Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

A Selfless Act of Sisterly Love

Anaiah Rucker

Screenshot of 9-year old Anaiah Rucker from MSNBC.

Just what we all need on a Thursday morning, a good cry!

Nine-year old Anaiah Rucker, of Madison, Georgia, is being heralded a hero for saving her five-year old sister’s life after pushing her out of the way of an on-coming vehicle while walking to a school bus stop. Anaiah said she simply acted on instinct, snatching her baby sister back from danger, even though it placed her own life in mortal peril, fearing her younger sibling wouldn’t survive the accident.

Taking the hit instead, Anaiah’s spleen was damaged as well as her kidneys and both legs were broken. Sadly, doctors were unable to save one of her kidneys and had to amputate her left leg.

But this humble young girl doesn’t feel she deserves to be called a hero, instead simply says it was an act of sisterly love.

You can read the full article here.

Watch the news story and Anaiah’s interview on USA Today below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Anaiah Rucker Interview on Today, posted with vodpod

Anaiah has a tough road ahead of her, though this little hero has a wonderfully supporting mother, sister, and community behind her. She was given a heroes welcome home from the hospital and the community held a BBQ to raise funds for Anaiah’s medical bills and the renovations needed to make her home handicap accessible. Anaiah’s mother, Andrea Taylor recently lost her job, though there is some small blessing in that she will have the necessary time to dedicate to Anaiah’s long road to recovery and adaptation to her new disability. To mkae your own dedication to help Anaiah you can contact United Bank in Madison through the link provided. A donation fund has been set up in Anaiah’s name.

Goodwin, Liz. “Nine-year-old Loses Leg While Saving Little Sister’s Life.” Online posting. Yahoo!News. MSNBC, 23 Mar. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2011.

ADA 2011 Compliance Deadlines & Updates Webinar

ADA Compliance and Deadlines Handouts

Handouts from the ADA 2011 Compliance & Updates Webinar. Image courtesy Tamara Nguyen.

Today, your friendly staff at Disability Support Services at Gulf Coast Community/State College attended a webinar focused on ADA 2011 Compliance Deadlines and Updates. There are some exciting changes happening in the legal world of disability, beginning with the lowering of the clinical bar for disability diagnosis and the inclusion of a variety of medical, cognitive, and emotional conditions for coverage of disability support services in the category of Life Activities. There was also discussion on the many ways in which the program of disability support and learning services can be of assistance to our returning veterans in their endeavor of degree seeking, for which returning to a traditional classroom or educational institution may become a stressor. The webinar was informative and discussed many of the new changes, the new litigations of ADAAA, and the implementation deadlines for these new policies. Our own program has begun implementing many of these new policies and procedures and will continue to do so as higher education institutions across the nation prepare for this new transition.

Asperger’s and Tourette Syndromes: a “Did You Know” PSA

In recent light, James Durbin, American Idol Season 10 hopeful has become a public face to Asperger’s and Tourette Syndromes. In an Idol interview, Durbin triumphantly declared “I have Tourette’s and Asperger’s, but Tourette’s and Asperger’s don’t have me.” But did you know that Asperger’s and Tourette syndromes are both conditions that commonly occur together and are three to four more times more likely to strike males than females.

Dan Aykroyd

Dan Aykroyd. Image via Google Search.

And did you know that before James Durbin, Dan Aykroyd, actor, comedian, and musician, discussed publicly in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR (2004) his own experience living with Asperger’s and Tourette Syndromes.

Listen to that interview here.

Aykroyd’s acknowledgement of having both conditions was broached by Gross’s curiosity if research he had found stating that Aykroyd was diagnosed with Schizophrenia was true.

Here’s a snippet of that interview:

GROSS: Sometimes when I’m preparing an interview, I’ll read something about someone, and I’m not sure if they really said that or if it’s really true, because it sometimes isn’t. Ha ha. So, let me read you something that I read that you had said, and you can tell me if it’s true. And if it is true and it’s too personal, you can tell me that as well. But I read that when you were 12 you were diagnosed as schizophrenic and that you heard voices in your head and that you had to kind of keep that under control.

AYKROYD: Um, well, it was more of a Tourette’s thing than schizophrenia. I was analyzed as a Tourette’s and Asperger’s [child], which I still have a little bit today. You know, I mean, I grew up being pulled one way by my mother, who was very very strict, and then being relaxed by my father, who was very passive. I had the Tourette’s there pretty badly there, and I went to a therapist about it. At 12 years old I was able to have the luxury of sitting down with a therapist and talking through all kinds of things, books and music. She was quite influential in kind of evening me out. …Of course, now today they just give kids pills, but back then we didn’t have the benefit of all this sophisticated medicine. Whether it works or not, I don’t know. I think time will tell on that.

It was not so much [schizophrenia]. I think when I said that, I was kind of going to the extreme. It was not so much the schizophrenia part of it, but it was the Tourette’s/Asperger’s, which can be associated with hallucinogenic voices and that. I still have a little touch of that today. But I’ve been able to kind of defeat it without pharmaceutical medication. And I just find in my research and reading today that there’s a lot of people who have this kind of mild condition, and some of them get over it, and [for] some of them, it spins out where it affects them quite negatively.

GROSS: If you don’t mind my asking–

AYKROYD: I don’t.

GROSS: –what were some of the symptoms when you were 12, and were these things that you had to fight against to do the kind of acting & writing that you wanted to do, and did they feed that in any way?

AYKROYD: Well, it was mostly physical tics, you know, and nervousness kind of thing, and that kind of thing, you know, like grunting and tics and the classic Tourette’s type syndrome, that type of thing. But by the time I was 14 it was allayed and I really haven’t had too much occurrence except on the Asperger’s side, where I have a fascination with police, and I always have to have a badge with me. … I have a fascination with law enforcement and the police. My grandfather was a Mountie and that. If I don’t have a badge on me, I feel naked.

GROSS: I can’t tell if you’re kidding or not.

AYKROYD: No, no. It’s true. [Source]

Both Asperger’s and Tourette’s Syndrome are thought to have genetic components, and recent research has discovered a gene for a neurological disorder that includes autistic behaviors.

Laugh Your ASL Off!

Laugh Your ASL Off

Laugh Your ASL Off! Comedy Knight- UCF Deaf Awareness Week 2011

This week the University of Central Florida is presenting UCF Deaf Awareness Week 2011, and its chock full of great events!

Tuesday, March 22nd:
Deafness and ASL at UCF: Open Forum
starts at 7pm, CL1 318, Free for all

Wednesday, March 23rd:
ASL Club/NSSHLA Tabling
outside of the Student Union: we have a booth to hand out flyers and promote the club

Thursday, March 24th:
Silent Lunch at the Student Union by Burger King at 12

Silent Movie Knight, at 7pm in MAP 359, Free for all
“Children of a Lesser God”

Friday, March 25th:
Silent Dinner
at Applebee’s on University Blvd at 7pm

And the kicker for the week’s events will be Laugh Your ASL Off! comedy night featuring Keith Wann and Windell “Wink” Smith Jr. The show will be conducted in American Sign Language and a voice interpreter will be provided.

Visit their Facebook page.

The week’s events are being hosted by the Campus Activities Board and ASL Knights at UCF.

For more information on ASL Knights, UCF’s official ASL club, visit their official website at

Media dis&dat

We portal

Image via Google search.

There is so much happening in the world of disability that its impossible to keep up with it all. But that’s why we love portals! And Media dis&dat has proven to be a great database of news and information about people with disabilities and disability issues.

As is the purpose of a portal, the stories appear on the blog in one nice compilation, but the articles continue to be the property of the original author/publication/web site, which can be found via the link at the beginning of each post.

Visit Media dis&dat at

American Idol Update: James Durbin

In case you haven’t been able to keep up with American Idol hopeful James Durbin, over the past few weeks you have missed him rock out Paul McCartney and Bon Jovi. Here are those performances:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

American Idol Top 13 Performance | James Durbin…, posted with vodpod

Vodpod videos no longer available.

American Idol James Durbin March 16, 2011, posted with vodpod

James Durbin has remained one of America’s Favorites, continuing on to this week’s competition.

Roger Ebert Closed this year’s TED conference

Roger Ebert

Film critic Roger Ebert gave the final talk at this year's TED conference. Image via CNN.

At the beginning of the month, TED held its annual conference. This years conference ended with an emotionally wrenching talk from film and culture critic Roger Ebert, his wife, and two friends.

Ebert lost the ability to speak four years ago after much of his lower jaw had to be surgically removed in his battle against cancer.

But at this years conference, Ebert appeared center stage with a newly designed facial prosthesis and “Alex”, a computer voice from his MacBook. With his wife and two friends, Ebert shared his story of his illness, which turned the man who is well known for his running mouth into a man who was unable to have a conventional conversation.

In his speech, the critic likened the use of computer voice to that of HAL 9000, from the film “2001: A Space Odysseey,” but pointed out that there has been immense progress in technology used to simulate voices. A company in Scotland has been able to create a computer voice that sounds like Ebert before he lost the ability to speak. The voice was generated through processing many hours of tapes of Ebert talking.

“Alex,” however, is not this Ebert-sounding computer voice that Ebert spoke with at the conference; it is, instead, a rather impersonal computer generated voice. Still, Ebert told his captive audience that “the ultimate test of a computer voice is whether it can tell a joke like Henny Youngman.” Ebert then proceeded to tell a joke.

We wish we could find footage of “Alex” and the joke in action, but were unable to. We can tell you the joke ended with “You’re ugly.”

Read the CNN article on Ebert’s appearance and find out what the joke was here

Galant, Richard. “Ebert Closes TED Conference with Emotional Talk – and a Laugh.” Online posting. CNN. CNN Cable News Network, 4 Mar. 2011. Web. 8 Mar. 2011.

Amputee Wrestler Tries to Ease His Rival’s Pain

The New York Times recently published a story that was just heartwarming and should another side of coping with becoming disabled that isn’t normally discussed with any great length in media.

Read the New York Times story, After Amputation, Wrestler Tries to Ease Rival’s Pain, by Dirk Johnson, here.

Heriberto Avila

Heriberto Avila getting a push to class Tuesday at Belvidere North High School. Photo by John Konstantaras/Chicago News Cooperative. Image via

High school wrestler Heriberto Avila lost his leg after opponent Sean McIntyre’s legal take-down broke Avila’s leg. The broken bone caused a reupture in a blood vessel that then led to the necessity to amputate Avila’s leg.

Avila woke up in a hospital bed with a shocking struggle to deal with the loss of his leg. It was Avila who reminded his family and his pastor that though he was struggling, he was not the only person who needed solace.

Avila, known as Eddie to family and friends, said, “We need to pray for Sean too, because he needs to have peace in his heart.” [Source]

How beautiful a sentiment. When anger and grief are the first emotions that most are quick to latch onto, creating a whirlwind force of lawyers and legal destruction in the wake of its winds, the Avila family, on the encouragement of Eddie, sought to comfort the young rival who also was dealing with the accident that changed both the young men’s lives.

The article is incredibly heartwarming. The courage and compassion that Avila, the son of Mexican immigrants, shows his once rival and now friend is something that we should all take away a piece of goodness from and spread into the world. He harbors no ill will or hard feelings for the situation or for the young man who many would be quick to simply lay blame on, wooden cross and all.

You can read the full story here.

Johnson, Dirk. “After Amputation, Wrestler Tries to Ease Rival’s Pain.” New York Times. Chicago News Cooperative, 5 Mar. 2011. Web. 8 Mar. 2011.

VSA Playwright Discovery Program Call for Scripts

While our own college students are unfortunately too old to participate in this, its still just too great a program not to write about. And who knows, you may just be the inspiration for some young middle- or high-schooler to write about.

The VSA Playwright Discovery Program invites middle and high school students to take a closer look at the world around them and examine how disability affects their lives and the lives of others, and express their views through the art of playwriting. The young playwrights may write from their own experience or about an experience in the life of another person or fictional character. The script can be a comedy, drama, or even a musical — creativity is encouraged! Young playwrights with and without disabilities are encouraged to submit a script, and entries may be the work of an individual student or may be a collaboration by a group or class of students.

The winning play will be professionally produced or staged at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The winning playwright receives $2,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C., to view his/her work on stage.

All submissions must be received by April 15, 2011, for consideration.

Visit, or simply click here.

Download the official rules and regulations as well as the official application on the VSA website.

The VSA also has an innovative and FREE Resource Guide for Teachers to help guide teachers and students through the playwright process (also available on the VSA website).

From the Desk Of…an artist

Tan Nguyen, Tutor
Disability Support Services
Gulf Coast Community College

As an artist and art major myself, this article, written in the Theater Blog, struck a personal cord with me.

As a once upon a time student here at GCCC, I started and finished my A.A. here as a Pre-Art major. As a quadriplegic, life as an artist was difficult at times; often physical limitations forced me to think outside the box in order to create projects that my fellow classmates only had to worry about what was literally in the box. Still, I used an aid to help me with the physical aspects of creating my art — she acted as the hands to my idea. The classrooms and the program was always open to me, encouraged me, supported me, throughout my time here.

In truth, my experience here at GCCC was such a good and positive one and at just a community college level, that it never occured to me that the same opportunities I had here wouldn’t also be offered at the University level. I mean, afterall, its a larger school with more funding, why wouldn’t the program be just as accessible.

That wasn’t the case when I toured the Arts Department at a Florida university. In fact, I felt inferior, closed in, and worse yet, I was made to feel that having me in the program was cumbersome, a hassel, and like there were enough artists out there in the world that the program wasn’t worried about whether little ole me ever became a part of their world. Perhaps one day I will go into it all in detail here, but for now, what is important is the impact that this visit had on me and my life in the arts.

I came home after that visit, both to my hometown and to GCCC, my home away from home. My wife and I proceeded to do research, sure that the treatment I received while visiting the university was an isolated case. We talked to other schools. We read articles in newspapers, journals, on the internet, in blogs. We talked to the professors in the Visual and Performing Arts department at GCCC. And what we found was…disheartening.

Most Universities have been able to get away with not having fully accessible buildings, and subsequently programs, in the arts for several reasons. Two of the most damning of these reasons meant fighting against a system so much bigger than me…in all, it just seemed hopeless. For one reason, many of the great universities boasting amazing art programs are old…really old. Like the university I toured, many have their art programs housed in buildings protected by historical preservation. While they have to provide a few accessibility options like automatic opening doors, they didn’t have to provide rooms that were large enough to fit a wheelchair accessible desk let alone fit my chair. Quite literally, one of the life drawing classes I toured at the university was held in a tourrette — a round room with no desks at all and space only large enough for students to sit on small stools lining along the wall and surrounding a stage set for a model in the center of the room. For me to participate in the class, I would have had to sit outside the doorway in the hall, like a peeping tom leacherously waiting to draw a glimpse of a model being oggled at by “real” art students.

A second reason for the inaccessibility…well, is it really hard after my account thus far to figure out why? There just aren’t as many of us disabled people out there attending school for the arts. The department chair of the university’s art department told me that in all her years of working at the university there had only been one other student to her knowledge that had been as disabled as myself in the program. Though the truth of it was, he was a paraplegic with full use of his upper body and a much smaller wheelchair than my own electric wheelchair. She also told me this as my wife helped push my electric wheelchair up a steep, gravel-lined hill that was the driveway to where the second life drawing class I would be taking as an art major there was held, housed inside of a converted, and again historically protected, church. My chair barely made the incline…my wife barely made it without choking the nice lady incomprehensibly making it clear to us that the university was not the school for me.

But if art is the thing that is created from inspiration, my life should be a font of it, should it not? Disability is as much a living breathing entity as we are. We write laws about it. We protect it. We protect those individuals with it. We define and don’t define ourselves by it. We create technology for it and because of it. We design homes and buildings and cars to accommodate it.

And we are up in arms when we see able-bodied actors playing the roles of handicapped individuals when handicapped actors who actually live those disabilities are looked over.

This past Saturday, Access All Areas, a symposium created by the Live Art Development Agency (Lada), examined disability and how live art lies at the forefront of disability art practice, thinking and theory. Lada works to support and develop the Live Art sector, its practices, discourses, infrastructure and audiences.

I wish I could have gone to this symposium, where Lada was so stringent about “refusing to divorce theory from practice, talking from doing.” As journalist Lyn Gardner so poignantly pointed out, “live art has always been about breaking the rules, so it’s particularly well positioned as a platfrom for disabled practitioners.” [Source]

I absolutely encourage you to read the full article, Access All Areas: putting disability centre stage. Click here to be taken directly to the article.

Within the article are not only the jouranlist’s own impressiosn of the symposium, but also spread throughout its entirety are links to the many works by artists seen there.

The symposium focused not only on the expression of disability art practice, but also on its marginalism in mainstream culture and how to create a context for work that ensures it is accepted as much as mainstream art and has equal legitimacy.

If you are interested head on over to Live Art Development Agency: Publications. Here you can see a collection of the many works the Agency has published over the years.

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