Monday, August 31, 2009

Gone Fishin'

On Friday I went on an adaptive fishing expedition that was held in the Bitterrroot Valley near Florence. It was a sunny & hot August day but we had a beautiful fishing spot in the shade. Montech brought along their arsenal of adaptive fishing equipment for people to try out. It was great to see so many people give fishing a try and have a blast doing it. We also had a great lunch of grilled dogs and burgers.

The sip and puff pole was in for repair so I didn't make an attempt. The good news is that Montech is working at getting in a switch operated automatic rod and reel setup. I can't wait to give it a test drive when it comes in. Thanks to the folks at Summit and Montech for their efforts at making this outing possible.

A few words about my video. This was my first attempt at shooting my own video with my new Bogen mount. The quality wasn't the greatest but I'm still pretty happy with it. I learned so much and it was a great feeling to do it independently. Next time should produce a more polished product :-)

I better wrap this up as I have school tomorrow morning. It's been 7 months since being in school full time and I couldn't be happier to get back in the saddle. I'll be back soon with how the semester has started. No music this week but I'll make up for it next time.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Adventures in photography

Living with a disability all these years has been an interesting existence. I've gone down many paths filled with several twists and turns along the way. I've met some fantastic people along my journey as well. Luckily I still count many of these folks as my friends and sadly some have gone out of my life through the passage of time. My regrets are few and my disability has given me a unique perspective on life.

The most troubling thing to me about living with a progressive disease is the lack of recreational outlets. For many the desire is there but finding creative solutions is a significant barrier. Well in the next several months, I'll be looking to turn the tables on this trend as I delve into some new adaptive recreational opportunities. My first foray will be into the world of adaptive photography.

Photography has always been something I've wanted to do but the how has always been the barrier. This changed recently when I paid the folks at MonTech a visit. MonTech is a state program that provides support in all kinds of areas relating to Assistive Technology. Chris and Whitney over there showed me this awesome camera mount which attaches right to my wheelchair. It got me excited to see that I could have a camera brought up to my eye level. I ordered the mount and now have a major piece of the puzzle solved.

A big hurdle though has been figuring out how to activate the shutter. Nikon makes remote shutter releases but they are unfortunately too hard for me to push. I've been discussing these issues with fellow DMDer Scott Sands. Scott has been a great resource and he's been doing adaptive photography for a little while now. Thanks man for your advice and willingness to listen! I'm currently working on getting this issue solved and things are looking good. Tonight may have been a breakthrough moment though. I found a company in Arizona that makes bite switches for skydiving photographers. I'll be anxious to see if this will be workable for my needs.

Well now for the biggest decision, the camera. After much research and contemplation, I've decided to purchase the Nikon D5000. The Nikon D5000 is great starter DSLR and has all the features I'll probably ever need. It also has an awesome multi angle screen that will come in very handy for me. I should get it just in time for the photography class I've signed up for.

Hopefully I'm well on my way to being successful in adaptive photography. This may be quite useful in my journalistic pursuits but my main goal is to get out there and have fun. Just because you have a disability doesn't mean you should miss out. It may require some ingenuity but that is all part of the journey.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Turning point?

Thursday was the long awaited culmination of our efforts here in Missoula to meet with Sen. Max Baucus. As I arose that morning and put on my ADAPT colors, I felt some optimism that something positive would happen for me and my fellow brothers and sisters. Maybe we would finally get the Senator to realize the need to include community long term care supports into the current healthcare reform efforts.

We arrived at the Missoula Public Library a bit before 10 a.m. and assembled our group of advocates. Senator Baucus arrived shortly before 10 a.m. with his entourage in tow and after some brief introductions we sat down to talk.

The meeting went fairly well but the Senator kept wanting to direct things toward more general healthcare reform. We got him back on track and he brought up the budget figures that the Congressional Budget Office applied towards the CCA legislation. These numbers were skewed and the CBO backed off their initial figures after research proved that home and community based services were far cheaper than nursing home care. Sen. Baucus wanted to know what states are excelling at providing home & community based services. We named the states we were aware of including Montana.

Dustin and I shared testimony of how community based services here in Montana have benefited us. I told the Senator about the sacrifice I made moving away from family and friends in ND just to have a chance at living a free life. I also told the Senator how being institutionalized tears away your freedom and wastes your life. In order to drive the point home, I told the Senator that I went from languishing in a nursing home to now being able to pursue a college degree in Journalism. Sen. Baucus did seem to be very interested in our stories and I hope that I was able impact him in a positive way.

We mentioned to Senator Baucus that failure to remove the institutional bias has civil rights implications because it may put Congress and the Obama Administration in violation of the ADA and the Olmstead decision. This got Max's attention, and he suggested we get some good attorneys to look at that point and possibly force something to be done.

Potentially a breakthrough moment came when we suggested that Medicaid law be changed to mandate Long Term Supports and Services and let states and individuals choose what kind of care they want to receive. It was like a light bulb went off in Sen. Baucus’s head and he said "You know, that might just be the way we get at this issue."

All in all the meeting was a good starting point and the Senator pledged he would keep a continued dialogue going. He put us in touch with one of his D.C. staffers and he wants to hear from us after he returns to D.C in September. I’ll admit it is tough to keep upbeat but hopefully these little steps will add up to a giant leap forwards for Americans with disabilities.

Fall semester is only two weeks away but I’m excited and ready to go. I spent last week gathering my textbooks and getting my necessary accommodations in order. It looks like a few challenging months ahead but hey this is what I’ve been waiting for. I’m looking forward to getting back into my journalism classes and making the push towards applying to the J-school.

In my next few blogs, I’ll be discussing my forays into some excited new adaptive technologies. I have some exciting new projects coming up and I look forward to sharing them with you. That’s all for now but I’ll leave you with a few favorite tunes that I’ve been listening to lately. There will be a video or two on each new post from now on and I hope you’ll enjoy some of my musical influences.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Had a ball

This past Thursday I hit the interstate and headed east to partake in the 26th annual Testicle Festival. In case you are wondering, the Testy Fest is a summertime bacchanalia paying homage to the Rocky Mountain oyster. My nurse and I had a great time and yes we took the plunge and had a plate of cowboy caviar. Despite what you may be thinking, they weren't too bad. I really can't effectively describe what they taste like but anything deep fried tastes pretty good in my book. Was a fun experience and I look forward to returning next year.

Friday night Theresa and I spent the evening at Lake Missoula Cellars catching a performance by local cellist Brandon Smith. The performance was great and it was nice to sit outside on their patio, eat burgers, and drink some fantastic local wine. I had one of their whites and I was pretty impressed. Now I confess I'm no wine expert but it's my goal in the next several months to become more acquainted. I'll have to list some of my favorites as I find them. For those of you in Missoula who love wine, head out to Lake Missoula Cellars and give them a try. You won't be sorry.

The 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act was recognized on July 26th. Many positive steps have been taken but progress has been painfully slow. We as a community need to continue the struggle and keep pushing for the advancement of all people with disabilities. I'll leave you with a video of a recent event in Central Park where Nadina LaSpina (NYC ADAPT) gave a powerful speech. Her words sum up what we as a society need to achieve before we can consider the ADA truly finished.