Tuesday, September 6, 2022

"Kasey to The Rescue" Gives A Well Needed Perspective on Disabilities

I was turned onto to a book entitled “Kasey to The Rescue” by Ellen Rogers by my aunt Eileen this past weekend. This book was immediately captivating it dealt with a subject matter close to my heart, challenges related to living with a disability. The main character was a 22-year-old named Ned who got into a car accident at the beginning of the book. Not only does the author who happens to be his mother do a great job of detailing what it is like dealing with a Spinal Cord Injury from the perspective of a loved one she also introduced this reader to a new form of "assistive technology", that of a helper monkey. Immediately I was intrigued by the concept of the story and wanted to do more research on the helper monkey concept as it could relate to my physical needs. While I have not yet completed my research, I am definitely hopeful about what I have found. This book also holds a special place in my heart because it was turned into a movie which I am going to see later tonight. A review of the movie will follow. The overall message of the story is one of hope and perseverance. It comes at a perfect time for me. Those who know me may not be aware but lately I have been less than positive about my circumstance even with a welcome addition of a girlfriend I find it hard to stay positive. The message the author conveys has me rethinking the way I look at life. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who reads memoirs and anyone who wants to learn what it is like to have a disability.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Getting Back Out There: Carnival of Crue

It has been several weeks since my last post in the Getting Back Out There series. It would be an understatement that a lot has changed. I am in a transition period with my aid care and on top of that, I have been given more responsibilities at FSA Central. That being said I figured now would be perfect to review a show I went to a couple of weeks ago. On July 16th I attended the Carnival of Crue show at the Reilly Arts Center what follows is a review of the show and the venue itself in terms of accessibility. 

From the beginning, I could tell this night was going to be a particularly enjoyable evening. I once again found myself at the Reilly Arts Center which is a quaint medium-sized venue. For those of you who have been keeping up with my blog, you may remember I reviewed the Lynard Skynard cover band "Nothin' Fancy." That event also took place at the Reilly Arts Center. As with Nothin' Fancy, the Carnival of Crue show was part of a local classic rock radio station's summer concert series. "WindFM Rocks The Reilly is a series that brings elite classic rock cover bands to the Ocala area. Carnival of Crue lived up to my expectations. Unlike the Lynard Skynard tribute show, this time I was with my girlfriend Samantha. It was not only nice to experience this cover band together but it was also enjoyable because it was her first concert. (Unless you count a concert she went to while in the 8th grade) She doesn't like to count that one so don't tell her I told you lol. 

Anyway back to the show at hand. Before getting into the heart of the review I must provide this disclaimer my judgments and/or opinions of the cover band come with no first-hand experience of the original group being covered. I was not lucky enough to see Motley Crue in their heyday so forgive me for what may amount to an insult to every Motley Crue fan out there, but it is my opinion that the cover band was amazing. From the beginning of the night, Carnival of Crue (CoC) started the show with amazing energy which carried through both hour-long sets that they did. Although I was not around in their heyday the show allowed me to experience the development of the band as they played all of their hits from each album. My favorite had to be "Smokin' In The Boys' Room. If I had to rate this cover band I would give them 8/10 however the music is not the only thing that is of concern if you are a person with a disability. 

Seeing as this blog is written by and read by people within the disability community it is crucial that any prospective visitor to the Reilly Arts Center be well informed about any obstacles seen or unforeseen they may encounter. When going out on the town for the evening there are several key factors that people with disabilities need to factor in. In my last review of the Reilly Arts Center, I mentioned there wasn't a "bad" seat in the house. All seats have clear and uninterrupted sight lines to the stage. This in and of itself solves an accessibility problem before one arises. Often, people with disabilities are relegated to the back or sides of most venues, this can create a literal rear view problem. If a venue is too crowded with the seats packed too closely together people with disabilities will end up staring at the backside of the people in front of them. Another often overlooked problem one may encounter is sound sensitivity. My girlfriend has a hearing disorder called Hyperacusis which makes sounds seem louder than they actually are. During the concert, she wore noise reduction earplugs and noise-canceling headphones together. Even though she was wearing both earplugs and headphones she was still able to hear clearly and enjoy the concert. Along with the accessibility of the performance space, there are other things to consider when planning a night out.

Other barriers that affect people with disabilities and their ability to live a "normal" social life include the accessibility of the venue's facilities or something as simple as having a clearly defined curb-cut and everything in between. Although I did not have major issues with external accessibility, I will say I encountered a slight issue with the restrooms. In order for me to use the restroom, I have to bring a caregiver with me. Usually, this is not a problem but it can turn into one if the stalls are not big enough for two people. Without going into graphic detail I will mention the stalls were not big enough for two people. This meant I needed to remain halfway out of the stall while taking care of my personal needs. Not only is this unfair but it can lead to some very significant problems ie the crime of indecent exposure. That being said here is a note to the Reilly Arts Center management next time you go to make renovations to your facilities please if at all possible make the restroom stalls wider.

Overall I would give The Reily Arts Center a B+ in accessibility. Although the Classic Rock series is over for the summer I can't wait till the next time I take in a show at The Reily. Ta ta for now. Your trusted source for all things disability-related.

Jason H.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Getting Back Out There: Green Day’s American Idiot: A Review

  This blog is the second installment in the Getting Back Out There series. Today, we will review a play I attended on June 12th at the Gainesville Community Playhouse. The show was entitled Green Day’s American Idiot. It chronicled a year in the life of the American rock band Green Day, as they were developing their identity as a band. I was turned onto the play by my friend, Kyle. I was immediately enthusiastic about seeing the show as the band was huge throughout my formative years. I won’t say I was their biggest fan, but I enjoyed their music tremendously.

  When the day finally arrived, I was unsure what to expect. I should’ve assumed it would be a musical, but I did not. However, it was a surprise. My girlfriend and I got to the theater right as the opening number was concluded. Immediately I knew that this show would be good. As the show progressed, my expectations were exceeded. The actors and actresses who put on the show were highly talented. You could tell they had put a lot of work into the play. The show consisted of three or four main characters representing the band members. There was also a choral group that provided the backup for many songs. As some of you may know, I have a degree in theater. While I do like straight plays, I’m particularly fond of musicals. This musical did not disappoint.

  As a final thought, I feel it is appropriate to mention the accessibility of The Gainesville Community Playhouse, seeing as this is a blog about disability-related issues. One will find a spacious lobby, allowing one to move around quickly. Once you enter the performance space, the seating is arranged so that even the “handicap” seats are at a perfect angle. Indeed, there is not a bad seat in the entire theater. The only negative I saw was the lack of multiple wheelchair-accessible seats right next to each other. Luckily, my girlfriend can transfer out of her chair. So, we were able to sit next to one another. As a message to those who built The Gainesville Community Playhouse, I commend you for your efforts to make everything accessible. If at any point you are doing a remodel of the theater, might I suggest you add sections for multiple wheelchair seating. Overall, I would rate the performance a 4 out of 5. And the theater itself, a 4 out of 5 for accessibility.

  I can’t wait to take in the venue's next show, continue to enjoy life, and “get back out there.”

Until next time.Your friendly neighborhood gimp,

- Jay. 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Gettin' Back Out There: Nothin' Fancy: A Review


  Anyone who hasn't lived under a rock for the last two years knows that most concert venues are just now beginning to reopen. If one looks hard enough, you will find that the music scene is slowly coming to life again. Whether you like rock, country, hip-hop, or a mixture of these genres of music, it does not take long to find a local show. While the big stadium tours are great, local venues will start to breathe life into the music scene first. Often ticket prices at these venues are lower. Economically, people are hurting now more than ever before. Small venues like the Riley Performing Arts Center in Ocala, Florida, host monthly summer concerts to satisfy the public's desire to get back out there and support the music industry.

  The Riley Performing Arts Center has teamed up with WindFM to present "WindFM Rock's The Riley," a monthly concert series that will see different classic rock tribute bands. It will include everything from Lynard Skynard to ACDC & Def Leopard. The June show was held on the 4th and featured Nothin' Fancy. Nothin' Fancy's the ultimate Lynard Skynard tribute. You could tell there was pent-up energy from the start of the show. There was barely any time in the show where the audience was not engaged. I have seen many other tribute bands who don't have as much stage presence as this group. Combining the band's tremendous stage presence with the venue's intimacy almost feels like every seat is a front-row seat.

  Riley does a great job taking into account the needs of all its patrons. Every seat is positioned to have the best view of the stage. The seats are so good that even the handicap seats where I sat could see the back of the stage where the keyboardist played. Another highlight of the evening was during intermission of the show when I got to chat with the keyboardist at random. The conversation only lasted a few minutes, but it reinforced that it was worth the $60 I spent on tickets.

  Overall, I would give the night an 8.5 out of 10. I did not bring cash with me because I did not know whether they had merchandise available. All well, there's always next month when the Motley Crue tribute comes to town. As a final thought, it is time that we get out there and start living life again. Hopefully, this blog will inspire and reassure those who are hesitant.

Thank You, Judy Heumann


  Those that know me know that I love to read. I even go as far as creating book lists of authors that I want to read. I follow up by reading all of their work. I usually stick to the mainstream authors such as James Patterson, John Grisham, and Dan Brown, to name a few. I also enjoy biographies and memoirs. Recently, I finished a book titled Being Human by Judith Heumann. This book was not only a good read, but it was relatable.

  Ms. Heumann is a disability advocate who is a disability superstar. Not only does the book document her life within the disability community, but it also highlights key events that took place in the disability rights movement. Ms. Heumann was involved in the sit-in that took over the San Fransisco federal building to get the regulations that give power to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 signed. This law laid the foundation for the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law on July 26th, 1991, by George H.W. Bush. While I was familiar on a surface level with all the events mentioned in the book, I learned much more than expected from Ms. Heumann. She made the book relatable on a personal level.

  Before starting the book, I was aware of Ms. Heumann’s involvement in the Disability Rights movement; I was unaware how much her story parallels my own. Ms. Heumann had the intention to be a teacher. However, unlike me, she pushed her case through the court system. I do not mention this here because I am reliving the past and dreading my decision. Everything happens for a reason. I only bring this up to highlight the similarities between us.

  Reading her book has re-energized my passion for bettering the lives of all disabled people, no matter the degree of disability. While much has changed since the passage of the ADA, one has to question whether or not it is time to become more forceful and stage more effective protests once again to draw attention to the plights of the disability community. Although our lives have significantly improved, there is still work to be done so we can live up to a common disability rights mantra. “Nothing about us without us.”