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

“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

When Beliefs and Reality Collide

By Connie Horn

It has been 24 hours since the phone call.

My grandson was having tests done. I was patiently waiting for the phone call to hear the results. I was also thinking about some of the behavior changes I’ve seen in him over the past few months. He used to respond when you called his name, now I can say his name over and over, with no response. Not even a glance my way. He used to let me hold and snuggle with him, now it is a struggle to get him to hug me or to sit on my lap.

Then the call came.

It is not easy to hear your grandson has autism. Continue reading


By Matthew Hobson

Trust in God is a common theme heard in church. Trust is the assured reliance on someone or something.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”

(Proverbs 3:5 NIV)

This has been the verse I live by. I do not understand why I was born nonverbal with autism. The odds were so against this happening to me. I often ask myself “Why me?” Why did this happen the way it did? The thing is, I know God has a reason. 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

Behind Schedule

By Rachel Patterson
Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD)
Sibling Leadership Network- D.C. Chapter

I’ve set out to write this post about 20 times. Those at the Bethesda Institute Blog know that this post is far behind schedule. When they first contacted me back in April, I promised them a post within a matter of weeks. But every time I sat down to write, I found a reason to avoid it. I had much more pressing work to accomplish, or other tasks to complete. I was too tired or stressed to write well. 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

The Sibling Role

By Katy Geisleman

In many children’s lives, parents tend to play a more “protective” role in the development of their children. Parents are the ones who provide for their children’s needs, who teach and train them and who advocate for them every step of the way. This is especially true when the child has a disability.

Growing up with a brother who is autistic and nonverbal, I saw my parents take this role very seriously. Not only did they provide for Matthew’s basic needs, they went out of their way to make sure he had the therapies and other supports that he needed. They were – and still are – incredible advocates for him. They have fought many battles for him in regards to schooling, employment, etc. 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

Disability and American Semantics

By David Morstad

It’s been nearly a year since Lydia Brown posted a very well-written piece titled, “The Significance of Semantics: Person-First Language: Why It Matters” on her blog, Autistic Hoya. I had missed it at the time but, thanks to a link from a friend, I had the pleasure of reading it today. I highly recommend it.

When it comes to the person-first language debate in disabilities, the autistic community has always been a bit of an outlier for exactly the reasons Ms. Brown outlines.

There’s no general consensus.

In fact, there is a fundamental difference of opinion among those most directly affected. That’s understandable. This is not a relatively clear-cut instance, e.g., ending the R word. At its core, it’s a discussion about the conceptualization of a disability and its relationship to personal identity.   Continue reading

Accept or Change?

By Ellen Hierl

My family recently went to the movies. As in most theaters, prior to the movie there was the usual announcement about turning off your cellphone and not talking. As the anticipated movie began, several rows behind us, someone kept making noise. It was annoying to say the least.

I couldn’t make out the words but this person was loud and disruptive. After listening for a little bit and debating if I should go let the theater staff know about the situation, I realized that the person making the noise had an intellectual disability. Once I realized this, I became much more accepting of the situation, but should I have? 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

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

Valuing Life, Preventing Suffering: A Central Tension in Genetic Screening for Disability

By Ellen Painter Dollar
Author, No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Parenthood, and Faith in an Age of Advanced Reproduction

I am writing this post from a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, where I am attending a conference of people with my genetic bone disorder, osteogenesis imperfecta (OI). OI is a collagen disorder that leads to fragile bones, skeletal deformities, and other symptoms. As I always find when I attend these conferences, the greatest benefit does not come from learning about the latest research or functional adaptations. Rather, it comes from being surrounded, as I so rarely am, with people who look and function as I do. Continue reading

Identity and Ability

By Amy Julia Becker
Author, A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations and a Little Girl Named Penny

When our daughter Penny was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after birth, I discovered that I had unwittingly believed two lies. One, that our identity arises from our abilities, or, put another way, that who we are is determined by what we can do. And two, that if we fall into the category “disabled,” we don’t have much to offer. 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

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

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

Those Who Served

By David Morstad

In a cemetery section reserved for people from an old institution, a lone flag marks the grave of one who served his country.

I never knew George Henke, but I make a point of visiting his grave every year around Memorial Day. Continue reading

Real Jobs With Real Pay

By Lynn Wiles
Bethesda Lutheran Communities

Bethesda Lutheran Communities’ Portland office is heading up a pilot project in Supported Employment, offering “real jobs with real pay” to the individuals we support – those both from Bethesda residential programs, as well as from outside referral sources such as the State Vocational Rehabilitation office and county DD branches. Portland serves a three-county area.

In July of last year, I started managing the supported employment venture.

At this time, Portland has seven people working in community-based jobs for at least minimum wage: 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

Does Disability Mean Inability?

By Connie Horn

Sometimes, it is easy for people – even people with disabilities – to be lulled into believing that disability is a virtually impenetrable barrier to success. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Continue reading

Autism Awareness Month

By Matthew Hobson

Since April is “Autism Awareness Month,” I wanted to tell what autism is like for me.  In my book, I’m So Glad You Found Me in Here, I give a little idea of what living with autism is like. Continue reading

A Few Basic Things

 By David Morstad

Last week in Pittsburgh, Lutheran Services in America held their annual conference. On Tuesday afternoon, the Disability Network of that group sponsored an open forum titled “Long Term Supports and Services,” featuring Dr. Charlie Lakin, director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. 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

Just tell me how many!

By David Morstad

Occasionally, I have the chance to speak to people about developmental disabilities and the people who have them. “How many people have a developmental disability?” is among the most basic questions. People deserve a good answer and it would be helpful to provide a simple percentage upon which everyone agrees. Unfortunately, that’s just not as easy as it sounds. 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

What I CAN do.

By Matthew Hobson

Awareness of abilities is more important than focusing on disabilities. Other people see only what I am not able to do. I want people to see what I CAN do.

I can want you to look past my disabilities, but I need to show you more than what I cannot do. Continue reading

Restraining Human Rights

By Connie Horn

Restraint and seclusion practices are happening in homes where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live, and also in our schools. Advocates and their families are starting to speak up and demanding restraint and seclusion practices come to an end. Continue reading