disability

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Federal law guarantees that children with disabilities have equal access to education. But what that actually looks like for Michigan kids very much depends upon where you live.

An investigation by Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project and Bridge Magazine has turned up disparities in the way schools choose which students should be in special education and the actual level of those services. Sarah Alvarez with State of Opportunity joined us, along with Bridge Magazine writer Ron French.

*Listen to Alvarez and French above

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Hunter Gandee will go for a walk this weekend.

That might not seem noteworthy. You might be planning on doing the same.

But starting Saturday morning, the 14-year-old from Temperance plans to walk 40 miles, from his home to the University of Michigan campus, carrying his 7-year-old brother, Braden, on his back the entire way.

Braden has cerebral palsy, and his walker doesn't move well on grass, sandy areas or in crowds.

Hunter isn't walking to raise money, but to focus attention on the problem of mobility for kids with special needs.

*Listen to our conversation with Hunter above.

We've been calling this story, State of Opportunity meets StoryCorps. Get ready to be moved. Meet Bentley. He's a rambunctious five-year-old at the James and Grace Lee Boggs School. Zak Rosen and filmmaker Andrea Claire Maio continue our series on the school and its students. In part five of the series, hear how everyone benefits from inclusive education.

Adam Bird / Issue Media Group

It is easy to feel like an outsider when facing a mental, emotional, or physical disability. Anything that sets you apart or makes you different can seem alienating or isolating. 

Delight Lester has harnessed that feeling and aims to make outsiders feel like insiders through the healing power of the arts. Her non-profit Arts in Motion Studio in Grand Rapids offers ballet, tap, and interpretative dance, as well as guitar, visual arts, and drama classes to people of all ages in an individualized and inclusive way. 

The State of Michigan is close to wrapping up a plan to make its programs more accessible to people with disabilities.

The goal is to get State offices, communications and web sites to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

We wanted to get a better idea of what that really looks like, how much progress has been made and what it all means for people with disabilities.

Laura Hall is an Assistive Technology Coordinator for the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, and Sharon Ellis is the State ADA Compliance Director. They both joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

Sarah Kerson / Michigan Radio

Ask any kid about their favorite part of the school day and they’ll likely give you one response - recess.

But for kids with disabilities, going outside isn’t always easy.  Traditional playgrounds aren’t always safe for these kids.

Haisley Elementary in Ann Arbor just renovated its playground to specifically accommodate for students with disabilities.

The school has a large population of kids with disabilities. Most of these kids can’t talk. Many have a hard time sitting up right. Some are in wheelchairs. Some have Autism.

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The start of the new school year has brought unpleasant and unwelcome surprises for the parents of Michigan children with special needs.

That's because the federal sequester has hit special education, in the words of our next guest, "like a ton of bricks."

A new round of special ed cuts were forced by a 5% reduction in federal funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and now parents and special education students are seeing what that means.

With some 6.5 million disabled children from ages 3 to 21 getting services funded by the IDEA, this is something being felt across the country.

Marcie Lipsitt is the co-chair of the Michigan Alliance for Special Education. As the mother of a son with special needs, she has been a state and national advocate for disabled children. She joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Mlive.com

Michigan high school sports officials are trying to figure out how to implement a new federal rule that opens sports programs to students with disabilities.

More than 300,000 students take part in high school sports in Michigan.   

A small number are disabled.

But the number of disabled students playing high school sports will likely increase.

That's because the federal government has decreed that handicapped students must be given a fair shot to make traditional sports teams, or schools must create new programs for them.

Sandy Dorey / Oakland County Parks

The new year will come early for some people in Southeast Michigan. Tonight, Oakland County Parks and Recreation will host its annual "Almost New Year's" party.

The two-hour dance is specially created for the county's developmentally disabled adults. The party not only occurs before the year change, but the year-end countdown happens at 8:30 p.m. instead of midnight.

Sandy Dorey created the event. She says older parents and caregivers often don't want to stay out late on New Year's. She says it's also difficult to make reservations for Dec. 31.

"We just thought, 'It's a celebration.' We'd have the hats and everything else, so we just kick it off a few days early," she said.

A new study suggests a medical therapy known as "cooling" can help full-term infants born with low flow of oxygen and blood to the brain.  This condition is thought to occur in about 1 out of every one-thousand babies born in the United States.  Cooling is thought to be one way to protect the brain. 

Flickr/Jaymi Heimbuch

A job training center for people with disabilities starts its fall session on Monday. The Michigan Career and Technical Institute is in Plainwell, about 20 miles north of Kalamazoo.  It's the second largest program of its kind in the country.

Up to 350 students live on campus while taking classes. The institute offers 14 training programs to people with various disabilities.