The Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University
 

Smith to show photographs at tonight’s Gallery Walk

October 11, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of cowboy on horse in the mountains.

Kelly Smith’s photography evokes the spirit and freedom of the West.

Kelly Smith’s love of photography and the American West will be on display at the Cache Valley Center for the Arts’ Second Friday Gallery Walk tonight.

Smith, information specialist at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, will display her work at the Bullen Center in downtown Logan from 6-9 p.m.

“My photos are the result of years of shooting images throughout the American West, primarily in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming,” Smith writes on her web site. “I strive to capture the spirit and romanticism of the West, the rapidly disappearing lifestyle of the American Cowboy, and the raw beauty of nature and wildlife.”

Smith said she rarely sets up a shot, and most of the images have been captured from the saddle during her summer ‘vacations’ as a wrangler on the T Cross Ranch in Wyoming.

While Smith has been involved with photography for more than 30 years, and has always done photography for her job at the CPD, it’s only been in the last nine years that she has focused on marketing her personal work.

There are many sources the committee can use to find featured artists for Gallery Walks, which take place on the second Friday of even-numbered months, Smith said. Storee Powell, public relations and marketing specialist with Utah Assistive Technology Program, mentioned Smith’s work to the committee.

“They looked at my work and invited me to participate,” Smith said.

To see more of Smith’s work, visit her web site here.

 

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My Other Life: Lyon lands book deal

August 1, 2013 by Sue Reeves

head shot of JoLynne Lyon

JoLynne Lyon

JoLynne Lyon, former public relations specialist at Utah State University’s Center for Person with Disabilities, will soon be a published novelist. Her first book, with a working title of “Truth is Relative,” is scheduled for an April 2014 release by Rhemalda Publishing, a small press in Washington State.

The main character in the book is a detective named Anthony who was forced into his job because of his unique ‘gift’— people spontaneously confess their secrets when they get within 10 feet of him.

Lyon, now the public relations specialist for the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services at USU, said the book was influenced by her time at the CPD, where she had worked for a couple of years before the concept started to percolate.

She describes Anthony’s gift as both an ability and a disability, because it seems to cause more problems than it solves.

“I made the main character—a youngish man—what he was so his ability would be as uncomfortable as possible,” she said. “I also made his gift manifest in his early 20s because in the disability community, that’s when it becomes a struggle. Children get a lot of empathy, but once you start hitting adulthood it’s a lot harder.”

The first chapter of the book won the grand prize in the 2012 LDS Storymakers First Chapter Contest.

“I got a netbook out of it,” Lyon said. “I was pretty stoked. I needed some encouragement at that time, so that was really good.”

She has written two books in what she has dubbed the Truth Inducer series and started a third.

“I don’t know how far it’ll go,” she said. “It’s off to a good start. It’s been a lot of fun, it really has.”

Although Lyon has been writing since grade school, she said, “but I’ve only done it well the last few years.” She keeps a regular writing routine when possible, but said she also gives herself permission not to write.

“Life is more important,” she said. “Family is more important.”

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My Other Life: Operation Desert Storm and beyond

July 3, 2013 by Sue Reeves

By Norm Ames

Image on man in camoflage uniform.

Norm Ames during Operation Desert Storm.

It was December 1988 and my wife and I had been married for four months. I was almost done with my AA degree at Rick College and we were tossing around ideas about how to pay for more school. In February 1989 I enlisted in the U.S. Army as a “Private First Class” – already three ranks from the bottom because I had an AA degree.

I thought I was rich. I will never forget going through Boot Camp in Fort Knox, KY and my drill sergeant telling us, “You just wait! Very soon you will find yourselves in a real-world conflict.  So, NOW is the time to train!” I took the training seriously, but I did NOT take his prediction seriously. Not one year later I found myself in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert waiting for Operation Desert Storm to start. Yes, I also found myself thanking that Drill Sergeant for making us take our training seriously.

I was assigned to the 24th Infantry Division based out of Fort Stewart, GA.  I was trained as a Personnel Administration Specialist in a Field Artillery unit.  The 24th ID was a “Rapid Deployment” all-mechanized force with a desert mission. After about seven months of digging fox holes and waiting to see if any political strategies would somehow succeed in getting the Iraqis out of Kuwait, we got word that the Air Force had started to drop bombs on the Iraq forces occupying Kuwait, as well as along the Saudi border. This announcement came at 3 a.m. on January 17, 1991.

We knew that this was finally the beginning of the end. We were ready to do whatever we needed to do to get the mission accomplished so that we could go home to our families. After a few weeks of bombing, the ground units were given their orders to move in and finish the job.  This order resulted in what is commonly referred to as the 100-hour war. The ground units moved so quickly, and performed so effectively that our objectives were met within 100 hours of receiving the order.

One of the most sobering but fulfilling experiences I during this time was an opportunity to help several Iraqi soldiers who had just been “hit” by our infantry and left for dead. My convoy was about 10 minutes behind the front lines as we were moving quickly towards the Euphrates River Valley to cut off the Iraqi Republican Guard. This was our primary objective. There was a large Iraqi supply convoy in our way and they were quickly destroyed. However, there were four soldiers that were still alive, although gravely wounded, by the time my convoy came upon them. In addition to my primary training I was trained as a Combat Medic. My convoy commander gave me permission to move in close to this huddled clump of Iraqi soldiers to assess the situation and see if there was anything we could do for them. As I approached with a couple of other soldiers to provide security, I could see that the situation was very serious.

We were allowed to get on the radio and request medical evacuation by helicopter. While we waited for our helicopters to arrive, we did a quick triage and started treating them. We applied bandages and tourniquets, started IV’s, and gave them water. The helicopters came quickly and “dusted them off” to the rear where our tented combat support hospitals were set up – about a 30 minute helicopter ride from where we were. We later got word that all four of these Iraqi soldiers survived after being evacuated and treated by our medical guys. I was given an Army Commendation Medal for my involvement in this particular event in rendering medical assistance to those Iraqi soldiers. It was a very satisfying end to a very emotional experience.

After the first Gulf War I was released from active duty and came to Utah State University were I received an ROTC scholarship and went on to complete my BA and MS degrees in Psychology. In 1993 I was honored to be recognized by the Psychology Department for “Special Achievement” for my military service. I am grateful for the experiences I had in My Other Life in the military. These experiences are a special part of me and have made me a better human being and a more qualified professional in my current life.

Norm Ames is the associate director of the Mountain Plains Regional Resource Center (MPRRC), which is administered by  the Center for Technical Assistance for Excellence in Special Education (TAESE), a division of Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities.

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My Other Life: Trip increases immigration awareness

June 7, 2013 by Sue Reeves

Image of grave marker.

A grave marker in the desert where an unknown child’s body was found. (Courtesy photo)

A trip to the Arizona-Mexico border with an immigration immersion group has had a significant impact on the way a staff member at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilies views current immigration laws. George Wootten, a nurse practitioner at the CPD, travelled to the border June 23-28 with a group called Borderlinks because he wanted more information about immigration and the issues surrounding it.

Wootten said the U.S. economy has become dependent on undocumented migrant workers from Mexico and other countries who come to this country to do work others won’t, or can’t afford to do, primarily in agriculture, but also in other labor-oriented jobs. Costs are lowered by paying these undocumented workers a fraction of what U.S. citizens would be paid.

Before the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, Wootten said, it was relatively easy for people to cross the border into the U.S., work for six months and then return home. Since NAFTA, however, the Mexican and South American agricultural industries have been negatively impacted by the export of U.S. agricultural products to those countries, resulting in job losses and an increase in the number of people trying to enter the U.S. to find work.

To stop this migration, Wootten said, the U.S. is building walls around urban areas where crossings are relatively safe, including in Nogales, which straddles the border between Arizona and Mexico.

“Imagine building a wall between Logan and North Logan,” he said.

Because of the walls, people looking for migrant work attempt to cross from Mexico into the harsh Arizona desert, Wootten said. Estimates put the death toll from these desert crossings at between 400 and 500 people annually since 2005, he said.

“We walked in the desert,” Wootten said. “I saw three memorials where bodies of people who had died in the desert had been found.  One was a child.”

The group also watched court proceedings for 60 people who had been caught attempting to cross the border. They were sentenced to between 30 and 180 days in federal prison

“We watched as they were marched out of the court in handcuffs and leg irons on their way to prison,” Wootten said. “Lawyers were playing crossword puzzles and laughing and joking among themselves during the proceedings. The judge kept yawning. This happens fivedays a week, 50 weeks per year.”

Image of border wall.

The city of Nogales lies partly in Mexico and partly in Arizona. This wall separates the two. (Courtesy photo)

The group also visited a facility in Nogales, Mexico that offered support to those who were being deported after their time in prison, as well as a school where children and adults are being educated.

“Hopefully, this will make the need to cross the border into the U.S. to find work unnecessary,” Wootten said.

There was one other, unplanned experience, Wootten said, when the group tried to cross back into the U.S. from Mexico.

“We were asked to pull our van off to the side, and were not allowed to step out of our vehicle, use cell phones or cameras,” Wootten said. “The U.S. customs folks made us wait for 45 minutes in 100 degree heat in the van without anyone explaining why we were being detained. Twice they brought dogs to sniff around the vehicle looking for drugs. Then an armed officer came over, made us get out of the van, escorted us into a locked holding facility where we waited for another 45 minutes with no explanation for why we were being held.  Finally, the officer came back and said we could leave. We were escorted to our van.  Again, there was no explanation for why we were held.  Twenty miles north of the border we were stopped at a checkpoint. Our passports were all checked.  If I had not had any identification, I don’t know what would have happened.

“Needless to say, my awareness of the complexity of this issue, the impact of the current immigration policies, and the need for true immigration reform has been significantly raised,” Wootten said.

“My Other Life” is a recurring feature that highlights CPD employees away from their desks.

 

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My other life: Sachin Pavithran’s high adventures

September 21, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

photo of Sachin on the cliff above waterBy Storee Powell

There are many thrill-seekers in the world, including people who are blind. The CPD’s Sachin Pavithran is one of them.

The director of the Utah Assistive Technology Program and blind advocate said, “I love thrill – anything that gives me a rush – especially extreme sporting. When people say I can’t do things because I’m blind, I do it just to show them I can.”

A few activities on his ‘extreme sporting’ resume include skydiving, bungee jumping in Dubai, base jumping in London, cliff jumping at Lake Powell, white water rafting in the Snake River, and kayaking in the Salmon River.

In July, Pavithran went to Lake Powell with some friends, including the CPD’s Shane Johnson. The rocks were calling Pavithran’s name as he was the first to volunteer to jump from the 30 foot cliff to the lake below.

“I jumped from 12 or 15 feet, and it was pretty scary,” Johnson said. “I would not have done it with my eyes closed, but he never hesitated. The first thing he said after he surfaced in the water was, ‘Did you get a picture?’”

A fifty-foot cliff was his next goal, but that was vetoed by Pavithran’s wife, Johnson said, laughing.

While fear is a part of extreme sports, a lot of people are especially nervous to see a blind person doing these things, Pavithran said.

“I get nervous, but it never stops me from doing anything,” Pavithran said. “I’ve never backed off doing something because I was scared or because people had the perception I couldn’t do it.”

Of course Pavithran posts updates and photos of his adventures to Facebook, which usually elicits a phone call from his mom.

He said, “She’ll call and say, ‘What the heck are you doing?!’ But my family and wife are very supportive of me doing these things. I didn’t grow up in an environment where I was nurtured to believe I couldn’t do things”

When he did his first skydive, which was after graduation from undergrad, he didn’t tell his parents outright. Rather, Pavithran popped in the video of his graduation that was followed by shots of him skydiving. It would seem he not only enjoys the rush himself, but sharing it with others.

“They were so surprised, and it was a fun reaction,” Pavithran said. “Sometimes I even get my family to do it with me, like when I cliff jumped at Lake Powell this summer.”

After a pep talk, Pavithran got his wife to jump from a cliff with him. But learning how to do such extreme sports hasn’t always been so accessible for Pavithran.

Growing up in Dubai, Pavithran didn’t know other blind people and had to learn how to do extreme sports on his own. But it didn’t stop him from speed boat racing, jet skiing and wake boarding in the Arabian Sea.

Now, however, Pavithran networks with blind friends in the U.S. to learn new strategies of accomplishing an extreme sport.

“A lot of blind people do these same things, whether people believe it or not,” Pavithran said. “I look to find opportunities to do these things, and sometimes I have to tweak a few things for my personal purpose to do them.”

Two examples are golf and target shooting, some of his favorites. He began golfing this summer.

“I love golf – I’ve always had a desire to learn,” Pavithran said. “I’m still perfecting my game, but I want to get good at it.”

In both sports, Pavithran gets a description from friends of how far the hole or target is, allowing him to adjust his position.

Long range target shooting is something Pavithran and his friends are working on making accessible. The idea is to use a feed from a camera to send to an iPad so the scope can be positioned with the feedback. Also, a custom rifle will have to be built that will reach 1,200 yards.

“It really is all about attitude,” Pavithran said. “I don’t have to do extreme sports to be confident, but it is one way to show that I am.”

“My other life” is a recurring feature that highlights CPD employees away from their desks.

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