Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Say What? What do you know about "Rosa’s Law” and use of the R-word?

Michelle Diamont writes in the 9/21/10 issue of Disability Scoop that “The House may vote as early as Wednesday evening on a bill to replace he term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability” in many areas of federal government”. “The legislation is known as ‘Rosa’s Law’ and was approved by the Senate in August. Under the bill, terminology would be altered in federal health, education and labor policy.”

Recently, Jennifer Aniston was in the headlines for her use of the word “retard” in a TV interview. She isn’t alone, or the first, and can be added to other celebrities who have been called on the carpet in the past, including Rahm Emanuel, Lindsay Lohan and Howard Stern to name a few. 
But it’s not just celebrities being called on the carpet; it is all of us who use, or have used the R-word in the past. Whether implied or not, the stigma that goes along with it is offensive, hurtful and socially inappropriate. One argument is that it is a “slang” word, along with words like “moron”, “idiot” and “crippled” and, therefore, not meant to offend. In my opinion, all these words remain inappropriate under any circumstances and put an unfair derogatory label on those persons who are intellectually disadvantaged.

The good news, though (if it could be called that) is that when a celebrity is in the news for any socially or politically incorrect or inappropriate use of the R-word (or any other racially or socially charged word), it provides us with an opportunity to raise awareness and have a discussion about it.

According to the Life on website, the associated press writes While "retard" itself was never a medical term, it derives from the phrase "mental retardation," which by around 1900 was commonly used by scientists and doctors, said Peter Berns, executive director of The Arc of the United States, a nonprofit advocate for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Even though Berns said its pejorative connotation was established in the 1960s, the phrase "mental retardation" is still used in many state and federal laws, much to the dismay of those trying to stamp out its us.

Still, those seeking to end the term's use face a difficult battle. "This word is deeply ingrained in our psyche. It comes up in a lot of different contexts," said Andrew Imparato, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of People with Disabilities. "We have to kind of call it out and start a conversation about why it's not OK to use the word."

The cause to stop this is just and effects so many people we love; be prepared to defend their rights.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Say What? What about accessible technology and the iPad?

I recently purchased an iPad for my granddaughter to use during the recovery period following her surgery. Aimee has cerebral palsy, is sight impaired, and has limited motor skills. She loves music, iTunes, You-Tube and a variety of other applications and websites so thought I could provide even more by introducing her to the iPad. And I wasn’t wrong.
The iPad is truly remarkable, especially for those with a variety of disabilities, like Aimee, that limit her ability in almost every aspect of her life. The iPad immediately provided her with a new enthusiasm to do even more. First, its size is small enough to handle and to place on a wheelchair tray, yet large enough to be able to see the screen. It provided focus and interest not only for fun but learning as well.

Apple has built some amazing accessible technology right into the iPad. There is a screen reader and voice-over technology that works with all the standard applications that come with the iPad. A great feature, particularly for the sight impaired, is the ability to use a white on black text setting and to adjust the font size for reading.

The App Store provides a non-stop variety of applications to select from that include books and reading, math, drawing, educational games and music that can be applied for your own child’s needs.

The book applications offer several reading options that include reading aloud automatically, or to read in the traditional manner while turning the pages (which Aimee can do on her own). Holding a finger down on a word provides an instant definition in a dictionary pop-up on the screen.

In his recent SJ Mercury News Column, Around Town, Sal Pizarro states, “Since the iPad was launched in
April, teachers and doctors who work with autistic children and adults have been raving about the device. Apps such as Proloquo2Go and Grace are being praised for their ability to help students with autism and other disabilities build communication skills.”
I don’t own stock in Apple, but wish I did. Thank you, Apple for your example of taking accessible technology to a new level. Now, if we could only get our schools to do the same.

For more information, go to Apple-Accessibility where you will find information about the accessibility features built into all Apple products, including product descriptions. If you have questions, you can email apple at

I encourage you to head over to an Apple store and check the iPad out for yourself!