Intellectual Disabilities

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.

 

Results released from a recent study conducted by the journal Pediatrics revealed that autism could potentially affect 2.5% of children in the United States. This is significantly higher than the 1.7% estimated by the CDC using 2014 data. Thomas Frazier, chief science officer of the advocacy organization Autism Speaks attributes the discrepancy to "... methods that are a bit more liberal and inclusive than the CDC's methods…[but] they [CDC’s numbers] are likely a bit conservative."

Furthermore, the study in Pediatrics was based off of parent survey data, which, unlike the CDC report, is not validated by health and education records. Other discrepancies may be attributed to the ages of the children included in the report, their geographic location, and even the years the study was conducted. While the prevalence of autism has been rising for years, it will remain difficult to pinpoint an exact number of children affected, in part because autism is so difficult to diagnose. 

This story warmed our hearts here at IA. Kudos to Microsoft, SAP and all 50 of the big-name companies that came together for the April summit on how to bring more autistic adults into the workforce and recognizing the talents of those with autism.
Read or watch the CBS Story, “The growing acceptance of autism in the workplace.”

The annual Disability Awareness and Accessibility Technology Fair from UC Davis will be held on the UC Davis campus on Wednesday, October 12. This year’s theme is “Traumatic Brain Injuries: Myths and Realities.” Three UC Davis physicians will be presenting around this topic:

  • Eric Giza, associate professor of clinical orthopedic surgery and UC Davis Health System official team physician for the Sacrament Republic FC soccer team.  
  • Melita Moore, assistant clinical professor of orthopedics and UCDHS head team physician for Aggie athletics
  • Brandee L. Waite, associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, director of the PMR Sports Medicine Fellowship and UCDHS official team physician for Sacramento Republic FC.

There will be several units from the UC Davis’ campus as well as outside vendors participating in the Accessibility Technology Fair. Free helmets will be offered by representatives of the “Helmet Hair, Don’t Care!” campaign.

For years the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines have help developers create a web experience that is more usable by people with disabilities. UMass Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center is currently conducting research to determine if simplifying text can further help comprehension for people with cognitive disabilities.

The Shriver Center in conjunction with IBM, UMass Boston, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is working on this project, which will be the first to create clear steps that can be followed by people to simplify text. Moreover, it will be the first to leverage and develop the cognitive computing and natural-language processing of the supercomputer, IBM Watson, to automatically simplify text.

For more information read the Global Accessibility News Article.

Chapman University has announced plans to create a new institute for the research of Disability and Autism thanks to a $3 million donation for the William S. and Nancy E. Thompson Foundation. The goal is to both educate policy and decision makers and improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families.

The Thompson Policy Institute’s headquarters will be in Reeves Hall on Chapman University’s campus in Orange. The initial staff will consist of four people along with several select expert consultants.

The institute has already scheduled and event to discuss the state of disability in Orange County. It is open to the public and will be held on May 3, 2016 in Chapman University’s new Marybelle and Sebastian P. Musco Center for the Arts.  

For more information check the TPI website

ASCmel.T. is a free mobile app available on Android and iOS that involves people with autism in the development of new technologies that aid people with autism. The app enables people with Autism Spectrum Conditions, their families, teachers, professional, and anyone who supports them to share ideas on the kinds of technology that could help individuals with autism.

The app enables users to upload a one minute video explaining their idea to researchers so that new technology development efforts will support the needs of users with autism.

Read more about ASCmel.T. and its development. 

Mente is a portable EEG device which helps relax the minds of children with autism.  It has been designed by Malta-based AAT research and launched at a convention, which took place in Rome this month.

AAT research founder, CEO and scientist Adrian Attard Trevisan conceived of this device, which uses neuro-feedback technology too sooth children with autism, enabling them to obtain better focus and engage positively with the world.  It is designed for safe home use.

Read the Malta Independent article

The BBC has reported that the tech giant Microsoft wants to hire more people with autism to fill some of its full time positions. To accomplish this Microsoft will work with a specialized recruitment firm, Specialisterne. The announcement was made in the Microsoft on the Issues blog where senior executive Mary Ellen Smith wrote, “People with Autism bring strengths that we need at Microsoft.”

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