Smart-Earbud Startup Doppler Labs Is Preparing For Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids

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In March, after Doppler Labs hired a new chief scientist, it put together a team of half-dozen people that cofounder and CEO Noah Kraft soon started calling the Avengers. The team, under the leadership of the company’s new chief scientist, Jim Pitkow, included experts in audiology and machine learning – and accessibility. A key goal: To prepare the smart-earbud startup for the hoped-for passage of a bill that would allow hearing aids for those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss to be sold over the counter in drugstores across the country, similarly to reading glasses. Such a move would upend the $6 billion hearing-aid market, which is dominated by six long-time players that sell their FDA-regulated devices for thousands of dollars (rarely covered by insurance) to patients only after they receive a hearing test.

Kraft, who was on the FORBES 30 Under 30 list this year, and his team at Doppler, which FORBES named a Next Billion Dollar Startup in 2016, has long been thinking about the prospects for selling its wireless in-ear computers – which can enhance sound or mute it, as well as do a whole host of other things – to people with hearing difficulties. Under current rules the company couldn’t market its Here One devices that way, but that seems poised to change. In December, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2016. With bipartisan support, additional sponsors and a companion bill in the House, the 2017 version of the act, was gaining traction fast, and Doppler was both lobbying for its passage and preparing for a new market.

“The question was always how do we go after this hearing health market in a way that is innovative,” Kraft says. “The hearing legislation is a catalyst.”

The San Francisco-based company was born three years ago after Kraft, who has a background in music and film (most notably, as producer on the boxing biopic Bleed for This, executive-produced by Martin Scorsese), met Fritz Lanman, a well-known tech investor with interests in Square and Pinterest. The two started talking about making bionic ears that would both enhance sound and look cool. They named the company Doppler, after the Doppler effect – the apparent change in frequency of sound waves as the source and observer move in relation to each other. With a total of $50 million in financing from venture firms (Acequia Capital, the Chernin Group, Wildcat Management) and industry players (Live Nation Entertainment, WME, Universal Music Group), Doppler developed its Here One augmented-reality earbuds (priced at $300 a pair), which it began selling last year.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

ESPN to Present the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance to High School Football Coach Rob Mendez at The 2019 ESPYS

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Rob Mendez poses with group of high school football team

High school football coach Rob Mendez will be honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at The 2019 ESPYS.

ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro shared the news with Mendez on this video. The award is given to a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination. Mendez was born with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder that caused him to be born without arms or legs.

“I am incredibly honored, excited and humbled to receive this honor,” says Coach Mendez. “I still remember one of my favorite all-time ESPN anchors Stuart Scott delivering his Jimmy V Award acceptance speech. Thank you to ESPN and all of my family, friends and of course players for believing in me! Who Says I Can’t!”

Though Mendez himself was not able to play football, he did develop a passion for it at an early age and has channeled his passion for the sport into a standout coaching career. He taught himself the fundamentals of the sport using the Madden video games, became manager of the football team as a freshman in high school, and eventually quarterback coach in his senior year. After graduating, he spent 12 years as an assistant coach for various programs, where he was regularly overlooked for the head coaching position he knew he was ready for.

Finally, in 2018, he was hired as a head coach for the junior varsity football team at Prospect High School in Saratoga, CA. In his first season, he led his team to an incredible 8-2 record and narrowly lost the league championship game 3-0. His football acumen, positive outlook, and genuine love for his team have made him a revered coach, and those around him are endlessly inspired by the adversity he overcomes in his day-to-day life. Mendez will be presented with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at The 2019 ESPYS presented by Capital One, hosted by Tracy Morgan, live on ABC at 8 p.m. ET on July 10.

“Rob’s entire life embodies the word perseverance,” says Pitaro. “From the time he was born, Rob has had to overcome all the assumptions others had about what he couldn’t do. Yet his confidence and fierce dedication to following his dream of coaching have inspired so many people – both on and off the field. He has made such a positive impact on his players, other coaches, parents and many across the community – and we are incredibly proud to be presenting Rob with this award at The ESPYS.”

In 2007, Women’s College basketball coach Kay Yow became the very first recipient of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. Past recipients include Eric LeGrand, Anthony Robles, George Karl, Dick and Rick Hoyt, Stuart Scott, Devon and Leah Still, Craig Sager, Jarrius Robertson and Jim Kelly.

The ESPYS helps to raise awareness and funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the charity founded by ESPN and the late basketball coach Jim Valvano at the first ESPYS back in 1993. ESPN has helped raise close to $97 million for the V Foundation over the past 26 years. Tickets are available for public purchase at AXS.com. The ESPYS are executive produced by Maura Mandt and co-produced by Maggievision Productions.

About The ESPYS

The ESPYS gather top celebrities from sports and entertainment to commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major sports achievements, reliving unforgettable moments and saluting the leading performers and performances. The 2019 ESPYS will recognize achievements in categories such as “Best MLB Player,” “Best Team,” “Best Female Athlete” and “Best Upset.” Inspiring human stories are showcased through three pillar awards – the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage, the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance and the Pat Tillman Award for Service. The ESPYS support ESPN’s ongoing commitment to the V Foundation for Cancer Research, launched by ESPN with the late Jim Valvano in 1993.

5 tips for starting a conversation about your mental health

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two friends taking about mental health

By Rebecca Ruiz

It wasn’t long ago that the stigma of talking about one’s mental health forced many people to stay silent. Now though, messages encouraging people to share their struggles and seek help are widespread, including on Instagram, in public service announcements, and in celebrity interviews. Even Burger King launched a campaign to raise awareness and mark last May’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

Yet it’s one thing to notice and appreciate this newfound acceptance and another to acknowledge to someone else that you’re experiencing a mental health condition or illness. People typically avoid disclosing that information for several reasons, including internalized stigma and shame, fear of rejection, worry about discrimination at work, and uncertainty about whether they need treatment.

Indeed, mental health experts say it’s critical for people to weigh their concerns and disclose their experiences with others if and when it feels necessary and right.

“It’s really on a need-to-know basis,” says Quinn Anderson, manager for the HelpLine operated by for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Run by staff and volunteers, the HelpLine is designed to answer callers’ questions about symptoms of mental health conditions, how to help family members get treatment, where to find local support groups and services, and more.

If you’ve decided it’s important to tell someone about your mental health, try following these tips so that you’re prepared to have the conversation — and have a plan for handling what may come next:

1. Weigh the pros and cons. 

Patrick Corrigan, a distinguished professor of psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, helped develop a program called Honest, Open, Proud that provides guidance for those who want to disclose a mental health condition. The first step in this process is considering the potential risks and benefits.

In Corrigan’s research on the positive aspects of “coming out,” he’s found that people who are fed up with having to keep a secret feel freer once they’ve shared what they’re experiencing. But that sense of liberation may be elusive if the other person in the conversation responds with shame or judgment.

For those who take the risk of telling a supervisor, the pay-off can be certain workplace accommodations, which employers are required to offer per the Americans with Disabilities Act. An employee with a psychiatric disability may receive a flexible schedule, sick leave, and a tailored break schedule, in addition to accommodations like work space with reduced exposure to noise, various types of equipment and technology, and modified job duties. Even though employers are not permitted to discriminate against workers based on a psychiatric disability, an employee may worry that disclosing a condition puts their job prospects or security at risk.

“We do not have an agenda to talk people into coming out,” says Corrigan, noting the potential downsides. “Once you’re out, it’s not easy to go back in.”

2. Arm yourself with information about your experiences or condition. 

When discussing a sensitive topic, you’re likely to have done some research in advance in order to feel confident. Talking about your mental health is no different. If you’ve been diagnosed by a medical professional, or simply noticed worrisome symptoms that seem associated with a mental health condition, familiarize yourself with the relevant language that can help you communicate what you’re experiencing to others.

Such education can inform your understanding of what you’re going through — as can learning about others’ experiences — and thereby reduce your own sense of shame or stigma.

3. Decide who needs to know and what you want from them. 

If you’re already seeing a mental health provider, that person may be able to help determine who — if anyone — you should tell. Anderson says a provider can help you develop a plan, and in some cases, offer to invite a loved one to a joint appointment so you’ll have backup and the therapist can explain your treatment.

When deciding on your own whether to disclose, consider if it’s important, or even critical, for certain people to know. While you might hope to explain recent behavior to a loved one, ask for support, or perhaps seek acceptance, telling someone who isn’t capable of recognizing your needs and reacting with compassion or empathy could be devastating.

Anderson says it’s also helpful to prepare responses if someone asks how they can help. Answering that question can be as simple as describing what it looks like when you’re really struggling, along with guidance about how they can best support you.

The Honest, Open, Proud programs sometimes recommends against telling people who are generally bigoted, people who use disrespectful language (think “crazies” or “wackos”), people who attribute social problems to mental illness, and people who oppose giving fair or new chances to those who’ve experienced a mental illness.

Before opening up about your mental health, be clear about why you’ve chosen to tell a certain person, what you hope to gain, and how you’ll proceed if they can’t emotionally handle the information.

4. Choose an ideal time to talk, and keep it simple. 

Dawn Brown, director of community engagement for NAMI, recommends choosing a time where you’re alone, relaxed, and have enough time to explore the subject.

“I wouldn’t wait ’till you have a fight with your spouse to bring it up,” she says.

Similarly, sticking to the basic facts of what you’ve experienced and why you’re sharing that information can provide necessary guardrails for the conversation. If you feel ready to delve deeper, consider how that might affect the discussion if the person you’re talking to isn’t prepared to do the same.

5. Seek additional support and resources. 

No matter how your conversation goes, it can be essential to seek additional support from groups and likeminded peers who will help you feel more empowered. Disclosing, whether to a medical professional or loved one, may be one step in a long recovery journey. NAMI provides resources like contact information for local support groups to those who call the HelpLine, and Honest, Open, Proud provides similar referrals at the program’s end.

Feeling connected to the right support can be particularly important for people who can’t find culturally competent mental health providers, or those whose family members and friends have vastly different views of mental health as a result of cultural attitudes or beliefs.

Anderson says it’s important to stay hopeful and remember that help is out there.

“There will be individuals who don’t get it, who will always have a discriminatory perspective, and individuals who don’t know but want to help, and then those who really get it,” she says.

Continue on to Mashable to read the complete article.

Special Olympics New York Seeks Record Fan Turnout For 2019 Summer Games

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participants in special olympics swim in the water with a crowd cheering them on

With less than two weeks to go before the largest statewide competition of the year, Special Olympics New York President and CEO Stacey Hengsterman today renewed the call for volunteers at the 2019 Summer Games.

“Volunteers are the reason Special Olympics New York can offer this statewide competition to our athletes at no cost,” said Hengsterman. “They are our organizers, judges, athlete escorts and so much more. Most importantly, we count on volunteers to show up and be our fans. We invite everyone from the community to cheer on our athletes at Summer Games, a fan experience that is truly like no other in sports!” Nearly 1,700 athletes and coaches from nine regions across New York State will gather in Dutchess County on June 14-15 to compete in eight sports: Swimming, Volleyball, Basketball, Track & Field, Bowling, Gymnastics, Powerlifting and Tennis.

There is still a need for volunteers in all areas, but especially track and field, the largest event of the weekend. There is volunteer training onsite so no prior experience is needed. No running or jumping required, you can leave that to the athletes.

Fan involvement is also a key element of each competition.

“Our fans are the best,” said Jude Killar, a Special Olympics New York athlete competing in basketball. “Their cheering and encouragement help me play harder. I always do my best when I know people are rooting for me.”
Fan attendance is not only an incredible experience for the athletes; it’s also an amazing experience for the fans themselves. “Being a fan at last year’s Summer Games was the highlight of 2018 for me,” said Christopher Eder, a volunteer at last year’s Summer Games in Albany. “I still remember the moment when an athlete hit a buzzer-beater as time expired and the Siena basketball players stormed the court. It was like something out of a movie.”

If you want to help break records at the 2019 Special Olympics New York Summer Games, join us at www.specialolympicsny.org/SummerGames.

About Special Olympics New York
Special Olympics New York is the largest state chapter in the country, serving more than 67,000 athletes across New York with year-round sports training, athletic competition, and health screenings. The organization also partners with nearly 150 schools statewide to offer unified sports. All Special Olympics New York programs are offered at no cost to athletes, their families or caregivers. Learn more at specialolympicsNY.org and #SpecialOlympicsNY.

5 Ailments Chinese Medicine Formulas Can Help

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a picture of herbal medicines on a table with a cup of tea and napkins

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – Traditional Chinese medicine has been practiced for thousands of years and is well respected worldwide. Out of that health and wellness field there has emerged the area of Chinese herbal formulas.

According to the National Institutes of Health, herbal medicines are a type of dietary supplement that people take to try and maintain or improve their health. One company, DAO Labs, has taken the art of Chinese herbal medicine and has created a line of safe and effective, easy-to-use formulas that help with a variety of health needs.

“Most people are familiar with the idea of Chinese medicine, but are not sure how to easily incorporate it into their life,” explains John G. McGarvey, co-founder and chief executive officer of DAO Labs, a company that makes Chinese herbal medicine formulas to help with a variety of health needs. “With our line of Chinese herbal medicine formulas, we have made making Chinese herbal medicine a simple part of your life. It’s like thousands of years of knowledge in every glass.”

There has been major growth in the Chinese herbal medicine market in recent years. Over half of all acupuncturists are now offering products. According to Medgadget, a company that reports on medical technology around the world, it’s estimated that the herbal medicine market will reach $111 billion by 2023. They further report that according to the World Health Organization, almost 80 percent of the population of many Asian and African countries depends on traditional medicine for primary health care. DAO Labs is helping to make Chinese herbal remedies easily accessible in America.

Here are 5 health needs where Chinese herbal medicine formulas by DAO Labs can help:

  • Digestive Support. Those who want to strengthen their digestive health may benefit from Digestive Harmony, an herbal medicine that offers soothing, yet powerful, solution for balancing one’s stomach, upgrading digestive health, and generally delivering gut happiness when other western options have fallen short. The formula has been designed to help with a bloating and ballooned belly, digestive harmony, a sideways stomach, and when digestive strength is needed fast.
  • Emotional & Mental Well-Being. Millions of people today are anxious and irritable. Emotional Balance medicine formula has been created to bring calmness and emotional clarity. The formula has been designed to add a subtle boost of energy, while calming irritability, and easing mental tension. Those who use Emotional Balance become happier, calmer, and well adjusted. It’s also an excellent formula for women during the PMS phase of their cycle.
  • Better Sleep. Inconsistent, low quality sleep can lead to a wide variety of health conditions. Millions of people who don’t get enough sleep each night suffer in a variety of ways. DAO Labs offers two sleep solutions for two different sleep needs. Physical Tranquility has been designed to help the restless and overheated sleeper. The herbal medicine formula will help people to fall asleep, as well as continue to sleep all night, and wake up with better mental clarity and acuity the next day. DAO also offers Mental Tranquility, which is for the stressed sleeper whose mind won’t turn off in the middle of the night and lays awake due to stress and anxiousness. Unlike other sleep supplements, DAO’s Sleep Series formulas don’t contain melatonin and are designed to help you stay asleep.
  • Menstrual Health. Women’s health needs are a primary reason women seek support from an acupuncturist or doctor of Chinese medicine. DAO’s Women’s Formula is used for women seeking to strengthen the regularity of the menstrual cycle, while also offering increased energy each month. In addition, DAO offers their Women’s Monthly Kit which combines two different formulas for different phases of their cycle, offering a month-long solution for menstrual support.
  • Boost Immunity. Some people seem more prone to getting sick than others. It’s important for those people to boost their immunity. The Immunity Support herbal powder is one of the strongest forms of immunity defense that has been used for over 750 years and remains of the most popular formulas across Asia still to this day. It’s great for cold and pollen season, interacting with large crowds, for teachers and parents, and when you feel there is something coming on.

“There is support for these important health needs, and we have used traditional Chinese medicine principals to address them,” added McGarvey. “We have made it simple, by creating the healing herbal formula. We have taken the ancient wisdom of Chinese medicine and put it in healing powders that are accessible to all.”

All DAO Labs herbal medicine formulas come in single-serve packets with enticing flavors. They are sustainable, have gone through a rigorous testing process, and are manufactured and tested in the US. Each serving is stirred into a glass of water to create a tasty and healthy beverage.

DAO Labs’ motto is that healing begins with nature. Their mission is to help people heal through natural remedies. As such, they are also committed to helping to protect and bring awareness to the environment, in an effort to help stop the illegal wildlife trade. The company is against sourcing materials that harm the environment or endangered species, and has teamed up with the organization WildAid, with 1 percent of all sales going to the organization that is fighting the illegal wildlife trade. To learn more about DAO Labs and their Chinese herbal medicine formulas, visit the site at: https://mydaolabs.com.

About DAO Labs 

DAO Labs has a mission of bringing the many benefits of traditional Chinese herbal medicine to today’s wellness explorer. Founded by a team of Chinese herbal medicine experts, the company offers a variety of formulas that help with a variety of conditions impacting health and wellbeing. Their herbal formulas aim to help balance the mind, body, and spirit. To learn more about DAO Labs, visit the site at: https://mydaolabs.com.

Instagram co-launches a mental health awareness campaign to help people find support

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Poster that says May is Mental Health Awareness Month

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, Instagram co-launched a powerful campaign to help raise awareness on social media.

The #RealConvo Campaign — spearheaded by both Instagram and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP,) an organization that helps those affected by suicide — encourages people to use the hashtag to share their own personal mental health experiences and speak more openly about their struggles.

On Thursday, the AFSP Instagram account introduced the campaign with the help of nine people who are challenging the idea that Instagram is exclusively a place for sharing positive moments, filtered photos, and superficial glimpses at seemingly-perfect lifestyles.

Each of the nine leaders, actresses, activists, entrepreneurs, writers, and more created a video in the hopes of inspiring others to use the platform to engage in authentic conversations around mental health.

Among the group of contributors is Sasha Pieterse, a 23-year-old actress best known for her role in the show, Pretty Little Liars. In her #RealConvo video, Pieterse explained how she often compared herself to other people’s Instagram posts, until one day she decided to let her guard down and share a not-so-glamorous glimpse at her reality.

“A while ago I wasn’t sure what was going on with my health so I put out a post that said ‘I’m under construction,'” she said. “I’m so glad I did because it was the first real convo that I had on Instagram and it was basically saying that nobody’s perfect, everybody goes through things in their life.”

Elyse Fox & Kelvin Hamilton — founders of @SadGirlsClub, a non-profit that aims to reduce stigma around mental health and provide mental health services to those who lack access to treatment, and @SadBoysOrg, a resource for men within the mental health community — also created a video. Together, they discussed the importance of being vulnerable and creating healthy dialogues around mental health disorders like depression.

Continue on to Mashable to read the complete article.

Meet the HGTV Star (and Father of Six!) Who Adopted Four Children with Special Needs

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Caldwell family posing for a picture outside with parents holding two of the children in their arms

Luke Caldwell is a sought-after designer and an expert home renovator. But that’s not what he wants to talk about.

In fact, that’s not even why the Idaho native agreed to star in HGTV’s Boise Boys. Instead, the 40-year-old wants to use his platform to shine a light on something he’s passionate about: adoption.

Caldwell shares six kids and counting with his wife Miranda: two biological, four the couple welcomed via adoption and one on the way. Caldwell tells PEOPLE that, after the birth of two healthy biological children (Brighten, 8, and Elias, 10), they felt like they had “hit the lottery.”

But both Caldwell and Miranda were deeply impacted by orphanage mission trip work earlier in life (him in India, her in Romania) and knew that if they were going to have more children, they wanted to open their family to a child who wouldn’t otherwise have one.

“I just remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe these kids don’t have parents, they don’t have anyone to take care of them,’ ” Caldwell tells PEOPLE of his experience in India. “It broke my heart, even as a 12-year-old.”

So the couple started exploring their options. Throughout the entire process, they made sure to include Elias and Brighten, who were both under the age of 5 at the time. Although they might’ve been too young to understand the details of adoption, Caldwell tells PEOPLE they grasped the most important concept of it.

“One of the main things we tried to teach our kids is to not be entitled and to have empathy,” he says. “We want to be a family that loves other people. … We talked [about adoption] a lot to them, we showed them pictures, we prayed together about it.”

After a year of thinking and planning, Caldwell and Miranda found their perfect first match: a 5-year-old boy from China named Morris, who’s now 11. Morris then asked Caldwell and Miranda to adopt his best friend from home.

The superstar parents went back to the same orphanage in China and did just that with the adoption of Ezra, now 10. They developed a relationship with the nannies and soon ventured back for their third and, finally, their fourth child.

In total, the Caldwell family has four children whom they adopted from the same Chinese orphanage: Ezra and Morris plus daughter Darla, 7½, and son Tucker, 9½. And all four have special needs.

Continue on to People to read the complete article.

Headed to Disability:IN 2019? Discover The Magnificent Mile!

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Picture of the Marriott Hotel on Chicago's Magnificent Mile with a sunset background and other tall buildings

While you’re in town for the 2019 Disability:IN 22nd Annual National Conference & Expo July 15–18, 2019, check out some of the fine food that Chicago is so well known for. We’ve assembled a list of several accessible restaurants, as well as shopping, other necessities, and the transportation to get you there.

All these businesses are within easy reach of the Disability:IN host hotel, the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, located on downtown Michigan Avenue. This popular area of Michigan Avenue offers much to see and do, with fine hotels, restaurants, shopping, art, music, architecture, museums and parks.

Restaurants

312 Chicago

Italian

136 N. La Salle St

(312) 696-2420

Elevator use, WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible

Spiaggia

Italian

980 North Michigan Ave

(312) 280-3300

No steps, WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible

Chicago Cut Steakhouse

Steaks

300 N LaSalle

312.389.1800

Elevator use, WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible

Cocoro

Japanese

668 N Wells St

(312) 943-2220

No steps, WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible

Coco Pazzo Café

Italian

636 N Saint Clair St

(312) 664-2777

WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible

Epic Restaurant

Contemporary American

112 West Hubbard Street

(312) 222-4940

Private dining not accessible, WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible

Frankie’s Pizzeria & Scaloppine

Italian

900 N Michigan Ave

(312) 266-2500

No steps, WC-accessible seating, accessible bar area, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible

Big Bowl

Chinese

60 E Ohio St

(312) 951-1888

WC-accessible seating, accessible restroom, lobby entry fully accessible

Accessible Transportation

Open Taxis

Centralized dispatch service for all Chicago wheelchair-accessible vehicles

(855) 928-1010 or (773) 657-3006 (direct line for pickup)

Special Needs Chicago

Wheelchair-accessible nonemergency transportation provider

(630) 668-9999

Shopping, Pharmacy & Dry Cleaning

The Shops at North Bridge

520 N Michigan Ave

(312) 327-2300

Walgreens Pharmacy

757 N Michigan Ave

(312) 664-8686

Randolph Cleaners

100 W Randolph St #209

(312) 357-6433

Register for the 2019 Disability:IN Conference at Disability:IN.org

Sources: wheelchairjimmy.com, choosechicago.com

CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Showcases Innovations For a More Inclusive World

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Photo by Lee Choo

By Jacob Bennett

The CSUN Assistive Technology Conference has a specific purpose — to advance knowledge and the use of technology that improves the lives of individuals with disabilities — but its impact is wide-ranging.

In addition to companies that specialize in such things as captioning technology for people who are deaf and hard of hearing and voice-controlled devices for people who are visually impaired, the 34th annual conference, held March 11-15 in Anaheim, was attended by representatives from banks, grocery stores, retail chains, medical companies, airlines and many more companies with vast customer bases.

If attendees weren’t developing assistive technology, they were certainly interested in using it.

At a corner booth in the bustling exhibit hall, the three-person team from Feelif, a tech company from Slovenia, found themselves addressing a steady stream of potential business partners. There was no time to check out other areas of the conference, as the Feelif team was busy showing off their premium tablet for people who are blind and visually impaired, which uses vibrations to simulate the experience of feeling Braille dots.

“It’s very busy,” said Rebeka Zerovnik, the company’s international business development associate. “We don’t have enough people to work the booth.”

The 34th CSUN Assistive Technology Conference — organized by the California State University, Northridge Center on Disabilities, and known in the industry as the CSUN Conference — attracted exhibitors, researchers, consumers, practitioners, government representatives and speakers from around the world.

For the first time, the conference was held at the Anaheim Marriott after a long run in San Diego. The change of venue didn’t seem to hurt attendance — final attendance numbers hadn’t been tallied early this week, but attendance approached 5,000.

Peter Korn, director of accessibility for Amazon Lab126, a research and development team that designs and engineers high-profile consumer electronic devices such as Fire tablets and Amazon Echo, said this was his 28th CSUN Conference, beginning when he was with Berkeley Systems, which developed the outSPOKEN screen reader so that Macintosh computers could be used by people who were blind or partially sighted, and continuing for the past five years with Amazon. In that time, he said, the company has dramatically expanded its footprint at the conference.

“CSUN is the premier assistive technology conference in the world,” Korn said. “Of course we’re here.”

The conference included more than 300 educational sessions, with updates on state-of-the-art technology as well as insights into where the industry is headed. For example, attendees could learn about how artificial intelligence will be critical to improving assistive technology applications, and best practices for including people with disabilities in usability studies.

A seventh annual Journal on Technology and People with Disabilities will be published after the conference and will highlight the proceedings from the conference’s science and research track.

A highlight of the conference was the exhibit hall, where 122 booths showcased time-tested and brand-new solutions. A wristband used sonar to locate obstacles near people with visual impairments, then vibrated to help navigate around the obstacles. An app connected people who are blind or have low vision to trained agents who serve as “on-demand eyes.” A real-time transcription and captioning service helped students who are deaf and hard of hearing access distance-learning courses.

The new venue kept all informational sessions and the exhibit hall on the same floor, which had not been the case in San Diego.

“We were very pleased to see that the attendance stayed strong at our new venue for the 2019 event,” Sandy Plotin, managing director of the Center on Disabilities. “The benefits of having all the conference activities consolidated on one floor in a ‘mini-convention’ space seems to be providing the positive outcome we were looking for. I’ve heard people say they’ve been able to network even more, and that’s probably the most important component to having a successful conference experience.”

Johanna Lucht, the first NASA engineer who is deaf and who has taken an active role in the control room during a crewed test flight, delivered a keynote address that aimed to remove barriers to developing assistive technology. She noted that many of the most beneficial technologies for people with disabilities were not designed with that purpose. As an example, she noted that ridesharing services such as Uber removed potential miscommunications that occurred when people who are deaf and hard of hearing ordered taxis through interpreter services — the new apps have enabled people to type in exact addresses.

Conversely, closed captioning can benefit even people without disabilities: For example, it enables people to understand what sportscasters on TV are saying in a noisy and crowded bar.

Lucht noted that assistive technologies are designed to level the playing field for people with disabilities, which implies a sense of “catching up.” Instead, she advocated for designers to think in terms of “universal design,” identifying potential barriers and fixing them before products are launched. She showed a zoo fence that would disrupt the view for visitors in wheelchairs. An assistive design would install a ramp to see over the fence, she said. A universal-design alternative would be a see-through barrier that provides views for everyone.

“The point I’m making is, society is too hung up on the definition behind assistive technology,” Lucht said. “This technology can also benefit everyone.”

Teens praised for teaching boy with autism how to skateboard on his birthday: ‘It brought me to tears’

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Teens at skatepark showing an autistic five year old boy with his helmet on how to skateboard

A mother from South Brunswick, N.J. shared an emotional note on her community’s Facebook page after a recent experience with her son, 5-year-old Carter, at a skatepark.

Kristen Braconi took Carter, who is on the autism spectrum and has ADHD, and his behavioral therapist to the park to celebrate his fifth birthday, where a group of older kids noticed him playing on his scooter. The teens took it upon themselves to teach Carter how to skateboard.

“They were absolutely amazing with him and included him and were so beyond kind it brought me to tears,” the mother shared on Facebook, including a few videos from the day. “I caught a video of them singing [“Happy Birthday”] to my son and one of the kids gave him a mini skateboard and taught him how to use it. I can’t even begin to thank these kids for being so kind and showing him how wonderful people can be to complete strangers.”

“I wanted to recognize the kids and their parents because when you can show their parents how kind and respectful they are when [their parents] aren’t around you know you have done a great job!” Braconi told CNN. “They did so much more than they knew.”

Braconi told the outlet that the young teens didn’t know that Carter has autism and that their kindness and inclusion boosted the 5-year-old’s confidence.

Braconi and Carter left the park and returned with ice cream for the teenagers, but the video inspired the South Brunswick Police Department to try to track down the “superheroes” as well.

Continue on to Yahoo News to read the complete article.

Author Teams Up with Autism Society San Diego for National Autism Awareness Month

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Book Cover image of My Friend Max-A Story About Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month, which has a mission of helping to increase the understanding and acceptance of those who are autistic. According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of every 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One author, Reena B. Patel, is on a mission to help children learn how to become friends with those who have ASD.

In an effort to help raise awareness and acceptance, she has teamed up with Autism Society San Diego and has written a new book, titled “My Friend Max: A Story about a Friend with Autism” (Kind Eye Publishing, 2019). “The chances are high that your child will be a classroom with a child who has ASD” explains Reena B. Patel, a parenting expert, licensed educational psychologist, and author. “It’s a great life skill for kids without ASD to learn how to interact with and develop friendships with those who do. That’s where my book comes in, because I provide the tools to help teach about the importance of inclusion and kindness to bridge that gap.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to the CDC, is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Children who have ASD tend to have an impaired ability to interact socially with others. They also have a reduced motivation and a delay in skills for engaging others. They may not seem interested in their peers, or they may be interested in them and not know how to relate to them. Children who have ASD may engage in restricted, repetitive or sensory seeking behaviors, or may enjoy activities that seem unusual compared to their peers. Often times, those with autism want friends, but they simply don’t know how to go about interacting with them in an effective way in order to form a friendship.

Patel is an ASD specialist, and her book has been expertly written in a way that will help people learn about the importance of inclusion, how to interact and develop friendships with those who have autism spectrum disorder. The book focuses on teaching kindness, compassion, and provides effective tips on how to be friends with someone with autism. The book is geared for kids ages 3-10, and offers a helpful story that children can relate to, while also offering a concrete list of tips in the back for parents and educators.

“This is a book that should be in every classroom,” added Patel. “There’s a high prevalence that a child with ASD is in every classroom, and children and educators need tools to help them learn how to engage and understand and how to interact in a positive way to relate to that child. That’s exactly what my new book does. It’s important to note that individuals with ASD do want friendships and this book provides tools for anyone who may be around a child with ASD and teaches them how to initiate friendship with them.”

Throughout the month of April, Patel will be donating 20 percent of all book sales to the Autism Society San Diego. The organization was founded in 1966 and is on a mission to help improve the lives of all those affected by autism. They offer programs that serve the community in a variety of ways. “We are thrilled to partner with an author like Reena who is writing books for parents, teachers and children that bring people together and provide the tools to help teach kindness and compassion toward those with autism,” explains Amy Munera, president of Autism Society San Diego, who also has three autistic children.  “Hopefully her message is well received in schools around the country, which will help everyone who is touched by autism.”

Patel is the founder of AutiZm& More, and as a licensed educational psychologist and guidance counselor, she helps children and their families with the use of positive behavior support strategies across home, school, and community settings. She does workshops around California, and virtual workshops globally where she provides this information to health professionals, families, and educators. She is also the author of a book that helps children with anxiety coping strategies called “Winnie & Her Worries.” Both of her books are available on Amazon. To learn more or order the books, visit the website at reenabpatel.com

Based in the San Diego area, Reena B. Patel (LEP, BCBA) is a renowned parenting expert, guidance counselor, licensed educational psychologist, and board-certified behavior analyst. For more than 20 years, Patel has had the privilege of working with families and children, supporting all aspects of education and positive wellness. She works extensively with developing children as well as children with exceptional needs, supporting their academic, behavioral and social development.  She was recently nominated for San Diego Magazine’s “Woman of the Year.” To learn more about her books and services, visit the website at reenabpatel.com, and to get more parenting tips, follow her on Instagram @reenapatel.

Founded in 1966, Autism Society San Diego serves the community with helping those affected by autism. The organization is all run by volunteers, and serves as the voice of resource of the local autism community. Membership includes autistic individuals and their parents, friends, advocates, medical professionals, and educators through the San Diego area. They offer a wide variety of programs and services to the community, including summer camps, an adult summer program, AWARE, biannual family camp weekends, two monthly family recreational events, and seven monthly support and information groups, as well as a variety of special events throughout the year. They offer direct support and referrals via our office administrator, our website, and our social media channels. For more information visit: facebook.com/autismsocietysandiego/

Those who would like to donate to Autism Society San Diego can do so through the Coin Up app: coinupapp.com/

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data & Statistics on Autism Spectrum Disordercdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Autism Spectrum Disorder.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html