Archive for November, 2010

Travel Training Promotes Independence and Saves Costs

Penny EverlineMany of us get on our bus or train every day without thinking twice. Some of us who are not morning people (myself included) wake up two stops before our destination not remembering how we got there.

Our body knows where to go, has been there many times before, and takes us there on autopilot. None of us were born knowing how to ride transit. At some point, we learned.

For many people with disabilities and older adults, learning how to ride the fixed-route bus or train isn’t so; however, it can be a life-changing and life-enhancing experience.

Stuart Thacker, a recent graduate from Wakefield High School and the first student to graduate from the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia’s (ECNV’s) new Travel Training Program, summed up what learning how to ride the bus and train means to him. “I’m a free man,” he said.

Stuart’s high school transition coordinator referred him for travel training before he graduated. Stuart lives near the Pentagon City Metro with his parents, who also rely on public transportation. Before he learned how to ride transit on his own, Stuart had few independent transportation options.

Stuart was nervous when he first started learning how to ride the bus and train. “I was mainly worried about how I could find my way,” he explained. But practicing taking transit with his travel trainer, Robyn Bernardy, made all the difference. “The more I do, the more I feel independence,” he said. Stuart said he is now ready to be the guide for his mother when they take the train together.

Robyn provided regular one-on-one instruction to Stuart over a two-month timeframe. She was more hands-on at first, but gradually faded into the background allowing Stuart to take the lead and to become more confident.

Stuart learned one route at a time. He now knows how to get to and from multiple locations on his own including the Kennedy Center, where he plans to apply for an internship.

The ECNV Travel Training  Program  helps people with disabilities and older adults learn to travel safely and independently using public transportation in the Washington area. It teaches travel skills including:

• Identifying transportation options
• Reading maps and schedules
• Planning the trip
• Buying and using fare cards
• Identifying the appropriate bus and/or train to ride • Boarding, riding, and deboarding trains and buses • Crossing the street • Maintaining appropriate behavior • Handling unexpected situations or problems

The ECNV Travel Training Program is free to participants, and those who complete travel training receive a free reduced-fare SmarTrip card with $50 in fare. Free travel training for those living in Maryland and DC is also being provided by Independence Now, Inc. in Silver Spring, MD and by the District of Columbia Center for Independent Living respectively.

Of course, travel training has its limits. Travel training will not take away the environmental barriers at some transit stops and stations or along the path of travel to those stops and stations. And not everyone who starts the travel training program will develop the skills necessary to travel safely and consistently on their own. Some people with disabilities and some older adults will continue to need to use the paratransit service for some or all of their trips.

But for those individuals, like Stuart, who can learn how to use the fixed-route bus or rail for some or all of their trips, travel training increases independence and opportunities while reducing paratransit costs. And according to Stuart, “It’s a blast!”

If you are interested in the program, please contact ECNV’s Travel Trainers, Penny Everline or Rick Luckett at 703-525-3268 (Voice) or 703-525-3553 (TTY).

Note: An earlier version of this article also appeared on the Greater Greater Washington blog.


November 30, 2010 at 3:57 pm Leave a comment

Federal Jobs Workshop in Falls Church

Young Professional Wheelchair UserThe Obama Administration is hiring for over 600,000 positions over the next three years.  Would you like to be selected for one of these positions? 

Learn from a former GS-15 HR Manager from the Office of Personnel Management about the Federal application process and understand how to create Federal application materials that will set you apart from the competition. 


  **IMPORTANT Disclaimer: This Seminar is provided FREE of charge.  Any additional services are provided for a fee.  Please see website  ( for service prices.

 Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
Falls Church SkillSource Center
6245 Leesburg Pike, Suite 330
Falls Church, VA 22044


DIRECTIONS: (703) 533-5400

Corliss Jackson, MPA and former GS-15 Federal Government HR Manager, is an expert on the Federal Government’s hiring process.  She and her staff provide individual guidance to job seekers around the world and deliver global trainings on how to “Crack the Code” of the Federal hiring process. 


 … I am now VERY confident in applying for Federal positions!

 … extraordinary talent for digging into your history to create descriptive hiring assets!

 … FJR helped me with my resume and KSAs and I was referred for all seven positions we applied for.

Credit to 

November 29, 2010 at 3:03 pm Leave a comment

My Cochlear Implant (Part 2) – Activation

My cochlear implant was activated on Nov. 16 — four weeks after my surgery. At this point it is really too early to tell if it will prove to be beneficial in the long run. Early signs, however, are positive.

The implant seems to be working as expected so far. Everything is louder; in fact the implant is picking up frequencies that my hearing aids failed to pick up. This means that I need to get used to hearing a lot of new things or maybe a better way to put it is that I’m hearing many of the same things but in new ways.

For example, pretty much everything that is said (by me or by someone else), I hear accompanied by a lower tone. That tone, right now, is almost overpowering so it can make things difficult to understand. That, apparently, is normal and my audiologist says it will diminish as time goes by.

My biggest issue was one of discrimination so I am well aware of what hearing things but not being able to understand them is like. But I am definitely able to hear better and in most cases understand better. As it was with my hearing aids and FM System, there are some days/situations that are better than others and I guess that’s pretty much par for the course.

Another example is that opening a bag of something like potato chips, is akin to listening to a jackhammer. Actually, as someone who has used a jackhammer, I can say it’s louder! But that will get better with time.

After living for a week with my activated ci, I definitely am beginning to understand why everyone I’ve spoken with who has experience with a ci (surgeons, audiologists, researchers, users, family, et al.) has told me that it will take up to a year until you are really comfortable with it and benefitting from it. I had been thinking that I could just work harder at it and I would pick it up faster, but that’s not how it works!

So the key words here are cautious optimism!

I’ll write next in early- to mid-December after my next appointment.

By Tony Trott, ECNV Peer Mentor & Editor

November 24, 2010 at 2:33 am 4 comments

Free Hip or Knee Surgery Offered by INOVA Mount Vernon Hospital

DoctorOn November 20, 2010, INOVA Mount Vernon Hospital will host an Operation Walk surgical event in Virginia. INOVA Mount Vernon Hospital will be providing free hip or knee surgery to anyone without health insurance living in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Call Genéa M. Luck at 703-664-7193 or Julie Warner at 703-664-7018 if you know anyone who does not have health insurance and they can benefit from a hip or knee replacement surgery!

Operation Walk provides everything for free (including all post-operative medical care, education, and rehabilitation).

To learn more, go to

Credit to FA-DSB e-newsletter

November 16, 2010 at 4:02 pm Leave a comment

New Book – Prove Them Wrong

Prove Them Wrong Reveals Courage of Youth with Disabilities in
New Book
Determination Trumps Disability

***  The book includes the story of former ECNV Board Member and current Arlington resident Sheri Denkensohn ***

Book CoverAustin, TX – Prove Them Wrong released its new book, Prove Them Wrong: The Kids Who Refused to Quit, on September 21, 2010. This book reveals the courage of our youth –

• The courage to never accept the words “You can’t.”
• The courage to fight for their dreams.
• The courage to refuse to quit.

Author Nancy Shugart, former public school educator who has been blind since age eight, said “My reason for collecting these stories of people who, as kids, were not expected to amount to much but, as adults, achieved incredible success, into one book is to provide overwhelming evidence of what is possible when kids refuse to quit. It is also to show how all of us can help to change attitudes about youth with disabilities, thus helping to remove many of the barriers they face.”

“I wish I could put this book in the hands of anyone who’s thinking about giving up on a child.” -Christian Lindstrom, Director, LD OnLine

“’Don’t put any limits on him.’ This was the best advice someone gave me about my son who has autism. Not only will you hear this advice throughout Prove Them Wrong: The Kids Who Refused to Quit, but you’ll witness first-hand in these stories of what happens when this advice is heeded.” -Peter McNabb, Vice President & General Manager, USA News Network

The book is available at all bookstores as well as at

November 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Fairfax County’s Independent Living Program

Join Fairfax County’s Independent Living Program at Winter Hills Apartments in
Falls Church on Tuesdays from November 16 through December 21, 10 a.m. to noon. The program includes
seminars on healthy life choices, yoga for strength and balance, and home visits for safety checks by request.

All the following events are free and registration is required.

  • November 16 – Food Safety, Fairfax County Health Department
  • November 23 – Nutrition/Cooking for One or Two, Fairfax Area Agency on Aging
  • November 30 – Preparing for Your Doctor’s Visit, Inova Health Systems Medical Library
  • December 7 – Services for Older Adults, Fairfax Area Agency on Aging
  • December 14 – Aging Ears and Eyes, Access Services, Fairfax County Public Library
  • December 21 – Fire and Fall Prevention, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue

For more information, call Jennifer Edge at 703-324-7210, TTY 711 or e-mail mailto:

Credit to the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging

November 14, 2010 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

My Cochlear Implant (Part I)

Tony and SheriMy disability, Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA), presents many different problems.  The most noticeable one being a loss of balance; so much so that I use a wheelchair or scooter for my mobility in just about every situation that presents itself.  I have worked in a Center for Independent Living (CIL) for over six years now and in that time, I have grown increasingly comfortable with my physical disability.  Of course, there are still situations that get me very frustrated and angry but that’s to be expected. 

In addition to a loss of balance, my FA (and I say “my FA” because FA can be pretty much unique for anyone that has it) presents with a major loss of hearing over time.  Now because I work in a CIL as a counselor/mentor I do need to be a good listener.  Working in a CIL has also made me quite aware that not being able to hear is not the end of the world and it can, in fact, open up doors that seemed at earlier points to be closed. 

But the fact remains that I have lived for over 40 years in the hearing world and so I know what I am missing by not hearing and I want those things back.  Even though it was difficult with my FA, I have a Music Education degree from James Madison University and a Master of Education degree from George Mason University.  I have definitely found that music can be a very visual art and one can experience many of the same emotions from watching and feeling a performance as usually come with hearing it.

But again, the fact remains that I did hear fine for the majority of my life and I want to do so again.  That will, of course, help me in my personal life (I am married to a wonderful woman who, due to her being a quadriplegic from a diving accident, is unable to use ASL so I need to hear to  be able to communicate effectively with my wife) but also in my professional life.  I need to listen to many clients and I need to be able to use the phone and attend meetings that don’t have Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) which is, basically, live captioning of everything that is said.

Cochlear ImplantFor those reasons, and many others, I began researching cochlear implants.  Basically a cochlear implant is like a small computer that is implanted in the cochlea of the ear and it directly stimulates the auditory nerve bypassing any damaged portion of the ear.  However, according to research done by my team of doctors and audiologists, nobody with FA had ever tried a cochlear implant to correct the hearing issues associated with FA.  But the potential benefits outweighed the potential risks and I decided to go forward with the surgery.

The surgery (at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD) was not too daunting (about 2.5 hours) and it was done on an outpatient basis so I went home later that afternoon and spent the next six days recovering in Virginia. 

At this time, I do not know whether or not it will work; there is usually about four weeks between getting the implant and activation of the implant.  Until then I’m only hearing out of one ear (left) and I’m leaning heavily on my FM system and T-coil.  My activation is scheduled for November 16 so I don’t have too much longer to wait.  Here’s hoping that it does work for me, and even if it does there is still an expected learning period of about one year.  So this is very much a work in progress. 

I’ll write more after the activation.

By Tony Trott, ECNV Peer Mentor & Editor

November 10, 2010 at 10:36 pm 10 comments

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