Step Up for CP During STEPtember

Logo with the words Steptember move together for cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common lifelong physical disability in the world. It affects roughly 1 million people in the U.S. and 18 million people worldwide. Yet research about CP remains vastly underfunded.

However, by participating in STEPtember, a global health and wellness event, you can make a difference. The virtual event helps Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation (CPARF) raise funds for life-changing scientific and technological advances.

Participating is fun, free, and easy for people of all fitness and ability levels. All you have to do is start moving.

“STEPtember is an inclusive, peer-to-peer fundraising challenge that’s also great for your health,” says Michael Pearlmutter, executive director of CPARF. “You can either take 10,000 steps a day or choose from 80 activities that convert to steps, like physical therapy, handcycling, horseback riding, chores around the house, everything you can possibly imagine. And if 10,000 steps isn’t a reasonable goal, you can set your personal goal to a number that’s meaningful for you.”

Because STEPtember is free, anyone can join the challenge at any time in September. “If someone isn’t interested in the month-long challenge, they can just do a one-week challenge or even a one-day challenge,” says Michael.

To participate, start by registering as an individual or as a team at STEPtember : Register. After that, share your personal fundraising page with friends and family. Finally, track and record your movement in September through the optional app, online, or any other way that works for you.

What Is CP?

While most people have heard of CP, they may not understand exactly what it is. That’s because CP isn’t a singular condition. Instead, it’s an “umbrella term referring to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move,” according to CPARF’s website.

CP occurs when there’s damage to the brain during pregnancy or birth, or shortly after birth. While there is no single cause of CP, there are certain risk factors that increase its chances of occurring. These include premature birth, stroke, low birth weight, multiple births, oxygen loss during pregnancy or at birth, and blood type difference between the mother and the baby.

The condition is as unique as each person who lives with it. It can affect mobility, communication, sight, hearing, or behavior to varying degrees. While one person may limp slightly, another may be unable to feed or dress themselves.

To address the needs of those who have CP, CPARF funds research on detection and early intervention, chronic pain, technology, regenerative medicine, and genomics.

“Funds raised through STEPtember support our broad research and innovation efforts but each year we focus on a couple of specific projects,” says Michael. “This year’s focus is on technology and our disability technology start-up accelerator called Remarkable US.”

black and white photo of five people who are the STEPtember trainers. All have CP.who are the

This year’s STEPtember trainers.
(Photo courtesy CPARF)

Making Accessibility Accessible

Launched this year by CPARF in partnership with CP Alliance in Australia, Remarkable US helps develop start-ups that want to innovate in disability, aging, or health technology.

“For the 18 million people who have cerebral palsy and for the 20% of the world that uses assistive technology, Remarkable US is a game-changer,” says Michael.  “The technology is developed by or heavily involves people with disabilities every step of the way. It’s well made, thoughtful, affordable, and takes into consideration the needs of the community. You don’t get that if people with disabilities aren’t included.”

The work being done by Remarkable US isn’t just for those living with CP, according to Michael. “This technology will impact people with many different disabilities. For example, one can technology helps anyone who has mobility challenges, such as people who are aging and finding it more difficult to get around.”

Best of all, it won’t be out of reach financially, unlike many new disability tech innovations. “People don’t need another $40,000 product,” explains Michael. “We like to say we’re making accessibility accessible and that includes affordability.”

Learn more about cerebral palsy and STEPtember at Home | Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation – USA (cparf.org).

Top 10 Ways to Make Your Classroom More Accessible

August means the start of a new school year! For teachers, this is a perfect time to consider Universal Design for Learning (UDL). This approach structures learning to meet the needs of every student in the classroom.

Check out our top 10 suggestions to make the classroom a more inclusive environment.

  1. Allot time in class for students to work on homework assignments with other students.
  2. Freely offer and make available feedback during both in-class work and tests.
  3. Make sure that students have the time to complete tests in class, with enough extra to doublecheck work and make necessary adjustments from your feedback.
  4. Provide alternative options for lessons and content, like Khan Academy for math or Sparknotes for English and reading comprehension. Try to only use videos with captioning available; besides the obvious benefits for students with hearing issues, captioning aids in comprehension across the board for all students.
  5. Record lessons and make them available both as an audio file and as a transcription with a speech-to-text program for easy playback for students working at home.
  6. When teaching, consider providing a note-taking template or writing notes on the board. These notes should be simple for students to write down and understand both in and out of the classroom. (We suggest Cornell notes, which provide excellent structure and organization of information.)
  7. Allow students to choose where they sit. Only intervene when necessary to prevent disruptive behavior or to move students with specific accommodations to where they can best succeed. For example, some students may find that they work best when they have the freedom to get up, stand, stretch, or fidget. In that case, those students may find the back of the room most beneficial.
  8. Outside of covering the material, consider taking the time to help students learn effective study and note-taking methods to help them excel in all aspects of education.
  9. Place a weekly calendar in a high visibility point in the classroom with due dates and daily lesson plans. This will not only help students stay on track with homework but will also keep them from being surprised by a quiz, test, or other assignment.
  10. Physical accommodations are vital in reducing literal barriers to learning in the classroom. We recommend leaving wide walkways and paths that can accommodate a variety of mobility disabilities. Even if you don’t currently have any students with mobility disabilities, students may develop them or have parents that already do.

To learn more and get more helpful tips and info about UDL, we suggest checking out these websites:

Common Classroom Accommodations and Modifications | Understood

How Teachers Can Make Their Classrooms More Accessible for Students with Disabilities | American University

UDL: The UDL Guidelines (cast.org)

Three students write at their desks. The boy in the front is sitting in a wheelchair.

Honoring the Stories of Black Americans with Disabilities

When President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, he urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history…”

The story of our country has primarily been told from a singular perspective, with other experiences often minimized or erased completely. Over the last couple of centuries, Black Americans have had to fight to be heard and acknowledged. So it’s not surprising that their stories frequently exclude something which might marginalize them further: disability.

Like Black Americans, the accomplishments of people with disabilities are often overlooked or dismissed. However, Black history and disability history are closely intertwined and intersect. Early disability advocates watched and learned from the Black civil rights movement. Many Black disability activists were instrumental in shaping and advancing disability rights. And some of our country’s most important Black figures have had a disability. Today, we’d like to take a moment to remember and honor a few of them.

Black and white photo of Harriet TubmanHarriet Tubman (1822 – 1913)

Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman escaped in 1849 and became a leading abolitionist. She is known as the main “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, risking her life to help lead enslaved people to freedom. She also worked as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. What many people don’t know is that she also had a disability. She sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a young girl at the hands of an overseer, which left her with a seizure disorder. She described her seizures as “visions” and, rather than seeing them as a hindrance, believed they helped keep her safe while transporting people to freedom. Read more by clicking this link: Celebrate Harriet Tubman as an Icon of Black Disability History.

Roger Demosthenes O’Kelly (1880 – 1962)

After contracting scarlet fever as a child, O’Kelly became deaf and partially blind. As a teenager, he lost all sight in one eye as the result of a football injury. About that, he remarked that he had “one good eye left and would make it anyhow.” He attended and graduated from Shaw University after Gallaudet University rejected him due to his race. After earning his license to practice law, O’Kelly became the first Black Deaf lawyer in the country. In 1912, he became only the second Deaf person of any race to graduate from Yale when he earned his Bachelor’s degree. He eventually opened his own private law firm which thrived despite the obstacles he faced from discrimination and segregation.

Horace Pippin (1888-1946)

Self portrait artwork by Horace Pippin

Self Portrait II by Horace Pippin

Horace Pippin was a self-taught artist whose themes ranged from landscapes to Biblical subjects. He fought in France in WWI and became disabled after being shot in his right arm. Although he had always enjoyed drawing, he said, “World War I brought out the art in me.” At the age of 40, he taught himself to paint by using his uninjured left hand to guide his right. Pippin also had life-long depression, which he sometimes expressed in his artwork. His paintings were featured in exhibits in museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Tate Gallery in London. When he died, the New York Times eulogized him as the “most important Negro painter” in American history. Read more about him at Horace Pippin – Wikipedia.

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917 – 1977)

Black and white photo of Fannie Lou HamerFannie Lou Hamer was a leader in the civil rights movement, a champion of women’s rights and voting rights, and a community organizer. The youngest of 20 children born to a sharecropping family, she had polio as a child. Her civil rights work was difficult and dangerous, and she was often threatened and even shot at. She became disabled in 1963 after a brutal beating in a Mississippi jail left her with kidney damage, a permanent limp, and partially blind in one eye. Her voice still resonates today through the legacy she left and the quote that echoed around the world: “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Read more about her by clicking this link: Fannie Lou Hamer – Wikipedia

These are just four individuals out of countless others with disabilities who have made a difference. To learn more, we suggest visiting the following pages:

Disability History – Building a movement of seniors, disabled people, and allies (sdaction.org)

Black Disability History Is Black History, Too! – National Disability Institute

Highlighting African Americans with Disabilities in Honor of Black History Month 2022 – Respect Ability

Why Black History Month needs to feature the stories of the disabled (nbcnews.com)

In addition, we will be featuring stories on our Facebook page about Black individuals who are making history today! Click here to “like” our page:  The Independence Center | Facebook

America's Past Time: Adapted

Adaptive sports are full of many inspirational stories. While some may go unheard or unseen, The Independence Center wants to share as many stories that inspire and motivate individuals with disabilities as possible. We’ve highlighted the world of sled hockey, and now we are shining the light on beep baseball.
Beep baseball, named for the beeping sound the ball makes, is an adaptive sport specifically created with visually impaired individuals in mind. This adapted version on America’s pastime showcases the athleticism, drive and determination that players possess. The game was created in 1964 and has continued to evolve and grow tremendously.
In this version of the game, you score a run by reaching a base before the opposing team’s outfielders pick up the ball. The infielders, at first and third, guard bases that look like blue foam pillars, while the pitcher, who has vision, is on your own team.
While the National Beep Baseball Association (NBBA) has nearly 30 teams officially registered, the sport is still widely unknown in most communities. Michael Jackson, a client of The Independence Center, gave the sport a voice, along with the low-vision community, in The IC’s latest commercial. Through this commercial Michael’s story and the opportunities Beep Baseball offers will be shared and inspire visually impaired individually to follow their dreams and find their inner athlete.
Stay tuned to view The IC’s Beep Baseball commercial soon!
Learn more about Beep Baseball here.]]>