'Majority' of Target Stores to Offer Shopping Carts for Customers With Special Needs


Target is making a nationwide push to put carts for customers with special needs in more of its stores.

Last February, the company teamed up with Caroline’s Cart to give customers with special needs a better shopping experience. Caroline’s Carts feature large bucket seats and high handles, designed to help parents and caregivers who are shopping with older kids or adults with special needs.

On Thursday, Target shared the news on its blog:

Beginning March 19, the vast majority of our stores (with the exception of a handful of our smallest stores where we don’t have full-size carts) will have at least one Caroline’s Cart, and many will have more, depending on their guests’ needs.

A Target employee with a child with special needs suggested the partnership to store operations, and since then a number of parents have given their feedback. Brianne Fuller shared the post below of her son with the Love What Matters Facebook page and wrote, “It made our evening shopping trip a breeze. . . and my son LOVES it! Please consider getting one for all of your stores, thank you!”

“Shout out to the team at your Brighton, MI Target store for ordering a Caroline’s Cart. It made our evening shopping… Posted by Love What Matters on Sunday, January 24, 2016

Another shopper, Adam Standiford, shared an image of the cart and explained how much his family appreciated it when shopping with their daughter Savannah, a 6-year-old with special needs. “This simple cart literally will change how we can shop, not having to worry as to how we are going to get her into a store,” Standiford wrote on Target’s Facebook page. “Every retailer in the country should follow suit!”

 

Dear Target,I can’t express enough how happy my wife was to see this at our local Target today. We have a 6year old…

Posted by Adam Standiford on Monday, November 9, 2015

 

“Caroline’s Cart can be a game-changer for families, and we’re excited to offer this for our guests across the country,” Juan Galarraga, senior vice president of Target store operations said in a statement.

Drew Ann Long founded Caroline’s Cart after realizing her daughter Caroline, who has Rett syndrome, would outgrow a regular shopping cart. Long and her husband David founded Parent Solution Group, LLC. in 2008, and partnered with Technibuilt to manufacture the carts.

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The One Thing I Want You to Know About Parenting My Child With Rett Syndrome


I sat down to write this story several times and got no further than a blinking cursor. I was stuck; how could one possibly describe in written words the life of parenting a child with severe disabilities? There are countless blogs about raising children with disabilities. So many stories, all unique, but with overlapping pieces: raising developmentally-different children, staying connected in marriage and intimacy, balancing work and home life, the fight for an inclusive community, navigating impossible medical decisions, personal self-care for parents and much more. So, while staring at that blinking cursor and having coffee with my mom, she suggested a simple starting place. “If you could share one thing with the world, what would it be?”

For my husband and me, it’s simple:

If our children go to sleep at night feeling loved, completely loved, we are doing the best we can.

I’m lucky to be the mom of two daughters, Lili and Ruby. Lili is a funny, cheerful, loving 5-year-old who likes swimming, horses, books, Curious George and ice cream. Ruby is an adventurous, friendly, mischievous 1-year-old who likes sprinklers, dogs, balls, stickers and cookies (pronounced “doooookies!”). In terms of rad kids, my husband and I hit the jackpot.

Unfortunately, Lili was born with a rare neurological disorder called Rett syndrome (RS). If you are not familiar with RS, I encourage you to learn more. In a nutshell, it profoundly impacts our daughter’s ability to interact with her world. Lili has difficulty with mobility; impaired use of hands; seizures; learning challenges; scoliosis; sleep disorder; and she cannot talk. For some, RS also includes feeding tubes, heart abnormalities and pulmonary dysfunction. Several aspects of RS can be fatal.

There is no “adjusting” to RS, because just when you settle into a new phase of the disorder, it changes. It throws you a curveball, like a new medical problem or the loss of a precious skill. As my husband and I say, the only thing consistent about RS is the inconsistency. And the big rub — all of the game-changers are hard, and scary, and make it more challenging for our children to live healthy, happy, pain-free lives.

As the parents of children with Rett syndrome, we are always one step behind and can’t keep up. It’s a devastating feeling to have little to no control over your child’s physical wellbeing. We’re reminded every day that we have no control. So we remember our motto:

If our children go to sleep at night feeling loved, completely loved, we are doing the best we can.

The following captures a typical day in our lives with Rett syndrome:

1 a.m.: Lili wakes, and anxiety sets in immediately. Is she OK? What’s wrong? Run through automatic checklist. Nightmare? Temperature? Hunger/thirst? Pain? Administer whatever best-guess aid we can, then try to get her back to sleep.

Two hours later, she’s still awake and on neurological overdrive, so the night-duty parent lays with her. Because, you see, this is when seizures happen. Sleep deprivation can mean seizures.

5 a.m.: She finally goes back to sleep. But your brain is wide-awake because nighttime is when the darkness creeps in. Deep in your brain. Fear, anger, sadness. You ask the universe questions you’ll never get the answers to. And you get irrationally mad at everything. Sometimes your child. Sometimes your spouse. And then you feel guilty and get mad at yourself.

5:30 a.m.: Lili’s baby sister is awake for the day. The parent at home tiredly starts the daily routine while the parent going to work helps as much as possible before departing.

7 a.m.: Lili is awake for the day, now five hours short of sleep. Time to get ready for school/therapy/doctor. Imagine doing every single activity of daily living for your child. You stretch, feed, toilet, dress, groom, pack, carry, etc. Somewhere in there you get yourself and baby sister ready. You wear sweatpants a lot.

9 a.m.: Collaborate with teachers, therapists, doctors, etc. Smile and try to function on a pitiful amount of sleep. Advocate for Lili’s needs like a protective mama bear. Meanwhile, Lili works incredibly hard. She must use all of her energy, focus and determination to accomplish the smallest tasks. She is so very brave.

11 a.m.: Head home for snacks, the bathroom, some kind of therapeutic activity and finish with video time. During video time, you play with baby sister and try not to think about the one million perpetually undone tasks around your home.

12 p.m.: Lunch time. Lili is great at making choices and expressing her preferences. She has lost her ability to self-feed, and almost all purposeful use of her hands, so you help her eat and drink.

3 p.m.: Go on an afternoon adventure.

Encounter boy at park: “What’s wrong with her?” Heart sinks. Remember he’s a curious, unfiltered child. Give your best explanation of Lili’s uniqueness to this inquisitive child. Silently appreciate his openness and wish more adults would ask and not just stare.

Encounter insensitive woman at grocery store staring at Lili, whispering to her companion. Drum up all of your restraint and courage to calmly, but assertively say, “I see you looking at my daughter. Can I help you?” But really, they break your heart and you want to cry.

Most of the time, you are immersed with your kids and feel joy participating with them in their own ways. Sometimes, the sadness sneaks in when you see other 5-year-olds riding bikes, playing with toys and telling their moms, “I love you.” They try to engage Lili but often lose interest when she can’t respond or play in like-kind ways. Ouch. You pull it together and repeatedly remind yourself, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

5 p.m.: Spouse comes home, happy family time. Evenings are the best. They are special and you cherish them. They fill you with love, closeness and laughter.

7 p.m.: Divide and conquer. Each parent takes a girl and prepares for bed. Assist Lili with everything from bathing to jammies.

You hug her and tell her she’s special, you’re proud of her and you love her. You look at her beautiful little face with her big brown eyes and kiss her everywhere with intention, because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

You crawl into bed, kiss your spouse and try to sleep. The dread that comes with going to sleep is subtle and deeply ingrained at this point. But you know you need to get as much rest as possible because she may need you in a few hours. That’s why you’re in bed and it’s 7:52 p.m. Rinse, repeat.

I love my daughter fiercely and hate Rett syndrome with just as much vigor. The concept of my child preceding me in death is very real. It’s something no parent should ever have to face. And when that day comes, I want zero regrets.

If our children go to sleep at night feeling loved, completely loved, we are doing the best we can.

My husband and I have loved Lili fully and completely every day for five years. And in return, she has done the same for us. She has given us more love in her short life than some people feel over a lifetime.

And at the end of the day, it’s the most important thing. It’s the only thing we can all control.

A version of this post originally appeared on Perfectly Peyton.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

The 3 Everyday Parenting Moments That Strengthen Our Marriage


I think it would be impossible for me to decide on one specific moment that I feel helped to strengthen my marriage throughout the past four years of living the life of “special needs parents.” There are only moments each and every day that I could pinpoint as reasons for our strength as a couple and a family.

1. When We Both Get Up Early in the Morning

The moment my husband, Chad, rises from bed each morning at 5:45 to drive 45 minutes away for a job that supports us completely gives us strength.

He does this so I can stay home and care for Lucy, who has Rett syndrome and needs all-encompassing, 24-hour care. He does this for us as a family, and he does this for me because he knows for certain that my heart would shrivel in my chest if I had to let someone else, a mere stranger, care for our daughter.

But then the moment that I rise in response to Lucy’s insistent shouts from her room and begin the day of caring for her, I feel this also gives us strength because I have devoted my every day to making sure she is given the best care and education I can manage. I do this for us as a family, I do it for Lucy, but I do it for Chad because he came first into my life, and I would never dream of not cherishing this child we made together in every way I can.

2. When We Go Through Our Nighttime Routine as a Team

What makes us strong as a couple, as parents and as teammates is that we tackle life together. I will be the first to admit that “together” is not always synonymous with “kindly,” “patiently” or “graciously.” Parenting is hard no matter who your child is. Parenting a child with complex medical and special needs can be heartbreaking, stressful, amazing, exhausting and heartwarming all in one day … hell, that could be felt all in one hour!

But regardless, Chad and I do it all together. While I make supper, he reads to Lucy. We all sit down to eat supper together. And as I finish feeding Lu, he cleans up the kitchen. I bathe her and he brings in her nightly medicine to give to her before bed. We take turns reading to her each night, so the other can ride the exercise bike. It’s not romantic in the traditional sense, but each day that we live this life together, supporting each other and being each other’s rocks makes our relationship stronger. And it’s more heart-felt than any candlelit dinner, bouquet of roses or whatever “romantic” gesture you may think of.

3. When We End Every Night With These Three Words

On May 20, Lucy will be 5 this year. And on May 13, Chad and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. Chad and I spent five whole years just trying to decide for sure that we wanted to add to our family, and then have spent the past five years not ever being able to imagine life without our beautiful and amazing daughter.

Perhaps the moment that Chad proposed to me — a mere two and a half months into our young relationship — is a moment that most definitely strengthened our relationship. Or was it the moment we said “I do”? The moment we first laid eyes on Lucille May, the light of our lives? The moment we discovered she had a life-threatening, debilitating condition? Those are all good contestants for the moment our relationship became stronger. But they all would probably just be tied as winners, in addition to each moment, every day that we live life together.

In one day we may laugh, cry, glare at each other, hug each other, scold each other, roll our eyes at each other and laugh some more. But regardless of what kind of day we had, at the end of each and every one we say “I love you,” we kiss, and sometimes if I’m lucky, Chad will spoon me until I fall asleep. Life can be tough, sometimes mind-numbingly so. But when you have an incredible partner by your side to traverse through hard times and enjoy all the good with, life can seem a little more bearable, like we all just might actually make it.

The Mighty wants to hear more about relationships and special needs parenting. Can you share a moment on your special needs journey that strengthened your relationship? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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Rett Syndrome, Here's Why You Should Sleep With One Eye Open


Dear Rett syndrome:

Some days, Rett syndrome, you’re under my thumb. That’s the case less often than I’d like. Most days, you’ve got us up against the wall. I have nothing nice to say about you or to you. I hate you morning, noon and night. When I’m carrying Lucy around, I often feel like I carry an extra entity all of itself that is you — the condition with never-ending reminders of how cruel you really are. Lucy weighs 42 pounds these days, but Rett syndrome, you seem to weigh so, so much more.

I hate the way you’ve stolen Lucy’s voice, the way you hold her breath and arrest her hands. I detest the way you make her legs appear frozen in place and her feet nailed to the floor when she tries to take a step. Every single time I hook her up to her feeding pump so she can get adequate nutrition, I hate you. And I hate you with a white hot passion each time I watch her body flail through a seizure and her eyes fill will terror at what’s happening to her. My resolve to hate you never wavers. My heart never stops breaking, my fears for Lucy’s present and future never subside, and I never let my guard down when it comes to you.

In spite of my hatred, I get up each morning to battle you. My goal: to beat you into submission. The reality: you’re the boss most of the time. But each day as I rise — so does Lucy — and I know without a doubt that she shares the same goal as I do: to conquer you. All day long she tries to let herself out of the prison you’ve created for her. She fights and fights until she’s spent, and then when she regains her strength, she puts up her dukes again.

You might think this is going to be the place in the letter where I say if it hadn’t been for you maybe we wouldn’t have known how strong we could be, and Lucy wouldn’t have learned how brave and amazing she can be, but I’m not going to say that. Never will I say that. We could’ve learned those things in any other more pleasant way. We’re strong, with or without you, and Lucy would’ve been amazing no matter what. Yes, we’ve learned things about ourselves we maybe never knew, but I would give every bit of that knowledge back if it meant freeing Lucy from your oppression.

There are warriors also known as doctors and scientists all throughout the world who are working diligently to try and get rid of you. There are possible treatments in the works, and these warriors believe there will be an actual cure within Lucy’s lifetime, maybe even before she’s an adult. I hope they’re right. To you I will say good riddance and never look back. Perhaps your days are numbered. But what I wonder is, what will Lucy say about you?

image1 (3) Someday, if there is a cure or amazing treatments that keep you at bay, what will Lucy say? I wonder if she will say, “Well, back when I had Rett syndrome…” and then fill in any number of thoughts on what that was like for her. I mean, what if she can say that with her mouth instead of with some alternative means of communication? All of your power over her will be gone, hopefully. And what I wonder is, will she be glad to have known you? If she is freed of your shackles, will she cherish every day of her freedom and be grateful that she’s known life both ways? I don’t know. She might be bitter that part of her life was stolen from her, but she might realize that even throughout your reign of terror, she still lived. She was still Lucy, and her personality still shone through. She learned to communicate and thrive in spite of all of the obstacles you put before her.

I guess what I’m saying is that with or without a cure, no matter how hard you try to destroy Lucy, she will live a valuable and full life. We will make sure of that. And no matter what you throw at us, we will keep fighting you, even though the terror you make us feel will never leaves us. The fear that you will take Lucy from us at any moment could consume me if I let it. But I still have to live with you all day, every day. All of us do, and I guess that makes us brave. We don’t hide from you, and we don’t let others hide either. Even though we fear you, we will never back down or quit trying to beat you.

Rett syndrome, you’re a miserable bully. We all hate you, and you’re not welcome here. We hope to be free of you someday. I hope Lucy can learn to walk and talk and use her hands while you look on in defeat from the sidelines. But for now, we’ll just continue our battle of good versus evil and take our victories as they come. But if I were you, Rett syndrome, I’d sleep with one eye open.

Sincerely,
The Shaffers

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For all of March, The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could write a letter to the disability or disease you (or a loved one) face, what would you say to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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When a Woman I Initially Judged Ended Up Saving My Daughter


Navigating the world of special needs has been lonely, rewarding, incredibly awkward and surprising. My daughter has an unspecified leukodystrophy, meaning she has a specific disease category, but they don’t know which gene is affected. She doesn’t walk or talk and has daily seizures. I started out in a Rett syndrome support group because my daughter fit a bunch of the condition’s symptoms, and even after she was almost surely under the umbrella of leukodystrophy, I stayed in the group because the Rett moms really know their stuff. They know more about seizure meds than I ever will.

We kind of dabble everywhere. We’ve been to an autism clinic even though she doesn’t have autism because they also treat developmental disorders, and I like their attention to usable forms of B vitamins. We’ve done Therasuit, developed by a parent of a child with cerebral palsy and modeled after a suit made by NASA for returning astronauts. We do therapeutic horseback riding and have regular visits to the chiropractor. There are specialist appointments, therapy, seizure meds, and I now know how to keep everything sterile while aiming a catheter through a tangle of kicking legs and arms that think we’re just playing around.

For a while we went to an interesting chiropractor and acupuncturist. I started out going just for me and thought it might be good for my daughter, Maddy, to try acupuncture. The man had so many certifications on his wall from reputable places, but there was just something a little off the beaten path about him. He even forgot about one of our appointments, and we stood outside wondering if he was inside and fell asleep or something. His office was in a tiny creaking house surrounded by bending old trees and a cracked sidewalk breaking into pieces around large tree roots. The air always smelled like damp soil when I walked up to the house. It took a while to get down the path with Maddy’s stroller.  This place was not at all accessible for people with disabilities.

The inside of the house-office was falling apart, with the tiniest cluttered kitchen and three small rooms with tables for acupuncture or a chiropractic adjustment. There was a larger open waiting area slash yoga room slash exercise area with a couch and an exercise bike. Everything was a mess. There were piles of books, random plants hanging everywhere and pictures of what looked like famous teachers and religious deities, their frames falling apart.

Dr. T was just as messy as the house. His brain was constantly going and he talked a lot. He had the look of a professional hippy. He’d be wearing a cool shirt and there would be a hole in the arm or pants that looked expensive but had a torn pocket or something that made them just a little less than perfectly presentable. He didn’t care about appearances, so I’m sure it didn’t matter to him, and it made me like him more. He had a nice (and seemingly younger) girlfriend who taught yoga in the house-office. I saw her as a spacey kind of girl who does things like dance naked and have a name like “Sunbeam” (she was never naked at the house-office).  They were planning to get married in the near future. I don’t remember her real name.

I never completely bought into everything Dr. T was selling, and he wanted to convince me I could feel better overall if I could trust in what we were trying to do. He was one of those health doctors that I mostly love. But I just can’t bring myself to go all-in on most things, so I kept a safe distance between myself and the peaceful abyss of holistic healing. I kept an even safer distance for my daughter. I was extra conservative whenever he wanted to try something, and I never left her side. I’m overly protective of my kids, and I don’t feel guilty about it. But he was great with Maddy. She liked him and would babble away when we saw him. She’d sit there in her little stroller and with acupuncture needles sticking out of her head, giggling and loudly babbling while he talked to her.

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I’ve always been amazed by people who naturally get special needs kids. I think this is because I’m still awkward and don’t know what to say half the time. I have a special needs kid of my own and still feel like I sound like a weirdo when I talk to other special needs kids. Sometimes I’m good, and sometimes I’m awkward. Dr. T really got her. He was amazed by Maddy and her beautiful soul. That’s something I could agree with.

When Maddy was 4, we ordered a special stroller that could support her and still fold up to put in the trunk.  There were months of insurance denials, and in the meantime, the medical equipment company loaned us a larger version of the stroller so we could get around. We had the too-big loaner stroller one day and were going up the broken walkway a little early for our appointment. Dr. T wasn’t there yet, and the door was locked, so we had some time to wait outside under the trees. I rolled the stroller backward over the stoop, and when I did, the stroller started to close. One of the straps had gotten stuck between two metal pieces when I opened the stroller, so it hadn’t locked into place. Now it was closing with Maddy in it. Her bum slid down into the space that was widening between the seat and the back of the chair. I pulled on the seat to try to open it, but that just pushed it against her legs and back. Within seconds she had folded completely in half.

I couldn’t open the stroller, but I couldn’t let go or she would slide further down. I could no longer see her face. I thought of a Rett mom who had just mentioned this happening to a chair in the tub and, while she was mortified, others were talking about how funny it sounded. Now I understood her feeling of absolute helplessness. I was alone in the yard outside a locked house away from the street and could no longer see Maddy. Her face was pressed against her legs and the stroller could not open or close. I thought about tipping the stroller sideways so I could lay it on the ground and help her, but it was too bulky. I had no idea if she could even breathe. Everything was so quiet, and I was in a panic. I heard myself yell “Help!” to no one.

And then I heard Maddy giggle. That told me she was alive, but she was still stuck. At the same time, Sunbeam came out of the house. She heard me yell for help and came outside (barefoot, of course) and immediately helped me free Maddy from the stroller. I’ve never been so relieved to see someone. I gave her a big hug and fully loved her from then on.

That was my reminder that strangers who I initially judged could be the exact people who help me without hesitation during my most desperate moments. She saved Maddy and me.

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For all of February, The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. No gesture is too small! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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To the Stranger Who Saw My Daughter's Wheelchair Fall Apart


Dear Deanna,

We met you on our first trip to the local YMCA to go swimming. I was on edge all morning, worrying about going to a new place — getting in and out, getting Lucy changed, hoping the relaxation of swimming would not make her poop in the pool… the usual. I practiced reclining her wheelchair several times in the hopes I could change her in and out of her swimming suit in her chair. I thought I had all bases covered. But then I pulled into a side street parking spot to realize I had no change for the meter.

I felt irrational panic, and then in the two minutes it took me to run into the Y and get change, a mean old meter maid gave me a ticket, even though she saw I was putting money into the meter. I nearly cried, but I pulled it together for Lucy and soldiered on.

Unfortunately, as I was reclining the wheelchair, just as I’d practiced, a crucial screw fell out, leaving the back of the wheelchair falling apart in my hands, as all 41 pounds of Lucy bore down on it. That instantly brought on the tears. I stood there for several minutes trying to get the screw back in while preventing Lu from falling backwards. Sweat was pouring down my face and sides. I just didn’t know what I was going to do. I couldn’t let go of the chair or Lucy would fall, but I couldn’t get her out of her chair to safety without letting go. I was in a full-on meltdown right there in public.

I like to try and always remember that each person we encounter has their own things they’re dealing with, whether they’re obvious or hidden deep down. Well, on this day, all of my stuff — my struggles and challenges — were on display for the whole world to see. However, the only other person around was you, Deanna.

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When I was just about to crumple in defeat, I looked up, still bawling and sweating, and saw you washing your hands at the bathroom sink. When I called out to you for help, you just came running. You came running with your arms outstretched asking what you could do. After you helped me get Lucy out of the wheelchair, I couldn’t even believe my eyes. You lovingly cradled Lucy in your lap, sitting there in the floor of the locker room, as if you cuddled my daughter every day.

As I continued to try and fix the chair, you just calmly talked to me and Lu as if we’d been friends all of our lives. And when I couldn’t seem to get it fixed, to my further surprise, you helped me lay Lu down on a towel, since she can’t sit up well on her own, and proceeded to squat right down beside me to try and figure out how to get the screw back in. When we discovered it was bent, I couldn’t believe my ears when you told me to go get Lu in the pool and you would get it fixed for us. At this point I was so beside myself and just so grateful for your help. I listened to you.

As Lu and I sank into the warm pool, the anxiety and stress seemed to just melt away from us. We instantly began to smile again and even laugh. The pool was closing soon, so our swim was brief but wonderful. And then, toward the end you wheeled in Lu’s wheelchair, beautifully returned to the upright position. I asked your name and thanked you profusely, and you simply said I was welcome and you were gone.

I had never seen you before in my life, and months have passed and I still have never seen you again. You’d told me that usually you swam early in the morning, but that day you chose to swim after work, and even then, you almost just drove by the Y and went home.

I will never, ever forget how loving you were to my daughter. She is a child with so many needs that I often see intimidation and uncertainty in the eyes of people who see her just as a child with a disability. But you Deanna, you just saw her as a child. She was just a child whose momma was in need of help, and you swooped in with your loving arms and your huge heart and just helped us. I will never forget you or the day a stranger treated us like family.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. No gesture is too small! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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