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.

Celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, May 19th

Editor's Note: Accessibility Partners was one of last year's "Ruderman Best in Business Award" winners. Nominate a company that hires people with disabilities for this year's award!

Get ready to have your world rocked, because on Thursday, May 19, 2016, Accessibility Partners is celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). This is an international effort of disability and accessibility advocates with the overall goal of getting people talking, thinking and learning about digital accessibility and users with disabilities.

For a day of this magnitude, we want to bring the awareness to everyone: a free overview of your website’s homepage for accessibility OR a review of a document of up to 3 pages (Microsoft Word or PDF).

Global Accessibility Awareness day. Courtesy of Sharon Rosenblatt

Innovative Housing Model For People With Autism And Other Disabilities

Editor's Note: We are sharing Denise Resnik's powerful blog about a new housing model for adults with disabilities. Denise's blog originally appeared on Home Matters.

Thankfully, much has changed since we were told to plan to institutionalize our son Matt 23 years ago when he was doagnosed with autism-–and yet, much still needs to change to respond to the housing demand at our doorstep.

Matt represents a generation of more than 500,000 U.S. children with autism entering adulthood this decade. In many ways, I’ve been planning for what happens when the school bus stops coming almost from the first day it arrived. Where will he live? How will he be safe? How can we be sure he’ll be happy, healthy, productive and not sliding backwards?

First Place Phoenix. Courtesy of Denise Resnik

Technology Can Enable A New World For People With Autism

Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared on Forbes. The Jewish Week Media Group is partnering with the Ruderman Family Foundation to recognize companies that hire people with autism and other disabilities for the "Ruderman Best in Business Award." Nominate a company in your community today!

April 2, 2016 was designated World Autism Awareness Day. Many world monuments were lit up in blue lights to show support for the cause. Colorful ribbons and pins were worn and emotional sentiments were plastered all over social media. While the gestures themselves were moving, the concept of autism “awareness” is simply not enough. Without autism “acceptance and inclusion”, none of this actually makes a difference.

A Company That Supports Employees With Autism. Courtesy of Rising Tide Car Wash

Minimizing The Perfection Prejudice

Near the beginning of our Passover Seders, we recited:

“All who are hungry, let them come and eat;
All who need (a place to celebrate Passover,) let them join us.”

What would happen if the world accepted our invitation?

Rabbi Michael Levy

Autism And Faith: A Conversation With Shelly Christensen

Editor's Note: This blog originally appears on Faith Inclusion Network.

I initially “met” Shelly Christensen on the phone, when I called with some questions related to the inclusion of people with disabilities into Jewish communities.  She was incredibly generous with her time and, some 40 minutes later, I felt like I had a new friend in Minnesota.  Not long afterward, we got the chance to meet in person at an AAIDD conference and now we talk frequently since she is a Faith Inclusion Network National Board Adviser. 

Shelly has a lot of experience as a faith and disability advocate, traveling across the country to speak and be involved in many large Jewish and interfaith initiatives.  But what I appreciate personally about Shelly is her gift of encouragement.  I always come away from our conversations feeling wonderful!  Thank you for that beautiful gift and for all you continue to do to further the national faith and disability movement, Shelly.

Shelly and her son Jake. Courtesy of Shelly Christensen

Open Waters: Mikveh For Everybody

Editor's Note: This blog post originally appeared on the Mayyim Hayyim Blog, The Mikveh Lady Has Left the Building.

When I brought my 7th grade Rosh Hodesh group to Mayyim Hayyim, we learned about the aquatic lift meant to help someone with a disability use the mikveh. When our educator, Lisa Berman, asked the girls “Why might someone with a disability use the mikveh?” one girl promptly answered, “The same reason anyone else would use the mikveh!”

Rosh Hodesh Participants. Courtesy of Mayyim Hayyim

New York Voter Guide On Disability Issues

Editor's Note: Thanks to RespectAbilityUSA for sharing this important coverage of the Presidential election with us.

As voters prepare to head to the polls in New York, RespectAbility is releasing its New York Disability Voter Guide. The #PwDsVote 2016 Campaign Questionnaire was designed for people with disabilities (PwDs) and those who love them to know where candidates stand on the issues.

New York Disability Voter Guide.

Accessibility: Freedom To Be In Nature

Nearly two years have passed since I completed my national service as a guide with LOTEM in Jerusalem but every time that I return to guide a group, that amazing feeling of being part of something big comes back to me.  LOTEM’s outings to nature impact so many people with special needs and essentially give them the ability to experience a sense of normalcy--what they deserve as human beings who live in this beautiful world that surrounds us. 

Lotem participants. Courtesy of Lotem

From An Autism Mom: 5 Things I Know To Be True

Autism can be so unpredictable. There's no cure, there's not one widely agreed upon cause, and no two people with autism are exactly the same. I remember when my daughter was first diagnosed at 3 years old, I asked questions like "will she ever be fully independent? will she go to college? will she marry? will she drive a car?" Of course, no doctor or therapist could answer that with certainty- and I asked them all! It's funny to look back at that time and think about how important those things were to me then, and to realize how very unimportant they are to me today.

There are just too many things about autism that are variable and uncertain. However, here are five things I know to be true about autism:

Dani Gillman

Autism Awareness Month: Sensory Overload And Jewish Holidays

Editor's Note: Originally published by Jewish Book Council as part of the Visiting Scribe blog series on The ProsenPeopleWe are delighted to share Liane Carter's perspective about autism and her family's experience.

Purim is one of the many “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat” Jewish holidays. But for an autistic child like my son Mickey, Purim is first and foremost a holiday about sensory overload.

It starts with the noise: the raucous Purim spiel; the cacophony of gragers; the booing, howling, hooting, and hissing to drown out Haman’s name during the Megillah reading. Add blazing lights, the pink sugary smell of cotton candy, the bang and clang of carnival games, and the press of a hundred children pushing past him to grab the Dunkin Munchkins. It’s simply too much for an autistic child with a hyper-vigilant sensory system.

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