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Alexa: Do You Help People With Disabilities?

Alexa: Do You Help People With Disabilities?

Do you want to increase your quality of life your quality of life? Do you want to create a home with meet your needs in light of your disability? I strongly recommend the use of smart home technologies. Using integrated technology like Amazon Alexa and Google home assistant you can increase your home’s functionality a little bit of the time starting with what you need first. The Internet and modern technology alleviate the need to purchase one expensive device to perform a task.

Amazon Alexa

The Alexa application can be used to control the lights, the TV, and other applications as well as set alarms. It can also be used to read headlines from new sources such as CNN Reuters and Fox. The technology has opened up a whole new world for an individual who could not read books or newspapers by themselves.  The Amazon echo can also be used to perform Internet searches without using one’s hands. When I performed my initial research for this post I did so use my Alexa for fire TV. The device can also be used for shopping and setting reminders.

Amazon Alexa

My Setup With Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant

The lights in the house can be controlled with simple devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant. The technology isn’t perfect but it represents a great start and will provide benefits and comfort to individuals with disabilities. I have the good fortune to live in a home in southern New Jersey that is wheelchair accessible. It has a flat entranceway in the front of the house. My back porch as a wooden ramp which permits me to exit off the back porch from double doors leading out of the house. It has wider doorways so my motorized wheelchair can drive through. The doorway to my bedroom is 36 inches. My bathroom contains a roll in shower and accessible sink.

There is one thing I would change about my house I cannot open and close the front door by myself, unfortunately, I am very dependent upon others to get in and out of the house. I would prefer to have a door with an electronic time in a combination lock. At this time the items are beyond my budget.

Ideal World

In my ideal world, my home would function as a part of my care as crazy as it sounds Jensen’s cartoons where technology showers George dresses him and brushes his teeth. The August Smart Lock can be used to grant equal access to your home at certain times of the day such as home health aide. An individual smartphone can be used as a key. If you don’t want the person coming over anymore you can simply remove their access. The device also keeps track of who arrives and when. It provides more safety than a keypad with a combination.

If you have a falling out with a former home health aide you can restrict your access simply by removing them. This is a cost-effective item because it sells on Amazon for $181.24. This item is definitely cost-effective and could be purchased with the proceeds from my Social Security disability check.

Other Devices

Other wonderful devices include the ring doorbell which allows you to see the person at the door through the smartphone application. You can decide whether or not to answer the door. There also smart thermostats which allow you to control the temperature of your house.

One drawback I see with respect to these devices is that they are all Internet-based. If your Internet connection is unreliable, the devices will not function. I frequently had to reset my router to ensure that my Internet-based devices actually work. Fortunately, this is usually a simple process of restarting the router which I do by simply unplugging it or by calling my Internet provider on the phone. I do not presently possess a smart door lock a ring doorbell or a smart thermostat. My mother has to help me with resetting the thermostat or to see who is actually at the door. I believe that these devices would greatly enhance our personal freedom.

While my Jetsons fantasy of devices that provide me with attendant care is still far-fetched smart home devices are not and can provide a great deal of personal independence. I strongly urge you to try them because many of them are more cost-effective than I thought at first. If you know other technologies that work for you, please leave it as a comment below.

Living With a Disability What Community is Best for You

Living With a Disability What Community is Best for You

The purpose of this article is to find the most disability-friendly cities in the United States. My evaluation criteria consist of the following items:

  1. Cost-of-living
  2. Affordable reliable attendant care
  3. Accessible affordable transportation close to home with proximity to work, school, doctors, and entertainment.

According to the Social Security Administration, one in every 5 people has a disability today. Sadly, this is not a sufficient amount of money to cover our living monthly expenses. The average Social Security check pays $1165 a month barely enough to keep a person above poverty.

This information was found in a report by wallet hub. It is clear in life as well as business cost control is the key, especially when many disabled people are living on a fixed income such as Social Security disability or SSI.

One pervasive problem that may still exist in many areas is the lack of affordable accessible public housing. I presently live in southern New Jersey. The Burlington County Housing Authority does not have any disability accessible units at this time. Applications are not in them being accepted at this time. This information is based upon a phone call I had with the Housing Authority in February 2017.
Attendant care New Jersey.

disability-friendly cities pca

Attendant Care Options

New Jersey has 2 attendant care options one is a Medicaid waiver program in which the state pays for the attendant care of disabled persons after a required annual assessment. Under this program, there is a recapture provision which means that the state is able to recover the amounts expended on the disabled person’s care from his estate. The recapture takes effect at the decedent’s death.

The 2nd program allows family members of disabled persons to be paid. Under this program, the disabled person is either required to work and pay a co-pay based upon his income or to perform 20 hours of volunteering per month. Under this program, there is no estate recapture.

disability-friendly cities accessible bus


Portland, Oregon has a wonderful transportation system. Portland Oregon. The transportation system is entirely accessible including bosses and trolley cars. In Portland Oregon a disabled person can take a car or minibus provided by the tri-med transportation system the city even has accessible trails that can be enjoyed by persons with disabilities a significant benefit of this city is its moderate climate historically.

The city of Berkeley, California is known as the base for the independent living movement the state of California pays for attendant care and the city of Berkeley has been known to provide backup attendance in the event that yours is absent on a given day. A system like this would’ve been useful when I was choosing my law school. I was accepted by Temple University but I would’ve had to rely upon my attendance to come in and get me out of bed every day which does not always happen. Berkeley, CA might be one of the disability-friendly cities.

Las Vegas, Nevada

All of the major attractions on the strip are accessible and elevators are abundant. Even the sidewalks are wide in the streets are flat. The buses kneel to allow wheelchair access. All forms of public transportation are accessible including trolleys. If you don’t mind me saying I think I found my next vacation spot, which might be one of the most disability-friendly cities. The information contained in this article was based upon the general needs of disabled persons and my own needs it is important to know your needs and requirements prior to choosing a location in which you are to live. I hope the information contained in this article proved helpful.

The Quest for Affordable Accessible Housing

The Quest for Affordable Accessible Housing

If you’re like me a physically disabled individual with very limited resources such as Social Security disability being your only source of income it can be very difficult if not impossible to find affordable accessible housing when you are disabled.

 2 Affordable Accessible Housing Programs

Generally, there are 2 types of housing programs that I am aware of 1 of which is section 8 housing which provides vouchers for rent and subsidizes the rent payment under section 8 housing which is a federal program rent is approximately one-third of monthly income.

The second type of housing is public housing both are federal programs administered by County housing authorities. These programs have income and assets requirements that you must meet in order to be eligible generally to be eligible for public housing your income level must be 80% of federal poverty. To be eligible for section 8 housing your income level must be 50 to 80% of federal poverty. Income and asset requirements vary by jurisdiction. The information contained in this article is intended strictly as guidance you should check with your County Housing Authority to determine purpose besides income and asset requirements.

I am originally from Bucks County Pennsylvania. When I last applied for public housing the income limits the eligible was $15,000 a year. Also, assets affected eligibility for example if you owned a house the value of that house would count against you and prevent you from being eligible. There is also a 3 to 5 year period related to asset transfers. Individuals would frequently try to transfer assets to children in order to render themselves eligible for public housing. I would strongly advise honesty in the reporting of income and assets to avoid misrepresentation fraud and ineligibility for a substantial period of time.

accessible housing section 8 housing

Waiting Lists

Many housing authorities also have waiting lists. In which the application was received. It is also important to note that many local housing authorities have stopped receiving applications. In many housing authorities, there are no disability accessible units such as Burlington County New Jersey. When you apply, you are placed on the back of the housing list as dwellings become available people move up on the list based upon the time applying for section 8 housing may make it possible to obtain an apartment more quickly.

When Accepted

Once you are accepted into public housing you will be required to put down a 1st and last month security deposit. When you are in public housing, it is important to pay your rent on time and keep your other bills current. Also, you must comply with all federal state and local regulations with regard to occupancy in the past I’ve heard stories of many individuals who have lost their federal lease due to having more individuals in the apartment and were listed on the lease. Also, many individuals have lost their lease and access to federal housing because of drug use or other illegal activity.


Providers of the accessible housing may not discriminate on the basis of disability under the fair housing act a disability is defined as an impairment which affects a major life activity just like the ADA the definition under the federal fair housing act also covers people perceived as having a disability or having a record of such impairment. Your landlord cannot discriminate simply because he or she is uncomfortable with your disability. I would advise the following steps in summation:

(1) contact your county Housing Authority to determine eligibility requirements

(2) gather all of your available financial information.

(3) gather information related to your disability most times a simple letter stating the nature of your disability and limitations will suffice.

(4) apply for both section 8 subsidized housing and public housing.

(5) once you have obtained a rental voucher look for an apartment taking into account its location so that you are close to public transportation so you can get to your doctor appointments and your job.

(6) once you have found an appropriate apartment and been accepted make a written request for reasonable accommodation.

(7) if the possible fight to save up money to pay for the necessary accommodations.

If this is not possible in light of your circumstances look for grants that help disabled people pay for modifications. I wish you all success in your quest for independent living and accessible housing.  Discrimination in housing is not permitted. Public areas must be made accessible under title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act. There are many rights in housing for people with disabilities.


Under the fair housing act landlord’s must permit the modification to allow the disabled person full use and enjoyment of the property the cost of the modifications are the responsibility of the tenant examples of reasonable accommodations include lowering of entranceways installing a ramp widening doorways on the inside of the premises. A ramp may be built on the outside of the premises to render a public area more accessible. Another necessary reasonable accommodation is a reserved handicap parking spot in front of your apartment even if no other parking spots are reserved.

Importance of Education

Importance of Education

I think most every one would agree that having a good education is paramount  in living in today’s society.  This is especially true for those with complex disabilities.  I was born with cerebral palsy at a time in history when institutionalization was the only option.  Being African American and female made it even more unlikely that I would survive what society had to offer.  However, my mother insisted that I  be educated similarly to my able-bodied brother just 15 months older.  In the 1950’s, there was no documented information to contradict what my mother said was possible.  Therefore, the professionals did as my mother instructed.  Contrary to the common practice at the time, the diagnosis of “mentally retarded” was not ascribed to me.  When it was  suggested, my mother said that he had taught me how to read.  Her insistence that she was able to understand my very difficult speaking pattern kept that label absent from all records regarding my diagnosis of Athetoid Cerebral Palsy.

Beyond a Bachelor

Having excelled through all academic endeavors through a Masters Degree from the Pennsylvania State University, I accomplished many years of professional experience.  I continue to emphasize  those very early years because the United States sees to be going backwards, at least in any parts of the country.

In my self published memoir, It’s Easier to Dance – Living Beyond Boundaries https://www.amazon.com/Annie-Harris-Meachem/e/B06XK69F55, I emphasize the complexities of being disabled and of multicultural heritage.  It is a reality that has yet to be addressed in our country.

Eliminating Plastic Straws – Are You Joking Us?

Eliminating Plastic Straws – Are You Joking Us?

On a hot sunny day, you are out and about and need a super cold drink.  You just go to a fast food restaurant and ask for a large drink of your favorite beverage. They hand you your drink and you ask them for a straw. The restaurant tells you that they don’t carry straws anymore. They are eliminating plastic straws – why?

Paper Straws

I heard that they are going toward using paper straws, but I do not know how that would work. For me, I know paper straws will never work for me because most plastic straws don’t work for me unless it is kind of hard. People with disabilities often use straws so that they don’t get their clothes messed up.

Saving the Environment

I understand that they want to save the environment, but sometimes people have to think about what would happen if they eliminate something all together. I think it is doing injustice for the society and if we just let them keep doing this, what is next? They want to eliminate making old buildings accessible with the HR620 bill.

eliminating plastic straws colorful straws

Independence vs Eliminating Plastic Straws

By eliminating plastic straws, they are making people with disabilities more dependent on other people. What do I mean by this? Well, most people who use straws and are a person with a disability can drink by their selves. If plastic straws are eliminated, people with disabilities will be more dependent on other people. If you look at the society as a whole, people with disabilities are not needed and if we get more dependent on others, who know what they might want to do next. I don’t mean that they are eliminating plastic straws to make our lives more difficult. It is that they are more worried about the planet, which is good to a point, but if people would recycle the straws like they should be doing, this would never happen.


What can we do as a community? There are a few things that we can do. First, share this post with your friends. Most likely people don’t know about this or second they don’t realize that people with disabilities need plastic straws to drink. The second thing that we can do is when we go to restaurants, we should tell the manager that you need plastic straws to drink and ask them nicely to continue to provide plastic straws. By doing this, you are teaching them that people do need plastic straws and it is necessary to have them.

Eliminating plastic straws is good for the environment, but it is affecting people’s lives. People with disabilities have the rights to ask for a straw that works for them when they are in public. We want to stay clean as possible when we eat out, and straws are one way that keeps us clean.

Social Security Can a Blessing for People With Disabilities

Social Security Can a Blessing for People With Disabilities

When my father passed away in 1991, I became eligible for Social Security disability insurance after being an SSI recipient. It did not take away the pain of his loss but it helped me to function more easily in the world without him. If a parent is disabled their children may receive Social Security benefits until they reach the age of 18. The number of credit you need to ensure that a family member is eligible for survivors benefits depends on your age when you die.

Qualifications for  Social Security

Generally to be eligible for Social Security disability benefits a person must have 10 years of work 20/40 quarters. The younger you are the fewer quarters you need. When I turned 18 I became eligible for supplemental security income even though I lived with my parents. The income eligibility requirements for SSI are as follows an individual can earn no more than $750 per month and can have no more than $2000 in assets.

A disabled couple can have no more income $1025 per month and have no more than $3000 in assets. The rules regarding employment income and SSI are very strict you must pay back one dollar and benefit for every dollar you earn. As an example when I was on SSI in the late 80s my father eventually $250 for a needed new American printing house for the blind recorder. The Social Security Administration was going to reduce my benefit. I had to agree to pay it back and $50 monthly installments to my father in $50 per month installments.

social security imagine

Age for Benefits

The number of work credits a person has at a given age determines whether they are eligible for Social Security disability benefits. If a person becomes disabled prior to the age of 24 they must earn 6 credits within the 3 year period before their disability starts. If you become disabled after the age 24 you must work half the time prior to the onset of your disability. The onset date is the date disability starts. If you’re disabled and were working there is a 4 month waiting period in which your income must be below the substantial gainful activity amount. There is also an emergency procedure for getting reinstated if you have to stop working. Please contact your local Social Security office to obtain current and accurate advice as to your eligibility.

Disability Rules as Defined by the Social Security Administration

A disability must last a year or more and affect a major life activity. The individual must be unable to perform any substantial gainful activity. Substantial gainful activity is defined as any month in which the individual earns $1170. It is possible to receive what is called a trial work. This is a nine-month period in which the disabled person can earn as much as possible and maintain his benefit. After the trial work. If the person continues to earn benefits payment of benefits would stop. It is possible to have to try work periods without losing benefits. I had one trial work. Of 9 months during my years in law practice and another trial work. When I worked for the Social Security Administration. I strongly advise that you consult with the Social Security Administration to determine actual eligibility since the rules can change.

Disability and Job Market

As I’m sure most of you already know it can be difficult  finding a job when you’re physically disabled. Upon my graduation from law school in 1994, I applied for 1500 jobs which I believed I was qualified for and did not receive any job offers. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, employer’s are required to pay for reasonable accommodations. They are not required to pay if the accommodation would represent a hardship given the size of the business and its resources. 1 of the reasons I believe I was not hired by any private law firm or District Attorney’s Office could have been the accommodations.

The Bucks County District Attorney’s Office where I was employed as an intern in the summers of 1992 and 93 did not hire me after graduation instead they hired a hearing impaired attorney that would require less commendation than I. I may have needed. In this area constitute speculation and I have no actual proof. As we discussed in an earlier post title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disability in hiring. If the reason for the employer’s not hiring is based on! another reason other than disability the employer can refuse to hire you.

Generally, the employer is not permitted to ask questions regarding your disability during a hiring interview. It must be noted that there have been occasions where I did not get hired because I did not discuss needed accommodations. My experience has shown that it is probably better, in the long run, to discuss needed accommodations when you are close to being hired. If the employer is truly interested I believe that they will make reasonable adjustments for you.

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