Accessible Gaming

Steve SpohnBy Steve Spohn
Editor-In-Chief, The AbleGamers Foundation

Accessibility is an elusive subject when it comes to universal design. When I talk about accessibility am I talking about how easy it is for an audience to access the content on different devices, how wide of a market the content can reach or literally how accessible it is?

The word gets thrown around a lot in the design industries, but when AbleGamers—a non-profit dedicated to getting people with disabilities access to video games—talks about accessibility we mean, “How much of the disability community can access your game?” Continue reading

Defining “Normal”

By Connie Horn

Normal DefinitionRecently I received a “Disability and Me” article from Zacharay Lassiter, a young man diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. His recent article A Struggle to be Normal really had me thinking about what normal is.

According to, normal means: conforming to the standard or common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural. Continue reading

“Differently-Abled” Toy Catalog: Integrated or Segregated?

Toy BearBy Ellen Hierl

You’re making a list, checking it twice and trying desperately to figure out what to give everyone on that list.

Not an easy task for sure. But then as you go down the list you see the name of a child who has a disability, and the task of buying a gift seems even more challenging. You question whether the age guidelines on the box will apply to this child? Will the child know how to use it? Will it be safe? Basically, you just aren’t sure how to approach this.

Maybe you will just get a new sweatshirt instead. Continue reading

Answers Left Unquestioned

TASH Conf LogoBy David Morstad

So Many Answers Left Unquestioned was the theme of the most recent TASH conference in Long Beach, California. As themes go, I like it. It’s clever, insightful and actually very appropriate to this field. We have a certain legacy of leaving important issues, trends and accepted truths go unquestioned. Continue reading

Voting: People With Intellectual Disabilities

By Ellen Hierl

We just completed national elections. Many of you exercised your right as a citizen to vote for the candidates of your choice.

But what about the people you support who have intellectual disabilities? Should they have the right to vote? Should their right to vote be limited based upon guardianship status or other measurements? If they do vote, how do we ensure they are not manipulated by people who support them?  Continue reading

Faith Community Involvement: What are the numbers?

By David Morstad

The numbers have been circulating for years.

  • Citing one prominent organization, a contributor to Christianity Today states, “perhaps 80% of the disabled are unchurched…”
  • A church’s website proclaims, “… 95% of those with disabilities are unchurched.”

Numbers that high certainly get our attention, create a sense of urgency and may indeed spur faith communities to action. Unfortunately, no one seems to know exactly where those numbers came from and, for a very long time, they have gone largely unquestioned. Continue reading

What if they DIDN’T have a disability?

By Connie Horn

I’ve recently read several news articles about people with disabilities, and it made me question the motivations of media coverage and how people with disabilities are portrayed.

Headlines that caught my eye were… 

Continue reading

Moving Out

By Matthew Hobson

Am I ready to move out?

Many people think it is a simple question. However, moving out is a big decision – especially if you have a disability. Several things must be considered. Financially, are you ready to move? Everyone’s situation is different. I have Social Security to help with my expenses. But it will not be enough to cover everything. Economics is one barrier. Architectural barriers could be a problem for a handicapped individual with a wheelchair. Continue reading

Rosa’s Law… 2 Years Later

By Gigi Marcellino
Rosa Marcellino’s sister

It’s hard to believe it has already been two years since we were invited to the White House to watch President Obama sign Rosa’s Law on October 5th, 2010.  Even though the excitement of all of the reporters and interviews is gone we are all still proud that we made a change that will continue to affect people in the future.  Continue reading

Employment Opportunities

By Connie Horn

As we start Disability Employment Awareness Month many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are successfully employed, but as a whole, unemployment among people with disabilities still remains high. One reason for this is the barriers they face to employment.

Continue reading

The Successfully Innovative Organization

By David Morstad

I am fresh from a Leadership Retreat within my own organization.

Its theme was innovation – how to foster it, how to more effectively create a culture in which it might flourish, and maybe just how to stay out of its way. One of the focal points of the week was a morning of conversation with representatives from two businesses with no real connection to the field of developmental disability support services:  GE Healthcare and Trek Bicycles.

What do these two companies, both high preforming and highly innovative, do when it comes to encouraging and benefiting from the innovative process? A couple of important ideas emerged from the conversation. Continue reading

I Want To Find A Job.

By Matthew Hobson

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Labor, over 41 million Americans currently deal with the challenges of disability, including an unemployment rate in excess of 72%. In addition, 13 million Americans have a ‘go-outside-the-home’ disability.”

- National Telecommuting Institute

People can often overlook those of us with disabilities like we have nothing to offer.

Employers seem uninterested or too afraid to give us a chance to prove what we can do. The jobs we can do vary as much as we do. The types of jobs for people with disabilities can obviously depend on the type of disability the person has. I want a job where I can use my typing ability. I do not have any other skill since I do not have the ability to use my hands well to do many jobs. Continue reading

Disability and Pity

By Connie Horn

Recently I attended a “lunch and learn” where I work. A lunch and learn is where staff get together to discuss a topic, while you eat your lunch.  The topic this day was about “pity” and people with disabilities. The discussion was based around a documentary by Drew Morton Goldsmith:


If you wish me well, do not stand pitying me, but lend me some succor as fast as you can; for pity is but cold comfort when one is up to the chin in water, and within a hair’s breadth of starving or drowning.

- AESOP, Fables

Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, male or female, or have a disability or not, chances are you would never want someone to pity you. Yet, many people think pity is ok as long as they do it to someone else.

Continue reading

‘Fixing’ the Disability

By David Morstad

As Christians, themes of healing and wholeness come naturally. We seek to be compassionate and make right that which appears broken, wounded or wrong. It is a noble and blessed calling.  In the lives of people with disabilities, we see undeniable need.

But what is the curative solution we seek? Are we more likely to pray, “God, take away that person’s disability,” or to pray, “God grant me patience to listen, grant me acceptance, grant me a voice to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, grant me forgiveness, grant me the wisdom to learn from those who have so much to teach me?” Continue reading

Families and Disability

By David Morstad

Family life is subject to strain. That conclusion is hardly a dazzling new discovery. Families are a series of relationships, and relationships, by their nature, are complex. Toss in a few contemporary issues like unemployment or other financial stress and day-to-day family life becomes even more complicated.

And then, there are the children. Specifically, children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

What is the truth about the rate of divorce among families of children with disabilities? Continue reading

Anniversary of the ADA

By David Morstad

“Three weeks ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day. Today we’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another “independence day,” one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.”

George H. W. Bush 1990

Those word s were spoken on July 26, 1990 as President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. The words were what they were supposed to be – honest, beautiful and celebratory.   Like all ceremonies, the signing of the ADA recognized the struggle that had gone before and looked to brighter days ahead. It was not a time to highlight uncertainty, opposition and fear on the part of people without disabilities, though a great deal of that swirled about. It continues to do so today. Continue reading

Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills: What’s Desirable?

By Lynn Wiles
Bethesda Lutheran Communities

Employers describe “soft skills” as those that cannot be taught but that are intrinsic to good workers.

When polled, the three soft skill traits most often identified as “desirable” among workers by almost 1,000 U.S. and Canadian employers were:

  • Motivation,the inherent drive one has to work.
  • Reliability,equated with doing one’s tasks consistently.
  • Dependability,which differs from reliability as defined by employers to encompass consistent attendance and punctuality. It is being able to be counted on. Continue reading

Four ways to improve communication about disability

By JoLynne Lyon
Public Relations Specialist at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University

To my fellow information sharers in the disability field: Has this happened to you?

  • You run into a powerful piece of writing about a disability issue in a paper newsletter. You want to share what you just read—maybe tweet it or post it to your Facebook page. You search for an online version but don’t find it—or after a determined search you do find it, buried on page 55 of a sprawling pdf document. It isn’t indexed. Or…
  • A group you partner with is putting on an event or looking for job applicants. They pass their information on to you by email. They have a website, but the story they just asked you to promote isn’t on it. Or…
  • You write an article on a disability issue for your own blog or website. When you search your stock photo service for an illustration, you find only variations on this theme: Continue reading

What does it look like to be remembered by God?

By Professor John Swinton
Practical Theology and Pastoral Care
University of Aberdeen

In 2009 I was asked to take part in a programme on BBC Radio 4 called Beyond Belief.  The topic of the programme was the theological issues surrounding dementia. The programme was a three way conversation between myself in the studio in Aberdeen, Scotland, UK and two psychiatrists, one a Muslim and the other a Hindu. Before the interview began the host of the show, Ernie Rea, told the three of us that we would be asked one final question at the end of the interview and that it might be useful to begin to think about it before the interview started.

The question was this: “if you ended up having dementia, how would you like to be treated?” Continue reading

The Continuing Journey

By Sheryl von Westernhagen
Dir, Metrics & Compliance
Diversity & Inclusion

As a company that emphasizes equal employment opportunities, OfficeMax® has had on its radar the hiring and retaining of individuals with disabilities.  There are different ways to accomplish this goal.  Some companies do a minimal of outreach and if an individual with a disability happens to apply and then happens to be a successful hire, it is counted as a win.  Others develop multiple programs, set goals, and drive a culture shift to ensure that all individuals can be successful in the workplace and be valued for who they are.

OfficeMax is on a continuing journey to be the latter type of organization. Continue reading

Paratransit Services… A Luxury?

By Connie Horn

Recently I came across the following article in The Baltimore Sun. The writer of the article said:

“The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s mobility program for the disabled looks like an expensive and unnecessary luxury. On a recent 20-minute trip to West Baltimore I spotted three of these vans that were either empty or had only a single passenger. This program must cost millions of dollars; how can we possibly afford it? If there is a justifiable need surely it can be met more efficiently by a private carrier. It seems there could be a good story here about an opportunity to cut excessive government spending.”

In the past few months I have written blogs on the topic of community accessibility for people with disabilities, so this article hit a nerve with me, especially when the writer said “looks like an expensive and unnecessary luxury.” Continue reading

Can Someone’s Height Be a Disability?

By Connie Horn

In May, I wrote a blog about Equal Access for People with Disabilities.  In the time since I wrote this blog, I have become more aware and honestly looking for, barriers to accessibility for people with disabilities, especially if they happen to use a wheelchair. Continue reading

Summer: Celebrate or Survive

By Sandra Brese Rice
Bethesda Lutheran Communities

For many families the summer is a time for vacations, outdoor free-play and fun. For some parents, however, it is a time of much-needed prayer. Parents and people who care for children with autism have mentioned to me how difficult the summer can be for them. Children with disabilities are used to routine and many thrive on schedules, patterns and details. Without the routines followed in school, summer can be quite a challenge for families as they reteach the rules they need to use each summer at home.  Continue reading

A Story of Siblings

By Matthew Hobson

It is a wonderful thing to have siblings when you have autism or any other disability. Brothers and sisters can find ways to interact with you, even if you want to stay in your own little world. Continue reading

Assistive Technology for Everyone

By Jane Vincent
Assistive Technology Lead
University of Michigan

Assistive technology is defined in multiple laws as “Any item, piece of equipment, or system…that is commonly used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” Continue reading

Job Coach Skill Sets

By Lynn Wiles
Bethesda Lutheran Communities

According to the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Disability Employment Policy, the national unemployment rate of people with disabilities is 12.5%, as compared to approximately 7.6% for the general population. Continue reading

Spiritual Life Assessment

By David Morstad

As evidenced by the joint position statement by the ARC and AAIDD, spirituality is acknowledged to be an important aspect of life for all people. From the standpoint of professional support provider planning and implementation, however, there continues to be little integration of active spiritual support into formal planning – and this includes many faith-based organizations. Continue reading

Do YOU still play with blocks?

By Connie Horn

Activity’s purpose is not to kill time,
but to keep time alive,
not to keep a person occupied,
but to keep him refreshed,
not to offer an escape from life,
but to provide discovery of life.

  -Unknown author

Continue reading

Everyone Has Barriers to Learning – So What Do You Do?

By Ellen Hierl

Recently, the Bethesda Institute presented its first webinar, Teacher Growth Series: Who Are The Learners? Part 1. This webinar focused on assisting teachers in serving people with intellectual disabilities. For this first session, we addressed several common barriers to learning and how to teach when these barriers are present. As I prepared for my presentation on limited learning capacity it struck me again that I have much more in common with the people we support than I have differences. Continue reading

Dare To Make a Difference

By Gretchen Block

Andrea and I have had the opportunity to work together for a little while now. We both work for Bethesda Lutheran Communities.  Different jobs, different responsibilities, but co-workers nonetheless. Last week she attended training on personal outcome measures (POM). I had the opportunity to do so a few years ago. We spent some time talking about our experiences. Continue reading

Have You Asked Him Yet?

By Sandra Brese Rice
Bethesda Lutheran Communities

“I’ve had a breakthrough! I’m so excited!” proclaimed a friend of mine who just began to pastor a congregation in Pennsylvania. He was referring to John, a young man with Down syndrome who attends church regularly with his parents.  Continue reading

Equal Access for People with Disabilities

By Connie Horn

Accessibility is a very important part of inclusion of people with disabilities. An accessible barrier free environment is the first step toward fulfilling the right of people with disabilities to participate in all areas of community life. Accessibility is a broad term covering all aspects of assuring that people with disabilities can participate and have the same choice everyone else have. Continue reading


By Ellen Hierl

Several years ago the question, “What would Jesus do?” was common in Christian circles as a challenge to guide our day-to-day interactions. It’s a great question and frankly, one that is very hard to live up to. All too often I find myself being impatient or self-serving, characteristics that are definitely not in keeping with WWJD.

Recently, while traveling in China, I came face-to-face with a situation that made me question what Jesus would do in this situation.  Continue reading

Advocacy for Change

By Gretchen Block

Change…change…more change. Why is it that things always seem to be changing? Who decided that a change was needed again? Can’t we ever slow down? We just get used to something and then there we go, changing things again. So this time, it’s a new employment opportunity for people that choose Bethesda as a provider?  Hmmm…

Bethesda is in the process of filling six new positions in our organization – Advocacy Mentors. Continue reading

Equal But Different?

By Ellen Hierl

It is great to get a discount, just ask any senior who gets their meal at a discount or the AAA member who benefits with reduced admission when on vacation. We like to find bargains when we are shopping and often brag about the deal we got. In some instances, the people we support are given discounts or even free items with the only criteria for this discount being they have a disability. Let me be clear, I am referring to discounts that would not be given to the person if they did not have a disability.

At first glance, I tend to think this is great. Continue reading