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The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is the primary sponsor of a new local initiative intended to help the parents of special needs children. Many of the top attractions in Fairfield County have made efforts to accommodate children with disabilities, but the parents of those children are often unsure how to find out if the attraction caters to their specific needs. “Accessibility For All,” as the initiative is called, is intended to make the relevant information easily accessible for parents. To accomplish this, they added a role of “Accessibility Coordinator” at each attraction, an individual who will always know what accommodations are available. They also created a website where parents can go to find all the accessibility information for each attraction in one place online.

Much of the NYC subway stations are inaccessible to people with disabilities, a situation that has resulted in multiple lawsuits against the MTA. Services like Access-A-Ride exist to help bridge the gap in public transportation options for people with limited mobility, and riders are charged what they would pay for a ride on the subway: $2.75. However, the MTA is considering a fare hike of $.25 per ride, which would no doubt impact people with disabilities more than the average New Yorker, given that they often live on fixed incomes. The disability community is split on whether the fare hike should extend to services like Access-A-Ride: many feel they should not be treated differently from anyone else, but others are concerned with the financial impact on a vulnerable group.

Philadelphia has a lot going for it: reasonable cost of living, plentiful restaurants and bars, and historic charm, to name a few of its better qualities. However, it is not generally considered an incredibly accessible city. Saron McKee, the city's new director of ADA compliance, aims to change all that. As someone who uses a wheelchair to get around she has firsthand experience with the frustration of navigating a city that is less than fully accessible. Starting with a $300,000 budget, her department will partner with MIlligan & Company to assess the accessibility of 500 structures over the next three years. The city has high hopes for McKee’s success, and her almost 20-year track record of helping people with disabilities will well serve her in this new role. 

The microblogging and social media site recently unveiled its new design, which sources say was inspired by a desire to align as closely as possible to the W3C WAI. To the sighted, the most obvious change is a greater color contrast in the updated design. Appropriate contrast ratios are a crucial part of an inclusive design, as many visually impaired people find it difficult to distinguish elements on a low-contrast page.

The jury is still out on whether users will embrace or reject this new change, but for those who long for the previous layout there’s a solution: an Xkit extension that will revert the look and feel back to the original. 

Auticon, a small California-based technology firm, is staffed entirely by people with autism. It was started by Gray Benoist, the father of two sons with autism after he became concerned about their potential job opportunities. “I felt that the gap had to be filled and there was no other way to fill it than by taking action myself,” said Benoist of his decision.

The firm has grown to over 150 employees since its inception in 2013 and offers a comfortable environment for autistic people - meaning no pressure to socialize, dark rooms for working, and even the option to eschew verbal communication altogether by communicating solely through digital messaging. This accommodating culture has led to a high retention rate that most firms can only dream of. 

In this episode:

Mark and Derek interview Daniel Castro, VP of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Earlier this year ITIF published a report benchmarking federal and government sites on eight factors including accessibility, security, and mobile friendliness, among others. All three discuss the results of the study as well as reasons for the wide variabilities between the state ratings. The podcast concludes with Daniel’s broad recommendation to states for improving the accessibility of their websites.

South Beach Jazz Festival founder R. David New was sick of the stigma surrounding people with disabilities, especially in the performing arts, so he decided to do something about it. Thus, the South Beach Jazz Festival was born. All groups must have at least one person with a direct relationship with a disability, be it physical, mental, or even an illness. This is the third year of the festival, whose talented performers this year include a blind pianist and a Dee Dee Bridgewater, a Grammy award-winning artist.  

Said New of his vision for the event: “Disabilities are such a challenge and struggle for so many people and I wanted for people to know that from those challenges beautiful music and talented individuals could evolve, bringing inspiration and enjoyment to others.

Kevan Chandler loves traveling but his spinal muscular atrophy makes it difficult: he has never been able to walk on his own and all too many destinations around the world are not wheelchair-friendly.

Despite this, he and six friends decided to tackle the challenge of traveling together sans wheelchair through Ireland, France, and England. One person always had the 65-pound Kevan strapped to his back, so they were all able to enjoy the magnificent sights of western Europe without worrying whether or not a site would be wheelchair accessible. Kevan chronicled his travels in his book We Carry Kevan: Six Friends. Three Countries. No Wheelchair, which will be released in 2019.

According to the charity Leonard Cheshire, over 1,000 railway stations in Britain––more than 40% of the total in existence––are inaccessible to people with disabilities. In addition to this shameful figure, even determining whether the station is accessible or not is hard, which makes planning traveling extremely frustrating for those with disabilities.

The lack of accessibility is also humiliating. One passenger, Dr. Hannah Barham-Brown, felt “worthless” when the assistance she had booked in anticipation of the station’s inaccessibility failed to arrive, effectively leaving her abandoned at the station without recourse.

Despite this, there is hope for improvement. A Department for Transport spokesman shared that “We are determined to make sure that our railways are accessible to everyone, which is why we have already invested to deliver accessible routes and step-free access at nearly 2,000 stations around the country.” Those improvements cannot come soon enough for the 11 million Britons living with a disability

Breda beat out 51 other cities other cities for this coveted award, such as Évreux, France, (which chose to focus on supporting invisible disabilities) and Gydnia, Poland, which was lauded for its efforts towards including people with intellectual disabilities. The Access City Award is an initiative of the EU’s Disability Strategy 2010-2020, the goal of which is a more inclusive Europe.

Breda’s public parks and stores are all accessible to those with disabilities, and accessible public transportation ensures everyone can get where they need to go. By promoting the award and Breda’s superlative efforts, the European Commission and the European Disability Forum hope to inspire cities across Europe to ramp up their accessibility efforts across the board.  

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