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Celebrating Disability Pride Month: A Journey of Empowerment and Advocacy

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Disability Pride Month, celebrated every July, is a time to honor the history, achievements, and experiences of the disability community. This month is dedicated to fostering an environment of inclusivity, raising awareness about disability rights, and celebrating the unique identities and contributions of individuals with disabilities.

The roots of Disability Pride Month can be traced back to the disability rights movement, which gained significant momentum in the latter half of the 20th century. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush, marked a watershed moment in the fight for disability rights. The ADA prohibited discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment, education, transportation, and public accommodations. This year celebrates the ADA’s 34th anniversary.

Why Disability Pride Matters

Accessibility standards and disabled person sign.
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Affirming Identity and Empowerment

Disability Pride Month serves as a platform for individuals with disabilities to embrace their identities with pride and confidence. It challenges societal stereotypes and misconceptions about disability by showcasing the diverse talents, skills, and achievements of the disability community. This celebration fosters a sense of empowerment, encouraging individuals to take pride in their abilities and contributions.

Promoting Inclusion and Accessibility

Disability Pride Month highlights the importance of creating inclusive environments where people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of life. It draws attention to the need for accessible infrastructure, inclusive policies, and equal opportunities. By promoting a culture of accessibility, we can break down barriers and ensure that everyone has the chance to thrive.

Raising Awareness and Advocacy

Disability Pride Month is an opportunity to raise awareness about the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and to advocate for their rights. It provides a platform to educate the public about disability issues, debunk myths, and challenge stigmas. Through advocacy efforts, we can work towards a more equitable society where the rights and dignity of all individuals are respected.

How to Become a Disability Advocate

A mother and her son with Down syndrome smile and take a selfie while walking through a shopping mall.
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1. Educate Yourself and Others

The first step towards becoming a disability advocate is to educate yourself about disability issues, rights, and etiquette. Read books, watch documentaries, and follow reputable sources that provide insights into the experiences of people with disabilities. Share this knowledge with others to promote understanding and empathy.

2. Support Disability-Led Organizations

Supporting organizations that are led by and for people with disabilities is crucial. These organizations work tirelessly to advocate for disability rights, provide essential services, and promote inclusion. Consider donating, volunteering, or participating in their events and campaigns.

Organizations:

3. Promote Accessibility

Advocating for accessibility in your community is a powerful way to support disability rights. Ensure that public spaces, workplaces, and digital platforms are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Encourage businesses and institutions to adopt inclusive practices and provide reasonable accommodations.

  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): A comprehensive set of guidelines for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. WCAG Overview
  • ADA National Network: Provides information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to support the mission of the ADA. ADA National Network
  • Job Accommodation Network (JAN): Offers free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. JAN
  • Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation (CIDI): Focuses on promoting inclusive environments and products for people with disabilities. CIDI
  • W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI): Develops standards and support materials to help understand and implement accessibility. WAI
  • DisabilityIN: A nonprofit resource for business disability inclusion worldwide. DisabilityIN
  • PEAT (Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology): Promotes the employment, retention, and career advancement of people with disabilities through the use of accessible technology. PEAT
  • Section508.gov: Provides information and resources for understanding and implementing Section 508 accessibility standards. Section508.gov
  • National Disability Rights Network (NDRN): The nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP). NDRN

4. Challenge Ableism

Presentation about ableism and kinds of barriers for persons with disabilities with using a white magnetic board

Ableism, or discrimination against people with disabilities, is deeply ingrained in society and often goes unrecognized. It can manifest in various forms, from overt acts of discrimination to more subtle, everyday behaviors and attitudes. Challenging ableism involves recognizing and addressing these harmful actions and beliefs. Here are some examples of ableism and ways to combat them:

  • Language and Terminology: Using derogatory or insensitive language to describe people with disabilities is a common form of ableism. Terms like “crazy,” “lame,” or “retarded” are offensive and perpetuate negative stereotypes. Instead, use person-first language (e.g., “person with a disability”) or identity-first language (e.g., “disabled person”) based on individual preferences.
  • Assumptions and Stereotypes: Assuming that people with disabilities are less capable, less intelligent, or in need of pity is a form of ableism. These stereotypes can limit opportunities for disabled individuals in education, employment, and social interactions. Challenge these assumptions by recognizing the diverse abilities and contributions of people with disabilities.
  • Inaccessibility: Environments that are not accessible to people with disabilities are a clear example of ableism. This includes buildings without ramps or elevators, websites that are not screen reader-friendly, and events that do not provide sign language interpreters. Advocate for and support efforts to make physical and digital spaces accessible to all.
  • Microaggressions: Subtle, often unintentional comments or actions that marginalize people with disabilities are known as microaggressions. Examples include asking invasive questions about someone’s disability, offering unsolicited help, or expressing surprise at a disabled person’s achievements. Educate yourself on recognizing and avoiding microaggressions.
  • Institutional Ableism: Systemic policies and practices that disadvantage people with disabilities constitute institutional ableism. This can be seen in workplaces that do not provide reasonable accommodations, schools that segregate students with disabilities, and healthcare systems that fail to address the needs of disabled individuals. Advocate for policy changes that promote inclusion and equity.
  • Representation: The lack of representation of people with disabilities in media, politics, and other areas contributes to ableism. When individuals with disabilities are portrayed, they are often depicted as objects of pity or inspiration rather than as complex individuals. Support and amplify the work of disabled creators and leaders to ensure diverse and accurate representation.

Challenging ableism requires a conscious effort to recognize and address these behaviors and attitudes. Speak out against discriminatory practices, advocate for inclusive policies, and educate others about the importance of equality and respect for people with disabilities. By actively challenging ableism, we can help create a more just and equitable society for everyone.

Celebrating Disability Pride: Events and Activities

The disability flag, Disability Pride flag
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Disability Pride Parades

Disability Pride Parades are vibrant celebrations that bring together individuals with disabilities, their families, friends, and allies. These parades feature music, performances, and speeches that highlight the achievements and contributions of the disability community. Participating in or supporting these parades is a great way to show solidarity and celebrate disability pride.

Workshops and Panels

Many organizations and institutions host workshops, panels, and webinars during Disability Pride Month. These events cover a wide range of topics, including disability rights, accessibility, employment, and mental health. Attending these events provides an opportunity to learn, connect with others, and engage in meaningful discussions.

Art and Culture

Art and culture play a significant role in celebrating disability pride. Many artists with disabilities use their work to express their experiences and advocate for change. Attend exhibitions, performances, and film screenings that showcase the talents of disabled artists. Supporting disabled creators not only celebrates their contributions but also promotes greater representation in the arts.

Disability Pride Month is a time to celebrate the diversity, resilience, and achievements of the disability community. By understanding its history, recognizing the importance of disability pride, and becoming advocates for disability rights, we can contribute to a more inclusive and equitable society. Let us use this month as an opportunity to educate ourselves, challenge ableism, and amplify the voices of individuals with disabilities. Together, we can create a world where everyone is valued and empowered.

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Investigation Uncovers Rights Violations at Connecticut Mental Health Center

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After a thorough three-year investigation, Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT) released a report on Wednesday accusing a major mental health center and its overseeing department of violating statutory and constitutional rights.

The report zeroes in on the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC), an inpatient psychiatric facility in New Haven, and the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), which manages the center.

By reviewing 14 patient records and over 300 policies and procedures at CMHC and DMHAS, DRCT determined that a substantial overhaul is necessary.

“Significant improvements are needed in CMHC and DMHAS policies, procedures, practices, and staff training concerning protection from harm, including sexual abuse; patient treatment plans; restraint and seclusion; therapeutic approaches for life skills enhancement; discharge planning; and quality assurance data collection,” the report stated.

DMHAS Chief of Staff Christopher McClure responded to the report in a written statement, affirming that CMHC is accredited and patient care is the department’s top priority. He mentioned that DMHAS had collaborated with DRCT during the investigation but expressed concerns about DRCT’s findings and recommendations, suggesting they included subjective criteria and overlooked existing robust systems.

A key focus of the DRCT report is the inadequate reporting system for patient care and abuse.

“CMHC lacks effective mechanisms for reporting, investigating, and tracking crucial areas of patient care, risking patient safety,” the report claimed.

The report cited incidents of sexual misconduct that were either not reported or investigated by DMHAS, including two separate incidents where patients engaged in sexual misconduct in public areas and multiple instances of sexual abuse of a female patient by three different male patients.

The report highlighted CMHC’s failure to investigate four out of five allegations of sexual abuse reviewed by DRCT, which included serious accusations against CMHC staff and abuse from a patient’s family member prior to their admission.

Other findings included CMHC and DMHAS’s failures to ensure patient safety, appropriate use of restraint and seclusion, and adequate treatment and discharge planning, leading to significant harm to patients.

The DRCT report offered several recommendations, such as instituting a more concrete system for reporting and investigating abuse and neglect, improving quality assurance data and treatment plans, and developing procedures to protect patients from excessive restraint and seclusion.

Notably, many findings in DRCT’s report echoed those reported by the US Department of Justice at Connecticut Valley Hospital in 2007, which resulted in a settlement.

In response to the report, Senate Republicans released a statement calling for corrective actions and oversight, with Sen. Heather Somers planning to request a formal investigation.

Click here to view original article by Hudson Kamphausen at ctnewsjunkie.com

How Families Can Report Abuse and Ensure Safety of Loved Ones in Inpatient Medical Facilities

A family visiting an elderly inpatient.
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1. Recognize the Signs of Abuse

Understanding the indicators of abuse is the first step in protecting loved ones. Signs may include:

  • Unexplained injuries or frequent hospital visits.
  • Changes in behavior or mood, such as withdrawal or depression.
  • Poor hygiene or malnutrition.
  • Reports of inappropriate behavior or discomfort around certain staff members.

2. Report Abuse Immediately

If you suspect abuse, it is crucial to report it immediately. Here are steps to take:

Contact Facility Management: Report concerns to the facility’s management or patient advocate. Most facilities have a grievance process.

Notify State Authorities: Each state has a designated department for reporting abuse. For example, in Connecticut, you can contact the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS).

Call the Police: In cases of immediate danger or criminal behavior, contact local law enforcement.

Contact Advocacy Groups: Organizations like Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT) can provide assistance and resources for reporting abuse and advocating for patient rights.

3. Utilize Available Resources

Several resources are available for reporting abuse and seeking help:

  • National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA): NAPSA
  • National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA): NCEA
  • Disability Rights Connecticut: DRCT
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway: Provides state-specific contact information for reporting child abuse and neglect. Child Welfare Information Gateway
  • Elder Justice Initiative: Offers resources and state-specific statutes related to elder abuse. Elder Justice Initiative
  • American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC): Provides information on reporting child abuse and a national hotline. American SPCC

4. Ensure Safety While in an Inpatient Facility

Regular Visits: Regular and unannounced visits to the facility can help you monitor the care and environment your loved one is in.

Stay Informed: Keep in close communication with the medical staff. Understand the treatment plan, medications, and daily routines of your loved one.

Build Relationships: Establish a rapport with caregivers and staff. Familiarity can encourage better care and accountability.

Advocate for Your Loved One: Be proactive in attending care meetings and advocating for necessary services and changes.

Review Facility Records: Request access to incident reports, staff credentials, and any complaints filed against the facility.

Use Technology: Install cameras in permitted areas or use video calls to frequently check on your loved one.

5. Understand Legal Rights and Protections

Families should be aware of the legal rights of patients in medical facilities, including:

  • Right to Safe and Adequate Care: Patients have the right to receive safe, respectful, and quality care.
  • Right to Be Free from Abuse: Patients are protected from physical, sexual, emotional, and financial abuse.
  • Right to Advocacy Services: Patients and families have the right to access advocacy services to assist in addressing concerns and ensuring rights are upheld.

For more detailed information on patient rights and protections, visit:

  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS): HHS
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): CMS

Ensuring the safety and well-being of loved ones in inpatient medical facilities requires vigilance, knowledge, and proactive engagement. Utilize the available resources and stay involved in your loved one’s care to help prevent and address any issues of abuse.

 

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Paris Paralympics 2024: Elevating Disability Rights and Global Perceptions

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The upcoming Paris Paralympics are anticipated to provide a significant boost to the movement, similar to the transformative impact of the 2012 London Games. Organizers are hopeful that the event will elevate the rights of disabled individuals to a global priority.

Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), expressed that the Games, starting 100 days after the Olympics on August 28, are expected to reshape global perceptions of people with disabilities. Parsons emphasized the importance of putting disability rights back on the global agenda, highlighting that this issue has been overshadowed by topics like gender identity in recent years.

Parsons noted that the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the situation for individuals with disabilities, as many health systems failed to meet their needs. He stated that the pandemic severely affected individuals with disabilities, revealing shortcomings in healthcare systems worldwide.

The Paris Paralympics symbolize a return to normalcy, with spectators allowed to attend, unlike the largely empty venues of the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Games. Parsons believes that the Paris setting, with events near iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Palais, will captivate global audiences.

The IPC expects the television viewership for Paris to exceed the 4.1 billion who watched the Tokyo Paralympics, benefiting from more favorable viewing times for European and American audiences. While acknowledging that London 2012 set a high standard for Paralympic sports, Parsons is confident that the level of competition has significantly improved since then.

Facade of the town hall of Paris, France, decorated for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Paris is the host city of the 2024 Summer Olympics
Shutterstock – Facade of the town hall of Paris, France, decorated for the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2024.

Parsons highlighted the growing interest in Paralympic sports, noting that events like wheelchair basketball and five-a-side football have become faster and more physical, with more teams competing at a high level.

To boost ticket sales, Paris organizers launched an advertising campaign. So far, 300,000 tickets have been sold to the public, with another 600,000 acquired by public sector organizations and the Olympic and Paralympic committees. Parsons is optimistic about reaching the sales figures achieved in London 2012 and Rio 2016, where millions of tickets were sold in the final weeks before the Games.

Parsons emphasized that the Paralympics are not just about sports but also about changing perceptions. The event aims to inspire and demonstrate that athletes with disabilities can achieve extraordinary feats, ultimately striving to change the world by altering perceptions.

However, the Games are not expected to make the Paris Metro system more accessible to wheelchair users. French law requires that if one station is modified for accessibility, all stations on that line must also be upgraded. To mitigate this, a thousand specially adapted taxis will be available, and public buses will be equipped to accommodate wheelchair users.

Click here to view original article at Fox28 Spokane.

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Excluding Race From Lung Function Testing Could Increase Disability Benefits for Black Veterans

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Adjusting lung function assessments to exclude race as a factor—a shift advocated by health equity proponents—would lead to a reclassification of lung disease severity for nearly half a million Black Americans. Consequently, Black veterans might receive over $1 billion in additional disability benefits, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Context and Background:

The use of race in clinical algorithms has sparked extensive debate and controversy. The American Thoracic Society (ATS) is among the many medical organizations addressing this issue. Last year, ATS suggested that racial adjustments in lung disease diagnosis could contribute to health disparities and recommended discontinuing their use, calling for more research on the impacts of such changes.

Study Presentation:

The new study, presented at the ATS annual meeting in San Diego, aims to quantify the effects of removing race from lung function equations. Raj Manrai, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, hopes the findings will help prepare clinicians and health systems for the potential influx of patients requiring reevaluation.

Anticipated Changes:

Nirav Bhakta, a pulmonologist at the University of California, San Francisco, described the study as a significant effort, providing a clear picture of the expected changes. Bhakta emphasized the need for additional tests and imaging to prevent mortality and suggested that remote, AI-driven spirometry could alleviate the burden on hospital labs.

Implementation at Hospitals:

Boston Medical Center (BMC) recently updated its spirometers to use race-neutral equations, requiring software updates and integration into electronic health records. Michael Ieong, who oversees BMC’s pulmonary function lab, noted that it will take time to assess the impact on patient volume.

Historical Context:

The racial correction in spirometry, adjusting readings by up to 15% for Black patients, has been controversial. Critics argue that it stems from outdated and racist science and is problematic given that race is not a biological category. James Diao, the study’s lead author, highlighted the significant clinical and financial implications of these adjustments.

Implications for Black Veterans:

Rohan Khazanchi, a co-author, urged Black patients previously assessed with race-based equations to seek reevaluation. The study found that using race-neutral equations could substantially increase disability payments for Black veterans, while potentially reducing benefits for white veterans.

Broader Impact:

The study indicates that 12.5 million Americans may experience changes in their lung impairment classification. For instance, an additional 430,000 Black people would be diagnosed with moderate to severe COPD, while 1.1 million fewer white patients would receive such diagnoses.

Financial Implications:

The Veterans Administration could see a 17% increase in disability payments for Black veterans, amounting to an annual redistribution of $1.94 billion among eligible veterans.

The study’s results compel a reevaluation of how eligibility for disability and occupational fitness is determined. The authors acknowledge that while some patients might gain access to new treatments, others could lose eligibility for certain procedures. Overall, the goal is to ensure that clinical decision support tools are evidence-based and serve all patients equitably.

Read the full original article by Usha Lee McFarling at STAT News here.

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22.5% Disability Employment Rate in 2023

Record Employment Rates for Workers with Disabilities

In 2023, 22.5% of individuals with disabilities were employed, marking the highest percentage since data collection began in 2008. This increase is attributed to a robust labor market, more remote work opportunities, and a heightened focus on accessibility from business leaders.

Persistent Disparities in Employment

Despite these gains, significant disparities remain. People with disabilities are three times more likely to be unemployed compared to those without disabilities. The unemployment rates are especially high among Black adults with disabilities and veterans with disabilities, many of whom live near or in poverty. These issues not only harm society but also affect business negatively.

african american man with myasthenia gravis, bold and dark skinned office worker sitting with walking cane and using computer, looking at monitor, graphs and notebook on desk
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Current Status of Employment for Disabled Workers

Research by the Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights that companies employing workers with disabilities experience a 90% increase in retention and a 72% boost in productivity. In a challenging labor market, it’s crucial for businesses to tap into all available talent, including veterans, neurodivergent individuals, and caregivers, who are often overlooked due to biased recruitment processes.

Group of two women working at the office. Mature woman and down syndrome girl working at inclusive teamwork.
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Recognizing the Hidden Workforce

Many businesses underestimate the number of employees with disabilities, typically reporting only 4% to 7%. However, a study by Boston Consulting Group reveals that 25% of the workforce has a health condition or disability that limits significant life activities. To secure their future, companies must create accessible and inclusive workplaces.

Advantages of Supporting Workers with Disabilities

Inequities faced by workers with disabilities exist alongside general workplace dissatisfaction. According to Gartner, addressing the “unsettled” state of employee-employer relationships is a major challenge in 2024. This unrest is driven by mistrust, anxiety over productivity, and concerns about work flexibility. Interestingly, improving conditions for workers with disabilities benefits all employees. During the pandemic, flexible work arrangements led to increased job satisfaction and well-being, revealing new opportunities for workers with disabilities.

Wheelchair disabled person works as a barista in an inclusive coffee shop.
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Long-standing Unemployment Gap

Historically, workers with disabilities face higher unemployment rates due to barriers in finding suitable jobs, necessary accommodations, and discrimination. Many do not disclose their disabilities due to stigma, resulting in inadequate workplace accommodations and a lack of employer awareness about necessary support.

How Employers Can Support Disabled Workers

Employers must ensure inclusive recruitment from diverse talent pools and use unbiased job boards and applicant tracking systems. Providing anonymized processes for requesting accommodations and establishing feedback channels are essential. Research indicates that accommodations often cost little or nothing. These practices help employees with disabilities succeed without requiring disclosure and benefit all employees facing various work challenges.

Technological Empowerment

Technology can significantly enhance the workplace for workers with disabilities. AI chatbots and workforce experience platforms can help employees identify success enablers, manage burnout, and improve inclusion and retention. By supporting workers with disabilities, employers create a more inclusive and productive environment for everyone.

Supporting workers with disabilities involves crafting an ideal work life that ensures access and satisfaction for all employees. By doing so, companies not only help employees with disabilities but also foster a more engaged and productive workforce overall.

Read the full and original Fast Company article by Sarah Bernard here.

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Teenager with Disability Stuns Audience While Singing National Anthem

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At a Minor League Baseball game in South Carolina, 13-year-old Sawyer McCarthy moved the audience to tears with his rendition of the national anthem. Sawyer’s performance at the Columbia Fireflies on April 28 went viral, amassing over 5.5 million views on Facebook. His mother, Brianna McCarthy, expressed immense pride as Sawyer’s voice resonated globally, uniting people from various countries.

John Oliver, the promotions manager with the Columbia Fireflies, noted Sawyer’s previous performance of “God Bless America” and their eagerness to have him sing again. Despite never having voice lessons, Sawyer’s natural talent and love for singing bring joy to many.

Sawyer, who has Optic Nerve Hypoplasia, a condition leading to blindness and other challenges, discovered his musical gift at an early age. His ability to harmonize and learn music quickly is attributed to his heightened hearing. Despite his disability, Sawyer shines with a passion for singing, aiming to inspire and bring smiles to others.

Humble and soft-spoken, Sawyer dreams of performing on “America’s Got Talent” despite his nerves about Simon Cowell’s critiques. His mother believes that singing is Sawyer’s unique way of communicating, transcending his difficulties with regular conversation. Wherever he performs, Sawyer’s voice leaves a lasting impact.

Click here to view original article and video at www.wowt.com

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Assistive Technology in Education for Individuals with Learning Disabilities

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Assistive technology (AT) has become essential in enhancing the educational experiences of individuals with learning disabilities, offering a range of solutions from simple tools to advanced AI-based applications. These tools improve the understanding of educational content and foster independence, allowing learners to leverage their strengths and overcome challenges effectively. AT not only boosts academic performance but also enhances confidence and self-reliance, contributing to meaningful interactions and future employment prospects.

Key Points

  • Definition and Purpose: AT includes devices and tools designed to enhance the abilities of individuals with cognitive, sensory, or physical challenges. It ranges from simple aids like magnifiers to complex systems like speech-generating devices and specialized software.
  • Impact on Education: The integration of AT in education, supported by legislative acts like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, has significantly improved accessibility and personalized learning experiences. AI tools tailored for neurodivergent learners, including those with dyslexia and ADHD, are transforming inclusive education.

Types of AT:

  • Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text Software: Converts written text to audible speech and vice versa, aiding in reading comprehension and written expression.
  • Audiobooks and Digital Publications: Provide accessible literary content, improving comprehension and enjoyment for those with reading challenges.
  • Organizational and Memory Aids: Digital tools help manage schedules and academic tasks, enhancing executive functioning skills.
  • Math and Reading Tools: Specialized technologies assist in understanding mathematical concepts and improving reading fluency.
  • Communication Devices: Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices improve communication abilities for individuals with speech impairments.

Real Life Benefits

  • Reading and Writing Skills: AT like text-to-speech and word prediction software enhances literacy by improving reading comprehension, fluency, and writing accuracy.
  • Math Understanding: Tools like graphing calculators and virtual manipulatives help visualize and solve complex mathematical concepts.
  • Communication: AAC devices enable non-verbal individuals to communicate effectively, enhancing social integration and quality of life.

Challenges and Future Prospects

  • Selecting the Right Tools: Requires thorough assessment of individual needs and alignment with educational plans.
  • Cost and Accessibility: High costs can be a barrier, necessitating careful planning and consideration of funding options.
  • Emerging Trends: Innovations in augmented and virtual reality, mobile and wearable devices, and AI-driven tools are set to further revolutionize assistive technology, creating more inclusive and adaptive learning environments.

Assistive technology is crucial in modern education, providing comprehensive support for students with learning disabilities. By highlighting its benefits and potential, this article underscores the importance of AT in fostering inclusive education and enhancing the overall educational experience for all learners.

Click here for the full and original article at www.ldrfa.org

The following resources are included in the original article by IDRFA:

List of manufacturers of assistive tech & free tools

Audio Note Taker

Apple free accessibility tools

Microsoft free accessibility tools

Google free accessibility tools

Read & Write for Google

ADHD Tools

Recorded free textbook libraries for students with dyslexia learning disability.

E- books available to download free in libraries

Organization and Study Tools for ADHD & executive function

Web Based Organization tools:

Cloud-based platforms like Google, Outlook, and Yahoo offer comprehensive organizational systems that include tools for creating slide presentations, documents, spreadsheets, as well as calendars and email. Apple also provides an integrated system with email, calendar, storage, and free applications for creating documents, slideshows, and spreadsheets.

Calendars and reminder tools are useful for setting up class schedules, reminding users of assignment due dates, and alerting them about appointments. These features can also aid individuals with executive function disorder.

Sensory solution for autistic

Fun & Function – Helps Autistic students who experience hypersensitivity and more.

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Apple Announces New Accessibility Features, Including Eye Tracking, Music Haptics and Vocal Shortcuts

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Apple Announces New Accessibility Features, Including Eye Tracking, Music Haptics and Vocal Shortcuts

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PRESS RELEASE

CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA – Apple today announced new accessibility features coming later this year, including Eye Tracking, a way for users with physical disabilities to control iPad or iPhone with their eyes. Additionally, Music Haptics will offer a new way for users who are deaf or hard of hearing to experience music using the Taptic Engine in iPhone; Vocal Shortcuts will allow users to perform tasks by making a custom sound; Vehicle Motion Cues can help reduce motion sickness when using iPhone or iPad in a moving vehicle; and more accessibility features will come to visionOS. These features combine the power of Apple hardware and software, harnessing Apple silicon, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to further Apple’s decades-long commitment to designing products for everyone.

“We believe deeply in the transformative power of innovation to enrich lives,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “That’s why for nearly 40 years, Apple has championed inclusive design by embedding accessibility at the core of our hardware and software. We’re continuously pushing the boundaries of technology, and these new features reflect our long-standing commitment to delivering the best possible experience to all of our users.”

“Each year, we break new ground when it comes to accessibility,” said Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives. “These new features will make an impact in the lives of a wide range of users, providing new ways to communicate, control their devices, and move through the world.”

Eye Tracking Comes to iPad and iPhone

Powered by artificial intelligence, Eye Tracking gives users a built-in option for navigating iPad and iPhone with just their eyes. Designed for users with physical disabilities, Eye Tracking uses the front-facing camera to set up and calibrate in seconds, and with on-device machine learning, all data used to set up and control this feature is kept securely on device, and isn’t shared with Apple.

Eye Tracking works across iPadOS and iOS apps, and doesn’t require additional hardware or accessories. With Eye Tracking, users can navigate through the elements of an app and use Dwell Control to activate each element, accessing additional functions such as physical buttons, swipes, and other gestures solely with their eyes.

Music Haptics Makes Songs More Accessible

Music Haptics is a new way for users who are deaf or hard of hearing to experience music on iPhone. With this accessibility feature turned on, the Taptic Engine in iPhone plays taps, textures, and refined vibrations to the audio of the music. Music Haptics works across millions of songs in the Apple Music catalog, and will be available as an API for developers to make music more accessible in their apps.

New Features for a Wide Range of Speech

With Vocal Shortcuts, iPhone and iPad users can assign custom utterances that Siri can understand to launch shortcuts and complete complex tasks. Listen for Atypical Speech, another new feature, gives users an option for enhancing speech recognition for a wider range of speech. Listen for Atypical Speech uses on-device machine learning to recognize user speech patterns. Designed for users with acquired or progressive conditions that affect speech, such as cerebral palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or stroke, these features provide a new level of customization and control, building on features introduced in iOS 17 for users who are nonspeaking or at risk of losing their ability to speak.

“Artificial intelligence has the potential to improve speech recognition for millions of people with atypical speech, so we are thrilled that Apple is bringing these new accessibility features to consumers,” said Mark Hasegawa-Johnson, the Speech Accessibility Project at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s principal investigator. “The Speech Accessibility Project was designed as a broad-based, community-supported effort to help companies and universities make speech recognition more robust and effective, and Apple is among the accessibility advocates who made the Speech Accessibility Project possible.”

Vehicle Motion Cues Can Help Reduce Motion Sickness

Vehicle Motion Cues is a new experience for iPhone and iPad that can help reduce motion sickness for passengers in moving vehicles. Research shows that motion sickness is commonly caused by a sensory conflict between what a person sees and what they feel, which can prevent some users from comfortably using iPhone or iPad while riding in a moving vehicle. With Vehicle Motion Cues, animated dots on the edges of the screen represent changes in vehicle motion to help reduce sensory conflict without interfering with the main content. Using sensors built into iPhone and iPad, Vehicle Motion Cues recognizes when a user is in a moving vehicle and responds accordingly. The feature can be set to show automatically on iPhone, or can be turned on and off in Control Center.

CarPlay Gets Voice Control, More Accessibility Updates

Accessibility features coming to CarPlay include Voice Control, Color Filters, and Sound Recognition. With Voice Control, users can navigate CarPlay and control apps with just their voice. With Sound Recognition, drivers or passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing can turn on alerts to be notified of car horns and sirens. For users who are colorblind, Color Filters make the CarPlay interface visually easier to use, with additional visual accessibility features including Bold Text and Large Text.

Accessibility Features Coming to visionOS

This year, accessibility features coming to visionOS will include systemwide Live Captions to help everyone — including users who are deaf or hard of hearing — follow along with spoken dialogue in live conversations and in audio from apps. With Live Captions for FaceTime in visionOS, more users can easily enjoy the unique experience of connecting and collaborating using their Persona. Apple Vision Pro will add the capability to move captions using the window bar during Apple Immersive Video, as well as support for additional Made for iPhone hearing devices and cochlear hearing processors. Updates for vision accessibility will include the addition of Reduce Transparency, Smart Invert, and Dim Flashing Lights for users who have low vision, or those who want to avoid bright lights and frequent flashing.

These features join the dozens of accessibility features already available in Apple Vision Pro, which offers a flexible input system and an intuitive interface designed with a wide range of users in mind. Features such as VoiceOver, Zoom, and Color Filters can also provide users who are blind or have low vision access to spatial computing, while features such as Guided Access can support users with cognitive disabilities. Users can control Vision Pro with any combination of their eyes, hands, or voice, with accessibility features including Switch Control, Sound Actions, and Dwell Control that can also help those with physical disabilities.

“Apple Vision Pro is without a doubt the most accessible technology I’ve ever used,” said Ryan Hudson-Peralta, a Detroit-based product designer, accessibility consultant, and cofounder of Equal Accessibility LLC. “As someone born without hands and unable to walk, I know the world was not designed with me in mind, so it’s been incredible to see that visionOS just works. It’s a testament to the power and importance of accessible and inclusive design.”

Additional Updates

  • For users who are blind or have low vision, VoiceOver will include new voices, a flexible Voice Rotor, custom volume control, and the ability to customize VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts on Mac.
  • Magnifier will offer a new Reader Mode and the option to easily launch Detection Mode with the Action button.
  • Braille users will get a new way to start and stay in Braille Screen Input for faster control and text editing; Japanese language availability for Braille Screen Input; support for multi-line braille with Dot Pad; and the option to choose different input and output tables.
  • For users with low vision, Hover Typing shows larger text when typing in a text field, and in a user’s preferred font and color.
  • For users at risk of losing their ability to speak, Personal Voice will be available in Mandarin Chinese. Users who have difficulty pronouncing or reading full sentences will be able to create a Personal Voice using shortened phrases.
  • For users who are nonspeaking, Live Speech will include categories and simultaneous compatibility with Live Captions.
  • For users with physical disabilities, Virtual Trackpad for AssistiveTouch allows users to control their device using a small region of the screen as a resizable trackpad.
  • Switch Control will include the option to use the cameras in iPhone and iPad to recognize finger-tap gestures as switches.
  • Voice Control will offer support for custom vocabularies and complex words.

Celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day with Apple

This week, Apple is introducing new features, curated collections, and more in celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day:

  • Throughout the month of May, select Apple Store locations will host free sessions to help customers explore and discover accessibility features built into the products they love. Apple Piazza Liberty in Milan will feature the talent behind “Assume that I can,” the viral campaign for World Down Syndrome Day. And available year-round at Apple Store locations globally, Today at Apple group reservations are a place where friends, families, schools, and community groups can learn about accessibility features together.
  • Shortcuts adds Calming Sounds, which plays ambient soundscapes to minimize distractions, helping users focus or rest.
  • Visit the App Store to discover incredible apps and games that promote access and inclusion for all, including the accessible App Store Award-winning game Unpacking, apps as tools for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), and more.
  • The Apple TV app will honor trailblazing creators, performers, and activists who passionately share the experiences of people with disabilities. This year’s theme is Remaking the World, and each story invites viewers to envision a reality where everyone is empowered to add their voice to the greater human story.
  • Apple Books will spotlight lived experiences of disability through curated collections of first-person narratives by disabled writers in ebook and audiobook formats.
  • Apple Fitness+ workouts, meditations, and trainer tips welcome users who are deaf or hard of hearing with American Sign Language, and Time to Walk now includes transcripts in the Apple Podcasts app. Fitness+ workouts always include Audio Hints to support users who are blind or have low vision, as well as modifiers so that users of all levels can participate.
  • Users can visit Apple Support to learn how their Apple devices can be customized using built-in accessibility features. From adapting the gestures to customizing how information is presented on a device’s screen, the Apple Accessibility playlist will help users learn how to personalize Apple Vision Pro, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac to work best for them.

About Apple Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Today, Apple leads the world in innovation with iPhone, iPad, Mac, AirPods, Apple Watch, and Apple Vision Pro. Apple’s six software platforms — iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, visionOS, and tvOS — provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and empower people with breakthrough services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, iCloud, and Apple TV+. Apple’s more than 150,000 employees are dedicated to making the best products on earth and to leaving the world better than we found it.

Photos courtesy of Apple.

Click here to view original article at www.apple.com

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Concerns Mount Over Ohio’s Proposed Involuntary Mental Health Commitment Bill

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In Ohio, a proposed bill aimed at expanding criteria for involuntary mental health hospitalization is sparking significant debate. This legislation, known as House Bill 249, is supported by various stakeholders including healthcare providers and law enforcement, who believe it will lead to fewer incarcerations of mentally ill individuals and improve their overall health outcomes. The bill introduces a new “psychiatric deterioration” standard for involuntary hospitalization, targeting those who may not recognize their illness or the need for treatment.

However, disability rights advocates are raising concerns about the potential negative impacts of this bill. They argue that involuntary hospitalization does not tackle the fundamental issues that contribute to mental health problems, such as housing and job insecurity. Instead, it could further endanger individuals’ recovery and stability by increasing their risk of poverty and homelessness. Critics highlight that being involuntarily hospitalized can disrupt individuals’ lives and employment, often without resulting in long-term improvement in their condition.

Research on the topic supports these concerns, indicating that involuntary hospitalization doesn’t necessarily lead to better mental health outcomes and can result in higher rates of readmission and suicide. Disability Rights Ohio suggests that the state should instead focus on enhancing community-based services and encouraging voluntary care.

The bill’s progression has been halted for now, with further discussions and testimonies expected to shape its future. As the debate continues, the challenge remains to find a balance between necessary intervention and respecting the rights and dignity of individuals with mental health issues.

Click here to view the entire original article at www.yahoo.com

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Shining a Light on Disability Challenges Through a University Event

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Advocates for individuals with disabilities are urging able-bodied people to experience using a wheelchair to better understand the challenges faced by those who rely on them daily.

At Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Missouri, an event was organized to demonstrate the difficulties presented by the campus’s vast, hilly terrain and intricate architecture, which, while appealing, pose significant obstacles for some. The event was a collaborative effort by the university’s Accessibility Resource Center and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

Kelly Narowski, a Missouri Western alumna and wheelchair user, shared her experiences. “When I attended the university, I had no knowledge of the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA), as I was still walking then,” she said. Narowski, who became partially paralyzed after a car accident at 25, noted the improved accessibility she observed upon her return. “Seeing the campus now, there’s accessibility everywhere. It’s impressive,” she added.

The challenges of navigating stairs underscored the broader need for inclusive environments and heightened disability awareness.

Narowski expressed appreciation for the voluntary nature of the event and the eagerness of participants to learn from the experience. Jackie McGuire, a counselor at the university, also participated by navigating the campus in a wheelchair, finding the experience eye-opening. “Empathizing is one thing, but experiencing it firsthand really changes your perspective,” McGuire commented.

Kar Miller, a keynote speaker and student at the university, emphasized the importance of raising awareness about disabilities. Miller, who uses a powered wheelchair, pointed out the occasional lack of assistance when her device malfunctions or moves slowly.

Narowski also highlighted the strong protections afforded by the ADA, noting that while some inconsiderate behaviors have decreased due to penalties and public scrutiny, issues like improper parking in designated access areas remain. “It’s crucial to address and correct these behaviors,” she stated, underscoring her commitment to improving awareness and compliance.

Click here to view original article at www.thestar.com.my

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