The New Normal

Everyone is welcome in The New Normal, a Jewish blog about disability. We're a source of information, inspiration and a challenge to received wisdom.

Send The New Normal Your Accessibility Complaints And Kudos!

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.

Accessibility

At Seder, Celebrating 'Freedom To' Participate And 'Freedom From' Oppression

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. 

Rabbi Daniel Grossman

Can Autism Acceptance and Autism Recovery Coexist?

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.

Lisa Friedman

Passover’s Call to Action—Escape from the Slavery of Self-Imposed Limitations

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. 

Rabbi Michael Levy

Landmark Settlement for Employment of People with Disabilities

Editor's Note: Shelley Cohen's blog published today is very timely, as the Justice Department announced a landmark agreement with the State of Rhode Island yesterday that will liberate people with disabilities from sheltered workshops. Read more about this agreement in The New York Times.

The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into the nation’s first statewide settlement agreement vindicating the civil rights of individuals with disabilities who are unnecessarily segregated in sheltered workshops and facility-based day programs. 

Four Questions, Four Answers: Passover and Children with Sensory Processing Differences

For children who have sensory processing differences, Passover can be a very challenging holiday. Sensory integration refers to how our our minds and bodies continuously process, filter and respond to information from our surroundings in order to pay attention, behave in a flexible manner and interact with others.

The four questions may look slightly different under the circumstances ….
Why do I have to sit for such a long time?  Why is everyone singing way too loud? Why do these foods smell so awful? Why can’t I just eat what I want?

Jaime Bassman

My Experience: Autism And Judaism

Like all human beings my unique personal identity is composed of many facets. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a daughter and a wife, a Democrat, a citizen of the United States, a writer and a former attorney. I am also an autistic Jew. I am proud to be all of the above. I like who I am. There are times, though, when much to my sadness, it is not easy to be both autistic and Jewish. While my religion places great value on empathy and inclusiveness, not all those who practice it do. While my people have risked their lives to stand in solidarity with others who have been disenfranchised, there have been times when we have neglected to stand in support of one another.

Ten Ways To Make Your Family Seder Accessible For All Learners (And Keep The Grown-ups Engaged, Too!)

Editor's Note: These wonderful suggestions take the reader through steps of the Passover seder.

Passover is an ideal holiday to explore multi-sensory ideas for reaching every type of learner at your seder through activities that engage particpiants not only through visual and auditory information, but also through touch, taste, and smell. Whether your goal is to keep everyone’s attention, or help individuals understand the story, or encourage participation from every guest, below are ten of our favorite ways to keep the seder interesting, active and fun!

Autism Awareness Month: Sharing Many Voices

April begins Autism Awareness Month. Here at The New Normal, we promise to bring you a variety of voices speaking about the experience of living with autism, and how we as a Jewish community can best support people who have autism across the lifespan. That means creating inclusive early education centers, meaningful workplaces and housing communities and more. Our bloggers will be sharing perspectives about how our community can provide effective formal and informal education and also make our synagogues and other communal places more inclusive of people on the spectrum and their families.

World Autism Day

Inclusion: Should The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good?

The proverb “The perfect should not be the enemy of the good,” means that insisting on perfection often results in no improvement at all. In keeping with the wisdom of this sentiment, I think the time has come to begin the discussion of what does inclusion of people with disabilities really mean? And should we as a community allow for sub-optimal solutions? Recently I was faced with two separate situations that echoed these questions for me.

Shelley Cohen
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