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A child reading braille in a book

In recognition of World Braille Day, we’re showcasing one of our great videos from 2019 discussing the importance of braille. Mary Beth Wagner, a braille instructor from the Alabama Freedom Center for the Blind in Birmingham, Ala., explains why it is important to read and write in braille as well as the impact braille has had on her life.

“Reading is essential anyway,” said Wagner. “Unfortunately a lot of blind children fall through the cracks because they are not exposed to braille at a young age. My vision teacher sat down with me at three years old and began to teach me the braille alphabet. If it weren’t for braille I can’t even imagine where I would be education wise.”

In the video below, Wagner explains how braille is a series of dot combinations and shows how to write in braille both manually and using a braille writing machine.

“No parent of any sighted child would be content with their child just listening to an audible recording, they want their children to read,” said Wagner. “If your child is blind, they have the same right to learn how to read as a sighted child. Reading is amazing. I have had a lot of experiences in my life where I’ve been able to just become a part of the story. I’ve always loved stories. So the fact that I can have the same access to information as any sighted person who loves to read is definitely a blessing. I’m thankful that it’s available to the blind.”

Image on the left with members of NCHPAD at the International Day of Persons with Disabilities celebration at UAB. The right side of the graphic has the NCHPAD logo and the words International Day of Persons with Disabilities

What is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities?

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is an annual international observance on December 3 that was started in 1992 by the United Nations (UN). According to the UN,

It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

Each year the day focuses on a different message or theme. The 2023 theme is “United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs for, with and by persons with disabilities.

What are SDGs? SDGs are Sustainable Development Goals. According to the UN, SDGs are not on track to reach targets for the 2030 agenda, but there is a renewed commitment by world leaders to achieve shared prosperity and sustainable development for all. 

Why is this Important?

When inclusion barriers exist for people with disabilities, our society is not progressing. IDPD aims to remove those barriers and empower individuals with disabilities. When everyone is able to participate, our communities, countries and world can benefit. 

“On this important day, I call on the world to work side-by-side with persons with disabilities to design and deliver solutions based on equal rights in every country and community,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres.

How the NCHPAD Team is Celebrating and How You can Celebrate

Members of NCHPAD attended the 2nd Annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities Celebration on the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) on Friday, December 1. The event was hosted by NCHPAD’s own Dr. Robin Lanzi and her team at the Inclusive Well-Being Translational Science Collaborative.

A keynote address by Dr. Graham Sisson, Executive Director of the Alabama Governor’s Office on Disability, was followed by a panel discussion on disability health and well-being from several respected public health professionals.

“Health inequities occur because of a lack of information and lack of awareness. Today is about bringing awareness to that issue,” said Dr. Sisson. “Regulations and laws make a difference, but the real change occurs when we change attitudes.”

“Despite barriers and the need for improvement, there is still hope.”

There are many ways you can celebrate IDPD in your personal or professional life. 

  • Attend or host a disability awareness training session to embrace an inclusive culture. 
  • Donate to disability charities.
  • Attend or host an event with a disability awareness speaker.
  • Make a statement of support.
  • Advocate for better accessibility at common public places or in the workplace.
Photo of a man in white shirt showing phone to a man in a yellow sweatshirt on a graphic that says Caregiver Tips and Suggestions below it

By Bob Lujano, NCHPAD Expert Inclusion Specialist

Being a caregiver does not mean that you must now sacrifice your health. If you have recently added the responsibility of being a caregiver for a spouse, parent, or other family or friend, please take time to take care of your own health as well.

My wife has recently become the main caregiver of my mother-in-law, but I also share many of those same responsibilities. As a person with a disability, I also have some secondary health conditions, so it’s extremely important that I pay extra attention to my health – and my wife’s health as well.

Here are some ways that I stay healthy as a caregiver:  

Me time.

Once you have made the important decision to be a caregiver, make the same commitment to have some time for yourself. There is nothing wrong with having some ME time. It is this me time that can help you become a better caregiver.

Organization.

This first step is very important when you become a caregiver. Set up a daily schedule for caregiving, and schedule a time of day for meals, exercise, sleep and activities. This can help you stay organized in order to schedule that me time.  

Accountability person.

An accountability person is someone who can cover your responsibilities as a caregiver AND check in on you. Make sure you have a backup person who can take over your responsibilities, even if it’s just an hour or two! And have regular conversations with your accountability person ensure that you are taking care of yourself.

I am that accountability person for my wife. I help her out by preparing meals and taking her to dinner. I also encourage her to take time for herself while I take care of her mother. We also play tennis and go swimming together to get some exercise and de-stress from work.

Sleep and rest.

If you have taken care of young children, do you remember the suggestion of sleeping when the child sleeps? I definitely do! This is a good suggestion for caregivers, too. There’s nothing wrong with scheduling your own sleep, naps and rest time along with the person you are providing care for. Artificial intelligence (AI) devices such as an Alexa can help with scheduling naps and activities. For people with disabilities, these devices are accessible and voice-activated.

Your health is just as important! Follow these tips and learn more about additional caregiver resources below!

Additional Caregiver Resources

NCHPAD Connect links you to free resources, communities and wellness programs specifically tailored to people with a wide range of physical disabilities. Here’s what you should know.

NCHPAD Connect

NCHPAD Connect is a valuable resource that can help you and the person you are caring for to stay healthy and well.

  • Personalized resource recommendations: NCHPAD Connect can recommend health and wellness resources tailored to the specific needs of the person you care for. This can be a huge time-saver for caregivers, as it can be difficult to know where to start looking for inclusive health and wellness resources.
  • Free, online programs: NCHPAD Connect offers a variety of free health and wellness programs that focus on mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, diet and weight management. These programs can help caregivers and the people they care for to stay healthy and manage any secondary conditions.
  •  Expert Inclusion Specialists (EIS): NCHPAD Expert Inclusion Specialists (EIS), including Bob Lujano and Cara Riggins, provide access to free, personalized resources and programs to anyone who needs them! Learn more about Cara in our recent blog.

Additional Articles

Care for Caregivers 

https://www.nchpad.org/1635/6694/Care~for~the~Caregiver

Being a Caregiver 

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/caregiving/being-a-caregiver

A graphic with the words Great American Smokeout 2023 on it with the NCHPAD logo below it and an image of a no smoking simple.

The Great American Smokeout, held on the third Thursday of November every year, encourages smokers across the nation to commit to quitting smoking for at least one day, in the hopes that it will lead to a smoke-free future.

While the focus of this event is on the broader population, it’s important to know how this initiative can be especially impactful for people with disabilities.

Smoking poses unique challenges and risks to individuals with disabilities, making the event a prime opportunity for change, empowerment and improved health outcomes.

Tobacco Prevalence in People with Disabilities

People with disabilities face many barriers to health and wellness access. As a result, people with disabilities often are more susceptible to preventable health problems that decrease their overall health and quality of life. Contributing factors include limited access to health programs and services that meet their needs.

According to the CDC, current cigarette smoking is significantly higher among adults with a disability (19%) compared to adults without a disability (11%). The percentage of adults with disabilities using E-cigarettes is also higher (8%) compared to adults without disabilities (3.9%). Adolescents with disabilities are also consistently more likely to smoke cigarettes compared with their nondisabled peers (Senders et al., 2020) .                           

Access to tobacco prevention and cessation programs and public information campaigns can significantly improve the health and wellness of people, including those with disabilities. It’s especially important to provide inclusive programs aimed to provide equal access to people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. This includes those having physical or intellectual disabilities or belonging to other minority groups.

Strategies for Tobacco Avoidance and Cessation

Quitting smoking is important for many reasons. It improves quality of life, reduces the risk of many smoking-related diseases and can add up to 10 years to life expectancy.

Public health organizations promoting health and wellness must prioritize access to resources, education and programs that will lead people with disabilities to engage in positive healthy behaviors related to a smoke-free life. The graphic below highlights strategies for avoiding – and quitting – tobacco.

An infographic with the NCHPAD logo, Special Olympics Health logo, and CDC logo at the top with the following text below it: Stay Smoke-Free and Take Control of Your Health Today Choose Health, Avoid Tobacco and secondhand smoke. Why Tobacco avoidance is important. Staying tobacco free helps you breathe better. Tobacco use affects your lungs, heart, bones, teeth, and causes cancer. Tobacco use is an expensive habit – Save money and use it on things that help you live healthy. Breathing in secondhand smoke is also harmful to your health. What is Secondhand Smoke? Smoke from a cigarette or tobacco product Smoke breathed out by a smoker. Avoid Tobacco in All Forms Avoid cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaping, chew, and all tobacco products. Almost 30% of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are affected by secondhand smoke. How to avoid secondhand smoke? Decide to have a smoke free home and car. Choose to go to places that are smoke-free or leave the room. Say “I want to stay healthy and fresh air helps me stay strong” so you can stop smoking or go elsewhere. Call a friend and join them to do something outside. Support friends and family as they quit smoking. Choose Health, Not Tobacco Here are things I can choose to do: If I do not use tobacco, I choose not to start. If I smoke, I will ask to my doctor to help me quit. If I chew tobacco, I will ask my doctor to help me quit. If I smoke or chew tobacco, I will ask my friends and family to support me to quit. If you avoid tobacco, you can… Live a long and healthy life. Stay active with a positive mind.
NCHPAD Connect What is an EIS graphic with blue border

Did you know that NCHPAD offers personalized resources for people with physical disabilities and mobility limitations? Our expert inclusion specialists, or EIS, provide access to free, personalized resources and programs to anyone who needs them – anywhere in the country.

But what exactly is an EIS – and how do you connect with them? Here’s what you should know.

What is an Expert Inclusion Specialist?

A NCHPAD EIS guides people with mobility disabilities and chronic health conditions to a wide range of resources. Our team also provides professional training and resources to coaches, educators, caretakers and healthcare providers.

“We provide people with tailored, disability-specific resources,” said Cara Riggins, EIS with NCHPAD since 2019. “This includes programs or helpful everyday resources in many areas.”

“We are representatives of NCHPAD who find and create resources to share with people with disabilities,” said Bob Lujano, a NCHPAD EIS who’s been with the team since 2012. “The resources are on a wide range of topics like accessible places, organizations, parks and programs. We cover many, many areas!”

How to reach an EIS

EIS expertise is always free and available 7 AM-7 PM Monday-Friday.

The primary way to contact an EIS is through the NCHPAD Call Center. Our Call Center team works with individuals to get them enrolled in NCHPAD Connect, answer questions related to programs or connect them to an EIS for community resources and technical assistance.

To reach the NCHPAD Call Center, call 866-866-8896 or email nchpad@uab.edu.

Professional training

NCHPAD EIS also have experience in professional training. Since 2016, our EIS have served as implementation coordinators in training a wide range of individuals, from state public health departments to service providers and program developers.

This training covers health-promotion topics and practices through in-person and virtual sessions. The center has trained tens of thousands of health and wellness professionals in such topics as:

  • Disability awareness and inclusion
  • Inclusive worksite wellness
  • Inclusive and healthy communities
  • Supplemental nutrition assistance program and inclusion
  • Rx for exercise and healthcare providers
  • Inclusive diabetes prevention programs
  • Active and inclusive school programs

“Another part of our job is to create resources and disseminate them to educators, healthcare providers, consumers, and fitness professionals to fill the need where people with disabilities can specifically go for resources,” Bob said. “We’re always happy to chat with program participants or individuals looking for personalized resources as well as educators or community leaders looking for specific expertise.”

People doing core pulls

This is the second blog in a three-part series on exercise and balance, presented with our friends at Allard USA. Please note that if you have severe balance problems or have been losing your balance more often recently, see a healthcare provider before you get started with these exercises.

In our first blog in this series, we explored some simple ways to improve our sense of balance. Improving balance makes movement easier and increases how safe we feel while moving. Another way to improve our balance and mobility – and reduced our risk of pain or injury – is to strengthen our core.

Remember, our core includes muscles in our mid-section, hips, back and even shoulders! Another way to think of this is the muscles that attach to our spine, ribs and pelvis.

“Our core muscles help us move with a sense of stability,” says John Reams, NCHPAD Exercise Physiologist. “With that in mind, we can start to strengthen our core through two easy to learn exercises: diaphragmatic breathing and core pulls.” Both exercises can be done flat on your back, seated and standing. And both exercises help us increase awareness of how it feels to engage our core muscles.

REMEMBER: be sure to continue to breathe throughout all exercises. Avoid holding your breath at ANY point in these exercises.

Exercise 1: Diaphragmatic Breathing

Our diaphragm is a large dome-shaped muscle that separates our lungs from our abdomen. The diaphragm flattens and moves downward when you breathe in, and then it expands and moves upward when you breathe out. Diaphragmatic breathing is a simple exercise that can help you as you begin to work on your core strength. Here’s how it works:

  • Inhale through your nose and relax (or expand) the muscles around your midsection.
  • Exhale through your mouth and actively contract (or tighten) the muscles around your midsection.
  • Try to inhale deeply for two seconds, and then exhale slowly for four seconds.
  • Repeat this ten times.

Diaphragmatic breathing can help you feel the muscles around your midsection and be more aware of what relaxing and tightening your core feels like.

Exercise 2: Core Pulls

Core pulls engage muscles in our abdomen, hips and pelvis. Here’s how they work:

  • Pull your belly button back and down towards your hips.
  • At the same time, push or tighten your heels and the balls of your feet to the floor.
  • Maintain this for 10-30 seconds, and the exercise repeat 5-10 times.
3 Anti Inflammatory meals in 15 minutes or less

Looking for delicious and nutritious meals that combat inflammation? We’ve got you covered with three easy-to-make recipes that are not only packed with anti-inflammatory goodness but can also be prepared in just 15 minutes!

“Decreasing inflammation in your body decreases risk for heart disease, stroke and certain cancers,” says Lacey Gammon, NCHPAD Nutrition Coordinator. “From fatty fish and dark, leafy greens like kale to nuts, watermelon and sweet potatoes, these recipes feature many ingredients that can help decrease inflammation and support your health.”

In this video, we’ll guide you through the process of creating a refreshing watermelon arugula salad, a delicious seared tuna salad with fruit and hummus dressing, and a hearty sweet potato hash with broccoli and walnuts.

Watch the video and check out the recipes for each meal below.

Watermelon salad

Serving size: 2

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 0 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups watermelon, diced
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 1 cucumber, diced into ¼” cubes
  • 1 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pumpkin seed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Directions:

  1. Dice watermelon in ½” cubes and set aside.
  2. Toss arugula in bowl with half of the oil, season with salt and pepper and arrange on a plate to form a mound in center. Place cubed watermelon around base.
  3. Sprinkle goat cheese evenly around salad. Place cucumber around watermelon and drizzle the rest of oil over cucumber and watermelon.
  4. Drizzle balsamic vinegar or balsamic glaze to finish. If looking for more crunch, sprinkle 1 teaspoon toasted, sliced almonds, pumpkin seed, walnuts, or personal preference.

Seared tuna salad with fruit and hummus dressing

Serving size: 1

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1, 4-6 oz. tuna fillet
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 ½ cups kale
  • ¼ apple, sliced
  • ¼ cup assorted berries, (strawberries, blueberries, pomegranate, etc
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup hummus
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh basil

Directions:

  1. Place kale in bowl, add apple slices and berries. In smaller bowl, mix hummus with vinegar and pour over salad.
  2. Heat pan on high heat. Season tuna on both sides with salt and pepper. Add oil to pan and sear tuna 2 minutes on each side.
  3. Pull tuna off heat and let cool 2 minutes. Slice thinly and add to top of salad.

Add-on or substitutions:

Tuna may be replaced with salmon or chicken. Assorted berries may be used according to season. Kale may be replaced with spinach or other lettuces.

Sweet potato, broccoli and walnut hash

Service size: 4

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1, 6 oz bag of prechopped sweet potato (or 2 small sweet potato, cut in to cubes)
  • 1 cup prechopped broccoli
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup halved walnuts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup low sugar craisins
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Chop fresh vegetables into equal sized pieces. About ½” cubes.
  3. Spread ingredients on to a prepared baking sheet.
  4. Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil and mix until all ingredients are covered. Add walnuts.
  5. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender, lightly caramelized, and walnuts are toasted.