Best ways to get around rural areas without a car

Donna Smith is the Director of Training with Easter Seals Project Action, which supports accessible transportation across the nation. Here she is with a guest post.

Getting from A to B

by Donna SmithDonna Smith and her Seeing Eye dog Farlow. Have dog, will travel.

Have you ever considered how you would travel in small town America if you didn’t drive a car? This is a concern for many people who live in rural or small town areas across the country — either they don’t have a car, can’t drive a car, or are part of a household that only has one car.

Alternatives to driving (bus, subway, rail, trolley or taxi service) are not always available outside of large urban areas of the country. Even when alternative transportation options are available, there can be many restrictions: limited hours of operation, restricted coverage area, eligible only to certain populations, lack of connectivity between service areas, just to name a few. So what do people without the option of driving do to get around in rural America? It often comes down to learning to use a patchwork of available options.

Travel training is the profession of teaching independent travel skills to people with disabilities, older adults and people with limited English proficiency. Easter Seals Project ACTION recently modified the “Introduction to Travel Training” curriculum—now we teach travel skills in rural settings, too.

Our Introduction to Travel workshops start out with making an assessment of a person’s abilities and skills for independent travel, planning out the trip and assessing the trip for safety and accessibility for the person who will be making the trip. After that, the person taking the trip is taught additional skills needed to successfully reach their destination.

Most trips in rural areas are made with a combination of walking, bus transportation and, sometimes, carpooling or volunteer drivers. How much of the trip can be made as a pedestrian depends not only on the traveler’s ability to walk or roll, but the safety and accessibility of the environment. Some questions we consider:

  • Are there sidewalks?
  • If so, are those sidewalks passable?
  • If there are no sidewalks, and the person must travel along the shoulder of the road, is it wide enough to allow for a safe distance from moving traffic?
  • Is there sufficient lighting to make walking on the shoulder feasible?
  • What kind of intersections must be crossed?
  • Is there a pedestrian crossing cycle?
  • If there is no pedestrian crossing cycle, is there clearly a safe opportunity for a pedestrian to cross?
  • Is there enough time to make the crossing?

These sorts of considerations are taken for granted in a lot of urban areas, but in rural and small town locations, there can be a very mixed bag of responses to these questions. When transportation is available to the public in rural areas, most often it is some kind of bus system. It can be a fixed-route system that runs one or more defined routes with either specific bus stops or flag stop service, or it might be a flexible route system that allows for slight deviations to pick up people at home or other locations such as a supermarket or workplace.

Even in places where bus service like this exists, people have to figure out how they can get to the bus service. If walking or rolling isn’t an option, then asking a friend or family member for a ride, finding a carpool, or using a volunteer driver are all options. Working out the details for each of these is up to the individuals involved. However, some kind of compensation is typically offered — paying for fuel, offering a rate per mile, or paying a set fee for the trip.

The National Research & Training Center on Blindness & Low Vision
offers a Transportation Guide that is a very good resource for learning more about how to find and make use of the possible transportation options in your local area. Easter Seals Project ACTION was pleased to serve on the advisory council for this research project and contribute to this resource guide.

Easter Seals Project ACTION also offered a free webinar called “Getting from A to B: Connecting Individuals to Transportation Resources in Your Community” last month, and if you missed it, then don’t worry – you can still access it online at the “event resources” section of our event page. To learn more about travel training, check out the resources at the Project ACTION web site.

 

Hanging with Sen. Harkin, Ben Trockman and others on Capitol Hill

Me (2nd from right), Ben Trockman (center) and our cohorts

I had such fun hanging out with Ben Trockman at the Easter Seals Advocacy Summit in Washington, DC last month, and I loved reading the post he wrote last week about our visit to Capitol Hill. Here are some more details on ways all of us advocated for the funding and programs that support employment for adults, seniors and veterans with disabilities while we were in DC.

First off, Easter Seals provided an advocacy training seminar to empower the affiliates for our appointments the next day with U.S. Representatives, Senators or their staff. During this time, we were reminded of some staggering statistics regarding employment and people with disabilities and veterans:

  • 80% of people with disabilities who want to work are NOT represented in the workforce, compared to 70% of people without disabilities who are.
  • Gulf War veterans represent 1/2 of all unemployed veterans.
  • Female veterans are the fastest growing homeless population.
  • The over-65 age group is the most employed demographic population.

49 Easter Seals affiliates (a total of 200 representatives) were set to make 231 appointments, 91 of those being with our Senators and Representatives. This map shows where we came from and what areas we serve:

Our agenda was to urge our Senators and Representatives to pass the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program and the Senior Community Service Employment Program. Here’s why:

  • We want individuals with disabilities, older adults and veterans to get jobs.
  • Too many people struggle to find meaningful work.
  • Congress MUST increase access to employment services and supports and improve employment outcomes and opportunities for these populations.

Claudia Gordon

During the advocacy summit, we heard from Claudia Gordon, a former Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement at the White House and currently Special Assistant to the Director in the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Gordon is the first African-American lawyer who is deaf, and she gave an inspiring presentation about the obstacles she overcame to be where she is today. She is the public engagement advisor to the disability community.

The OFCCP has set a goal for federal contractors that could result in an additional 600,000 jobs for people with disabilities in the coming year. In addition, the OFCCP is requiring federal contractors to collect more data on disability and veteran employment.

Other Hoosiers joined Ben Trockman and me to meet with Indiana’s representatives and senators to discuss how Easter Seals is making a difference in the communities they represent and serve. Ben was an intern with Easter Seals and is an ambassador for people with disabilities, and he spoke about the importance of employment for young adults. Ben was excited to announce that he was just offered a position with Old National Bank in Evansville as their Community Outreach and Employment Specialist, in which Ben will work with Easter Seals and other employment providers to ensure that people with disabilities, veterans and seniors are accurately represented in the workforce.

On Tuesday, June 24, we were scheduled for six meetings on Capitol Hill:

  • Rep. Susan Brooks with Legislative Director Megan Brooks (IN-05)
  • Rep. Andre Carson with Legislative Assistant Erica Powell (IN-07
  • Sen. Joe Donnely with Legislative Assistant Devin Benavidez (IN-S)
  • Sen. Dan Coats with Legislative Assistant Sam Blevins (IN-S)
  • Rep. Marlin Stutzman with Legislative Assistant William Young (IN-03)
  • Rep. Larry Bucshon with Legislative Assistant Sarah Killeen (IN-08)

Sen. Harkin

Ben Trockman already wrote about how Senator Tom Harkin spoke at our reception dinner at the end of that very busy day. Ben was noticeably thrilled to spend one-on-one time with the Senator who was a founding advocate for the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Assistive Technology Act, and an overall advocate for people with disabilities in the United States. I had so much fun at the advocacy summit, and Ben was a hoot to hang out with.

At Easter Seals Crossroads in Indianapolis where I work, our advocacy for employment opportunities for people with disabilities goes far beyond our time spent on Capitol Hill. From providing young adults in high school with employment skills through the NEXT Project to assisting adults with disabilities with resume, interview skills and job coaching in our employment services division and working to reintegrate veterans into the workforce, Easter Seals Crossroads is committed to empowering people with disabilities through employment, as are many of our fellow Easter Seals affiliates across the country.

View photos and learn more about Capitol Hill Day with Easter Seals by following #CapHill14 on Twitter!

 

Sara’s July 4th playlist: Red, White and Blue, I Love You

Today’s guest post is from military wife, mother and Easter Seals Dixon Center administrative coordinator extraordinaire, Sara Heidenheimer, who has previously written about military relationships for Easterseals.com.

Red, White and Blue, I Love You

By Sara Heidenheimer

I’m that patriotic person you see in the parking lot with an American flag on her car.  The one who always decorates for Flag Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day and, of course, July 4th.  It’s one of my favorite holidays –– a big party celebrating how our country began.

Even better, it’s one day that I can be super patriotic and no one stares at me.

I think growing up in Texas had a lot to do with my strong sense of country (both our nation and music!).  We Texans are not only very proud of our state, we’re also very proud of our country.  And, both JG’s (my husband) and my grandpas served in the military, so we’ve always been aware of what’s been given up for us.

Me and my son, and my patriotic hair accessory

This is going to be my first year in Washington, DC, for the 4th, which is super exciting because this is where it all began. (Well, I guess that honor could go to Boston or Philadelphia, but I think DC overrides them because it’s where the President lives.) If I’m lucky enough to get tickets to the rooftop of the Easter Seals Dixon Center building, we’ll be up there cheering away with our flags and red, white and blue t-shirts. If we don’t get tickets, we’ll brave the crowds on The Mall. We’re not going to live here forever, so I really want to share this cool experience, watching the fireworks go off next to the Washington Memorial, with my family.

Busting these out for the 4th

I also want to share a little bit of my favorite holiday with you, so I’ve created a special July 4th playlist. We’ll be listening as we drive into DC for the fireworks…hope you’ll sing along with us, too. And please share your playlist picks in the Comments section below!

Sara’s July 4th Playlist:

  • Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly – Aaron Tippin
  • Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue – Toby Keith
  • Only in America – Brooks and Dunn
  • God Bless the USA – Lee Greenwood
  • God Bless America – U.S. Navy Band
  • The Stars and Stripes Forever – U.S. Navy Band
  • Born in the U.S.A – Bruce Springsteen
  • Star Spangled Banner – Whitney Houston (I get chills every time I hear this, especially when it is sung well.)
  • America, the Beautiful – Ray Charles
  • R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A– John Mellencamp

What’s on your July 4th playlist? Tell us in the comments below!

 

Legislation worth advocating for

Me and Sen. Harkin

Last week my friends and colleagues from Easter Seals Southwestern Indiana, Easter Seals Crossroads in Indianapolis, and Easter Seals Arc Northeast Indiana stormed Capitol Hill to meet with our Indiana legislature. Our goal was to advocate the passing of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, along with other pieces of legislation that would increase employment opportunities for veterans and people with disabilities.

Our group of seven from the Hoosier state was accompanied by over 200 people from over 40 Easter Seals affiliates — including our executive staff from Easter Seals HQ –- and all across the country; it was the day of disability advocacy in DC. Well folks, it seems like our hard work on Capitol Hill is paying off. On Thursday, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act cleared the Senate, and is now on the way to the House.

In all honesty, I couldn’t be more excited and more proud of all the work from Easter Seals. It’s not every day that one has the opportunity to visit their state senators and congressmen and women’s offices to advocate a piece of legislation. Not only did we meet with these folks — we made a difference — and this piece of legislation is now going to impact thousands of lives in the United States. That’s an astounding accomplishment!

On top of all of the exciting work we did on Capitol Hill, our trip was capped off by a reception where we had a chance to hear from and meet Sen. Tom Harkin — a hero in the disability community — and a man who has been a champion for disability rights for over 30 years.

Although Sen. Harkin was only supposed to make a few remarks at the reception, he ended up speaking — from his heart — for over 20 minutes. He covered a wide range of disability issues that he and many others have been working hard on for many years, like the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the recent Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities. Needless to say, his words got the crowd of Easter Seals folks very excited, emotional and passionate; especially when he shared his feelings of how the United States is the leader in every aspect of disability law and legislation. Easter Seals does, after all, support the international human rights treaty of the United Nations, which is largely based on the ADA. Pretty cool.

After his remarks, I had the opportunity to speak with Sen. Harkin for about 10 minutes. I have to say, the impact of simply having a short conversation with Sen. Harkin was not something that I expected. I have known how important he has been in the disability community throughout the years, but I did not expect to be so emotionally overwhelmed and sincerely excited after meeting Tom.
Our short conversation has reinvigorated my enthusiasm about continuing my drive to improve the accessibility of airline travel for people in wheelchairs (something I’ve been working hard on for the past few years), starting an Accessible Airlines Petition and drafting an Accessible Airlines Proposal.

It is people like Sen. Harkin that drive me, drive Easter Seals folks, and continue driving the world to be a better place. Let’s all continue taking a stand whenever you have the ability to do so, and when you find something worth advocating — well — get out there and do it!

 

Why I’m inspired to explore without limits

Image credit: Apple

Apple’s new campaign “Exploring Without Limits” is exciting for the deaf community, and for me! Their campaign is about Cherie King, who is deaf, and how she manages to travel to different countries with her iPad. She uses the iPad to communicate with others on the road. Having an iPad is so convenient for King to travel with, it becomes a barrier breakthrough in most countries she travels to. I hope this campaign inspires more deaf people to travel and discover other deaf communities. It has inspired me. I’ll tell you why.

I’ve been deaf since birth, and I have a lot of friends who are deaf or hard of hearing. I’m constantly listening to their travel stories and how they use gestures and pen/paper to communicate. It is so nice listening to Cherie King’s perspective on traveling using an iPad. Our generation relies heavily on technology, but having that incorporated in travel planning and travel communication is surprisingly eye-opening.

Many people have asked me how deaf people manage to travel on their own, because how would we know when to board a plane, how would we communicate with others in a foreign language and how would we know a car or a pedicab is coming behind us? Well, boarding a plane is one of the easiest things to do. Plus, deaf people are natural observers, and we ask the front desk to let us know if our cab is here or for help.

With tablets, we don’t have to ask others for help as much, which feels good. King mentions that she uses an app to look up if her plane gets delayed or cancelled, and she can catch the next flight available via her app.

How would you communicate with a foreigner? Gestures, learning their language, and trying to accommodate? Us too. Lucky for all of us, gestures are usually universal. King uses a translator app, and an app that is picture-oriented (so that you communicate via pointing out pictures instead of words). The car/pedicab is a little tougher, but we watch out for ourselves and our friends, we use our eyes, and we observe the environment around us a little more.

After looking at the campaign’s site, I went over to King’s website/blog — it’s pretty interesting. She shares gorgeous pictures of her travels, and her travel stories. King uses various kinds of apps like TripAdvisor, BabelDeck, AroundMe, Twitter and many more to communicate with people around her. For example, she would show the address on the Maps app to a pedicab driver so communication is communicated effectively and she gets wherever she needs to be.

This campaign really opened my eyes to the technology we could use to make travel easier, not only for deaf people but for everyone in the world. I don’t travel, mainly because I’m still on a college budget, but I daydream of going to London or Australia or Japan. I often am intimidated by the thought of how would I communicate, and how would I translate other languages… and Apple answered. I am now inspired to start traveling as soon as I complete college in the winter! With this technology (and other tablets), we can make new friends, experience places like we’ve never before, and truly enjoy traveling.

 

Major job training bill advancing in Congress

Once a month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) comes calling with news on the employment picture for people with disabilities. The news is never great. The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is always in the double digits and – like during the last report (May 2014) – is more than double the national average. These monthly reports are wakeup calls, for sure, yet these alarming calls mostly go unanswered. Until now… I’m happy to report.

Congress is on the verge of finalizing legislation to help address the employment struggles faced by individuals with disabilities. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate reached agreement on a bill – known as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act or WIOA – to update America’s workforce development and job training system, including the programs that help people with disabilities develop relevant skills and find jobs in their communities. The U.S. Senate took the first step toward enacting this legislation by overwhelmingly approving WIOA on June 25. The bill next moves to the U.S. House of Representatives where leaders have expressed confidence that the House will promptly act on the legislation to send it to the President, who announced he plans to sign the bill into law.

The timing on final approval of this historic legislation could not be more perfect.

Currently, only two in ten individuals with disabilities are in the workforce (compared to nearly 7 in 10 individuals without disabilities) despite the fact that about 80 percent of working-age people with disabilities want to work. Earlier, I wrote about recent efforts to boost hiring demand for people with disabilities, including hiring goals for federal contractors. In addition, the retirement of scores of Baby Boomers over the next decade creates new demand for qualified individuals in the U.S. workforce. Jobseekers with disabilities can help meet the hiring demand as long as they are equipped with relevant work skills needed by those employers.

That’s where this legislation comes in.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act addresses the supply side by helping to ensure individuals with disabilities, particularly youth with disabilities who are transitioning out of high school, have early access to employment services and supports focused on acquiring marketable skills needed for jobs of today and tomorrow. In addition, the bill sets high expectations, focuses on improving employment outcomes and promotes long-term employment success through customized employment, supported employment, assistive technology and other employment strategies.

Easter Seals supports the bill and has been very active throughout the legislative process. In fact just one day before the U.S. Senate action, 200 Easter Seals advocates from across the country met on Capitol Hill to push for passage of WIOA. In addition, Easter Seals online activists sent over 2,500 emails to their Members of Congress in support of employment services for people with disabilities. We have been so focused on passage of this bill because our hope is that after it becomes law and is fully implemented the Bureau of Labor Statistics will come calling again… but this time with good news about increased hiring and improved employment picture of people with disabilities. That’s what this is all about. And while it may not happen overnight, we think this bill is the start of something big in terms of employment for people with disabilities.

 

What scientists say about the exoskeleton kick

Exoskeleton and FIFA World Cup logo

Credits: Fogarty International Center, FIFA World Cup, Walk Again Project

We got so many comments and likes to Ben Trockman’s post last week that I thought you blog readers might like a follow-up. Here’s how scientists reacted to that momentous event at the World Cup’s opening ceremonies — a teenager who is paralyzed used a thought-controlled, robotic exoskeleton to do an opening kick.

Wired magazine quoted a neuroscientist and biomedical engineer at the University of Michigan saying that the opening kick might just be grandstanding. For brain-machine interface researchers, the Wired story said, “the impressiveness of the demo depends largely on the degree to which the exoskeleton is controlled by the person’s brain.” My husband Mike Knezovich wrote a story years ago about similar research at the University of Chicago, and the Wired story says that while several exoskeletons that can allow a paralyzed person to walk slowly are already available, researchers have only had modest success starting and stopping exoskeletons with signals from the brain. The neuroscientist said that if the teenager had walked gracefully at a normal speed to the ball and made adjustments on the fly — like if the ball had moved just as he was about to kick it — that would have been a phenomenal advance.

Over at the NIH Director’s blog, Dr. Francis Collins described the opening kick as an inspiring event that he hopes will provide encouragement for people living with paralysis, including an estimated 6 million in the United States alone. He wants people to be realistic though. From the article:

As compelling as today’s demonstration may have been, it was just a proof of concept. Robotic exoskeletons remain in the very earliest stages of development. Scientists need to refine their designs and test them on more people, and they need to analyze and publish the enormous amount of data they’ve already gathered.

Dr. Collins was pleased that billions of people saw that opening kick and says he hopes it serves as an “inspiring glimpse of just one of the many things that can be achieved when science is supported over the long haul.” Last week’s dramatic debut of this robotic exoskeleton came from 20+ years of scientific studies, and in his post last week, Ben said “To know there are people in this world that have the drive and determination to cure paralysis and improve the lives of people with disabilities is incredible.”

I asked Ben to write that post last week because I wanted to know what the opening ceremony kick would mean to him personally. I wondered if he thought all the hype was just a gimmick — more spectacle than science. He answered my question with the last line of his post: “I know there are some who think that the effort might be promising too much, too soon, but leave no second guessing here — I’m in!”

 

Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative?

Psychologists from Northwestern University here in Chicago published a study called “Lottery Winners and Accident Victims: Is Happiness Relative?” back when the Illinois State Lottery had just begun in the ’70s. The researchers asked 22 winners to rate their happiness months after the initial elation of winning the big bucks. In addition, they asked the winners how much pleasure they were taking in mundane activities like reading a magazine or meeting friends for coffee. Then they interviewed people who lived in the same neighborhoods as the winners but hadn’t won the lottery. The results showed that months after the winners were announced, the non-winners were just about as happy as the lottery winners. The so-called losers were finding much more pleasure in everyday activities than the winners were.

Whitney and me: a picture of happiness

The researchers also interviewed people who were paralyzed in accidents that same lottery year. Their research found that after initial sadness, the people who were paralyzed rated their pleasure in everyday activities slightly higher than that of the lottery winners. Their life satisfaction was nearly the same. Interesting.

It’s Monday. After I finish the cup of coffee my husband Mike made for me this morning, I’ll flip on the radio and listen to some classic pop music while I feel through the shoes in my closet for my sandals. Ben Folds? Jackson Five? The Police? Stevie Wonder? From there I’ll head outside with my Seeing Eye dog Whitney. It’s a warm, sunny, summer morning in Chicago. Maybe we’ll take the long way home, listen for birds, smell the flowering trees.

Back in the apartment, I’ll spend a few hours on my job for Easter Seals – I do most of my blog work from my talking laptop here at home. Then time to shower, dress, and head to the nearest stop with Whitney to catch a bus to head to the memoir-writing class I lead in nearby Lincoln Park.

I’ll feed my Seeing Eye dog when we get back, then maybe I’ll listen to a book while waiting for Mike to get home from work.
I’m re-reading my favorite book from childhood, one my older brothers and sisters read aloud to me when they were teaching me to read: The Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh.

After my trip to the 100 Acre Wood? Off to Costco! I’ll hang on to the back of the cart, eavesdrop on people from all walks of life, try to decipher the dozens of foreign languages I hear, all while Mike pulls us through the aisles. He’ll stop periodically, say “Feel this!” and drop an enormous oversized jar of some unknown substance into my hands. “Miracle Whip!” he’ll exclaim with glee. I always roll my eyes, but I can’t help but laugh, too. And I can’t help but relish, ahem, the $1.50 hot dog and pop we enjoy before we leave. Free refills, too!

After unloading the Land of the Giants groceries at home, we might slink over to Hackney’s to share some wine with friends: Mondays are half-price bottle nights. Who wouldn’t think they’d won the lottery after a day like today? And I didn’t even have to buy a ticket!

 

Interns with disabilities are finding jobs in Wisconsin

When I started at Easter Seals over 12 years ago, I never pictured myself involved with graduation ceremonies for young adults. It never occurred to me that one day I would be part of sending young adults into the work world, but here I am!

Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin has two Project Search sites in our area, and last week we had two completion ceremonies for our 24 Project SEARCH interns.

Project SEARCH is an exciting transition program for young adults with disabilities, and we collaborate with local businesses to provide employment skill building through internship rotations there.

In addition to the job skills learned in the internship, the classroom curriculum gives interns pointers on:

  • appropriate interpersonal skills with supervisors and co-workers
  • resume writing
  • job searching
  • how to apply for a job
  • how to understand what employers are looking for
  • understanding company policies
  • attendance, honesty and appropriate dress codes

During the ceremonies, each intern shares what they have learned over the last nine months. The interns are always a little nervous about speaking, but you can feel their well-deserved pride, and their stories never cease to amaze me.

What made this year particularly special were the VIPs in the room. Governor Scott Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch keynoted these ceremonies as part of the Administration’s adoption of the “Better Bottom Line,” a year-long focus on employing individuals with disabilities in Wisconsin.

One goal of Better Bottom Line is to triple the number of Project SEARCH sites in our state, and we all learned how well Project SEARCH is working already: three interns announced they were starting jobs that very day.

Having the VIPs there was very special, but the very best part was looking around these large conference rooms (they can hold over 150 people) and seeing every seat filled and people standing at the back of the room! We were joined by family, mentors from our employer host sites, senior managers and volunteers.

I thought the atmosphere, the support and the experience of those ceremonies perfectly reinforced the message the founder of Easter Seals gave us nearly 100 years ago: “Your life and mine should be valued not by what we take… but by what we give.”

 

HBO movie “The Normal Heart” and our history with polio

I just saw a very powerful movie called The Normal Heart. Directed by Ryan Murphy and based on a play by Larry Kramer, the movie portrays the AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s. I was immediately intrigued by the cast: Mark Ruffalo, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons (whom we met at a Variety event last year) and my favorite, Julia Roberts, whose character uses a wheelchair.

Academy-award winning actress Julia Roberts plays a doctor who had polio as a child.

Academy-award winning actress Julia Roberts plays a doctor who had polio as a child.

Roberts plays Dr. Emma Brookner, a character based on Dr. Linda Laubenstein, a pioneer in AIDS research. When the AIDS epidemic started, Dr. Laubenstein was one of the very few doctors who treated people with AIDS. Laubenstein had severe asthma and weakness from childhood polio, an illness that required three major operations and left her paralyzed at age five. When Julia Roberts was interviewed about playing a character who had polio, she said, “This to me is a great reminder for all of us not to lose even a slight bit of our compassion toward one another.” Her story piqued my interest because it ties to what I have learned about Easter Seals’ history in treating people with polio.

In the early 1900s, the dramatic increase in polio cases caused the disease to be regarded as an epidemic. Thousands of children and adults were paralyzed by polio, and Easter Seals founder Edgar Allen raised funds and built a hospital where children with polio could stay and attend school classes. Children were also fitted with crutches and leg braces at the hospital.

Easter Seals still treClinic at Gates Hospital in Elyria, Ohio” width=ats people with post-polio syndrome: today, post-polio rehabilitation might involve help using braces, crutches, canes, wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment. Therapy might include regular exercise and help with flexibility, strengthening and conditioning exercises or modern therapies, like warm-water pools. I am proud to be part of an organization with such a rich history — and one that continues to provide exceptional services to people with disabilities and their families.

The Normal Heart premiered on May 25th, so you can still check it out on HBO.