Disaster Unemployment, FEMA Aid Opens for Four Texas Counties

Due to a presidential order being posted, residents of Harris, Fayette, Grimes, and Parker counties can apply for several types of disaster assistance.

FEMA is now accepting applications for disaster assistance for the Texas Severe Storms and Flooding that occurred April 17-24, 2016. You can apply for FEMA aid online at disasterassistance.gov, by phone (By phone at 800-621-3362–711 or Video Relay Service is available–or at 800-462-7585 for TTY), or in person at a Disaster Recovery Center.

According to a Texas Workforce Press Release, “Workers who lost their jobs and self-employed individuals who have been unable to work due to storms in Fayette, Grimes, Harris and Parker counties may apply” for Disaster Unemployment Aid.

Airboat travels on water over a city street.
If you didn’t have one of these nifty vehicles and couldn’t work because of flooding, you may qualify for disaster unemployment benefits. photo credit: Sheriff’s Air Boat via photopin (license)
Applications must be submitted by May 27, 2016.
Individuals affected by the severe storms in these counties can apply for benefits online through Unemployment Benefit Services or by calling a TWC Tele-Center, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 800-939-6631.
Individuals should specify that their applications are related to the damage caused by severe storms and flooding in one of the counties listed in the disaster declaration.

Want to Advocate for Deaf/Hard of Hearing Access Needs?

Black and white picture of hand breaking through paper, maybe an art canvas.
Join us to help educate others about the Deaf/Hard of Hearing/Deafblind communities. photo credit: A criatura da mão via photopin (license)

Do you want others to know about access needs for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deafblind communities?

Are you Deaf, Hard of Hearing or Deafblind?

Are you a parent, advocate, or organization that wants improved communication access for those with hearing loss and deafness?

Are you a business or organization wanting to learn more about communication access?

Sign Shares, Inc./International and The Capsule Group invite you to share your stories at future Focus Groups.

To be placed on our email list, send an email to info@signshares.com.

ASL is Now at the Law of the Land

Gavel above picture of planet Earth
A group of Deaf lawyers have been sworn in at the highest court in America.

This Tuesday, 12 Deaf lawyers were sworn into the U.S. Supreme Court bar.

According to an Upworthy report, the first Deaf lawyer argued in front of the Supreme Court in 1982. Now, U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts communicated in American Sign Language from the Supreme Court bench.

“Some deaf or hard-of-hearing lawyers doubt that they can actually practice law,” Howard Rosenblum, one of the lawyers who was sworn in that day, told the Washington Post. “But the real practice is based on intellect and deaf people have that in spades,” according to the report.

Upworthy also took a stand on Deaf issues: “Deaf people, like anyone else, are capable of amazing things. But if we’re going to make them find their way in the hearing world, the least we can do is talk to them on their terms.”

Well said, Upworthy!

Need Legal Help because of the Houston Floods?

Houston Volunteer Lawyers can assist if you or someone you know has been affected by this week’s Houston floods and you need legal advice.

Rain is on window and beyond window is a sunny day and trees.
Have the Houston floods caused you legal problems? Legal help is available. photo credit: Sunshine and Showers via photopin (license)

The organization “provides free legal services to low-income people in Harris County and to promote volunteerism among lawyers.”

Tonight, April 20, from 5 p.m.-9 p.m., flood victims can call (713) 759-1133 for phone advice.

They are also providing a statewide hotline at (800) 504-7030.

Saturday, April 23, they will hold an in-person legal advice clinic at the Spring Branch Family Center and people with flood questions are welcome.

If you need legal assistance and have financial need, you can contact the organization through their Intake Line at (713) 228-0732 or by attending free legal clinics listed on their Calendar.


Texas Governor’s Office Calling for Interns

Texas Capitol view on a sunny day.
Interns for the Texas Office of the Governor get a rare opportunity to learn how government works. photo credit: Austin – The State Capitol via photopin (license)

According to a recent email from the Texas Office of the Governor, they are accepting interns.

The Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities seeks summer interns “wanting to gain experience in the field of disabilities.”

The committee recommends changes in Texas’ disability policies and programs. It also “supports a network of committees on people with disabilities, issues awards to promote greater awareness, and promotes compliance with disability related laws.”

Internship duties with the committee may include:

  • Researching policy in the Committee’s issue areas, including accessibility and communication;
  • Assisting staff disability transportation interim study and compiling ADA coordinator information;
  • Performing support work; and
  • Assisting with special projects.

    Group of four women at a desk with computers and papers, a bookshelf is behind them. Settings appear to be in professional office.
    Would you like to learn how to make Texas more accessible to everyone? Apply for an internship. photo credit: 2016.04.11-DSC06107 via photopin (license)

According to the email, “Students studying disability-related fields or related academic majors are strongly encouraged to apply.”

The unpaid internships are available to college students and recent graduates and are typically part-time or 20 hours a week.

Summer Session internship dates for Summer are June 1 – Aug. 31.

The application deadline for the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities is April 30, 2016.

Applications submitted after that date may still be placed based upon availability.

Applications and instructions for applying are here.

Other division placements are available to students throughout the Office of the Governor:

  • Communications Office
  • Appointments
  • Budget, Planning and Policy
  • Committee on People with Disabilities
  • Criminal Justice
  • Economic Development and Tourism
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Small Business
  • Business Research
  • International Business
  • Women’s Commission
  • Texas Tourism Office
  • Texas Film Commission
  • Texas Music Office
  • Texas Military Preparedness Commission
  • Governor’s Mansion
  • Human Resources
  • Legislative Office
  • Scheduling Office

For questions, email Kelly Griffin in Human Resources or call her at 512.463.6244.

Houston Internship Opportunity with Disability Advocacy

Pink cherry blossoms in front of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington. D.C.
With this internship opportunity, you can travel to Washington, D.C. License: (license)

If you’re currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program at college, this internship opportunity provides training in disability advocacy and laws, and an opportunity to travel to the nation’s capital to attend a national conference regarding disability issues.

According to a recent announcement from the Independent Living Research Utilization program, the internship includes a $2,160 to $3,600 stipend and will last six to ten weeks during the time frame of June 6 to August 12, 2016.

Travel to the National Council on Independent Living in Washington DC, July 25-28 is required. You can learn more about this annual conference here.

The Independent Living Research Utilization program at the TIRR Memorial Hermann Research Center in Houston, Texas seeks applicants for its 2016 summer undergraduate internship program.

Interns will learn about research, the Affordable Care Act, disability laws and policy, and disability and independent living history and philosophy.

The interns will be supervised by Lex Frieden and Richard Petty at ILRU and will be mentored by other researchers in the Collaborative on Health Reform and Independent Living.

According to the announcement, interns will attend the annual conference of the National Council on Independent Living in Washington, D.C., where they will gain additional exposure to disability issues, policy and the disability movement.

Interns will also assist in conducting town hall meetings regarding centers for independent living, learn from disability leaders, and visit federal agencies and meet federal officials in the disability network.

Applicants should submit:

  • a cover letter indicating their interest and availability,
  • an up-to-date resume,
  • transcript, and
  • a letter of recommendation.

See what a cover letter looks like here.

Need to make a resume? Resume Genius has templates you can download to make sure you cover important topics in the resume and that it looks good.

Submit your application package to Richard Petty at Richard.petty@bcm.edu by April 22, 2016.

Applicants will be evaluated on:

  • Academic performance,
  • previous research experience,
  • writing ability,
  • experience with disability,
  • experience in healthcare, and
  • interest in the field.

Applicants should include the above information in their cover letter and/or their resume.

Applicants should be enrolled as undergraduate or graduate degree-granting students.

Final selections will be made by May 9, 2016.

A majority of ILRU’s staff have disabilities and they provide reasonable accommodations, including:

  • meetings with Interpreters and CART live captioning,
  • TTYs,
  • screen readers,
  • accessible office furniture,
  • chemical-free work spaces,
  • emergency evacuation chairs,
  • flashing alarms,
  • accessible offices, parking, paths of travel, equipment and furniture.

ILRU’s offices, parking, paths of travel, equipment and furniture are physically accessible and convenient for access of staff and visitors with disabilities.


DeafSpaces: Architecture for the Deaf Community

Vox and Curbed created a video and article to demonstrate how DeafSpace differs from spaces created for people who hear.

The close captioned video begins with the open captioned words: “We live in a world built for people who hear.”

A concrete and red brick wall.
Bricks walls and painted concrete aren’t Deaf-friendly because they don’t provide reflection, aren’t transparent, and the red can be tiring to the eyes of those trying to read sign language. photo credit: Rothkoesque via photopin (license)

Curbed houses the article, “How Gallaudet University’s Architects Are Redefining Deaf Space.”

Gallaudet University is America’s only liberal arts college for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

According to the article, “Deaf (with a capital D) is a cultural identity that stems from pride in signed language and what Deaf Studies professors call ‘Deaf ways of being,’ or shared sensory experiences and cultural traditions.”

“DeafSpace is an approach to architecture and design that is primarily informed by the unique ways in which Deaf people perceive and inhabit space,” according to the video.

The video explores some of the five basic principles of DeafSpace.

Space and Proximity

Teacher signs to student writing on whiteboard at the front of a classroom.
This student needs to see the teacher’s facial expression and hands while signing. This requires extra space, whether at the whiteboard or in the hallway. photo credit: A teacher works with a hearing impaired student via photopin (license)

According to the article, “Facial expressions are important in ASL. So are body movements; to be able to sign comfortably, a person needs adequate space—more than is typically required for someone engaged in spoken conversation.”

The video shows wide hallways that accommodate two people signing and using full body language while having more space to sign and maintain eye contact.

Sensory Reach

The principle refers to “how Deaf people use their senses to read the environment,” according to the article. DeafSpace would extend the person’s sensory reach, by allowing him or her to view between rooms and have low-glare reflective surfaces so people would see shadows indicating someone is outside the room.

Glass elevator.
This glass elevator is Deaf friendly because those who can’t hear can see someone is in the elevator and that it’s moving. photo credit: combi nation via photopin (license)

In the video, they show transparent elevators and some offices have opaque glass walls, while some public rooms have clear glass walls.

Mobility and Proximity

“DeafSpace design calls for ramps and wide, gently sloping stairs; ‘soft’ intersections to prevent pedestrian collisions…” according to the article.

Wide concrete stairs with wheelchair ramp added on top, but is at dangerous slope that is too steep.
This space isn’t Deaf friendly because it doesn’t allow people to sign to one another without having to worry about tripping. It’s also not accessible to those using wheelchairs, scooters, or strollers. photo credit: Wheelchair Ramp – Sortedams Sø / Øster Søgade via photopin (license)

In the video, instead of stairs, which hinder the free-flow of communication, ramps allow greater access and would accommodate other disabilities that might need white canes or wheelchairs.

The video also shows classrooms in a U-shape that allows for signers to view one another.

Light and Color

Soft green room with Yoda with lightsaber lit green on a desk.
The soft green walls of this room are Deaf friendly because it is a restive color for the eyes. photo credit: Jedi, Yoda is! via photopin (license)

“Certain colors, especially muted blues and greens, contrast well with a variety of skin tones, making them easy on signers’ eyes,” according to the article. “Lighting should be soft and diffuse, and avoid dimness, backlighting, glare, and abrupt changes in illumination levels.”

In the video, Derrick Behm, from Gallaudet’s Office of Campus Design and Planning, signs in natural lighting that is restive to the eyes.


Room with chair immediately next to a window air conditioning unit.
The air conditioner next to this chair isn’t Deaf friendly because the loud noise would be amplified by a Deaf person’s hearing aids or cochlear implant. photo credit: fra_256sv2_energy_star_25000_btu_230_volt_window_mounted_heavy_duty_air_conditioner_with_temperature_sensing_remote_control via photopin (license)

According to the article, “In general, acoustically quiet spaces are the goal. Hearing aids and cochlear implants amplify sounds, and for their users, the hum of air conditioning or loud echoes can prove extremely distracting.”

DeafSpace is part of an architectural movement similar to Universal Design, where architectural design considers how to complement all abilities, not just mainstream ones.

Houston Women with Disabilities Empowerment Fair Coming Soon

Houston skyline at night shows many skyscrapers.
Join women of all abilities for art and empowerment at the Women with Disabilities Empowerment Fair this April. photo credit: Houston Skyline Pano via photopin (license)

The Houston Center for Independent Living, CROWD Center for Research on Women with Disabilities,
and Maria Palacios will host the Women with Disabilities Empowerment Fair on Saturday, April 23 from 12:00 Noon-6:30 p.m. in Houston. Admission is free.

The event highlights women artists with disabilities and offers workshops.

This year’s theme is “Learning From Each Other: The Power Of Peer Support & Collective Empowerment.”

The workshops are:

  • “Sharing The Power”–Women role models with disabilities share their strength, their advocacy, theory journey and their dreams,
  • “The Woman In The Mirror”–a discussion about body image, self esteem, love and relationships,
  • “Awakening Our Inner Child”–a session of fun, laughter and ridiculous activities that make your inner child come out and have fun.

The event has health screenings, art, books, jewelry, crafts, candles, music, door prizes, and more.The event will be held at the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center at 1475 West Gray, Houston, Texas 77019.

For more information, to reserve a booth or to volunteer, email empowermentfair@gmail.com .

Styling Hair for People with Different Abilities

Planning ahead is a strategy that works for people of all abilities, and more so with people who have neurological disorders, wheelchairs, or hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Person gets hair cut by a person with tattoed arm and hair clips with scissors in their hands.
Hair stylists need different techniques to ensure all their customers get the royal treatment. photo credit: Stylist_Client-3 via photopin (license)

Cory Thomas, CEO/Founder of The Traveling Barbers “Hair Professionals For The Disabled,” was asked for some hair styling tips for people with neurological disorders in a recent article. This included clients who used wheelchairs.

He said, “Make sure the wheelchair are properly locked” and “Guard against flying hairs” by wrapping fabric around the wheelchair.

“Clippers shouldn’t be as sharp as they would be when working in an conventional barbershop or salon, so as to not hurt or bruise the client’s head from any sudden quick motions that may take place with someone who has a neurological disorder,” he said.

Going for simpler, “traditional” hairstyles and making sure clients are seeing familiar faces round out his suggestions.

A blogger for the Say What Club blog gave advice for styling hair for those who use hearing aids or other wearable equipment, such as cochlear implants. “We talked about their haircut/hairstyle before they took their aids off. After that, I made sure to face them while talking a little slower, if I asked more questions.”

With careful planning, a visit to a hair stylist can be a treasure for people with different abilities.