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Posts Tagged ‘disability’

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Photo: Universo Santi
This haute cuisine restaurant in Spain makes a point of hiring workers with disabilities.

I have posted a few stories about successful operations that hire workers with disabilities, but this is the first I remember seeing about a high-class restaurant set up for the purpose of creating jobs that don’t differ from jobs in establishments that don’t use workers with disabilities.

Stephen Burgen writes at the Guardian, “The first thing that strikes you is the calm, the light, the modern art on the walls – and then of course the food. It’s only later that you realise there is something different, and a little special, about Universo Santi, a restaurant in the southern Spanish city of Jerez.

“ ‘People don’t come here because the staff are disabled but because it’s the best restaurant in the area. Whatever reason they came for, the talking is about the food,’ says Antonio Vila.

“Vila is the president of the Fundación Universo Accesible, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping people with disabilities join the mainstream workforce. He has also been the driving force behind Universo Santi, the haute cuisine restaurant whose 20 employees all have some form of disability.

“ ‘I always wanted to show what people with disabilities, given the right training, were capable of,’ says Vila, who is a senior manager at DKV insurance. ‘They were not represented in the world of haute cuisine. Universo Santi has broken through that barrier.’

“The 20 staff, whose ages range from 22 to 62, were recruited from an original list of 1,500. To qualify, applicants had to be unemployed and have more than 35% disability.

“ ‘I feel really lucky to be part of this,’ says Gloria Bazán, head of human resources, who has cerebral palsy. ‘It’s difficult to work when society just sees you as someone with a handicap. This has given me the opportunity to be independent and to participate like any other human being.’

“Alejandro Giménez, 23, has Down’s syndrome and is a commis chef. ‘It’s given me the chance to become independent doing something I’ve loved since I was a kid,’ says Giménez, who lived with his mother until he was recruited.

“ ‘Working here has transformed my life. So many things I used to ask my mother to do, I do myself. I didn’t even know how to take a train by myself because I’d just miss my stop.’ …

“Universo Santi may soon have a star in the Michelin firmament as the Michelin Guide people have already sampled the menu which, at €60 (£53), is less than half the price of a typical menú de degustación.

“ ‘Of course they didn’t introduce themselves but we knew who they were,’ says Almudena Merlo, the maître d’. …

“The Jerez restaurant takes its name from Santi Santamaria, chef at the Michelin three-star Can Fabes in Catalonia until his sudden death in 2011. Can Fabes closed shortly afterwards but his family wanted to carry on his name and culinary tradition and were keen to support the Jerez project. …

“The family’s enthusiasm attracted the attention of Spain’s top chefs, among them Martín Berasategui, [Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, twice voted the best restaurant in the world] and Ángel León, all of whom have contributed recipes and their time as guest chefs at the restaurant.”

More at the Guardian, here. The article also mentions other European enterprises that employ people with disabilities.

Photo: Universo Santi
Says Alejandro Giménez, a junior chef with Down Syndrome who works at Universo Santi in Jerez, “Working here has transformed my life.”

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Photo: Social Candy
Milwaukee Ballet dancer and teacher, Janel Meindersee, tries out a wheelchair herself as she teaches her students. Parents watch with pride.

Heartbreaking as it is to see anyone make fun of a person with a disability, which does happen in these harsh times, it’s important to remember the advice that the mother of Mister Rogers gave him long ago: “Look for the helpers. There are always helpers.”

In Milwaukee, some unusual helpers are found in a dance company.

Amy Schwabe writes at Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel, “Nine-year-old Namine Eiche may be in a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop her from being a ballet dancer. That’s thanks to Tour de Force, a partnership between Milwaukee Ballet and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin that’s been providing ballet classes to children with disabilities since 2014.

“Just last year, the opportunity was opened up to children in wheelchairs through the ‘Glissade’ class, very appropriately named since ‘glissade’ is the French word for ‘glide.’

“Janel Meindersee, a Milwaukee Ballet dancer who teaches Glissade, explained how the children are able to dance.

” ‘We teach a lot of the same things as a normal ballet class — how to spot your head when you move, the quality of arm movements, how to count music and how to stay in line when dancing together,’ Meindersee said. …

“Meindersee said that seeing kids in wheelchairs in other Tour de Force classes was the impetus for Glissade.

” ‘There was a girl in a wheelchair coming to one of our other Tour de Force classes,’ Meindersee said. ‘She was able to get out of her wheelchair sometimes, but she was most comfortable in her chair. We thought there had to be other kids who can’t even get out of their chairs at all. …

“After having taught two sessions of Glissade, Meindersee is ‘blown away’ by the skill, talent and strength of her students — especially when she gets in a wheelchair herself to try out the dance moves. She laughs with her students, pointing out that she’s not as skilled in wheelchair maneuvers as her students are.”

More at the Journal Sentinel, here. Just imagine the joy and self-confidence of these young dancers take home with them after a class. Perhaps some will join one of the professional wheelchair ballets someday. Or start their own company.

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Art: Tomihiro Hoshino

For more than 30 years, a woman from Hokkaido, Japan, who stayed at our house while studying the local PTA has been sending me magnificent calendars.

The calendars are from a talented artist and former athlete whose paralysis led him to master holding a brush in his mouth. His name is Tomihiro Hoshino.

An article at AccessibleJapan reports, “Tomihiro Hoshino was an experienced 24-year-old gymnastics teacher with a real passion for the sport. An active mountain climber and gymnastics instructor, his life changed completely as he was demonstrating a double somersault technique to a group of junior high school students. Hoshino unfortunately injured his neck during the maneuver and since that day he has been completely paralyzed from the neck down.

“The accident was a serious blow to this extremely active person who was forced to lay motionless for nine years in a Gunma orthopedic Hospital where he was kept under heavy surveillance for respiratory problems and complications as a result of the injury. He and his family never gave up hope that his physical condition would stabilize and improve. Although it took nine years, and he came close to death many times, there was always hope for the future.

“Many say that this hope came two years after his accident. In 1972 one of the patients that had stayed in the same room as Tomihiro Hoshino was being transferred into a different hospital. He asked that the staff, as well as all of the people that stayed with him, to sign a card as a memento of his time in the hospital. Tomihiro couldn’t come up with a solution as to how he would be able to sign his name for the man but with the help of his mother he was able to hold a pen in his mouth and eventually sign Tomo. This would be the beginning of how Tomihiro would begin his career in writing and painting.

“The second event that produced real inspiration for Tomihiro Hoshino was a time that a friend brought him flowers and left them in the window. …

“He was moved to start expressing what they meant to him. He began to gradually draw flowers and eventually became an adept painter with his mouth. …

“Tomihiro Hoshino has successfully produced hundreds of pieces of artwork, many of his essays and poems have been published and his work is displayed in permanent exhibitions at the Tomihiro Hoshino Museum. …

“If you are interested in Tomihiro Hoshino’s works, you can purchase them on Amazon or visit his art gallery in Gunma, Japan.”

More at AccessibleJapan, here. Read about his museum here. Those who read Japanese may click here.

I feel lucky to have had this decades-long friendship with a woman in Hokkaido. Although we haven’t seen each other since the 1980s, her daughter, Mika, came to visit while living in New York. Mika helped decorate our Christmas tree that year. Nowadays, I never do the tree without thinking of her.

Image: Tomihiro Art Museum

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An ESPN sports producer set out to do a piece on two high school wrestlers with disabilities. Today they think of her as family. Karen Given reports the story at WBUR radio’s Only a Game.

“Dartanyon Crockett … is legally blind. ‘Being a black kid in the inner city with physical limitations, or what people call a disability, you’re already written off,’ Dartanyon says. ‘No one expects much from you. You’re basically useless. And I wasn’t in a position where I could fix that.’ …

“So he pretended he could see. He joined his high school wrestling team and didn’t even tell the coaches. … Dartanyon didn’t want the coaches to treat him any differently, so they didn’t. Then one day during senior year, Leroy Sutton joined the wrestling team at Lincoln-West High School in Cleveland. Dartanyon was one of the team captains, and he wasn’t the least bit worried that his team’s new recruit was missing something. Well, two somethings.

” ‘We were talking in the cafeteria, and I asked him what happened to his legs,’ Dartanyon says. ‘And he told me that, “Yeah, I was run over by a train.” And I laughed, one of those deep belly laughs. He had always heard the, “Oh, my god. Oh, I’m so sorry. Oh, how did that happen? Oh.” Just to see someone not feeling sorry for him, just kinda sparked a bond almost instantly.’ …

“Soon, Dartanyon was carrying Leroy on and off buses, up and down stairs and into the bleachers. …

” ‘I didn’t know he was blind,’ Leroy says. ‘I found out in class. I noticed he was, like, really close to the book we were reading. So I was like, all right, he has problems seeing. So I turned to a couple of the other students around me and I was, like, “Hey, man, let’s do this like a project style and read out loud.” ‘

“And that’s probably how things would have stayed, Dartanyon and Leroy helping each other out — both thinking it was no big deal — if not for an ESPN feature producer named Lisa Fenn.”

Fenn goes to interview them and is greeted by a coach who said that “he’d been praying really hard for Dartanyon and for Leroy because he felt, once they graduate, the world had nothing for kids like them.”

Turns out the world had quite a bit for them. But it took years. Read the whole story at “Only a Game,” here, because look:

Four years after they first met, Leroy “wrote Lisa a letter for Mother’s Day. … That letter is printed in Lisa’s new book, Carry On, A Story of Resilience, Redemption, and an Unlikely Family. …

When I first met you those were dark days,
In that time I was stuck in my dark way,
There was no light, so you set the world ablaze,
And you snapped me out of that phase,
Then you went further,
Showing me you cared,
Answering my calls now I know that you’ll be there,
Then you ask questions, so slowly I shared,
This world you showed me is simply more fair,
You pull me out of a world where it was not clear,
Glad you did, there was no more air,
But now these days I’m full of smile, and full of play,
Hope you feel loved today,
So I’d like to take this moment to say,
Thank you Mom.
I love you.

Photo: Brownie Harris
Leroy Sutton (left), Dartanyon Crockett (center) and Lisa Fenn, the ESPN producer who came to Cleveland to tell their story.

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Today there are increasing numbers of opportunities for people with disabilities to enjoy the benefits of activities that others take for granted.

Eva Clifford writes at Women & Girls Hub about one intriguing example: ballet for the blind.

“In a third-floor dance studio, Lorena Nieva begins teaching her ballet class. Every weekend Nieva, the international coordinator of Psicoballet, travels 80 miles (130km) from her home in Puebla to give lessons to a group of girls from Casa Rosa de la Torre, a home for blind children run by nuns. Aged between nine and 22, all of the girls in Nieva’s class are completely blind or partially sighted.

“As the music plays, Nieva guides the girls, steering their movements with the sound of her voice and a gentle push with her hand. While the first half of the lesson is spent rehearsing a dance routine, the second half is devoted to improvisation. Breaking from the rigidity and strictness of conventional ballet training, Nieva brings in objects to inspire movement and games, such as fabric sheets, elastic ribbons and chairs.

“ ‘Dance cannot be reduced to a single sense,’ says Nieva. ‘It has to come from the whole body – from its limitations, too.’

“Founded on the belief that dance is ingrained in our biological roots, Psicoballet was created in 1973 by Cuban psychologist Georgina Fariñas Garcia … Teachers and advocates say Psicoballet, like most forms of dance, improves balance, posture and mobility, while also boosting self-esteem and reducing anxiety and depression. …

“ ‘I really enjoy discovering new ways of teaching, as it forces me to get out of my comfort zone,’ says Nieva, who has instructed people of all ages and various disabilities, but says teaching the blind girls has so far been the most rewarding. ‘I am keen to see that the girls have fun in the lessons, and that what is learned does not just stay in class, but it also enriches their everyday lives.’

“For many of the girls, that’s exactly what Nieva’s teaching does. ‘It has helped me a lot,’ says Itary, 15. ‘I feel I have improved my way of coexisting. Before, I was very aggressive, I walked a little weirdly and crashed up against everything, and this is not the way to be. Everything has to be done in a smooth way. To dance is to express with my movements what is within me.’ ” More here.

I found the article at the Huffington Post, which had reposted it.

Photo: Eva Clifford
Four girls who suffer from blindness wait to be called out for their first dance in Chiapas southern Mexico.

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I wouldn’t call them role models, but they have done things in their older years that have given me food for thought.

This week, we heard that Diane Rehm, who has hosted a popular talk show for 37 years despite a speaking disability, will be retiring after the presidential election. She is currently 79.

Jimmy Carter’s mother (remember Miss Lillian?) joined the Peace Corps around the time he became president. She went to India.

My mother ran for Congress in her early 70s.

My friend Dorothy kept going to her editing job in her late 70s. In her late 80s,  she was asked by her former boss to edit a book. (This time she declined politely, reminding him he now knew how to identify a dangling participle.)

Just putting it out there.

Photo: National Endowment for the Humanities
Diane Rehm, popular talk show host for 37 years, plans to retire after the election.

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John recently reminded me about an organization started in Boston to help people with disabilities or experiencing homelessness to create and sell their art.

The Miami Herald is one of many outlets that have picked up the story.

Brittany Chandani writes, “When Harvard graduate Liz Powers received a grant for social work, she decided to help homeless or disabled artists by sharing their artwork with the Boston community.

“When Powers realized there wasn’t a professional marketplace to sell their works, she organized an annual art show. Customers, however, wanted more than a yearly show, leading Powers and her brother, Spencer, to develop ArtLifting.com, an online marketplace devoted to selling artworks created by homeless or disabled artists. ArtLifting, a project incubated at the Harvard Innovation Lab, selects artists from nonprofits and homeless shelters across the country; it curates their art to highlight the top pieces from each artist. …

“Upon finding an Instagram tag #ArtTherapy, Spencer contacted David McCauley of Rise Up Gallery in Wynwood [FL], who simultaneously contacted Spencer upon seeing his Instagram page for ArtLifting. The serendipitous moment made the perfect partnership. …

“McCauley, an artist who broke his C6 vertebrae in a diving accident, moved from New Jersey to Miami to establish Rise Up Gallery, a branch of the nonprofit foundation he created in New Jersey after his accident. The pop-up gallery exhibits quarterly at various locations. McCauley also conducts free art therapy workshops at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital. …

“ArtLifting now features three Florida artists on its website: David McCauley, Laurie Kammer and Elizabeth D’Angelo. ”

More about the artists here. See art that is for purchase at ArtLifting, here.

Photo: Marsha Halper/Miami Herald Staff
David McCauley, a mixed-media artist and the founder of Rise Up Gallery, smooths the edge of one of his new artworks at ArtCenter / South Florida in Miami Beach. Rise Up Gallery is a nonprofit organization that provides free art therapy workshops.

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