This has been a very busy week for me. I finally got to go into our local Middle School and give a presentation during capabilities week. I have given the presentation to 20 classes. I think the students got the message, don’t judge a book by its cover. They found out that we have a lot in common and most importantly are people first. It has been exciting, frustrating, and exhausting. I have been speaking to the seventh-grade classes. Some of the classes have been full of questions for me while others had none. I know that most of them only saw my chair. It wasn’t until I bragged about myself that they saw me differently.
Learning with the Students
I have had a lot of support from my team, administration, and teachers. It has been weird to go back and walk through the halls with students. I was never allowed to do that for safety reasons as a student. I guess I am no longer a safety hazard. I am proud of what I have accomplished and am excited to see where this goes. This week though I had planned on giving tips for gifts and recommendations for last-minute gifts, so here goes.
Alex & Andy
The following websites are gifts for everyone. They are all owned and operated by people with disabilities. By supporting their website you are helping to create an inclusive community. My first recommendation is Alex and Andy. The website is devoted to our pets but they also have other gifts. The story goes that Alex was Andy’s dog. His niece offered to foster his dog when he had a stroke. What started as a fundraiser for her Uncle to cover medical bills turned into a business. This business gave her Uncle a purpose again when he had lost all hope after his stroke of ever being a productive member of society. Andy continues to make progress to regain what he lost after having the stroke. Check out his website, read his story, and consider purchasing one of his specially-made dog bandanas.
The next business to consider is Spectrum Designs. This was a business born out of a father's love to help his Autistic son and others like him find employment. Not only do they offer specialty printing for promotional goods, but they also have t-shirts with cool designs and sayings to get the message of inclusion across to people. This particular organization was featured in the 2018 documentary film, This Business of Autism, about the economic and societal benefits of employing people on the Autism Spectrum.
Be Kind to Everyone
Another business that was started by a family of a young girl with Autism. Her parents were looking for a summer project to help her transition from school to the workplace. What started as a summer shirt project and the sale of 40 t-shirts is now a booming business that has sold t-shirts for 5 years giving Jordyn a purpose and helping her learn valuable job skills. Their message and business is to Be Kind to Everyone. Today, Jordyn is Thriving. She too has been featured on the local news and continues to share the value of acceptance and inclusion.
John’s Crazy Socks was another business born out of a family's desire to help their son with Down syndrome find his purpose. After a few failed attempts they decided they wanted a fun store and collaborated to sell socks. Who doesn’t need socks? They donate 5% of their profits to the Special Olympics, helping young athletes believe in themselves.
Shop Blind Challenge
One of my favorites though is Two Blind Brothers. They challenge you to shop like they do, blind. There are no pictures on their website only boxes. You need to trust them like they have trusted other retailers all of their lives. Or you can select from some other specialty items that have pictures and descriptions. I can tell you their shirts are buttery soft. Each has a saying printed in braille along with a braille description of the product. One hundred percent of their profits go to curing Blindness. Give it a try, trust them, you won’t be disappointed.
Hats by Abbey
The last one is Abbey’s Merch. For those who are fans of Love on the Spectrum, you will remember Abbey. She and I share a love for the Little Mermaid for the same reason even though we have different disabilities. Hers is Autisum and mine is Cerebral Palsy. She sells handmade beanie hats and other t-shirts with fun sayings that apply to everyone, like “Get your Gummies” or” kinda like a kids meal”. I follow her on TikTok and am inspired by how honest and straightforward she is about who she is.
Give the disabled purpose and employment
Please understand I am not a paid sponsor for any of these websites or products. My goal is to simply make you aware that you can make a difference with your purchase. People with disabilities face over 30% unemployment. Businesses don't want to take a chance thinking that employing a disabled person will be both difficult and cause liability. This is far from the truth and stereotypes and prejudice are hard to overcome. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told that they can’t pay me but I can volunteer. That I don't have enough experience, especially with disability. It's hard to get experience when people don’t want to take a chance.
I had also hoped to put together a list of things you can buy for your friends and family who are disabled but only have advice. I found this article, Holiday gifts for people with a disability or chronic illness, that has a lot of great ideas. Keep in mind that anytime you buy a gift make sure it is age appropriate just as you would do for people without a disability, Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you need stickers. Find out what the family needs. If all else fails to give you an idea, think about a gift card. This not only gives the person an opportunity to choose what they would like but also maybe something they need. I can’t tell you how expensive things are for the disabled but they are. Not everything is covered by insurance.
I hope you all enjoy your holiday and time spent with loved ones. I will be taking a much-needed break but will return in the New Year. Thank you for all your support over the year.
Thank you for reading until the end!
This is the view from my wheelchair, where miracles can make a difference. Always Strive for the Impossible. Come back next year to see what is on my mind and hear more about my experiences and The View From My Wheelchair.