Expanding Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities
Volume #1
January 2017

Table of Contents

Debbie and Matt sitting in a chair together
A note from Matt and Debbie.....

We are starting the fourth year of our newsletter. The response has been wonderful. We have several regular columns each month and we love to have guest authors. In this newsletter you will meet each author and read a little about them. We are also welcoming a new author to the DIG family, Justine Chichester. This year we would love to add a new column on cooking. If you are interested in writing a column each month about cooking please email Debbie at debbie@justdigit.org. The article could include a recipe and your experience cooking the recipe. Happy New Year!
- Debbie and Matt
DIG in the news
December 22, 2016, Palm Beach Post, POINT OF VIEW Boynton ban on group homes is unlawful http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/opinion/point-view-boynton-ban-group-homes-unlawful/opYrQmQ1qa1zpu9bnA2jwI/
January 2, 2017, WFTV Orlando - Federal discrimination lawsuit filed against Orlando Housing Authority following man's death http://www.wftv.com/news/9-investigates/federal-discrimination-lawsuit-filed-against-orlando-housing-authority-following-mans-death/480619882
January 12, 2017, Miami Herald - After the shooting of a caregiver in the street, city approves more police training, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/north-miami/article126087679.html
January 18, 2017, Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel - Users say ramp into new Broward courthouse too steep -
January 19, 2017, Bay Area Reporter - Seeing in the Dark: Why posing your pet as a service animal is problematic.  http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=72269

Out and About with DIG
CARD Statewide Conference
Orlando, FL
FL Bar Animal Law Section - Emotional Support Animals
ABA Mid-year meeting - Disability and Due Process
Miami, FL
ABC's of ESA's
New Orleans, LA
Disability employment policies and ADA compliance for Best Buddies
Miami, FL
Give Miami Day 2017
Online Event

Flyer for the FL Bar Animal Law Section Groundhog Day Seminar

Matt sitting at his desk with Lucy the dog.
Matt with Lucy the dog. Lucy comes to work with us everyday.
scales of justice
feature What is Legal Advocacy?

Disability Independence Group is a disability rights legal advocacy center where we work to advance the rights of persons with disabilities to have equal rights integrated into the community. To do so, we advocate, work collaboratively and litigate in order to achieve our goals. Because of limited resources and staff, we attempt to make as much change as we can.

  1. The right to live in the community
  2. The right to equal housing opportunity
  3. The right to equal access to information
  4. The right to educational and testing accommodations
  5. The right to a job
  6. The right to equal access to public accommodations and governmental facilities
Julie standing next to Nick who is smiling.
Kids Crusaders Corner
By: Julie Fioravanti 

Happy New Year! My name is Julie Fioravanti and I am honored to be writing for the DIG newsletter for its third year.
I am a registered nurse and also the mother to 3 amazing kids. My oldest son, Nick, was born April 17 , 1991 - he will be 26 this year! He was born with Cerebral Palsy, however we didn't have an actual "diagnosis" until he was 10 mont hs old.
I write my articles from the perspec tive of what it's like to be a parent to a child with a disability. I s hare stories of our life...the good and the bad. I keep my articles real which means sometimes they are filled with raw emotion. I encourage feedback or suggestions on topics that people would like me to share. I can almost guarantee that if you can think it, we have probably lived it. I can be reached at julie.kidscrusaders@gmail.com
I took a short "leave" from the colu mn Kids Crusaders Corner last year as Nick was diagnosed with Stage 3 testicular cancer in early July. I appreciate all of the people that have reached out to me during my absence and for all of the love and support that was never ending. Nick's chemotherapy treatments have been completed, however his cancer is not completely gone. As we push forward into this new year, we are choosing to remain optimistic that Nick will continue to defy all medical odds and continue to always be 10 steps ahead of any doctor that has taken care of him. He was born a fighter an d keeps getting stronger ev ery day.
I look forward to sharing more about our crazy adventures throughout 2017 - welcome to Kids Crusaders Corner (where the fun never stops)!

Miami Inclusion Alliance
By: Sharon Langer 

Sharon Langer is the Development Director of Disability Independence Group Inc. (DIG) and is the Project Director of a Violence Against Women Act Grant that is studying the intersection of domestic violence, sexual assault and disability. The project is called Miami Inclusion Alliance and DIG is the lead agency. Prior to her position at DIG, Ms. Langer was the Executive Director of Dade Legal Aid for twenty eight years.

She practiced primarily in the area of family law and serves on many committees, boards and task forces dealing with issues important to women and children.  She served on The Florida Bar Board of Governors for nine years and held many leadership positions including: Legislative Committee Chair, and The Executive Committee. Ms. Langer served as vice-chair of The Florida Bar Children's Commission, Chair of The Florida Supreme Court Unbundled Legal Services Committee and Chair of the 11th Circuit Judicial Nominating Screening Committee.  She has been an adjunct professor at the University Of Miami School Of Law.  Ms. Langer develops training programs and lectures for attorneys and has lectured on many topics ranging from public interest law to domestic violence.  She is one of the founders and current Board Chair of Casa Valentina, Inc., a transitional housing program for foster youth who age out of the system.
If you are interested in volunteering please contact Sharon Langer at Sharon@justdigit.org.
head shot of Lisa standing in front of legal books.

Lisa Goodman is a Staff Attorney for Disability Independence Group and in September 2016 she began her second year with us. 
Ms. Goodman is a Miami native and began working at DIG immediately following law school and admission to the Florida Bar.
Ms. Goodman was awarded the C.A.L.I. Excellence for the Future Award from her work in the University of Miami's Children and Youth Law Clinic.
Ms. Goodman's experiences during her time at Clinic are what led her to enter the civil rights arena of law.
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Lesly Quin, referring to a short version for my last name, I presently work at the Keys Advocacy Center d/b/a Center for Independent Living of the Keys as Project Director.  My skills are areas of expertise including advocacy, SSA benefits, and Work incentives, Medicare program, and other state and federal benefits.  I am currently involved with the Alliance for Aging, volunteering for SHINE program as Area Coordinator for the Upper Keys for the last 8 years & Senior Medicare Patrol SMP.

I was awarded The GOLDEN CHOICES VOLUNTEER from the Department of Elders Affairs State of Florida some years back for my volunteer services to SHINE.  Some of my hobbies and special interests include spending time with my family, reading & being involved in my community.  I am so thrilled for the opportunity to collaborate with DIG in advocating for People with Disabilities. 
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justine The View From Here
By: Justine Chichester

I was watching the TV show
Speechless last week, and one of the lines from the program stood out to me. Jimmy DiMeo, the Dad, said "Sometimes the best things come from the worst things that happen to us." Well, I couldn't agree with him more.
Two years ago in September, I made a split second decision on a rainy evening that changed my life. I decided to walk our little dog Bailey quickly before my husband John came home. I put his flip flops on, as they were always by the front door, and headed outside for a quick walk. On our way back, Bailey pulled me and I slipped on the wet sidewalk. My feet went over my head and I slammed down on the sidewalk.
As a result of the fall, I suffered a spinal cord injury and hydrocephalus. Three surgeries followed and months and months in and out of Jackson Memorial Hospital. I eventually lost my ability to stand and to walk. There were so many long days and nights in the hospital and in rehab. I wondered every minute if I would ever return back to my normal life. Would I ever get back to work; would I ever get back to going out with my friends; would I ever get back to life as I once knew it? The physical therapists came in and tried to get me up. I couldn't feel my feet and I had lost all awareness of my lower body. The term "proprioception" was thrown around by my doctors. Apparently I had lost it, and I didn't even know I had it in the first place.
While I was in the hospital, I wished every day that I could go home again. Once I was finally home, however, I had so much trouble adjusting to "normal" life once again. Getting used to being in my home, where I once walked around, now learning to wheel around in my wheelchair, was the most difficult for me.
My husband sometimes harkens back to his basic training days at Fort Knox and refers to my three surgeries and rehab stints in the hospital as my three "tours of duty." I think that's actually a good analogy, though, because I am fighting a battle. The day I fell, I became a solider, and whether I liked it or not, I began fighting the battle of my life. Right now, some days the battle is small: Just getting out of bed, just getting in my wheelchair or just managing to stay positive. Other days the battle is monumental: Using my legs to try to stand up from the wheelchair in physical therapy, taking a step, taking two steps, then three. At times it seems almost insurmountable. But during those long days and nights I spent in the hospital, I somehow found the courage somewhere deep inside. The courage to fight now and continue on to the next day. And then the next. And keep going.  
My fight has given me purpose. It is the best thing that has come from the worst thing that ever happened to me.
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The Wallet Card Project
By: Deborah Dietz 

The wallet card is a tool for young adults or adults to use when come into contact with law enforcement; either as a victim, a witness, or as a potential suspect.

The wallet card will help to clarify any interaction with law enforcement so that the behavior of the person with a disability is not misinterpreted as suspicious or as criminal behavior.

Click here to sign up for a wallet card

The Wallet Card Project is a collaboration with DIG, CGPD, and UM-NSU CARD.
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Marietta Suarez is the Project Coordinator for the Wallet Card Project. She graduated from the University of Miami in 2010, majoring in Psychology, minoring in English and Sociology. She began working on research projects early in her undergraduate career and has worked on several grant-funded studies in different social sciences fields. This has provided Ms. Suarez with a range of experience from research development, to implementation, and ultimately publication. In 2016 she graduated with her masters in Research, Measurement and Evaluation also at the University of Miami. Having studied psychology and having a clear understanding of autism spectrum disorders, she is honored to be working with DIG on such a meaningful project that will indubitably change lives.
Lorinda in front of a cabinet in her home.

Lorinda Gonzalez resides in South Florida with her family and service dog, Remy. She was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at the age of three, and has used a motorized wheelchair for mobility since the age of nine. As an avid writer and reader, she has worked as a grant writer and editor since 2009. She recently participated in Bold Beauty Project where she was a model supporting the cause of showcasing women with disabilities and beautiful and sexy. Lorinda holds a Bachelor in the Arts Degree in English Writing and Rhetoric, and is currently completing a Masters of Arts Degree in Communications. She is a co-founder of NMD United, a 501c3 and on the board of multiple non-profit organizations. In her free time, Lorinda enjoys spending time with family and friends, painting, listening to music, and traveling to historical locations.
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Your Upward Journey

In a nutshell, Your Upward Journey: It Is Easier Than You Think!, is a three-part project (book, self-help seminars and merchandise sale). I intend to promote the book through self-help seminars and sale of merchandise, such as mugs, journals etc.

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A Parcel of Penguins

A PARCEL OF PENGUINS: an Animal Counting Book is a Children's book that teaches unusual names of groups of animals. The book is entertaining and informative for all ages. 
Click here to purchase the book
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For more information about DIG and to find out how you can be involved, please call or email our Executive Director, Debbie Dietz at 305-669-2822 or debbie@justdigit.org.

Disability Independence Group, Inc.
Expanding Opportunities for Person with Disabilities
Thank you to the organizations that support our projects.
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Disability Independence Group | 305-669-2822 | info@justdigit.org