Last summer, Kathleen Cail and Nestor Melnyk were awarded a grant by People’s Liberty from the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile Foundation to create Access Cincinnati, an online resource providing accessibility information on restaurants and bars to families with strollers, veterans, seniors and other individuals with mobility issues.
After many, many hours of research, they are launching AccessCincinnati.org, and are marking the occasion with a party TONIGHT at 6 pm at Taft’s Ale House (1429 Race Street; Cincinnati, Ohio 45202). The party will include free appetizers, information about the reviews and website, and a presentation of the first official Access Cincinnati window cling.
For Kathleen and Nestor this project is of personal significance as they are both parents who have children with developmental disabilities and aging parents. “We created the site to make it easier for anyone with children in strollers or with mobility issues to find an accessible venue, feel welcome and confident they can patronize a restaurant or bar without problems entering or being seated,” said Kathleen. “We hope the site encourages restaurants and bars to consider accessibility beyond ADA requirements because it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s good for business.”
Approximately 13% of Cincinnati residents are senior citizens and just over 12% of Hamilton County’s population has a disability. Cincinnati also hosts large conventions with Veterans, seniors and people with disabilities such as the National Veterans’ Wheelchair Games with 600 athletes visiting our city in July.
More than 65 citizens helped crowd source the information. Currently, there are approximately 150 reviews out of about 225 potential bars and restaurants, most in Downtown, OTR, and The Banks. To keep this information up-to-date, more crowd sourcing is needed. Cincinnatians are asked to visit www.accesscincinnati.org and sign up to receive their mobile survey to crowd source additional venues around the city, including other neighborhoods like Walnut Hills, Price Hill, Clifton, Avondale and Northside.
The Access Cincinnati mobile site provides information on Entrance, Space, and Restrooms. Restaurant and bar owners, that have been reviewed, will receive the Access Cincinnati window cling, providing potential customers passing by, with the information they need to decide whether a location meets their unique needs, before trying to enter.
“We want everyone to feel welcomed in our city and we want to provide information that can help individuals make their own decisions about where to spend their money and have a good time,” said Nestor.
A note from my friend, Magno Relojo…
A 90 yr old lady who happens to love dancing and dressing up, inspires us with her enthusiasm for learning and memorizing her dance routines. At this age these can be difficult tasks to do but it is so amazing to see her mobility in dancing and in her everyday life. We love to tell her story and by chance it might inspire others to be positive about life.
She told me that when she dances it is just pure joy that she feels especially during competitions when there are lots of people watching…she seems to like that. I would too especially when you look good, feel good and are happy about life…you want to show everyone so they feel happy too.
By the way, this lady is my mother-in-law, Dr. Aurora Lira.
She wants everyone to Smile and be Happy
(Aurora and her professional partner are at the Millennium Dancesport Championships in Orlando, Florida – one of the largest events in the world) where they have already won some first places, a gold medal in a senior gold rhythm championship, and some money in a gold rhythm scholarship.)
If you follow my blog, you may remember my post about Aurora several years ago. You can read it here.
Danielle Jones was working at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center when we first met. I remember us walking through the hallways, into the waiting rooms, and even further into the patient rooms where young, innocent girls and boys were resting nervously with their families before or after procedures.
One thing that strikes you when you visit that mammoth, internationally acclaimed medical facility where parents travel across continents and states to spend days, weeks and months, is how, despite the seriousness of their, the hospital team goes to great lengths to uplift spirits through imagery, therapy dogs, entertainers, and volunteers.
What I remember most about Danielle from those days is her smile. She always made us feel welcome. She put the families of patients at ease. She was someone, I recalled thinking, who clearly enjoyed life.
And so, when I learned of her own personal story – the one she shares with her husband Chris, it did not surprise me that theirs – despite deep tragedies, challenges, and life tests – is a story of love, fortitude, courage, and generosity.
Remember those wedding vows? The ones that include for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer? Yes, they came to know the meaning of those vows sooner rather than later.
Within the first few years of marriage, they came face-to-face with the unemployment, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, a cancer scare, the loss of a loved one, and the devastating loss of their newborn son. Through it all they were steadfast in their love and their faith, and made a decision to create good from the bad.
They tell their story in a book, “As Sure as Tomorrow Comes”, that benefits the Angel Baby Network which they founded to help other parents.
Please learn more below.
Lisa: Please tell us a little about your love story.
Danielle and Chris: We met in 2006 working on our church’s first and only single’s conference. Chris was the only male on the planning committee and he was the only single male in the church in my age range. We started off by flirting with each other and we ended up deciding to hang out one weekend. The weekend after that we had our first date and we never stopped going out with each other. We knew we were meant to be together because we always had fun together and we enjoyed each other’s company.
Lisa: What are the greatest strengths you see in each other?
Danielle: The greatest strengths that I see in Chris are his ability to always be true to himself others. Chris is unapologetically himself, which means he’s always honest and he’ll always tell you what he thinks about something or someone. I also admire his perseverance. He never gives up and he always bounces back from whatever life throws at him.
Chris: Danielle has great writing skills. She was able to recall most of the events that happened in our lives like they’d happened just yesterday when she was writing our book. She also has great people skills and can get along with anyone. I admire Danielle’s tenacity and her ability to smile even when we are going through hard times.
Lisa: Unemployment. A car accident. A terrifying medical diagnosis. The loss of a loved one. The death of your 10-day-old son, Junior. Any one of those life circumstances would be a lot for someone to process and live through. What lessons have those experiences taught you about your own strength, and about life?
Danielle: Our experiences have taught us that with our faith in God and with our love for each other we can make it through anything. Chris always says that at some point in life, everyone is going to get rained on, but they get to decide how they are going to go through it and I always say that life is 10 percent of what happens to you and the other 90 percent is how you respond to it. We’ve made a decision to keep on going, no matter how hard life has gotten. And we’ve decided to help other people along the way.
Lisa: Please tell us about the Angel Baby Network and how it has touched other parents.
Danielle: A few months after our son passed away, I started Angel Baby Network as a way to help other families who had also lost children. I remember feeling like I was all alone. I knew that other families had to be feeling the same way and I wanted to do something to help them. Angel Baby Network gives bereaved parents a way to get together and be around other families who are just like them. We give them an opportunity to share their grief with each other and we empower each other to keep the memories of our children alive.
“Thoughts from my quiet time before work…. Although I don’t deal with physical life-threatening issues, I work with mentally life-threatening issues. Being a Psych nurse… Patients here are suicidal, homicidal, schizophrenic, psychotic, bipolar, and so many other illnesses. Just because someone is not physically ill does not mean they are not ill. Some nurses think psych is “easier” … But let me tell you it isn’t. We have security with us when we have to go into some patients’ rooms because of violent history… Our patients can be very volatile… You must always be on guard because things can flip on a dime. I have cried going home more times then I can say. We work with addicts who we know are going to detox and use again when they leave. We pray with and for our patients. But…I can’t imagine working anywhere else. There is not much better than seeing a patient who came in totally delusional walk out so much healthier… That goes for every aspect of nursing.”
– Jennifer Okoniewski
I can’t imagine the daily stress you endure with every day of your work. It is a compassionate soul who is so willing and eager to devote her life to being there for people during their intense emotions and struggles. Thank you for caring. Thank you for giving. And thank you for not giving up.