A New Character With Autism On Sesame Street

Last month, a new character with autism was introduced on the show Sesame Street, which created a positive reaction from individuals around the world. Julia, the newest character of the show, has autism and acts in a stereotypical manner of many peers in the classroom.

sesame street, inclusion, tv and disabilities

For example, Julia is seen flapping her hands, repeating words, and not responding to a greeting by Big Bird. Alan, the narrator, explains that Julia is not trying to ignore Big Bird, but instead responds to people differently than Big Bird himself. He says, “She does things just a little differently, in a Julia sort of way.” It may take her a bit longer to respond, but it’s okay.

Sesame street does a great job explaining some of the behaviors Julia demonstrates and does an even better job at explaining an appropriate way others can respond to such behaviors. For example, Julia is sensitive to loud noises. She repeats things that were just said by her friends and avoids eye contact. Although she acts differently than her peers, Julia fits right in and is part of the show. An example showing Julia and Elmo playing or Julia and Abby playing can bring tears to an eye of an educator or parent who is constantly striving to create this type of peer interaction and play environment.

Julia’s arrival of the show comes at a unique time in history. As society is progressively becoming more understanding and tolerant of differences, Julia’s presence on the show showcases how an inclusion setting can operate within the boundaries of love, patience, and understanding. It also teaches children at an early age to accept individuals who behave differently within the classroom environment and community.

I applaud Sesame street for including Julia in their show and for accurately depicting some common social situations that can occur in a life of a child with autism.


The Accessible Icon Emoji

Recently, a new emoji was added to the Apple iSO10 update, and the Accessible Icon team was very pleased to learn that the accessible icon was included for the social media world to use on a daily basis. With the new icon emerging into the digital world, people who were unfamiliar with the project wanted to know more about the icon that represents people with disabilities as active and engaged. In more detail, I wrote an article about the story of the accessible icon that was published here: http://www.disabled-world.com/disability/accessibility/ios-10.php. Please take the time to read why a group of people identify with the more active looking symbol and be sure to look out for the accessible icon on your phones!

iPhone update, symbols, disabilities, technology

Just $10 Can Make All The Difference

$10 can make all the difference in places like Mozambique and Zimbabwe. In order to even attend school, students need to purchase a $10 uniform that they wear every day. Unfortunately, many students cannot afford the uniform, let alone school books and pencils.

According to World Vision, 57 million children are not enrolled in school. Every Christmas, I add to my family’s gifts by sponsoring a child to attend school. For only $10, one child can attend school for the year. It seems crazy, but $10 can make all the difference for children around the world.

Consider sponsoring a child or donating school supplies today. There are many sites to do this through, but one I use is World Vision. (By the way! $50 will supply $600 of school supplies since your gift is multiplied by 12x). Watch their video and see how you can impact those living in impoverished areas.

Please consider donating $10 (or more!!) today to change a child’s life.

Symbols and Signs

While touring Germany, Italy, and Spain, I was highly interested in the symbols each country used to signify basic street information. Here in the states, there has been much debate about if the Accessible Icon is legal since it has not been officially adopted as the symbol of access by the DOT or DOJ. While almost everyone will agree that the symbol represents movement, some argue that a new symbol is not needed or can cause confusion. Since I am now interested in exploring the different symbols that exist, I took pictures of the different symbols I came across while traveling.

 Accessible Icon Updates: 

  • DOJ (Department of Justice) verbal approval of the icon during the National ADA Symposium. Read here (May 2015)
  • New York State announcement of a slow phasing in of the symbol. Read here (August 2014)
  • New Jersey bill in progress. Read here ( September 2014)



Big News for the Accessible Icon Project: DOJ Approval

We are very excited to announce that members from the Department of Justice officially acknowledged the Accessible Icon as meeting ADA regulations (a long debated topic that prevented some people from moving forward with the symbol) at a recent conference. Kate Thurman,  Disability Project Coordinator for Cambridge Commissions for Persons with Disabilities who attended the National ADA Symposium provided us with the following information:

As you saw on Twitter, I attended the National ADA Symposium in Atlanta, which ended yesterday with a Town Hall Meeting. I have pasted below my notes on the conversation during this meeting about the use of the Accessible Icon. Needless to say, I was absolutely thrilled to hear from DOJ that the use of the icon is permissible under the ADA!

Accessibility Icon

Please read the article with statements from various DOJ members here: http://www.unitedspinal.org/new-access-symbol/. Although DOJ and ADA are slow to announce in writing, we believe these public statements reflect a decision that will eventually be announced formally through their social media sites.

At the conference, all 50 states, in addition to Canada, Gaum, and the Virgin Islands were represented and part of the discussion.

As of May 28, we know of over 35 states using the icon, and over 10 countries. New York State is the first state to legally adopt the icon, and New Jersey, Michigan, Kansas, and Pennsylvania are following suit. Needless to say,  our team was thrilled when we heard the news.

Light it Up Blue

Today is Light it Up Blue Autism Awareness Day. In honor of April 2, we ask everyone to wear blue to show their support of individuals with autism. 

**Official Light It Up Blue Logo 

Teachertalk4all has a whole page dedicated to Autism studies. Be sure to check out the many postings here:  http://teachertalk4all.edublogs.org/category/autism/

Support Accessibility in Italy

Accessibility has become an increasing problem in historic places such as Italy, Israel, and parts of Africa. Cobblestones, cracked side walks, and lack of ramps make it difficult for people with physical disabilities to travel. A group of operators in Venice decided to do something to help fix this problem.

Who: Gondolas4all

Where: Venice, Italy

Problem: Currently people in wheelchairs are not able to access gondola rides unless they are carried onto gondolas, which can be dangerous

Solution: To build the first ever automated wheelchair lift on a floating jetty

Picture taken from crowd sourcing site:  https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gondolas4all-gondola-wheelchair-access

Picture taken from crowd sourcing site: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gondolas4all-gondola-wheelchair-access

Experience Autism through Video

Ever wonder what it is like to feel over-stimulated? Carly Fleischmann shows through video what it is like to experience sensory overload in everyday settings.

Video 1: Coffee shop

Video 2: Walking down the street 

3. Video 3: Shopping at a store

Carly Fleischmann created these videos through her own experience. As we know, every individual sees the world through a different lens, which can lead to a different experience than those shown above. The reason I still appreciate these videos are that they highlight important characteristics that are common with those who experience sensory overload:

1. Increased brightness

2. Jumbled noise

3. Sensitivity to certain smells

4. Distracted by individual objects that become the complete focus of the individual 

New York State Assembly Press Release: Accessible Icon Project

It was a surprise to the Accessible Icon team when we received a call from the New York State Senate inviting us to speak at their press release regarding the Accessible Icon legislation (A.8193/S.6846) created by Senator Carlucci and Assemblywoman Galef. New York is now the first official state to adopt the icon officially. Here are pictures from our trip visiting New York for the special event.

Mozambique: The Bocaria


From http://mozambique-musings.blogspot.com/2010/12/bocaria.html

I have seen the poor part of Africa–the part of Africa that is highlighted in documentaries, books, and television segments. It is the part of the world some people do not believe is real and cannot fathom even existing. It is the place where people of all ages literally search through piles and piles of trash to find food and materials for the day. It is where 11 year old children do not go to school, but instead dig through trash to find items they can sell and eat.

Today I went to the Bocaria—the local garbage dump and home to hundreds of children, parents, and elderly people in Maputo, Mozambique.

Our day…

We woke up early and met a group of people at the Arco Iris center in Zimpeto, Mozambique. From there, we left on a small white bus and took a 15 minute bus ride to the Bocaria. From the bus window, I saw little stands where people were selling fruits, vegetables, and other small items. We also passed  cement houses with tin roofs stationed close to the roadside. Cars were flying by us and people of all ages were running through the streets. It is not uncommon to see little children–2 and 3–playing close to the road as well as 6 and 7 year old children caring for their younger siblings. Many carry food on their heads and babies on their backs using a capulana.  Some people smiled, some waved, and others just stared as we passed.

After traveling on top of a bumpy dirt road with many little hills and curves, we finally pull into the Bocaria. The first thing you notice are the mountains and mountains of trash and the smell of fire smoke and sweat. There is so much garbage that fumes rise from the mountains because the trash is being burned. Piles of garbage is to our  left, homes on our right, and children of all ages standing in front to greet us.

As soon as we get off the bus, little children are waiting for hugs and embraces. These children have mixed matched clothes with holes and dirt, smiles, and usually runny noses. You pray for grace and love, and embrace the children who are excited to see you. As you are being led by the children to the church you are visiting, you start to notice the broken glass and metal you are stepping over. You have sneakers so you are fine, but then you notice the little boy who is holding you hand is not wearing shoes. Many children are not wearing shoes. Although you try to watch your step, you cannot avoid the broken glass and metal. We walked over to a church 50 ft from the dump.

The church service was amazing. People were dancing and singing. Children were clinging on to me and playing with my curly hair. I was brought to tears at how amazing this place was. Despite the external “ugliness”, much beauty was present in the people and in this building. After the service was over, it is tradition for Iris Ministries to hand out one piece of bread to each child at the door. As the children were pushing and shoving their way up to the front, I was praying we would have enough bread to feed all these hungry children, but we ran out. We ran out of bread. A good 20-30 children were without bread. And you know what, not one child screamed, cried, or even pouted. It is what it is. That is the motto I would say rings true in places like this. Some children received bread, and others did not. They seemed more used to this unfairness than I did.

There are some memories at the Bocaria that I hope to write more in detail about at another time. I decided to briefly include the stories below:

1. The smile of the little boy who received pink socks

2. The sadness of Erika, an 11 year old girl searching through the rubbles of garbage with her mother

3. The “all about me” shirt that was donated and handed out to one of the children

4. Being on top to the garbage dump and watching people rush over to the new pile dropped off by a garbage dump

Until next time,