Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Disability Abuse Reporting Earns Pulitzer Nod

Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism, considered journalism's highest honor, has chosen its finalists. Among these finalists for the prize include a five-installment series titled "Broken Shield.” The series reporters found that the California’s Office of Protective Services' investigations of abuse were routinely fault-ridden and sought to expose the abuse.

For more information on the series "Broken Shield," visit:

Muscular Dystrophy and Creative Photography

12 year old boy with muscular dystrophy enjoys dream activities through clever photography:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tommy Carroll- Blind Skateboarder

Inspirational skateboarder Tommy Carroll has been skateboarding since he was ten years old. The fact that this is another video about a great skateboarder may not be surprising. What may perk your ears up is the fact that Tommy has been blind since the age of two. Tommy loves to visit the skatepark early in the morning when no one is around and practice his love for skateboarding. When pro-skateboarder Tony Hawke heard of Tommy's story, he became inspired and decided to fly to Tommy's hometown for a visit with him. The two spent the entire day skateboarding.

Here is Tommy Carroll's story:

If you cannot see the video there, please visit:

Recommendations for Improving Accessibility of Social Media by has a great article on how to make Facebook and other social media accounts accessible to people with disabilities. Here is the run-down for the Facebook article:

"Tips for Making Facebook Posts Accessible
For General Account Information
Ensure your website address is listed in the About section of your Timeline/Page in order to provide an easy point of entry to more information.
Include other ways to contact your organization, such as your 800 number, an online “Contact Us” form, or general contact email address for more information.

For Photos, Video, Audio
Always provide a link back to a .gov page that hosts a copy of the photo, video, or audio with full caption/transcript.
After posting the photo, video, or audio, immediately post a comment that directs users to the full caption or the full transcript.
If you have a YouTube channel, upload your video to your channel and make sure you enable closed-captions (you’ll want to upload your own transcript to make sure the captions are accurate). Then post a link to your YouTube video as your status update, rather than uploading the video into Facebook. This will ensure that visitors will be taken to your accessible version on YouTube.

For Composing Status Updates
Facebook provides ample space that allows you to spell out acronyms. Spell out the first instance of the acronym and add the acronym in parentheses after (e.g., U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)). This is especially helpful for those using screen readers, because after the name is heard the acronym is spelled out, and the user will associate the sound of the acronym with the full name."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Girl Explains Autism in Creative Way

Here is a great video where a little girl explains Autism in a very creative way.
Let us know your thoughts!

Click here to watch it:

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Teen with Down Syndrome Makes History

 A teen with down syndrome recently made history as the first person with down syndrome to make it to the base camp of Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain. This feat was accomplished in 10 days by Eli Reimer as he and his team traveled in below freezing weather to reach an elevation of 17,000 feet. Go Eli!

Most Inspirational Duo in the Ironman Race

Dick and Rick Hoyt, better known as Team Hoyt, are a father and son duo who race in the Ironman. This is no ordinary father and son team. This team is arguably the most inspirational team to ever race. Rick was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy due to oxygen deprivation at the time of his birth. His parents, Dick and Judy, went against the advice to institutionalize him and
instead let him live his life as any other person would. In 1977, Rick told his dad he wanted to run in a 5-mile benefit run for a lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. After the race, Rick said, "Dad, when I'm running, it feels like I'm not handicapped." Since then, Team Hoyt have ran in over 1,000 races and have even biked and ran across the United States, completing 3,735 miles in 45 days. If this story has taught us anything, it is that perseverance and determination go a long way. There is no "I can't do it." There is only "Yes, you can!"

Update: 04/24/13

Rick and Dick Hoyt were on mile 25 of the Boston Marathon when they realized something to be wrong. Team Hoyt was expecting last week's Boston Marathon to be their last time competing in the race, but because of the bombing, they will return next year to honor the victims.

A Girl with Autism and Her "Broken Burger"

By now, many of you have read the viral story about a girl with autism and how a waitress and manager at Chili's Restaurant Chain fixed her broken burger. If you have not read the story, here it is, straight from the girl's older sister:

"I want to share the experience that my husband, 7 year old autistic sister and I had today at the Chili’s location in Midvale, UT. Arianna, my little sister, didn’t waste any time when our waitress, Lauren, greeted us at our table. Arianna promptly ordered her cheeseburger with pickles, french fries, and chocolate milk before Lauren could even take our drink order. Lauren smiled and told Arianna, “Okay! I’ll be right back with your chocolate milk!”. When we got our food I was wondering why Arianna wouldn’t touch her cheeseburger, but was going to town on her french fries. I asked her, “Arianna are you going to eat your cheeseburger?” She calmly said, “No, I don’t want it.” Cheeseburgers, or ‘Krabby Patties’ as we sometimes call them, are her FAVORITE! So this behavior was VERY strange. So I asked her, “Why don’t you want it?”. She replied, “It’s broken. I need another one thats fixed.” Then it dawned on me why she wasn’t eating it. It’s because it was cut in half. 
Being a child with autism, she has to have certain things in a particular order at all times. One slight change in her routine can change the course of the day instantly. When Lauren came back to check on us, I asked if we could order another cheeseburger and just add it to our check. She had a concerned look on her face so I explained that Arianna has autism, and that in her mind, because the cheeseburger was cut in half, she thinks its broken and can’t eat it. I told Lauren I knew it sounded silly, but if we could just order an additional one we will gladly pay for it because there was nothing wrong with the one that was originally brought out. Lauren was so sweet and just smiled and went along with Arianna, telling her “I brought you a broken cheeseburger?! You know what, I’ll have them cook you a new one!” I loved this because rather than just taking it from the table, she actually TOLD Arianna what she was doing. While this seems insignificant, by her telling Arianna what she was doing, we avoided a melt down. The manager, Bradley Cottermole, then came to our table, kneeled down, and said to Arianna, “I heard we gave you a broken cheeseburger! I am so sorry about that! We are making you a brand new one that isn’t broken, with pickles! I’ll bring you some french fries to munch on while you’re waiting, ok?” 
A couple of minutes later, Lauren arrived back at our table with cheeseburger #2. Arianna said, “OH FANK YOU! You fixded my cheeseburger!” When Lauren walked away, Arianna just sat there for a second and looked at her new burger. She looked like so deep in thought....just staring at it....then she let out a big ”OH I missed you!!” and started kissing the burger over and over again. I showed Lauren this picture and said, “I think we glorified the cheeseburger too much!” She busted up laughing, and asked if she could go show her manager. She came back a minute later and said she showed everyone in the back kitchen area too, and that it made them all laugh and smile. 
 I was so touched by this experience. Especially since I know people who have been asked to leave restaurants when their child with autism is being disruptive. I expected a few different things with this scenario based on past experiences, but I did NOT expect such kind and compassionate mannerisms from Lauren and Bradley. Everyone, from the hostess to the chef, played a role in what most people would think isn’t a big deal. But this entirely shaped how the rest of our day would go. I know...a cheeseburger cut in half literally could make or break our day. In this case thanks to the professionalism of the crew in Midvale, it made our day. And I’m sure Arianna brightened up at least one of the employees days with her silly little personality. Thank you."
I believe what this story teaches us is that it is essential to demonstrate kindness to everyone, even if it means having to go out of your way to do so.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Deaf Toddler Hears His Mom for the First Time

We tend to forget the value of things that seem to come naturally to us like hearing our husband's snore or the sounds of our mother's voice. Earlier today, we posted a video about a woman hearing herself for the first time, the joy that came from hearing herself laugh. Now, we will be posting a few videos about children hearing their mothers for the first time as well as mothers hearing their children for the first time. The joy that these people get from hearing their loved ones speak is overwhelming.

In this video, a toddler hears his mother's voice for the first time:

Here, a mother hears her 8 year old son's voice for the first time:

Inspirational Video from Ellen Show

Ellen DeGeneres had a guest on her show recently, and the video clip from the show is touching. Ellen's guest, Sloan Churman, was deaf since childbirth and recently had a surgery, a procedure that costs $30,000 per ear, to allow her to hear for the first time. Ellen finally has a great surprise in the end for the guest and her family. Here is the video clip:

The Sloan was invited onto the show after a video of her hearing herself for the first time went viral. Here is the link to that video:

Success with Our Celebrity Bartending FUNdraiser!

Hello all!

We would like to thank everyone who came out to our Celebrity Bartending FUNdraiser. It could not have been successful without your help. Below, we have a picture of one of the night's celebrities, Barry Van Dyke, and our board member, Lisa Davis.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Employment for People with Disabilities

Here is a great article enlisting the efforts some governors make in order to promote employment for people with disabilities:

MTV's "World of Jenks"

MTV is putting the spotlight on what it is like to transition to adulthood as someone with disabilities. The documentary style show, "World of Jenks," is hosted and documented by Andrew Jenks who lives with three people, each for a year, and follows their journeys. Among those three people is Chad DenDanto, a man diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder, which is on the autism spectrum, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Jenks states that “We realized (at MTV) that we had an opportunity to humanize and destigmatize what it’s like to have autism. One in 88 American children have autism now. It’s something prevalent that could use more mainstream media attention.” We agree, Jenks, and we would like to thank you for allowing Chad's autism to no longer define him.

For the website of "World of Jenks, please visit:

"Dolls for Downs"

When people look at dolls, they tend to gravitate towards the ones that look like them. Dolls today are made with different genders, races, and there is even a line of dolls for cancer patients. But, there was not a single doll line for people with disabilities. Imagine the disbelief of Hannah Feda, a girl with down syndrome, when she continued to flip through catalogs and states to her mother "none of these dolls look like me. not one." Hannah's mother, Connie Feda, decided to create a line to provide children with down syndrome and other disabilities a chance to have a doll that looks like them, that they can relate to. Feda created this line and called it "Dolls for Downs." She states that the dolls are not only fun to play with, but they provide occupational therapy skills ,for its users. Feda continues by saying that users who have not developed certain motor skills can learn with the doll's clothing and removable features such as buttons, zippers, velcro, ties and snaps. We applaud Feda for creating such a difference with her unique product.

To purchase "Dolls for Downs," please visit:

America's Choice is Alexis Wineman, a Contestant with Autism

As we have been promoting all along, people with disabilities can do anything. Even win the prestigious title of "America's Choice" in the famed Miss America competition. Alexis Wineman, a beauty queen with autism, was chosen as the "America's Choice" this year.

Learning to Walk Down a Curb

Here is an uplifting video about a 4 year old boy who is completely blind and learns how to walk down a curb independently. As the description of the video shows, it is "a lesson in bravery."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

FDA Approved Bionic Eye Offers Partial Vision to the Blind

The FDA has recently approved a Bionic Eye device called the Argus II.This new device offers partial vision to the blind, a landmark in the field of corrective technology. The Argus II allows people with a certain type of blindness to see the presence of people or cars, crosswalks on the street, and sometimes large numbers or letters. The Argus II is made by Second Sight Medical Products and helps to treat people with severe retinis pigmentosa. How the device works is impressive in the field of opthamology. The device is essentially an artificial retina that allows visual signals to bypass the damaged portion of the retina and be transmitted to the brain. In the future, the company that created the Argus II plans to revolutionize the opthamology field further by implanting electrodes directly into the brain's cortex to address all types of blindness. For now, all of us at EmpowerTech are impressed with the company's technological advances, and we cannot wait to see what they develop in the future.

For more information on the Argus II, please visit:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Media Advisory for EmpowerTech's FUNdraiser



WHEN: Wednesday March 13, 2013
5:00 p.m.—9:00 p.m.

WHERE: Melody Bar and Grill
9132 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90045

EVENT: An extended happy hour to raise funds for EmpowerTech, a Westchester-based non-profit that provides computer training to persons living with disabilities. 100% of customer tips will be donated to EmpowerTech; the public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

WHO: Juliannah Richmond & Kimberli Russell—stars of the hit reality series, “Basketball Wives,” will join local community business leaders as “guest bartenders.”

FOR MORE Joan Anderson, Executive Director-- EmpowerTech
INFORMATION: (818) -665-8001/

About Empowrtech:

Founded in 1986 as the “Computer Access Center”, 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.

To learn more about EmpowerTech and to view some of its many, many success stories, please visit:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

EmpowerTech is having a FUNdraiser at Melody Bar & Grill!

Melody Bar and Grill is featuring the first annual Celebrity Bartending Event from 5pm to 9pm on Wednesday March 13. During that time, all tips from drinks poured by volunteer celebrity bartenders, 100% of tips collected go directly to support EmpowerTech’s programs.

Where: Melody Bar and Grill 
9132 S. Sepulveda Blvd Westchester, CA (4 minutes from LAX)
When: Wednesday March 13th 5pm-9pm. We will work in shifts.
Why: Because you all are fun and it’s for a good cause!!!
·        Drinks will be poured by volunteer celebrity bartenders
o   Celebrity bartenders include: Juliannah Richmond (actress), Kimberli Russell (Basketball Wives), Barry Van Dyke, Karen Dial, Jim Kennedy, Dr. Kevin Walsh, Chamberlain Duru, and MORE!
·        100% of their collected tips will be used to support  EmpowerTech programs

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Quotes by Robert M. Hensel

The Following Quotes are by Robert M. Hensel:
"Placing one foot in front of the other, I've climbed to higher lengths.
Reaching beyond my own limitations, to show my inner strength.
No obstacle to hard, for this warrior to overcome.
I'm just a man on a mission, to prove my disability hasn't won.
"Limitations only go so far."
"We, the one's who are challenged, need to be heard. To be seen not as a disability, but as a person who has and will continue to bloom. To be seen not only as a handicap, but as a well intact human being."
"Know me for my abilities, not my disability."

"I have a Disability yes thats true, but all that really means is I may have to take a slightly different path than you."

"I don't have a dis-ability, I have a different-ability."

"As a disabled man, let my life be a reflection of the endless amount of ability that exists in each and everyone of us."
"We, the one's who are challenged, need to be heard. To be seen as a disability, but as a person who has, and will continue to bloom. To be seen not only as a handicap, but as a well intact human being."

"My disability has opened my eye's to see my true abilities."
"When everyone else says you can't, determination says,'YES YOU CAN.'"

Visually Impaired Students in Biology Labs

There is currently research being done to help create assistive technology to be used for visually impaired students in biology labs. The research is being done by University of Pune and is in the works to help create maximum independence for students. The goal is that this will help increase the students' love of science and overall confidence. I remember the best part of science class being when the instructor would announce "lab time." It was so much easier to learn the concepts of science when I was able to apply them in the lab. I am thrilled that the University of Pune is doing research in assistive technology in order to help bring the job of "lab time" to the visually impaired.

For a link to the full article, please visit:

To visit EmpowerTech's website, please visit:

Independence for Teens and Parents

Here is a great article by Quest Online Magazine about how teens can become more independent and how to transition into becoming adults. The article goes through important categories such as timing, assistants, and resources to help further the discussion. It is always a hard topic to address, but independence is a great step to work towards.

Read the article at:

Another resource that may be helpful is our own EmpowerTech organization. We help individuals with disabilities to establish independence through the use of technology. We also have a program to help prepare students for employment.

Please visit us at:

Rock Climber with Cerebral Palsy

Yesterday, we made a blog post about how a disability should not limit someone from pursuing their love of sports. Today, we have an inspirational story about a man named Steve Wampler. Steve has a physical disability called cerebral palsy. He cannot walk, and his right arm is the only fully functioning arm. Nonetheless, Steve Wampler did 20,000 pull-ups and slept on a mountain for 5 nights in order to climb the largest rock face in the world, El Capitan in Yosemite. Previously an environmental engineer, Steve gave up his job and created a camp for kids with physical disabilities to help inspire them to challenge themselves in the wilderness. Steve Wampler has become such an inspiration that he has been on the news in over 70 countries, was awarded Red Cross's Real Hero award, was named United Cerebral Palsy Man of the Year, and Ellen Degeneres even sang a song about him on stage. People like Steve Wampler demonstrate that a disability does not stop you from fulfilling your dreams.

For more information on the Wampler Foundation, please visit:

To donate to EmpowerTech and help empower people with disabilities, please visit:

"Just the Way You Are"

By now, a good majority of radio listeners have heard the song, "Just the Way You Are," by Bruno Mars. What I can almost guarantee is that these same radio listeners have not heard the version of the song by Matty B. Matty B gives this song a sweet twist by dedicating the song to his sister with special needs. Here is a link to the video where Matty B raps sweet lyrics such as "when you smile, the whole world stops and stares for awhile because girl, you're amazing just the way you are."

Matty B ends the video by telling its viewers, "if you have anybody in your life that's special, make sure you tell them." A great way to end a great video. So please, follow Matty B's words and tell the special person in your life just how much they mean to you. And, if your conscious pleads you, make a donation to EmpowerTech and enable them to empower many more special people.

Donate to EmpowerTech here:

Visit Matty B here:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Playing Sports with a Disability

Sometimes, people with disabilities want to play sports but don't believe they can because of their disability. Good news! There are many assistive sports technologies, sports organizations, and resources that can help.

Assistive sports technologies, such as the BeepKickball, which helps blind sports enthusiasts play kickball, or the OTS Interspiro Divator MKII, which helps the blind to scuba dive, are becoming more and more advanced, and financial aid is sometimes available to help with costs. Instead, suppose you wanted to join a sports organization; there are many to join like Disabled Sports USA. Take advantage of resources like your city’s recreation department, your own school, health clubs, YWCA, the local Girls Scout council, and nearby colleges. They may have pools, sports teams, exercise rooms, or more ways for you to be invovled. Your local Chamber of Commerce could also help to find programs in your area. The possibilities are endless, but the initial step must be taken to contact these resources.

For more information on assistive sports technologies, please visit:

For more information on how to become involved in sports, please visit:

The Blind Geek Zone

The Blind Geek Zone is a blog that allows people that are blind to keep in touch with the latest technologies available. Here is the link to the blog that includes podcasts and reviews of these technologies:

EmpowerTech Celebrity Bartender FUNdraiser!

Hi all.

Everyone has thought it would be fun bartending for their family and friends behind a real bar before. Now you can make your dream come true! Your family, friends, co-workers, people in your organization and even yourself can work with the finest Bartenders in Westchester! I am going to put you and/or people from your organization behind the bar at Melody Bar and Grill to pour the finest drinks to members of your team and the bar patrons. 100% of the tips go directly to support EmpowerTech’s programs. What I will need from all of you other than bartending, is to make sure you bring people that you know in for the FUNdraiser. The larger the crowd, the more cocktails to be poured the bigger the tips! I will follow up this email with a flyer for you all to send out to your contact lists.

Where: Melody Bar and Grill
9132 S. Sepulveda Blvd Westchester, CA

When: Wednesday March 13th 5pm-9pm. We will work in shifts.

Why: Because you all are fun and it’s for a good cause!!!


***If any of you know any actors or athletes, can you ask if they would like to help out a good cause?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hiring People with Disabilities

A few months ago, we made a blog post about National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In the post, we discussed the topic of hiring people 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.

In fact, a recent article by the Chicago Tribune discussed how many companies such as AMC and the investment firm, TIAA-CREF, are agressively hiring people with disabilities. Walgreens is another example of a company that is adament about hiring workers with disabilities. Walgreens opened a distribution center in Anderson, South Carolina, and currently more than 40% of its employees there are people with disabilities who are paid and treated the same as their non-disabled coworkers. More than 100 Fortune 500 companies have toured the distribution center to learn more about the program. It is refreshing to see so many companies including people with disabilities into their workforce.

For the full articles used, please visit:

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NASA Providing Mentorship for Students with Disabilities

Through an agreement with D.C.'s Public School transition program, NASA will be providing mentors to a few lucky students with disabilities. This new program will allow a handful of students with learning difficulties or multiple disabilities to experience what it would be like to work for NASA. James Stofan, the associate administrator for the agency, states "We particularly want to encourage students who are underserved or underrepresented in STEM to explore the many opportunities that pursuing this course of study can offer. This partnership will help us do just that.” From all of us at EmpowerTech, we are thrilled to hear of yet another story where people with disabilities are given the chance to explore the world of technology.

For the full article, please visit:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Through Autistic Eyes" Documentary

People without disabilities often wonder how a disability would impact their lives. Most don't understand what daily obstacles would look like or how to overcome them. There is a documentary called "Through Autistic Eyes" in which Christopher Smith, a man with autism, gives insight into how a life with autism would be.

Here is a link for a documentary clip:

If you are interested in making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities, please visit:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Paralyzed Patients in the Deep Sea

There is a new medical study that is seeking to determine whether a zero gravity undersea environment has therapeutic value for improving paralyzed patients' physical or mental health. The positive results showed improved spasticity and reduced enema. 

For the full article, visit: …

2013 Technology Advances to Watch

James Temple, a Chronicle Columnist, recently published an article outlining what are the five areas of technology he will be looking for this upcoming year. We have listed them and summarized why their advances are so important.What is so fascinating about all of these innovations is how revolutionary they are. As an organization that uses technology to help people with disabilities, these new advances, like artificial intelligence and gesture control, are sure to help us in our mission to empower the disabled.

Personal Robotics:
With successful robotic lifeguards and Google's robotic cars that have logged more than 300,000 miles on the road, personal robotics is an area that will constantly be improving, and it is only a matter of time before personal robots are a regular presence in our lives.

Context-Aware Computing:
Millions of people regularly use services like Apple's Siri and Google Now, services that represent sophisticated artificial intelligence, so an update in these soft-wares are sure to occur in the near future.

Electric Vehicles:
Electric vehicles have made extreme progress and continue to develop "new cheaper, and smaller options." Electric vehicles like the Hiriko can go up to 75 miles on a single charge, an appeal that is sure to stimulate more developments. 

3-D Printing:
Artificial limbs, drones, and homes have all been successfully built by 3-D Printers. The 3-D Printers "spit out layers of metals, plastics, and other materials to form just about anything."

Gesture Control:
The company, Leap Motion, is set to begin shipping its much anticipated gesture control product early this year. The product will allow user to control a computer using mid-air hand movements. 

To view the full article, visit:…#page-2