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Posted: Wed, 11/04/2015 - 16:03 | The New Normal

“We’ve come so far as a country since passage of the Americans with Disability Act. However, the work is far from over. Economic self-sufficiency, that's the bone in my throat. That's the thing that we just haven't really accomplished," former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat of Iowa, told over 500 leaders in disability inclusion Sunday night November 1st at the inaugural 2015 Ruderman Inclusion Summit.

At the Summit, the Foundation honored Senator Harkin with the Morton E. Ruderman Award for his lifelong dedication to disability inclusion, including his steadfast work on the historic ADA bill. As part of the award, a $100,000 donation will be made to the Harkin Institute of Public Policy at Citizen Engagement at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa to help further tackle the most pressing issues facing those with disabilities.

Posted: Mon, 10/26/2015 - 18:10 | The New Normal

Support Services for diverse learners, such as SETSS (Special Education Teacher Support Service) Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Counseling, are invaluable resources that can change the way a mainstream classroom accommodates students with disabilities.

Students who require this type of related services receive a legal document called an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) from their local education agencies, which dictates how often students should receive each therapy and for how long. Where the session takes place, however, can make a world of difference.

Posted: Wed, 10/21/2015 - 06:20 | The New Normal

The difficulty of paying attention while praying is so well known that it is a source of mirth. Tom Sawyer squirms until the minister's "Amen," after which he feels free to capture an annoying insect. Our sages were well aware of the mind's tendency to wander.  They rarely made concentration during prayer absolutely mandatory. One exception is the end of the first paragraph of the Amidah (silent devotion): "Blessed are You, Lord, the Shield of Abraham." The origin of the prayer perhaps explains the need to concentrate during its recitation.

Posted: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 18:17 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared in e-Jewish philanthropy.

In my work as a coach and trainer at Ramapo for Children I partner with hundreds of schools, community organizations, agencies and synagogues to create inclusive environments for the broadest range of children to become successful.

Posted: Tue, 10/20/2015 - 10:12 | The New Normal

On Monday, October 19, 2015, UJA-Federation of New York hosted a day of learning for synagogue professionals and lay leaders to discuss, share and learn from experts and each other on how to make synagogues more open and welcoming to people with disabilities. The workshop was an opportunity to build skills and to learn about new innovative models to make synagogues more accessible and inclusive to all. The program included presentations from professionals from RespectAbility USA, The Jewish Inclusion Project, the URJ and Ramapo for Children, learning from a compelling self-advocate working in a synagogue community, as well as time for round-table discussions and brainstorming sessions with synagogue professionals leaders and topic experts.

Posted: Thu, 10/15/2015 - 06:55 | The New Normal

The Misunderstood Schoolgirl

As an advocate helping Brooklynites to obtain social security, I once assisted a woman whose learning disability was quite severe. Her school records from the year 1958 labeled her as “lazy” and “emotionally disturbed.”

The misunderstood schoolgirl came to mind during Simchat Torah, when we completed the last book of the Torah, Deuteronomy and on the very same day began the cycle again with Genesis. I believe that our tradition obliges us to understand the differences in how people read and requires us to provide everyone with access to sacred texts on their terms.