Sunday, December 29, 2019

TIP - Daily Inspirational Goals

Good vibes only neon sign in orange and black
Inspirational thought

Along with your long-range plans to live a healthier lifestyle, you will want to include daily inspirational goals. Inspirational thoughts could be “I know I can do this” or “I will focus on positive thoughts” or “I will find something to enjoy every time I take a break from work.” These simple thoughts, repeated throughout the day, will help you reach your lifestyle goals. You will find many more inspirational thoughts and quotes on the Internet.

The key to choosing a good daily inspirational thought is to make it your own, aligned with your personal likes and dislikes. Then the inspirations will help you reach your lifestyle goals.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

TIP - Dealing with New Year's Resolution Lapses

Male hand with index finger pointing up and a reminder string tied to it
Reminder string

It’s going to happen. Sooner or later, you are going to break your resolution, go back on your promise to yourself, or revert to old undesired behaviors. Remind yourself that this lapse is temporary.

If several lapses occur in a short period of time, you may begin to think your resolution or behavior change plan is too difficult. It’s not. Don’t let these negative thoughts take over. The lapse is temporary only. Everyone makes mistakes.

Tomorrow is another chance to start over again. You can do it!

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Back-Seat Driver Can Be a Driver’s Helper

Highway guard rail broken from car crash
Broken guard rail on a highway

Distracted drivers kill approximately 9 people and injure over 1000 more each day in the US. Automobile drivers can be distracted in three ways:

  1. Manually, mainly taking your hands off the steering wheel
  2. Visually, taking your eyes off the traffic and road
  3. Cognitively, not thinking about driving

Many activities people engage in while driving are distracting. Texting is especially problematic, because it combines all three types of distraction.

Instead of nagging the driver about potential distractions, the back-seat driver can be part of the solution. Here are a few things a passenger can do to aid the driver.

  • Read maps and road signs. Look for landmarks or places to take a break or grab some food. 
  • Be in charge of electronics:
    • Operate the GPS
    • Check information on the mobile phone
    • Answer text messages and phone calls
  • Keep the car comfortable with air conditioning, heating, and music.
  • Take care of children and pets in the back seat. Be sure they are all properly secured. Sometimes it is best to sit in the back seat with a cranky child or nervous pet to keep them calm. 

If the driver does become distracted, gently remind him or her to focus on driving. If the problem seems to be driver fatigue, suggest pulling over for a break, a meal, or a change of drivers.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

TIP - Improve your self-confidence

Woman with brown hair confidently writing "Self Confidence"

If your belief in yourself needs improvement, try these strategies.

  • Consider your personal motivations. Knowing what encourages you to succeed will allow you to rethink your life path.
  • Identify your personal strengths. Use them to accomplish what you need to do to succeed.
  • What have you done in the past to succeed? Once you know that, you can focus on those skills this time around.
  • Plan to take small steps. Don’t try to do too much all at once. Break down large goals into smaller sequential targets.
  • Recognize that we all have setbacks in our progress. That’s OK. Just start over again the following day.

These five steps will improve your self-confidence and help you plan and achieve a healthier life.

Monday, December 2, 2019

December 3 is Giving Tuesday - please help support Virtual Ability

Virtual Ability is grateful for your support

Dec 3 is Giving Tuesday. Here are some ways to support Virtual Ability.

  • Support Virtual Ability when you shop at Amazon
    If you are one of the many people who use Amazon, you can support Virtual Ability every time you shop.  Just use to set up or change your charity donation. Then use to launch Amazon instead of the usual “,” and Amazon will automatically donate 0.5% of your purchase price of qualifying items to Virtual Ability, Inc. There is no additional cost to you (or to VAI) whatsoever and it's totally anonymous. 

    Just remember to use this link to get started:

  • If you know a virtual world researcher, have them get in touch with Gentle Heron.  We can help them design and execute their research in virtual worlds.

  • Also, if you have contact information for a Center for Independent Living (CIL or ILC), please pass that to Gentle Heron.

  • If you know of a foundation that funds non-profit work, please let Gentle Heron know that too. We can apply for grants to help offset our SL expenses.

  • Donations are always appreciated! You can donate Linden dollars or RL cash.

You can donate Lindens in the wishing well on Virtual Ability island here:
and you can donate through PayPal on our website here:
You can request that a tax receipt be sent to you for cash donations, because we are a registered nonprofit.

  • One final way to help Virtual Ability is by purchasing a parcel on one of our residential islands: Cape Able, Cape Serenity or Cape Heron. Chat with our estate managers: Treasure Ballinger, Zip Zlatkis, and iSkye Silverweb. 

Thank you for your interest and support of our community.

NUTRITION TIP - Include these in your diet to boost your immune health

Immune system health
Immune system health

A strong immune system is important, especially in cold and flu season. Your immune system protects your body by detecting pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, and destroying them before they make you sick. Include these seven nutrients in your diet to strengthen your immune system.

  1. Vitamin A is a regulator of your immune system and fights inflammation. Adequate supplies are necessary to prevent infections. Vitamin A is found in color vegetables (carrots, kale, red bell peppers, spinach and sweet potatoes) and in egg yolks.
  2. Vitamin C also protects against infections. Eat citrus fruits, strawberries and tomatoes for this vitamin.
  3. Folate (folic acid, a B vitamin) helps your body produce red and white blood cells. Leafy green vegetables and legumes (beans and peas) are good sources.
  4. Protein is one of the building blocks of the antibodies created by your immune system. High quality protein is found in eggs, fish, lean meat and poultry.
  5. Zinc reduces inflammation and is involved in the production of germ-fighting white blood cells. Foods containing zinc include beans, dairy products, nuts, seeds, oysters, lean meat, poultry, and whole grains.
  6. Selenium has antioxidant properties and supports immunity. Find it in barley, Brazil nuts, broccoli, garlic, sardines and tuna.
  7. Probiotics are live bacteria that aid the function of your digestive system. These “good bacteria” are found normally in the human gut. They are present in fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut) and fermented dairy products (kefir, buttermilk, yogurt).

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Dietary Supplements vs. Whole Foods

Avocado breakfast bread
Avocado breakfast bread

The advertisements for dietary supplements make them sound like miracle foods. Supplements can be useful to add to your regular diet if you are having trouble getting adequate nutrition. But they should never replace whole foods as your source of nourishment.

Healthy whole foods (not junk foods) provide better nutrition than supplements. A diet of varied whole foods contains necessary vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals, all of which contribute to your good health. You can’t rely on supplements alone to supply your body with everything it needs.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Save the Dates! The IDRAC Conference Is Nov. 1 & 2

8th Annual
International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference
November 1-2, 2019
The Sojourner Auditorium, Virtual Ability, Second Life®
“We Health Each Other,
We Help Ourselves.”

Virtual Ability’s eighth annual International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC) will be held on Friday and Saturday, November 1 and 2. The conference theme is “We help each other, we help ourselves.”  The conference is free and open to the public.

We bring together academic researchers and practitioners to share their wisdom with our audience in a variety of formats. This year our presenters are from Canada, China, Italy, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

The conference schedule is available on our website. Check out the intriguing topics and highly qualified presenters.  

The conference is held in the Sojourner Auditorium on Virtual Ability island. 

The SLURL is
If you can not attend in the virtual world, the live stream URL for Virtual Ability, Inc., is

As with all Virtual Ability conferences, IDRAC is presented in text and voice to ensure maximum accessibility.

Text transcripts from past conferences are archived on our website.

We hope you can attend our conference on November 1 and 2!

IDRAC 2019: November 2 @ 1 pm SLT, The representation of autism in the narratives of

Black and white picture of the Tecnológico de Monterrey logo, which features a torch with stylized flames and the name of the Institute.
Tecnológico de Monterrey

The IDRAC session on Friday, Nov. 1 at 1 pm SLT (Pacific time) explains the results of a research study related to the representation of autism in  Through the participation of members of the autism community in writing these stories, autism spectrum disorder is portrayed differently than it is in commercial fiction. The researchers are two professors from Tecnológico de Monterrey, Queretaro Campus in Mexico.  Nohemi Lugo is a researcher and professor in the Media and Digital Culture  Department and María Elena Melón is in the Department of Art.

Dr. Lugo’s research goal is to design and develop methods, processes, materials and technologies intended to foster education,  social inclusion and health. She is writing a book about digital culture and informal learning strategies for children with autism. She coordinates two related research projects: one about mobile devices use by children with disabilities; the other about how mothers of children with autism can learn from  mothers with similar experiences through collective storytelling and an on-line course.

Dr. Melón’s research interest is in physical interfaces and interactive media applications. She has participated in two research and technology grants given by Tec de Monterrey to create alternate reality games and a virtual reality platform to learn to operate industrial design equipment.  Currently she is participating in two research projects related to Autism.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

IDRAC 2019: November 2 @ 6:30 am SLT, Hearing Our Voices

Rob Castellanos

Alyssa Hillary

Kirk Munsch

Historically, persons with disabilities and illnesses were hidden away from the rest of their community, either at home or in institutions. Now, we are beginning to realize the importance of telling our life experiences so that everyone recognizes our common humanity.

One way we let others hear our voices is through publication (blogging, vlogging, Facebook, podcasts, self-published or professionally published memoirs, articles and books). Another way is by participating in patient registries, which are collections of information provided by persons with similar diagnoses, symptoms and concerns. These registries support research and lead to improved understanding of and support for the quality of life of those living with disabilities and illnesses.

Panelists for this session are Rob Castellanos, Alyssa Hillary, and Kirk Munsch. The panel moderator will be Shyla the Super Gecko. The panelists will tell about their work and its importance to the overall disability community. Then they will respond to questions from the audience.

Rob Castellanos is a patient living with Ankylosing Spondylitis, OCD, and Anxiety. Traditional healthcare gave him 5+ years of misdiagnoses and years of seeking what could help him manage his conditions. What changed his life was learning what he could do from people in the same shoes as himself. This prompted him to quit his job and found Syndio Health, an online health community for sharing real knowledge and experience with chronic illness.

Alyssa Hillary is an Autistic Ph.D. student in the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program at the University of Rhode Island. Depending on the moment, they study brain computer interfaces, augmentative and alternative communication, neural engineering, and/or disability studies. Their work can be found in several Autonomous Press anthologies, and they blog at

Kirk Munsch is the Patient Advocacy Manager for Rare Patient Voice and a Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis patient.  He is passionate about connecting patients and their non-paid caregivers (family and friends) to projects where they make their voices heard to shape products and services being developed on their behalf.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

IDRAC 2019: November 2 @ 1:30 pm SLT, The Autistic People of Color Fund

Headshot of Lydia Brown, young East Asian person, with stylized blue and yellow dramatic background. They are looking in the distance and wearing a plaid shirt and black jacket. Photo by Adam Glanzman.
Lydia X. Z. Brown

Lydia X. Z. Brown is a disability justice advocate, organizer, attorney, educator, and writer whose work has largely focused on violence against multiply-marginalized disabled people, especially institutionalization, incarceration, and policing. Lydia is 2018-2019 Justice Catalyst Legal Fellow at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, defending and advancing the educational civil rights of Maryland students with psychosocial, intellectual, and developmental disabilities facing disproportionate discipline, restraint and seclusion, and school pushout.

Lydia is also Founder and Co-Director of the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color’s Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment, which provides direct support and mutual aid to individual autistic people of color. Previously, Lydia designed and taught a course on disability theory, policy, and social movements as a Visiting Lecturer at Tufts University. They were also Chairperson of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, becoming the youngest appointee ever to chair any state developmental disabilities council.

Lydia is co-editor and visionary behind All the Weight of Our Dreams, the first-ever anthology of writings and artwork by autistic people of color and otherwise negatively racialized autistic people, published by the Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network. They have received numerous awards for their work, including from the White House, American Association of People with Disabilities, and Society for Disability Studies, and written for several community and academic publications.

Lydia’s IDRAC presentation will be at 1:30 pm SLT (Pacific time) on Saturday, Nov.  2.  The title of her talk is “The Autistic People of Color Fund: Building Networks of Mutual Aid by/for Negatively Racialized Autistic People.” In 2019, Lydia worked with the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network to launch the Fund for Community Reparations for Autistic People of Color's Interdependence, Survival, and Empowerment, which has given out over $15,000 already in microgrants to negatively racialized autistic people globally as a form of mutual aid and community care.

This work follows in a long tradition of informal collective care and support networks among hyper-marginalized sick, mad, neurodivergent, and disabled communities. Lydia will talk about how and why this fund came into existence, how we've worked on the process of developing it, and what we can all do to expand and sustain this work.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

IDRAC 2019: November 2 @ 12 pm SLT, Disability Accommodation and Intersectional Identities

Dr. Katherine Breward

At Noon SLT (Pacific time) on Saturday, Nov. 2, Dr. Katherine Breward will present her research about disability accommodation in the workplace. Disability accommodation is crucial to ensure equitable access to paid employment. Yet despite this, many people with disability-related needs are reluctant to request accommodations in their workplaces.

Employers have a legal responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations, yet these imperatives are not always reflected in managerial decisions related to special needs. Dr. Breward’s presentation will review original research that examines the role of Intersectional aspects of identity (such as gender, ethnicity, and immigration status) on accommodation requesting and granting. Differential rates of accommodation requesting and granting are explored with an eye to identifying barriers, perceptual errors, and stereotypes that may contribute to unequitable outcomes based on identity-related variables.

Dr. Breward is an Associate Professor at the University of Winnipeg. Her research is centered around labour market access for historically disadvantaged populations, with a particular focus on best practices in disability accommodation. Her research has appeared in the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, the Case Research Journal, and Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: An International Journal.

Dr. Breward is also a strong advocate of case-based teaching and an award winning case writer. She teaches a range of HR related courses, including her signature course “Leadership and Fairness in Complex Organizations”. When not working Dr. Breward enjoys spending time on her 25 acre berry orchard with her husband and a menagerie of pets and reading inclusive science fiction and fantasy.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

IDRAC 2019: November 2 @ 10:30 am SLT, Challenges and Opportunities in Community-based Rehabilitation and Emancipatory Disability Research

Sunil Deepak

Sunil Deepak, a medical doctor, is originally from India and now lives in a small mountain town in Italy. For about 35 years, he worked as a trainer, facilitator and researcher in disability programs in different countries of Asia, Africa and South America.

Dr. Deepak has worked with different agencies of United Nations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as with many humanitarian organizations. A key area of his work is about how to simplify specialized knowledge and make it easier to understand for non-professionals.

Dr. Deepak’s presentation will begin at 10:30 am SLT (Pacific time) on Saturday, Nov. 2. He will focus on two approaches used by and in collaboration with disabled persons in poor communities, both of which had a great impact. These approaches worked in places where persons did not have any access to services, professionals and technology. Through Community-based Rehabilitation (CBR), persons and their families learned about their disabilities and took action to improve their own well being and social participation. Through Emancipatory Disability Research (EDR), persons with disabilities became researchers about their own lives, learning to look at barriers and finding ways to overcome them.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

IDRAC 2019: November 2 @ 9 am SLT, Which factors influence access to assistive products for people with intellectual disabilities?

Dr. Fleur Heleen

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched a programme called Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE), to improve access to high quality, affordable assistive products for all people in need, globally. A specific group of people who could benefit from assistive products are people with intellectual disabilities. However, people with intellectual disabilities use fewer assistive products as compared with other persons in need. Access and use of assistive products for this group is a neglected area in research and practice; it is currently unknown how many people with intellectual disabilities globally have access to appropriate assistive products and which factors influence their access.

Dr. Fleur Heleen Boot will discuss her research in this area at 9 am SLT (Pacific time) on Saturday, Nov. 2. She is an Intellectual Disability Physician and a Researcher from The Netherlands. Her research projects have a focus on improving access to healthcare and assistive products (technology) for people with intellectual disabilities in differently resourced settings. Countries she has worked in include India, South Africa, Ireland, The Netherlands, and Chile. Her specific interests are Intellectual Disability, Global Health, Health Inequity, Access to Healthcare, Assistive Technology, and Inclusion.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

Monday, October 28, 2019

IDRAC 2019: November 2 @ 8 am SLT, The Bench

Cameron Burnett

“The Bench” is a thought-provoking and award-winning short video by Cameron Burnett. Documenting a random encounter between only two characters, you might think it is easy to understand. But it isn’t.

We will watch the video together then discuss what it means, in light of the conference theme, beginning at 8 am SLT on Saturday, Nov. 2.

Text transcript provided by Mook Wheeler.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

IDRAC 2019: November 1 @ 11:30 am SLT, UDL in Higher Ed

Dr. Frederic Fovet

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research-based education approach that uses flexible teaching, learning and evaluation to accommodate differences in learners’ capabilities.

Starting at 11:30 am SLT (Pacific time) on Friday, Nov. 1,  Dr. Frederic Fovet will examine the current use of UDL in Higher Education and the future potential it offers campuses in managing access in a more sustainable way.  The presentation will examine three questions: why? how? when?

Why?  Higher education practitioners can be overwhelmed by the vast amount of variables, frameworks and priorities they constantly juggle.  It is essential to offer a concise, clear and immediately pertinent explanation as to why UDL is relevant in the current landscape if we hope the field to start paying attention.

How?  Even once campuses have become convinced of the benefits of UDL, many fail to push its implementation successfully. The presentation will examine the common pitfalls and attempt to draw a blueprint for sustainable cross-campus implementation.

When?  Timing is crucial for successful UDL implementation.  How do we prepare the various stakeholders for the roles they are to play? How do we support management of change and a shift in mindset?  When is a campus ripe for genuine and sustainable UDL implementation?

Frederic Fovet is an Associate Professor in the School of Education and Technology at Royal Roads.  His research and his practice both focus on the inclusion of students with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties.  Over the period of his Ph.D. Frederic held the position of Director of the Office for Students with Disabilities at McGill University; his work has, as a result, become considerably informed by Disability Studies.  Over a period of 4 years he led a cross campus push for Universal Design for Learning implementation.  He was the instigator and Program Chair of all three Pan-Canadian Conferences on UDL.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

Sunday, October 27, 2019

IDRAC 2019: November 1 @ 10 am SLT, Disability and Media Representation

Catalin Brylla
Catalin Brylla, Senior Lecturer in Film from the University of West London, will discuss “Disability and Media Representation” at 10 am SLT (Pacific time) on Friday, Nov. 1. He will speak about disability representation (especially the case study of blindness), social stereotypes, bias and his own film work that tries to bypass disability stereotypes. The main objective of this presentation is not to highlight the media stereotypes that most people are familiar with, but to highlight mechanisms of stereotype formation and maintenance, which can help media producers create alternative portrayals. Dr. Brylla’s research aims for a pragmatic understanding of documentary spectatorship with regards to social cognition, stereotypes, experience, empathy and narrative comprehension. In a larger context his work also advocates for the filmmaker's understanding of how audio-visual and narrative representation impacts on society's understanding of stigmatised groups, such as disabled people, women and African cultures. He has published two edited books, “Documentary and Disability” (with Helen Hughes) and “Cognitive Theory and Documentary Film” (with Mette Kramer), and he has directed the feature documentary “Zanzibar Soccer Dreams” (with Florence Ayisi).

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

IDRAC 2019: November 1 @ 8:30 am SLT, Reading the Personal and the Social in Disability Studies and Trauma Studies

Anne-Marie Callus with Arleen Ionescu

On Friday, Nov. 1, two presenters, one from Malta and the other from China, will be presenting together at Virtual Ability’s IDRAC conference. Their session begins at 8:30 am SLT (Pacific time).

Anne-Marie Callus is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Disability Studies, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta. Her main research interests are the empowerment of persons with intellectual disability and cultural representations of disability. She lectures on these topics as well as on inclusive education and the rights of disabled persons.

Arleen Ionescu is Professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Her major research and teaching interests are in the fields of Critical Theory, Memory Studies, Holocaust Studies and Trauma Studies. She has published widely on trauma. At present, she is co-editing and with Maria Margaroni (University of Cyprus) a volume entitled Arts of Healing: Cultural Narratives of Trauma (forthcoming 2020).

In their joint presentation, they will discuss the focus on the personal and the social in Trauma Studies and Disability Studies respectively. They argue that these different focal points enable the two areas of study to complement each other and to show that experiences of disability or trauma are never purely personal or purely social. Thus, it is by attending to both aspects that the complex nature of such experiences can be fully appreciated.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

Saturday, October 26, 2019

IDRAC 2019: November 1 @ 7 am SLT, The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute
Mari Kimura, PCORI

Lynne Gauthier, University of Massachusetts Lowell

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is a US government-sponsored organization authorized by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It is funded through a trust fund authorized by the US Congress.

PCORI funds research “that can help patients and those who care for them make better-informed healthcare choices.” Its work “improves healthcare delivery and outcomes, by producing and promoting high-integrity, evidence-based information that comes from research guided by patients, caregivers, and the broader healthcare community.”

At 7 am SLT (Pacific time) on Friday, Nov. 1, Mari Kimura and Lynne Gauthier will present “The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI): Mission and Successes.” Their presentation will provide an overview of PCORI and how it funds research done differently. They will highlight some of PCORI’s successes in funding research to improve patient-centered outcomes for people with disabilities.

Mari Kimura is a Program Officer in the Healthcare Delivery and Disparities Research program at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Her portfolio includes studies aimed at addressing health and healthcare disparities in vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities.

Lynne Gauthier is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Kinesiology at The University of Massachusetts Lowell and director of the Neurorecovery and Brain Imaging Laboratory. Her research utilizes new motion capture technology and data analytics to derive personalized insights into motor recovery. Her laboratory has secured 7 years of continuous funding from competitive institutes, including PCORI.

This event will be live-streamed via Virtual Ability Inc.'s YouTube channel:

Monday, October 14, 2019

Hugo Award News

Man reading against brick wall
Man reading against brick wall

Submitted by Virtual Ability member Linn Darkwatch

August 18th : 'Uncanny Magazine' wins Hugo Award in Semi-Prozine category, making Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, editor of the magazine's special "Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction" issue, the first Deaf-Blind ever person to win a Hugo award.

The actual issue of Uncanny Magazine in question may be found at

Also published by Uncanny Magazine was the recent issue, "Disabled People Destroy Fantasy," which can be found at

Saturday, October 5, 2019

TIP - Check out the US Access Board YouTube channel

The US Access Board is a federal agency charged with developing guidelines and standards about accessibility that will allow people with disabilities access to the built environment, public transportation, information technology, and medical diagnostic equipment. They deal both with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the ABA (Architectural Barriers Act).

Last year, they set up a YouTube channel as part of their information dissemination strategy. You can find it here:

What will you find in this collection of videos?

A welcome by Executive Director David Capozzi, who explains the mission of the Access Board:

An explanation of what the Access Board does:

An overhead animation of how toilet stalls are to be designed to be accessible from wheelchairs:

A video about the ADA and ABA requirements for parking and passenger loading zones:

There are several other topics as well. You may want to subscribe to receive updates when new material is added.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

TIP - Which cuts of meat are the leanest?

Lean meat kebabs

Protein is an important and necessary part of our daily diet, and much of it comes from meat (unless we are vegetarians). Meat protein comes mainly from the muscles of mammals, birds and fish. Unfortunately, animal muscles also contain fat, so to avoid eating too much fat, it is important to choose the leanest possible cuts of meat.

The leanest beef choices are chuck, round, sirloin and tenderloin. The leanest cuts of pork are loin chops and tenderloin. The white breast meat of chicken and turkey is the leanest choice, without the skin.

Of course, the style of preparation also impacts the fat content of a meat dish. And don’t forget portion size. Limit a serving of meat to 3 ounces, which will look about the size of a deck of cards.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

TIP - Schedule to develop new habits

When we want to achieve a healthier lifestyle, this usually means establishing new habits, which is not an instantaneous thing to do. Habits become habitual through purposeful repetition. The best way to establish a new activity as a habit is to consciously schedule it into your daily routine.

Need to exercise more regularly? Schedule two days a week to meet your buddy at the gym and put it in your weekly calendar app. Should you be stretching a few minutes every hour you are at your computer? Set an online alarm. Have you been putting off sending thank you notes? Commit to writing one every day before breakfast.

Want to walk for 15 minutes after lunch? Put that in your daily planner. Trying to add meditation to your stress reduction strategies? Tell your family that the first 15 minutes after you arrive home from work are your time to shut the door to your room and sit quietly. Do dirty dishes tend to piled up in the sink? Remind yourself to wash them after each meal before returning to other activities.

Having a set schedule for the new activity gives you a sense of control over that aspect of your new, improved lifestyle.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The End of Cookout Season

Person grilling food

Do you grill or broil your steak or chicken? Do you regularly eat meats that are cooked at a high enough temperature to char the outside?

You may be putting yourself at risk for high blood pressure.

It has long been known that eating red meat, especially processed red meat, is associated with high blood pressure. The evidence relating chicken and fish (white meats) to high blood pressure had been unclear until recent research that focused on cooking methods.

When red or white meat proteins are exposed to high temperatures or charred, heterocyclic aromatic amine (HAA) chemicals are formed. This cooking method also creates polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and advanced glycation end products. Animal studies have shown these three types of chemicals to all be hazardous, inducing oxidative stress, insulin resistance and inflammation. Those physiological conditions can increase the risk of developing hypertension.

Researchers studied people who ate meat at least twice a week. They found that those who ate well-done meat or who cooked meat at high temperatures or exposed to open flames had a greater risk for high blood pressure.

Not yet convinced to put away the hibachi and turn in your barbecue tongs? The researchers also found that cooking meats at high temperatures was also linked to weight gain and a risk of obesity. These are both factors increasing the risk of high blood pressure in addition to other health risks.

Read an interview with the head researcher here.

Monday, August 26, 2019

2019-08-27 1-4 PM Eastern - 3D Printing Class for the Blind and Visually Impaired

3D Printing
3D Printing

From ArcticPixy, Virtual Ability community member

If you are blind or visually impaired, you may think the 3D printing craze is not accessible to you. Not so!

The Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library (New York, NY) is offering a class titled “Accessible & Assistive Technology: 3D Design with Code: a Gentle Intro to OpenScad.” The class will be held on Tuesday, August 27, 2019, from 1 to 4 pm Eastern (10am to 1pm ST/Pacific).

OpenScad is software that lets you create shapes with just a few lines of code. Combining these shapes allows you to build any 3-dimensional object you like using a laser cutter, 3D printer, or CNC machine. Although the software does show a visual image onscreen of what you create with code, you do not need to see it. You’ll learn to read the code itself to understand and revise your design. You will be using your spatial thinking abilities.

You do not need to have any prior coding experience! If you use a screen reader, set it so it reads punctuation marks (because those are parts of code). Braille readers work well with this software.

Learn more about the class here:

Everyone is welcome to attend this class, either in person at the library in New York City or remotely using Zoom. You do not need to be a resident of New York, or of the United States, as we understand it. Please register for both in-person and Zoom attendance by emailing or calling (212) 621-0627.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

TIP - Key nutrients to improve your health

Nutrients come in many forms!

Protect your arterial linings from getting clogged with cholesterol plaques by consuming more antioxidants. Antioxidant chemicals include vitamins C and E, selenium and carotenoids  (beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein). Good sources include berries, broccoli, dark chocolate, grapes, kale, red cabbage and sweet potatoes.

Lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels by increasing your consumption of dietary fiber from apples, beans, berries, bran, greens, peas, squash, and whole grains.

Decrease your risk of peripheral artery disease and stroke by lowering your homocysteine levels. B vitamins, found in broccoli, eggs, dairy products, legumes, meat, spinach and whole grains, will help.

Omega-fatty acids, found in cold-water fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines), fortified milk, and walnuts decrease your risk for heart attacks.

Small additions or changes to your diet can have big effects on your lifetime health.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

TIP - Curb cravings with a different mental image

Do you want to eat a whole carton of chocolate ice cream when you feel down? Do you feel you need a cigarette after a meal? By mid-afternoon, are your thoughts turning to the snacks in the vending machine? These are not healthy thoughts. To get those cravings under control, replace them with healthier images.

Instead of a food craving, picture something more nutritious. Rather than thinking about how it feels to smoke, picture yourself hiking easily in a natural setting or climbing a mountain on vacation. In other words, use your imagination to replace the craving with a vision of yourself doing your favorite physical activity, or feeling good about your healthy body.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

TIP - Work up to your exercise goal

Working up to your goal

It feels good to have set an exercise goal as part of your effort to improve your lifestyle. However, it pays to start slow and work up to your intended level of exercise. Most injuries caused by exercise come from doing too much before your body is adequately prepared to do that much.

Instead, start off with short sessions of low-intensity exercise just a few days a week. As you become comfortable with that exercise routine, start increasing the frequency until you are doing a small amount of low-intensity exercise almost every day.

Then it is time to increase the duration of your exercise session gradually, until you are meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommendation of 150-300 minutes per week.

Finally, when that amount of exercise has become routine, it’s time to increase the intensity or how hard you are working. This may mean jogging instead of walking, using heavier hand weights, or increasing the pull of your exercise band. Work up to moderate intensity activity.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Expiry Dates

Soda can expiration date

Let’s start this article off with a quick quiz.

Which item would you be willing to use if its manufacturer would not guarantee it operated safely and effectively?
(a) antibiotic cream for a cut to prevent infection
(b) sunscreen to protect you from a sunburn at the beach
(c) condom to protect against sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy
(d) infant car seat to protect your baby in case of a car crash
(e) none of the above

Maybe you did not realize that, as with foods, many other consumer products have expiration dates. Here are a few to consider.

Antibiotic Cream
The bathroom medicine cabinet is one of the WORST places to store tubes of antibiotic cream (and other medications). Heat and humidity increase the rate of degradation of the chemicals in the ointment. The expiration date that is usually stamped on the crimp at the bottom of the tube is when the manufacturer will no longer guarantee the product’s effectiveness, especially if not stored in a cool, dry environment.

Hydrogen Peroxide
It comes in a brown bottle to protect the chemical from light. The contents of an unopened bottle should remain effective for 3 years, but once it’s opened, it won’t work properly after about 6 months.

To see if older hydrogen peroxide will still be effective in cleaning a cut, pour a bit into the sink. If it fizzes, it is probably OK to use.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that sunscreen ingredients remain effective at their original strength for at least 3 years after manufacture.

Some sunscreen containers show the expiration date. If not, use a marker to write the purchase date on the bottom of the container, and throw it away 3 years after.

Do not store sunscreen in excessive heat (like your car in summer) or in the direct sun, as that will increase the rate of degradation. If you took the sunscreen with you to the beach, store it under a towel. And of course, if the product looks or feels “off,” do not use it no matter what the expiration date.

Most packages of condoms have a printed expiration date when the material from which the condom is made begins to degrade. Storage matters. Condoms in individual wrappers break down faster if they are in a warm, moist pace where they can get creased (such as a wallet or pants pocket). If a condom seems stiff, dry or sticky when the wrapper is opened, discard it.

Makeup gets contaminated with bacteria when you apply it. Since you do not want an eye infection, throw away opened mascara after 3 months of use, earlier if it dries out.

For more information about the shelf life of cosmetics, see this information from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Infant Car Seat
Most newer car seats have the expiration date stamped on the bottom. The materials from which the seat is constructed degrade over time, especially when left in a hot environment such as a coxed car during summer months. In general, good quality name-brand car seats will be safe to use for 6-10 years but be cautious of seats you find at garage sales.

If you are concerned about the safety of a car seat, or if you want advice on proper installation, most car seat inspection stations will provide assistance for free. Find a car seat inspection station near you, courtesy of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Bicycle Helmet
Inspect your helmet for wear every time you use it, which should be every time you pedal. Sunlight degrades the plastic outer shell, and salt from sweat acts against the materials of the lining. Depending on how often you bike, you may need a new helmet every 2-4 years.

Cans of paint typical do not list an expiration date, so it’s wise to use a marker to write the purchase date on the bottom of the can. Unopened cans of latex-based paint will remain good for up to 10 years; unopened oil-based paints last as long as 15 years.

However, paint begins to go bad as soon as the can is opened. You should certainly dispose of any can that has been opened after 2-4 years, earlier if you notice the paint has dried out, molded, or its texture is chunky.

Motor Oil
After storage for about 5 years in an optimal environment motor oil tends to separate and its consistency will change. This compromises its performance in protecting your car’s engine.

Household Batteries
Most of these are labeled with an expiration date, sometimes called a Best If Used By (BIUB) date. Although they may continue to work past that date, parts will have begun to corrode and this makes it more difficult for the battery to transfer electricity to your battery-powered device, so, for instance, the flashlight will start looking dimmer. Read this article to learn why batteries have an expiration date.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Tips - Heat Hackx

The summer is ongoing and many places are in the middle of a heat wave.  The tips below will help you keep your home cooler with or without air conditioning.

Tip 1. Drink – a lot
On a normal day drink six to eight glasses of water. On warmer days or if you exercise, drink more. According to British Telecom’s Home website, “If you’re feeling light-headed, tired or you have a headache today, you probably haven’t drunk enough.” They mention that at 1% fluid loss humans are thirsty. At 2% one is officially dehydrated, so it can happen a lot faster than we think!

Tip 2. Makeshift AC
You’ve probably heard about the trick of putting a bowl of ice in front of a fan. Well, the New York State Office for the Aging suggests using bottles of water instead. “Fill three plastic soda bottles full of water, freeze them but in a manner to not damage them (liquid expands on freezing), then place them in a large bowl,” the agency’s website states. “Position a fan to blow on them… The water in the bottles can be refrozen and used repeatedly.”

Tip 3. Creative use of your fridge
Seattle City Light suggests putting lotion and moisturizers in your fridge to cool down your skin.

Tip 4. Unplug
Unplug electronic devices that you’re not using. Even if they’re not powered on, they may still be using electricity and giving off heat. This includes devices which may be "off," but are really in "instant-on" mode. Unplug them or turn off the power strip to which they attach to save even more heat (and money, both to run for no use and cooling to remove the heat!).

Tip 5. Window treatments work
The US Department of Energy recommends closing the shades and curtains on your windows on summer days — especially the ones that receive direct sunlight. “Studies demonstrate that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33 percent,” the DOE website states. Another pro tip: hang curtains as close to the window as possible.

Tip 6. Set the dial higher
This Old House says if your air conditioning has a programmable temperature sensor set it for 78 to keep cool. You'll save 5 to 8 percent on cooling costs with each degree above that mark. For a typical household, setting the thermostat at 80 degrees saves 10 to 15 percent; raising it to 85 degrees will save 35 to 55 percent.

When you leave home for more than one hour, set the thermostat to 85 or 90 degrees. Reset it upon your return, and the room will cool down in only 15 minutes. The system will use less energy during the cool-down period than if you had left it running at a lower setting while you were out.

Typical air-conditioning settings for a programmable thermostat at different times of day:

6 a.m. to 9 a.m. = 75 degrees
9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. = 85-90 degrees
5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. = 75 degrees
11 p.m. to 6 a.m. = 80 degrees

Benefit: 15 to 20 percent or more off your cooling bill

Tip 7. Avoid setting air conditioning too low
Put a thermometer in front of your running air conditioning unit for a few minutes to see how cold it gets the air. Set your temperature two degrees higher than that, at minimum, so the unit will cycle as it was designed. Setting the temperature less than that guarantees it will never cool your house to that temperature – leaving it to run constantly, chewing up your energy bill.

Tip 8. Install a programmable thermostat
Also from This Old House, a programmable thermostat lets you preset temperatures for different times of the day, so air-conditioning is working only when you are home. The least expensive thermostat models ($30) let you set four cycles that, unless manually overridden, repeat every day. Higher-priced models ($50 and up) allow you to create settings for each weekday and for each weekend day.

Benefit: Up to 20 percent off your cooling bill

Tip 9. Maintain your air conditioner
To keep your AC unit running in tip top shape, the Department of Energy recommends replacing the filters every one to two months — a clean filter can lower the air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5 -15 percent. And remember to check the air conditioner fins. “Are the fins on your evaporator or condenser coils bent? If so, they may be blocking airflow,” the DOE website states. “Look for a “fin comb” at an air conditioning wholesaler to get them bent back into shape.”

Tip 10. Use a Fan
Once again from This Old House, a fan, which costs two to five cents per hour to operate, will make a room feel 4 to 6 degrees cooler. Also, a fan works well in tandem with an air conditioner because the dehumidifying action of the air conditioner provides drier air that the fan can then move around.

In frequently used rooms, install a ceiling fan (set it to spin counterclockwise in summer). You'll save the most money by running the fan only when you're in the room. A motion-detector switch (around $20), which turns the fan on when you enter a room and off when the room is empty, is a good addition. However, if you have pets that move in and out of the room, make sure the switch can be turned off manually. Otherwise, your pets can cause the fan to run while you're away.

If nighttime temperatures drop into the 70s where you live, you might want to purchase a whole-house fan, which runs $300 to $600 installed. This type of unit goes in an upstairs ceiling, ideally in a central hall. When run at night with the windows open, the fan will pull cool air into the house as it vents hot air out through the attic. Most models are designed to slip in between joists for easy installation. Whole-house fans, which draw only as much power as a couple of lightbulbs, are usually outfitted with a variable-speed switch and/or timer. If you install one, be sure to get an insulated box to cover the portal in winter.

Benefit: Ceiling fans can decrease your cooling bill by up to 15 percent, while a whole-house fan can slash it by 50 percent.

The Department of Energy says that window fans are best used in windows facing away from the prevailing wind and exhausting hot air from your home. “To cool as much of your home as possible, tightly close windows near the fan and open windows in rooms far from the fan,” the DOE website states. “In multi-level houses, the fan should be located on the upper level, if possible, and the open windows should be located on a lower level.”

Tip 11. Practice "Texas Cool"
"Texas cool" is a morning and evening routine that takes advantage of cool outdoor temperatures at night and keeps the heat at bay as much as possible during daylight hours. It's very simple to do: at night when the temperature drops, open windows and bring in cool air with window fans or a whole-house fan. As soon as the sun comes up or the air starts to heat up, shut the windows and shades and keep doors closed.

Benefit: 20 to 50 percent off your cooling bill

Tip 12. Use sun blockers
As much as 20 percent of summer heat enters your home as sunlight shining through windows. To cut "solar gain," add curtains or blinds to rooms that get direct sun and draw them in daylight hours. With the shades drawn, a well-insulated house will gain only 1 degree per hour when outdoor temperatures are above 85 degrees.

Pay special attention to west-facing rooms late in the day. Shades and blinds to consider include roller shades (the least expensive option), venetian-type micro-blinds, reflective curtains and insulated curtains (the most expensive, at $100 per window). Two exterior options are to install awnings or plant shade trees.
Benefit: Up to 20% of your cooling bill

Tip 13. Install awnings
Window awnings can reduce the solar heat that enters your home by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on west-facing windows, according to the DOE website.

Tip 14. Cook smart
Any appliance that generates heat adds to your cooling load. An oven baking cookies can easily raise the room temperature 10 degrees, which in turn jacks up overall cooling costs 2 to 5 percent. Save cooking (especially baking) for cooler hours or cook outdoors on your grill. It is also a good idea to run the dishwasher and clothes dryer at night.

Benefit: 2 to 5 percent off your cooling costs

Tip 15. Get cooler lights
Incandescent bulbs don't contribute as much heat as unshaded windows, but they do add heat to a house and can raise the perceived temperature, sending you to the thermostat to seek relief. To reduce this hot-light effect and save lighting costs year-round, replace incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs. They use about 80 percent less energy and emit 83 percent less heat.

Benefit: Up to 5 percent off your cooling bill plus electricity savings

Tip 16. Snug up the ducts
Leaky ducts can cut into air-conditioning efficiency. Ductwork must be balanced between the supply and return sides of the system for it to work safely and efficiently, so making a repair in one section can cause a problem in another. Leak-prone areas include the return plenum; where branch ducts meet the trunk line; and where ducts attach to outlets. Also, insulate ducts that run through a hot attic with a blanket of R-11 fiberglass insulation.

Unless the duct repairs are minor, it's wise to leave them to a HVAC pro. While the contractor is on site checking your ducts, have him tune up the air-conditioning unit by cleaning filters, unplugging coils, unblocking drains and lubing the fan.

Benefit: Up to 40 percent off your cooling bill

Tip 17. Seal air leaks
The places where cold air infiltrates in winter are routes for hot air in summer. And what's worse, hot air is often accompanied by high humidity, making you even more uncomfortable. Armed with a flashlight, exterior-rated silicone caulk and a couple cans of expanding foam insulation, hunt down and seal all leaks. Concentrate on the attic, basement and crawl space; pay close attention to anything that passes through a ceiling or wall, such as ductwork, electrical or plumbing conduits and kitchen and bath vents. Other common leaky spots are around windows and doors. If you can rattle a window, it's leaking. Seal it with weather stripping.

Benefit: Up to 10 percent off your cooling bill

Tip 18. Defeat attic heat
The temperature in your attic can reach 150 degrees on a hot summer day, a situation that if left unchecked can drive up cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. If your attic has less than R-22 insulation—7 inches of fiberglass or rock wool, or 6 inches of cellulose—you should add more. (The U.S. Department of Energy says most homes should have between R-22 and R-49 insulation in the attic. To check what's right for your region, go to the Department of Energy website.)

Before insulating, seal around recessed lights, vents, and plumbing and lay down a 6-mil polyethylene vapor barrier. When insulating, place boards across the tops of the joists to walk on, and as you insulate, don't cover or pack insulation around a bare stove pipe, electrical fixtures, or any other equipment that produces heat, unless the fixture is labeled as suitable for direct contact with insulation. Otherwise you risk fire.

Also make sure your attic is ventilated. Gable vents (around $25 each, plus $75 per vent for labor) can lower attic temperatures about 10 degrees; a ridge-and-soffit ventilation system (an extra $200 during re-roofing) will reduce attic temperature to around 100 degrees.

When re-roofing, use white or pale-gray shingles instead of dark ones. These keep the attic cooler than dark shingles.

Benefit: Longer shingle life, and up to 20 percent off your cooling bill.