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I’m here at the National Center for Technology Innovation‘s annual conference in Washington. NCTI is a research center funded by the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, and works to advances learning opportunities for individuals with disabilities through the use of innovative technologies. After an introduction by the NCTI’s director, Tracy Gray, we were treated to an excellent keynote address by Milton Chen, who is the executive director emeritus of the George Lucas Education Foundation. Chen called the last decade of education a “lost” one, but says the nation is finally coming into 21st century learning. Based on his new best-selling book, Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools, Chen explored how media and technology can spark innovation to redefine teaching and learning for all students and communities. Technology is the way we can become an education nation, Chen says, because it allows us to ... keep reading »
In a groundbreaking settlement, the Department of Justice and Hilton Worldwide negotiated a far-reaching agreement to bring approximately 900 Hilton-branded hotels across the United States into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The deal requires all Hilton Worldwide-owned and joint-venture hotels to modify their online reservation systems to let customers with disabilities select and reserve accessible rooms, such as those that are suited for wheelchairs. All large U.S. hotels built after 1993 are required to offer wheelchair-friendly rooms; most hotels will let customers request — but not book — an accessible room. Hilton is the first hotel required to specifically modify the way customers with disabilities reserve rooms. Like other large hotel chains, Hilton must also ensure its online reservations system is accessible to people who use assistive technologies to navigate a computer, such as a screen reader. Additionally Hilton Worldwide will conduct surveys at franchised or independently managed hotels to ... keep reading »
PepsiCo, through its Dream Machine recycling initiative, has made a $500,000 donation to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities, a national program offering career training, education and job creation for post-9/11 U.S. veterans with disabilities. PepsiCo presented the donation this past weekend during a ceremony at Syracuse University, home to the Whitman School of Management, where the EBV program was founded. PepsiCo says it will make a minimum contribution to Entrepreneurship Bootcamp of $500,000 per year over the next several years. To encourage recycling, Pepsi will also contribute an additional $250,000 to the program for every 10 million pounds of recycled material collected in Dream Machine kiosks and bins, which can be found in 14 states at high-traffic locations such as gas stations, shopping malls, sports arenas and university campuses. “Through the Dream Machine program, PepsiCo is playing a direct role in helping our veterans with disabilities realize the most American ... keep reading »
Apple has created a section in its App Store called “Special Education” to recognize the increasing number of apps for people with disabilities, including learning disorders and non-verbal autism. Launched last week, the app shelf includes 72 applications for the iPhone and 13 applications for the iPad in 10 categories of disability and special needs from literacy and learning to language development to communications. In fact, this category spans much farther than education to include apps for adults to aid in work and play. At the Assistive Technology Industry Association conference in Chicago last week, tablets and applications took the industry by storm. The iPad, iPhone and iTouch, for example, are three mainstream technologies that have access already built in, and adding specialized apps for people with disabilities is creating skyrocketing demand for these devices. Apple also has a page listing many third-party hardware solutions for people with disabilities who use these ... keep reading »
What is your vision of how cloud computing can create new opportunities for people with disabilities? The Federal Communications Commission wants to pay you for your thoughts. The challenge: Create an accessible multimedia presentation that shows what could be possible using the computing and communication power now available via the Internet, and you could win $1,000. Sponsored by the FCC, the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, and Raising the Floor, entries will help to provide direction and motivation to policy makers, software developers, and members of the public who want to foster more independence in life, and greater integration in society, for people with disabilities. The FCC is particularly looking for video presentations that demonstrate cloud computing ideas. All presentations should support the viewing of English captions and the operation of controls with a screen reader for people who are blind. Adding video description for the blind is also desirable, but can ... keep reading »
Scientists have developed an eye implant that allowed three blind patients to see shapes and objects and say the device could become routine for some kinds of inherited blindness, according to Reuters. Experts described the trial study results as phenomenal and said the device, developed by German researchers, could eventually change the lives of up to 200,000 people worldwide who suffer from blindness due to a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. The device — known as a sub-retinal implant — sits underneath the retina and works by directly replacing light receptors that are lost as a result of the disease. It uses the eye’s natural image-processing functions to produce a stable visual image. Eberhart Zrenner, chairman of the University of Tuebingen Eye Hospital in Germany and director of a small company called Retinal Implant AG which is developing the device, said the trial results would now be taken into further trials in ... keep reading »
A new survey sponsored by Kessler Foundation and National Organization on Disability finds that although corporations recognize that hiring employees with disabilities is important, most are hiring very few of these job seekers and few are proactively making efforts to improve the employment environment. These results, from the Kessler Foundation/National Organization on Disability 2010 Survey of Employment of Americans with Disabilities conducted by Harris Interactive, are especially important given the focus on employment by media and government and with October recognized as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Data released in July 2010 from an earlier study, the Kessler Foundation/NOD Survey of Americans with Disabilities, found that little progress has been made in closing the employment gap between people with and without disabilities since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. In fact, only 21 percent of people with disabilities, ages 18 to 64, reported that they are working ... keep reading »
When President Obama signs the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act into law on Friday, millions of citizens who are deaf or hard-of-hearing ultimately will have new-found access to video programming on the Internet through closed captioning. Working behind the scenes to make captioning of live Internet broadcasts possible will be realtime court reporters who serve as broadcast captioners, translating speech to text at speeds of 225 words per minute or faster. This new law will require any and every video that, first, is broadcast on television and, then, distributed via the Internet to include closed captioning. Additionally, devices that display video such as smart phones, mp3 players, and DVRs must be capable of closed captioning and displaying video description and emergency alerts. For the large and growing amount of video content that will be broadcast live in the years ahead — on television and over the Internet — ... keep reading »
I’ve spoken a lot about PepsiCo and its EnAble employee network for people with different abilities. Under direction from CEO Indra Nooyi, the consumer food and beverage company is out to deliver shareholder growth through its Performance with Purpose principles. The goal is to “improve all aspects of the world in which [Pepsi] operates – environmental, societal and economical – to make the world a better place.” Attracting and retaining the best talent is among those goals, as is creating a more sustainable environment and healthier snacks. Other corporations see EnAble as a vibrant, respected employee network. Recently they’ve been using the program to reach consumers and the marketplace, says Ron Parker, SVP, Global Diversity and Inclusion at PepsiCo, speaking at the U.S. Business Leadership Network conference in Chicago. I think this is a really smart idea, as employee networks have the power to touch many more people, such as parents, caregivers ... keep reading »
Great news! My book, The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology and Devices, is now the bestselling book on Amazon’s Assistive Technology List. My publisher, Demos Health, calls the book a primer on assistive tech that cuts through the clutter surrounding assistive devices with a simple conversational style. It’s organized according to disability and easily explains the best type of device for a multiple situations, home, work, on the road, or at school. In a press release today, Demos says “this book has been universally praised by everyone from David Ditker, Executive Director of the Assistive Technology Industry Association who said it “… should be on the Top Ten list of anyone interested in Assistive Technology products” to Frances West, with the IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center, who said the book “combines research and personal insight to help even the most novice user make better, more informed choices about assistive technology.” In November, ... keep reading »