hidden in our hearts












We spend lifetimes – searching endless fields for a cave of gold that is hidden in our hearts.” (Rune Lazuli)

How many times do we want things that we haven’t got instead of appreciating all that we already have? It is true that everything we already have was something we desired. Keep the attitude of gratitude for what you already have alive, instead of always wanting more.

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you appreciate and access all the gifts that already lie within you.

PS: Remember to hold the one’s you love just a little closer and tighter this week (without expectations).



National Disability Awareness 2015 poster

Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a time to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

This year is the 70th anniversary of NDEAM and 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Learn more about these and other important events in disability employment history in our interactive timeline.

The official theme of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in October is “My Disability Is One Part of Who I Am.”

What can YOU do to celebrate NDEAM? There are lots of ways! To get started, see our 31 Days of NDEAM slideshow or our ideas for employers,educators and youth service professionals, associations and unions, disability related organizations and federal agencies.

NDEAM’s roots go back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.” Upon its establishment in 2001, ODEP assumed responsibility for NDEAM and has worked to expand its reach and scope ever since.


I think the pharmacy retailer is trying to provide a service counter sign for customers who have mobility disabilities. I have been to this pharmacy a number of times and this is the first time I noticed the sign.

216.11 Check-Out Aisles. Where more than one check-out aisle is provided, check-out aisles complying with 904.3 shall be identified by the International Symbol of Accessibility complying with 703.7.2.1. Where check-out aisles are identified by numbers, letters, or functions, signs identifying check-out aisles complying with 904.3 shall be located in the same location as the check-out aisle identification.

Advisory 904.2 Approach. If a cash register is provided at the sales or service counter, locate the accessible counter close to the cash register so that a person using a wheelchair is visible to sales or service personnel and to minimize the reach for a person with a disability.


Motivational Monday: Forgiveness

author unknown


“Forgive people in your life, even those who are not sorry for their actions. Holding on to anger only hurts you not them.” (author unknown)

Here is how it works: You to sit down and write the other person a letter of forgiveness. It consists of three parts.

First you say, “I forgive you for everything you ever did that hurt me.”

Second, you write out a description or list of every single thing that you are still mad about. Some people write several pages in this part.

Third, you end the letter with the words, “I wish you well.”

You then take the letter to the mailbox and drop it in. At that moment, you will feel a huge sense of relief, and you will be free at last.

By the way, don’t worry about how the other person might react. That is not your concern. Your goal is to free yourself, to regain your peace of mind, and to get on with the wonderful life that lies ahead of you. (Brian Tracy)

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you learn to let go, forgive, and move forward.

PS: Remember to hold the one’s you love just a little closer and tighter this week (without expectations).

INCLUSION/OLMSTEAD: “There is a lot to be done, the plan is a document. The real measure of success of this type of plan is how it’s implemented and is it going to be affecting people with disabilities in a positive way or is it doing something else.

Riham Feshir · Sep 29, 2015


After nearly four years, several revisions and numerous court filings, a federal judge approved the Minnesota Olmstead Plan Tuesday, giving people with disabilities a clearer vision for how the state would integrate them within the community.

U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank said the latest version of the Olmstead plan submitted in August emphasizes key changes including concrete data, specific timelines to establish measurable goals and added commitments that make the plan an “evolving document.”

But Frank also recognized that some individuals fear the plan would eliminate certain programs or close facilities that provide services for people with disabilities.

“Many individuals with disabilities in this state value living and working alongside other individuals with disabilities in settings such as group homes and sheltered workshops,” he wrote. “The Court emphasizes that the Olmstead decision is not about forcing integration upon individuals who choose otherwise or who would not be appropriately served in community settings.”

In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court decided it was unlawful to keep people with disabilities in institutions when they could live in the community. The case involved two women with mental disabilities who were forced to live in institutions despite their providers’ approval to receive treatment outside.

As in other states, Minnesota is required to say how it will provide the means for people with disabilities to live as independently as possible, which it agreed to do in a 2011 court settlement, following a lawsuit over the use of restraints in a Cambridge facility.

State Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, Roberta Opheim, said the newest version shows vast improvements, but she said some of the goals are still too modest. For example, the plan’s goal to reduce the percentage of Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center patients, who are ready to be integrated, from 35 to 30 percent by 2019 isn’t enough.

“The fundamentals of Olmstead would indicate that you can’t keep someone in an institutional setting simply because you have failed to develop an appropriate community alternative,” she said.

But others hope that it will provide needed services for people with developmental and physical disabilities. Dawn Bly, a Fosston mother of a 19-year-old man who has severe cognitive delays, said the plan is comprehensive and speaks to “things I know I have fear of as a parent.”

“It speaks to abuse and neglect,” she said, “what is his day going to be as he moves out of my house to make sure nobody is taking advantage of him and if they are, how will we know?”

To come up with a framework that the federal court would accept, Gov. Mark Dayton put together a sub-cabinet. The Olmstead Sub-cabinet submitted three versions of the plan which Frank kicked back, citing lack of realistic commitments.

The approved Olmstead Plan has 13 topic areas that talk broadly about how employment, housing, education, transportation, health care and transition services would be provided.

“We have been very clear starting with the cover letter to the plan that this is a plan about choice and not about closure,” Olmstead Subcabinet Chair Mary Tingerthal said.

The state’s work is not done yet. It has to submit individual work plan documents for each of the 13 topic areas by Oct. 10.

Shamus O’Meara, an attorney representing people with disabilities, has concerns about how the state will implement the changes. He’s also filed objections – which Frank took into consideration – saying the state doesn’t completely prohibit the use of restraint and seclusion in its plan.

“There is a lot to be done, the plan is a document,” O’Meara said. “The real measure of success of this type of plan is how it’s implemented and is it going to be affecting people with disabilities in a positive way or is it doing something else.”



The obvious thing wrong is neither the counter nor the table on the left have cookies! The counter extends 6” from the wall. Objects between 27” and 80” high that protrude more than 4” from a wall need to have a cane detectable device below them.

Artist: Akageno Saru

Artist: Akageno Saru













“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” (Sarah Williams. Artist: Akageno Saru)

There will be dark times in our life.  After the dark time we will live in a much happier, lighter state. The light in the darkness will give us hope and makes us unafraid, knowing that the light will come again.  (Tay Bortan)

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you work with the darkness and the perfect light.

PS: Remember to hold the ones you love just a little closer and tighter this week (without expectations).

Accommodations legalese: 5 key terms every employer should know

It’s true in other areas of employment law as well, but in the world of disability discrimination law there are numerous phrases that have taken on special meaning and become true terms of art. Even those who are well-versed in other areas of employment law and HR often find it difficult to understand the meaning of some of these commonly-used words and phrases. Supervisors and HR personnel who do not understand the meaning of these key phrases may end up failing to comply with the strict rules and regulations of state and federal disability laws. Here is a quick and easy reference guide to help you understand the jargon and achieve compliance:

 1. Interactive Process

Employers and employees alike often fail to fully understand the meaning of the term “interactive process.” The technical definition of the interactive process is a timely, good faith communication between an employer and an employee to explore whether a disabled employee needs a reasonable accommodation to allow the employee to effectively perform the essential functions of the job and, if so, to explore how the employer can reasonably accommodate the employee.

What are the hallmarks of a successful interactive process? Here is a short list:

  1. The process should be, perhaps obviously, interactive. This means that both sides must participate in the process. In addition, both sides must participate with each other. Having a robust and meaningful conversation among numerous internal managers without the employee’s involvement is not interactive. Interactive also means that the process must be open and transparent, as it is impossible to truly interact if one or both sides is withholding important information.
  2. The process also needs to be mutual. One side does not have the right to break down the communication process. When interacting with employees, do not give up easily. Share information, brainstorm with internal employees, and share your ideas with the employee. Be honest and precise about the information you need from the employee in order to allow you to do your job. In short, do your part to communicate clearly and honestly and always keep the lines of communication open.
  3. Even if you have gone through this process numerous times, approach the process with a problem-solving,reasonable, and good-faith approach. Even if an individual has a condition that you’ve seen before, he or she may have restrictions or job requirements that are different. Be creative and approach each accommodation request and analysis with an open and positive mind.
  4. Keep in mind that, at its core, the interactive process requires employers and employees to comply not only with the letter of the law, but also with the spirit of the law.

2.  Essential Job Functions

Essential job functions are the fundamental job duties of a position. A duty may be considered “essential” for several reasons:

  • The reason the position exists is to perform that function. For example, a receptionist position exists so the company can have someone greet guests and answer phones, among other duties.
  • There are a limited number of employees available among whom the performance of that job function can be distributed.
  • The function may be highly specialized and the employee might have been hired because of his or her expertise or ability to perform a particular function.

An employer can use numerous tools to determine whether a job function is essential, including its good-faith judgment, the amount of time the employee is expected to spend performing that task, the details contained in a current and accurate job description, and the importance given to that task in performance evaluations.

3. Individual Assessment

A hallmark of disability law is that each and every accommodation request is unique and must be individually assessed. The core issue here is that although companies are expected to have a fair and detailed process in place to analyze accommodation requests, each factual scenario presents unique circumstances that must be viewed independently and critically. Do not rely on a “this is how we handled the last situation” approach to accommodation requests without ensuring that you have looked at the individualized and unique components of the specific request, the employee’s restrictions, the job’s essential functions, and the needs of the particular department.

4. Job Restrictions

Often employers will spend lots of time and energy trying to understand  the employee’s underlying disability or medical condition—in some cases performing extensive research—even after a doctor has certified that the employee is indeed disabled. Employers should focus on the nature of the restrictions created by an employee’s disability or medical condition rather than the disability or medical condition itself—although there may be circumstances in which issues related to the condition are important. For example, questions about an employee’s anxiety disorder or depression are often less important than questions about the employee’s requests for an accommodation associated with the condition (e.g., a schedule change or reduction in hours). While it would be inappropriate to question the validity of the underlying diagnosis (assuming the employee has a valid doctor’s note confirming these conditions), it is appropriate for an employer to ask for additional details about the employee’s work restrictions: How long are they expected to last? Can he or she work only part-time? Are there specific hours during which the employee can or cannot work? Is full-time work an essential function of this position?

5. Reasonable Accommodation

A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment that is effective in enabling the employee to perform the essential job functions of the job he or she holds. The key words in this definition are “reasonable” and “effective”—which refer to related but distinct concepts. An accommodation first and foremost must be reasonable. Reasonableness is subjective and, thus, hard to define. Nevertheless, employers should perform a diligent analysis that is creative, but also logical and fair.

In addition to reasonable, an accommodation must be effective. Just because an accommodation is reasonable (it is just and does not create an undue burden), does not necessarily mean that it will be effective in allowing the employee to perform the job in question. Consider, for example, an employer analyzing the feasibility of a request to buy an employee an ergonomic chair. Though this might be a reasonable accommodation, it will not be effective if the employee’s restrictions stem from a psychological disability. Unless the requested accommodation is geared toward providing the disabled employee an equal opportunity to do the job, it will likely not meet the “effectiveness” test.


These concepts all work together. An employer is obligated to begin the interactive process with an employee as soon as it is aware that there may be a need for an accommodation. This process involves transparency and good-faith; it is a time during which information is exchanged so that the employer can determine whether the employee’s restrictions can be matched against the essential job functions. The information gleaned from this process will allow employers to make an individual assessment looking at the employee’s unique job descriptions to see whether a reasonable accommodation can be designed and implemented so that the employee can continue to be an asset to his or her employer. If you understand the phrases that are key in the disability and accommodation framework, you will be more prepared to respond to requests for accommodation in a legally complaint way.



California couple being sued over autistic son’s effect on local property values

by Patrick Hogan

September18, 2015 9:43 a.m.

Arlington Court in Sunnyvale, Calif., is shown on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Neighbors of the Gopal family, who have a 9-year-old autistic boy and lived on Arlington Court, have sued the family, seeking an injunction against the boy for being a public nuisance.  (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)

Arlington Court in Sunnyvale, Calif., is shown on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2015. Neighbors of the Gopal family, who have a 9-year-old autistic boy and lived on Arlington Court, have sued the family, seeking an injunction against the boy for being a public nuisance. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group)




Raising a child with special needs is a difficult task. It requires a lot of patience and empathy. For example: think about how your neighbor’s property values are being affected.

The San Jose Mercury News reports a Sunnyvale, Calif., couple is being sued because their autistic son is a “public nuisance” to the neighborhood. The suit, filed by couples who used to live adjacent to Vidyut Gopal, Parul Agrawal and their son claims the boy terrorized the Silicon Valley neighborhood.

The Mercury News quotes the suit as claiming Gopal and Agrawal’s son created an “as-yet unquantified chilling effect on the otherwise ‘hot’ local real estate market” and that “people feel constrained in the marketability of their homes as this issue remains unresolved and the nuisance remains unabated.”

Isn’t that just the worst? You think you’re sitting on some hot real estate, but then the neighbors go and have a child with a developmental disability.

It does sound as though there were behavioral issues involving the child, who reportedly struck a baby, spit at neighbors, and “repeatedly sat on a cat” according to the Mercury News. But crying about property values in a lawsuit seems less like legitimate conflict resolution and more like the plot of a modern-day Charles Dickens novel.

A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction against Gopal and Agrawal last year, and the family has since moved out of the neighborhood. But the lawsuit forges on, with a hearing next week to determine whether or not the plaintiffs should have access to the child’s school and medical records.

Local TV station KTVU reports local autism awareness groups are trying to bring more attention to the trial.

“Well at first I thought it was a joke. I thought nobody would possibly sue a small child for being a public nuisance,” KTVU quotes Jill Escher of the Autism Society of the San Francisco Bay Area as saying.

A ‘hot’ local real estate market is no joke, Jill.


In the end

In the end





It is never too late for any of us to look at our minds. We can always sit down and allow the space for anything to arise. Sometimes we have a shocking experience of ourselves. Sometimes we try to hide. Sometimes we have a surprising experience of ourselves. Often we get carried away. Without judging, without buying into likes and dislikes, we can always encourage ourselves to just be here again and again and again. (Pema Chödrön)

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you examine what you are creating with your mind.

PS: Remember to hold the ones you love just a little closer and tighter this week (without expectations).