Jun 03
10 Reasons NOT to Attend the ADA Celebration, Intersect

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1.       You do not like FREE things.

As always, the ADA event is free to attendees due to generous donations from state agencies and private groups to ensure the celebration is inclusive of all who wish to attend.

2.        You hate it when there is free parking and the event is accessible by public transportation.

The celebration will be held at the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore.  There is free and accessible parking.  Additionally, the location can be accessed easily by public transportation.  Having problems figuring out how to get there?  Give our office a call and we can help you make a plan.  410.767.3660

3.        You do not like learning.

The day is intended to be a free day of learning and enrichment for Maryland residents complete with a resource fair, exciting keynote speakers, and a technology workshop open to all who wish to attend.

4.        Meeting new people is not any fun.

Maryland is invited to our event!  Enjoy vendors, providers, speakers, and organizations from across the state joining to celebrate the power of the ADA and to talk about future opportunities for those with disabilities in our state.

5.        You dislike air conditioning

Unlike last year, the whole event is indoors.  We personally love air conditioning. 

6.        You really believe there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Well, there is a free light lunch included for all registered attendees.

7.        You think technology is a passing fad.

Our day is dedicated to exploring ways technology impacts the lives of those with disabilities in Maryland.  You can bring your 8 track or tape deck if you want.  Retro is cool. . . .

8.        You do not think the ADA Anniversary is a reason to celebrate. 

The ADA impacts the rights of those with disabilities to have equal opportunities to access their communities through communication, physical, and social accommodations.  So. . .

9.        You do not think further improvements are needed in application of the ADA in our day to day lives.

Employment of those with disabilities in Maryland continues to improve, but still has a way to go to be on par with the general population.  In addition, as a society, we are still exploring how to apply the principles of the ADA to our newly created virtual worlds.  You might want to learn ways Maryland is dealing with these issues or you might have ideas of your own to share!

10.    You hate fun.  

Nothing to say here.  If you hate fun, please do not join us as we intend to have an enjoyable day as a community learning new things, sharing ideas, and dreaming of a future when the ideals under the ADA reach even further into our lives both real and virtual. 

​Of course, we are kidding!!  Join us on July 26th for Intersect: The 26th Anniversary of the ADA!  Register today!  

May 20
You Asked and MDOD Answered!


In recognition of National Transportation Week, we asked constituents to send in their accessible travel questions for review by our Constituent Services Department.  We were pleased to answer questions in regard to services across the state of Maryland and have created a sample of Frequently Asked Questions to assist Marylanders in making the most of public transportation services. Of course, The Maryland Department of Disabilities is always available to assist constituents with matters of concern at 410.767.3660 or info.mdod@maryland.gov.  We also have a general Frequently Asked Questions page on our website at www.mdod.maryland.gov. 

How do I apply for mobility in the Baltimore area?

Contact Maryland Transit Administration Mobility at 410.764.8181 or go to their website at https://mta.maryland.gov/mobility to download an application.

I am certified to ride Mobility but sometimes prefer the fix route bus.  Is there a way to know if the bus is operating on time?

Yes!  The Maryland Transit Administration has created MyBusTracker and GPS technology.  Now you can locate your bus and know up-to-the-minute when it will arrive at your stop.  You can track the Light Rail, Metro Subway and MARC Train too.  Go to https://mta.maryland.gov/my-mta-tracker for more information.

I will be a attending Salisbury University in the fall and have applied for an internship in Princess Anne.  Is public transporation available to get me to my internship?  It has to be accessible.

Yes!  Shore Transit, the public transit agency for the lower eastern shore, covers Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester counties.  Shore Transit offers public transportation via fixed route and paratransit services.  For more information, contact Shore Transit at 443.260.2300 or visit their website at http://www.shoretransit.org/Home.aspx.

I live in Cumberland, is there an accessible transportation system available?

Yes!  All transit buses operated by Washington County Transit are lift/ramp-equipped and have two wheelchair-secure positions on board.  Fourteen buses are also equipped with a "kneeler" feature, which allows the bus to lower making the step from the curb to the bus easier.  Drivers will engage this feature upon request.  Drivers also announce major stops and transfer points, and other locations upon request.  Washington County Transit also offers Paratransit service to people who are certified as not able to utilize the fixed-route bus system.  Call 240.313.2747 for more information or go to https://www.washco-md.net/transit/paratransit.shtm to apply for Paratransit.

My in-laws from Florida will be visiting us this summer and want to go to Washington, D.C.  My father-in-law uses a wheelchair and does not transfer.  We do not have an accessible vehicle to get him from our home in Germantown to DC.  Can he use his Florida Mobility Card in Maryland?

Yes!  Your father-in-law can apply for a visitors status through the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) which will allow him to use MetroAccess.  Contact the Metro Headquarters Transit Accessibility Center at 202.962.2700 for more information.

How does the transportation system in the DC metro area respond to constituent issues?  

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) meets monthly to address the needs of people with disabilities.  Meetings are held the first Monday of each month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  People with disabilities and advocates are welcome to attend.  For more information go to WMATA's website at http://www.wmata.com/accessibility/advocacy_policy/ or call 202-962-6060.

May 12
Awareness Much?

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*Artwork submitted by student artist for Celebrating Through Art:  The First Lady's Youth Mental Health Art Display

By Carrie McGraw

As Communications Director at the Maryland Department of Disabilities, it feels we are in a constant state of awareness month.  The tendency for a particular cause or group of advocates to pick a timeframe to go all out in order to advance their message makes sense and serves many purposes.  As we cycle through the weeks and months of people taking selfies with a certain logo, lighting things different colors, wearing jeans, sporting mis-matched socks, displaying ribbons, or dumping freezing cold water on each other, you have to wonder if all of this really pushes forward our awareness or even better, our acceptance, of those who progress through life differently than we do.  After all, when this month or that week is over, are we left with improved lives for those who experience disability every day of the year? We are in the middle of mental health awareness month and as I read through the plethora of very profound writing by those with mental health concerns, I cannot help but think that at the core of all of this awareness is the very same desire.  Every single one of us wants to live life respected in our individual journey with all the possibility for happiness, productivity, and connection as every single other person with whom we share the world.  I think it is worth taking some time to be aware of that.   

May 06
Celebrating Through Art!

Governor Hogan declared May 1st through 7th Children's Mental Health Awareness Week in Maryland.  To bring recognition to this campaign, Mrs. Hogan hosted a youth art display at the House Office Building in Annapolis.  Celebrating Through Art:  The First Lady's Youth Mental Health Awareness Art Display grand opening and reception was held on May 2nd and welcomed over 175 student artists, teachers, service providers, and state government officials.  The youth were asked to depict
Campaign partners pose with Mrs. Hogan and proclamation 
something which made them feel mentally happy, healthy, and hopeful.  Fourty-four students participated from thirty schools throughout Maryland.   Youth artists with and without disabilities came together as one artistic voice to highlight the importance of good mental health for all children in Maryland.

The Maryland Department of Disabilities, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene-Behavioral Health Administration, Maryland State Department of Education, Mental Health Association of Maryland, Maryland Coalition of Families, and the Center for School Mental Health have partnered on this initiative to bring attention to the need for unified and aligned strategies when addressing children's mental health needs in our state.      
The art show will run May 1st through May 12th at the Lowe House Office Building in Annapolis.  We are extremely proud of all the student artists and very appreciative to Maryland's First Lady for being our gracious host.  Please enjoy our captioned slide show of the reception and many pieces from the display at the below link.  

May 06
Jake Changes The World!


​By Carrie McGraw

Jake is a 13 year old living in Montgomery County who enjoys his school, his friends, and hockey. He is also a strong self-advocate who is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.   Jake came into the hamburger restaurant where we met ready to proudly talk about his recent role as a Montgomery County Police Ambassador and White House Champion for Change.

This story, however, could have been a lot different. Last year, Jake went outside on a frigid February day to get something from his mother's car without telling anyone. He was not dressed for the weather and became overwhelmed with the cold as he stood outside his home. Sensory overload is a common experience for individuals on the Spectrum. Jake remained outside and yelled for help instead of quickly coming back into the house. Concerned neighbors called emergency services.   When Montgomery County police arrived at the home, Jake was safely inside but still rattled from the cold. The unexpected knock at the door was more than he could handle and Jake ran upstairs to get away from the officers. The police assisted the family, but Jake was not comfortable in the presence of the first responders. Due to the proactive nature of the Montgomery County police, the family received a very friendly visit in the days that followed. The Montgomery County Autism and Alzheimers Outreach and Wandering Prevention Program Coordinator visited the home to talk about how to ensure Jake would be comfortable with first responders in the future. It did not take the officer long to realize Jake himself could create positive change even beyond his own relationship with police officers.
Jake poses in suit with three female Montgomery County police officers in uniform 

Much of the time, Jake is able to verbalize his sensory overload. He can use words to describe his feelings and the body cues which coincide with being overwhelmed. Currently, Jake trains Montgomery County police officers and speaks publicly about the experiences of those with Autism. He talks about sensory overload, common coping mechanisms of those on the Spectrum, and tips for first responders when encountering an individual who is experiencing anxiety and sensory issues. Jake is an enthusiastic and engaging public speaker and he has been inundated with speaking requests since he began working with the police department.

The Maryland Department of Disabilities is proud to further the efforts of police departments such as Montgomery County and advocates like Jake through the establishment of the Ethan Saylor Alliance. Once formed, the Alliance will be charged with preparing and supporting self-advocates to train alongside law enforcement on how to best interact with those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The alliance will teach self advocates to be equal members of training teams across Maryland for new and veteran police officers. The requirement to engage self-advocates as trainers of law enforcement is unique to Maryland. Be sure to follow the Department of Disabilities on social media and our website to stay up to date with implementation of the program and the steps being taken in Maryland to ensure more stories of successful partnership between the disability community and first responders.  

AND you can follow Jake, along with his supportive mom, on their blog at www.theworldaccordingtojake.com . Jake will also be speaking at the Montgomery County Police Department Autism and Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Night Out on May 20th 6-9pm at the Public Service Training Academy located at 9710 Great Seneca Highway in Rockville. You can say you knew him before he hit it big because this young man has HUGE future plans and after meeting him I can say go for it, Jake! The sky is the limit.   
Apr 15
Sarah Has A Say


​​​​By Sarah Klag

Sarah is an Autistic adult living in the Baltimore area.  She is a prolific writer and jumped at the chance to contribute to the voices of those with Autism speaking out about their lives and the issues which concern them.  

I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when I was about 4 or 5 years old.  Back then, there wasn't a lot known about ASD, or any of the medical stuff that goes with it.  Now I'm in my twenties, and ASD knowledge has come a long way, as well as the public opinion of it.  Nowadays, ​​I have a part time job at a grocery store, and I am supported by a non profit organization called Itineris that helps adults with Autism like me find jobs and learn independent living skills and whatnot.  My favorite part about Itineris is the outings we do every Wednesday and the new things I am always learning on my job sites at Habitat for Humanity and the Howard Rowling Conservatory.  Some people hear the words Autism Spectrum Disorder and automatically think of some helpless person, but that is not true at all.  For example, I used to not be able to cook at all, but now I'm able to cook 3 or 4 dishes fairly well.  ​Yes, people on the Spectrum are all different, but that does not mean everyone shouldn't be given every chance and resource to be able to lead as normal and productive a life as possible.  Lots of individuals are capable of doing great things. I was lucky because my family has always been very supportive of me and they helped me grow and mature in a lot of ways.  Many poeple simply don't have the resources or knowledge to help them or their loved ones cope with Autism.  Other people simply don't bother teaching ​their kids knowledge about actually living with ASD.  Growing up with ASD has its challenges, but I'm here to say that I couldn't have done it without my family, friends, staff, and many other supportive people in my life that have encouraged me through this journey.  

Mar 29
Self-Directed Services: Katie's Story

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Katie is a 31 year old woman living in Bel Air, Maryland. She has a story to tell that she wants others with intellectual and developmental disabilities to know. Her story, like all of ours, changes with each season of life, but she always holds onto her independence and desire to be in charge of her own destiny.
As a late teen and early adult, Katie and her mother were a team. As she prepared to finish Fallston High School, she and her mom explored the various support opportunities available to her as a transitioning youth. Katie remembers one afternoon during that time as the defining moment of her life. Katie's mom told her that this was her life to live and she needed to decide on her own which support options to choose. Her mom would stand by her side no matter her decision.  After much investigation, Katie chose to pursue employment training through the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) and in home supports offered through the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) self-directed services which was called the New Directions waiver at the time. Katie took her new found independence seriously and began attending classes to learn how to direct her own support services.
Under self-directed services, an individual outlines a person centered plan, individualized budget, and individual service plan to meet the person's needs in order to live successfully in the community. These services are available to individuals who qualify for supports through the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA). With the help of a Support Broker, Fiscal Intermediary, Resource Coordinator, and other members of the support team, the individual receiving services is the direct employer for all those providing care.  They make the schedule, conduct the hiring of staff, and outline the general rules of the workplace. On a daily basis, Katie uses her staff to meet her personal care needs, provide transportation, assist in meal preparation, and other tasks for which she needs assistance.
Unfortunately, in 2009 Katie's mom passed away suddenly leaving Katie with a big void in her heart and in her support team. After some time living in her childhood home with her Dad, Katie decided it was time to get her own place. She found it emotionally difficult to live in the home filled with memories of her mother. She also knew her mom would want her to be on her own eventually. She applied for Section 8 housing, requested changes to her staffing schedule, and made the arrangements necessary to make the move. Katie noted she did not even tell her Dad of her plans until they were all set so he would not worry about her or try to change her mind-a bold move even by Katie's standards!
Currently, Katie has her own apartment she shares with her cat and dog. She enjoys traveling the community and visiting her dad at his house. When asked the best thing about having her own place, Katie noted that she gets to set the rules. She grew up in a home full of animals with people who did not treat her like she had a disability. She has no room in her life for those who treat her differently and simply won't tolerate it. Katie says that self-directed services is a great deal of work and requires some organizational skills. It is not for everyone, but if you really want your independence, DO IT!
For more information on self-directed services see the below link:
Mar 24
Kidvocates: Raising A Generation of Advocates


You often wonder what drives a child or adult to see a problem and move to action rather than complacency.  How do we create a generation of advocates who experience injustice and find ways to impact the problem?  We spoke to several area kids and parents who are speaking out now on behalf of their friends, themselves, and the wider world. 

FotoFlexer_Photo corine.jpgCoryn is ten years old and living with her family in Willards, Maryland.  She contacted our office in response to the anti R-Word campaign which she is trying to get started at her local elementary school.  When asked what motivated her to get involved in this initiative, she noted a few of her friends who experience neurodiversity were having problems at school with some of the other children.  Coryn intervened, along with her teachers, and ensured bullying was not tolerated.  Since that time, Coryn has become an active athlete with Special Olympics unified swimming.  She is the youngest swimmer on that team and enjoys the comradery among her fellow swimmers.  When asked why she felt it important to speak up for herself and others, it was hard for her to answer.  She just felt like being a friend was always the right thing to do.

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Jake is a teen living in Montgomery County.  He is Autistic and proud of the way he is made! Jake works actively with Pathfinders for Autism teaching first responders about neurodiversity.  We asked his mom, Jenn, how she has encouraged Jake to self-advocate and she stated, "I really don't push this at all, in fact I ask him before every training if he is sure he still wants to go.  Once the Montgomery County Police empowered him in the role of Autism Ambassador, he took off.  He loves the idea of saving lives and teaching police about Autism safety."

Parents we spoke to pointed to a few areas to consider when trying to ensure children have the skills to successfully advocate for themselves and others.  Of course, you should add or subtract from these answers as guided by your own parenting style and your child's needs. 

  1. Involve kids in family decision making, where appropriate.
  2. Engage your children in cordial discussion over topics which concern them.
  3. Talk action! If your child is concerned over a certain issue, discuss logical steps they could take to impact the problem. 
  4. Model respectful advocacy for yourself and others.
  5. Appreciate diversity!  If your child uses a nontraditional mode of communication, provide exposure to role models outside the family who communicate in similar ways or ensure friends, siblings, and extended family are able to decipher your child's needs to increase self-efficacy and encourage communication for all children, no matter the form.
  6. Experiences are the best teachers for a child.  Give your children plenty of opportunities to learn about the world through concrete encounters.  Volunteering as a family is a great way to get started!

To all those Kidvocates out there-Lead on!  You are our best hope to ensure a future of fully inclusive social, physical, and economic communities!

For more information on self-advocates teaching first responders and the Ethan Saylor Alliance, go to our website at www.mdod.maryland.gov.

Mar 17
Our Needs Are Not Special


I was thrilled this week to meet a group of self-advocates with intellectual and developmental disabilities currently being supported residentially and vocationally by Compass, Inc., a local nonprofit provider in Prince Georges County.  I met individually with each of these adults who wanted to tell their personal stories, share their concerns as Marylanders, and move the collective conversation forward in our state.  When asked what he wanted to share with other state residents Brandon noted, "My needs are not special.  I want what everyone else wants.  My own place, a job, a girlfriend.  I want to be happy." 

The Maryland Department of Disabilities takes our mission seriously.  We advocate for equality of opportunity, access, and choice for Marylanders with disabilities to achieve the same quality of life as every state resident.  These advocates all agreed that to make real progress we must move beyond "awareness campaigns" and address real issues of concern which create barriers in our physical and social communities.  We appreciate their willingness to share their stories. 


blog3.JPGAngela is a political activist, Reiki trainee, and self-trained transportation expert who utilizes a wheelchair for mobility.  Angie has a love-hate relationship with public transport.  She noted that while the public transport system allows her independence in her community, accommodating her wheelchair does add extra hassle.  She must plan her schedule days in advance which can limit her flexibility when responding to job offers and volunteer opportunities.  Angie notes that while this can be inconvenient, she is amazed at how many people with disabilities have not even tried to use public transport independently.  She stated that once those with intellectual disabilities begin to depend on support staff for travel, it often becomes easier not to try and the idea of independent transportation often fades away.  Angie hopes to provide her own stories and experiences as an example and inspiration to others.  She hopes to eventually find work as a transportation advisor or travel trainer to assist those with disabilities in maintaining levels of independence which meet their capabilities.  Transportation issues, says Angie, are important to those with disabilities as the ability to travel in the community allows for equal access to jobs and social integration.  Angie encourages Marylanders with disabilities to review transportation policy and ensure they participate in the political process so these needs are addressed by elected officials. 


blog2.JPGBrandon works as a receptionist, but his dream is to be a chef.  He has attended culinary classes at Montgomery College and hopes to attend more as he moves toward his personal goals.  Brandon notes progress toward his career aspiration is slow.  He attends classes when he can but he is limited by the demands of his current job, staff availability to assist him, and personal resources. 

In the meantime, Brandon focuses on many hobbies and projects. One of his passions is teaching individuals with disabilities to find their voice and advocate for themselves.  Brandon recently graduated from the Project STIR program which trains self-advocates to provide peer mentorship in their communities.  Brandon, with the help of agency staff, is currently organizing a self-advocacy group at his support organization and hopes to bring a voice to others.  Brandon talked about the life changing week he encountered with Project STIR last year.  He had never before learned about the history of those with disabilities and the treatment encountered in many institutional settings.  Brandon wants to bring these stories to others with intellectual and developmental disabilities so they are aware of their past and prepared to advocate for their futures. 


DSC_1555-1024x699.jpgIf there is one thing Debra wants you to remember about her, it is that she is responsible, on time, and works hard.  Debra is currently employed as a front desk attendant and receptionist part time.  She hopes to secure employment in a larger office full time in the future.  To work toward this goal, Debra does the best job she can to receive a good recommendation for future positions. When asked if she has applied for other positions, Debra was not sure.  She indicated she receives support from her job coach in her current position, but agreed she needed to work more on her future goals.  

Unemployment and under employment of individuals with disabilities is an ongoing concern.  Our state continues to move forward in addressing these issues but progress is painfully slow to identify the various factors which create these barriers.  Educational opportunities, training programs, and sound employment policy hold the key when addressing the employment gap for those with disabilities in our state and nationwide. 

We appreciate these advocates for sharing their stories in celebration of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.  And we value the work they are doing in their communities to ensure we move beyond awareness to effect real progress.  Be sure to follow our blog the whole month of March as we highlight advocacy stories from across Maryland!

Mar 10
Coming Full Circle: My Brother Is Pretty Cool! By Sarah Hochbaum

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Parenting inevitably brings both happiness and worry.  There are fresh joys and new challenges with each season of life.  As the mother of two teenage girls I see them pushing away from home and each other with an eye toward the wider world.  Is this any different when you are a sibling to someone with a developmental disability?  This week's blogger speaks candidly about growing up with a sibling diagnosed with Fragile X and how she encountered the various seasons of growing up alongside her big brother.  Sarah Hochbaum currently works as a Supports Planner with home and community based waivers at The Coordinating Center.  She is a board member at The Arc Howard County and a staunch disability advocate in her community.  She is also a young adult, wife, millennial, daughter, and little sister! 

When you think about having an older sibling, you think about all the cool and exciting stuff they're going to teach you about life. They will be the ones who teach you about music and movies, and what clothes are cool. Therefore, you will be the most fun person to hang out with because everyone will see how amazing and rad your sibling is and want to be your friend too. Woo Hoo!

My experience growing up with a brother with Fragile X encompassed very little of the above listed occurrences. David was a different kind of older brother. At least that's what I thought as a younger person. When I was a toddler, I remember laying in my bed where I was supposed to be napping. For some reason, though, my brother would sit outside of my door and I distinctly remember hearing him tell anyone who came to the door to leave me be-- she needs to rest. As a child, some children in the neighborhood would want to include me in their games, but didn't want my brother to come along. I would insist, however, that he play an integral part in whatever game we had created. Once I reached middle and high school, I started to invite my brother to every weekend excursion my friends and I would take; especially to the local bowling alley because that was my brother's favorite activity.

But it was also at that time that I started making new friends. And these friends didn't understand how to relate to my brother all the time. David would run up to them and excitedly start telling my friends about his day at school, and they would tell him to leave them alone and walk right past him. I really started to feel like my brother maybe was different. My friends' siblings were all going to college and taking my friends to visit them at their respective campuses.  My freshman year of college, I decided maybe it was time to not include him in all my social activities. Friends would call me and I'd go out without him, not caring what he was doing and figuring he'd be better at home with my parents. When I was home for school breaks, I wouldn't even invite him to do things with me because I wanted to be "cool" now; and being "cool and fun" didn't include my brother with Fragile X.

This all changed when I graduated with my Masters in Social Work from Adelphi and moved relatively permanently up to New York. Despite having oodles of fun, lively friends, and endless train rides into Manhattan to go to trendy hot spots-- all I thought about was my brother back at home. Suddenly I realized he was ALWAYS cool enough for me. He was ALWAYS fun and what the heck was I doing all the way in Long Island so far away from him?!?! Back to Maryland I went. Back to my parents, and my oldest friends who knew us best. Most importantly however, I was back running around town with my big bro in the passenger seat. I would never ever have it any other way. And MAN is my big brother cool.

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