Capitol event shows ‘people with disabilities can succeed’

Parker Simpson is a freshman in high school. He makes straight A’s and is the starting quarterback of his football team. He’s on the academic team and hopes, one day, to be an electrical engineer.

Simpson also has major hearing loss in both of his ears and is one of the many students who attend the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur.

At the Capitol last week, Simpson and other students from OSD gathered to raise awareness for individuals with disabilities for People with Disabilities Awareness Day in hopes of spreading a simple message: disabilities aren’t definitive.

“People with disabilities can succeed, work and do just about anything if you give them a chance,” said Larry Hawkins, superintendent of OSD.

According to a 2016 report, Oklahoma has one of the highest percentages of people with disabilities along with many states in the South. Gallaudet University estimated that 3.1 percent, or 71,442 individuals ages 18-64, are deaf in Oklahoma. This year marked the 24th consecutive year People with Disabilities Awareness Day had been held at the Capitol, and in 2018, supporters of both OSD and the Oklahoma School for the Blind hoped to converse with lawmakers about the expansion of employment resources for individuals with disabilities.

After Gov. Mary Fallin signed a proclamation declaring March 13 as People With Disabilities Day on the southern steps of the Capitol, Simpson delivered a speech about his struggles with hearing loss and the service that OSD provided that allowed him to succeed academically.

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Program helps blind women get her life on track

When Heidi Propp was young, she always thought she lived a normal life.

Blind since birth after her optic nerves never formed, Propp relied heavily on her parents for most things. Her parents cooked, did her laundry and drove her around, or she used HandyDart to get from one place to another.

In grade school it never seemed odd, but it wasn’t until she graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of Victoria that Propp slowly began to realize she wasn’t like her peers.

 

“I did not feel good about it [relying on her parents] at all. I wanted to have a normal life just like everybody else … that was a really difficult struggle,” said Propp, who grew up in Langford and lived there for more than 20 years.

“Though it wasn’t my parents’ fault, I felt like my dependence on them held me back socially and professionally.”

In an effort to gain back her independence, Propp was of the first participants to enroll in the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind’s blind people in charge program in 2014, which recently won an award. The only one of its kind in Western Canada, the program has served more than 40 blind, deaf-blind and low-vision adults through a non-traditional model of instruction where blind people are the teachers, planners, directors and administrators.

As part of the two-year program, Propp learned skills such as how to cook, travel, do laundry, take B.C. Transit and picked up financial skills that taught her how to take care of herself.

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Ginnie Graham: Broken Arrow brothers honored for being pioneers in self-advocacy for people with disabilities

Going through high school, James Meadours was kept separate in special education classes from his Broken Arrow classmates, never really getting to know them.

After graduating in 1986, he was put in a 10-bedroom group home and felt isolated from the world, being at the mercy of other adults.

Joining a singles group at Christ the King Church changed that.

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