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 disabilityscoop.com 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 DisabilityScoop.com:

"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: http://empower-tech.blogspot.com/2012/10/presidential-proclamation-national.html)

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 www.disabilitysportsfestival.org.

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 disabledworld.com 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 Disability.gov for more employment-related resources, including information about vocational rehabilitation, career planning and ideas on where to begin your job search. Or visit EmpowerTech.org 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.