DogFest Bay Area comes to Oakland Oct. 26


For many individuals with disabilities, canine companions are an essential part of their ability to continue on with a productive life and so, it is fitting that these precious animals get to celebrate their day on Sat., Oct. 26th during DogFest Bay Area at Oakland’s Jack London Square. This Halloween-themed festival collaborates with Boo! Bark, Brews + Bites in making this a not-to-be-missed event where over 4,000 supporters enjoyed a great day at last year’s celebration.

All funds raised benefit Canine Companions for Independence and their mission of matching assistance dogs with children, adults and veterans with disabilities, free of charge. These expertly-trained assistance dogs make a profound impact through the jobs they do like opening doors, picking up dropped items, alerting to sounds and much more.

Join Emcee Katie Neilson from KPIX-TV San Francisco for this Halloween-themed event where you can bring your furry friends in costume and participate in their annual costume contest. Don't miss out on meeting San Jose Shark's mascot Sharkie and puppy Finn from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. You can also stick around the rest of the day for loads of activities including live music, beer and wine, great food, people and pooch crafts, pet photos, and fun festival booths for adults, kids and dogs.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. located on Broadway in Oakland.

SCI-FIT Fresno to hold Open House on Oct. 23


Though it’s been open for well over eight months, SCI-FIT will be hosting an official Open House at its Clovis (near Fresno) location on Wed., Oct. 23rd from 6-8 p.m. where attendees can tour the facility and watch equipment demos, view videos of clients, meet the team behind that location, including co-owner, Steve Nava, and mingle while enjoying food and drinks. And while there, you can also enter to win a free session.

SCI-FIT works mostly with clients with neurological injuries or disorders, including spinal cord injury, stroke, and MS just to name a few. It is located at 555 N. Halifax Ave., suite 101 in Clovis and has two other locations in Pleasanton and Sacramento.

Recovering from the dreaded shoulder surgery in SCI


Just as time, age and injury can cause ambulatory people to face knee and hip surgery, wheelchair users often end up with shoulder damage that requires surgery. Look, our bodies were never designed to take the brunt of pushing manual wheelchairs, transferring constantly and, basically, using our upper extremities to compensate for lack of mobility. Unfortunately, an active life on wheels can put more demands on the shoulders than they were designed for. The newly-injured, of course, are not even able to think about that possibility since they have virtually no history of experiencing pain in their shoulders. As the lifespans of people with spinal cord injury become more comparable with the general public, surgeons are becoming more creative with shoulder restoration. However, regardless of the type of repair, recovery is a long and arduous process.

New Mobility magazine published THIS ARTICLE recently which addressed the latest approaches available for this highly-invasive procedure with long healing time.

Movement to incorporate the disability community in Autonomous Vehicle technologies slowly inching forward


Very few technological advancements have been developed in recent decades that could have a pronounced impact on persons with disabilities (not just mobility but think visually impaired) as the Autonomous Vehicles that are currently in advanced developmental stages. Imagine no longer needing expensive modifications made to your vehicle so that you can safely drive. Well, there’s been lots of discussion and work taking place behind the scenes to address this issue and begin planning for it.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers organized a three-part Workshop Series this year, “Automated Vehicles (AVs) & Increased Accessibility”, to explore the accessible passenger vehicle transportation needs and potential technology solutions for people with disabilities and older adults. The Workshop Series also assessed technologies for providing increased vehicle accessibility to people with disabilities and elderly as well as broader impacts of assistive technologies, including the current legal and policy landscape.

In the 52-page report they published, numerous recommendations were made and the next steps may seek to create a “Best Practices” document that could be used by vehicle manufacturers to understand and incorporate the needs of people with disabilities and older adults in AV design. They still have a long ways to go before getting to the point of having something ready to address our population but at least the conversations are becoming louder and more frequent. You can read the entire report HERE.

Could untethering surgery arrest and restore loss of function years after an SCI?


The thought of losing more function years after a spinal cord injury is a devastating thought for many. Following spinal cord injury, most of us who are paralyzed think in terms of what has been lost below the level of injury. But what is more worrisome is the possibility that damage can also go the other way, ascending to higher levels in the cord, resulting in possible additional motor and sensory loss, increased spasticity, pain and more. Worse yet, it can happen years after the initial injury.

Since we are entering a time of greater understanding of how the spinal cord can regenerate and damage can be reversed, syringomyelia (a disorder in which a cyst or cavity forms within the spinal cord) may soon be a problem of the past. And there is even more reason for hope. Recent research has shown that untethering — when no syrinx has formed — may actually help restore some functions that were lost at the time of injury.

Read more in THIS GREAT ARTICLE from New Mobility magazine.

Wheel Love: documentary dives into love, sex, relationships and fertility in SCI


Three years ago, Chelsea McEvoy and Samantha (Sam) Baxter realized, when it comes to real world insights about love and relationships involving a partner with an SCI, the internet is lacking. So the two friends created Wheel Love — a blog based on their experiences as women in love with men who have an SCI. McEvoy accepted from the beginning that she and Baxter would have to open up about deeply personal experiences for the blog to have any impact. But she had no idea, just a few years later, she’d be doubling down on the soul-baring by turning the spotlight and video camera on some of the most intimate parts of her relationship with James Hektner, a Peer with T6/7 paraplegia.

The documentary, also titled Wheel Love, is 23 minutes long. It tells McEvoy’s and Hektner’s story as they struggle to capture viable sperm and conceive through intrauterine insemination. But it’s also much more — their story is beautifully interwoven with interviews with 11 couples, all with one of the partners having an SCI or other disability, who have children.

Though there are no sexually explicit scenes, there is some sexually raw language though. View the documentary HERE.

Nov. 1 deadline: $40,000 in grants available to five photography enthusiasts with disabilities


Calling all disabled photographers — if you’re looking for a way to influence how the public sees disability, there may not be a more powerful amplifier for your photography than a new grant opportunity from Getty Images and Verizon Media. The Disability Stories grant will award a total of $40,000 in funding to five winners to create authentic representations of disability. Disabled photographers are specifically encouraged to apply for the grant program. Applications are due by November 1 and winners will be announced on December 3.

You can read more about this opportunity HERE.

AXIS Dance launches home season with in•ter•twine Oct. 25-27


AXIS Dance Company has announced its first international commission under the direction of Artistic Director Marc Brew as the headliner of its 2019 Home Season, in·ter·twine: Alice in Californiland from renowned choreographer Arthur Pita. Pita and AXIS dancers embark on a voyage into a Lewis Carroll-like upside-down world of being present but ignored by society and what it is like to both exist and yet try to resist the strange, surreal and harsh realities of being homeless. Completing the triple bill will be Flutter from Bay Area Choreographer and POST:Ballet Artistic Director Robert Dekkers, and a new world premiere from NYC based choreographer and Artistic Director of Arch Dance Company Jennifer Archibald entitled Petrichor, the smell of earth after rain.

Here are the details of these performances:
October 25 - Show at 8 pm, 6-7 pm Pre-Reception (requires special ticket type)
October 26 - Show at 8 pm, Post-Show Q&A, ASL interpretation
October 27 - Show at 2 pm, 1 pm - 1:30 pm Access Tour, Audio Description

Ticket prices
Opening Night Pre-Reception (Includes Show), $75
Advocate, $50
Standard Admission (At-the-Door) - $40
Standard Admission (Advance Ticket) - $35
Low-Income, $20

Tickets are on sale now HERE.

Stem Cell Agency, CIRM, files $5.5 billion ballot measure proposal for Nov. 2020 election


We have reported extensively on the work of the California Stem Cell Agency, officially known as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), and the conclusion of their initial $3 billion in funding distribution. And now, the official word is that the agency has submitted the required paperwork to try and qualify a ballot measure in the Nov. 2020 elections to generate $5.5 billion in bonds to refinance the agency. The measure now needs to gather over 633,000 valid signatures to qualify for the official ballot.

The complex, 30-page initiative would also restructure a number of aspects of the agency and provide for financial assistance for patients and their families who might be involved in clinical trials. The $3 billion agency expects to run out of cash for new awards at the end of this month.

There are significant changes that have been incorporated in this proposal worth scrutinizing. In addition to stem cell research, the proposed initiative would provide for awards for other “vital research” opportunities. Training for professionals would be emphasized. The governing board of the agency would be increased from 29 to 35 persons. Representatives of the California State University system would have a greater official role in addition to representatives from the University of California. Additional changes are proposed in priorities along with alteration in conflict of interest rules and its public records provisions. You can read the entire document HERE.

Members of the general public may submit comments about the proposed measure to the California Attorney General HERE.

Filmmakers seeking funding for Daruma, featuring cast members with disabilities


The filmmakers behind Daruma, a film about the adventures of two real-life persons with disabilities, have launched a crowdfunding campaign to help produce the film, which is not about disability, and make the project a reality.

Daruma follows Patrick (30s, bitter paraplegic) who discovers he has a four-year-old daughter from a one-night stand years ago. He agrees to take her and becomes the beneficiary of her mother’s life insurance policy, but soon discovers that she would do better living with her maternal grandparents on the East Coast. Patrick enlists the help of his cantankerous neighbor Robert (60s, double-arm amputee) to drive them across America and to her grandparents. Along the way, the trio discovers the meaning of self-sacrifice, forgiveness and what it truly means to be a family.

They are fundraising in three stages: Round One starts October 15 and lasts through November 30 and is solely to generate the funds needed to pay the cast and crew. All contributions are tax-deductible via From the Heart Productions. For more information about the film and crowdfunding campaign, watch the pitch video. The film has already garnered support from organizations including the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, The Ruderman Foundation, RespectAbility, and the Media Access Awards.

You can contribute to the campaign here and there are some great perks for your thoughtful participation in this process.