Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke has a sister with an intellectual disability, Erin, who inspired him to come up with a robust disability plan intended to address shortfalls in inclusive standards across the United States. Two mainstays of his plan include changes to the Affordable Care Act to ensure people have access to medical equipment like wheelchairs and canes when they need them (as well as the resources to maintain them), and modifications to the Air Carrier Access Act that would give the option to people who believe they have been discriminated against to pursue legal action. In a recent tweet he noted “...For too long, we have overlooked people with disabilities. That must change.”
Though the Veterans Affairs websites are legally obligated to be accessible under Section 508, they may fall short of full accessibility. This deeply troubles Congresswoman Elaine Luria, so she put forth the VA Website Accessibility Act, which recently passed in the house. If made into law, this bill will require a study on websites of the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine level of accessibility for users with disabilities. In her speech on the House floor she stated “Our service members put themselves in harm's way to protect American freedom. It is only right that Congress uphold our end of the promise by giving them the care that they earned.” The VA Website Accessibility Act is intended to ensure all veterans are able to digitally access the information they need to get this care.
Pushing a shopping cart in a wheelchair is a Sisyphean task. However, those with limited mobility shopping at Publix may encounter a much easier experience, thanks to the newly redesigned shopping carts that are designed to hook onto the front of a wheelchair. 9-year-old Amaria Borders, who gets around in her sporty pink wheelchair, was overjoyed with excitement at being able to shop like others she sees in the store. Her mother, Tiffany Borders, couldn’t be happier, remarking "For a long time, I wouldn't let her push the buggy, because it was hard. Her wheelchair would always knock it around, so when we saw this buggy, it was like, 'Yes! Something just for her.’” The redesigned carts will gradually replace the existing assistive ones in store, and include lowered edges to make it easier for shoppers to deposit items and pick them out of the cart.
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."
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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.
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