Posted: Tue, 04/22/2014 - 20:37 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: When Paula Fox first wrote for the New Normal, her tale of learning to read Torah only to struggle to reach the reading table inspired us to create the Bima Project. The idea was that we would help an interested synagogue create a more fully accessible bima that included an adjustable table. Paula and the folks in her shul moved rapidly toward this goal on their own and we are now thrilled to share their creative solution.

I learned to read Torah a year ago and now have read three times at Adath Jesurun Congregation in Minnetonka, Minnesota. As a wheelchair user, I was sitting too low to see the Torah on the regular Torah reading table. 

Posted: Mon, 04/21/2014 - 06:50 | The New Normal

As we approach the summer, many families are starting to make plans for camp, trips or cruises. Some parents of children with autism may feel as though it would be impossible to take a vacation with their son or daughter because of the child’s difficulty in behavior and communication and inflexibility in new situations (a characteristic of autism).

I recently came across a newspaper article that talked about Royal Caribbean’s first autism-friendly cruise line.

Posted: Thu, 04/17/2014 - 19:19 | The New Normal

Recently, we heard from  a New Normal reader who has a mobility impairment. She told us that she had a difficult time accessing the 92nd Street Y, the iconic Jewish cultural institution in New York City because there was no pop-up button on the main door, intercom to ask for help and the security guard inside the building was unresponsive.

We reached out to the Y, which replied quickly and responded to her concerns.

Posted: Wed, 04/16/2014 - 21:40 | The New Normal

This week, as many of us sat down to enjoy our Seders with friends and family, I was very aware of two types of freedom that we celebrate at the Seder: “freedom from” and “freedom to.” We celebrate the “freedom from” slavery and oppression. We re-enact this form of freedom as we eat bitter herbs and dip our greens into salt water. We celebrate the “freedom to” as we conduct our own Seder experience. Each home leads its own Seder without benefit of Rabbi or Hazzan. Each person, young or old, has a part to fulfill at the table. 

Posted: Wed, 04/16/2014 - 07:41 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: As part of a dialogue about autism and our community during Autism Awareness Month, we are sharing Educator Lisa Friedman's blog about autism advocacy, acceptance and recovery. It was originally featured on Think Inclusive. Please share your comments below.

In January, I wrote a blog about a poet and self-advocate named Scott Lentine, who has autism. I continue to be impressed by self-advocates who use the power of their words to inspire others to greater levels of understanding. As a blogger, I can relate. I write to inspire, motivate and support others on the journey toward inclusion.

In learning about him, however, I began to grapple with the question of whether there's a tension between the concepts of autism acceptance and autism recovery, and now I'd like to share that question with the New Normal community.

Posted: Sat, 04/12/2014 - 19:46 | The New Normal

At the Passover Seder, we recall the Israelites’ redemption from Egyptian slavery.  It is an appropriate time to examine the link between Egyptian slavery and beliefs that can keep us in bondage.

The “Egypt Within”

The Hebrew word for Egypt, “Mitzrayim,” closely resembles the Hebrew word “maytzarim,”—boundaries, constraints, narrow and confining spaces. None of us is physically enslaved, but some of us experience “the Egypt within,” believing that we are trapped by our disability, confined to “narrow spaces,” from which we cannot escape to live fulfilling lives.