October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Workplaces welcoming of the talents of all people, including people with disabilities, are a critical part of our efforts to build an inclusive community and a strong economy. This is why the National Disability Employment Awareness Month is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy. However, the true spirit of NDEAM lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year. Employers of all sizes and in all industries are encouraged to participate in NDEAM.

Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and ways they can promote its messages by visiting http://www.dol.gov/ndeam.

Winter Energy Saving Tips

None of us want to think about winter just quite yet, but it’s just around the corner. The time has come to start thinking about winter heating costs. Here are a few tips to save money this winter and still stay toasty and warm.

  • A humidifier can help control heating costs because the moist air will feel warmer, allowing the thermostat to be set at a lower temperature.
  • Use draperies, blinds, curtains or shutters on all windows to slow the loss of heat through the glass. Keep window coverings open on sunny days to let in the sun’s warmth.
  • Rearrange furniture, placing it next to inside walls and away from windows. Avoid blocking heat registers with furniture, draperies or carpet.
  • Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans sparingly. In just one hour, these fans can exhaust a houseful of warm air.
  • Closets and cabinets on outside walls can leak a great deal of cold air, so make sure the doors fit snugly and keep them tightly closed.
  • When you’re not at home, turn the thermostat down 10 degrees. It can save you around 10% a year in heating costs if done for 8 hours a day.

Bill to Increase Access to Special Needs Trusts

Last week, the U.S. Senate approved legislation that may soon make it easier for people with disabilities to save money. The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act would allow individuals with disabilities to establish a special needs trust for themselves. Current law states that such trusts can only be created by a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or a court.

Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, stated, “Those who want and need a trust to help pay for their care shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to do it.” He went on to say that this bill allows individuals to act in their own interests with their own assets without having to rely on a family member or the courts.

For people with disabilities who rely on government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, a special needs trust can be vital. To qualify for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income, individuals cannot have more than $2,000 in assets at any given time. However, money saved within a special needs trust does not count against the asset limit.

Separately, states are working to implement the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, also known as the ABLE Act, which offers people with disabilities another way to save money. Under that law, individuals with disabilities will be able to establish ABLE accounts where they can accrue up to $100,000 without compromising their government benefits. However, it is thought that because of the deposit limits, many people will continue to rely on special needs trusts as well.

The Importance of People First Language

For too long, people with disabilities have been subject to devaluation, marginalization, prejudice, and much more. The first way to devalue someone is through language. By using words or labels that identify a person/group as less than or consider them the others, we begin to devalue them. When a person or group has been identified in this way, it is easier to justify prejudice and discrimination. Just as our language shapes our attitudes, our attitudes shape our language. These two things are intertwined and together they control our actions.

People first language is when you put the person before the disability. This can help to eliminate old, prejudicial, and hurtful descriptions. This isn’t about being politically correct, but instead, is about being polite and respecting others. Not only does the way we speak about a person change how we view them, but it also changes how he/she sees him/herself. When we use a diagnosis as a defining characteristic of a person, we create prejudice, and rob the person of the opportunity to define him/ herself.

Too often, we forget just how our words affect our attitudes, drive social policies and laws, influence our feelings and decisions, and affect people’s daily lives and more.

Here are some easy ways to begin using People First Language:

Instead of referring to someone as disabled, refer to them as a person with a disability.

Instead of referring to someone as slow, simple, moronic, etc. refer to them as a person with an intellectual, cognitive, or developmental disability.

Instead of referring to someone as wheelchair bound, refer to them as a person who uses a wheelchair

Dakota Center for Independent Living Hosts Visitability: Making Homes Beautiful and Accessible

Dakota Center for Independent Living is hosting an event on visitability on August 26, 2015 at the Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library. There will be two sessions: 3:30-5:00 pm and 6:30-8:00 pm. Visitability is an international movement to change home construction practices so that all new homes, whether or not designated for residents who currently have mobility impairments, offer three specific accessibility features. These features include one zero step entrance, a bathroom that is usable by a wheelchair user, and wider interior doors.

Visitability features make homes easier for people with mobility issues to visit friends and families. These features also provide basic access that allows someone who does not have a disability, but develops one, to remain in their home. Currently, eighty percent of Americans over the age of fifty want to remain in their current home. Building a home with visitable features allows them to achieve that.

When asked about the costs of building a visitable home, Royce Schultze, the executive director at Dakota Center for Independent Living, said, “I think people would be surprised at the low cost of building a visitable home.” She went on to say, “Visitability makes a home easier for everyone. For example, a zero step entrance is much easier for a mother with a young child. It is much easier to just be able to roll a stroller into the house instead of struggling to get it up the stairs.” This event is free and open to the public. There will be time after each session for questions.

Project Service Connect to Take Place on August 20th

Project Service Connect is a one day event that provides individuals and their families who are currently experiencing homelessness, and those who are at risk of homelessness access to vital services in our community. It is a one-stop shop of service providers and community members offering resources regarding housing, employment, transportation, medical/dental care, haircuts and more. This year the event is scheduled for August 20th at the Bismarck Library. The hours are from 3:00-7pm. A light meal will also be served. We have 38 vendors registered for the event. Some of those agencies are; Great Plains Food Bank, Dakota Center for Independent Living,  Youth works, Supportive Services for Vet Families, Social Security Administration, Labor Ready, Command Center, Custer Health, Bismarck Burleigh Public Health and more.

Dakota Center for Independent Living Hosted Open House for 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

11742831_1022017597839068_612007671991386853_nOn July 23, 2015, Dakota Center for Independent Living (DCIL) held an open house to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). DCIL had a wonderful turnout for the event with a total of 50 people in attendance.

The celebration included lots of door prizes and activities that simulated what someone might encounter should they acquire a traumatic brain injury.  These activities included sensory and visual. Other activities included barriers that individuals with physical disabilities face in their everyday lives. People were invited to partake in the wheelchair obstacle course. Those who tried these activities said it really opened their eyes and allowed them to see just how difficult it can be to live with a disability.

Everyone enjoyed the open house and it gave DCIL a chance to talk more about the ADA and what it means to them. The ADA was signed on July 26, 1990. This bill really pushed for the inclusion of people with disabilities and made it illegal to discriminate against them. Although DCIL celebrates the ADA, the staff still sees there is work to be done. The ADA was the first step and while we celebrate all it has to offer, we look to the future and see what else can be done so this world is accessible to everyone.