People with Disabilities

Browser extensions and accessibility settings are great for people who wish to further customize their experience to fit their individual preferences when accessing websites but these are not a replacement for adhering to accessibility guidelines.

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.”

Fraunhofer has collaborated with victims of thalidomide to develop new IT-based fitness training. The training uses gaming elements to motivate users. The device uses a shoulder pad fitted with small sensors that record movement. The “smart shoulder pad” is connect via blue tooth to a tablet. The data from the shoulder pad controls the avatar allowing for gaming activity. The shoulder pads are part of the akrobatik@home project. Other parts such as a special seat cushion are developed by a project partner GeBioM. The game itself was developed by Exozet Berlin.

For more information see the Global Accessibility News article.

How do people that use a wheelchair know where to go during an emergency? This is the question the director of Egress Group Pty Ltd, Lee Wilson, asked as he was writing an evacuation guidebook for people with disabilities.

Realizing that existing exit signage does not cover people with disabilities, especially those that cannot use fire escapes or stairs, Lee developed the “Accessible Means of Egress Icon,” which can be used to help identify accessible egress routes, exit doors, refuges, elevators and other means of egress. The signs combine the Running Man image and the Accessible Means of Egress Icon working together to escape the building.

The Accessible Exit Signs website has ideas for accessible exit signage and example accessible exit signs.

Today, the US Business Leadership Network® (USBLN®) and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) are pleased to announce that health insurer Highmark Inc. joined as a Founding Partner of the USBLN and AAPD's new Disability Equality IndexSM (DEISM), an online tool that offers businesses the opportunity to objectively measure their full inclusion of people with disabilities as employees, suppliers, and customers.

"We are thrilled to have Highmark Inc. join us on this groundbreaking initiative for the business and disability communities," said Jill Houghton, Executive Director of the USBLN. "By joining as a DEI Founding Partner, Highmark Inc. is showcasing its support of disability inclusive practices throughout corporate America," said Mark Perriello, President and CEO of AAPD.

Created by leaders in the business and disability communities, and after the successful completion of the DEI pilot with 48 Fortune 1000 scope companies in March 2014, the first Annual DEI was launched to Fortune 1000 companies in October 2014.

The DEI is a benchmarking tool that offers businesses the opportunity to receive an objective score on their disability inclusion policies and practices, and identify avenues for continued improvement. Companies self-report on a wide-range of criteria within four categories: Culture & Leadership, Enterprise-Wide Access, Employment Practices, and Community Engagement & Support Services.

"At Highmark, our employees are paramount to successfully serving our customers every day," said Deb Rice-Johnson, president of Highmark Health Plan and board member of the AAPD. "We strive for an inclusive culture, including recruiting and retaining people with disabilities. We are proud to continue to support the efforts of AAPD and the US Business Leadership Network. In particular, the new Disability Equality Index will help Highmark and other U.S. companies to meet higher, more consistent standards for inclusive workforces that embrace people with disabilities."

Added Sara Oliver-Carter, vice president of Diversity & Inclusion for Highmark Health, "The new Disability Equality Index is an important step forward. It will help Highmark and other companies to better create inclusive, high-performance workforces in which people with disabilities play vital roles."

The DEI Founding Partner status was a one-time opportunity exclusive to the first 15 companies that joined. The USBLN and AAPD are excited to announce that the 15 spots have been filled. To date, DEI Founding Partners include American Airlines, CVS Health, DuPont, GlaxoSmithKline, Highmark Inc., Lockheed Martin, New Editions Consulting, Inc., Northrop Grumman Corporation, Raytheon, Walmart, and WellPoint. The other DEI Founding Partners will be announced soon. Comcast / NBCUniversal is the DEI Exclusive Founding Technology Partner. Companies interested in learning more about other DEI opportunities should contact Liz Taub, USBLN Director, Business Relations & Strategic Partnerships, at liz@usbln.org.

For more information about the DEI, please visit: https://www.disabilityequalityindex.org/.

A team of neuroscientist and video game designers from the University of Lincoln, UK and the WESC Foundation, a leading specialist school for children with disabilities in the UK, have been testing a new computer game which may help some children with disabilities lead independent lives.  The game called Eyelander is designed to improve the functional vision of children who have vision disabilities related to brain injury.

Ian Burkhart, 23, is a quadriplegic from Ohio that is the first patient to use Neurobridge, which is an electronic neural bypass for spinal cord injuries. The revolutionary technology combines algorithms that learn and decode the user’s brain activity and a high-definition muscle stimulation sleeve that translate the impulses from the brain and transmits signals to the paralyzed limb.

The Ohio State and Battelle teams collaborated to figure out the correct sequence of electrodes to enable Burkhart to move his fingers and hand functionally. Burkhart was paralyzed 4 years ago in a diving accident and volunteered for the project viewing it as an opportunity to help others.

Tyler Foulger and other student researchers from Brigham Young University who were born deaf are part of a project developing a system to project sign language narration using several types of wearable computing glasses – including Google Glass.

The system can project a sign language interpreter on the screen of the glasses. Students who have tried the glasses and watched a movie with an interpreter on the screen of the glasses have been thrilled and intrigued with the experience. Researchers have found while testing during a field trip visits by high school students at jean Messieu School for the Deaf that displaying the interpreter on one lens is the preferred method.

Listen to The IAP Podcast Episode 6 on Google Glass

Even though WCAG 2.0 was written before smartphones put mobile accessibility in the public eye, WCAG 2.0 was written to be forward-thinking and has proved to be so.

Seven videos have been release that will help customers who are deaf or hard of hearing in New Zealand with tax compliance. Revenue Minister Todd McClay explains, “Sign Language is the third official language in New Zealand with around 42,000 of us using it every day.” He continues to say, “It is important that Inland Revenue communicates directly with customers, and doing this in their preferred language helps build constructive and ongoing relationships.”

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