Monthly Archives: March 2015

Reading for All!


National Library Services LogoIn helping my coworker, Cathy McAdam put together our upcoming webinar, Reading for All,  I’ve learned quite a bit. I encourage everyone who can to join us. You may register for the webinar through April 3rd.

One thing I’ve learned is the National Library Services (NLS): Talking Books program is underutilized. They have over 400,000 titles and it’s a free service. You can get books in audio or Braille. To be eligible, you must meet their criteria, which has been defined by congress. It’s a bit technical, but includes:

  • Blind/low vision (defining acuity)
  • Physical limitations
  • Reading disabilities resulting from organic dysfunction.

The application can be confusing and you may want to contact a local library for help:

Michigan Libraries for People with Disabilities

Join us next Wednesday, April 8 from 1:30 – 3 PM ET to learn more about the NLS program and other options for reading!


Planning for a Bathroom in Our Forever Home


We’ve been thinking about adding an addition which would include a much needed second bathroom and a larger bedroom. The house is likely to be the last one we own, and I hope to never have to leave it. While I have heard about universal design and aging in place for years, when it comes down to putting plans on paper, I have to say, it seemed overwhelming.

It’s our home so really, the so we need to design it around our needs. ADA doesn’t apply. We know what our needs our now, of U shaped grab bar with toilet papercourse. We need some grab bars for balance and pulling up from a sitting position. So we definitely plan to reinforce around key walls, like by the toilet with 3/4” plywood under the drywall for the easy placement of grab bars. Then if needs change, we can move or add grab bars where they are most helpful.

It’s the “needs change” part that makes some decisions hard. Who knows what we might need in the future? What do you do now “just in case”. Especially if it adds costs or takes away from current wants and needs?

For the shower, well we’d love to have a roll-in 60” x 38” roll in shower stallshower of course, but we just can’t fit it in. There’s only so much addition we can do. So the drawing now has a 48”x34” shower with a low threshold. We debated getting one with a built-in seat. I know others do this thinking they are doing well in planning for the future. However, not knowing what our needs might be, we decided it would be better to have it open and then get the type of shower chair that best meets our needs when and if the time comes. Maybe we’ll want a transfer bench or one with or without arms and back? Who knows? The built-in seat could potentially just be in the way. And we’ll put in the ¾” plywood all around so we can have many options for grab bar placement.  

The other debate has been whether to add glass shower doors. For access, a curtain would be better as the opening can be weighted shower curtainlarger. But glass doors could keep the floor dryer.  Right now, we are thinking of trying to make our own weighted shower curtain and hope this keeps the floor dry! Glass doors are expensive, and it would be shame to remove it later.

I really want a deep soaking tub – so good for sore muscles! The tub we have now is also the shower. Even though it’s not very deep (making for not pleasant baths) it’s hard to step in and out of, even with the grab bars. A separate tub would be ideal.

Of course the problem with a deep tub is getting in and out. I did find a great article about walk-in tubs, “Walk-in Bath Tub: Your biggest Mistake?” which helped walk-in tubconfirm for me that that is now what we want. This led me to this article “Getting In & Out of the Bathtub: Benches, Lifts, and Transfer Chairs”.  So yes, access may be difficult for the deep soaking tub, but we’ll add a grab bar like this for now, and perhaps one on the side of the tub too, and hope we can save some money for a potential lift in the future.

Then too there’s planning for turning radius space and room in front of the vanity and shower, clear space for transfer by the toilet, how to get in and out the door and be able to have it close behind you. So much to think about it!

What are your ideas and suggestions for planning for future needs in building/remodeling a bathroom?


Let’s Talk About Shame, Part 1


In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, famous shame researcher Brené Brown concludes that love, belonging, and connection are irreducible needs of all human beings. She emphasizes, “When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we are meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb, we ache. We hurt others. We get sick… The absence of love and belonging will always lead to suffering” (p. 26). In order to connect on a human level and truly feel a sense of love and belonging, we have to know ourselves. Indeed, “There is something even more essential to living a Wholehearted life: loving ourselves” (p. xi).

According to Brown, shame is everyone’s biggest barrier to self-love and authentic living. Where guilt is “I did something bad”, shame is, “I am bad.” In her research, Brown has found that shame corrodes the parts of us that believe we can change and grow. Shame feeds on secrecy, silence and judgment.

We, as people with disabilities, must come to know and love ourselves just like everyone else, but societal views and barriers add to our shame and self-judgment. We are taught that a core piece of who we are as people—our disability identity—is something to avoid, hide, and “overcome” in order to be welcomed into society. Society builds in the secrecy, silence and judgment that feeds our shame, and we internalize that and add in our own.

Brown is convinced that one can be in the middle of a shame experience and not even know it. This is very true for people with disabilities. In coming to know and understand ourselves as a people with disabilities, we recognize societal views and our own views and the internalization of those views. Religious teachings that the cause of disability is sin and the need for people with disabilities to heal burdened some (judgment). Others hear messages from family and teachers to hide their disability and try to blend in (secrecy). Some are encouraged by physical therapists to walk at all costs, when using a powerchair provides more independence and relief from the exhaustion of walking (silencing our voice of what works best for us). All of these messages from family, professionals, institutions, and society have underlying messages of shame, encouraging self-hatred, a wish to be “normal,” and hide our disability identity. And they bombard us every day, bringing in shame without us even knowing.

All of these messages also impact our use acceptance and use of assistive technology related to our disabilities. I have hidden some of my AT in shame and not used some AT in public settings because of shame. Then there are the messages about certain types of AT being better than others–being encouraged to walk with crutches as “better than” using a powerchair.

How has shame impacted your coming to understand yourself as a person with a disability? Has it impacted your choice of assistive technology? Has it impacted whether or not you use assistive technology?


Rocketbook: Combining Old School with Modern Technology


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

At Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, we do not have typical staff meetings. Yes, we take care of necessary business, but the meetings and interspersed with moments of fun and learning, Typical agenda topics include “Fish Fun” where we discuss good things that happened to staff outside of work. During “Bite our Butts”, we discuss things we’re not so happy with – a state policy change, or a negative news story related to disability, for example. This week during the “Miscellany and Vagaries” topic our Executive Director, Norm, talked about a new product entering the market called the “Rocketbook”. I think it could have interesting applications as assistive technology.

Rocketbook notebook showing the inside cover and first pageThe Rocketbook is simply an 8 1/2″ by 11″ spiral bound notebook. Yet, on it’s pages it has a row of icons on the bottom that you fill in (like those bubbles on a #2 pencil test) to indicate where you would like your notes to be uploaded to in the Cloud (i.e. Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, etc.)  Using the Rocketbook’s app (which comes free with your notebook purchase) text is captured automatically by turning the pages (no photos needed) and sent to to the Cloud application you chose.  Most interestingly, when a notebook becomes full you can put it in the microwave for 30 seconds to erase all text and start fresh!  The erasable feature comes by using Pilot FriXion pens, which are sold at any office supply store for about $10 per 3-pack, but one also comes with the notebook.

So why not just use your computer for note-taking and upload files to the Cloud yourself?  You could if you had a laptop that was easily transportable.  However, some people retain more information by physically writing it down versus typing it on a screen.

Screenshot of the Livescribe Pen and dot paperIn many ways, the Rocketbook performs some of the same functions as the Livescribe pen, a favorite of the Michigan Assistive Technology Program staff.  The Livescribe pen syncs your written notes with audio that was spoken at the time you wrote the text.  To go back to a certain part of a conversation you just tap the pen on the place you took the note and will hear the audio associated with that note.  Livescribe apps also make it possible to turn your handwritten text into digital text, and “pencasts” (notes plus audio) can be downloaded and shared with others.

The Rocketbook does not have an option to record audio, but if you’re familiar with the Cloud, are a visual learner,  have clear handwriting, like the reusable feature of the notebooks and the option of using a more traditional size pen, it might be something for you.  Not to mention, the price is quite lower for the Rocketbook.  For $25 you receive a notebook, one pen, and lifetime access to the app that captures your notes.  The Livescribe pen currently starts at $119.95, depending on which model you buy.

Microwaveable notebooks – what do you think?  Silly or spectacular?  Let us know!