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For people with anxiety and who are on the autism spectrum, loud shelf stacking noises, bleating PA announcements, and grating fluorescent lighting can make a trip to the grocery store an exercise in misery. However, one New Zealand chain, Countdown, aims to change that with new “quiet hours” on Wednesdays from 2:30-3:30pm. During this weekly hour, shelf-stacking will slow to a minimum, lights will be dimmed, and even the checkout noises will decrease in volume. The positive feedback Countdown has received from customers from all walks of life after the stores instituted the quiet hours have thrilled the CEO, Dane Dougan. “It highlights how some small changes can create a more inclusive environment that will impact people significantly,” he said in a statement.

 

Domino’s Pizza has been embroiled in litigation for well over three years against plaintiff Guillermo Robles, who alleges its website and app make it impossible for a person using a screenreader to order a pizza online. After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld its ruling in favor of Robles (that the ADA does in fact apply to websites) in January, Domino’s petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case. On Monday the Supreme Court decided not to hear it, and did not supply any comments or dissent to justify the rejection. In it of itself, this is not a tacit approval of the Ninth Circuit’s decision, but the rejection does imply to US companies that are fighting digital accessibility lawsuits that the ADA will continue to apply to digital properties and content for the foreseeable future.

 

Becoming paralyzed from the waist down at 23 after a diving accident was a turning point in Marca Bristo's life. After seeing how patients with disabilities were treated at the hospital where she worked, she became an advocate for them, fighting for equal rights across multiple platforms. She helped co-found Access Living, a non profit organization that helps people with disabilities maintain independence, and led it for many years. She also joined other disability rights leaders to help pen the ADA, and Bill Clinton even appointed her chair of the National Council on Disability, a role she held for eight years. She succumbed to cancer at age 66 on Sunday, August 31.  

Brent Lowe is no stranger to difficult personal situations. He’s blind, and has lived for years alone with his 24-year-old son (who has cerebral palsy) and a caretaker on Abaco in the Bahamas. Recently, however, Hurricane Dorian made his life exponentially harder. After its fierce winds ripped off the roof of the house where they were hunkering down, Lowe knew he had to get himself and his son out of their house, or risk death. As soon as he stepped off his front porch he found himself chin-deep in water. He had no choice but to put his son over his shoulder and carry him to a neighbor’s house to wait out the storm. Lowe was evacuated to Nassau while his son stayed on Abaco with a family member. With his house gone, Lowe is understandably devastated. "We need a place to go," he said. "I don't know exactly what we are going to do. We need help."

 

IAP Your Accessibility Podcast Logo

In this episode:

Joe Devon, co-founder of GAAD, joins Mark for his second appearance on the Interactive Accessibility podcast to discuss the history of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) and how the landscape of accessibility has changed since GAAD’s inception, over eight years ago. They talk about how getting to the end user and having the end user demand accessibility will be the real the catalyst for significant change in the industry. Joe explains how he’s using his GAAD pledge to rally the developer community around accessibility.

Apple’s latest iOS release included several voice activated features that promised to improve the user experience for all users, but that would be a huge step towards independence for those with limited mobility. Now Google is trying to catch up. Its new Pixel phone includes motion sensor features that will allow a user to skip songs, hit snooze on alarms, and even silence phone calls, all with a wave of a hand. Google also announced its upcoming face unlock feature, which will let users unlock their phone with a glance at the screen. Accessibility begins to look a lot like convenience in this light.

iPhone Showing Voice Control Screen

Apple has always been a dedicated advocate for accessibility. Their products are designed to be exceptionally easy to use for users with varying degrees of abilities, and this focus on the customer experience has subsequently propelled them to almost 40% market share of the worldwide smartphone market in 2018. If you’re a devoted iPhone fan you’ll know why their share is so high!

With people with disabilities representing a tiny minority in public office, others who may want to run are hard-pressed to find help in this arena. However, one non-profit, the National Council on Independent Living, prides itself on being one of the only resources for people with disabilities to get answers to their tough campaign questions. It recently launched the nonpartisan Elevate Campaign Training program, which specifically caters to people with disabilities who are interested in pursuing public service positions. This new online-only initiative offers webinars so people all over the country can watch and learn about topics as diverse as fundraising, campaign online strategy, operations, and messaging.

With an estimated market value of over 30 billion dollars, assistive technology is gaining traction among entrepreneurs and startups all over the world. Take the wheelchair that goes up stairs made by Scewo, whose fans are eagerly awaiting its late 2019 rollout. Or the Swiss-made MyoSuit, a robotic exomuscle suit that helps support movement and provide stability to people who may have trouble going up stairs or getting out of chairs. The Young Guru Academy in Turkey is keen to help visually impaired people with their WeWalk stick, which warns users about obstacles above chest height and can be integrated with a voice assistant and Google Maps. It’s a growing market, and more and more people are realizing how important it is for people with disabilities to live normal lives.  

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