CAC Corner: The stare

April 25, 2016 by Kelly Smith

Profile of adult maleThis month’s CAC Corner was written by CAC member Laura Anderson and originally posted on the Mother’s of Autistic Kids (Big MAKS) web site. Anderson is a member of the CPD Consumer Advisory Council, and mother of Ty, a child with autism. 

As a parent of a child with autism you become all to aware of “The Stare”.  Because many of our kids lack the visual cue that they have a disability ( a wheel chair, walker, distinguishable physical characteristic) the looks and stares can feel like a judgement or criticism.  The stares tend to come with the verbal outbursts,flapping, slapping clapping, hooting, screaming (you get the picture).  Many of these outward expressions of autism can be excused when the child is  younger, but the tables are turned when your son is 6’3″, 180 lbs, has facial hair and a deep bass voice.

We were the recipients of THE STARE Saturday night while being seated for dinner at Chili’s.  As we walked to our table, Ty (see the above description) sneezed directly over a mans plate.  *STARE*  We hurried to get seated so we could order the gentleman another dinner (yes, we replace many dinners that we take food from – and drinks that we put fingers in).  Before we could get Ty into the booth, the gentleman was up out of his seat heading for the manager.  My husband, Austin,  went after him to explain that we were going to replace his dinner and to offer our apologies, wanting  to let him know that Ty has autism, and has not learned the valuable skill of covering his mouth when he sneezes or coughs.

I watched from several seats away as these two men were engaged in their conversation, trying to catch a word of their exchange, hoping that Austin would stay calm.  I assumed we would be asked to leave after replacing the meal. 
The man turned away from Austin and walked toward our table…I was ready for the lecture…”You shouldn’t take your son out in public, you should teach him, you should…”  A conversation we have all heard too many times.

He approached the table and introduced himself as a Special Education Teacher from Ogden and insisted on buying us dessert.  He went on to explain his love for his job and the students he worked with, and how happy he was to see us out as a family. 
This man is my hero – and he can stare at us anytime he wants to.
Laura – Ty’s Mom

The CPD Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) composed of individuals with disabilities, family members, and staff liaisons advises the CPD director about the Center’s impact on systems change, advocacy, and capacity building. The CAC approves the CPD’s annual goals and regularly reviews progress towards their accomplishment.

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Family Faces of Disability photo album wants you!

November 2, 2012 by Sue Reeves

Help the National Council on Disability (NCD) bring its new report, “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children,” to life by submitting a photograph of your family to NCD’s new “Family Faces of Disability” photo album, to be shared on the NCD Facebook page.

With the “Family Faces of Disability” photo album, NCD is seeking photos that capture your family’s day-to-day life as a way to personalize the issues faced by parents with disabilities in the United States. For accessibility reasons, all photographs submitted to NCD’s “Family Faces of Disability” photo album MUST include a written description of what is happening in the photo. NCD retains the right to remove any photo or its accompanying description without warning, if either is deemed inappropriate.

By submitting your photograph, you grant permission to the National Council on Disability to display these photographs on NCD’s website, Facebook and Twitter pages, or future print publications.

Please send your photos and descriptions to:

View submissions to NCD’s “Family Faces of Disability” photo album on Facebook here.

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Reflections on the National Forum on Disability Issues

October 2, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

Gordon watches the forum

The National Forum on Disability Issues did not succeed in attracting the two presidential candidates. That said, it was a heckuva lot more interesting than we expected.

Disability is a relevant national issue. A recent, weighted survey found that 51 percent of respondents either had a disability, or had a family member or close friend with one. The forum itself was sponsored by 50 different organizations and viewed in numerous locations, including ours. It was billed as the only campaign event with a unique, disability-specific view.

It was a step forward for a group that, as Ted Kennedy Jr. put it, talks a lot but doesn’t get out and vote.

Both candidates appointed representatives to speak for them and field questions.

Ted Kennedy Jr. was President Obama’s representative. He spoke passionately for people with disabilities, as a proud member of the disability community. (He lost a leg in his fight with bone cancer as a child.)

“We know that people with disability don’t want a handout, they want a job,” he said. “We’re the only group out there that want to pay more taxes… But we don’t want to trigger the loss of health care benefits.”

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) represented Governor Romney. She is the mother of a child with disabilities. While stressing that it’s important to maintain protections for people with disabilities, she said it would be great if government programs could be more efficient.

Both representatives said attitudes toward people with disabilities need to change. They both said employment for people with disabilities is important.

They disagreed on plenty of points, though. Here’s a sampling of their views:

Ted Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy said Governor Mitt Romney would slash the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act  by 20 percent. He pointed out that the Republican Party Platform asks its members to vote against the UN’s Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. And he argued against the Republican idea of block grants for Medicaid, which amount to a cap.

The most important question he would pose the candidates was this: How they would expand jobs and independent living for people with disabilities? The answer would be telling, he said–it would show whether the candidate’s attitude was based on fear or pity or respect for civil rights.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers

States and private companies have found innovative solutions that the Federal Government could learn from. Rodgers pointed to Walgreen’s stores, which are now being built using universal design, and a Wal-Mart experiment that put “must-have” items in an easy-t0-reach spot at the front of the store.

Budget realities mean that policymakers have to make some hard decisions, she said, but the government–and the provisions of the Affordable Care Act–are not being honest about the true cost of delivering services. She argued that more should be done to address the actual cost of health care.

Her question to the candidates: How would they open the door of opportunity for people with disabilities to have jobs? Would they think beyond those typically open to people with disabilities?

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From awareness to respect…

May 8, 2012 by cpehrson

Mathew McCollough, Executive Director, District of Columbia Developmental Disabilities Council, recently posted a very articulate and well-thought out blog entitled “From Awareness to Respect…And Paving the Way.

Mathew’s thoughts were based on his personal experiences about being employed as a person with a disability, what that means, and what responsibility those in similar situations have to advocate to “eliminate discrimination and remove barriers to full inclusion and acceptance” in the work place.  His message was to all employers, urging them “to stand up and embrace the challenge that is before you, and provide leadership within your programs to recruit and retain the most qualified applicants and employees from diverse backgrounds.”

Photo of Gordon Richins

Gordon Richins, CPD Consumer Liaison

His words evoked a heart-felt response in Gordon Richins, the CPD’s Consumer Liason, that we think is worth sharing on our CPD blog.

Gordon’s response:

Mathew this is a very powerful and well written blog. I say this not because we are friends and colleagues but because it tells it like it is. To the point and “straight forward”.  Quoting your last response of…

We (people with disabilities) must take control of our own circumstances;
challenging the ones around us by pushing and strategically
situating ourselves in more leadership, management and other respectful roles
within our communities and places of employment –
We have no more excuses.

As an advocate and an individual with a significant disability I have experienced an enjoyable  life, of 32 years pre-injury  and 24 good years (post-injury) of a humbling life  benefitting from the hard work and sacrifice my peers have done. They gave me the opportunity to have the quality of life I and my friends enjoy, and some of my friends within the disability community sometimes take for granted.

Tonight, May 8, OPTIONS for Independence, Northern Utah’s Center for Independent Living “CIL” will show the film Lives Worth Living, a documentary that chronicles the history of America’s disability rights movement, produced by the PBS Series Independent Lens. The screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion on “The Disability Rights Movement: Past, Present, and Future.”

I’m proud of my presence and involvement within the disability community. I also owe a great deal of love and gratitude to my wonderful wife, Faustine, for 36 years of love, companionship and support thru the rough times and the many good times. This gratitude extends to Justin Dart who I’ve met twice, Ed Roberts, Helen Roth, Kelly Buckland, Dr. Marvin Fifield and numerous other disability advocates who helped pave the way for me and many others within the community.

There is still a great deal of work to be done by disability advocates. Mathew, your powerful words and example will certainly be part of the hard work ahead of us.  Thank you for the greater message your Blog brings to light for the disability community as well as the greater community we are all a part off.

Gordon Richins, Consumer Liaison, Center for Persons with Disabilities

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CAC Corner: Arts for all abilities

February 27, 2012 by cpehrson

This CAC corner blog was written by Ben Ballam, a Vice-Chair of the CPD’s Consumer Advisory Council.  Ben is a student at USU. 

Young adult in a playing basketball in a wheelchair

Ben Ballam







Some new opportunities are opening up in the Arts, for people with disabilities. There is a movement to offer inclusive art and drama classes for people with disabilities.



The famous Paper Mill Playhouse, located in New Jersey, now offers its first ever program for children with disabilities. This new class will include theater improvisation, storytelling, music, movement, and visual art. The series will “creatively address and include diverse learning styles and modes of communication.” It is part of the Theater For Everyone Program. Their director of Education said, “We want arts education to not merely be the icing on the cake of a child’s education, but really the baking soda that helps all kids grow and explore ways of communicating.”

Right here in Logan, Utah, we have some perfect examples of inclusive Arts Ed through the Utah Festival Conservatory for the Performing Arts and the Opera by Children Program. Shortly after it was started, I was one of the first kids to be in the program and write my own original opera, along with some of my elementary school classmates. When it was time to cast the show, I wanted to play the baker, which was a pretty big part, but I was worried that I couldn’t do it because I was in a wheelchair.  When I came home , I talked to my dad about it, who just happened to be the General Director of the Utah Festival Opera Company and their arts programs (Michael Ballam).  I asked him if he thought that a kid in a wheelchair could be a baker.  His response was, “Ben, did you know that a President of the United States, President Franklin D.Roosevelt, was in a wheelchair?  You can be anything that you want to be!” I played the baker!

That is the philosophy of the education programs at the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre Company.  Everyone is included.   Differences are celebrated and young people of all abilities are encouraged to participate.  There are lots of amazing stories of miracles that have occurred with children taking part in these programs.  For more information, go to the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre web site.

It is encouraging to know that lots of people in the Arts across America are beginning to advocate for those of us, who in the past, might been left out.


You can learn more about Ben Ballam and his love of basketball in a past CPD blog post.

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