Motivational Monday yak pic









In Tibet there is a lot of livestock: many cows, sheep, yaks.  The skin from these animals needs to be cured in order to be useful.  It needs to be softened by a special process.  Once the hide has been cured, it becomes flexible and can used in all sorts of ways.  But first it needs to be prepared in the right way – it needs to be softened, made flexible.  If the hide is simply left as it is, it hardens and becomes totally stiff; then it is nothing but an unyielding piece of animal skin.  It is the same way with a human being’s attitude.  We must soften our hearts, and this takes deliberate effort.  We need to make ourselves gentle, peaceful, flexible and tame, rather than being undisciplined, rigid, stubborn egocentrics. (Tsoknyi Rinpoche. The Compassionate Attitude of Awakened Heart and Mind.)

Wishing you peace and wellbeing as you warm up, soften your heart, and open yourself to meaningful, healthy relationships with others.

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


A federal rule changes how subsidized home- and community-based services are funded.   The changes are because of new standards by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Among the policies, the agency says all housing should:

  • Support a flexible and free system that integrates individuals with disabilities in a community setting, rather than placing them in a segregated living and work environment;
  • Emphasizes independence and autonomy; and
  • Discourage institutional “warehousing” of those with disabilities.

States have five years to comply with the new rule.

The goal is to have them supported and given the ability to determine where they live and work whenever possible.  The federal rule is in the spirit of a 1999 Supreme Court ruling that said people with disabilities must be able to live in the most integrated setting appropriate for their needs.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule January 10, 2014 to ensure that Medicaid’s home and community-based services programs provide full access to the benefits of community living and offer services in the most integrated settings.  The rule, as part of the Affordable Care Act, supports the Department of Health and Human Services’ Community Living Initiative. The initiative was launched in 2009 to develop and implement innovative strategies to increase opportunities for Americans with disabilities and older adults to enjoy meaningful community living.

Some argue a more inclusive environment is beneficial for those with significant disabilities and fear that the current programs designed for that purpose will be shut down in the transition. To have a more community-centered experience for those with significant disabilities, it would take more staff members and more money, which has as of late has been extremely tight.

In this final rule, CMS specifies that service planning for participants in Medicaid HCBS programs under section 1915(c) and 1915(i) of the Act must be developed through a person-centered planning process that addresses health and long-term services and support needs in a manner that reflects individual preferences and goals. The rules require that the person-centered planning process is directed by the individual with long-term support needs, and may include a representative whom the individual has freely chosen and others chosen by the individual to contribute to the process. The rule describes the minimum requirements for person-centered plans developed through this process, including that the process results in a person-centered plan with individually identified goals and preferences. This planning process, and the resulting person-centered service plan, will assist the individual in achieving personally defined outcomes in the most integrated community setting, ensure delivery of services in a manner that reflects personal preferences and choices, and contribute to the assurance of health and welfare

Under the final rule, Medicaid programs will support home and community-based settings that serve as an alternative to institutional care and that take into account the quality of individuals’ experiences.  The final rule includes a transitional period for states to ensure that their programs meet the home and community-based services settings requirements.  Technical assistance will also be available for states.


February 24, 2015

A new state-by-state analysis suggests that suspension rates differ dramatically for students with disabilities from one locality to the next. (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times/TNS)

A new state-by-state analysis suggests that suspension rates differ dramatically for students with disabilities from one locality to the next. (Mike Siegel/Seattle Times/TNS)











The likelihood that a student with a disability will be suspended from school appears to vary greatly depending on where they live, a new analysis finds.

Nationwide, nearly 1 in 5 students with disabilities were given out-of-school suspensions during the 2011-2012 school year. That’s a rate about twice that of their typically-developing peers, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education.

However, a new analysis of the figures — the most recent available — finds the discipline was not handed out uniformly across the country.

High school students with disabilities in Florida were most likely to be suspended, with 37 percent of such kids given an out-of-school suspension. Florida was followed by Nevada, Delaware, South Carolina and Louisiana which also reported high use of the disciplinary measure among kids with disabilities.

By contrast, just 5 percent of high school students with disabilities in North Dakota were suspended, the fewest of any state. Other places with lower suspension rates for this population included Utah and Idaho, according to the review from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.

What’s more, when researchers assessed the situation at the school district level, they found even greater disparities. Across the country, some 37 districts suspended more than 25 percent of their elementary school students with disabilities, including one district where over half of those with special needs were suspended.

The high level of suspensions among students with disabilities raises questions, the report suggests, about whether such children are unlawfully being taken out of class due to behavior issues related to their disabilities.

Beyond disabilities, the analysis also found significant variation in suspension rates based on race.

“Our nation cannot close the achievement gap if our educators ignore the discipline gap,” said Daniel J. Losen, the director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies and an author of the report. “Educators have an opportunity for serious and successful reform in this area and are legally and morally obligated to take action.”


Motivational Monday: Looking within

gratefulness 3

Freedom Friday: One more jump

Nearly a decade ago, Lonnie Bissonnette broke his body BASE jumping off of a bridge. Today he continues in the sport from his wheelchair, all in the pursuit of an experience most of us will never understand.

One More Jump

<p><a href=”″>One more jump</a> from <a href=”″>Randy Risling</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Sometimes nothing needs to be said and the picture speaks for itself; but what were the owners, tenants, construction people thinking?

Sometimes nothing needs to be said, other then, this picture speaks for itself; but what were the owners, tenants, construction people thinking?

On President’s Day, many people think of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Both are important figures in American history and have birthdays in February, but did you know they also had disabilities while serving in office?

According to the Employer Assistance and Resource Network, Washington had trouble with grammar and spelling and is thought to have had some sort of learning disability. And researchers say Lincoln coped with severe depression and was thought to have Marfan syndrome.

Many other U.S. presidents coped with visible and non-visible disabilities. The list of former U.S. presidents with disabilities includes James Madison (epilepsy), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (polio) and John F. Kennedy (chronic back pain). Read more about their accomplishments in the White House here.

Stories of these presidents show how people with disabilities are assets to our country, communities and the workforce.

“Gratitude and disability in the same sentence?” you may be wondering. Absolutely. Truth be told we can find gratitude in any situation…good, bad, or indifferent. And disability is no exception.

The words “gratitude” and “grace” share a common Latin origin – gratis, meaning “pleasing” or “thankful”.

Learning to practice gratitude is one of life’s most valuable lessons. As Aristotle taught us, all virtues have value and the virtue of gratitude helps to increase feelings of satisfaction with our lives and keeps us from falling into the excess of a greedy or entitled frame of mind.

Gratitude means you are not the center of the world. Gratitude means you will take time to help others at work or in their personal life. Gratitude builds great leaders.

Does gratitude eliminate all the daily challenges that are associated with living with a disability or caring for someone with a disability? Absolutely not. It will however reduce stress, allow you to shift your focus, and even turn a challenging day into a success. There is a silver lining to every cloud, a rainbow at the end of every shower, and a light at the end of the tunnel. These aren’t just sayings. They can be a part of your daily routine if you practice gratitude enough. What do I mean by “enough?” Well at the very least, at the start and end of each day…and necessary moments in between.

Healthy people with disabilities express gratitude for being healthy, people with progressive chronic illnesses express gratitude for not have gotten sicker than they have, and people with recurring or fluctuating chronic illness express gratitude for coming out of a relapse.

The expression of gratitude can have a positive influence in your life and in the lives of others with whom you interact.  Optimism can help you navigate difficult situations and improve advocacy outcomes.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

This week I am grateful for?


The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis (

Easy Stand blog (

Ability Coach (

Bender Consulting Services (

David Morrison, Endless Options for All Disabilities (

By Shane Burac, Author, Columnist and Blogger

The mindset that causes a stranger to automatically assume that any female in my presence is a nurse, or family, is one that ignores the reality that people with disabilities can and do have “normal” romantic relationships. I place normal in quotations because I’m not sure if there is such a thing when it comes to love

Shane and his girlfriend






I was recently out on a dinner date with my lovely girlfriend, Anna, when a stranger approached to have a friendly conversation. He said he was a huge fan of my column about life and disability. He turned to my girlfriend and asked, “Are you his sister?”

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with his question, but if I saw two young people out having a nice meal together, I would probably assume that they were dating. This, however, does not seem to be the assumption people make when you throw a wheelchair into the picture.

On various other occasions my girlfriend has been asked if she was my nurse. Once, a person blankly asked if she was “the one who takes care of him.” We’ve gotten used to this bizarre, recurring question, and often find ways to poke fun at their ignorance.

“He’s my dad,” Anna will answer with deadpan perfection.

“I just pay her to be my friend,” I will say.

The mindset that causes a stranger to automatically assume that any female in my presence is a nurse, or family, is one that ignores the reality that people with disabilities can and do have “normal” romantic relationships. I place normal in quotations because I’m not sure if there is such a thing when it comes to love.

For a good chunk of my young life, I didn’t think I was worthy of that type of affection. I worried that my physical limitations would prevent girls from wanting to date me. I will not be able to pick her up in my car, I can’t give hugs or hold hands very well, and we will be limited in the activities we can do for dates. It all seemed rather hopeless in the heart-wrenching, hormone-fueled days of middle school.

I worried even more that a girl would date me out of pity, silently putting up with the annoyances of my disease because she felt bad for me.

Then college came and my brain opened up to the real truth. I met some spectacular people who helped me shake the notion that love was only for the physically-abled.

Sure, I can’t hold hands in the traditional sense, but we make it work. To be fair, our fingers look like a catastrophic train wreck once they are intertwined in the precise position that I can manage. I can’t pick her up in my car, but so what? She enjoys driving and so we make it work. And no, I can’t go mountain climbing with her, but I can make her laugh. So we find other activities, and we make it work. Don’t worry; I’ll leave the most intimate details for my books.

Once I realized that there are girls out there who are more than happy to “make it work,” the fear of being unloved for all eternity drifted away like a funny joke of the past.

Today, I live with the firm belief that an able/disabled relationship can be even more satisfying than your average romance. I’m still young and stupid, so I don’t want to trick you into thinking I have this all figured out. But I believe the deeper closeness in an able/disabled relationship blossoms from the process of teaching your partner how to “care” for you. That’s a tough concept to grasp, so I’ll try to provide an example.

The first day that Anna and I spent together, we decided to go out for brunch at Valley Family Restaurant. This outing required Anna to learn in a brief amount of time many new “Shane Helper Lessons,” such as putting on my jacket, driving my van, picking up my head when I lost my balance, cutting my food and helping me take sips of my drink.

At this point in our relationship, I hardly knew Anna, and was afraid that I might overwhelm her with all of this “helping stuff.” I must have expressed this in some fashion, because I vividly remember a conversation where she promised that she was excited by the prospect of learning how to help me.

There is something profoundly intimate about a promise like that. On my end, I felt a deep sense of serenity that could only be attributed to trusting her with my care. On her side, and I’ve checked with her, there was an important emotional connection that began to develop when she chose to be with me despite the extra requirements of needing to help cut my meatloaf.

As we began to experience life together, starting that first day at brunch, we encountered innumerable moments of magical humor that arose from my “Shane Helper Lessons.” We reveled in these moments, embracing whatever occurrence led to our fits of giggling, rather than letting awkwardness create tension in the relationship. This mutual laughter brought us closer. In fact, one of our main sources of bonding became teaching her how to keep me alive, like how to brush my teeth without choking me, or how to put my shoes on without snapping my ankles, or how to shave my face without slicing my jugular. She deserves an award for putting up with my relentless teasing.

That is why I get confused when strangers assume that she isn’t my girlfriend, because to us it has always seemed so normal. It is fun and it is silly and it is beautiful, and we never think twice about the fact that our relationship is abnormal in any way.

We simply make it work.

This post was previously published on The Morning Call. To read more of Shane Burcaw’s work for The Morning Call, go here.