Blog Archives

Free Audio Book Resources

Individuals with disabilities that affect their access to print have some free options  for obtaining audio and braille books, magazines and pod casts. The local public library is bound to have a collection of popular audio books that can borrowed at no cost, as long as you have a library card and return the books on time. In many libraries, books can be reserved in advance and/or brought in from another branch so you are not limited to what happens to be on the shelves of that branch on a particular day.  Public libraries often raise money by selling donated books and used ones that they have replaced. It’s a low-cost way to build your home library.

The North Carolina Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has a history that goes back to 1958.  With Federal, State and private funding, it eventually became part of a regional network of libraries operated by the the Library of Congress.  Even though the name of the library has not kept up with current preferred disability language, the library itself has continued to change with the times and now offers materials in a wide variety of accessible formats fr people of all ages.  Individuals must complete an application  and provide documentation of a disability that qualifies them to use the library.   Please visit the website to learn more http://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/lbph . If you don’t live in North Carolina, ask for the branch that serves your area.

 

Bookshare is another great resource for people who have print disabilities.  Bookshare is free for qualified U.S. students and schools, thanks to funding from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education. Organizations  and non-students can apply for paid memberships that will give them access to accessible materials through Bookshare. Check out Bookshare at https://www.bookshare.org  to see if you or someone that you know can benefit from what it offers.

Whether you are reading for school, work or pleasure, it’s good to know that there are some free services available to make sure that people with print disabilities have access to the information, ideas and wonderful imagining that is contained in printed text. Read on!

Don’t forget to plan for non-academic school time!

Part of the excitement of going back to school is thinking about the fun parts of the school experience.  Many children look forward to playing with friends during recess, having lively conversations at lunchtime or on the school bus, and field trips that bring history, art and science up close and personal.  Many schools also offer extra-curricular activities that range from sports, music, and drama to special interest or service clubs. It is through these activities that many students form lasting friendships, discover gifts and talents, or gain experiences that help prepare them for future careers.

Students that have disabilities should be encouraged to consider becoming actively involved in all parts of school life. By law (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973), they should be given an equal opportunity to participate, but sometimes that message is not clearly communicated to the students, or to the adults that make the extra-curricular activities possible.  In some schools, notices about club sign-ups, team tryouts or driver’s education courses are not even distributed in the special education classrooms.  It’s hard to make a choice when you don’t know what the options are.

School staff may need to be more intentional in their effort to publicize these opportunities throughout the entire student population.  Parents can also ask about what’s going on at their child’s school and the process for becoming involved if their child has an interest in a particular activity.

Some students with disabilities may need accommodations, assistive technology or other supports to successfully participate in their chosen extra-curricular activity. They may also need accommodations for some of the non-academic parts of the regular school day.  IEP teams and 504 committees sometimes overlook these times when they are discussing the child’s educational needs. In some cases, this amounts to a missed opportunity to enhance the child’s school experience by supporting them through their disability-related challenges, or continue to work on IEP goals in a non-classroom setting. For other children, such an oversight can set them up for avoidable social or behavioral difficulties.

The good news is that IEPs and Section 504 accommodation plans are living documents that can be revised whenever the need to do so arises.  Teachers, coaches and other adults also have the freedom to make many accommodations on their own when they identify a need for them.  It almost goes without saying that a child may need different types of support for different activities.

The I’m Tyler video http://imtyler.org/index.php/video/  does a powerful job of making the point that students with disabilities are capable of participating in a wide range of activities when the adults around them focus more on what they can do than on what they can’t do.  A little effort, imagination and open-mindedness goes a very long way toward giving students with disabilities the chance that they deserve to experience each day as full members of their school and larger communities.

Summer learning and fun on a shoestring

Many parents worry that the summer break from school will mean weeks of lost opportunities to learn.  Worst yet, they fear that their child may actually lose skills that they have worked so hard to develop.   Some parents will enroll their child in some sort of academic program, which may or may not be disguised as a “camp.”  Other parents would like to do this , but lack the financial resources to make it happen.  The quick tip for this last group of parents is to ask about financial assistance or scholarships that might make a big difference.

For folks who have limited funds, it is important to tap into other resources that may be available.  One of the important lessons that my own mother taught me is to not let pride stand in the way of giving your child a valuable experience.  When she worked as a housekeeper in the local YWCA, she somehow made it possible for me to take free classes on Saturdays.  It was at the Y that I learned how to sew, cook, dance, swim and speak French.  She then talked my school into allowing me, as a 4th grader, to sit in with the 6th grade class when they had their French lessons.  My brothers and I also had the opportunity to attend day and overnight camps at no cost other than our clothing and required gear. This contrast to our typical inner-city routine expanded our minds in ways that cannot be measured.

As a financially-challenged mom, I have applied that advocacy lesson to the benefit of my own children.  I ask about and stay on the lookout for programs and activities in my community.  My children have had the opportunity to participate in some expensive specialty programs at a fraction of the cost. There are also low-cost day camps offered by schools, park and recreation departm3 kids in natureents, churches and other non-profit groups.  The Cooperative Extension Service offers 4-H programs year-round where children and youth “Learn by Doing.” During summer there are 4-H traditional and specialty camps.  The Boy and Girl Scouts of America also offer summer camping opportunities, which may even be open to non-scouts if space is available.  Camps give children the chance to learn about science, nature, crafts, music, sports, etc. and develop in many areas including communication and social  skills.

Some private schools that have summer programs for academic enrichment or remediation have scholarships available for those who cannot afford to pay all or any of the cost, but they may not advertise them.  Your school guidance counselor or social worker may be aware of these opportunities, as well as other programs that may be targeted toward economically-disadvantaged or at-risk students, or groups that are under-represented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.  Some of those programs are offered on college and university campuses, making the dream of going to college seem more possible for the children who participate.

Educational websites and software (that can often be borrowed from your public library) offer “games” that can reinforce or develop skills while your child is having fun.  Even old-school activity books can sharpen a variety of skills in response to a complaint that “I’m bored!”  A walk in a park or a drive in the country can lead to interesting discoveries or raise questions that you can research together (e.g. let’s find out about that bug/rock/plant/historical marker, etc.).  Some businesses or factories offer tours, or at least may be willing to allow an employee to take the time to explain what kind of work they do.  Local museums and zoos often have discount days and many movie theaters offer special shows for kids at low-cost and may even come complete with popcorn!

The most important thing is to not forget that learning can happen everywhere and everyday, sometimes without your child realizing it.  In fact, it’s probably better that way.

Finding your child’s gifts

My mother used to say that “Everyone has something that they are better at than anyone else in the whole wide world.”  I don’t remember now exactly what situations would prompt her to burst forth with such words of encouragement.  I’m sure that sometimes she was speaking  to me when I was feeling sorry for myself because I felt that I wasn’t good enough at something that I had tried to do, or maybe was afraid to attempt.  At other times, I’m sure that she was talking about my brother, Richard, who was thought to be “slow.”  Richard, however, had an uncanny gift for electronics and figuring out how things worked.  He would take things apart and put them together in creative ways.  Once he rigged the lamp switch next to my bed to automatically turn on a CB radio when the light was turned on.  That was interesting!

While my mother may have overstated the case, there was something to the point that she was trying to make.  Each of us have been given a unique set of gifts and challenges.  An important key to being successful in life, however we define “success”, is to figure out how to work around our challenges, and to also find our gifts.

For many children who have disabilities, the challenges become the constant focus of parents, other family members, teachers, clinicians, etc.  Some kids are in school all day and then go to therapy and tutoring in the evening.  Parents may coach, practice, review, and pre-teach on weekends and during the summer months.  While it is important to help your child improve their functioning in areas of need, it is even more important that their disability does not define who they are.  That child who struggles with reading could be a great dancer, athlete, artist, designer, cook, builder, actor, scientist, gardener, musician, equestrian, singer, craft-person, animal whisperer…..  You get the idea.

Allow your child to have as wide a variety of experiences as possible,whether it’s as a spectator or participant.  Follow up when your child shows signs of interest.  Look for opportunities for them to learn more about an area of interest, take lessons to develop their skills, or participate in some way.  Let your child dabble in several different areas.  Their first interest may not become their true passion.  You don’t want to miss the activity that reveals your child’s gift or lifts their spirit because you got stuck on the first thing that they expressed some interest in.  Classes offered through your local Park and Recreation Department or the Y can be a relatively inexpensive way to sample a variety of offerings without investing a lot of money or making a long-term commitment.  Other places offer introductory sessions and classes from time to time.  Ask around and keep your eyes open for those and other opportunities.

Giving your child the chance to participate in an activity that he/she loves, or is good at, will enhance their self-esteem, sense of competence, and provide an important contrast to the challenges associated with the disability.  The gift is there; your job is to help your child find it!

Accessible travel and recreation in NC

Cover of ACCESS NC GuidebookThe latest edition of ACCESS North Carolina: A Vacation and Travel Guide for People with Disabilities is available just in time for summer fun and travel.

This comprehensive guide provides a wealth of information about the accessibility of a wide variety of travel destinations, parks, museums and other attractions throughout the state of North Carolina.  It is funded by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services  and actually produced by inmates in NC Department of Correction facilities.  Chalk up one for rehabilitation!

ACCESS North Carolina is divided into five regions of the state and there is also a special section with additional related resources.  Using a mix of text and icons, each listing includes general information about each tourist site and specific information about:

  • Parking
  • Types of paths
  • Entrances
  • Restrooms
  • Water fountains and elevators (if available)

Each listing rates (and describes) how accessible the tourist site is for people with physical/mobility challenges.  Where applicable the listing also includes rates how accessible the site is for visitors who are Deaf or hard of hearing, visitors with vision loss, visitors with intellectual disabilities and visitors with other types of disabilities.  Other information that may be important to planning a visit (e.g. dates of operation, cost, etc.) is also included.

Access North Carolina is available at all North Carolina Welcome Centers and on line at:

www.ncdhhs.gov/dvrs/pdf/ACCESS-NC.pdf.

A text-only version is also available at www.ncdhhs.gov/dvrs/pdf/ACCESS-NC.txt.

Free copies can also be obtained from the NC Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development at 1-800-VISIT NC or by calling the NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services at 1-800-689-9090 or 919-733-5924 (TDD: Telecommunicative Device for the Deaf).

North Carolina is a beautiful state and there is so much to do and experience from mountain to coast! Take advantage of the summer break from school.  Get a copy of the guide and go out there and access more of North Carolina.  The next time that your child complains,  “I’m bored!” your response can be, “Let’s go!”