As we are wrapping up 2023 and heading into the year-end holidays, we here at CPWD want to celebrate all the wonderful news, entertainment, and resources for our community that can make this sometimes joyful and sometimes challenging time of year a bit more merry and bright! From news stories that will restore your faith in humanity, to movies that will make you laugh, cry, and feel inspired, we hope this resource guide will help you celebrate the next year with optimism and joy.
We also recognize that it may be a challenging time for many, and leave some feeling isolated and in need of extra support. We also have included several community resources that can be helpful. We hope this guide helps you have a happy holiday season!
Good News Highlights of the Year
Too often the news tells us of only the worst of what is happening in the world. But 2023 has many amazing stories to share, in particular for the disability community. Check these stories out as reminders of how amazing people can truly be!
How a quadruple amputee overcame countless rejections to make his pilot dreams take off
Born without hands or feet, Zach Anglin’s lifelong dream was to become a pilot. Despite facing over a dozen rejections from flight schools, he persisted until he was accepted into the Spartan College of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma to do one runway flight. Yet, gaining approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for flying lessons proved to be just as challenging. Encouraged by his mother, he made nearly 200 calls to the FAA until he finally got clearance for takeoff. Graduating from flight school, Anglin now teaches the course that for so long he was told he couldn’t take. His story goes beyond the experience of amputees, and resonates with anyone navigating challenges. Follow the link to read the full story.
Boston company’s robot hand helps deaf-blind community communicate independently
In the heart of Massrobotics in Boston, a transformative innovation is underway. John Cunniff, born deaf and partially blind, has traditionally relied on tactile ASL communication, but now, Tatum Robotics, led by Samantha Johnson, has created the Tatum T1—an interactive hand allowing independent communication. This revolutionary tool offers options like choosing news or emails, aiming to enhance accessibility for the often overlooked deaf-blind community. While still in testing, the Tatum T1 was showcased at the Robot Block Party in Boston, part of the sixth annual celebration of robotics on September 30. Follow the link below to read the complete story.
Colorado expands inclusive higher education programs for students with intellectual disabilities
Lawmakers in Colorado have expanded funding to allow higher education to be more inclusive to those who have Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. Within seven years, the state went from having no inclusive higher education programs for people with IDD to now spearheading four successful initiatives, thanks to IN! Pathways to Inclusive Higher Education. These programs, established through state funding, provide students with IDD a comprehensive college experience. The success has led to additional funding for programs at Metro State University of Denver and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Grace Arnold, a program beneficiary, describes the experience as stepping into a dream while studying Science and Nutrition at UCCS. Juggling classes, campus activities, and volunteer work, she values the program’s role in teaching independence. Dr. Christy Kasa emphasizes high expectations for program graduates, who receive a Comprehensive Higher Education Certificate instead of a Bachelor’s Degree. Despite the non-traditional degree, 44 students have graduated since 2016, with 75% securing jobs in their fields. IN! Pathways to Inclusive Higher Education aims to expand programs to rural Colorado campuses in the coming years. Follow the link below to read the full story.
He didn’t want his daughter, who has cognitive and physical disabilities, to feel left out. So, he built a fully accessible theme park
Morgan Hartman, born with both physical and cognitive disabilities, inspired her father, Gordon Hartman, to create an inclusive, full-accessibility theme park. Motivated by the heartbreak of seeing Morgan excluded from pool activities with other kids because she was non-verbal during a family vacation in 2006, Gordon’s vision became a reality in 2010 with the opening of Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio. The park, designed to be fully accessible, offers experiences like a Ferris wheel, zip lining, and a water park for all visitors. Wheelchair users are given waterproof wheelchairs to use in the water park. One family cried as they spoke to Gordon, saying they had never been able to play in the water together before.
Morgan, now diagnosed with Tatton-Brown-Rahman syndrome at 29, continues to enjoy her favorite attractions, including the train and swings. Gordon emphasizes the park is not just for people with disabilities but is a place for everyone to truly enjoy together. Morgan’s Wonderland has expanded to include a sports center and camp, attracting visitors from around the world, with free entry for those with disabilities. Gordon shares that the park’s impact is in allowing everyone to participate and have fun, transforming the lives of individuals who previously watched from the sidelines. Follow the link below to read the full story.
Movies to Lift Your Spirits
The music, the cinematography, the storytelling, movies have a way of capturing our imagination and transporting us to a different world for a couple of hours. These movies below will take you on a journey that will uplift your spirit and move your heart!
A groundbreaking summer camp galvanized a group of teens with disabilities to help build a movement, forging a new path toward greater equality and disability civil rights. This spirited look at grassroots activism is executive produced by President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.
Woody Harrelson stars in the hilarious and heartwarming story of a former minor-league basketball coach who, after a series of missteps, is ordered by the court to manage a team of players with intellectual disabilities. He soon realizes that despite his doubts, together, this team can go further than they ever imagined.
“Right Footed” is a documentary film about Jessica Cox, who was born without arms as the result of a rare birth defect. She worked hard to become fully independent, learned to type with her toes and drive a car with her feet and — overcoming one of her greatest fears — she learned to fly an airplane with her feet. “Right Footed” follows Jessica as she takes on a new challenge, becoming a mentor for children with disabilities and their families, and an advocate and activist for disability rights in the USA and abroad.
The Peanut Butter Falcon
A modern Mark Twain style adventure story, The Peanut Butter Falcon tells the story of Zak (Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome, who runs away from a residential nursing home to follow his dream of attending the professional wrestling school of his idol, The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). A strange turn of events pairs him on the road with Tyler (LaBeouf), a small-time outlaw on the run, who becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally. Together they wind through deltas, elude capture, drink whisky, find God, catch fish, and convince Eleanor (Johnson), a kind nursing home employee charged with Zak’s return, to join them on their journey.
Rising Phoenix tells the extraordinary story of the Paralympic Games. From the rubble of World War II to the third biggest sporting event on the planet, the Paralympics sparked a global movement which continues to change the way the world thinks about disability, diversity & human potential.
A highlight of the movie is the closing soundtrack – a hip hop track, also titled Rising Phoenix. To produce the track, the film’s composer Daniel Pemberton worked with three Disabled artists: rapper Georgetragic, MC Toni Hickman, and rapper Keith Jones. The three artists are part of Krip Hop Nation, a global collective of Hip Hop artists with disabilities, founded in 2007 in California by Leroy F. Moore. With rousing lyrics and a hypnotizing drum, the Krip Hop track feels like a masterful fusion of Hip Hop and Disability culture.
Eye-Opening Books To Read
Books are the portal to knowledge and an expanded worldview. Step into these stories and experience the world through the eyes of others and expand your horizons!
The Pretty One by Keah Brown
Keah Brown loves herself, but that hadn’t always been the case. Born with cerebral palsy, her greatest desire used to be normalcy and refuge from the steady stream of self-hate society strengthened inside her. But after years of introspection and reaching out to others in her community, she has reclaimed herself and changed her perspective.
In The Pretty One, Brown gives a contemporary and relatable voice to the disabled—so often portrayed as mute, weak, or isolated. With clear, fresh, and light-hearted prose, these essays explore everything from her relationship with her able-bodied identical twin (called “the pretty one” by friends) to navigating romance; her deep affinity for all things pop culture—and her disappointment with the media’s distorted view of disability; and her declaration of self-love with the viral hashtag #DisabledAndCute.
Disability Visibility by Alice Wong
One in five people in the United States lives with a disability. Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent—but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture. Activist Alice Wong brings together this urgent, galvanizing collection of contemporary essays by disabled people, just in time for the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act,
From Harriet McBryde Johnson’s account of her debate with Peter Singer over her own personhood to original pieces by authors like Keah Brown and Haben Girma; from blog posts, manifestos, and eulogies to Congressional testimonies, and beyond: this anthology gives a glimpse into the rich complexity of the disabled experience, highlighting the passions, talents, and everyday lives of this community. It invites readers to question their own understandings. It celebrates and documents disability culture in the now. It looks to the future and the past with hope and love.
No Pity by Joseph P. Shapiro
considered a primer of the Independent Living Movement! This book attempts to explain, to nondisabled people as well as to many disabled ones, how the world and self-perceptions of disabled people are changing. It looks at the rise of the disability rights movement—the new thinking by disabled people that there is no pity or tragedy in disability and that it is society’s myths, fears, and stereotypes that most make being disabled difficult.
Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity by Devon Price, PhD
For every visibly Autistic person you meet, there are countless “masked” Autistic people who pass as neurotypical. Masking is a common coping mechanism in which Autistic people hide their identifiably Autistic traits in order to fit in with societal norms, adopting a superficial personality at the expense of their mental health. This can include suppressing harmless stims, papering over communication challenges by presenting as unassuming and mild-mannered, and forcing themselves into situations that cause severe anxiety, all so they aren’t seen as needy or “odd.”
It’s time to honor the needs, diversity, and unique strengths of Autistic people so that they no longer have to mask—and it’s time for greater public acceptance and accommodation of difference. In embracing neurodiversity, we can all reap the rewards of nonconformity and learn to live authentically, Autistic and neurotypical people alike
We understand that for many, the holidays are not joyful, but in fact can be filled with stress and dread. Here we offer some tips and resources to help you find your way through this intense time!
Stress management tips:
- Eat Healthy – with the decadent holiday treats available everywhere you turn, it’s easy to over indulge and start packing in the sweets like Santa in a Hostess factory. But too much is often not a good thing! Be sure to keep a balance between the yummy sweets and healthy foods that support not only your body, but your mental state too. Sugar crashes are real, and often can send one spiraling downward into a depressed state.
- Exercise – as delightful as a Christmas movie marathon on Netflix sounds, make sure you get your body moving! With exercise, natural endorphins kick in and boost the body’s serotonin levels. With the ever-increasing nights and shortening days, this time is more important than ever to get moving and work out the winter sludge.
- Sleep – this is a great time to nestle all warm in your bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in your head (better there than your belly!) It may be tempting to party the night away, or pull an all-nighter to see if Santa will make it down the chimney, but lack of sleep leads to depleted resources, foggy thinking, and grumpiness that can make the Grinch seem like the Easter Bunny.
- Community – No person is an island, so don’t forget to open your heart and your home to those you love. It may be challenging to connect this time of year with others when people often travel and visit other family members. If you find yourself alone and unhappy, check out these resources below to connect with community members close by.
Mental Health Services and Peer Support in Boulder County
Mental Health Partners
Counseling services for individuals, families, and addiction recovery. If you think you need mental health or addiction recovery services, call their main line at (303) 443-8500 to begin.
Mental Health Partners 24/7 Crisis and Addiction Center
3180 Airport Rd, Boulder, CO 80301
Mental Health Partners’ Walk-In Crisis Center in Boulder is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Services include confidential, in-person support, information and referrals to anyone in need. Their center is always available to those in need of direct services or those seeking to help engage another person in services, whether the crisis is substance-use related, psychiatric, or both.
MHP Online facebook group
Naropa Counseling Services
Naropa Community Counseling integrates contemplative approaches with modern clinical practice to assist our clients in reaching their highest level of emotional and mental well-being. They are closed for Winter Break from Dec 16 – Jan 1.
Colorado Suicide Prevention/National Suicide Prevention
If you find yourself thinking about self-harm or suicide, please reach out to a crisis counselor immediately at the Colorado Suicide Prevention/National Suicide Prevention. They have counselors on standby 24/7. it’s free, confidential crisis intervention.
1-844-493-TALK (8255), text TALK to 38255. Services and information available in English and Spanish.
CPWD Peer Support Groups
Join your peers at these in-person groups to connect, make friends, find resources for Independent Living, and recognize that you are not alone! Our office will be closed from Dec 22 – Jan 2, when our peer support groups will resume. Check out our service calendar here.
We hope however you spend the holidays, you find joy in heart and support in your community. From all of us at CPWD we wish you Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year!