Archive for March 26, 2014

More Than Just Business

Many people know that Thomas Moon, me,  is a motivational speaker, author, blogger and advocate but did you know what I do to make this world a better places?

I am involved in many different charities and causes including American Cancer Society, involving disabilities and children, adoption, foster care and more.

I am often asked Why, I do so much in the community.  What drives me to volunteer?

One answer is that I see the need.  It is right in front of me and it is hard for me to ignore it.  There is so much to do out there.

Secondly, I grew up being told I could not do.  When I was in foster care everyone told me I could not do.  Teachers told me I was mentally retarded and that I was too stupid to learn.

Foster parents told me I could not do what the other kids in the foster home did.  I was usually stuck in the corner to watch TV.  I was like a bump on a log – literally – stuck in the corner and left alone.

So when I left the foster care system, when I joined a family – opportunities opened up for me.  I was allowed to do – I was encouraged to.  My parents did not put limits or boundaries on me.  So I started doing.

Now I guess I do so much because I was told so often that I could not do.  I was told I would not learn anything – that I could not learn anything.  Now I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Rasmussen College – not a made up degree, not a degree because someone felt sorry for the kid in the wheelchair – but a real Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management – something I earned and had to work my butt off and study for.

I volunteer because I can – because instead of being the kid stuck in the corner – now I am the adult who can help and make a difference.  That is so very important to me. To make a difference.  To help those who need help.  To be the voice for so many who can’t speak out for themselves or are not heard.”

One of my events coming up is the Third Annual Strike Against Cancer. Come and support the Strike Against Cancer event on April 5th at AMF Galaxy East in Ocala! Call TJ Moon at 352-502-5994 for more information.

Remember that no matter how many obstacles you come across, people try to tell you what you can/can’t do, you fall on your face, etc, keep squeaking your wheels and moving forward because no one can make your life extraordinary except you!

Florida Service Animal Legislation

Thomas (TJ) and I recently visited the Capital for Disability Day.  We visited a number of our legislators.  We both believe that you need to be engaged if you are to make a difference.  Of course we never know whether we have made a difference or not.

However, if you do not try, you will never be an instrument of change. Being that instrument of change is what we are called to be.

This year I worked on HB 849/SB 1146 that deals with Service Animals here in Florida.  Service animals are covered and our rights protected by the American With Disabilities Act at a Federal level.

Florida’s law covering service animals has some gaps and loop holes.  The intent of the new legislation is to fill these gaps and bring Florida in compliance with the ADA.

Florida law only recognizes service animals for the blind, deaf and physically impaired.  There is no coverage under the state law for mental health animals, PTSD service animals or medical alert animals.

Additionally, the ADA defines service animals as dogs and miniature horses.  Florida does not specify which animals qualify as “service animals”.  This means that someone could claim a service cat, monkey or other animal.  This legislation would define service animal in Florida as the same as the federal standards.

The legislation would make it a misdemeanor in Florida to interfere with or deny access to anyone with a service animal.  Currently service animal owners have to sue at the federal level.  If it is in Florida statute a local law enforcement officer could issue a citation if a person with a service animal is denied access.

The bill also addresses penalties for fake service animals and the rights to animals under the Fair Housing Act.

Overall the legislation create very little that is new.  It simply brings Florida in compliance with the Federal ADA legislation.

All of the legislators I spoke with were favorable to the legislation.  Unfortunately there are often more bills to vote on than there is time for.  Many pieces of good legislation die because there is not enough time to get them through all of the committees.

For most of the citizens of Florida this legislation will have little or no impact on their daily lives.  For those of us who use service animals, this legislation is important.  A true service dog is considered a piece of medical equipment and is not a luxury but in almost all cases a necessity for the owner of the animal.

Hopefully this year the bills dealing with service animals will make a timely passage through the various committees and make it to the floors of the House and Senate.


Tallahassee – Disability Day

Thomas and I will be attending the annual Disability Day at the Capital on Monday and Tuesday of this week.  DD Day will be on Tuesday; however we will be up a day early so that we can meet with as many legislators as possible while we are in town.

As advocates and a self-advocates it is important to stay connected with our state legislators.  It is also important to be active on the national level.  However, I have found that as advocates we can be more effective at the state level.  The laws and budgets passed by the State of Florida directly and significantly impact the lives of persons living with disabilities here in our state.

I have been advocating in Tallahassee since Jeb Bush was governor.  I like to think that my efforts have had some level of success and have helped to make the lives of many Florida citizens better.

The issues have remained the same for as long as I have been doing this.  We need better employment opportunities and better transportation services.  These two often go hand in hand.  It is hard to find employment if you can not get to and from work.  Persons with disabilities have a high rate of unemployment.  Only 18% of people with disabilities are employed.

Every year we fight to keep the Early Steps program funded.  This is administered by Children’s Medical Services and is the Part C of the IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  They provide early intervention services for 0 to 3 and serve over 40,000 children in Florida.  History has shown that early intervention works.

The Med Waiver has been under funded for a decade or more.  We currently have over 20,000 people on the Med Waiver waiting list.  Every year we work to increase funding in an attempt to reduce the waiting list and continue to provide community services for those who so desperately need them.

Last session we saw and increase in funding and were able to remove over 1,000 individuals from the waiting list.  However, we still have a long way to go.

Every year the treatment of children with disabilities in our public schools is discussed.  In 2010 we had the first significant legislation protecting children from the abuse of seclusion and restraint in our public schools.  This year there is no legislation proposed so our children will remain vulnerable to abuse for another year.

Each year we fight the same battles.  Some years we make small steps and we celebrate our successes.  It is sad that advocates for the most vulnerable members of our society have to settle for small incremental successes.  However, that is the reality that over 20% of our citizens live with. That is the percent of people who have a disability.

This Tuesday, March 18 you should hear the squeaking of wheels in Tallahassee.  I hope that our legislators listen and appreciate how difficult it is for so many of our disabled citizens to make the trip to the Capital.  We want to be listened to, we want to be heard and we want to be taken seriously.

We will continue to keep squeaking our wheels for as long as it takes.

I Acquired a Brain Injury

Now I need to make it clean that acquiring a brain injury is not like acquiring a new car or a boat or television.  You do not go down to the Brain Injury Store and ask for a new brain injury.  It just does not work that way.

March is Brain Injury Awareness month.  To help raise awareness I thought I would share about acquiring a brain injury.

There are two types of brain injury – Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI and Acquired Brain Injury or ABI.  A couple of years ago I acquired a brain injury.

Traumatic Brain Injury occurs when something outside the brain causes the injury.  Being hit on the head with a hammer, falling debris from an air plane hits you on the head, falling down and hitting your head, car accident where you smash against the side window or windshield.  These are all forms of TBI.  As long as the injury is from something external the injury is classified as TBI.

Please do not think that I am making light of brain injuries.  I suffered a brain injury.  Mine was the acquired kind.  I just think that the term Acquired Brain Injury or ABI is an odd way to phrase a life changing event.

ABI’s occur when the injury to the brain is not from an external source.  Even to a lay person like myself that makes sense; TBI external, ABI not external.

If the brain injury is the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain it is ABI.  If you sniff too much glue you can cause ABI.  Drowning can cause ABI.  A disease such as meningitis can cause ABI.  And a stroke can cause ABI.

All of these are considered non-traumatic events.  Although as a stroke survivor, I will tell you the stroke was a traumatic event.  However, non-traumatic brain injuries are classified as ABI.

Brain injuries whether TBI or ABI can often be invisible to those observing the person suffering.  However, brain injuries are real and they can result in long term or even life long debilitating effects.

Just for the record, if I had a choice I would not have chosen to acquire a brain injury.  Acquiring a new car would have been a lot more fun.  As it was, I had no choice in the matter.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, be aware that those of us who have suffered a brain injury struggle to different degrees with many aspects of life that other take for granted.  Although our disability is invisible, it is still real.

I know that Thomas always ends his blogs with keep squeaking you wheels.  However, I have no wheels to squeak.  I will remind you that part of my brain died.  So what is your excuse?