Recommended Reading for July 7, 2010 – Louisiana renews request for mental health funding from BP

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is again requesting $10 million from BP to fund ongoing mental health services in communities affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, after a request made on May 28 failed to spur any action. In a second letter to Doug Suttles, BP America’s chief operating officer, Louisiana DHH Secretary Alan Levine asked the company Monday to set aside $10 million to support outreach efforts by the department’s Louisiana Spirit teams and pay for “a needed spectrum of therapeutic and psychiatric services” offered through local districts and community organizations. – Accessible technology for all students, including those with disabilities

Yesterday, the Departments of Justice and Education announced the publication of a joint ‘Dear Colleague‘ letter reaffirming the agencies’ commitment to ensuring students with disabilities have equal access to emerging technologies in institutions of higher education. The new ‘Dear Colleague’ letter is in response to the use of Kindle electronic book readers by certain colleges and universities. Kindle devices are not accessible to students who are blind or those with low vision. While many of the devices have a text-to-speech function, which “reads” on-screen print out loud, they lack menus and controls that individuals who are blind or have low vision can navigate. The Department of Justice recently entered into settlement agreements with colleges and universities that used the Kindle as part of a pilot project, and the Department of Education has resolved similar complaints against colleges and universities. As a result, the universities agreed not to purchase, require, or recommend use of Kindle devices, or any other electronic book reader that is not accessible, unless reasonable accommodations are made.

Arab News – Learning disabilities: A reality in the Kingdom

Learning disabilities (LD) affect around 4 to 10 percent of every country’s population, including Saudi Arabia. Considered a high incidence disability, learning disabilities represent nearly 50 percent of all disabilities. “In Saudi Arabia, we don’t have any valid standardized tool in Arabic that we can use to identify individuals with learning disabilities. However, based on the international prevalence rate, we expect to have a minimum of 215,000 students in our school systems struggling with LD,” says Dr. Saja Jamjoom, Program Manager for the Learning Disabilities Program at the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research based in Riyadh.

Discover Magazine Blog – New Nicaraguan sign language shows how language affects thought

In the 1970s, a group of deaf Nicaraguan schoolchildren invented a new language. The kids were the first to enrol in Nicaragua’s new wave of special education schools. At first, they struggled with the schools’ focus on Spanish and lip-reading, but they found companionship in each other. It was the first time that deaf people from all over the country could gather in large numbers and through their interactions – in the schoolyard and the bus – Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) spontaneously came into being. By studying children who learned NSL at various stages of its development, Pyers has shown that the vocabulary they pick up affects the way they think. Specifically, those who learned NSL before it developed specific gestures for left and right perform more poorly on a spatial awareness test than children who grew up knowing how to sign those terms.

Wheelie Catholic – Some thoughts on the 20th anniversary of the ADA

We’re in the midst of many changes, some good, some bad. As we celebrate our progress, cutbacks threaten our right to live in the communities we care so much about. Too many of our brothers and sisters with disabilities still remain in institutions, faceless and often voiceless. They can only dream of an opportunity like the disability blog carnival, in which our voices are heard. Each time we speak up for change, we help ready our communities for our children and others who may not be able to speak for themselves. We may not feel like doing it, we may do it and feel as if we’re unheard, or we may even be silenced by families and friends who fail to understand our unwillingness to suffer indignities. Despite this, we need to realize that showing up matters. The words that accompanied the signing of the ADA still ring in the air, even though we have a long way to go, especially with employment of people with disabilities.

The Tyee – Don’t Write About Me Just Because I’m Disabled

At other points in my life, such as when I was featured in an article in the Elliot Lake Standard, I have been portrayed with pity as well as having superhero status: “Though bound to a wheelchair, unable to move her limbs, her voice silenced by a severe form of cerebral palsy.” When I see myself portrayed this way, I feel uncomfortable because I do not want people to feel sorry for me. I do not feel mentioning my disabilities was necessary. By stating I was wheelchair-bound, the reporter made it sound as though I’m not able to participate in daily activities. The media places much emphasis on portraying people with disabilities as victims and heroes, which causes people with disabilities to feel they might not be normal unless they fit into one of these stereotypical categories. Others probably view people with disabilities the same way. This creates a distorted picture of our society.