Disability | St. Louis Public Radio


The state program will cover the cost of hearing aids for about 20 low-income Missouri residents this year.

Low-income Missouri residents in need of hearing aids may find relief in a new state program.

The Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing will help residents living at or below the federal poverty line purchase hearing aids. The Hearing Aid Distribution Program, established this summer, is designed to offset the cost of these expensive devices.

Nancy Sayles, 51, sells a bag of M&Ms to a commuter at the Belleville MetroLink station. She's one of six Challenge Unlimited clients working at the convenience store. March 20, 2019.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

A snack shop at the Belleville MetroLink station now employs people with disabilities, providing on-the-job training to a community that often faces barriers to employment.

It’s a new opportunity from Challenge Unlimited, a non-profit that connects adults who have disabilities to jobs, job training and apprenticeships. St. Clair County Transit District provides the space and some funding to support the shop, A Quick Bite.

Chris Worth works on a commisioned portrait of a couple who are active in the local disability rights community.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

All artists use their unique abilities and experiences in their work. Chris Worth is no different.

But Worth’s art is informed by a more complicated set of realities than most. Born in Connecticut along with a twin brother, Worth was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy. When he was 1, his mother had a stroke.

At first, a family friend cared for him. After that, he bounced through several foster families and an educational system that put him on a path toward unskilled labor. At 11, he was adopted by a West Virginia couple who saw his potential as a student and artist.

But even in a stable home, he was confused by his attractions toward women and men, an orientation for which he now uses the word “queer.” "Disabled" is the one-word description he prefers in talking about his cerebral palsy. They're part of a long list of identities folded his art.

St. Louis resident Megan Vitale and her nine-year-old daughter Sophia, who has cerebral palsy, participated in the Ride to Unite event on September 1, 2018.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

When Erika Wolf was young, she loved riding her bike.

But when she was 11, she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa — a rare genetic disorder that causes a person to lose their vision over time.

Wolf is now blind, but she hasn’t stopped cycling. This is her second year riding a tandem bike in “Ride to Unite,” an annual event that pairs champion cyclists racing in the Gateway Cup with riders who have disabilities. The goal, say organizers, is to help make cycling a more inclusive sport.

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St. Louis author and teacher Roosevelt Mitchell III was born with a disability. Now, his mission is to “make disability cool.”

Mitchell writes and speaks about his own experiences. He has a Master in Education and is a special education teacher who works in Normandy.

(via Flickr/GIANTsqurl)

Disability rights advocates in St. Louis are highlighting new federal rules that aim to open more job opportunities to people with disabilities. Starting Monday, federal contractors are required to work toward a goal of 7 percent disabled employees in their workforce.

The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is about twice that of other adults.

David Newburger, co-founder of the Starkloff Disability Institute, says many employers are still hesitant to hire people with disabilities because of some common misconceptions.

Emma Price, back left, leads a rehearsal.
Courtesy of Variety Club

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Eight-year-old Selah Harris has accomplished something most of us will never do: fly.

Selah’s ascension takes place near the end of the Variety Children’s Theatre production of “Peter Pan,” which begins Friday at the Touhill. One of Selah’s characters is Jane, the daughter of the now grown-up Wendy Darling, who flies away from her mother to return to Neverland. On the way to her first flight practice Monday, Selah spoke with the Beacon about her mixed emotions.

(via Flickr/immeemz)

NPR has embarked on a project to compile a database that doesn't exist yet - a list of all of the accessible playgrounds in the United States. And they're looking for your help.

Playing on a playground seems like a common childhood activity where physical activity meets social interaction. But, for some children with disabilities, playing along with other kids on those playgrounds isn't easy, or even possible. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: This week Americans celebrate independence. Yet nearly 20 percent of our own citizens – citizens with disabilities -- must fight for their independence every day. This holiday presents us an opportunity to reflect upon those still seeking independence, and ask our leaders to further the cause of freedom and independence for all in the United States and around the world.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – In the VA's central region, the Chicago office has the highest and the St. Louis office the fifth-highest percentage of disability claims pending for more than 125 days. VA statistics indicate that nearly 72 percent of the 19,741 claims on file at its St. Louis office -- which handles Misssouri's disability claims -- have been pending for more than 125 days.

Ill. Legislation Could Make Buying Gas Easier For Disabled

Dec 10, 2012
(via Flickr/jglazer75)

Buying fuel can be a challenge for people with disabilities. Legislation awaiting action by the governor aims to make it easier.  Illinois is making an effort to comply with federal disability law.

Illinois law says service stations are required to pump gas for people with disabilities. But in order to get that help, drivers have to honk or find some other way to get the attention of an attendant.

Ann Ford, with the Centers for Independent Living, says that can lead to frustration.

Ill. Supreme Court Opens Door To Divorce For Mentally Disabled

Oct 4, 2012
(via Flickr/lilhelen)

The Illinois Supreme Court has opened the door to divorce for people who need guardians because of mental disabilities.

For years, Illinois has barred mentally disabled people or their guardians from seeking a divorce. Experts say that included people with severe brain damage but also people who could make their wishes known despite Alzheimer's disease or mental illness.

In a ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court said an outright ban is no longer appropriate. It said case-by-case hearings should determine what is in the disabled person's best interests.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 1, 2012 - According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 56 million Americans live with a disability, making up one of the largest minority groups in the United States. However, some argue that this group’s political voice is still a whisper, as the voter turnout for disabled Americans remains consistently lower than those without disabilities.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 30, 2012 - On Saturday, hometown Paralympic athlete Kerri Morgan won the bronze medal in the 200 meter T52 final at the Paralympic Games in London. Morgan had a time of 36.49 seconds. You can see the race here

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 15, 2012 - Hal Moran of St. Charles considers himself gifted, not disabled.

Sure, his Tourette syndrome, ADD and dyslexia can make life difficult, but they also enhance his existence. Through an unlikely chain, that enhancement is helping to improve the lives of people in Kenya, Uganda and other African nations, thanks to a local arts organization.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 27, 2012 - June is turning out to be a bittersweet month for some disabled Missourians. The good news is that more of them will be allowed to remain in their homes rather than move into nursing homes, thanks to $100.9 million made available under the Affordable Care Act if the law is upheld by the Supreme Court.

'Renee' raises identity and inclusion issues

Apr 9, 2012

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 9, 2012 - “Raising Renee” begins joyously in 2003 at the New York City gallery opening of Beverly McIver. Her mother and sister, Renee, are there to celebrate the moment and support her. But as the documentary unfolds it will be Beverly who provides the support.

(via Flickr/CarbonNYC)

About 20 percent of seniors and people with disabilities will lose prescription drug coverage because of cuts in the Illinois state budget.

State officials are sending letters to 43,000 participants saying they won't qualify for "Illinois Cares Rx" as of Sept. 1. Those who are still enrolled will pay more out of pocket for their prescriptions.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

A package of bills that Gov. Jay Nixon says is about "dignity and practicality" for the 100,000 Missouri individuals with a developmental or intellectual disability is now law.

Gov. Nixon signed the legislation today at Paraquad, one of the largest centers in the country dedicated to helping disabled individuals live independently. Its founder, Max Starkloff, died Dec. 27.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 8, 2011 - Mark Johnson's always been an advocate of civil rights, even if it means confrontation. When Johnson was 20, he injured his neck in a diving accident and became paralyzed. "I use a wheelchair; I have limited functioning of the arms and hands. I basically have paralysis, and it affects the ability to do things. I even have people to assist with daily acts."

Sheriffs want limit on jail wait for mentally ill

Apr 4, 2011
(via Flickr/neil conway)

A law enforcement group is supporting legislation to address a backlog of jail inmates waiting to be transferred to crowded state psychiatric facilities.

Bill Greenblatt / UPI

Often programs called "important" and "a blessing" by lawmakers on both sides of the isle aren't in much danger of elimination, but this time might be different.

207,000 low-income seniors and disabled people in Missouri participate in the Missouri Rx prescription drug assistance program. Well, at least until it expires in August 2011.

Unless the Missouri General Assembly reauthorizes it.

Mo. Gov. Nixon opposes changes to senior, disabled tax break

Dec 10, 2010
(Flickr Creative Commons User JD Hancock)

Gov. Jay Nixon is opposing efforts to end a Missouri tax break for some low-income seniors and disabled residents.

Beacon blog: A great idea whose time should be now

Aug 27, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 27, 2010 - I LOVE great ideas. Solutions. Effective approaches.

If I were asked to nominate "the best idea wasted," it would be the IBOT wheelchair invented by Dean Kamen using his Segway technology.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 10, 2010 - Wendy, the happy protagonist in local author Angela Ruzicka's first book, loves to go to the beach, splash in the water, dance around and build sandcastles. And she does it all in a wheelchair.

"Wendy on Wheels Goes to the Beach" has "gotten a lot of positive feedback," said Ruzicka. "I've had a lot of people that have bought the book for their children without disabilities like it just as much as the ones with the disabilities."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 27, 2010 - Jose Espinosa steps into the tee box of Meadowbrook Country Club's driving range. Ahead of him lie hundreds of yards of grassy terrain spotted with multicolored flags and golf balls. Espinosa peers out onto the surface, looks down, grabs a ball from a nearby bucket, gently places it in the tee box and launches the ball an incredible distance.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 4, 2010 - The last time Congress ventured into the catastrophic health insurance territory to help Medicare recipients, the results were a political disaster. Although less aggressive and boisterous than the fight against this year's health-reform law, the outcry over the catastrophic bill in 1988 included plenty of angry voices. Most were upset over a surtax imposed on the upper- income elderly to help pay for catastrophic care. The reaction prompted Congress to scrap the act within six months after passing it.

Metro will cut independence with routes

Mar 27, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 27, 2009 - When some Metro bus routes end and MetroLink trains show up less frequently next week, it will be an inconvenience to some.

Perhaps they'll have to drive to work instead of taking the bus. Or maybe getting home after a ballgame will take a lot longer because extra MetroLink trains won’t be running.

But for the disabled, the drastic cuts Metro has promised for Monday mean more than an inconvenience. They will equal a loss of independence that will be life-changing.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 21, 2008 - For her whole life, Fran Lang has been finding and listening to voices that are rarely heard.

In graduate school at the University of Chicago, Lang started out studying the language and communications of bats. "My goal was to allow the voices of this unknown creature to be heard and understood," she says.