Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Representation Of Disabilities In Media

Welcome Back!

A new television program premiered on The Learning Channel this week. It's called My Life as a Child. Every week, it highlights three separate stories about children living distinctly different lives across the United States. The premiere episode featured a piano genius, a boy living in the inner city, and a boy with a disability.

His name was Cole and he too was born with cerebral palsy. At only eight years old, this young man knows and understands the limitations of his disability. But he doesn't let that stop him; he still participates in the number of physical activities such as karate. How is it possible? you may ask. A personal assistant sits behind him serving as a balance for him as he executes the moves requested. Unfortunately, his disability keeps him from doing the obvious leg movements.

Watching his interview, I was amazed at how openly honest he was about his disability. Although he has big dreams for the future, he admits the sadness he feels that he can't walk. On the other hand, he realizes the blessings that other people have. For examples, Cole was asked how he feels when he sees his other friends running and playing. His reply? "It's really sad that I can't walk." What about karate kicks? "Well, I feel pretty good. At least someone can do it." I think the quote that inspired me the most is his outlook on doing things outside your comfort zone. His response: "Some kids with disabilities might be scared to try new things. But I would tell them, don't be. Just relax and think about what you can do. And you'll feel great, I promise.."

Where was I going with this? I guess I had two purposes in posting this. The first is the most obvious one-inspiration. It's people like Cole that continue to shed a positive light on disability and strive to live at my title illustrates: A Life without Limits. The second purpose is that although I continue to be amazed at the number of disabled people on shows on the Learning Channel. I think that more networks should follow suit with programs like these. The only way people, disabled or nondisabled alike, are going to be able to bridge the gap is through understanding and learning in programs like these. Another example of a program that highlights a different type of disability is Little People, Big World

Thanks Cole for sharing your story with the world as well as being any inspiration to us all. By the way, at the end of the program, he received his yellow belt in karate. Congratulations.

On a personal note, I am going to take a break for a couple of days. I am thinking of updating this every other day, since dictating every day on another topic seems to be hard. I don't know how many of you are checking daily for updates. But it's getting difficult to think of new material and update on a daily basis-especially via voice. Feel free to to me with possible topics you would like to have discussed. I would love to hear from you and receive your input. . My e-mail is:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Changing Lives One Book At a Time: Lurlene McDaniel

You are what you read.

Okay, so that's not how the saying really goes. But I believe this statement does have a bit of truth to it. Whether positive or negative, the media plays a vital role in shaping the hearts and minds of the American people. Writers and journalists alike possess the power to inform, entertain, inspire and motivate just through the use of the few choice words.

That's why I strive to surround myself with only positive energy. To some people, this way of thinking may seem a little naïve. Believe me, I know how vital it is to stay informed and keep updated with the news while making important decisions. It's just that constantly accepting negative energy eventually becomes draining. As I explained yesterday, what you read and how you spend your day can in fact influence your personality in the long run as well as future decisions.

In all my years of reading, only a few writers have truly grasped the true meaning of "positivity" in their writing. One of my favorite authors, Lurlene McDaniels, also emphasizes this philosophy. Although a majority of her books deals with what others may consider "difficult circumstances", McDaniels chooses to focus on dealing with the circumstance, rather than escaping it. Her books cover a range of topics from physical disabilities to incurable or otherwise manageable diseases.

By dealing with these topics, I mean the author doesn't limit herself to just medical terminology and cures. While she views these as important, she focuses on the heart of every issue-which is just that.. The Heart! Overcoming these obstacles impact the heart to its very core, affecting personal relationships, self esteem issues, spiritual issues and so much more. These books are primarily geared toward towards teenagers. Typically, this includes anyone from age 11 to 16; although anyone, even adults like me can appreciate her for her style of writing.

Where did her inspiration come from? If I remember correctly from reading about the author, the idea first came when someone in their family was diagnosed with leukemia. You can read more about this author by going to her website:


Monday, February 26, 2007

Encouragement Of the Day

Welcome back.

As I considered about what to write today, I was at a loss for topics. But not anymore. It's kind of funny actually how ideas and inspiration comes when you least expect them or when you need it the most.

Over the past few months, the importance of mornings have become increasingly more obvious to me. How you spend the first few hours your day says a lot about you and what's important in your life. It sets the tone for the day, sometimes influencing your outlook and any decision to you might make. For me, it's always important to start in the day out with my devotion. These devotions serve not only as a source of inspiration, but also yet another positive role model despite the constant challenges that having a disability sometimes brings.

You see, as well as being a Christian, the author is also disabled. Her name is Joni Erickson Tada. Paralyzed in a diving accident as a teenager, she reminds me on a daily basis the importance that faith plays on a person's life. She is best known for her drawings which depict the beauty of God's creation. This beauty is even more remarkable when people consider the paintings are done by mouth, not by hand. Yes, you heard me correctly. Every painting is drawn with a pen placed in her mouth and a easel in front of her. She also is known for her ability to open people's minds and motivate them to find their purpose in life.

Back to today's devotional. Oddly enough, it was on the topic of encouragement. It reminded me why I was doing this blog. Today's verse was Hebrews 10: 24: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds." In creating this website, it was my hope to do just that. Encourage others to accomplish their dreams and do great things. Showing people that anything is possible if you believe.

Remember, it isn't always the things you accomplish but the way you accomplish them and then make the difference. For example, even the simplest gesture like a smile or a wave and change someone's day for the better. You never know what difference you can make; so don't limit yourself.

Have a great day!
God bless,


Sunday, February 25, 2007

On My Own: Looking Back At My College Experience


So it's hard to believe that almost two months have passed since I graduated. I think the realization finally hit me, looking at the paper as it lay in front of me on my tray. I have finally done it-completed another step on the road toward independence. This paper gave me all of the rights and responsibilities attributed with having a Bachelor of Arts in Communication; but in truth, that experience gave me a whole lot more than that. It gave me the world.

Of course, I had been through the college experience once before. After all, I had earned my associates degree while still living at home. But going away to college with a completely different story. Okay, so it wasn't "going away" to most people's standards; but it fit mine just fine. A small christian university not that far away from my home was a easy compromise for a woman looking to spread her wings. My parents wanted to make sure they could always be available if something were to happen. Looking back, I think that was one of the easiest decisions I've made. That is, compared to the ones I'm making now. In fact, I'm always afraid I'm making a wrong one lately. But more about that later. Maybe.

Yes, my parents would always be there. But the reality was, I was primarily on my own. I was responsible for the majority of decisions related to my college experience. I had to make sure that all my basic needs were taken care of with the help of personal assistants. These personal assistants came from one of two places. First, it came from a public agency which allowed me hire and fire my own personal assistants that they recommend. Second, during my college experience, I received funding from a variety of agencies which allowed me to hire and fire my own personal assistants privately. Many of these personal assistants were students themselves at the same school and in some cases the same dorm room. This allowed for flexible hours and times. Although the funding from these agencies made everything possible, there are often limitations put on the money. For example, the funding could be used for times where students can help me by organizing my notebook, helping me finish my homework (that is, the homework not adaptable to do by voice.)

As well as being financially responsible for myself, the college experience taught me the importance of patience and persistence on a daily basis. These are vital personality characteristics, especially considering my dependence on other people to succeed a college. Although I am pretty independent, the weather and other aspects sometimes limits my mobility. In those cases, I am dependent on other people to get me to and from classes. I have coordinate schedules and flexibility is often important. Even with the best of intentions, something might go wrong. Working with people made me realize this one simple fact.. Although working towards my independence, my independence depends on working successfully with people.

That's not to say that I haven't learned this from my past experiences, but this fact becomes obvious when you're living on your own 24/7. It's important to keep in everyone happy, realizing that your success is partially dependent on them working for you. On the one hand, remaining impartial may be helpful in some cases; it's vital to remember that personal assistants are people too with lives and people they care about. Yes, it's important that that the disabled client remains assertive on the job, so that the PCA (personal care assistant) know exactly what to do as well as personal expectations. That being said, a sense of understanding and trust is also important. And I'm not just talking about client to employer, but vice versa. As the client, you need to be approachable, someone making come to with scheduling problems and such. That way, the good ones feel as if they can come to you before they feel like they're getting "burned out". (That's personal assistant talk for getting tired, stressed out on the job) I would hate to lose someone, just because they were working too much and it was getting to them.

Living on your own or in any kind of dorm situation, people learn to expect the unexpected. Life doesn't always turn out as planned or have a happy ending. If I've learned anything from my experience at college, it's that life isn't perfect. Take for example, the onetime a PCA showed up drunk on campus to put me in bed. Luckily, my friends were around and she was escorted off campus immediately. Yes, stuff like that does happen in real life; it is an important to remain calm and collected during those situations, so you are able to think calmly and rationally.
Move down

That being said, I'm not suggesting that you should always be wary or trust someone automatically. More often than not, situations involve a PCA being a little late for work because because of traffic or the weather, leaving you to wait in bed a little longer. At least that was my case because of my disability.

Living on your own has its responsibilities, but it also provides its perks. It was living on my own that I begin to see the reality of my own life. A life that didn't always have to involve my parents, a life of my own. I was able to come and go as I pleased, (that is, if I had the van at my disposal), organize movie nights with friends and be a normal young woman. Although my parents would always be my primary support system, I began looking at my friends as another source of support. I began to depend on them more and more. Although sometimes I figured out new and different ways to deal with challenges on my own. Thinking outside the bubble when it came to asking for help and things like that.

As you can see, college left its imprint on the me. Not only of its educational challenges, but because it was also a growing experience.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On Getting a Job: How It Relates to Social Security Income


I'm exhausted. Today I attended another meeting with one of the agencies involved in helping me find a job. This agency specializes on site rehabilitation services. These services range anywhere from financial support (for on-the-job personal assistance) to technical support (analyzing the workplace in terms of assistive technology) in order to achieve long-term success in the real world.

As a result, I've been given a lot more to think about. In the beginning, I thought that it was going to be a easy process. After all, I had taken all of the necessary steps to successful by getting a full education. I graduated high school with honors and then proceeded on to college; during my college experiences, I received both my associate in general studies as well as a bachelor of arts degree. But boy was I wrong. There is a lot more to consider before getting a job. Yes, it means being financially independent. To many people, this independence means only freedom-the freedom to live where you want as well and make your own decisions. But with that freedom also comes responsibility.

Take for example the impact getting a job will have on a disabled person's Social Security Income. Anyone with a disability is entitled to some kind of government support; although, it depends on a variety of factors would type of aid you are entitled to. For example, in order to receive Social Security Income , people have to be disabled and unable to work. On the other hand, Social Security is for people who have worked, gained some type of credit based on that work and have decided to retire.

I learned a lot during that meeting then I thought I'd share it with you my readers. Contrary to popular belief, a person's SSI is not taken away from them upon getting a job. Now, the payment is recalculated based upon the monthly salary earned. How is this done? I will try to explain. But first the formula:

Monthly income -85 (the first $85 Social Security doesn't count as income)/2 = the number that will be subtracted from your check. This deduction will continue to increase the salary increases or until such time that the earnings exceed 1333 dollars. At that point, a person will have zeroed out on their benefits. What does this mean for your health insurance if all you have is Medicaid. Don't worry. Medicaid is protected under the provision of 1619b in legislation. However, that provision is also limited to a monthly salary number. I can't remember exactly, but I believe it's $2000.

Okay, so I promised you a illustration. Let's say you earn $100 a month. They would deduct $7. 50 from your paycheck.

Personally, I can't wait for the day when I am both financially and physically able to take care of myself. By that, I mean I want a job that I love, knowing that I can support myself with the money I've earned.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

My opinion:

Hello again!

I'm going to do something a little different with today's post. Today I've decided to tell you a little bit about how I got to be a user of voice recognition software and its impact on my life. That being said, it's hard to believe that I've been using voice recognition technology for over 11 years. It seems like forever. Technology and I have changed a lot over the past decade.

I began using the first-generation recognition technology, called DragonDictate, in 1993 during my first few years of middle school. Five years prior, my father had attended a disability Expo in our home town which at the time was Baltimore, Maryland. You can imagine his amazement as he watched a disabled lawyer (who also happened to have CP) demonstrate the software. At that point in time, that software only allowed users to type a word in the time. This didn't bother me one bit as I was grateful to been doing my homework on my own for once. Because of this software, I now was independent and able to do things without always having to depend on my parents. With independence also came a new sense of self-worth and self-confidence. In high school, I joined National Honor Society; as well as participating in many of the physical activities, I also was responsible for keeping much of the paperwork for the society.

Granted, it took me longer to complete most tasks. But I did it on my own; not that I hadn't before. But you can in different kind of satisfaction knowing that you, and only you had spent hours alone dictating the paper. By that time, I'm tired and I know I truly worked for the grade.

That's the long short of it.

Any questions?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Voice Recognition Part Two: Commanding Your Computer

As promised, part two of a series on Voice Recognition.

Today's topic: Commanding Your Computer

Although the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software is primarily known for being a success in conjunction with word processing, it is able to accomplish much more than that. This technology is compatible with a variety of other popular products such as America Online, Internet Explorer, and ITunes; This allows computer users the freedom to send an instant messages, surf the web, and control your music-simply by using their voice.

How does this work? The software includes a vast vocabulary of commands. (Don't worry, I don't have the time nor the energy to list them all. For fellow readers wishing for more information, feel free to comment here or e-mail me.) Many of the commands are commonsense, using the obvious words to activate a simultaneous actions. For example, adding a word "open" with a application name will open the application. The same holds true for many of the drop-down menus provided in these programs. Other simple commands include the commands used during the dictation process. Yes, I realize I may have highlighted some of these commands in my earlier post. But I may have left out a few for time purposes. For example, let's say you dictate a sentence. It's correct, but looking back it doesn't sound right. Dragon NaturallySpeaking users have one of two options, they can either say "Select That" and take over the sentence or "Scratch That" which will delete the words highlighted entirely. Inserting new lines is just as easy, with commands like "Press Enter_Key", "New-Paragraph ", and "New -Line".

On the other hand, controlling the mouse by voice is a different story. Using the mouse can be done one of two ways. First, computer users can simply say, press "Mouse Grid". That opens up a tic-tac-toe style board that covers the computer screen. Each board quadrant has a number corresponding to it; saying that number selects the quadrant you specified and zooms users closer to the application or location you wish to click.Computer users can continue this action until the mouse has reached desired position and say one of three commands: "click", "double click", "button click".

Another shortcut to using the "Mouse Grid" is by saying the word "mouse" followed by the number of the quadrant you wish to choose. It's easy to remember if you understand and refer for to the analogy of a tic-tac-toe board I explained earlier. For example, if you wanted the mouse to be left-hand corner of the screen, you could simply say "Mouse 1". Let's say you have two minimized windows in Microsoft Word on your computer tray. There are several ways to go about this. The simplest is to use the "Mouse Grid " command with the following additional commands. Once you have clicked on the application in your computer tray on the bottom of the screen, users can then say "Button Click". This will open up a drop-down menu listing all of the documents they have open in the application. From there, the user can simply say "Move Mouse Up" until the mouse highlights the document you wish to select. Users then can proceed by saying "cancel" and "mouse button click"

Now that I've covered the basics of moving the mouse by voice, I will try to explain how users can navigate the Internet. Four illustration purposes, I will be examining popular Internet software products such as Internet Explorer and America Online. Surfing the web is quite simple actually. The new version of this software automatically creates commands for virtually all of the links listed on page you have open. For example, if users deciding to search for golf clubs typed that into the search engine through dictation, thousands of entries may come up. Computer users can click on one of those websites by probably saying the first two or three words of the website title. If one or two of the websites have the same title or name, a number will appear next to it, simply say the number and you're there!

Using America Online uses a majority of the same commands as Internet Explorer. For example, in order to send an instant message click on the person you want to instant message and dictate your message and then say one of these two commands: "Send "and "Press Enter-Key".

I know I covered a lot, so I'm sure there are questions. Feel free to e-mail me

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Voice Recognition Software: Bringing Your Words to Life!

Hello everyone and welcome back!

Today's topic of interest is Dragon NaturallySpeaking software.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, voice recognition software allows you to put words to paper simply by using your voice. It sounds simple enough, right? Not necessarily. It requires a lot of training and persistence on the part of the user. Training allows the computer to adapt to a person's voice and particular speech patterns. This process is essential to the user's success with dictation as well as computer accuracy. There are two primary ways to proceed while training. The first is through introductory training directly after installation. In this process, a person is asked to create a name for the voice files to be saved under. (Note: there can be more than one user.) The program then checks whether your computer has adequate sound quality in memory to support it; it does this by asking users to read aloud what is provided on the computer screen. If input is normal or above average, training can continue. If not, the computer may ask you to backtrack, providing you a few options. For example, checking your source of audio input (i.e. the headset microphone provided with the software or a regular tabletop microphone)

Users are then asked to continue the training process by reading aloud from a variety of book excerpts. They cover a variety of topics and cater to specific ages and skill levels of the user and what the product is used for, some excerpts may be more appropriate than others. That way, the software gets to know the type of vocabulary that is unique to you and will be more accurate at guessing what you were saying when you dictate the future.

The second of training is called on the spot training. It's not really called that or anything, but that's the best way I can to explain that. This type of training is ongoing, where the computer tries to guess what the user is saying. If correct, the user may continue dictation without interruption. If incorrect, they must go back and correct the error. This is a necessity for two reasons. First and probably most obvious, people want to produce documents without errors. But actually there is a reason more important than that. Correcting an error improves the accuracy of recognition and adapts the vocabulary to your way of speaking. If mistakes are made without correction, the computer assumes it's accurate and adapts itself accordingly, influencing other words in your vocabulary .

Correction can occur in several ways, but I'm going to highlight only two of them. First,if the computer dictates incorrectly, the user can simply say "Correct" and then the word it spelled wrong. Then, a list of possible choices of sound alike words will appear. From there, the user can simply say just "Choose" and the number corresponding to the correct word. If it does not show up, they use will probably have to spell it manually by saying "Spell That "by using the handy command and alphabet list as users begin to navigate and understand the software.

As you can see, there is too much to discuss in one post and quite honestly, I am getting tired of talking. Yes, I am using the voice recognition software as we speak to write this. So stay tuned for part two of what I decided to make a series.

Part two will be called Voice Recognition: Commanding Your Computer.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A brief introduction


Hello and welcome. Let me start out by saying, this isn't going to be your typical blog. Yes, it may have some opinions here and there and I may refer to my personal experiences every once in a while, but I've created this blog with one purpose in mind-- to help people with disabilities like myself.

Let me explain.

Living with a disability, it's often hard to know your dreams and accomplish them without countless boundaries being put in your path. The type of boundaries I am speaking of can be physical as well as mental. In creating this blog, I hope to show by example that is it possible to live as the blog title says:A Life Without Limits. Don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect. Nobody is. Except God. But it is my hope that in navigating this webpage, people with disabilities are equipped with even more tools, be it information, advice, or experience to live a healthy, happy and successful life. But more importantly, make their dreams come true!

One thing to keep in mind is that accomplishing your dreams won't happen overnight. It's a ongoing process and it takes patience and persistence. How do I know this? From personal experience. I think this would be a perfect time to tell you a little about myself. My name is Debbie and I was born CP. But I don't allow my disability to stop me from accomplishing anything. Case in point. I'm 26 and recently graduated with a bachelor of arts in the communications as well as a minor in English. Although my disability limits me physically, I am blessed to say that with the use of voice recognition technology I was able to accomplish that task primarily on my own.

Right now, I am in the process of looking for a job that uses my talents of writing as well as my passion for communication that can be used to inform, inspire and motivate people around the world.

And I'm not the only one. Check this out. I hope Rick and Dick (I don't know their last names, but it's provided in the news story) don't mind me sharing their story. See people can do amazing things.

Anyway, I hope I can help you in some small way on your journey towards independence as much as this blog is going to help me by sharing my story and encouraging others to shoot for their dreams

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