July 26, 2011

Blog for Access today, ADA Day

Every year, Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco, the disability advocacy/peer counseling agency that I work for, hosts an e vent in honor of the Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA Day is today, July 26th. It is a day to mark civil rights victories for people with disabilities and, also, a time to consider how far we still have to go.

This year,  ILRCSF is celebrating the day by offering a literary event at the San Francisco Public Library. Disabled writers and poets will be presenting their work and there will be a wine and cheese reception. See the preceding post for details.

ILRCSF has also called for a virtual action to commemorate the day. Bloggers and users of Facebook and Twitter have been asked to Blog for Access today. Put up a post or tweet or status update about what access means to you.

This virtual action on ADA Day reminds us that we live in a time when technology is enabling people with disabilities to go beyond  physical, intellectual or economic  barriers that that may otherwise cause us to live more isolated  lives. There are abundant pathways, thanks to the internet and assistive technology, that allow people w with disabilities to reach out, even if they are currently institutionalized, homebound or live in an area that does not support access to buses and sidewalks.  This is one of the reasons I started Write To Connect. I wanted to create workshops that gave folks ideas that were  practical (how to start a blog)  and creative (how  to express  myself)  towards  building community and identity  through words.

Shortly after kicking off my Write To Connect class (ILRCSF graciously hosted the first series every Friday for a month in their conference room), I was hired by ILRCSF to be an assistive technology educator. And things just keep getting more interesting. In the last couple weeks, here  at ILRCSF, we have been receiving shipments of Kindles, ipads and netbooks as we gear up to be a device-lending library, putting assistive  tech in the hands of people with disabilities who want to launch their own projects, do research for school or work, or make new friends via social networking sites.

Being techie, using social media—these things are not always immediately accessible to everyone. My other role at ILRCSF is as nursing home transition coordinator. This means I work with folks ho have been institutionalized long term and are working to plan and dream towards discharge and a life outside of a facility, where  they can thrive with home and community based services. One of my clients is a senior who wants to return to life with her long -time partner once she leaves the nursing home. As she works on how stroke rehab and she and I discuss housing subsidies and case management, she pauses and picks up her sketch book. “Did you know I am an artist?’ she asks, flipping to a page in the sketch pad where she has begun to do a study of some cherry blossoms. She wrinkles up her nose when I mention the idea of creating a website for her drawings. But, when I tell her I can scan in a finished piece and feature it on the ILRCSF blog, she is delighted. I am hoping  this feature will coax her in to internet world. She could then link up with Community Living Campaign, an SF group that teaches seniors to increase their support networks by using a platform that is more private and less cluttered than Facebook.

Meanwhile ,  a  young client of mine that has been living at Laguna Honda Hospital since he fell off a building ten year s ago, is working toward taking his first Paratransit ride to the Quaker church. He is a contemplative  kind  of guy who thinks a lot about race, equality and religious figures. This comes out in his long, dense poems. Thanks to LHH’s new and improved wifi and some training from an  assistive tech volunteer, he will hopefully be able to email his poems so I can also feature them on the ILRCSF blog. A large part of his eventual discharge from LHH will come about because he feels that he can use his words to bring about change. So, although he and I spend a lot of time talking about memory strategies (to help him create goals that sometimes get lost in his head due to traumatic brain injury), getting his poetry out into the open is as important as his next occupational therapy session.

Access is about starting where you are, pressing on with steady, careful persistence; it is realism radically accommodated  and by furthered by imagination.