This month's blog will be about Internet for All Now.
Internet for All Now is a campaign of the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and partners. The goal of Internet for All Now is to demand that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) require Comcast to improve and expand its affordable home Internet service if it approves the proposed merger with Time Warner.
We know first-hand from working on the front lines that the most disadvantaged populations are up against a "wall of poverty" that demands concerted and purposeful action from our policymakers.
The 5 Commissioners of the FCC have the fate of 25% of Californians and residents nationwide in their hands with the authority to make an immediate transforming difference in their lives through Digital Inclusion. They need to hear from us.
To meet National Broadband Plan goals, adopted by the FCC in 2010, the California Emerging Technology Fund is working to achieve 80% home Internet adoption in California by 2017. CETF working with its partners, more than 100 non-profits, libraries, and schools, are helping low-income Californians obtain affordable high-speed Internet access at home, low-cost computing devices and digital literacy training.
Currently, Comcast has a program called Internet Essentials, which offers Internet access at home for $9.95 per month and online digital literacy training. To be eligible you have to have a child in school on the national free-or-reduced lunch program, and you need to be able to navigate the cumbersome online sign-up process. CETF and Partners know there are a whole lot more people who need low-cost Internet access!
Among the requirements to qualify, a household must have a child in school that is eligible for the national free or reduced lunch program. CETF and Partners stand ready to make this expanded public benefit a reality for low-income households to close the digital divide in California and across the nation.
Public Endorsements of the 5 Recommendations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September XX, 2014
CALIFORNIA’S INDEPENDENT LIVING CENTERS - CHALLENGING THE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING
SILC and Independent Living Centers Celebrate Deaf and
Hard of Hearing Awareness Month
CONTACT: Liz Pazdral, Executive Director, 916-445-0142
State Independent Living Council (SILC)
SACRAMENTO, CA — We often take our hearing for granted, but extending that to audism, the belief that hearing affords one a superior position to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, furthers misconceptions about deafness. Independent Living Centers (ILCs) fight every day against these misconceptions while sending the message that hearing is the only difference between people who are deaf and those who aren’t. September is Deaf and Hard of Hearing Awareness Month, and with approximately 3 million deaf and hard of hearing individuals residing in California, ILCs like Rolling Start (RS) and the Service Center for Independent Life (SCIL) continue to educate the public about the misconceptions, including that most deaf people read lips and can’t talk or drive and need an interpreter at all times.
“These myths and misconceptions are detrimental,” said RS’s Programs Manager Shannon McCroskey. “Not only are they not true, but they refute the basic understanding that someone who is deaf or hard of hearing does hear – they simply have a different way of hearing; they hear with their eyes and hands.”
RS provides services to more than 400 consumers in a three-county area, approximately 10 percent of whom are deaf or hard of hearing. Similar to other ILCs throughout the state, RS doesn’t differentiate when it comes to providing core services to individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing verses those who aren’t. These services include independent living skills training, housing assistance, information and referral services, assistive technology services, peer counseling and more. Additionally, McCroskey works with deaf and hard of hearing consumers in job-seeking classes, with approximately 85 percent of them finding employment. She attributes this to the extra time spent with them to ensure they know how to request accommodations such an interpreter.
McCroskey has seen increased awareness by employers and others about deaf and hard of hearing individuals particularly given the accessibility of communicating through email, texting, instant messaging and amplified phones. However, she still encounters significant misconceptions.
“RS is close to Riverside County and Inland Empire where the California School for the Deaf and Center on Deafness respectively reside; therefore, there is heightened awareness around the deaf community. However, I am still challenged to educate our communities,” said McCroskey. “For example, organizations and employers still tell deaf and hard of hearing individuals that they need to bring ‘their interpreters’ with them as if they have ‘one in their back pockets.’”
According to McCroskey, there are definitely times when an interpreter is critical, for example, when interfacing with state agencies or the courts, but an interpreter isn’t always needed. Although both RS and SCIL provide interpreter services when requested, both she and SCIL’s Deaf Services Specialist Michelle De Silva believe it’s important to keep in mind that most interpreters just interpret, while ILC staff helps consumers understand complex issues and navigate complex systems.
De Silva also sees employer misconceptions in action. For example, when individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing apply for a job, some employers think it will cost them more money because they will have to hire an interpreter or make costly modifications.
“Unfortunately, many employers don’t understand the dynamics of working with a deaf person or the steps it may take,” explains De Silva. “Consequently, it’s much harder for the deaf and hard of hearing to get jobs, which is why we make an effort to educate employers whenever possible.”
One way SCIL does this is through educational programs and workshops. For example, a workshop titled “World Views of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing,” attended by 78 individuals, included both hearing and non-hearing individuals. The workshop focused on what it means to be deaf and what individuals and employers can do to effectively interact with people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Education is critical at all levels, including for family members whose misconceptions can be isolating. This is particularly true with the belief that people who are deaf can’t drive. McCroskey is reminded of a young woman, who has a job and uses public transportation but wants to get a driver’s license, and whose father is terrified of her becoming too independent. The misconception kicks in and the question is raised – “How can she drive – she’s deaf?”
“I get this question more than you can imagine,” said McCroskey. “I explained to the parents that my job is to help her prepare for her license, but the Department of Motor Vehicles decides if she can drive and plenty of deaf and hard of hearing individuals drive. I am here to offer a voice for choice.”
For McCroskey, there is one more misconception she’d like to put a dent in – that ILCs are board and care homes. ILCs provide services and advocate on behalf of individuals living with disabilities to remain independent. For example, RS and SCIL help deaf and hard of hearing individuals remain in their homes by providing assistive technology, relevant resources and training. They also make homes more accessible with doorbells, phones and smoke detectors that vibrate and have flashing lights. And they offer assistance to help deaf and hard of hearing individuals find accessible, affordable housing and provide landlord/tenant mediation.
For Deaf and Hard of Hearing Awareness Month, RS will be participating in Riverside’s Deaf Awareness Week, which provides opportunities for the deaf and hearing communities to interact.
The California State Independent Living Council (SILC) is an independent state agency which, in cooperation with the California State Department of Rehabilitation, prepares and monitors the State Plan for Independent Living.
The SILC Mission: To Create Policy and System Change for Independent Living
August 2014 Blog
This month I would like to talk about our Assistive Technology (AT) Department. Our Assistive Technology Manager (ATM), Patrick Tran, has had an incredible couple of months. Thanks to partnerships with Home Depot, Making Seniors Smile, Claremont 1st Methodist Church, the Lions Club and others SCIL was able to assist in making the lives of a few consumers safer and more independent. Let me expand on a few of the cases.
The day we had our Grand Reopening a consumer of Patrick’s stopped by to let him know that she received new hearing aids thanks to him working together with her and the Lions Club. She said since she put the hearing aids in her life has changed.
Patrick also received a call from a Gentleman he has been working with for the last year and he let him know that Medicare has finally approved for him to get his power wheelchair replaced. This should be delivered in early September.
Patrick also helped one of our consumers get a brand new desktop computer, hers had crashed and because she is on a fixed income and spends all her money on housing, food and medical she could not afford to replace it. Patrick helped her apply for a grant thru Making Seniors Smile and they came thru and purchased her a brand new Dell computer (See photo on photo page).
He also worked with a gentleman that had extreme mobility problems get 6 new handrails installed in his apartment making it safer for him to get around his apartment. This was thanks to Home Depot donating the handrails, and the contracting work of Amazing Handyman. Because of this the consumer will be able to stay in his apartment rather than be put into a Skilled Nursing Facility.
Besides these three case studies Patrick has worked with several other consumers to receive other pieces of equipment that will make their lives safer. These are thanks to some of our partners and also to the Lending Library’s he works with to loan some of this equipment to the consumers to see if will help them and let them use it until they can receive the permanent equipment.
Thanks to employees like Patrick SCIL has made a difference in several of our consumer’s lives and we will continue to do this every day. This is why we exist!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks for letting me gloat about one of our employees and what he does because of his passion for the disabled community. Oh and by the way Patrick does all this while dealing with his own visual empairment.
July 2014 Blog
They say I am the teacher; however I feel as I am the student. I learn every day and I don’t think I will ever stop learning. I actually never want to stop learning. I believe when you stop learning there is nothing more that will challenge you to reach for the next level. This is true in all aspects of our lives. This is why I have a rule here at SCIL that you never say “I can’t”. I feel that when you use that term you have given up on yourself and your abilities. I will not facilitate that here, we are all students, we can all learn and we will all strive to get over the next hill. No matter how steep and no matter how hard the journey up the hill is just remember that when you reach the peak the ride downhill is always fun.
I just got done viewing a video about Nicholas Vujicic a gentleman that was born with no arms and no legs. Here is a link to his story: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=born+with+no+arms+or+legs&FORM=VIRE2#view=detail&mid=8ABA616E3272AD781F428ABA616E3272AD781F42. Please take a look at it and after you view this I guarantee those words, “I can’t” will not come out of your mouth. Nicholas proves every day that if you want to do something and you never give up you will succeed.
I had a young man come into our center to attend our Arts & Crafts class. On this particular day they were working on making lanyards out of strips of plastic. He was given the strips and he stood there and said he couldn’t do this, wrong thing to say here. I had just walked into the room and heard him say this and confronted him and told him we do not say “I can’t” here. At that point a couple of our other consumer and staff members worked with him to help him start his lanyard. He worked on it and before he left that day he had finished a couple of inches of it and took it home to continue. He now knows “He can”.
Please just remember one thing, you can, we all can, just never give up!!!!
As I sit here reflecting on the first five months of 2014 the same thought keeps going thru my head, “I can’t believe it’s been five months”. This has been a whirlwind of change, growth, successes, and movement. Let’s revisit what has gone on here:
Consumer classes have started at both the Claremont and West Covina offices. We are now offering classes in computer skills for low vision and blind consumers at our Claremont location, and there is talk about starting the same class over at West Covina. The facilitator of this class, Trina Brown, is a volunteer and does an awesome job facilitating consumers at different skill levels. We have been very fortunate to partner with software companies Adaptive Voice and Ai Squared, who have donated software to the agency which is being used in these classes. Janice Ornelas and one of our consumers, Matt Numavond, are in talks to start a new computer class at both locations.
Gabe Rios, another of our volunteers, has started an American Sign Language (ASL) at our West Covina office that both consumers and staff are taking advantage of.
Ed Davis and Michael Bivens, two more of our volunteers are offering an iPhone/MAC training class, and I am in talks with Apple trying to get the Center a couple of MAC computers for our consumers to train on.
Cheryl Thurston and Trina Brown are getting ready to start an arts and crafts class. In October we have reserved a spot at the Claremont Chamber’s Village Venture, one of the region’s largest Arts and Crafts fairs. Our plans are to show and sell the crafts that our consumers will make during these classes. Proceeds from the sales will go back to the consumer, with a small amount donated to SCIL.
We also have regular Peer Counseling groups going at both locations; these are being facilitated by Alan Rivera, Cheryl Thurston and Narcissa Salazar from Project Return. These groups are regularly attended and enjoyed by all.
Once a week, SCRS is offering a job club at the West Covina office for consumers of the Regional Center. This club is to help consumers write resumes and find jobs.
SCIL has partnered with the California Telephone Access Program at the West Covina location for their phone give-away program that assists people who are hard of hearing. Jennifer Crespo, MA, from Connect Hearing in West Covina, has agreed to come during this program to give free hearing exams when she is available. SCIL also helps consumers see if they qualify for low cost internet service, as well as discounts with SCE.
Our goal is to offer whatever classes and/or programs our consumers say they need. We will look at all requests and if it is possible we will make it happen.
During the past few months, our employees have worked with several consumers on individual goals, and have had several success stories. For example:
Patrick Tran, our Assistive Technology (AT) Coordinator, worked with a consumer that was having trouble with her hearing. This was affecting her work and her daily life, but she didn’t know where to turn. Her boss told her about SCIL, so she contacted the Center and was put in touch with Patrick. Due to his drive and tenacity, he found groups that agreed to partner with us to pay for the exams, fittings, and finally the device, so the consumer could receive the help she needed. She is scheduled to pick up her custom-fitted hearing aid next week, and is thrilled beyond measure.
Patrick has also worked with several other consumers that have needed various AT items to help them live a safer and more independent life in their own home. He not only found the devices, but worked with the consumer to make sure that the devices were paid for by their insurance or outside agencies. Way to go Patrick!
Janice Ornelas, an Independent Living Specialist (ILS), has worked with several consumers to give them the ability to remain independent, in their own home, by working with several programs or directly with their landlords to work out issues so they are not evicted. Great Job!
Albert Gonzales, an ILS that specializes in benefits, is doing a standout job helping consumers with our Benefits Assistance Program. Albert goes out of his way to make sure that not each consumer understands the complicated process and what they are entitled to. He does everything from assisting Consumers with paperwork, to going with them to the Social Security Office during meetings that they need to attend. Thanks for your hard work Albert!
Angela Nwokike, our Systems Change Advocate, offered a leadership training class for some of our consumers that was organized thru the DO network. We had several of our volunteers attend and graduate the class. Angela, along with Alan Rivera & Cheryl Thurston, represented SCIL earlier this week up in Sacramento for Disability Awareness Day. Thanks for attending and having our voice heard.
Michelle De Silva, an ILS that specializes in Deaf Services, has been hard at work with several consumers on their individual goals. I also want to congratulate Michelle on wrapping up her classes and graduating from CSUN this semester. Fantastic job!
Jeanette Heitmann, ILS, has been doing an awesome job helping our consumers to develop and reach their goals by working with them one on one. Jeanette goes out of her way to go with the consumer to meetings that are helping them get the services they need.
And then there is Francesca Ponce De Leon, ILS Trainee. She is the go to person when it comes to doing anything that is asked of her. She helps with the Peer Counseling groups; she works with consumers to help them with their every need; and she also makes sure that everything is always set up when we are hosting meetings or events on site. Thanks Fran for all you do every day!
I couldn’t do what I do without the help of Susan Pearson, our Bookkeeper & Special Projects Coordinator. Without Susan I would be lost, she has the knowledge of all the particulars that we need to operate. We would not have our doors open every day without the financial and policy direction that comes from Susan – Thank You!
Then there’s me, Larry Grable, Executive Director. As you see by the stories above, I have the easy job because I have the best staff that there ever could be. It’s my job to make sure everyone has what they need to do what they need to do. Thanks to the staff, I have been able to get work done for the State that they have been after us to complete for a while. As a matter of fact it was just last week that I sent a 36 page report, completed, to Dwight Bateman, our Resource Specialist with the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR). This is a report that stems from a visit back in 2010. Thank you Dwight for your direction and help over the last five months! Dwight will be leaving DOR in a little over a month to go to another agency to share his expertise - he will be missed.
Please visit the Program Calendar on our website at www.scil-ilc.org for particulars on specific classes, and please let me know if there is anything else that SCIL can do to help the disABLED community.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity!