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Newsletter Volume 11 Issue 4
Newsletter (Volume 11, Issue 4)
OFFICE OF DISABILITY CONCERNS
WILL'S CORNER, OKLAHOMA
(Serving the Disability Community of Oklahoma)
Volume 11, Issue 4
October 1, 2010
Jeri Cooper comes into the Office of Disability Concerns with her driver. She has an appointment for this interview, and she is on time. Why does she have a driver? Jeri has been deaf and blind all her life.
Let's qualify what we mean by deaf and blind. She was born with some sight, but now she functions with artificial eyes which look quite natural. She has no vision whatsoever. She has a 95% hearing loss in both ears with the strongest hearing aids. She shouldn't be able to understand any speech, but here we are doing this interview.
Jeri finds a seat in the conference room and mentally makes a note that the upholstery has a slight nap. Without my noticing she runs her hand around the edge of the conference table to note that at least part of that table is rounded.
The door is behind her and to the left-something I never notice. But I am not deaf or blind. I have vision and hearing which I take quite for granted. How would you get around if you didn't have these senses to orient you to your environment?
Jeri has found a way. She says you have to learn to do things differently when you have a disability. I am amazed. How are we even having this conversation?
Jeri says she heard me say the word "twenty" which with her limited hearing, she heard as if it were "wenty". Her mind tells her instantly what I actually said by looking at the context of the words. Twenty fits.
What I can't understand is how you could make these multiple mental calculations instantly and understand what is spoken to you. She says it helps because I am sitting directly across from her, and I have a voice range that she can understand more easily.
But I know it can't be that simple. If I get the T sound and the P sound confused, that's going to have a major impact on what I understand of someone else's speech. If the S and F sound are also confused-forget it. I'm not even going to try to understand what you are saying.
Doctors told her mother to put her into the Hissom State School which was an institution for people with a cognitive disorder. Jeri was never mentally retarded. Her mother said no to any attempt to take her daughter out of the home.
She worked with Jeri intensively encouraging her to use the sight and hearing she had at the time to the maximum. Mom did not do it for Jeri. She let Jeri learn to do it for herself although she was there to intervene if it became more than Jeri could handle. Her mother never gave up, and Jeri was a determined little girl to boot.
Jeri shops for herself, but she does not hesitate to ask for help. She calls a store manager before she comes down asking for a convenient time for the manager to help her pick out brands. She knows what she wants.
She buys clothing which has different textures. She knows the silky feel is the red blouse, and the heavy socks are the black ones. She tells me the colors of all the clothing she is wearing today. Those colors are coordinated I might add.
Doesn’t being both deaf and blind get on Jeri’s nerves a little? Yea, sometimes she gets upset waiting for her husband to read her mail to her. But don’t we all get upset with spouses for one thing or another.
Jeri Cooper has spent years learning how to adjust to being both deaf and blind. She talks about it like she was just taking a walk on the beach on a warm, sunny afternoon. I am amazed.
She tells me about her new job. She is a Deaf/Blind Specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services in Tulsa. She teaches people what they want to know if they have this dual-sensory disability. She spreads to others what her mother taught her. Life is full of possibilities.
The interview goes on and on, but I am still at the beginning. Yes, Jeri likes to bowl and scored a 158 recently. Yes, she watches baseball and hears about a particular play on her Walkman radio before sighted fans can see what’s happening out on the field.
Yes, but I’m still back at the beginning when she first walked into the door. I never really got past how does she do it. Maybe there really are miracles. If there are, I think Jeri Cooper is one of them.
The Oklahoma University Counseling Psychology Clinic
The University of Oklahoma in Norman has a counseling psychology clinic located off Highway 9 on Marshall Avenue. The clinic has offered counseling services on an ability-to-pay basis for many years. In May, 2010 they began offering counseling without charge to those people who need services and have no means to pay.
The program is available to anyone in Oklahoma, but since it is located in Norman, most clients come from nearby urban and rural areas. The free program is limited to eight 50-minute sessions although longer counseling services are available through the fee-for-service program or through referrals to other resources.
The eight sessions are based on a brief-therapy model in which counselors use information from a previous telephone screening to get right down to issues. The counselor establishes treatment goals with the client and helps the client to prioritize their goals and begin to resolve them. Where appropriate the client may be referred to other places to address issues on a long-term basis.
All counselors are graduate students working on either a master’s program in Community Counseling or doctoral level program in Counseling Psychology. They serve under close supervision with a licensed psychologist.
Dr. Lisa Frey who is the Clinic Director of the O.U. Counseling Psychology Clinic got the idea for a free clinic after having to turn away an individual who was not able to pay even a minimal fee but needed counseling to start their lives in a positive direction. The free program began in May, 2010 although there is also an ability-to-pay program for clients who can afford to pay something.
The typical client calls for service, and their names and telephone numbers are passed on to someone who does a 20-30 minute telephone screening to get information about the applicant. If the clinic decides they can help someone, that person is assigned to a counselor who sets up convenient session times.
The clinic telephone number is only staffed during hours of operation. The clinic is open from 12:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and on Saturday from 9 a.m. till noon. Anyone can call 405-325-2914 to initiate the process.
If you are a person who needs counseling but have limited means to pay for it, consider the O.U. Counseling Psychology Clinic in Norman. If traveling to Norman is not possible, check other colleges and universities with a graduate-level psychology program. In these days of tight budgets for social-service agencies, this may be one way to get your needs met.
Traveling Europe From a Disability Perspective
If you are a person with disabilities, you may shun travel because you are not sure of the accessibility of the places you would like to visit. This becomes even more critical if you are considering traveling out of the country.
It is hot in Oklahoma now, and I have just returned from two weeks traveling through eight European countries. I am a Disability Program Specialist at the Office of Disability Concerns, but I do not cease my professional role just because I am on holiday.
I’d like to chat with you in the next few paragraphs about what I noticed about accessibility in the countries I visited in case you ever thought of visiting some of those same places but hesitated because of concerns about accessibility.
Of course, to begin with we have to consider there are many types of disability and each disability has its own concerns. I will not talk about all concerns for all people in all European countries. I will give you some observations on some of the things I noticed which might be of interest to you if you considered visiting some of these places.
Airports here and there provide people to help the person with a mobility impairment negotiate through airport security and get seated on their plane. People with disabilities are boarded first on planes before other passengers. Airports for the most part offer accessible bathrooms and, in some cases, signage for people with visual impairments.
Public transportation is offered in the larger European cities from the airport to the city center with all points in between. This was true in London, and the cost was quite reasonable. However, there was a gap between the station platform and the door of the train which could only be negotiated with someone in a wheelchair if they had assistance.
The crowds in public transportation might be oppressive for someone with a mental illness, and negotiating getting off at the proper place could be stressful. This stress in public transportation is increased if you throw in a foreign language.
Trains and buses did have visual announcements of all information provided in voice. This would certainly assist people with hearing impairments if they could read the language provided. Dealing with a foreign language can be a challenge for all people regardless of ability.
I stayed in clean, inexpensive hotels in all countries visited. I would judge them a one and two star rating. Most rooms were quite small which might be an advantage for someone with a visual impairment but would be a disadvantage for someone with a mobility problem. Bathrooms were likewise small, and shower stalls were small enough to be a problem to someone with a serious weight issue.
Elevators existed in all hotels I stayed in except a small, three-story hotel in an out-of-the way French village. However, elevator room was about half the size of elevators I have been used to in Oklahoma. A wheelchair would not fit in some of them. Keys to many rooms were of an old-fashioned variety which might be difficult for a person with a problem grasping.
My suggestion for the person with a physical disability traveling Europe would be to patronize four and five star hotels which almost certainly have special handicapped-accessible rooms. The accessibility is there, but the patron is going to have to pay more to get it.
Sidewalks are much more plentiful in Europe than in Oklahoma. Many curbs have been slanted from the sidewalk to the street to facilitate wheelchairs. However, those sidewalks are many times constructed of materials other than concrete. They may be of flag stones or other materials with an uneven surface which is difficult (if not dangerous) to negotiate in a wheelchair.
Restaurants are quite crowded at all hours. I never saw a menu in Braille although I am sure that wait personnel would be willing to read the menu to a person who requested it. I never saw wait personnel signing to a person. I believe that a person who is deaf would need to read the menu and either write or point to what they wanted.
Do you see people with obvious disabilities in public in Europe? I saw many people with easily-identifiable disabilities everywhere I went. There was the young boy on his mother’s arm in Berlin who almost certainly had some degree of autism. There was the woman in a power chair in Vienna negotiating the crowds and sidewalks.
And there was the person with a double amputation in a church in Prague. The man with a caregiver in a Dover restaurant had a speech impairment. These are just the disabilities which were obvious. Yes, European people with disabilities are getting out in public just like they are doing here.
It seems like everyone regardless of ability and nationality is looking for more access to goods and services which improve the quality of their lives. We all share the human condition, and our common humanity transcends all barriers. (Please note that the United States is the only country in the world that has a national civil rights act that includes a building standard to enhance uniform access.)
With Their Eyes on the Poor
Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry (TMM) is a coalition of faith-based organizations in Tulsa. It includes representatives of many protestant, Catholic and Orthodox faith communities in the Tulsa area. In the early 1990’s Muslim groups were included, and this expanded to Hindu and Buddhist groups after 2000.
TMM began way back in 1925 known as the Ministerial Alliance of Tulsa. In 1937 that ministerial alliance became the Tulsa Council of Churches. It became the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry in 1971, but it traces its origin back 75 years.
TMM has found a common ground in that most world religions have an eye on the poor and disenfranchised members of their community. They don’t talk theology. Their motto is “We need not believe alike to love alike.”
How has TMM shown their love through the years? That is an amazing story. Get ready for this. TMM has been directly responsible for beginning some of the major social-service organizations in Tulsa.
Here is a partial listing. The Meals on Wheels program for citizens in need of a hot meal actually began as a program within Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry or one of its predecessors organizations.
Life Senior Services is a spinoff of TMM which works with senior citizens in a number of ways. Youth Services of Tulsa provides counseling to children and youth, and it began as a program within TMM.
Transportation for senior citizens primarily to doctor’s appointments was addressed as a need within TMM. You may know that program today as the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, but the inspiration began in Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry.
In 2001 TMM inspired the Day Center for the Homeless in Tulsa. The day center meets a real need of homeless individuals who have no place to go during the day when the homeless shelters are closed.
Most recently TMM has identified a need for spouses involved in domestic violence. TMM has begun to fund a chaplain at the Family Safety Center to deal with spiritual concerns of battered spouses. In the future TMM may sponsor more chaplains at various locations in the Tulsa area.
Faith communities make a difference in the Tulsa metropolitan area. They have combined their efforts into a coalition to better serve people who are poor and meet the needs of their citizens.
If you would like to know more about Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, you may contact their website at www.tumm.org. You can call them at 918-582-3147 or visit their offices at 221 S. Nogales.
This Disability Program Specialist shared with Mark Rickman (interim director TMM) some of the needs of the community of people with disabilities. I hear frequently from people who need a ramp built to their home. I also hear from people with disabilities who are moving from one part of the city in which they live to another part. They need some group with a pickup truck to help them move.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
October 21-23, 2010 The Texas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental
Illness has invited Oklahoma Nami to join them at
their state conference in Dallas. Contact Kelli at
Nami Texas for registration cost and hotel 800-633-
October 26, 2010 On the Road Family Perspective one-day, free confer-
ence at Pontotoc Technology Center in Ada. For more
information contact Sally Selvidge at 800-426-2747.
November 4, 2010 Career Day at the Oklahoma School for the Blind, 3300
Gibson Street in Muskogee. For more information and
to register contact Linda Graber at 877-229-7136.
November 16-December 2, 2010 Grand Gateway Area Agency on Aging
in northeast Oklahoma is training Medi-
care recipients on Part D Prescription
Drug Benefits in Afton, Claremore,
Pryor, Bartlesville and Big Cabin, Okla-
homa. Call 800-482-4594 to find out
times and places and to register.
November 19-20, 2010 Oklahoma Statewide Autism Conference, Embassy
Suites Hotel in Norman. For more information call
the Oklahoma Autism Network at 877-228-8476.
If you have an event coming up relating to disability, let us know at 800-522-8224 and we’ll help you publicize.