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Posted: Wed, 02/17/2016 - 08:38 | The New Normal

At New Jersey’s Camp Marcella, where many blind children spend a few weeks each summer, I used to sprint down the track, with no fear of veering into trees or other obstacles. I held a rope suspended vertically from a loop on a wire high above, which followed the course of the track. If I began to stray, the rope, zipping along the guidewire, would steer me back onto the track. 

Posted: Mon, 02/15/2016 - 15:45 | The New Normal

This is the second blog advocating against the term “special needs” that I’ve posted on the New Normal blog.  I’m writing a second article on this subject because I’m speaking on behalf of the majority of disability activists who agree that this term actually defeats our cause. I will take every opportunity to discourage its use until it’s no longer part of our vocabulary, because “special needs” separates us out from the mainstream (special) and it reinforces the charity model (needs) against which the disability community has been struggling for many decades.

Posted: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 09:48 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: Last summer, we were delighted to share an exclusive interview with Pam Schuller. Now we are proud to share her powerful Op-Ed:

by Pamela Rae Schuller

(JTA) — I have Tourette syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements and noises called "tics." My Tourette’s is relatively mild at this point, but I went through a turbulent adolescence when Tourette's was the most defining thing about me. Between the constant movements and the loud, uncontrollable noises, it was incredibly disruptive.

I now work in the Jewish community as an inclusion advocate, as well as in youth engagement.

Posted: Wed, 02/10/2016 - 07:45 | The New Normal

I've often thought about the question of the terms we use such as “Special Needs,” “Inclusion,” or “Disability,” and which words are best to open lines of communication? I do not have any hearing in my right ear. I also have a noticeable facial discoloration on parts of my right face that leads some people to think that I have had a stroke, and, over the years, I have used several orthotic devices and sometimes a cane for balance.

Posted: Mon, 02/08/2016 - 09:42 | The New Normal

Synagogues are opening the doors to participation by people with disabilities in large numbers. New buildings and remodeling projects follow the requirements provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Many synagogues have greeters stationed at the doors to welcome people and direct newcomers to coat rooms, washrooms and the sanctuary. Trained ushers know where assistive listening devices are located and can seat people who use wheelchairs with their family and friends.

Posted: Wed, 02/03/2016 - 07:48 | The New Normal

Editor's Note: As the primary season begins, we bring you this exclusive interview with Jennifer Laslzo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbilityUSA, an important organization working on disability rights. Jennifer is on the campaign trail advocating for people with disabilities and answered our questions via email.

NN: Can you describe RespectAbilityUSA's mission in terms of inclusion in the Jewish community and why following the presidential race is connected to your mission?

JLM: Our work is all about improving the lives of people with disabilities. There is a big role for Jewish institutions in that work, and we are deeply committed to Jewish inclusion. But ultimately the disability agenda is a civil rights agenda and an anti-poverty agenda. And it’s far bigger than just the Jewish community. And the only way to move those agendas is to ensure that it is on the “to do list” of the next president of the United States. We want our issues to be center stage in the first 100 days of the next president's first term, and beyond.