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Hueneme Pilot
By Loran Lewis
September 17, 2009  

Speaker Promotes Capability over Disability
Experiences inspired board game to provide positive message among kids

Call Me Capable Game - Available since 2002 "Call Me Capable" is the name of the board game Carol Leish created, but it could also serve as the title for an autobiography of the Oxnard woman who rose above childhood injuries and now works to motivate others to do the same.

Leish suffered permanent speech and vision impairment as a result of an auto accident when she was 10 months old. As a result, she not only has had to battle the physical problems, she has also battled the preconceptions people often have of people like her who have a slow, methodical speech delivery that might be mistaken for a mental disability.

"Even if you have a disability, you still have a lot of abilities," Leish says. "You need to focus on what you can do instead of what you can't do."

And that's what Leish has done.

She developed the concept of her board game, Call Me Capable, when she taught elementary and special education classes while working on her master's degree in education and counseling at California State University, San Bernardino.

Her game, which is for ages 3 to 9, Leish says she is focusing on capabilities while trying to get others to reconsider their notions of what disabled people can do.

The game consists of a board with a pathway on which players roll a die and move spaces based upon points awarded for answering questions from four sets of cards. Three sets feature open-ended questions designed to get players thinking about the strengths and capabilities of people with disabilities.

Emotion cards have questions such as "How can a person without a disability be sensitive toward a person with a disability?" Experience cards might ask, "How can a person with a vision problem use a computer?" The Imagination cards ask players to imagine themselves with a disability and someone asks you to respond to a question such as "What is wrong with you?"

"There really is no right or wrong answer," Leish says, "as long as you try to answer."

A fourth category features Challenge cards that do seek correct responses. One question injects some of her humor by asking, "Some newer wheelchairs help disabled people get around by using: a. electric motors b. gasoline motors c. jet engines d. mice on treadmill."

Around the space ring, players can receive bonus cards or risk points based on the roll of the die. The game takes about 45 minutes to an hour to play.

Leish developed the basics of the game in the 1980s as she worked with children in her classes, but it wasn't until the late '90s that she decided to get the game published. It took almost five years of making the right connections and meeting the right people.

Through the Ventura County Professional Women's Network, she finally made contact with Dr. Franklin Rubenstein of Franklin Learning Systems of Westport, Conn., which publishes educational games for elementary school students.

"It happened through the power of luck, networking and chutzpah," Leish jokes of the lengthy process.

Leish comes by her desire to educate people about the disabled through personal experience. As a young child, she had to fight against being placed in special education classes because of her speech problems.

"I tell people the intellect is there, so I never needed special education classes. In the '70s, that wouldn't have prepared me for college."

However, she said her greatest challenges were more social and making friends.

When Leish returned to Oxnard from San Bernardino, she found things had changed for her since she left. "I guess I was more open about my disability," she admits.

She worked for nonprofits in Ventura County and also taught preschool.

Now Leish works as a disability consultant and motivational speaker. She has also published a variety of articles about coping with disabilities.

"I focus on positive attitude with humor and adapting to various situations," she says of her presentations. She says she thinks progress has been made in the way others react to people with disabilities.

"I think there's more tolerance for people who have disabilities," Leish says. "That's more for the physical (disabilities); there's still a ways to go with developmental disabilities."

"What I've found because of my speech problems is that somebody with a speech disability has a harder time versus if they have crutches or a wheelchair."

For more information, visit Leish's Web site at


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