Illustrations from the Oddi sisters

Sisters Create 'The Disabled Life' Comics Highlighting Life With a Disability

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Illustrators and sisters Jessica and Lianna Oddi have a lot to say about living with a disability – but have decided to draw their thoughts instead.

Noting a lack of comics featured disabled people, the two created a blog on Tumblr – The Disabled Life – to showcase their talents as artists, as well as connect the disability community.

“It actually started as a Twitter account, where we’d make fun of things that had actually happened to us, or just make up some funny pop culture references,” Jessica Oddi, 24, said in an interview with The Mighty.

Both Jessica and Lianna live with an undiagnosed genetic condition and use wheelchairs. Their illustrations reflect their personal experiences navigating life as disabled 20-somethings.

[Image Description: drawing of a girl swinging across in a ceiling lift and sling, kicking out her arm and legs, singing “I CAME IN LIKE A WRECKING BALL!”]

Their wrecking ball illustration, for example, was inspired by how they feel when they use their lift.

Each illustration is done with exceptional care and provides a thorough written description for those who are visually impaired.

[Image Title: Me vs. Crop Tops. Image: A mannequin wearing a crop top, and next to it a girl in a wheelchair wearing the same crop top that is way too long and looks like a regular top, saying in frustration “ugh stupid scoliosis” ]

“[Image Title: Me vs. Crop Tops. Image: A mannequin wearing a crop top, and next to it a girl in a wheelchair wearing the same crop top that is way too long and looks like a regular top, saying in frustration ‘ugh stupid scoliosis’ ],” the description for their “Me vs Crop Tops” illustration reads.

[Image Title: Tanning. Left Image Description: A girl in a wheelchair is tilted back in her chair, with a bikini top and shorts, tanning. Right Image Description: That same girl is sitting on a counter, looking back disappointed as only the front half of her body is tanned.]

The sisters also post humorous captions, giving further insight into the inspiration behind their drawings. “Shout out to our peeps who also can’t get out of their chair to tan. Always half done, never fully cooked.”

[Image Title: Personal Space. Image Description: A drawing of a girl in a wheelchair and another person at a casino table. On her left, a woman holds on to her handle bar. On her right, a man is leaning on her arm rest, as the girl in the wheelchair looks terrified.]

So far the pair has created 15 illustrations, and each sister has her favorites. “I can’t pick between ‘What I Think My Butt Looks Like’ and ‘Personal Space,’” Lianna, 26, said. “Both are just true things we all think about, or have to deal with.”

[Left Side Image: Text saying “How I think my butt looks” with an illustration of a perfect round bum in a purple bikini. Right Side Image: Text saying “How it probably looks: with an illustration of a dimple flat bum in a purple bikini with a curved back]

Through their comics, the sisters have reached an audience far beyond their hometown of Ontario, Canada. “The best part is reading through all the messages, seeing that they could totally relate, or that they love our posts,” Jessica said. “We try to keep it to our own experiences, but it’s really cool to know there’s a community out there who just get it,” Lianna added.

As humorous as many of their illustrations are, they raise some important points about the ignorance people with disabilities face.

[Image Title: Online Dating. Image (Left): A girl in a wheelchair smirking while checking her phone with the message “You matched: Some Hot Guy”. Image (Right): Same girl in the wheelchair now with a disgusted look on her face while reading a message from Some Hot Guy who said “Hey u r pretty 4 some 1 in a chair though… lol Can u have sex babe?”]

“I wish people would just see us as human beings, like the rest of society,” Jessica told The Mighty. “Sure we have limitations or differences, but we’re all people. Just because my random mutation at birth changed some cells around, doesn’t make me less than any of you normies.”

“Personally I feel I’m stronger because of what I’ve dealt with,” Lianna noted. “I wouldn’t have it any other way!”

All illustrations are credited to Jessica and Lianna Oddi. To see the rest of the series, visit their blog The Disabled Life

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Filmmaker Designs Platform That Can Help People With Disabilities See How Accessible Places Are

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Jason DaSilva was working as a filmmaker, producing feature-length documentaries and short films, when he got his first iPhone in 2007.

Now, he is putting his skills towards a web development project designed to help people with limited mobility.

DaSilva, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, often had trouble getting into locations situated up a flight of stairs. He wondered why information on a location’s accessibility wasn’t readily available online.

“I saw the potential for this to change the world in a really big way,” DaSilva said. Thus, AXS Map was born.

AXS Map (pronounced “access map”) is a platform, available for the web as well as virtual reality systems Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, that allows users to log accessibility details and virtually visit a space prior to physically arriving.

“Being able to see a place before you get there is huge!” DaSilva told The Mighty in an email. He said that his platform can also help users preview their route before leaving home, which is useful for everyone — not just for those with mobility impairments.

“With VR AXS Map, [users] can reenact this over and over, relieving them of any stress and getting them to practice until [the trip] is ready to become reality,” DaSilva said.

The VR iteration of AXS Map recently won the Audience Choice Award at a Demo Day sponsored by the Made in New York Media Center and the Independent Filmmaker Project.

DaSilva’s collaborator, developer Loren Abdulezer, told Filmmaker magazine after the Demo Day that the project’s organizers are seeking $250,000 — which would cover increased staffing and a software upgrade — for its next round of funding.

“We’ve got some very interesting technology and capabilities, and when you marry that to important ideas you can do extraordinary things,” Abdulezer told the magazine. “What was great about the [Demo Day] presentation is that everybody in the room ‘got it’ — they saw the significance and potential of what VR AXS Map can do.”

Since its launch in 2009, AXS Map has helped an estimated 20,000 users log reviews for 100,000 locations in 170 cities. DaSilva believes that’s just the beginning. He said feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive, and hopes the platform will inform public policy and accessibility laws.

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A Maryland Teacher Had Toy Cars Repurposed as Mobility Devices for Her Students With Disabilities

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A Maryland teacher is giving her students a mobility device they will never forget – a car.

B.A. List is a teacher at Rock Creek School in Frederick, MD, which serves local students with severe disabilities. Her students, ages 3 and 4, are nonverbal and have an array of physical and cognitive disabilities.

List and her colleagues constantly adapt toys, instructional materials and communication devices for students. Then they heard about a University of Delaware-sponsored initiative called GoBabyGo!, which modifies battery-operated toy cars for kids with disabilities, and jumped at the chance to participate.

Student in yellow car


With the help of high school students at Frederick County Public Schools’ Career and Technology Center (CTC), the Mobility Project was born. The high school students rigged the toy cars to be operated using a switch instead of the gas pedal or, in some cases, a simple tilt of the head. Other students at the CTC equipped the cars with safety features – such as seat belts and padding – as well as personalized decals for each student.

Each student who receives a car is allowed to keep their car, with the caveat that it be returned to the school once they outgrow it.

Young girl in pink toy car

List said that the high schoolers benefitted just as much as the younger students.

“The high school kids who worked on the cars get to have a chance to interact with students with disabilities,” List said. “They learn that they are just kids and there is nothing to be afraid of!”

Young boy in white toy bus

And for many of List’s students, being able to move around independently was a first.

“It allows them to connect with typical peers socially and … to just be like all the other kids,” List told The Mighty.

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Pope Francis Says Perfect Body 'Obsession' Leads to Discrimination of Disabled People

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On Sunday, in a mass dedicated to disabled people and their caregivers, Pope Francis said society’s “obsession” with perfect bodies has led to the shunning and hiding away of people with disabilities, according to The Associated Press.

“It is thought that sick or disabled persons cannot be happy, since they cannot live the lifestyle held up by the culture of pleasure and entertainment,” Francis said. “In an age when care for one’s body has become an obsession and a big business, anything that is imperfect has to be hidden away, since it threatens the happiness and serenity of the privileged few and endangers the dominant model.”

He went on to say discriminating against people with disabilities is “one of the ugliest things we can do.”

Watch his full statement below:

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A Cross-Country Vacation With Our Son With Complex Disabilities

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family traveling on a hike At home, we’re used to it. We grow blind to the house full of equipment that makes daily life possible. We settle in to the well-oiled routine that makes things, if not easy, well, manageable.

On vacation, all that is stripped away, and we come back down to earth with a bump.

It’s the simple things that become difficult.

How can he sleep safely without his system of supports and his tilting bed? We shove a pile of pillows under the mattress, more pillows around him, then check numerous times a night that he hasn’t slid underneath them and suffocated.

How can he sit safely and comfortably? At home we have a different special supportive chair for him in every room, and one for the garden. Here, he’s lying on the sofa, his body contorted into strange positions or sitting in his wheelchair from dawn to dusk, the only place he’s really secure.

Bathing is a challenge when we stop in hostels with shared showers in a cold cubicle down the corridor.

Without a schedule it’s so easy to lose track of tube-feeds and medications. Without our usual system of bottles and bowls it’s hard to keep a supply of clean syringes and cooled boiled water.

I spend nights sitting up in cold rooms checking his temperature and
piling on blankets – if he gets cold he can stay cold for days.

Yet we start to adapt. We find that a snuggly dressing gown can make a lot of things more comfortable, that his three-wheeled chair copes better than our car in the snow. Propped up on the sofa with cushions he watches his sister cavort around the living room in her Elsa dress and beams at the sun coming in through the picture windows. We manage a special family meal before the restaurant gets busy.

We venture on a boat trip, and he enjoys the feel of the sea wind on his cheeks. We discover our eldest has a talent for photography (or at least
enjoys taking Mummy’s camera and dangling it perilously near an icy
puddle).

We meet people who will move mountains (OK, furniture) to help us get Benjy into their quirky pub-on-a-barge. We eat scones for breakfast, tapas for lunch, fish and chips from the chippy for tea. We make do with more cuddles and less therapy, more talking and less TV.

We get home, exhausted, relieved not to have run out of milk or medications, incredulous that we avoided a trip to A&E, exhilarated to have made the trek across the country and back, to have been out in shorts and out in blizzards, thankful to be back to our home comforts, more aware of how lucky we are to live in a country that provides Benjamin with all that he needs to make home comfortable… and planning to go camping next!

So if you get the opportunity to go on vacation with your disabled loved one, I say, go for it! It might be hard work, it might be nerve-wracking, it might take you out of your comfort zone. But it might also teach you things you didn’t know, about your loved one, about the world around us, about yourself. You might not come back rested, but you’ll come back refreshed.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share a travel moment related to disability and/or disease that made you laugh, cry, roll your eyes or was otherwise unforgettable? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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New TV Ad Targets Trump's Treatment of Disability

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A new political ad airing on TV in battleground states is taking aim at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s treatment of people with disabilities.

The 60-second spot is being aired by Priorities USA Action, a political action committee that endorses Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, and features Chris and Lauren Glaros, a couple whose daughter Grace was born with spina bifida.

In the ad titled “Grace,” the Glaroses are shown discussing life with their daughter before the video cuts to the once-viral clip of Trump mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has arthogryposis, a condition that impairs his arm movements.

“You ought to see this guy,” Trump is shown saying of Kovaleski, whom he met a dozen times in the 1980s as Kovaleski covered his business career. In the clip, Trump widens his eyes and splays his arms, seemingly mimicking Kovaleski.

In the ad, Chris and Lauren Glaros are seen reacting to the CNN footage interspersed with their comments.

“The children at Grace’s school all know never to mock her,” Lauren Glaros says in the ad. “And so for an adult to mock someone with a disability is shocking.”

“When I saw Donald Trump mock somebody with a disability, it showed me his soul,” Chris Glaros added. “It showed me his heart. And I didn’t like what I saw.”

Priorities USA Action, which previously aired two spots attacking Trump’s stance on women, will run the Glaros ad in states such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire, according to The Los Angeles Times.

“Voters’ knowledge of Trump is a mile wide and an inch deep. As a result, the most devastating attacks against Trump are with the very words that come out of his mouth,” Justin Barasky, communications director of Priorities USA Action, told The Mighty. “We’re still early in our paid media campaign that will ultimately reach millions of voters on a great number of issues that highlight his divisive, dangerous record.”

What’s your take? Let us know in the comments below.

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