Familiar face, new role

January 30, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of JC VazquezJuan Carlos (JC) Vazquez has been a familiar face around Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities for almost eight years, but he has taken on a new challenge as the CPD’s multicultural coordinator.

The position of multicultural coordinator was created to address issues of diversity among the CPD’s different divisions, Vazquez said.

“My job will be to work with the different divisions and to enhance their efforts in the area of diversity, to address what we have within the Center with the goal of putting the CPD on a national level,” Vazquez said. “We want to take the lead on issues of diversity and disability.”

Vazquez originally came to the CPD to work with Judith Holt, director of the interdisciplinary training division, and Marty Blair, now the associate director of TAESE (Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education) in a project studying secondary conditions among Hispanic populations, he said. Then he worked on an URLEND (Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities) project with Holt, and then moved to TAESE.

“Marty (Blair) left and took me with him,” Vazquez said with a smile. He will continue at TAESE, where he is the state liason to North Dakota and Puerto Rico, for 40 percent of his time. The multicultural coordinator position is 60 percent.

“This is exciting,” Vazquez said. “I’ve been part of many projects and initiatives that focus on diversity. This is something I feel very passionate about—it’s very promising to be able to collaborate within the different divisions and create new opportunities for the Center at the state and national level.”

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Sorenson endowment will give children with disabilities access to art

January 28, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of Beverly SorensonBeverley Taylor Sorenson, whose contributions continue to be felt in both arts and education at Utah State University, recently established an endowed program making the arts accessible to children with disabilities.

The $3 million endowment from Sorenson will help children with disabilities access the arts in education. Her support allows staff from Caine College of the Arts and Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services to create modules that will show teachers ways to adapt arts education so that all children will have a chance to participate. For example, it may find ways to use assistive technology so that a child who cannot grip a brush can still paint.

The university will also provide technical support to schools and develop course work for students studying special and elementary education. It will all be done with the goal of increasing arts experiences for children with disabilities.

National Children’s Study to leave USU; families urged to continue participation

January 25, 2013 by Sue Reeves

NCS logoUtah State University’s oversight of the National Children’s Study – Cache County is moving to the care of Westat, an international research organization.

Cache County is one of the top performers in the National Children’s Study due in large part to the commitment and enthusiasm for the study by study participants, community members and dedicated staff, said Vonda Jump, co-investigator of the National Children’s Study – Cache County. Starting in December 2010, the Cache County site enrolled more than 750 participants, collecting data in homes and over the telephone from the preconception or prenatal period through the children’s second birthdays.

Jump urges all those currently participating in the study to continue with Westat so that vital information may continue to be gathered.

“We would like to publicly thank all of the participants of the National Children’s Study in Cache County,” Jump said. “Our community participants have been instrumental to our success and their involvement will continue to be an important as the National Children’s Study continues its research for the next 21 years.

Mark Innocenti, director of the CPD’s research and evaluation division and co-investigator for the study, also encouraged participants to continue reporting data.

“The National Institutes of Health is committed to the pilot cohort of the study,” he said.

Westat is a research firm with a long history of conducting scientific studies and has provided research support at both local and national levels for the National Children’s Study for several years.

Nationally, the National Children’s Study is shifting oversight of the data collected during the pilot phase of the study from individual contractors to four Regional Operation Centers, reducing the overall study costs and allowing the research to continue for the full 21 years. The centers will manage and collect data for all study locations in their regions.

Westat will fully manage the pilot study as of March 31 and will work closely with USU and all study participants to ensure a smooth transition. Future enrollment in the National Children’s Study is planned for 2014 and recruitment will be enhanced by lessons learned from the team at USU.

The National Children’s Study has been led locally by Utah State University’s research and evaluation division in the Center for Persons with Disabilities, in conjunction with the University of Utah’s Department of Pediatrics. The study is led nationally by a consortium of federal partners, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the National Institutes of Health; the Center for Disease Control and Prevention; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Participants with questions or concerns may call 435-797-KIDS (5437). Those interested in learning more about the National Children’s Study may visit the website (NationalChildrensStudy.gov).

Luján begins six-month sabbatical with WebAIM

January 23, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of Sergio at his desk.

Sergio Luján Mora at his desk in the WebAIM office.

When Sergio Luján Mora arrived in Logan in early January, he was greeted with a four-inch snowfall and daytime high temperatures in the single digits—quite a change from the winter daytime highs of 50 to 60 degrees in his native Spain. The eight-hour time difference was difficult at first, but Luján, an associate professor from the University of Alicante, is settling into a six-month sabbatical with the WebAIM program at the Center for Persons with Disabilities.

A computer engineer since 1998, Luján already had a lot of experience in web design—but not accessibility—when he attended a summer school session in 2004.

“I didn’t know a lot about accessibility, I had only heard about it,” he said. A web-surfing demonstration by a woman who was blind helped him understand how useful accessible web sites could be for people with disabilities. For example, he said, supermarkets are not prepared for blind people, but those same people can buy what they need online from an accessible web site. Accessible news sites let people read online without any help.

“People with disabilities want to be independent, they don’t want help all the time,” he said. “I decided to continue my professional life in web accessibility, so I could apply what I learned.”

Luján discovered the CPD’s WebAIM program in 2006 or 2007 after reading some of the program’s articles on web accessibility. He used some of the tools, as well as the Spanish translator, and eventually started a dialogue with WebAIM’s associate director, Jared Smith.

“I applied for a six-month sabbatical and thought, what is the best place? WebAIM,” he said.

His goals for the next six months are to work on projects and strengthen relationships with the WebAIM staff and to do some research.

“I hope to learn a lot of new things and to be able to apply them to future work and … to promote concern about web accessibility,” he said. “Some think people with disabilities can’t use a computer. The main problem is that people don’t know.”

He also wants to improve his command of the English language. All scientific research papers are written in English, he said, and he has plans to teach some classes in English. He has already taught seminars on web accessibility in Ecuador, Mexico, Russia and Poland.

For now, though, he is enjoying his first real contact with American culture. Life in Utah is much different than the two weeks he spent visiting Boston and New York on his first trip to the United States, he said.  He has been exploring Logan with the help of Cache Valley Transit District buses and looking forward to spending time in the mountains.

Menlove, Redd offer views on disability legislation

January 21, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Rep. Rhonda Menlove addresses the crowd.

Menlove

The Jim Bridger Room at the Logan City Library was packed last Thursday evening with people who were interested in hearing what two local legislators had to say about disability. The “Meet Your Elected Officials” event on Jan. 17 was organized by the Northern Utah Coalition on Disability, of which the Center for Persons with Disabilities is a part.

Republican Representatives Rhonda Menlove and Edward Redd participated in the forum. Menlove is the Vice Provost for Regional Campuses and Distance Education at Utah State University and has served in the legislature since 2005. She currently is the chair of the House social services appropriations committee.

Redd practiced internal medicine in Logan for 16 years before being named deputy director and medical office with the Bear River Health Department. He also provides care for people with mental illness through Bear River Mental Health. This is his first term in office, and he serves on the social services appropriations committee and the health and human services committee.

Rep. Ed Redd addresses the crowd.

Redd

As a new representative, Redd said he is still learning a lot, but as a physician, he has a unique perspective on what happens when people don’t get the services they need.

“I do have some insight into the challenges you face and your families face,” he said.

Redd would like to work towards programs where people with disabilities can be employed and not lose benefits. Too many people have to choose between remaining unemployed or losing benefits.

“It’s really frustrating to watch them struggle with that,” he said.

Redd also said he is interested in the area of preventive intervention.

“I’ve worked with many people and have wondered what they would be like if they’d had early intervention,” he said.

He said people need to talk to their representatives and tell them what issues are important to them.

“It gives us a spine,” he said. “If we know you guys are passionate about something, we’re more likely to be able to support you in the legislature.”

Image of crowd of people.

About 50 people attended Thursday’s event.

 

Addressing the crowd of about 50 people, Menlove said many meetings to which she’s invited have low attendance.

“This is one of the larger groups, Representative Redd. I’m impressed,” she said.

Her three favorite bills of all time: scholarships to train more special ed teachers, supporting the employment bill and the autism bill—it was very challenging and difficult, and “it was nothing short of a miracle that it got approved from the feds,” she said.

The committee reviewed requests for proposals for a two-year Medicaid waiver from agencies that supply services.

“We’ll study it, we’ll research it to see what are the outcomes,” she said.

Menlove said the biggest challenge in the current session is the disability waiting list, which makes people with disabilities spend 90 days in a long-term health care facility before getting in-home services. People with more severe disabilities receive care first.

Image of panel.

Moderator Jeff Sheen (left), from the Center for Persons with Disabilities, speaks with Rep. Rhonda Menlove (center) and Rep. Ed Redd (right).

“That will be the biggest discussion,” she said.

Menlove said the Affordable Health Care Act expanded Medicaid coverage so more people will access it. Last year, the legislature saved $40 million, so they will be able to cover the first year of the expansion. After that, the question is whether to roll out the full expansion and take the federal dollars.

Disability issues are growing in our nation, Menlove said.

“They are not going away. We’re all going to have to work together in the disability community,” she said.

Cache County legislative representatives host Meet & Greets from 7:30-9 a.m. in the Cache County Building on Saturdays until the end of the session. OPTIONS for Independence will provide free transportation with 48 hours notice.