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My voyage to the land of disability began three weeks before my 40th birthday with an eye infection. From there I was catapulted into a world of doctors, appointments, pills, drops, and injections. I was not consulted and I was not given time to reflect and feel. It was almost a blessing that my husband is a scientist. Facts are facts, objective and unemotional, they just are. Four years later I was having surgery to remove a tumor. Some of my issues came to an end, some quieted down a bit, and brand new ones appeared.Pam Lindsay, Lex Cooke from StackMap and Suzanne

My eyesight didn't escape or get a reprieve. Because of the infection, disease, medication, and laser treatments, I was left with no peripheral vision, spotty direct vision, and some dead photoreceptors.

I couldn't see to read or watch TV. I stopped cooking (I couldn't see the cooking shows that I enjoyed watching), I stopped crocheting. My eye doctors didn't say or do much except to caution me against getting new eyeglasses because the edema was changing and to make another appointment in a few weeks. When I finally broke down (tears and all) and told my doctor that I stopped reading, she sent me to an optometrist who sent me to a low vision specialist. I was then declared legally blind by the state of California. I even got a certificate, suitable for framing. The DMV took my license. The Department of Rehabilitation sent a gentleman to our apartment who got me signed up for cane training. Who knew that you needed a class to learn how to operate a cane?

As all of this was happening, I was laid off from work (unrelated) and my feet, which had fractured many times, were declared healed but I had to wear prescription shoes, which are as stylish as they sound.

The day came for cane training and after we figured out which size cane was good for me, I took off running with the trainer trailing behind. I don't know how I came to this epiphany, but I decided that just because I needed a cane, doesn't mean that I was no longer a citizen of society. Just because I couldn't see didn't make me invisible. But people do have their reactions.

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Welcome parents and graduates. All the graduates have been working very hard to get to this point. Graduation for many of my classmates has been just a dream. This event today shows everyone here that it is possible. There are many people we need to thank. First thanks go to DeAnna and Pam for founding CAA. We also need to acknowledge our parents. If not for our parents, we would not know anything about College of Adaptive Arts. Our Parents help us navigate the course catalog and decide where to use our talents. Our Parents help get to classes and help us achieve our dreams. Next, we need to thank our talented Professors who nurture our minds. They refresh our talents. They are not just teachers they are our coaches, cheering us on in each class and helping us reach b2ap3_thumbnail_aine3.jpgour dreams. Finally we need to thank our classmates because they help get over our troubles.

Graduation for many of us is the next step on the yellow brick road to our future. On this path, we have dealt with many wicked witches. The wicked witches in our lives were the people who said we could not do this. We heard so much that we began to believe it. CAA is the water that melts the witch. In addition, Graduation becomes a reachable thing. Graduab2ap3_thumbnail_aine2.jpgtion is no longer a dream. Congrats, graduates, graduation and our futures are no longer somewhere over the rainbow.

As the great, Rosa Parks said, “Each person must live their life as a model for others.” Graduates we need to remember this quote because each of us lives our lives as an example. We have overcome the wicked witch of negativity. We are role models and heroes to others. Graduation is possible, reaching your goals are possible and just like Rosa believed that riding in the front seat of the bus was for all. Therefore, we believe that education is accessible to everyone. We are not people defined by our disabilities but our abilities. Our abilities make us unique and stronger.

Today we say thank you for joining on this journey along the yellow brick road to our future. As Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home”. CAA is home for so many of us and we are grateful that you have taken time to join us on this journey.

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We are not just Board Members; we are Mountain Movers

I will never forget the moment I first heard about CAA.  Jeremy, a participant in my FITBuddies group at FIT in Los Altos, came running in one afternoon shouting, “Jen, I am going to college!!”  I returned his excitement and then asked him where. He responded, “Far, far away.”  Needless to say, I was extremely happy to learn that “far, far away” meana1sx2_Thumbnail1_jenp.jpgt San Jose.  Shortly thereafter, Jeremy’s dad. Bill, introduced me to DeAnna Pursai, and the relationship quickly developed. A few months later, I was officially a Mountain Mover.

In the early days of CAA, DeAnna decided that she did not want to call us “Board Members” and that “Mountain Movers” more accurately described the goal: to move mountains for adults with disabilities.  My first reaction was that it was a fun, cute way to describe the Board and those who were involved in CAA.  Every time something exciting happened—a new grant awarded, new students, new community partnerships and events—an e-mail is sent with a title such as, “the mountain just moved” or “that mountain just creaked.”  After spending a little time at CAA, one quickly realizes that Mountain Movers is much more than a creative way of referring to CAA’s board.

Whether you are a board member, professor, staff, student, parent, volunteer or donor, you are a Mountain Mover.  This term does not identify one particular role; it identifies an entire community.  The Board alone can’t move the mountain; neither can ab2ap3_thumbnail_caaboard2015.jpg student nor professor  nor staff member nor volunteer. It takes an entire Mountain Moving community and that is exactly what DeAnna and Pamela have built.

The term Mountain Mover has also created an equitable relationship among all who are involved with CAA.  As CAA’s Board Chair, my role is not more important than that of a staff member or a volunteer because we are all on this mountain together with a firm understanding that it only moves when we work together.

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In 2009 a friend suggested I might look into College of Adaptive Arts, she thought it would be an ideal environment for David.  My now 34 year old son David loves to dance and definitely loves an audience.  College of Adaptive Arts - listed as a conservatory of Arts for adults with differing abilities - a mouthful for sure, but it peeked my curiosity and decided to look further into it.

What I found was 2 very enthusiastic and dedicated ladies, acting on a dream and following their hearts.  DeAnna Pursai and Pamela Lindsay, the co-founders of College of Adaptive Arts; talk about enthusiasm, these ladies were loaded with contagious energy and ideas.  We signed up David to begin in the following (and second) semester of the school.

The small group of approximately 12 students in first semester had grown to about 20 students in the second semester, participated in weekly classes.  It didn't take long for them to begin performing out in the community - at Senior Centers, other programs, at Barnes & Nobles, Great America, at Christmas in the park (to this day, one of the student's all time favorite).  It seems every semester there are more students joining and more classes being added.

More than once I've been asked what is it about this program that keeps me there and how does it differ from other existing programs?  One thing for sure, this is a program where the participants do NOT "have to" be there, instead they "want to" be there.  I think about my son and how his self-confidence has increased (my husband says David "struts") since he joined CAA.   I look at all the other students and am so impressed at what they are capable of and CAN do. 

From an autistic student who normally is like a butterfly - in constant motion - yet, very able to stay in place and go through a whole performance routine with no issues.  To the student who during the first class sat with his back to the class covering his face, who now doesn't hesitate one bit to get on stage and put his whole self into a performance routine.

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CAA - How did it start?

CAA Blog Spot-Entry #1

by DeAnna Pursai and Pamela Lindsay

Welcome to our new website, courtesy of our wonderful team of CAA Mountain Mover leaders and complemented by the exquisite and wonderful expertise of our webmaster, Nancy Clothier.  Each week, we’ll provide a new perspective on our Blog from either myself or co-founder & Dean of Instruction, Pamela Lindsay, a wonderful board member, a CAA student, a Professor or staff member, or from a parent of a CAA student.  

So I guess we’ll begin at the beginning.  Here’s the start of the beautiful story of the College of Adaptive Arts.  We’ll just give you a bit of a snapshot from the early years.

We began the College of Adaptive Arts in July, 2009.  We know that larger forces at work conspired to bring us together – we have been like soul sisters since the day we met.  Our birthdays are just one day apart and we so very much complement each other’s skill sets: working in tandem in the philosophy that we divide & conquer, continually check-in and brainstorm, listen a lot, give continual support & laugh often!

We rented out a space at Capitol Dance in the Princeton Plaza of San Jose two days a week for $50/day.  It seemed like an inordinate amount of money at the time, but we had enrolled 12 students for that first musical theatre class, so at least we knew our bills would be covered.  The first day we opened our doors, no students showed up.  Not to worry – we deemed it a teacher work day.  By the end of that 3-week session, we had 12 students enrolled and we did a marvelous rendition of songs from Jesus Christ Superstar.

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