Thursday, November 15, 2012

Volunteer Opportunities at EmpowerTech!


Are YOU Interested in Making a Difference in the Life of Someone with Disabilities?

EMPOWERTECH is Los Angeles County's only non-profit organization devoted to bringing the latest in assistive technology to children and adults living with disabilities.

We are looking for people of all ages with:
• Familiarity with Microsoft Office Applications
• A teaching background or experience helping people with disabilities (not required but always a plus!)
• A great attitude!

If you can help, please visit us at:
Or give us a call at: (310) 338-1597

9100 S. Sepulveda Suite 204
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bullied Student with Disabilities

The numbers of student bullies and those being bullied are staggering. An astonishing 30% of high school students are bullies or are victims of bullying. The numbers of bullied victims go up when someone has a disability. Fortunately, there are people with great hearts that show kindness to bullied victims. A great example of this is with the football team of Queen Creek High School. A student with special needs was being bullied. High school bullies were throwing trash at her, calling her names, and pushing her in the halls. Until, the high school football team stepped in and began eating with her at lunch, walking her to her classes, and sitting with her. It is truly amazing how much of a difference you can make for someone with a disability.

For the full article, please visit:

For information on how YOU can help someone with a disability, please visit:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day:
“Congress acknowledged that society's accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment.” -- William J. Brennan, Jr.
Take a moment to reflect on any thoughts or beliefs that you might have about disability and disease. Could any of them be accumulated myths and fears? If so, please take time to correct them and encourage others to do so as well. Have a great Tuesday everyone!


Inspirational People that have Disabilities

As part of our continuation to help inspire equality, we continue to have posts about people with disabilities that have surpassed the expectations set upon them by others. Today’s post addresses the creator of Pokémon, Satoshi Tajiri. Mr. Tajiri is an example of someone who is on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. One of the main influences for the video game, Pokémon, was Tajiri’s autistic fixation with bugs. Here is part of an article by Susan Moffitt of the website Autism Key about the man who created one of the most popular video game franchises in the world:
“Whenever I feel nostalgic about my sons’ early years, Pokémon is always a large part of those memories. I can still see my one son, a vision of yellow, dressed as Pikachu for Halloween, or the excitement in his and his brother’s eyes when they each dug a pack of Pokémon cards from the toe of their Christmas stockings. The cards provided some of their few happy playground experiences interacting with their neurotypical peers due to the fact that all children shared the universal language of Pokémon.

I recently discovered that like my sons, the creator of Pokémon is on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. Long thought to have Asperger’s Syndrome, Mr. Satoshi Tajiri has confirmed this information, yet does not speak of his condition in public. This reclusive and eccentric man, who is known to work twenty-four hours at a time, spawned the gaming phenomenon that took the world by storm through his special interest in insects…

Once again, we discover that the world is a richer place because of the fascinating contributions made by individuals on the autism spectrum. The fact that Satoshi Tajiri, who was both socially and emotionally challenged by his disorder, could bring such joy to so many children is both heartwarming and inspiring.”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Disability Employment Effort Gets Boost"

An article by the website was posted last month titled "Disability Employment Effort Gets Boost." This article outlines the new funding program by the U.S. Department of Labor that gives $20 million to states that implement a program to help people with disabilities find employment. People with disabilities have been found to be more loyal, dependable, and productive than their non-disabled colleagues.

Here is the article from

"More than $20 million is headed to states to expand a program designed to help people with disabilities gain a foothold in the workplace.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Labor said the new funding announced this week will establish the so-called “Disability Employment Initiative” in seven new states — Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Rhode Island.

The federal program — which is already in place in 16 states — offers grants to enhance training and educational opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities who are unemployed, underemployed or receiving Social Security benefits.

With the funding, states are encouraged to increase collaboration among multiple programs including vocational rehabilitation, developmental disability agencies and independent living centers in order to help ensure the best outcomes for those with disabilities seeking employment.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to contribute to today’s workforce,” said Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. “Enhancing the workforce system’s ability to provide effective coordinated and collaborative service delivery will help to ensure that people with disabilities have access to the employment training and supports they need to achieve self-sufficiency.”

Each of the seven states added to the program will receive between $1.8 million and $4.8 million."

For more information on our T.R.A.D.E. Program which helps increase the chances of employability, visit our website at:

Positive Quote of the Day:

Quote of the Day: "I am neither an optimist nor pessimist, but a possibilist." - Max Lerner
Here are two articles on our blog about people that have succeeded by being "possibilists."

Technology and Autism

The increase of today's technology has improved AAC, or augmentative and alternative communication, tremendously. Assistive technology devices are now less expensive, more portable, and more efficient than ever.

Here is a great article on how technology (iPads specifically) can help children with autism:

"Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist and neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital of Harvard Medical School in Boston, said the iPad allows individuals to bypass many difficulties they have in communicating."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

EmpowerTech Student William's Story

      My life has been dramatically changed as a result of my training here at EmpowerTech. I used to wonder if training would work for me. I can truly say now without a shadow of a doubt that it has. There were many days when a good solution would be to just get up and walk out the class. It wasn’t mine to do, but if it was my equipment, I would have thrown the monitor and tower up against the wall and that would have been an easy solution. But along came Judy and Chris. They would encourage me to “hang on.” Now I can run Windows with complete confidence. I have also learned programs such as Talking Typing Teacher, Outlook, Zoom Tech, and how to navigate the internet. More has to be learned, but the windows are now opening to allow me the possibility to explore other horizons.
Here is my story:

      I have some severe hearing and vision issues that I have lived with since November 2005. I have only one functioning ear and one semi-functioning eye. After many years of adjusting to these disabilities, there came a time when I felt that I needed to return to life and the working world. At that time, I approached Vocational Rehab to assist me in the possibility of doing this, and they sent me to EmpowerTech in December 2011. This is where the power of EmpowerTech came into play. Working on a computer before I was stricken with these disabilities was a breeze in my life. Even then, my only use of computers was for the usage of a computer program for music only as I was a recording engineer for about 18 years. I didn’t even use computers for e-mails, only the music program itself.
      Upon arriving, it didn’t take me long to see what was happening here. I was greeted by Judy who made me feel quite at home here as she gave me a tour of the facility. With the vision I have, I was able to “see” two impressive class labs. On entering class for the first day, I was introduced to the other students, people who continue to be iconic in my life. They gave me hope that I could do this too. They shared the success about what they had learned here at EmpowerTech. This showed me what I could look forward to.
      The instructors Judy and Chris are great. Judy was a think tank, and wanted to work as hard as she could to insure at all times that students find a solution. It was apparent that she was skilled at what she was doing, and she was always friendly to the students. Her relentless pursuit to stay in front of the monitor to get a solution is inspiring. Then there is Chris. I nicknamed him early on as Bill Gates Jr. Sitting with Chris is truly a learning experience. He works really well in group training and has an amazing way of multi-tasking. He makes sure all of the students understand the concept behind what we are doing.
      Next, there is Keith, a former student and current Board President. He shared with me that whatever I wanted to accomplish was possible here. Unlike Judy and Chris, he can’t get up and see the monitor. So, he has an amazing way to see the monitor and keys based off his experience. One of many amazing things about him is that, as being blind himself, he can ask the students if they need something, and he usually has access to it. If it is not in the class, he either downloads it or, in most cases, brings it from home. What makes him shine is that he constantly brings in new products that the students can use either in the class, at home, or on the go. EmpowerTech’s volunteer, Cameron, also provides a wealth of experience and knowhow. He has an amazing way of making each student feel at home. He moves around the class at will and can help students at any given moment.
      Approaching my 1 year at EmpowerTech, it all feels like it was worth it. I, as well as many other students here, am now running on auto pilot with complete confidence in the Windows world. Now I can bring my laptop into class having graduated from the tower and work in complete confidence. I am looking forward to stepping into some Recording Studios and watch my comrades’ mouths drop with what the power of what the PC world has to offer. All do in part to what the talented staff here at EmpowerTech have provided. In closing, I would like to tell you something I learned around the second week upon attending classes here. My heroes are my fellow students that are blind and told me, “What I see, just might get in the way!”

Thank you William for your story! We hope it will inspire others to give EmpowerTech a chance and enroll. If you want to donate to help EmpowerTech continue changing lives, please visit:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Surpassing Expectations: Quadriplegic Janet Barnes

As part of a new way to help inspire equality, we will be posting semi-regular articles on people with disabilities that have surpassed the expectations set upon them by others. Today’s post addresses quadriplegic Janet Barnes.

Janet Barnes was born in Illinois and spent much of her early childhood unable to move. Doctors were pessimistic and told her parents that she would not live past 14 years old. After 83 years of what Janet calls “a life well lived,” last year Janet Barnes set the new world record for the longest living quadriplegic. Barnes’ independent living specialist once interviewed Barnes for the Services for Independent Living newsletter. McClintock recalls the interview saying “She wouldn’t focus on [her aches and pains.] She focused on the stuff she’d done in her life, her children and her husband… I consider her my life coach.”

Janet Barnes has a self-published biography/memoir entitled “90-Pound Heavyweight.” In it, she states, “I would not trade places with anybody. I’ve learned more than anybody could ever learn, and that’s for sure.” People like Janet Barnes help remind us that the barriers set up by the term “disability” are only imaginative and that through determination, anything is possible.

"I have not been handicapped by my condition. I am physically challenged and differently able." - Janet Barnes

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

On October 1st, 2012, President Barack Obama proclaimed October 2012 as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. (For more information on this proclamation, visit our blog post on it:

The day after, we put a poll on our Facebook page asking our Facebook Friends if they would hire a person with disabilities. Many people have misconceptions when it comes to hiring someone with a disability. There is a myth that "Persons with disabilities can’t keep up with other workers." The reality is that it has been conclusively shown that, on average, people with a disability are more loyal, dependable, and productive than their non-disabled colleagues - and that they work more safely. 98% of people with a disability rate average or better in work safety. Employers also often cite "the cost of accommodations as a barrier to hiring persons with disabilities." This has been established as a myth because the vast majority of persons with disabilities, who are currently employed, require no special workplace accommodations whatsoever. There are many advantages to hiring persons with disabilities, for more information please visit:

Visit our website to find more information on our T.R.A.D.E. program which helps students increase their employability:

Assistive Technology Assessment

At EmpowerTech, our goal is to help people with disabilities through the use of technology. According to Alliance for Technology Access, fewer than 25 percent of people with disabilities who could be helped by assistive technology are using it. To find out what type of assistive technology you or your loved one might need, visit our website for information on an Assistive Technology Assessment:
(or fill out our contact form)

EmpowerTech Students and the Shuttle

Hello Friends,

I know that we all love Fridays…especially this past Friday. It was not an ordinary TGIF by any means here at the center nor for miles around. The youngest space shuttle in the fleet, that logged 123 million miles was at a standstill, well parked actually in the parking lot close to ours. Eric Larsen, our TRADE director decided to change up the day’s lesson plan and have the students use the internet to find “fun facts” about the Shuttle (hence how I know some of details). Once their searches were complete they used the information to create word documents or flyers using pictures or graphs.

One very inspired student, Patrick (scene below in glasses) decided to create a press release. These are his words: “The streets around LAX were full of traffic today. Seeing the space shuttle up close and in person during its trip through Los Angeles was quite the experience. After all, it’s the only orbiter to be paraded through the city en route to its final resting place at the California Science Center. NASA’s shuttle program has come to an end, but a fitting end”.

Here at EmpowerTech we don’t often take our students on a field trip, in fact in our 27 years this was probably our 3rd one. As we all know this wasn’t your run of the mill field trip this was history and our students were able to witness the making of it. They don’t often show emotions, rarely if ever do they verbalize excitement or awe. But on Friday, October 12 as they stood in front of the shuttle Endeavor to capture their place in history through a picture they smiled.

My sincerest thank you to HB Drollinger, the shuttle was parked on one of their properties.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

DisAbility Sports Festival- This Saturday!

This Saturday, October 6th 2012, is the DisAbility Sports Festival! The event promotes physical activity and sports for people of all ages with disabilities. Participants will learn from Paralympians and other elite coaches in 20 different sports or physical activities. More than 800 athletes from California and several other states are expected to participate, including many wounded warrior veterans.

The event is at at Cal State San Bernardino (5500 University Parkway, HP-120, San Bernardino, CA 92407)and goes from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM. It is free for anyone with a disability.

To register online or to find more information about the festival, please go to

Famous People with Vision Impairments

There are many successful people in the world, past and present, that serve as role models and demonstrate just how far one can go with a little bit of perserverence. The website gives a list of famous, successful people with vision impairments. The list shows examples of how people can succeed despite having a disability. Here are a few of the article's highlights:

Helen Keller was an American author, activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf/blind person to graduate from college. She was not born blind and deaf; it was not until nineteen months of age that she came down with an illness described by doctors as "an acute congestion of the stomach and the brain", which could have possibly been scarlet fever or meningitis. The illness did not last for a particularly long time, but it left her deaf and blind. Keller went on to become a world-famous speaker and author. She is remembered as an advocate for people with disabilities amid numerous other causes.

Stevie Wonder is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. Blind from infancy, Wonder signed with Motown Records as a pre-adolescent at age twelve, and continues to perform and record for the label to this day. It is thought that he received excessive oxygen in his incubator which led to retinopathy of prematurity, a destructive ocular disorder affecting the retina, characterized by abnormal growth of blood vessels, scarring, and sometimes retinal detachment.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States of America and played a big role during World War II. Roosevelt eventually aided the poor and un-employed of America and restored order at various times during his Presidency. He was also the only President to ever get elected 4 years in a row mostly because of his help for the recovery of the economy. It has been said that Roosevelt had several disabilities including vision impairment.

Harriet Tubman was a slave throughout her youth, being treated as an animal until she eventually escaped captivity. When she had reached Canada she did not stay to enjoy her freedom. She returned to the lands and brought hundreds of black slaves back to safety, saving them from slavery by escaping from what they then called The Underground Railroad. After a severe wound to the head, which was inflicted by a slave owner before her escape, she became victim to vision impairment and seizures. Nonetheless, she tossed her fears aside and kept fighting for the freedom of her people.

Louis Braille became blind after he accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with his father's awl. He later became an inventor and designed braille writing, which enables blind people to read through feeling a series of organized bumps representing letters. This concept was beneficial to all blind people from around the world and is commonly used even today. If it were not for Louis Braille's blindness he may not have invented this method of reading and no other blind person could have enjoyed a story or been able to comprehend important paperwork.

Alec Templeton was a satirist and pianist who had moved from Wales to the United States where he played with several orchestras, eventually making it to his first radio performances on the Rudy Vallee Show, The Chase and Sanbourn Hour,The Magic Key and Kraft Music Hall. The way he would memorize his scripts before the show was by asking someone to read them 20 times in a row while he would listen. He was blind from birth but it did not stop him to doing what he wanted to do in the end.

Galileo Galilei was a Tuscan (Italian) astronomer, mathematician, physicist, and philosopher being greatly responsible for the scientific revolution. Some of his accomplishments include improvements to the telescope, accelerated motion and astronomical observations. Galileo was the first to discover the four largest satellites of Jupiter which were named the Galilean moons in his honor. Galileo had also improved compass design and eventually opposed the geocentric view. His sight started to deteriorate at the age of 68 years old and eventually led to complete blindness.

Andrea Bocelli had become blind at the age of 12 years old following a football accident in which he was hit in the head. At 6 years old Bocelli was taking piano lessons before also learning the saxophone and the flute. His family would always ask him to sing, Bocelli once said "I don't think a singer decides to sing, it is the others who choose that you sing by their reactions". Bocelli has also sung with other great singers such as Pavarotti.

John Milton was a civil servant, English poet and prose polemicist. Milton was well known through his epic poem Paradise Lost and also for his radical views on republican religion. He never was well adjusted in school and once got expelled for having a fist fight with his tutor. Eventually he began to write poetry in English, Latin and Italian. John Milton became blind at the age of 43 in 1651, and has written books containing quotes about the experience.

James Thurber was a comedian and cartoonist most known for his contributions to New Yorker Magazine. While playing with his brothers William and Robert, William shot him in the eye with and arrow while playing a game of William Tell making him almost completely blind after the loss of an eye. At school James could not play sports with his friends due to this accident so he decided to work on his creative mind, putting his skills in writing.

Claude Monet was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. The term Impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impression, Sunrise. His popularity and fame grew. By 1907 he had painted many well-known paintings, but by then he had his first problem with his eyesight. He started to go blind. He still painted, though his eyes got worse. He wouldn't stop painting until he was nearly blind. In the last decade of his life Monet, nearly blind, painted a group of large water lily murals (Nympheas) for the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris.

Ray Charles was an American pianist and musician who shaped the sound of rhythm and blues. He brought a soulful sound to country music, pop standards, and a rendition of "America the Beautiful" that Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes called the "definitive version of the song, an American anthem. In 1965, Charles was arrested for possession of heroin, a drug to which he had been addicted for nearly 20 years. It was his third arrest for the offence, but he avoided jail time after kicking the habit in a clinic in Los Angeles. He spent a year on parole in 1966.

For the exhaustive list, visit:

For information on computer training assistance for vision impairments, visit:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Presidential Proclamation -- National Disability Employment Awareness Month, 2012

Yesterday, President Barack Obama proclaimed October 2012 as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Held each October, NDEAM is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many contributions of America's workers with disabilities. This year's theme is "A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?" Check out these NDEAM resources, download or order the NDEAM poster, and learn how you can help raise awareness about the importance of a more inclusive America, one where every person is recognized for his or her abilities.

Visit for more employment-related resources, including information about vocational rehabilitation, career planning and ideas on where to begin your job search. Or visit for information on how technology can help chances for employment.




In the 22 years since the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we have made significant progress in giving all Americans the freedom to make of our lives what we will. Yet, in times of prosperity as well as challenge, people with disabilities have had fewer opportunities in our workplaces than those without. As we work to revitalize our economy, it is essential that each of us can bring our talents, expertise, and passion to bear in the marketplace. But a stronger economy is not enough; we must ensure not only full participation, but also full opportunity. During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we recognize the indispensable contributions people with disabilities make in our economy and recommit to building a country where each of us can realize the full extent of our dreams.

Because America's workforce should reflect the diversity of its people -- including people with disabilities -- my Administration remains committed to helping our businesses, schools, and communities support our entire workforce. To meet this challenge, the Federal Government must be a model employer. That is why I was proud to sign an Executive Order in 2010 that called on Federal agencies to increase recruitment, hiring, and retention of people with disabilities. In 2012, the Office of Personnel Management reported on our progress, revealing that we are moving toward meeting our goal of hiring an additional 100,000 people with disabilities into the Federal workforce over 5 years. Today, more people with disabilities work for the Federal Government than at any time in the past 20 years, and we are striving to make it easier to get and keep those jobs by improving compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

All Americans are entitled to an accessible workplace, a level playing field, and the same privileges, pursuits, and opportunities as any of their family, friends, and neighbors. This month, let us rededicate ourselves to bringing down barriers and raising up aspirations for all our people, regardless of disability, so we may share in a brighter future together.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2012 as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. I urge all Americans to embrace the talents and skills that individuals with disabilities bring to our workplaces and communities and to promote the right to equal employment opportunity for all people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

How Technology Can Help People with Disabilities

At EmpowerTech, our mission is to educate, train, support, and empower people with physical and developmental disabilities through assistive technology (AT). Our TRADE Program's main goal is to instruct people with disabilities how to use technology and empower them to help find employment. We have found a great article that demonstrates just how beneficial technology can be for people with disabilities.


"With technology, people with disabilities, many who are unemployed or under-employed, can now take a job and be highly productive. After all, this group is an incredible adopter of technology because they depend on it for their livelihood...

All of this is positive for the future of work because people with disabilities add tremendous value to the workplace. People with disabilities are creative problem-solvers and technology adopters with fresh perspectives that organizations need.

Hiring people with disabilities enhances employee retention and engagement, as there are many job candidates with or without disabilities who want to work in holistically-diverse and socially conscious environments. We've found they have low rates of absenteeism and turnover, which reduces a company's recruitment and retention costs.

Hiring the disabled helps companies develop new products and services, expanding their customer base, which is increasingly filled with older people starting to encounter disability. All of this bodes well for the modern-day workplace.

I've said it before: If you want someone who thinks outside the box, hire someone who lives outside the box. So let "work speed up" begin for people with disabilities. With new technologies on the horizon, we can tap this underused talent pool and move our notion of how and where we work solidly into the 21st century."

Here is a link to our TRADE Program for more information:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

People with Disabilites and Voting

According to the article titled, "People with Disabilities and Voting," by experts Kay Schriner and Douglas Kruse, "more than 20,000 polling places across the nation are inaccessible, depriving people with disabilities of their fundamental right to vote."

EmpowerTech is helping people with disabilites get this right to vote back. That is why starting today, we here at EmpowerTech will be helping people with disabilities register to vote online.

Come visit us today, Wednesday, September 26 and every Wednesday until October 10 from 3:30-6:00 PM. (Please note that this is during our Free Open Access Lab).

9100 S. Sepulveda Suite 204
Los Angeles, CA 90045
(310) 338-1597

Online Voter Registration At EmpowerTech

Yesterday I had the opportunity to chat awhile with one of our new students; I’ll call Willie, while he was waiting for his ride. Willie’s a 23 year old young man with Down Syndrome, with a smile that could light up the night sky and a sense of humanity that would make Mother Teresa proud. He told me he has 3 GOALS (notice the caps here) that he’s going to accomplish this year.

1. Graduate high school.
2. Graduate his TRADE program or “Eric’s Class” he so gently corrected me several times.
3. Vote!

This last goal was said with a sense of awe and determination like he and he alone was going to change the world on November 6. I think that many of us forget that voting is a privilege; I must tell you he reminded me of this yesterday. He knew not only whom he wanted for president but he also knew his local and state officials he was choosing to represent him. Now if this doesn’t impress you maybe this will; Willie also told me how he was going to vote on many of the Propositions that are on the ballot this year. He stated his reasons briefly but cogently with a nod a smile and the occasional fist pump. At one point he leaned closer to me, he was going to share a secret; “not everyone is going to vote that’s sad”. I am seldom at a loss for words, I’m also one to applaud other’s whenever applicable, but this time without trepidation I gave him a hug. He was right, that’s sad.

Many of us want to see change in the world and many of us, like Willie, are excited to vote in this year’s election. It’s true that a lot of people with disabilities vote but there countless people living with a disability that aren’t registered to vote. I for one along with several of our partners, want to change that.

It’s our privilege to announce that starting today Wednesday, September 26, between 3:30 and 6:00 and every Wednesday until October 10; we here at EmpowerTech will be helping people with disabilities register to vote online. (Please note that this is during our Free Open Access Lab).

Yes, we can change the world.

For more information please contact me at the number listed below.

***If you have a large group (30 or more) please let us know in advance so we can set up more stations

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Register to Vote

Register to vote at EmpowerTech every Wednesday between 3:30 and 6:00 until October 22, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Justice Department Settles with Pennsylvania School for $715,000 Over Exclusion of Child with HIV

Justice Department Settles with Pennsylvania School for $715,000 Over Exclusion of Child with HIV
The Justice Department announced today that it and the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania have reached a settlement with the Milton Hershey School of Hershey, Pa., to remedy alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The agreement resolves allegations that the school violated the ADA by refusing to consider a child, known by the pseudonym Abraham Smith, for enrollment due to the fact that he has HIV.

Under the settlement agreement, the school is required to pay $700,000 to Smith and his mother, adopt and enforce a policy prohibiting discrimination and requiring equal opportunity for students with disabilities, including those with HIV, in the school’s programs and services, and to provide training to staff and administrators on the requirements of the ADA. T he school must also pay a $15,000 civil penalty to the United States.

“Children should not be denied educational opportunities simply because they have HIV,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “This settlement sends a clear message that unlawful discrimination against persons with HIV or AIDS will not be tolerated.”

“This is a very significant case, affirming the rights of persons with HIV, and we applaud the school for working so cooperatively to amend its position on this matter,” said Zane David Memeger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The ADA requires public accommodations, including private schools such as the Milton Hershey School, to provide individuals with disabilities, including people with HIV, equal access to goods, services, privileges, accommodations, facilities, advantages and accommodations.

The Department of Justice provides a webpage specifically dedicated to information about the ADA and HIV at Those interested in finding out more about these settlements or the obligations of public accommodations under the ADA may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access its ADA website at ADA complaints may be filed by email to

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Eliminating Phantom Limb Pain for People with Limb Loss

By Guest Blogger Katherine Bomkamp, CEO/President, Katherine Bomkamp International

My father recently retired after a 20 year career in the U.S. Air Force. My family lived a nomadic life, moving constantly from one military base to another. Seven states, 10 schools (K-12th grade), and 20 years later, I realize how truly lucky I was to be raised in the military community. Growing up, my parents instilled values in us that are personified by the military – one of the most important being to do everything in your power to help those around you. At 16 years old, I identified a problem experienced by many of our wounded Veterans, and I decided to do something about it.

With my father’s most recent duty station being the Pentagon, the turmoil in the Middle East was a very visible part of my daily life. On occasion, I would go with my dad to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and I will never forget my time there. I would see young people with amputated limbs who had returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with their lives completely changed. Many of these men and women were not much older than me. I started researching amputations and came across phantom limb pain, or pain in a non-existent limb, which I had recently heard about in the news. Phantom pain effects 80 percent of the world’s 10 million amputees, and ranges from merely annoying to completely debilitating. Every person experiences the pain differently, and some common manifestations of the pain are cramping, burning, itching and tingling sensations.

I found that there was no medication approved on the market for phantom pain, and that most amputees are commonly prescribed antipsychotics and barbiturates, drugs that are both expensive and have a high potential addiction rate. After a challenge from my 10th grade chemistry teacher to think creatively to solve a problem in our community, at 16 years old, I decided to see what I could do to make this pain one less obstacle in our wounded Veterans’ rehabilitative process.

I came across the concept of thermal biofeedback, very concentrated and controlled heat, which had been used by researchers in Europe to completely cure a man’s phantom pain by delivering heat through electrodes placed on his skin. The heat stimulates the severed nerve endings in the residual limb, and forces the brain to focus on the heat rather than to continue to send signals and commands down to a limb that is no longer there, signals that are getting blocked in the nerve endings.

Keeping our active Veterans in mind, I decided to incorporate this concentrated heat into the prosthetic socket (where the residual limb fits into the prosthetic device) and make this therapy mobile. I embedded heating elements between a double walled prosthetic socket, which heats up and stimulates the severed nerve endings. After conversations with people with amputated limbs, a reoccurring theme seemed to be a feeling of lost control over their situation, so I decided to make the socket activated by remote control, with different heat settings so the person can choose their own heat setting based on the amount of pain they are experiencing. This gives the user control over their own pain management and allows them access to relief at anytime throughout their day.

I call my device the Pain Free Socket (PFS). In five years, I’ve taken the PFS through three stages of prototyping, filed two patents and created a company around the idea of building products to make daily life more comfortable for people living with disabilities. The PFS is currently being further commercialized, and funding will hopefully be secured soon to start proof of concept testing. I’m contacted daily by amputees wanting to be a part of testing as well as people who suffer from general chronic pain, and it is my goal for the Pain Free Socket to be commercially available by 2014.

I consider my biggest accomplishment so far to be the fact that I saw a problem in my military community and have worked hard to hopefully bring about a solution. My father’s military career in many ways has shaped me into the young adult I am today, and at the end of the day, I’m very blessed to be my father’s daughter.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Student Story...Finds a Job!

One of our ultimate goals of our programs here at EmpowerTech is empowering our students to live a more socially inclusive life through the use of assistive technology. We recognize the fact that some of our students will never know what it’s like to get up in the morning and leave for work, earn a paycheck, go on a break with one of their work colleagues or use their training they’ve learned here to send out an interoffice email.
But to me, as the executive director it is my private wish that they could all get a job so that they can find the fulfillment that I get working every day (well almost every day) in the position that I have at an organization I love.

Last week my private wish came true for our student Max.

Many of you have met Max our chatter box, with a huge vocabulary that he uses to greet all that walk through our door. Max is known for his inquisitive questions about everything (and I mean everything), he is also known in our program as one of our mentors as he caught on very quickly to MS Office Suite and likes to help his classmates. Max is a complete Southern Californian “dude” with the surf attire and sense of humor all his own. I am always kidding him that he never send me any emails of his work like some of the other students do, he jokingly replies, that it’s on his to-do list.
Last week as I was looking through my inbox I saw an email address that I didn’t recognize, to my surprise and delight it was from Max.
Here’s our email exchange.

“ Hi,
I will be working at 20th Century Fox Entertainment near Century City Mall. I start sometime in the middle of June, but I don't know what day in June yet. Rachel from Best Buddies will give me my start date. As soon as I find out what day I start, I will let you know. She is going to try to work around my schedule.
I will be printing 6,000 emails a month, filling different papers and attachments. It will be a fun job for me. I was very excited that I got the job.


“Max, you have come a very long way with your computer skills. I am very proud of you and the work you are doing. You will be a great addition to the team over at Century Fox

Be well,

“I bet I will do a nice job.”

Please join me in congratulating Max on his new job!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New low-cost handheld device offers independence for millions of Americans with low vision

HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA: Enhanced Vision, America’s leading manufacturer of magnifying solutions for people with low vision, launched a powerful new lightweight hand-held device today that can bring affordable independence to the 15 Million+ Americans with low vision , such as macular degeneration. At just $295 and weighing less than 4 ounces, “Pebble-mini” is an exciting new vision device that gives users the freedom to read menus, check price tags, write checks, and much more while on the go.

Pebble Mini
The Pebble features:

•Bright, 3.0” high resolution LCD display that magnifies words and objects from 2-10X the normal size
•Choice of 28 viewing modes
•“Freeze image” feature with capability to magnify and change modes
•Image capture with save and recall
•Adjustable brightness
•Charge with USB into outlet or pc and
•Protective pouch and neck strap
•Hands-free reading stand
•2 year warranty

Currently, more than 15 million people in the United States are diagnosed with low vision, such as Macular Degeneration which makes everyday activities like reading, writing, and ordering at restaurants a real challenge. And with America’s aging population, this number is expected to double by 2020. Leading eye care specialists have discovered that video magnification is a solution for these individuals to regain and maintain their independence.

“With the Pebble-mini, we’re giving people the confidence to do everyday activities again with a single, simple device,” said Barron Javaheri, President at Enhanced Vision. “Instead of carrying around multiple magnifiers, Pebble-mini adapts to a wide range of situations, so it grows as a user’s condition changes. And at a price that’s hundreds of dollars less than competing products, it’s the ideal solution at this challenging time.”

Swiss company develops app for blind people to recognize products

Europe Apr 30, 2012
Codecheck, the Swiss company has developed app that help people who are blind and low vision to recognize products. The app detects and reads what is written on the package.

By filming the barcode on the packaging, the app recognizes the product. The bar code contains the unique number by which each product can be identified worldwide.

The checkcode database has 9 million products baring this number in it.

Since it is difficult for people who are blind and low vision to find the barcode on the package, Codecheck has collaborated with the Swiss Federation for the Blind and people who are blind and low vision and developers to augment Scandit barcode scanning SDK with a function called “ScanGuide,” which guides the user through the barcode recognition process from start to finish.

Once the user’s camera has reached an ideal position, the Codecheck app scans the barcode and walks the user through the process of accessing product information such as ingredients, quality labels, environmental impact, and reviews. The auxiliary function guides the user with an artificial voice and gives him directions to find the bar code on the package.

Codecheck’s app is free and available for Swiss users, and the new “ScanGuide” feature is available for the price of 24,99 Euro.

By Aqeel Qureshi

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What’s in a definition? Everything when it comes to a diagnosis of autism.

By Guest Blogger Taryn Williams, Policy Advisor, Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor

A recent debate among mental health professionals, families and disability advocates is flaming passions about what it means to be an individual with autism. The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.), the standard reference for mental health professionals, is in the process of being updated. The APA, which defines autism, is proposing a new and more restrictive criterion for the disorder. That process, and the potential for a narrowed definition, is pitting families and advocates against the experts who traditionally work with them.

During the period of public comment, experts and parents revealed high levels of concern about the new definition, including that some children may not exhibit all of the behavioral and social interaction deficits necessary to meet the new standards. The intensity of the debate is indicative of the level of emotion surrounding the need to ensure that every individual has access to the supports and services he or she need to become successful. Underlying these concerns are worries by parents that their children will not be deemed autistic, and therefore will be ineligible for the specific services that can help ensure future success. What this means: Parents may be forced to emphasize the functional limitations of their child’s particular behaviors in order to access services and supports.

While there has been an abundance of media coverage detailing the concerns of parents, numerous articles explaining the concerns of mental health professionals, few describing the implications to youth. Recently Temple Grandin shared her concerns about the “downside of Autism Awareness.” In an article published earlier this month on, she says, “I visit people in [autism] meetings, and a 9-year-old will come up and want to talk about his autism. I’d rather talk about his science project. You get fixated on your favorite thing as a kid, and now kids are getting fixated on autism instead of dogs or medieval knights. I’d rather get them to fixate on that something that could give them a career.”

Further, what impacts might a continued focus on functional limitations have on the expectations that are so critical to later success? What message do we send to youth with autism when we are forced to focus not on what they can do, but on what they struggle to do?

Research conducted by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth and its funder, the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor, suggests that there are a series of supports and services that all youth, including youth with disabilities such as those with autism, need in order to successfully transition. These supports, which include strong academic preparation; career and work based learning; youth development and leadership; connection to outside supports such as healthcare, transportation and housing; and family involvement, are the keys to the transition into adulthood for all youth.

In the past few decades, a number of strategies have been identified that enable individuals with disabilities to obtain and maintain competitive employment. One such strategy is customized employment, which pairs an individual’s strengths, skills and interests with an employers needs in the workplace.

As the debate rages on, I hope that the conversations broaden to include a focus – beyond the label – on what steps can be taken now to prepare youth for future self sufficiency no matter if they are on or off the spectrum.

For more information:

Friday, April 20, 2012

By Bill Lawson, National President, Paralyzed Veterans of America

By Bill Lawson, National President, Paralyzed Veterans of America

Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously rallied America in very tough times by stating that the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Eighty years later, fear itself is getting in the way of some employers hiring Veterans with disabilities; fears that are perhaps understandable, but upon closer examination, unfounded.

As I write this blog, I am traveling across our nation to raise awareness of the issues facing paralyzed Veterans and their families during Paralyzed Veterans of America Awareness Month. From my hometown of Woodward, OK, to Washington, D.C., one of the biggest challenges facing all Veterans in this fragile economy is finding a competitive job at a good company. While the unemployment rate is 8.5 percent, the same figure for Veterans with severe disabilities is 85 percent – 10 times higher.

The question that I get asked by the media more than any other is “why?” My answer is “fear.” Perhaps employers think that it’s going to be “expensive” to adapt their places of employment for people like me who use wheelchairs. Maybe they think we might not be able to do a job “as well” as able-bodied employees. And of course, some employers think that we don’t have what it takes to be a valuable addition to their workforce. These may be the fears, but they are unjustified.

First, I’d like to address the “expense” of adapting workplaces for people with disabilities. Imagine this scenario: you have an office space with two cubicles and four chairs. To adapt it for me, it could be as simple as moving two of the chairs out of the space. Cost to employers: zero. To be sure, there may be more extensive adaptations, but these are usually low cost and there may even be help available from the government to make the adaptations. For example, some Vets get resources from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to adapt their workplaces. In fact, eligible Veterans can receive adaptive equipment and certain therapies that enhance function.

Second, I’ll tackle the question of being “not as good as able-bodied employees.” We are Veterans of the best military force in the world. We possess world-class skills. We are great team players. We are loyal. We are decisive, committed and enthusiastic.

Finally, our value as employees: We are tenacious. We have been tested, and we have honed our skills in the face of adversity. We have the “right stuff” to be great assets to any employer. In fact, at a time when our economy is struggling to recover, we can offer great employers an enormous competitive edge – great employees.

To help tackle Veterans’ unemployment rates and the fears that employers may have, Paralyzed Veterans of America created Operation PAVE (, which stands for Paving Access for Veterans Employment. How does Operation PAVE work? We connect directly with injured Veterans at VA spinal cord injury centers. We engage employers with vacancies. We help Vets take that next step to competitive careers that offer opportunities not just to work but also to excel. And we eliminate employer fears by educating them about the advantages of hiring Veterans and how easy it is to adapt workplaces for workers with disabilities.

Fear itself can also be fear of the unknown. So I would respectfully encourage all employers who currently don’t have an aggressive strategy to hire Veterans with disabilities to take a minute out of their busy schedules and do three important things:

1.Think about all of the professional and personal qualities that Veterans with disabilities offer.
2.Reach-out to potential Veteran employees and their families in your neighborhood.
3.Make hiring more Veterans part of your professional mission.
It’s a strategy that’s good for business and great for America.

Bill Lawson is a U.S. Army Veteran from Woodward, OK. He was elected National President of Paralyzed Veterans of America at its 64th Annual Convention in August 2010. He is a staunch advocate for Veterans and people with disabilities.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012



1st Annual Golf Tournament to Raise Funds for Non-Profit Agency’s Technology Education & Support Programs for Persons Living with Disabilities

APRIL , 2012—LOS ANGELES: EmpowerTech, a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization that provides computer training to persons with physical and developmental disabilities, will hold a charity golf tournament at Malibu Country Club, on July 15, 2012. Registration is open to the public and all proceeds will fund EmpowerTech’s program offerings.

EmpowerTech Executive Director Joan Anderson commented, “I can think of no more beautiful, iconic setting in which to celebrate EmpowerTech’s success and the achievements of its students, than Malibu on a beautiful summer afternoon! The tournament promises to be a fun, relaxing, and rewarding day for all—from scratch golfers to high-handicappers. We look forward to spending time with many of EmpowerTech’s existing supporters, and to making new friends as well.”

The tournament will kick off with a shotgun start at 1 pm on July 15, 2012, and will feature a scramble format with on-course contests including “closest to the pin,” “longest drive,” and a putting contest. The round will be followed by a reception and barbecue at the Malibu Country Club. Foursomes may be purchased for $1,000 each, and include a golf lunch and attendance at the awards dinner.

Anderson stated, “In addition to world class golf, participants will have the opportunity to meet some of the amazing men, women and children who rely on EmpowerTech for skills they need to live independent, fulfilling lives. “

For more information or to inquire about sponsorship opportunities or simply register please visit: Golf Registry, or call Joan Anderson at (818)-665-8001.

The Malibu Country Club is a Par 72, 6,254 yard picturesque golf course with stunning views, nestled in the hills above Malibu. It is located at 901 Encinal Canyon Road, Malibu, CA 90265

Founded in 1986 as the “Computer Access Center” by a group f concerned parents and professionals, EmpowerTech today uses modern Assistive Technology to help persons with disability obtain the skills and the confidence to perform important computing tasks that many take for granted such as accessing and using the Internet and creating and reading documents. From programs for blind/low-vision adults to classes for disabled children, EmpowerTech uses state of the art Assistive Technology to help disabled persons experience the freedom and fulfillment of self-sufficiency. To learn more about EmpowerTech and to view some of its many, many success stories, please visit:


Friday, March 9, 2012

Student uses Face Book to Find Brother

EmpowerTech understands the importance of technology. From becoming prepared for the workforce to connecting with old friends and family, EmpowerTech stresses the value of being tech-savvy. One of our TRADE students, Linda, recently learned just how valuable it is.
Linda became a student at EmpowerTech in August of 2011 and was quickly introduced to e-mail and Facebook. EmpowerTech helped Linda learn how to communicate effectively over social networks for business and personal uses. This past week, Linda decided to use her knowledge gained at EmpowerTech to search for someone very special to her that she had lost contact with, her very own brother. After losing touch, Linda and her brother had not talked for over 20 years, but Linda had not given up hope. She tried hard to resume contact with him but was at a loss until she used her new skills to search for him on Facebook. Today, Linda came into the classroom, tears streaming down her face from being overwhelmed with happiness. She was overjoyed because she had not only found her brother on Facebook, Linda had also begun messaging him and they were finally able to reconnect again.
After 20 years, Linda was able to relocate her brother after EmpowerTech inspired her to keep in touch using technology. We are so happy to have played a role in helping Linda and her brother reunite, and we wish them the very best. Linda is only one example of someone whose life has been changed as EmpowerTech helps students open doors through the use of technology.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Executive Director Wants to Take a Moment

When someone you barely know comes to you and asks if they can have a moment of your time two things happen simultaneously in your mind and generally speaking for the most part they’re not good. First thought is, “I don’t have time right now”; and the second is, “uh oh, what happened”. Now most of you know me, I am a positive person that has an open door policy when I’m working, but this week hasn’t been the best so trust me when I say that I seriously thought of diving under the desk when a student walked past my door. In truth, I was halfway there but then I realized he couldn’t see me so what was the point. You see sometimes even us positive people have issues and days where you just don’t want to talk to anyone.

The gentleman, for my purpose here will call Bill, is a new student in our Blind/Low-Vision program whom I had met briefly a few weeks ago on his first day in class. I honestly didn’t know his entire story only that he wanted to learn how to use screen readers and ZoomText so he can get back to work. Bill asked me if I had a moment to spare for him, “of course” I said…

After we had sat down he proceeded to tell me that he was a well known music engineer who’s not only losing his sight, but can only hear you if you sit to his right side. He told me that he wanted to take a moment, because people rarely do these days, to tell me that I have the most wonderful and professional staff. (see where I’m going with this). He then told me a bit about his life and that his disabilities will not stop him from working with music again. “Chris, Judy and Cameron your volunteers, all have a unique style of teaching that helps us as individuals and as a class team. I have grown to love and respect the other students”. Tearfully he told me the dreams of our other students and that one in particular who’s 62 and completely blind is his inspiration, because he wants to go back to work to help the state of California simply by paying taxes. This “moment” lasted less than 5 minutes. Just think of what I would have missed if I didn’t take the time.

I know I have asked most of you to come by the center, meet the students talk to my wonderful staff and volunteers but until you do I’m asking that you forward this on. Help me spread the word about EmpowerTech. It will only take a moment.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tesitmonial Success Story...

“I love it! It’s great! I’m having a great experience here. The people are very nice and very caring and considerate. I’ve learned a lot here. My skills here have enhanced very well here. I see a lot of improvement in my work. I think it’s a great place for people who have disabilities. It’s challenging in a good way. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who had a disability and they won’t regret it.