Tuesday, May 26, 2009

EmpowerTech Luncheon June 23rd

When life gives you lemons you make lemonade. Recently we had to cancel our annual gala. I must be honest, never in all of my years in non-profit fundraising have I had to cancel an event, so this was a tough one for me to do. In some ways it was akin to me admitting defeat, throwing in the towel to this economy, and realizing that I am not superwoman. But the flip side to this is that I make one mean glass of lemonade! Due to the cancellation we were going to loose our deposit with the hotel, I WAS NOT going to let that happen! So I turned it around and created an 'educational' luncheon. In addition to a delicious lunch and supporting EmpowerTech. For $50.00 you will have the opportunity to learn from labor and employment law attorney Alfred Klein. Mr. Klein’s provocative and interactive program will dispel some of the misconceptions about labor issues pertaining to the employment of individuals with disabilities.Those who attend will receive their CRE and their MCLE. And yes we will be serving lemonade!
For more information contact our office 310-338-1597

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

All I Ever Needed to Learn I Learned at a Preschool During an AT Class

It is not everyday that you get to spend the morning with a group a preschoolers, well at least for me it's not. Judy will be leaving on vacation before the school year is over and we needed someone to cover her Tuesday morning AT classes. Without realizing I was uttering the words; "I'll do it" I had in fact said, "I can do it. (big question forming in my mind) I can handle a few of her classes while she's gone". They're just kids right? Images of the Little Engine That Could starting forming in my mind and for a week that was my mantra; I think I can, I think I can. You see I don't have any children and I have limited experiences with preschool children, you know the kind...ice cream outings, weekends and overnighters. I have however, been very fortunate to spend time with Judy and Melody assisting them in their various preschool AT classes. The key word here is, "assisting". So yesterday morning I found myself standing in front of one of the schools we work with in Santa Monica waiting for the doors to open so I could introduce myself to 19 preschoolers. Thank heavens Judy was there, she is so wonderfully patient, kind and passionate about her work and her students, I thought to myself how can I possibly fill in for her? I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. We worked with an inclusion class yesterday, this means that both children with special needs and typical children learn side by side...the way it should be. I could go on and on about the little successes I saw yesterday under Judy’s tutelage but I want to keep your attention so I will just tell you about Jack and Jill (not their real names).
I do know that some special needs kids don't take to new people very well and Judy let me know that Jill would probably be one of them. Jill entered the classroom with her teacher and proceeded to stick right by her side until Judy introduced us. I smiled at this little girl with the perfect big blue eyes accentuated by her purple glasses and fell in love. The itty-bitty child paused for a few moments before letting go of her teacher’s hand and then came to sit in-between Judy and I, in front of the laptop on the table. She looked over at me and petted my arm; her teacher told me that this doesn't happen often so apparently Jill liked me too. A year ago Jill had problems walking, she is not verbal and uses sign language to communicate. Today she walks and runs, still uses sign language but I know that in a few years she will be talking up a storm. Judy and she practiced on click and double click with the mouse (part of the computer skills that are taught by Judy and Melody). When her time was up she stood up and looked at both Judy and I and I know if she could have spoken she would have said thank you. Next up to the computer was Jack. Jack is severely disabled due to lack of oxygen at birth. His assistant a brilliantly jovial woman, who believes in Jack and thinks Judy is the sun shining in his life, began singing praises of our Judy and the program. Jack is in a wheelchair, has limited mobility and very poor eyesight and his assistant has to hold his head straight so he can see the computer. Jack is one of the most beautiful blond haired, huge soft-eyed little boys I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with. Judy diligently started working with Jack on his attention to the screen and single clicking. Very soon Jill came back to the table and wanted to be involved in the lesson. First she sat on Judy's lap and reached over to pet Jack arm, she moved behind him to sit on Jack's assistants lap again reaching over to pet Jack's arm as though she was encouraging him to click the mouse even going as far pressing his hand to a few times. Due to Jack's medications he timed out after 5 minutes. As his assistant was pushing him away from the table, little Jill slid underneath her arms and helped push his wheelchair. There are no words to describe the course of emotions that ran through me in those few short seconds but I do know this. I went to a preschool yesterday and met these 2 beautiful special needs children, that most in the world would see as disabled but to me they are more abled than most. Hence I have changed my mantra to I KNOW I can. I learned this at on a Tuesday morning at a preschool in Santa Monica during an AT class.

Friday, May 1, 2009

From Tom, the Tech Guy: BARD IS HERE!

BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download page, here! Now officially out of its pilot phase as of yesterday, April 30, 2009, the National Library Service of the Library of Congress has made all of its thousands of digitally recorded talking books available for download through BARD, free of charge to all blind and visually-impaired U.S. citizens with access to a computer, an Internet connection and a digital talking book player such as Humanware's Victor Reader Stream or Plextor's Plextalk Pocket DAISY book player/recorder.
After filling out a simple online application at the Bard website, readers will receive e-mails containing a user name and password as well as a user key which must be installed on their digital book player in order to enable playing of recorded content. Having completed this process, readers may log into BARD and access NLS's catalog of talking books and magazines.
Sporting a simple, no-frills user interface, BARD lets readers search the catalog by keywords such as an author's name or book title, or, if browsing is more to their liking, readers can peruse lists of recently-added books or the complete catalog organized by author, title or subject. Using these methods, it's easy, then, to locate available titles by such authors as Patricia Cornwell, Nelson De Mille or John Grisham, for example, to browse the humor section and locate titles by Tim Allen or Dave Barry, or peruse the music section and find Room Full of Mirrors, Charles Cross's biography of Jimi Hendrix, a must-read for Jimi fans.
In the magazine section, readers can obtain current issues of their favorite magazines such as Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction, Bon Appetit, Contemporary Soundtrack, National Geographic or Sports Illustrated, to name just a few. Back issues of these magazines are available there as well.
Tired of waiting days or even weeks for a talking book or magazine to arrive in your mailbox, only to find that a tape's missing or all snarled up? Go see the Bard and download your book or magazine in mere minutes! Transfer it from your computer to your digital book player and you're good to go! How cool is that?