disability

The U.S. Department of Transportation is considering tightening the rules for taking service animals on planes after increased customer complaints and lobbying from the airlines who think current regulations are too lenient.

When Shane Burcaw flies on an airplane, he brings along a customized gel cushion, a car seat and about 10 pieces of memory foam. The whole arsenal costs around $1,000, but for Burcaw it's a necessity.

The 27-year-old author and speaker — who, alongside his fiancée, Hannah Aylward, is one-half of the YouTube duo Squirmy and Grubs — has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that affects motor neurons and causes muscle wasting and weakness. The disorder contorted his limbs and he has used a wheelchair for mobility since he was 2 years old.

Updated Friday at 11:04 a.m. ET.

Lawmakers have called for an investigation into a troubled student loan discharge program one day after an NPR report revealed that the program — meant to erase the student debts of borrowers with significant, permanent disabilities — wasn't helping the vast majority of those who are eligible.

jail hand
Sakhorn38 creative commons / WLRN

A group representing prisoners with disabilities is accusing the Florida Department of Corrections of failing to comply with a settlement reached in a federal lawsuit about discrimination against inmates who are deaf, blind or use wheelchairs.

Under the settlement finalized in June 2017, the state agreed, among other things, to provide sign-language interpreters for deaf prisoners and to remove architectural barriers for inmates who use wheelchairs.

Families Fret Over Announced Disability Service Redesign

Jul 18, 2019

By Christine Sexton / News Service of Florida

Two state agencies are set to work on redesigning a Florida program that provides services to more than 34,500 people with disabilities.

And their caregivers and family members are nervous. 

Florida State University came under scrutiny when a student began a Twitter thread calling out what she says is a lack of accessibility for disabled students on campus.

One weekend in February, Justin Kelley, 33, made the biggest financial commitment of his life: He paid a friend to start custom-building an airboat. He had dreamed of owning one since an early age.

"That's my level playing ground. It's my freedom," Kelley says. Onshore, he uses a walker to get around and a wheelchair at work, because he has cerebral palsy. But on an airboat on a Florida lake? "To me it's the one place that, when I'm in that seat, you don't see that walker. You don't see the chair. ... It's my escape. It's my happy place."

Editor's Note: If you're a Walmart greeter — or know someone who is — and would like to share your story with NPR, please reach out to us at tech@npr.org.

If you ask John Combs what his biggest worry is, he'll say: "How will I feed Red?"

Red is actually white. He's a labradoodle rescue, just tall enough for Combs to pet if he reaches over the armrest of his wheelchair. Combs, 42, has cerebral palsy. He has difficulty speaking. But he has no difficulty saying the line most Americans have heard at least once: "Welcome to Walmart!"

Courtesy of Annie Segarra

Annie Segarra is a disability rights activist from South Miami-Dade. She uses Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to talk about living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder.

Lisa Iezzoni was in medical school at Harvard in the early 1980s when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She started experiencing some of the symptoms, including fatigue, but she wasn't letting that get in the way of her goal. Then came the moment she scrubbed in on a surgery and the surgeon told her what he thought of her chances in the field.

"He opined that I had no right to go into medicine because I lacked the most important quality in medicine," Iezzoni recalls "And that was 24/7 availability."

Lily Oppenheimer / WLRN

A wheelchair or mobile disability doesn’t have to keep people from enjoying water sports at Boynton Beach - now everyone of all abilities can launch kayaks off the dock at Harvey E. Oyer Jr. Park.

The City celebrated a new accessible EZ Kayak Launch, paid for with the help of a $28,500 Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant applied for in 2015. The total cost of the kayak launch was over $58,000.  

It was a hot day at the zoo when Jordan Carlson's son, who has motor-planning delays, got thirsty. "We went to the snack bar and found out they had a 'no straw' policy," Carlson says. "It was a hot day and he couldn't drink."

Kate Stein / WLRN

Hurricane Irma was over and the Monday after the storm all Leola Maedell wanted to do was go home.

The elderly Little River resident had been at the red metal picnic table outside Miami Edison Senior High School for four hours, waiting on the buses that would take her from the shelter back to her neighborhood.

Kate Stein / WLRN

In the hours before Hurricane Irma came barreling towards Florida, Gloria Guity and her adult children went to five different shelters before they arrived at Miami Edison Senior High School.

“Here is better than where we were,” Guity, 76, said sitting at a cafeteria table. “Here I told them to put me next to the bathroom so at least I can take them to the bathroom.”

Allison Light / WLRN News

The Palm Beach County Sports Commission hosted the National Beep Baseball Association's World Series this past weekend, which brought between 400 and 500 blind and visually impaired athletes from across the U.S. as well as Canada, the Dominican Republic and Taiwan to Wellington, Florida.

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