"You've Got to Play the Cards You've Got" says Dave Ward, the second of the exceptional individuals with disabilities we talked to in our series on Approaching Inclusion.
Dave injured his spinal cord in an accident when he was 30 years old, leaving him a quadriplegic with only partial use of one arm. His situation mandates that he spend the first half of each day making preparations for that day. Rising, bathing, dressing, eating and the daily chores of life can take several hours for someone with quadriplegia. That doesn't stop Dave, however.
Dave has worked extensively in both the government and private sectors, feeling the pressure of bureaucracy in government, and therefore preferring the business approach. A disability, considered severe by most, has not stopped him from him from completing successful projects with the Orioles, Port Discovery, and the Hippodrome Theatre. He applies a business approach to interpersonal relationships also. He says that first impressions count, and we make assumptions about others in sixty seconds, therefore, let's recognize this and just "get on with it!" Let's learn to think outside the box. Let's recognize that we are all people first, and no two people are the same, with or without disabilities. Let's judge each other as individuals. Regarding inclusion, Dave wants to be approached as the individual he is, and he’ll do the same with you.
Dave likes to "play a little poker once In a while," and uses poker as a metaphor. He says:
"Life is a poker game. You either play the cards you're dealt or throw in your hand.
David Ward is a practical man, and a model for anyone who becomes disabled. He believes that people with disabilities can take control of their lives, albeit in varying degrees. When asked, he advises "getting on with it." His own businesslike approach garners the best results for him. He says we must work with what we can do, with what we have, rather than concentrating on what we cannot do or don’t have. Dave considers himself as a person first, his disability has less significance.
He is known for this People First philosophy. We are people first, some of us just happen to have a disability. So never talk to Dave about a disabled person! A wheelchair with a man in it is not a wheelchair bound person, but a person who uses a wheel chair! These phrases recognize of the power of the individual.
Dave has long been an advocate of “Universal Design” for everyone's benefit, disabled and non- disabled alike. Not enough public services give enough consideration to patrons who have disabilities. With Dave's typical no nonsense good humor, he refers to the MTA as the "May Take Awhile Authority." His efforts to bring about lowered curbs at crossing has benefitted all sorts of people with temporary or permanent disabilities, the elderly, bicyclists, and deliverymen. Wider doorways and other modifications help people in wheelchairs, using walkers, including the large number of Baby Boomers who are now wishing for a one-story accessible home. Why not sure make everything is univerally designed to be as accessible as possible for everyone (a lesson learned and demonstrated by Apple). We can all have access when we need it with really good designs.
When he became disabled, he saw the need for strong advocacy within the disability community. And as a result of his keen observations, and willingness to engage with the issues, he has been instrumental in creating and leading many advocacy groups including becoming the first chairperson of the Maryland Commission on Disabilities.
Dave was involved in initiating the "curb cut," which refers to the depression on a curb providing easier transition from the sidewalk to the street, not only for those in wheelchairs, but also for bicyclists,delivery men, pedestrians with baby carriages, etc. He wants more people, from all communities to become involved, feeling involvement is the most successful approach to inclusion. He has always strived to have the disability community strengthened by recognizing common threads, rather than differences, and thus better able to build consensus.
Of his many accomplishments, Dave is proudest of his leadership in creating the Department of Disabilities in the state of Maryland. He was its first chairperson.
“Mommy, am I going to use a wheel chair when I grow up?"
Hearing that question from her four year old son is one of many unique experiences Terri Parrish has had since she was injured in an accident at age twenty-five.
The accident resulted in a spinal cord injury that left her paralyzed from the waist down. As a result, she faced and ultimately conquered serious physical challenges. Along the way, she realized that she might not be included in some former activities and gatherings because disabilities make people uncomfortable and because her wheel chair made access imperative.Access to buildings, restaurants, hotels, her friends' homes. Inclusion begins with the basics: physical access.
A former cheerleader, Terri focused on being confident, comfortable, and very approachable because she loves people and is very outgoing. She recognizes curiosity as natural, and meets questions head-on, especially from children who are famously curious and outspoken. People sometimes don't know what to do when talking to someone in a wheelchair. Terri says she often suggests that people who speak with her be seated, thus placing themselves at her eye level. This is more comfortable for her and it also saves her neck muscles (tip #2).
Terri identifies with what she has, not what she has lost. She regards her disability as one aspect of her very busy life: "My wheelchair is not a part of me, it is a part of my life" she tells V-LINC. She is a retired elementary school teacher, Sunday school teacher, activist, and mentor, Chairperson of the Baltimore County Commission on Disabilities, hospital volunteer, former cheerleader, and former Miss Wheelchair of Maryland. She is most proud of having raised her son and daughter in the knowledge that everyone is basically the same. Even though she had to break the news to her son that he would not be getting a wheel chair when he grows up.
V-LINC interviewed Terri Parrish as part of a series of articles on Approaching Inclusion: Step One toward a more Inclusive Society.
V-LINC loves making a difference in people's lives, so we were happy to receive a letter from the Savicks about the special chair and activity tray we had made for their son, Noah. Designed and created by a Woodlawn High School engineering class with support from our volunteer engineers, the chair has made a significant impact on the family. Noah wouldn't sit more than 3 mintues at the family dinner table in the past, but now he stays at the family table much longer. We will pass the Savick's letter on to our volunteers! One of the Woodlawn High students put a video showing the chair on youtube.
The Savick's Letter to V-LINC:
I am writing to thank you and the folks at V-LINC for your generosity in providing the funding and resources necessary to build a sensory chair for my son, Noah, so that he would be able to sit for longer periods of time at our family’s dinner table each evening. Due to sensory integration issues associated with his diagnosis of autism, and Noah’s constant need to be in motion, he has a difficult time sitting and/or standing still for more than a few minutes at a time. As a result, this makes for a challenging situation at the dinner table each night when our family makes an attempt to spend quality time together. Dinner usually looks more like a jack-in-the-box routine for us than a family of 6 sitting down, and enjoying uninterrupted time together over dinner.
Since receiving the sensory chair, funded through V-LINC [What I Wish for My Child program], and created by the students at Woodlawn High School, Noah now has a sensory table upon which to play with his built-in fidgets, a seat that moves back and forth with his body motion, and a strap to secure him if needed. Our family now enjoys dinner together for an average of 15-20 minutes in one sitting! This is amazing, and dinner has become a welcomed occasion as opposed to a stressful one.
Thank you so much for all that you, and the V-LINC team do for our special children. I can’t say enough great things about your organization, and the support that we feel as a family living with the challenges of autism on a daily basis. While we consider ourselves to be blessed by Noah’s diagnosis, we are certainly grateful for any invention that will make our lives less physically and/or emotionally stressful. Simple daily living routines that many people take for granted present us with huge obstacles in navigating life on a day-to-day basis. Please accept our heart-felt thanks for the creativity and ingenuity your organization brings to improving the quality of life for us and others living with similar challenges.
Stephanie and David Savick
Noah with his mom
UMBC, a V-LINC Partner School, creates devices for people with disabilities.Shown here are Dean Drake (V-LINC President), two UMBC student team members with their Instructor, Dr. Neil Rothman.
On Saturday, September 27th, 45 Volunteers arrived at the State of Maryland's Workforce & Technology Center (also home to V-LINC) to assembe bicycles for eleven special needs children. Engineers lead teams with a wide variety of skills and some with only their goodwill and the heart to help others! Also, occupational and physical therapists were on hand to help with the "fitting" of each bike with a child. Some children required back support, or changes in the positioning of the handle bars or bike seat. Some needed rear steering or breaks for parents to supervise their child while riding. A few children present would not have the best judgement about when to stop.
Here are some photos of the day. Also, volunteers from Northrop Grumman were on hand to tape the day - we hope to have some videos to share later.
Frannie and her dad with a PT and and OT Volunteers at work
V-LINC is holding a second 2014 Bike Clinic to help 8 or more special needs children by customizing a bike or trike to meet their individual needs. Children with disabilities have already been identified and evaluated for bike size and special adaptations needed.
Eleven children with disabilities will receive a safe, dreamy bike or trike! Help us fund the extra parts for the families that can't afford to cover part of the cost!
Click here: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/VLINCBikeClinic/v-lincbikeclinic
Courtney, below, really enjoys her large trike, even though she was scared at first.
On April 30, in spite of adverse weather conditions (flooding!) V-LINC Volunteers were greeted at The Baltmore Engineers Club with carnations and awards.
The Volunteer of the Year Award went to Dr. Andy Conn for his commitment to helping children with disabilities become more independent, and he was one of the four recipeients of the Team of the Year Award - it went to Bike Clinic Team Leaders: Andy Conn, Niel Leon, Chuck Micheals, & John Staehlin.
Above: V-LINC President Dean Drake, Dr. Andy Conn, Executive Director Theo Pinette, Niel Leon. The team received medals for their win. Unfortunately John Staehlin and Chuck Michels were not present for the Team of the Year Awards - Medals are in the mail you two!
Our very deserving Rookie of the Year was Jane Leff, a nurse who lives in Harford County and jumped right into working with our Client Service Team (CST) when she was needed.She has already done many client visits to help evaluate project requests. Jane receives her award from Dean Drake below:
V-LINC's Partner of the Year Award went to: Towson University's Occupational Therapy Health Promotion Initiatives in the Community class and Professor Marlene Riley. The student team that worked with V-LINC and our volunteer, Kevin Capinpin from Northrop Grumman, to learn more about Sensory Processing Disorders among autistic children and youth. Every team member from the OT class showed great dedication to improving the lives of children with autism. Marlene Riley is shown accepting the award from Dean Drake below:
Project of the Year was Jake's Bed with Alarm System designed and made by Laura Lemires' CCBC - Essex class. His bed was made to allow him to crawl up into it by himself and includes several buttons that he can press wherever he is when he runs into any trouble in the night. This allows his mom to sleep much better!
Jake was on hand to help draw prizes for the volunteers who attended the event.
We imposed on Jake to draw winning raffle tickets for some fun Volunteer Prizes too. His mom, Angela, is shown below helping Jake back to their seats. Jake loves to be the center of attention!
The Rose Award goes annually to someone who has contributed significantly to V-LINC and its services over a period of time. This year the award was presented to Hugh Evans, who served for many years on the LINC and V-LINC boards for many years and is an advocate for and supporter of services for children with disbilities.
A few more photos in the BEAUTIFUL Engineers Club
Below: V-LINC Board Members Leslie Margolis, Bob Roswell, Matt Hutchinso, and Ken Johnson
Board Members Ken Johnson and David Li
Above: Lauren Li talks with Sharon Wylie of WBFF TV.
Below: Our guests enjoy the food and start the bidding on Silent Auction items before we convene.
Above: Dean Drake and Theo Pinette enjoy Northrop Grumman retiree Wally Hoff's granddaughter (and Wally) with Joe Ensor of Northrop Grumman.
Below: WBFF's Morning News Anchorman Tom Rodgers starts the bidding on Live Auction items! Tom was a hit and helped V-LINC raise funds for its work.
Above: Rich and Bev Drake with Dean and Dawn Drake. Rich was a VME President and Dean is our current V-LINC President.
Below: Theo Pinette, President Dean Drake and Angela Tyler.
And here is the most important group at the event: V-LINC's Heroes! Shown with Angela Tyler, our Manager of Volunteer Services
For the many volunteers who missed this event due to life or the heavy rains, we missed you, and we'll see you next year!
Arthrogryposis is a rare disorder characterized by multiple joint contractures, which can include muscle weakness and fibrosis. Antoinette has lived with this since birth, yet she manages to pursue her interests, such as controlling a computer with her head and reading books. Of course, she has to rely on others for some other needs.
Her 50-year-old mother currently carries her from floor-to-floor in their home because it is a rental and they cannot make modifications. Antoinette initially requested a better way to get upstairs to her bedroom, but decided to change her request to address what she sees as a bigger problem.
While at home, Antoinette lies on her side and eats off a plate on the bed. When dining in public, someone has to feed her, which would be embarrassing for any 20-year-old.Despite these obstacles, Antoinette remains strong and hopes V-LINC will be able to help her. She would like an engineer to design a way for her to feed herself at the family dinner table, a place of conversation and sharing.
If V-LINC’s Project Review and Acceptance Committee (PRAC) committee approves this request, we will then begin the search for a volunteer who is ready to take on a tough project. This will not be an easy challenge!
We are always looking for creative volunteers and other inventive minds who want to help make life better for others. Please contact V-LINC or fill out a volunteer application if you or someone you know is the right person for this job.