Tag Archives: events

Tips For Including People With Disabilities At A Party

With the holiday season upon us, it’s easy to hold a party where all guests — with and without disabilities — feel welcomed, respected and have fun. All it takes is some planning.

 Don’t be afraid to include guests with disabilities
People with disabilities have their disabilities 24/7, so they know how to create work-arounds so that they feel comfortable. If you know someone has a disability, use a simple strategy — ask the person what they need to be fully included. All too often people with disabilities are not invited to events, or don’t go because they feel embarrassed to “put someone out” by asking for a simple thing that will help them attend. By telling them that their presence is valued, and asking what they need, you will build a new level of trust and affection. For example, one of the biggest things that aging loved ones need is a ride. So help them find a carpool or send an accessible taxi or ride to pick them up and return them home.

Not all disabilities are visible, so you may not know that someone you want to include in your event has some special needs. By including a line about accommodations in the invitation’s RSVP, you are already letting guests know that everyone is welcome. If it’s a party for children, parents can tell you, right off the bat, what their child’s needs might be to attend the party. They will be happy you asked! “We want everyone to have fun — please let us know if you have dietary restrictions or require other special accommodations to attend! We will do our best to meet everyones needs.” Note that you aren’t promising to meet all needs — if you can’t find a sign language interpreter at the last minute or there is another issue, for example, you will be able to let your guest know in advance. Indeed, they may be able to help you find a solution!

Physical Access
Most public places are accessible. However, because religious institutions are exempted from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many of them are not fully accessible. Thus, if your event is at a venue that is not physically accessible to all, move it to a place that is. That can mean a different room in a place of worship, or to a completely different place. Venues should have a ground level entrance or ramp, an elevator if it’s upstairs, and accessible bathrooms. Most public places (hotels, restaurants, bowling, video games, pools, bounce houses, etc.) are usually equipped for people with disabilities. Just check with the venue ahead of time. If you have someone coming who uses a wheelchair, you should also put the menorah on a table that is low enough for them to also be able to light candles.

Special Diets
Anyone can have allergies, celiac disease or lactose intolerance, but you won’t know unless you ask on the invitation RSVP. Making sure there is an option for cake, snacks, treats and other food for these guests can be as simple as picking up a gluten free cupcake to serve with the cake. It is thoughtful to have refreshments that everyone can enjoy.

Addressing attitude
Kids and adults can be daunted when encountering someone who is different from them. If it’s a children’s event you can talk to the group at the start of the party about kindness and respect for each other and each others differences. A party is a great opportunity for kids to learn about one another.

Involving parents
Parties can be exhausting for the hosts. Asking a parent or two to volunteer to help at the party, particularly if it’s a big group, can lighten the load for the hosts. Parents may feel more comfortable, especially if their child has social anxiety issues, if they are invited to stay or help as an option.

Sensory overload awareness
Parties can cause sensory overload for any child or adult. But for a person with autism or a sensory processing disorder, a party can be really overwhelming. Offer opportunities for guests to take a break, perhaps in a quiet room away from the crowd. Some venues may have options for turning down music or minimizing stimulation — and that is useful anywhere there are a lot of kids! Latex allergies (balloons) and chemical sensitivities (use of highly scented cleaners or staff wearing perfumes) are real issues. Solutions: Use alternative mylar balloons. Ask people to not wear strong scents, and choose unscented cleaning products.

If a guest attending the party is non-verbal or communicates in other ways such as American Sign Language or a communication board, talk about it with the guests. Installing free Dragon software onto an Ipad in advance can enable you to speak with someone who is deaf as it instantly transcribes what you are saying. Having an interpreter can be worth the cost, as all the people can communicate and maybe learn a little sign language! Remember to speak directly to a child or adult whether s/he is verbal or not.

Reading, Cognitive Access and Vision Issues
Children and adults with cognitive, learning disabilities or vision impairments might not be able to read the menu, instructions for a scavenger hunt or a game score sheet. Pictures and verbal instructions are useful, as well as pairing children with those who can help. It’s always great to have an extra pair of reading glasses around if you are inviting seniors. But you can always tell someone who can’t see or read what they will need or what to know.

Enjoy the party!
Don’t let inclusion stress you out. If you are reading this list and considering these tips, you’re already doing more than most! Stay positive, smile and throw that PARTY!

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary: A Proud Tradition, A Worthy Mission

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary - A Proud Tradition, A Worthy Mission

For over 70 years, tens-of-thousands of men and women of the Coast Guard Auxiliary have spent millions of volunteer hours helping the Coast Guard carry out its mission. They have saved countless lives through their work, on and off the water. Auxiliarists are probably best known for educating the public through their boating safety classes and vessel safety checks. Yet, they do much more. The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 1996 allows the Auxiliary to assist the Coast Guard in performance of any Coast Guard function, duty, role, mission or operation authorized by law and authorized by the Commandant.

When the Coast Guard “Reserve” was authorized by act of Congress on June 23, 1939, the Coast Guard was given a legislative mandate to use civilian volunteers to promote safety on and over the high seas and the nation’s navigable waters. The Coast Guard Reserve was then a non-military service comprised of unpaid, volunteer U.S. citizens who owned motorboats or yachts.

Two years later, on Feb. 19, Congress amended the 1939 act with passage of the Auxiliary and Reserve Act of 1941. Passage of this act designated the Reserve as a military branch of the active service, while the civilian volunteers, formerly referred to as the Coast Guard Reserve, became the Auxiliary. So, Feb. 19 is formally recognized as the birth of the Coast Guard Reserve while June 23 is recognized as birthday of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

For more information please visit the website

35th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games

If you’re looking for a summer vacation getaway full of excitement, look no further than the National Veterans Wheelchair Games held this year in Dallas, Texas. Whether you’re taking the whole family to experience these acts of courage and strength, or making a stop on your summer accessible road trip, this event supports and benefits our country’s veterans by encouraging a spirit of healthy activity and friendship.

The History
Since the Games began over 30 years ago in 1981, the event has grown from only 74 competitors to over 500 in 2014. This event is presented each year by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Paralyzed Veterans of America, with additional support from numerous organizations, corporate and community sponsors. Wheelchair sports had their start in the aftermath of World War II, when young disabled Veterans began playing wheelchair basketball in VA hospitals throughout the U.S. Since 1980, when the VA’s efforts brought about an enhanced awareness of the rehabilitative value of wheelchair athletics, VA therapists have used wheelchair sporting as a therapeutic tool for supporting Veterans with disabilities.

The Location
The event has moved from city to city over the years and 2015 marks the 35th annual NVWG. The event is being held in Dallas, a city with much to offer as host, including cultural districts, the best restaurants, hotels and museums for something to do while you’re not at the games. This years games are being held June 21–26, so if you’re looking to turn up the heat this summer, Dallas is the perfect place to be!

The Events
Veterans can compete in 18 different events at the games, including: 9-ball, air rifle, hand cycling, quad rugby, softball, track, table tennis, weightlifting, and many more. Athletes are classified by degree of disability and then further into divisions. Although registration for this years event ended April 15, if you are a U.S. military service veteran who uses a wheelchair due to mobility impairments, be on the lookout early next year to register!

If you aren’t a veteran, or just happened to miss registration but still want to be involved with this event you can always sponsor the games, or volunteer! More than 3,000 local volunteers are required to assist with all aspects of the games, from helping with transportation, to event set-up, water distribution, assistance with meals, and much, much more. Summer time calls for travel and excitement, and what more of a rewarding way to spend your summer days then traveling to Dallas to support our veterans.

Fire Fighters Memorial Motorcycle Run & Benefit Party

Fire Fighters Memorial Motorcycle Run & Benefit Party

2015 National Veterans Golden Age Games

2015 National Veterans Golden Age Games

VMi Honors Veterans


The Memorial Day weekend has passed again for another year. As much as this holiday traditionally marks the beginning of summer and a day off of work for many, its true significance is far greater. We remember the fallen soldiers from wars both past and present and also recognize those who continue to serve.

The Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness Center for Persons with Disabilities (SpoFit) will host the Saluting Service Open House and Resource Fair, an event tailored to Armed Service veterans, on Saturday, June 1. Among the main sponsors is our flagship VMI Mobility Center (VMI), located in Phoenix.

By all outward appearances, VMI is not the typical car dealership. As a company that installs driving accommodations for people with disabilities, they enjoy a strong connection with that community – one which often extends beyond the process of setting up hand controls or transfer seats. VMI’s General Manager Cindy Ketcherside and the company’s Vehicle Mobility Specialist Sherry Joseph describe the bond created between the staff and their customers as closer to that of a family: deep, lasting and caring.

The priority to foster a welcoming environment for those they serve is evident when you first enter the VMI building. Features like automatic doors at the entrance and ample space for wheelchair users to navigate the showroom floor are important to creating a welcoming environment. When we entered one of the conference rooms, only office chairs occupied three of the four spaces at the table and one was intentionally left open for a wheelchair user.

The showroom walls are also a key to understanding the company’s passion for helping their clients achieve greater independence by getting them behind the wheel. Each wall is decorated with large images of wheelchair users and others with disabilities, along with words like “realize,” “determination,” and “future” in bold lettering.

One wall is meant to honor United States veterans, and the planning and execution to develop a suitable tribute took some extra effort. Ketcherside explained that the company brought in specialists to advise them on what to include on the veterans’ wall.

“How we do our dedication to our veterans can imply that there is possibly a disability and they could be a wheelchair user. But very specifically, that wall is the only wall that doesn’t have a wheelchair user on it,” Ketcherside said. “We want to honor them for who they are and what they brought to our country [and] we want to make sure that we’re honoring it in the right way.”



Another way in which VMI works to support veterans is by hiring them to work with the company.

Adam Kuehn, Sr., who is now a technician at VMI, served three tours of duty in the United States Army. He spent four years at Fort Bragg, NC, and was sent to Khost, Afghanistan and Fallujah, Iraq during that time. Kuehn then joined the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Fort Wainwright, AK for another three years, and was sent to Mosul, Iraq for another eight months. In total, he was deployed for two full years.

Kuehn’s seven-plus years in the military taught him valuable life lessons, including those that can translate to his work at VMI. One of the critical skills he continues to carry with him today is teamwork.

“The motto for the company right now is ‘One Team, One Journey,’” he said. “We’re all in it together for the same purpose of taking care of our physically challenged customers and their caregivers, just making everyone’s life that much easier.”

Both Ketcherside and Joseph agree that having Kuehn as a part of the company is invaluable, because he can both get the job done well, and also make veterans feel comfortable when visiting the dealership.

“He has such a great personality and he’s kind of a jokester at the same time,” Ketcherside said of Kuehn. “If you didn’t feel like family before… connect [the veterans] to Adam, and they’re instantly family for life.”


According to Ketcherside, there are programs and benefits available to veterans and others with disabilities that many do not even know exist. Part of VMI’s goal – both through the Saluting Service event and overall – is to increase awareness about transportation options that these groups have available to them.

“A lot of the clientele that goes to SpoFit are clientele that we would like them to see our van as an opportunity or as an option for their transportation needs,” Ketcherside said.

On Saturday, VMI will have a vehicle on-site, along with a specialist to answer any questions. More information about the services VMI provides will be available at the event as well.

VMI and SpoFit have worked together in the past, including prior to and during the most recent Paralympic Games in London.

In addition to VMI, fellow sponsors include USAA, Hanger Clinics, Gorilla Capital, among others.