Category Archives: Disability

Thinking differently about your brain

     Monday, I got a few small lessons in neuroscience. An article was forwarded to me in the morning entitled, “Your Brain is a Rainforest.” The article, by Thomas Armstrong, examined the nature of the brain and society’s tendency to diagnose the differences that exist among all the brains out there. Armstrong calls for a focus on the strengths that the differences between brains provide to individuals, instead of the negatives that are associated with mental disorders, which only serve to fracture society and stigmatize individuals with disorders or disabilities. “The concept of neurodiversity provides a more balanced perspective. Instead of regarding traditionally pathologized populations as disabled or disordered, the emphasis in neurodiversity is placed on differences,” Armstrong writes.   

     After reading the article (which I strongly recommend), I thought to myself, “That makes sense. No two people are exactly alike, so why should two brains be exactly alike?” What would the world look like if we celebrated the differences between us, instead of trying to diagnose those who don’t fit our ever-evolving and very narrow mold of “normal?” What if we played to the strengths of each individual instead of forcing individuals to perform tasks for which they aren’t suited?

     In order to answer these questions, you may have to step into a different hemisphere of your brain. This is where my second lesson in neuroscience comes in. Monday afternoon, I was forwarded a video of Jill Bolte Taylor speaking to a group of people about how the brain works and the unique opportunity she had to study the hemispheres of the brain. I won’t spoil it by going into detail about her speech, but I recommend that you take 20 minutes and listen to what she has to say. Then see if it helps you answer the questions I posed. I have a strong suspicion that these two concepts connect somehow, and that we could make the world an altogether better place if we took these two small lessons in neuroscience and turned them into actions instead of words.

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 Cheers,

Lindsey

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Filed under Culture, Disability, Perspective

Accessible web design

***March is Disability Awareness Month. If you were unaware and find yourself unprepared on this fine first day of March, I have an easy way for you to raise awareness and take simple steps toward a more accessible world. Read on…

This year has been a big year for Tangram, especially where technology is concerned. We recently upgraded to Windows 7 and Office 2010, moved our e-mail to “the cloud,” got a new video, and you may have noticed that our website has a new look.

Last week, as Carol (Tangram’s IT Director) and I met with a web designer for a lesson in content management, I learned a little bit about making a website accessible. Our web designer was giving us practice in placing pictures on the website, when she explained that there are certain fields that must be filled for search engine optimization. These fields are something I, a novice in web content management, typically skipped over because, before last week, I didn’t know what they meant or why they were important. The only thing that mattered to me was uploading a picture and making sure it looked snappy on a page.

Of course, after my lesson, I understood why these fields (like Image Description and Image Title) are important. You see, these fields not only are key components to search engine optimization, but they also allow for a web site to be accessible. For someone using a screen reader, they give a good description of what the photo is. This ensures that everyone is able to understand the content on a webpage. Pretty cool!

If you, like me, skipped over these fields because you didn’t understand their function, I encourage you to go back and fill them in. The more people who can access your web content, the better. This small step will mean more traffic for you and more information about your business for others.  

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Cheers,

Lindsey

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Filed under Accessibility, Disability

Finding Judy Garland in my flowers

On Monday (Valentine’s Day), I received a lovely springtime bouquet of flowers. After unwrapping the plastic and filling the vase full of water (I think it had tipped over in the delivery truck), I trotted back to my desk and placed the bouquet right next to my computer. Since Monday, I have spent countless minutes just staring at the flowers. They are gorgeous—bright yellow lilies, subtly purple daisies, light pink alstroemeria, 2 silky carnations, deep violet limonium, a tulip, and an iris. I also had one cheery daffodil, but it fell victim to the delivery truck.

The more I admired the arrangement, the more I found that my favorite flowers were the ones that were rarest in the bouquet; my solitary iris, the lonely tulip, and the single stem of limonium. Each day I watch these fade and regret that I will eventually only have a bunch of daisies and Peruvian lilies. They don’t seem special or unique if I have dozens of the same thing.

The same is true of people. I have spent a good deal of time trying to conform to the standards of society and the trends of the marketplace, but what I find is that people tend to remember and appreciate my quirky qualities, the ones that make me Lindsey and not a cookie cutter replica of Amanda or Leanne or  Erica. So, today, let’s all try to appreciate what sets us apart from everyone else. Let’s be the iris in a sea of daisies. Judy Garland said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” I think that is good advice.

Cheers,

Lindsey

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Filed under Disability, Inspirational, Perspective

“It’s about time you got a job!”

Remember your first job? My very first job was working behind the meat and deli counters of a family-owned market in Fort Wayne. I loved it. My interview for the job consisted of one question, “How old are you?” When I responded, “16,” the owner of the market looked at me and said, “It’s about time you got a job.” I really didn’t feel like I was too far behind schedule in this respect, but I accepted his criticism and continued with the interview (which consisted of being asked when I could start).

The thing that most appealed to me about having a high school job was that I suddenly had money. I could buy gas for my car, put some in savings, go to the occasional movie with friends or shop a little at the mall—you know, typical teenage stuff.

Now, as I sit behind the desk of my first job out of college, I reflect on the benefits of having a job.

1)      I don’t have to live in my parents’ basement.

2)      I can make payments on my student loans.

3)      I can buy lamps (if you had to deal the considerable lack of light in my apartment, you would understand the importance of this one).  

4)      I can purchase gas for the car and can sometimes afford to have the car fixed when it is broken.

5)      I can buy groceries.

6)      I have entertainment money and money to eat an occasional dinner out.

Raise your hand if you see a theme. That’s correct—I have income. And that income allows me to live comfortably, pay the bills, buy things that I need and some things that I want, etc. After college, I was just plain lucky to get the job that I did. If my boss hadn’t been willing to take a chance on an English major without a lick of experience in the real world, I would have been back in Fort Wayne peddling round steak and potato salad.

Isn’t it time that individuals with disabilities were given the same chance that the rest of us expect? Isn’t it time that more employers hired those with disabilities? Why shouldn’t they be given the opportunity to earn income, pay taxes, pay bills, buy lamps, purchase groceries,  eat at restaurants, buy movie or concert tickets, and so on? Walgreens and Goodwill are known for their practice of consistently hiring employees with disabilities, and they have barrels full of successes to show for it. Let’s follow their lead and welcome a new, more diverse population to the workplace. It’s time.

Until next time,

Lindsey

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Filed under Community, Disability, Perspective

Oh, the mistakes I’ve made!

Your path is your own…

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” –J. K. Rowling

Right you are, Ms. Rowling. Like anything else, we don’t recognize the importance of having choices until our choices are taken away. Most of us probably don’t realize the enormous role that choice plays in our lives. I mentioned in an earlier post all the choices I make daily between the time I wake up and the time I arrive at work. Take a moment, right now, and count how many choices you have made today. Think really hard, because you make hundreds of choices a day, and you probably don’t even realize it.

Did you come up with a total? If you aren’t shocked by the number of decisions you have tallied up, you probably missed quite a few.

Now think about this: How would you feel if someone else made all your decisions for you? What if you were never given the opportunity to make a mistake? How would you learn? How would you grow?

My parents can tell you that I made plenty of poor choices growing up, and I continue to make mistakes now. But my parents gave me the option of choosing my own path (with a healthy amount of guidance, of course), and, as a result, I learned.  

Shouldn’t we all be given the chance to make choices? Just food for thought…

Cheers,

Lindsey

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Filed under Disability, Perspective

Throwing down the gauntlet

The sky is the limit…

A challenge:

As we begin the final week of 25 Days of Tangram, I offer a challenge. This is me throwing down the gauntlet. (A bit of trivia for those who enjoy nuggets of knowledge: a gauntlet is the armored glove of a knight, which was customarily thrown down to signify a challenge in medieval times. You’re welcome.)

Anyway, back to the challenge. I challenge each of you to share information about the 25 Days of Tangram with 3 people. Encourage each of those people to give $5 to the 25 Days and ask them each to spread the word to 3 people.

See where I’m going with this? This is a manageable, bite-sized challenge, and I am confident that, with a little effort, we can achieve our goal. I will take 5 minutes this afternoon to spread the word to 3 new people. And I will make your job easier, by providing you with all the necessary links and information (see below).

Together, I know we can prove that the sky is the limit! Good luck!          

Learn more about the 25 Days of Tangram

Read Alex’s Story

Give to Tangram

Follow Us on Twitter

“Like” Us on Facebook

Cheers,

Lindsey

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Filed under Community, Disability, Giving, Impact

The pitfalls of dressing in the dark

A different perspective…

Yesterday, I wore two different shoes to work. One was a black pump with a bow on the toe and the other was a brown Mary Jane pump. Two shoes could not look less alike. I was mortified when I realized what I had done. These things shouldn’t happen to 22 year-olds with perfectly good eyesight. Everyone I showed my mistake to thought it was hilarious (which it was). Soon we had a bet going over whether or not my boss, Kathy, would notice.

To me, the black shoe stuck out like a sore thumb! I was wearing brown pants and it just didn’t look right. I was very self-conscious. I kept waiting for people to notice as I walked down the hall or stood in front of the copier and made a cup of coffee in the kitchen, but no one did. I finally had to call Kathy over to my desk and show her my mistake. I don’t know how long it would have taken her to notice if I hadn’t shown her.

When Carol and Nancy, two of my coworkers asked me if I were going to blog about my shoe faux pas, my immediate reaction was, “I don’t think people want to read about my personal clothing issues. What message can I attach to the anecdote?”

The answer was guessed first by Nancy and Carol, but was proven to me by the end of the day. You see, no one noticed my shoes. The thing that I felt most self-conscious about all day went completely unnoticed by my coworkers unless I brought it to their attention. When you feel self-conscious about something, you think that everyone will notice immediately, you will become the laughingstock of the office, people will judge you, etc. However, I am here to attest to the fact that if you just act like yourself, people will be too busy noticing YOU to notice anything else, even something that seems monumentally obvious.

Cheers,

Lindsey

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Filed under Disability, Humor, Perspective