Saturday, 30 December 2017

Happy New Year Greeting 2017



Executive Director Michelle McClure reflects back on Ability Online's 27 years. "This is the year we take the 'dis' out of disability and help our members focus on what they can accomplish and that they can proudly say, #IAMAwesome."

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Don't "Dis" My Ability by Jess Silver


My name is Jess Silver. I am a writer, sports fan, traveler and fitness enthusiast. I have cerebral palsy and need a wheelchair and assistance to get around. Despite this I have never allowed my challenge to get in my way of achieving any personal and professional goals because to me it's a hurdle to jump over, not a reason to stop doing anything. 

Professionally, I am a medical writer, adversity management coach/consultant, and executive director of a non-profit organization, called Flex for Access Inc. Being knowledgeable on topics related to fitness and sport has allowed me to create written content for both research and experience based on the importance of sport and physical activity for all. What began as a love of my home basketball team – the Toronto Raptors – and for other teams, transformed into using sport to manage bullying, physical pain and injuries for me. Through working with Michelle at Ability Online, I assist members with disability management with a focus on fitness and sport. 

Flex for Access Inc. is a non-profit organization that acts as an avenue to allow individuals with disabilities and injuries to engage in accessible and adaptive fitness and sport. More info can be found @flexforaccess. 

Every body and mind is different. We must understand it as such, and see challenges as creating uniquely different gears to move the machine of humankind forward. Don’t "dis" my ability. 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Don't "Dis" My Ability by Michelle McClure and Krystian Shaw

Krystian Shaw is one of those hidden gems in the world of disability and advocacy, that once discovered and given a chance to show his true ability, becomes an incredible role model and mentor for others. From his time as a teen member of our online community, he has grown and now in his 20’s is truly shining! Krystian’s determination and passion for making a difference has led him to develop his self-advocacy newsletter. And while the focus for his newsletter is on Kamloops BC, he reaches all the way across the country via our online network, sharing his tips for mental well-being, advocating for rights and stamping out the stigma and discrimination that often impacts people with intellectual, emotional or physical disabilities.

As a professional who has worked in the disability field for almost 30 years, it has been most rewarding to watch Krystian develop the skills and the confidence to not only take on any challenge that comes his way, but he continues to reach beyond that to celebrate diversity, encourage his peers, and to remind us all that differing abilities does not mean a lack of ability.

Shine On Krystian!


Hi My name Krystian Shaw,

I live in Kamloops BC Canada and I am a 27 years old male. I was born with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as an anxiety disorder. My mom was uncertain about my future since the doctors told her I would never be able to read or write, but I proved them wrong. My mom worked with me at home and sent me to Sylvan for 4 months since the teachers at school wouldn't teach me to read. They felt I couldn't retain what they taught me. I would keep forgetting but as I got older, I started to remember.

I also taught myself a lot on the computer because I had a dream of doing something big that I felt Canada could offer me. There are so many programs for people like me, such as Insight support services for when I was younger, and Community Living BC. Inclusion Kamloops provides adult services to make possible to reach whatever goals you have with some support in place. As a result, I know how to read and write, I am a good speller and now I own a successful newsletter that is free to the public that focuses on reducing stigma and discrimination around all disabilities such as developmental disabilities, mental health issues, and physical disabilities by reporting on positive success stories around all diverse abilities.

I have a vision to celebrate people's abilities rather than their disabilities this 2017 for Canada's 150th year. Another accomplishment Canada can be proud of is a safe social network at Ability Online that is for people with diverse abilities who are kids, teens, young adults/alumni and professionals and parents. It has plenty safe guards from predators and bullying. They also invite guest speakers from time to time to a chat room on the site. This is where I practiced my reading and writing skills before starting my own business. I am a member and its a free membership. Ability Online is also a small Canadian charity.

It was because of my challenges that I was born with that gave me the desire to give back to others who have challenges too. One challenge I had was not being capable of getting a degree, so I needed to figure out how I could work in the disability field that didn't require a degree. That's when I decided to start my own newsletter business in September 2013. I have advertisers who give me ads to put in the newsletter for a small fee. That makes it possible to give my newsletter to agencies, coffee shops and even doctor's offices for free as well as getting a profit for myself. I also e-mail my newsletter to anyone who wants one all over the world.

Don't "Dis" My Ability!

Monday, 13 November 2017

One Mentor's Story by Katrina Edwards


Having mitochondrial complex one and four disease also made me immunocompromised and neutropenia. This limits me from participating in community based settings including volunteering for hospitals, but through a virtual program called Upopolis I became a mentor, ambassador and things developed over time. At the age of 19, I gathered research in resources for child life specialists and participated in speaking events answering questions about my experience being a paediatric patient.

I developed a blog and over time learning from Khan Academy's entrepreneur courses (became a Khan Academy support advocate volunteer) and various free courses. I learned how entrepreneurship can impact the world. While I will never be a child life specialist, I do have the title of child life volunteer and as an artist and many skill sets I learned over time that I plan to deliver my skills for free to all child life specialists.

I know this profession makes a difference and for any youth out there no matter what challenges you face there are many ways you can help make a difference. After all, technology allowed me to accomplish anything I set my mind to. Everyone in my life shaped, mentored and cared for me as I am today and because of this I withstand the odds that were stacked against me and push ahead. The happiest part of all is I am extremely grateful to carry the title and term "child life" that works hard to make sure paediatric patients receive more then just medicine, but also receive the gift of being a child or teen and maybe one day become a child life assistant virtually. Either way I take the title "child life" close to my heart.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

From Bullying to Barbells by Jess Silver




Everyone’s personalities are unique; they are what set us apart from the millions of people we are with every day. Your character is what controls your response to a situation. 

For Jess Silver, being driven and discovering things have always been an important part of who she is. She was never isolated as a child. She didn’t like to be separated from or treated differently by others, even though she has cerebral palsy. Jess never let having a disability that affects her physically stop her and was always encouraged by her friends and family to do all that she wanted to. This translated into her passion for sports and love for athletes who continually train harder to achieve more athletically. 

Jess encountered many levels of adversity while carrying out everyday responsibilities. Not being able to do "ordinary tasks" lead to physical bullying, alienation, taunting and cyberbullying. Building from the hardship she experienced, she strove to develop coping strategies and pursue hobbies that allowed her to develop strength, a sense of personal direction, passion and a character which consistently defies limits. 

How can one defy limits if there are so many obstacles that are both visible and internally endured by a person with a disability? 

That’s where sports enter into Jess’ life. Watching them as a kid first gave her this feeling of wonder that has now turned to aspiration to be just like those athletes. She craved a time when she could feel free of stigma, of feeling different, of being hurt and bullied. As a kid that freedom came from playing soccer with her classmates, and by going swimming. Later it transformed into a full-time commitment to fitness and mind and body wellness, which she relates to as an athlete’s journey in professional training. 

“Working out and consistently trying to improve my physical abilities, went from being something I had to do every day, to something I crave and want to consistently make more engaging for myself, every day. It’s unbelievable how sometimes a shift occurs in our lives around our circumstances we can’t quickly change. I was transformed the day I realized that my physical adversity makes me stronger because I used it to challenge myself to work more often in the gym and work harder. 

Seeing the rings, the barbell and knowing that I am capable of increasing reps (amount of times I do an exercise with or without weights), releases my negative emotions and allows me to continually reframe my mindset.” 

Adversity was there for Jess as a child and adolescent, but through the pursuit of activities like training in the gym, it has a newfound purpose. Today many obstacles give Jess adrenaline to discover new possibilities related to physical fitness and functional training. Driven from her past experiences, Jess has become a medical writer and an adversity management coach. She is consistently driven to finding new research, developing strategies, protocols and education to provide new insight into perceptions and ways that things are practiced relating to sport and medicine. 

“A barbell is driven up by gravity and force. We must drive our potential by the recognition firstly to want to create change, followed by effort to make it happen.” 

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Forever Never Changing by Zach MacLean-Szwez



Despite being medicated, having gone through therapy and many different alternatives, to say that I am free and clear of OCD would be a lie. This is a reality most people suffering from mental illness have to deal with. It isn’t like a cold that you may get over and over again, recovering in a couple weeks. It's with you everyday. We try to find tools to be able to manage our thoughts and feelings to get through it and make it as easy on us as possible. 

The thing is there's a silver lining to dealing with the illness’ that we have been given. In some respect or another it has given us skills others have not honed because they were not put or forced into a position where they had to. I developed a photographic memory by having to remember exactly where people would touch if I thought their hands were "dirty." I would avoid these spots and when somebody would ask me about it, I was giving exact timelines and locations of where and why they were contaminated to me. Naturally it is unhealthy for my illness, but when it came to school it was a skill that became extremely helpful and allowed me to be a little relaxed when it came to note taking. Definitely not a good habit. It did give me the ability to actually be engaged in the classroom and really pay attention to the teacher rather than focusing on whether I got everything written down. 

That's the positive I take away from my mental illness and I am grateful for it. I think being able to expose these qualities would be extremely helpful for one on one workers or individuals working with clients. This would motivate individuals to recognize the positive aspects of their condition. It's one thing to tell someone to think about everything outside of the illness to make them feel better, but to make the illness positive as well, then you’ll start to achieve something greater than acceptance. It could become an effective tool in treatment and also give the individuals an eye opening experience that may take some stress off always feeling like the world is against you. What do I know right? I don’t have a degree in psychology and I'm not a certified therapist, but I have been through the system since I was a little kid, which has shown me what works and what doesn’t. 

One of the greatest helpers that I had at the hospital never allowed me to believe I was different. He enforced that I had qualities others weren’t in touch with, which made me the way I am, and he was right. It was the perfect way of explaining why I was acting the way I was, without telling me "you have a problem" or "you’re different, here’s a cocktail of pills to make you normal." The thing is he made me feel included and that is what we as mental illness individuals as a whole, wish for. Not to be given "special" treatment, but to be understood that sometimes we may need some more time or a little bit of help. We will get to the same place others are going we just might take the scenic route instead. 

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Educate Kids About Identity Theft by Jenny Holt




Educate Kids About Identity Theft

It’s difficult to imagine that kids can become victims of identity theft. A study at the Carnegie Mellon Cylab indicated that children are 51 times more likely to be targeted by identity thieves than adults. Often, the unsuspecting victims find out that they have been victimized later when they start college, and begin applying for jobs or credit. Parents are the first ones to unearth that their kids are identity theft victims when they receive suspicious bills or receive a pre-approved credit card for their child.

Protecting Children Under 5 Years

If your kids are below 5 years and are not using the Internet, it is your responsibility to be extra vigilant when it comes to giving out their personal information. Lock their social security number and birth certificate in a safe place. You should only volunteer the information when absolutely needed, such as school registrations or doctor visits. Think about setting a credit freeze for your child. Some financial companies offer the ability to lock and even monitor a child’s credit file. You should consider talking to kids about identity theft and how important it is to keep personal details private.

Teaching Identity Theft to Older Kids

Once kids grasp the concepts of theft, money, and identity (usually from 5-7 years), talk to them about the importance of safeguarding information. With the prevalence of children and teenagers using cellphones and increased online activity (92% of teens use the Internet according to Pew Research Center), protecting them from becoming statistics of identity theft is crucial. You can:
  • Educate them about the importance of the social security number, birth certificate or bank cards. Highlight what can happen if the information can get in the wrong hands.
  • Tell them never to post personal information online, especially on social networking websites.
  • Teach kids to protect devices with passwords and educate them on how to create secure ones. Passwords and PINS should never be shared.
  • Talk about possible scams that they might experience or encounter in the malls, school grounds, social sites, messages and emails.
  • Stress the importance of using safe sites and to avoid unsecured Internet zones.
  • Monitor the sites that your kids visit and restrict Internet surfing.
  • Install anti-virus, anti-phishing, or security software on devices.
  • Limit or scrap a data plan on your kid’s phone.
  • If your teenager has a convenience card, restrict the amount of money they can withdraw daily or monthly and monitor their banking activities regularly to see if there is something suspicious going on.
When children and teenagers are aware of identity theft and its dreadful consequences, they are likely to pay attention to what’s happening around them. Although it is not foolproof, reducing the chances of becoming a victim is already a step away from the clutches of an impostor.