This week I researched high and low in order to keep you updated on current events in the community of people with disabilities. Hope you enjoy!
1. Melissa Shang, a ten-year-old with muscular dystrophy, is petitioning American Girl doll company to create a doll that reflects what it is like to live and grow up with a disability. Her petition requests that Mattel, the company that owns American Girl, release a doll who uses a wheelchair for 2015’s “Girl of the Year.” According to Shang, “Disabled girls are American girls too. We face challenges and overcome them every day.” Currently the petition, which can be found on www.change.org under the title “American Girl: Release an American Girl with a Disability”, has over 70,000 signatures. While the company has yet to confirm the future of an American Girl doll with a disability, they stated that they “applaud Melissa Shang for her amazing spirit and positive attitude.” The company also stated that the inclusive nature of American Girl dolls is “an important area in which [American Girl] remains committed to exploring and expanding.”
Learn more about Melissa’s activism on CBS News at “Girl with muscular dystrophy petitions Mattel to release disabled American Girl doll”.
2. A European invention aimed at increasing mobility for wheelchair-users in snowy-climates, called Wheelblades, is beginning to gain notice in the United States. The system works by attaching small skis to the front wheels of the wheelchair, making movement smoother and easier by increasing the weight distribution of the wheelchair. For one Minnesotan family in particular, Wheelblades has been life-changing. Stated Tracy Tabaka, who, along with her husband, was one of the first wheelchair-users in the United States to try Wheelblades, “We spend however many months out of the year with snow in Minnesota, and…this is a huge thing.” Sam Tabaka added that the invention “allows me to be more independent. It’s definitely changed my outlook on what I can do in winter on my own.”
Read more about how the Tabaka’s story at “Wheelblades: Helping people in wheelchairs stay active in the snow”.
3. Last month on Parentdish, a United Kingdom based blog, the mother of a child with Down syndrome took to her computer to protest society’s attitudes towards people with Down syndrome, in particular the attitude of nurses and doctors towards parents who are expecting a baby with Down syndrome. She shared some of the experiences she and friends have had with negative reactions to Down syndrome. These experiences include being met with sympathy and pity by the nurses upon disclosure of the news they would have a child with Down syndrome. Medical personnel also repeatedly mentioned abortion, even as the mothers neared the end of their pregnancies. The author believes that the high rate of abortions where Down syndrome is present is partly a result of the language used by the British National Health Service regarding such situations. Says the author, “the terminology is all about ‘risk’ and the very fact that we are screening out these babies as a national programme is disturbing.”
Watch a video explaining one couples’ similar experience on Parentdish at “Why is Down’s syndrome seen as so undesirable by society?”
4. The introduction of a rescue terrier dog has drastically changed one child’s life. Seven-year-old Kaelyn has a condition called Mastocytosis, which can result in very sudden and serious reactions to changes in her environment. Her dog, named J.J., is capable of detecting early onsets of such reactions, which allows J.J. to alert Kaelyn and her parents, giving them enough time to prepare and get help if necessary. Despite the risk of Kaelyn’s condition, her friendship with J.J. provides her with a veritable safety-net. Currently, J.J. accompanies Kaelyn to school, to bed, and even to the operating room.
Learn more about Kaelyn and J.J.’s story at “A Rescued Terrier is a Lifesaver to 7 year old Girl” on yahoo.com.
I’ll leave you with our quote of the week:
“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” – Sarah Williams.