred, my mom and dad (on the left), Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff (in the center), Congress Woman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (second from right) and Ella Cisneros of the Cisneros Fontenals Foundation (on the right). Over 500 people showed up to support the children with disabilities.

    For those of you don’t know what A.R.T. is, it’s a program for children with Ilana Painting in A.R.T. Disabilities Programdisabilities who can’t paint with their hands. They instead use a tracker (a person who is like their body) to help them. We choose everything from the size of the canvas to the brush or tool, and guide them with our words and a laser. We even choose the color of the paint.

    Imagine not being able to physically act upon what your mind tells you to do. Not being able to physically pick a color from a palette, pick up a brush to paint a straight line. The artist inside you knowing exactly what it wants to express and convey. In a world of endless options, imagine not being able to do even the “simple stuff” with your own hands.

    And then… Imagine being able to create! A new language to communicate with the world, colors, textures and feelings ART Exhibit - The Mosaicsoaring on canvas and reaching places within, that others have never been able to know. The results are stunning pieces for the world to admire, appreciate, and finally, to understand what the inner artist always visualized. This is what CCT-ART enables.

    You can see more on this program, and me at work by viewing Miami’s CBS Channel 4 News report. Click on the link below and check out the video.

    A Stroke Of Artistic Genius For Special Children

    More About the ART Program:

    Creative Children Therapy’s ART program began in 2005 when studio facilitators trained with A.R.T. (Artistic Realization Technologies) founder, artist Tim Lefens. The key to this program lies in the power of Art. Carefully trained studio facilitators (“trackers”) act as neutral arms, executing the visions of the physically challenged through laser-guided tracking, a regimented line of questions, and other exacting technologies. The artists indicate their choices about what tools, material and textures to use, and the placement of these on the canvas. The most subtle movements such as a blink or a nod that the tracker can read is all that is required. The possibilities are endless. The trackers’ job is to follow the artist’s directions with absolute fidelity. This enabling system gives creative self-expression to youth with the most severe physical challenges.

    Artists typically work once weekly, free of charge, with a tracker at the CCT studio. Once per month, artists congregate Chistian and His Dad Alex at ART Programto work with professional artists critiquing pieces, interacting and questioning, gaining knowledge and refining their craftsmanship. The artwork produced is mainstreamed and exhibited alongside the work of other community artists. Pieces are not admired for the artist’s disability, but rather for the quality and depth of their work. Many are spectacular museum quality pieces. CCT-ART increases self-esteem and empowers the spirit. It provides a method of financial gain for the artists who exhibit and sell their work. The power of ART is unleashed and these lives are enriched.

    Creative Children Therapy (CCT) is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of children and young adults with special needs by providing top-notch therapeutic intervention. In addition to medically necessary services, CCT’s prime directive is to provide innovative programs that will help these kids explore new interests, expand their creative minds, and develop socially and artistically into well-rounded individuals. The outcome is increased confidence to pursue interests, and explore the talents available to most children and adults in the community.

    If you or your business is interested in this exciting and rewarding opportunity to propel this breakthrough program in South Florida, CCT-ART can utilize a wide variety of help. This includes financial contributions to assist with tracker employment, space rental, framing the artwork, funding for art supplies, and exhibition venues. For more information about CCT-ART, please contact me.