Creating an Accessible Community at the Ohio State Fair: First Sensory-Friendly Morning Offered

OHIO entrance sign at the Ohio State Fair

The Ohio State Fair—from the rides and attractions to the concerts, shows, and the ever-famous food, the Fair is an annual event and tradition for thousands of Ohioans. At this mecca of endless fun and entertainment, fairgoers experience the bright lights, loud sounds, and distinguishable smells—you know the ones, the mouth-watering smells of funnel cakes and french fries to the unique scents coming from the animal barns. While these sensory-stimulating features may not interfere with most fairgoers’ experience, others’ senses may be heightened by these things, impacting their overall Fair experience.

To ensure all Ohioans can positively experience the Fair, OCALI has partnered with the Ohio State Fair to host the Fair’s first Sensory-Friendly Morning on Wednesday, July 31 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. During these designated hours, fairgoers can experience a sensory-friendly morning where the lights will be lowered and the sounds turned down. For those looking to take a break, they can relax in the OCALI Quiet Room. Located in the Ohio Building, this quiet, air-conditioned space will offer a variety of low-tech and mid-tech solutions to support a variety of sensory needs, including fidgets, weighted lap pads, and other sensory supports.

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July 15-19, 2019 is National Disability Voter Registration Week

RevUp Make the Disability Vote Count logo

Coordinated by the REV UP Campaign, National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) is a concerted effort to get people with disabilities registered to vote, educated about this year’s election, and prepared to cast a ballot in November. NDVRW is held annually the third week of July, just before the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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Coming Soon: New Autism Internet Modules (AIM)

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318,220 and counting.

That’s the number of people who have used the Autism Internet Modules (AIM) to date. The AIM modules provide high-quality information and professional development to those who support, instruct, work with, or live with someone with autism.

Each module guides users through case studies, instructional videos, pre- and post-assessments, glossaries, and much more. The modules are designed to build the capacity of school districts and other education agencies to improve their instruction and support for individuals with autism.

Over the past few months, a team of experts has been hard at work creating three new modules to add to the 45 existing modules. Like the other AIM modules, the new modules will be available at no cost and users can earn graduate credit (for a fee) or professional development certificates.

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OCALI Office of Policy Update – June 2019

Office of Policy logo

With the state’s biennial budget in the midst of debate, the OCALI Policy Team has been hard at work making sure disability is included in the discussion. One example is a presentation provided to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Caucus, a group of Ohio legislators who joined together to focus on policies impacting Ohioans with disabilities. The team provided a high-level overview of Ohio’s DD system as a baseline educational session for these legislators. You can view a copy of this presentation here: Ohio’s Developmental Disability System (In Twenty Minutes or Less…From 10,000 Feet) presented to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Caucus April 16, 2019.

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OCALI Office of Policy Update

Office of Policy logo

OCALI Team Sharing Ohio’s Work With Other States

To continue learning from other state policy leaders, Melissa Bacon, OCALI Office of Policy, and Danny Gruber, OCALI Impact Office, recently attended the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs Peer-to-Peer Exchange focused on data and autism policy in Madison, Wisconsin. Representatives of the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) of the University of Cincinnati also attended the exchange.

The Ohio Team shared the state’s success with collective impact in the work of the Interagency Work Group on Autism, highlighting the “Pursing Quality Lives” report released in May 2018 as well as the data tools that the group leverages for state policy development. The meeting also focused on the critical role of family in policy development. Representatives discussed the “Charting the Lifecourse Community of Practice” work led by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and the UCEDD.

“Learning from other state’s best practices and policy development is an excellent and important opportunity to develop better policy in Ohio,” said Melissa Bacon. “While Ohio is a leader in collective impact leadership, there is always work to be done to improve the lives of those with autism and learning from other state leaders is critical to this work.”

New Legislative Caucus Focused on Serving Ohioans with Disabilities

The Ohio General Assembly recently created the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Caucus, a bipartisan effort, the caucus aims to bring the state’s many partners together into the same room to further lawmakers’ education and find innovative ways to better serve the 90,000 Ohioans living with disabilities and their families.

During the month of April, the caucus held its first meeting, joined by a room full of advocates, members of the General Assembly, members of Governor DeWine’s Administration and staff for a very informative session. During the meeting, OCALI’s own Teresa Kobelt provided an overview of Ohio’s Developmental Disability System. Additionally, the caucus welcomed Director Jeff Davis, who recently took over as the head of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities.

OCALI’s Guide to Summer Professional Learning

'Summer' written with Scrabble tiles in the sand

The sun is shining. Trees and flowers are in full bloom and the school year is winding down.

Yes, summer is just around the corner. And for many educators and other professionals, we share the giddy excitement of most school kids at this time of year.

While you may be planning your next vacation or just ready to enjoy a more relaxed schedule, summer is a great time to invest in yourself and your professional growth. Whether you’re an educator, administrator, community leader, etc., professional learning provides the opportunity to gain knowledge and learn new skills that will improve your job performance and that of your team.

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Celebrating Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month: Promoting Acceptance and the Platinum Rule

A young child holds their hands in front of their face, peering through fingers. Their hands are covered in bright paints.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

As children, many of us were taught the Golden Rule—do unto others as you would have them do to you. More or less, treat others the way you would like to be treated. In theory, this ‘rule’ seems like a good lesson to live by, but what it doesn’t account for is that we are all different and we may want different things—including the way we are treated.

As we celebrate Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, consider embracing the Platinum Rule, which implies that we treat others the way they would like to be treated. Acceptance exemplifies the Platinum Rule, which accounts for accommodating the feelings of others and accepting and celebrating our differences. While the concept may seem simple, it’s not always easy to put into practice. To truly treat others the way they want to be treated requires learning about a person and engaging with them to understand their likes, dislikes, perspectives, and more.

Acceptance requires taking conscious action and shifting from not only seeing and recognizing that autism exists, but seeking to listen and learn, and then adapting our perspectives and behaviors. Just being aware of autism facts and information will not necessarily lead to acceptance or creating inclusive and supportive environments in our schools, communities, and relationships. By intentionally moving toward acceptance, we can inspire confidence and a vision for possibilities that motivate us to continue to ensure that people with disabilities can live their best lives for their whole lives.

At OCALI, our mission is to inspire change and promote access to opportunities for people with disabilities. Over the years, we have been committed to working hard to promote and embrace a culture of awareness and acceptance—with our staff and with those we serve around Ohio. While we have made significant progress, we have more work to do and we continue to explore and learn new ways of listening, understanding, and modeling.

As leaders and practitioners, parents, and family members, we ALL play a role in inspiring the change we wish to see. Throughout the month of April, we encourage you to seek out opportunities that promote acceptance and the Platinum Rule—for yourself and within your own communities.

For additional autism resources, visit OCALI’s Autism Center and Lending Library.