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Disability Brings Us Together

As we come upon election time I have multiple opportunities throughout the day to hear what sets us apart as different represented groups. During these turbulent times, I cherish and relish our community of artists, contributors, leaders, survivors even more because of what brings us all together: Disability, or differing ability as we say at the College of Adaptive Arts.

My personal experience in the world of disability began when I was one year old when my sister was born with Down syndrome. I believe my family was thrust into a different realm or paradigm trying to meet her needs. It’s the only world I’ve ever known, and I love and adore the path I walk each day and the most awesome people I have encountered.

My network of friends, family, supporters, and contributors include leaders on the far right who are ultra-conservative to citizens on the far left who would be considered generously liberal. I have friends and colleagues who are very religious, and others in my close networks who are not religious at all. I cross paths each day with persons of very high independent wealth and persons who struggle for enough money to manage transportation, rent, & food. I have had the privilege of working with the most awesome people from all over the world, including China, Mexico, Israel, Japan, Venezuela, Iran, Argentina, Serbia, France, Italy & India. I have dear friends who are gay, straight, and transgender.

b2ap3_thumbnail_performance2.jpgThe most beautiful part of my network is that I love and cherish them all very dearly, primarily because our underlying bond is that we are and/or love someone very much who happens to have a disability. I sincerely believe that Disability brings out the best in us as human beings. For me, the highest determining factor to be in my network is: Will you help me support my loved one in need, and can I be a support to you to help you with your loved one? I know parents everyday who work the entire day to keep their child alive. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the daily obstacles that families face to support their loved ones, and it leaves me so inspired to see how these families live with integrity, grace, and humanity.

It seems so easy and effortless to me to befriend someone of a different race, economic group, political party when I know that person sincerely loves and believes in my loved one. I do the same for all of the awesome people I meet with disabilities who are in a different ‘group’ than myself. It doesn’t matter; what matters is Love, and love comes so easily through the bond of ‘Disability.’ That gives me such hope in humanity. Thank you, Angel, and to all of the amazing individuals I have met with disabilities, for allowing me to be a better person and giving me the privilege of meeting the best network of friends and supporters in the world.

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By Sharon Lea

As the first rainfall showers the Bay Area with some much needed precipitation, CAA is so thankful for the beautiful, sunny weather we had last weekend for the 5th Annual CAA Golf Classic. Our wonderful, generous donors hit a HOLE IN ONE helping us to raise $40,000 to further the mission to help our students be the best they can be. We can now offer more classes, workshops and awesome opportunities for our students! This was my first CAA Golf event and certainly will be one of many to come!

b2ap3_thumbnail_golfelvis16.jpgCAA is growing fast and to see so many smiling faces on the golf course was very exciting for me. I started with CAA as a volunteer just a few months ago and soon realized this special place I wanted to call home. Golfing may have brought us together on that day and yet, we came away with so much more! The day was all about friendship, giving hugs and laughing under the sun on the golf course. It was about making new friends and seeing old ones. It was about coming together and dancing with Elvis in front of his pink Cadillac! It was about enjoying a day of golf, no matter if you hit the ball or not. Golfing brought us together and we had a BALL!

The CAA Golf Classic was a HUGE success and we are extremely grateful to everyone who came and gave so much of their time and efforts! I cannot tell you how honored I am to be a part of such a supportive and loving community, where differing abilities are applauded and everyone is given the opportunity to shine. SO even though the rain is here, we still carry warm memories from the 5th Annual CAA Golf Classic. I am very excited to a part of the CAA family!

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CAA "Cardinal Nest"

By Pamela Lindsay, Dean of Curriculum & Instruction

Excitement is in the air as students return from their summer activities and prepare to settle into their CAA “Cardinal Nest.” The cool weather and early evenings may slow some people down but the start of a new fall quarter always gets us moving!

b2ap3_thumbnail_dancing2.jpgIf you are looking for a place to warm up, come by Latizmo hip-hop class and feel the heat. If the grace of falling leaves inspires you, visit our site during Classical and Contemporary or Graduate Dance. Are you a fall sports lover? Come join our Cardinal team activities and Cheerleading squad. If the fog on these brisk fall mornings reminds you of Frost or Keats, you may want to swing by Poetry class and compose a few lines. If the autumn fog turns to dramatic and stormy skies, share those images in Theatre Performance, Language Studies, Fine Arts, and Music classes. If you find yourself intrigued by all of the different and vibrant colors of the trees and their fallen leaves, learn about them in Applied Science and Mathematics. And of course, our TV/Film and Photojournalism students are here to capture all of your beautiful fall CAA memories.

Autumn is also a time for beautiful changes! In this spirit, the Fall 2016 Quarter now includes 30 classes scheduled across the week for accessibility by more students than ever. New workshops and performance opportunities offer even more excitement for current students. More adults discover and register for these opportunities every month while CAA’s student leaders share their knowledge as contributing citizens. Soon the coming fall festivals, performances, and holiday celebrations will give them a stage to do what they do so well…represent and celebrate the abilities of all individuals, and the ability of all individuals to affect change.

You are treasured part of the College of Adaptive Arts family and always welcome at our CAA home. Go to and click “Sign up for a student tour” to come in and see what’s new. We’ll keep the kettle on for you!

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by Nicole Ferguson, Department Chair of the College of Adaptive Arts School of Art


From the beginning, College of Adaptive Arts, one core belief has always been “perception, not perfection.” In our society, we are driven to be perfect. To have the perfect grades, the perfect job, and the perfect life . We pose for and post our perfect selfies on Twitter and Instagram. We continue to perpetuate the illusion of perfection all over Facebook. At CAA, this shift in thought from “perfection to perception” is a unique concept for many people and adults with differing abilities. Students, who thought they weren’t skilled enough to dance, act, sing or paint, might have never tried. CAA continues to build classes that are safe places to learn, free from judgment, while supporting creativity and courage to explore different areas in the arts. For our college students, the illusion of perfection has been broken. All CAA students get the chance to experience real success, hard work, form lasting friendships, and find what they are passionate about in life and as performing artists. Perfection is only an illusion. Believe in yourself…that’s real.


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by Nicole Kim

Nicole with ReneeI am a professor at College of Adaptive Arts for the Speaking with Confidence class but I am also a parent of an adult with Down syndrome. As Said’s mom, I’ve been used to being his advocate his entire life. Speaking for him and giving him a voice when he didn’t have one. Now that he is 26 and has just moved out in a supported living situation, I recognize the importance of him having his own voice and having the ability to speak for himself. Self-advocacy and self-determination are important skills for people with disabilities to possess and I’d like to share 3 ways you can help your adult gain self-advocacy skills.

Self-advocacy is the act of representing yourself or your own views. Self-determination is the process of taking control and making decisions that affect one’s life. Self-determination helps us make choices, decisions, problem solve, set and attain goals, self-advocate and perform independently. Both are essential for our adult children as they transition to adulthood and independence. It doesn’t matter where your student is in their process, even if they live with you or with caregivers, they can, and should always be, self-advocates!

1. Increase Self-Awareness - Help your student make a list of 3-5 things they are good at and what they need help with.

a. I don’t call it “strengths” and “weaknesses” because we ALL have things we need help with. Part of self-advocacy is knowing when to ask for help and that is NOT a weakness. When we are aware of our limits and abilities, we can be more aware of when we really need help and be able to articulate what help we need.

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