The new £10 note, which entered circulation last week, features special design elements that will help the blind and partially sighted.
The Bank of England note includes clusters of raised dots in the top left corner that will help people with poor vision to identify its denomination.
It also features bold numbers and raised print.
The central bank said it introduced the braille-like raised dots following a consultation with the Royal National Institute for Blind People.
“These new characteristics should help people living with sight loss distinguish between denominations,” said Steve Tyler, an official at the RNIB.
People with poor vision previously relied on variations in size and color to tell notes apart.
The new note is different in other ways: It features the image of a woman who is not the Queen.
Celebrated author Jane Austen has replaced Charles Darwin as the face of the £10 note following a public campaign that pressured the Bank of England to put a woman on the country’s money.
Men remain on the other notes: Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill is on the £5, economist Adam Smith is on the £20 and steam engine pioneers Matthew Boulton and James Watt feature on the £50.
This is the second British bill to be made out of plastic instead of traditional paper materials. The £5 plastic bill launched in September 2016.
The plastic bills are considered by the central bank to be “safer, stronger and cleaner.”
But the new bills are controversial because trace amounts of animal fat are used in their production. The bank considered switching to a different material, but ultimately decided to stick with the current formula.
The bank plans to distribute just over 1 billion of the new £10 notes across the country. The old £10 bills will be taken out of circulation.
The U.K. launched a new £1 coin earlier this year. It is made of two metals: an outer ring of nickel-brass and an inner ring of nickel-plated alloy.
The old and new £1 coins have very different designs but both feature Queen Elizabeth.
The trichotillomania bracelet looks unassuming, just like any other smart technology worn around the wrist. But rather than counting steps or heartbeats, it serves another purpose.
The wristlet vibrates an alarm when it tracks the user subconsciously beginning to pull out strands of hair. For those with trichotillomania, instead of following the compulsion to yank out their hair, the wireless device helps them notice the gestures and change their behavior.
This tool, along with other technologies for the disability community, intrigues Ashley Shew, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Science, Technology, and Society. In July 2018, she received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award that will allow her to investigate the personal accounts of people with disabilities, as well as their opinions of the technologies designed for them.
The prestigious honor, given to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research and education, is better known as the CAREER award.
“I’m interested in the storylines that disabled people tell about their bodies and how their relationships with technology differ from popular and dominant narratives we have in our society,” said Shew, who herself identifies as disabled.
Her research focuses on discrepancies between how scientists and engineers understand and explain their work related to disability and the actual needs and wants of people with disabilities. Shew said there is a disconnect between media-based depictions and reality within the realm of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and technology design.
“This means people aren’t always designing with real users in mind, but with ideas about what users want based on the entertainment media,” she said. “This is problematic because nondisabled people create and depict disabled people. There is little authentic disability representation in the media, so all these media-driven narratives about technology get fed into engineering.”
Shew cites several misleading media-supported tropes. Negative stereotypes encourage the public to view disabled people with pity, as sinners or fakers, or as resource burdens. And while the trichotillomania bracelet is small and unobtrusive, many technologies, such as wheelchairs or exoskeletons, are not. Some people who could benefit from viable supportive devices might shy away from them to avoid public skepticism or castigation.
And the reverse depictions are just as misrepresentative.
“There are also tropes about inspiration and courage,” Shew said. “The one people lean on, which I’ll be assessing through this grant, involves a focus on inspiration and courage, along the lines of, ‘You’re such an inspiration because you’re disabled in public.’ If you’re not inspiring, you’re courageous to overcome what you’re overcoming. If we believe you’re truly disabled, then if you’re out having a regular life, you’re considered heroic in ways that don’t map onto real life at all.”
Designers often create technologies with this trope in mind. An example of this is a surge of 3D-printed hands for young amputees. Marketed with terms such as “superhero” hands or arms, the branding presents these children as different from people without disabilities. Shew describes this phenomenon as techno-ableism, when technology makers try to empower others with helpful tools but use rhetoric that has the opposite effect. As part of her CAREER award, Shew will publish a book about this phenomenon.
Shew will also seek to counter unrealistic portrayals of people with disabilities by educating creators of disability technologies. Her research will incorporate interviews, memoirs, and the compilation of existing materials into classroom public outreach, an open-access website, and a textbook to complement existing STEM educational resources.
Shew is collaborating with Alexander Leonessa and Raffaella De Vita, associate professors in the College of Engineering, who have also received CAREER awards. In 2019, she will work with them through Virginia Tech’s STEMABILTY, a summer camp for students with disabilities.
A Virginia Tech faculty member since 2011, Shew received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence in 2017 and a Diversity Award in 2016, both from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Also in 2016, she received the Sally Bohland Award for Excellence in Access and Inclusion from the Virginia Tech office of Services for Students with Disabilities.
Shew co-edited Spaces for the Future: A Companion to Philosophy of Technology with Joseph Pitt, a Virginia Tech professor of philosophy. She is also the author of Animal Constructions and Technological Knowledge, published by Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield.
Shew is the fourth faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award in the past several years.
Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has received the highest ranking for the fourth year in a row on the Disability Equality Index (DEI), and it received the Employer of the Year: Inspire Award, recognizing the company for its exemplary policies, strategies and initiatives that have resulted in measureable results in the areas of disability inclusiveness in the workplace, marketplace and supply chain.
The DEI is an initiative between the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and Disability:IN (formerly the US Business Leadership Network), jointly designed by disability advocates and business leaders and it is a trusted, comprehensive benchmarking tool for disability inclusion. The Index measures key performance indicators across organizational culture, leadership, accessibility, employment, community engagement, support services and supplier diversity.
Northrop Grumman received the Employer of the Year: Inspire Award for being a top employer for advancing its disability inclusion journey and strategies and practices that have produced measurable success in many areas. The award recognized the leadership of Wes Bush, Northrop Grumman chairman and chief executive officer and the company’s self-identification campaign launched in 2014, the centralized workplace accommodations online request portal and the case management system program started in 2015.
In the 2017 DEI ranking, the company’s Victory Over Impairment and Challenge Enterprise (VOICE) employee resource group was recognized with a Disability:IN leadership award as the program which most exemplifies strategies and initiatives that have resulted in measurable results in the area of disability inclusion in the workplace. Northrop Grumman’s VOICE organization strives to develop a sense of community and empowerment among individuals with disabilities (both apparent and non-apparent), advocates and employees with family members with a disability.
“We are very pleased with our progress on disability inclusion and the success of our programs,” said Sandra Evers-Manly, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of global corporate responsibility, and president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation. “Our senior leadership commitment and the involvement of our employees have helped us to create a work environment that values diversity and inclusion and employees with disabilities are an important component of our diverse population.”
Northrop Grumman actively seeks to attract and retain employees of all abilities because of the value they bring to the workplace. Some initiatives include an online accommodation tool for requests and case tracking; increased accessibility of our website, including the careers section; expanded accessibility at our locations; and adoption of a more focused approach for posting job requisitions with disability related job boards.
Additionally, Northrop Grumman’s Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition) program, which was created in 2005, provides personalized placement assistance, community outreach and workplace accommodations for severely injured service members transitioning to civilian employment. In 2009 Northrop Grumman established the Operation IMPACT Network of Champions, a group of more than 110 companies and partners that share job candidates, best practices and create wider opportunities for veterans with disabilities.
Third year in a row Northrop Grumman has been recognized by the National Organization on Disability (NOD) for its exemplary disability hiring and employment practices
Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has been named a 2018 National Organization on Disability Leading Disability Employer™ for its leadership in disability hiring and its commitment to building a disability inclusive workforce.
NOD Leading Disability Employers are chosen based on data furnished by the companies in response to the NOD Disability Employment Tracker™, a confidential assessment that benchmarks companies’ disability inclusion programs for climate and culture; people practices; talent sourcing; workplace and technology; and strategy and metrics. Results from the tracker are prioritized based on historic disability employment outcomes and percentage of people with disabilities in their workforce.
“Technology companies succeed or fail based on the intellectual capital we recruit and retain,” said Wes Bush, chairman and chief executive officer, Northrop Grumman. “Individuals with disabilities comprise a resource of incredible value and they add an important aspect to the diversity of the global workforce. It is vital for the business community to understand the extraordinary value of this talent pool.”
In August, Northrop Grumman received the highest ranking for the fourth year in a row on the Disability Equality Index, a ranking produced by the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:IN. The company also received their Employer of the Year award for significant policies, strategies and initiatives that have resulted in measureable results in disability inclusiveness in the workplace.
“Northrop Grumman actively seeks to attract and retain employees of all abilities because of the value they bring to the workplace,” said Sandra Evers-Manly, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of global corporate responsibility, and president of the Northrop Grumman Foundation. “Our senior leadership commitment and the involvement of our employees have helped us to create a work environment that values diversity and inclusion and employees with disabilities are an important component of our diverse population.”
Some Northrop Grumman initiatives supporting employees with disabilities include an online accommodation tool for requests and case tracking; increased accessibility of our website, including the careers section; expanded accessibility at our locations; and adoption of a more focused approach for posting job requisitions with disability related job boards.
Additionally, Northrop Grumman’s Operation IMPACT (Injured Military Pursuing Assisted Career Transition) program, which was created in 2005, provides personalized placement assistance, community outreach and workplace accommodations for severely injured service members transitioning to civilian employment. In 2009, Northrop Grumman established the Operation IMPACT Network of Champions, a group of 90 companies and partners that share job candidates, best practices and create wider opportunities for veterans with disabilities.
NOD is a private, nonprofit organization that seeks to increase employment opportunities for the 80 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities who are not employed. To achieve this goal, NOD offers a suite of employment solutions, tailored to meet leading companies’ workforce needs. For more information visit www.NOD.org.
Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide. Please visit news.northropgrumman.com and follow us on Twitter, @NGCNews, for more information.
The world may know Stevie Wonder as a legendary musical artist, but not everyone is aware of the many ways in which he influences the community beyond sharing his love for music. While music does play a big part in his life, the 25-time GRAMMY Award winner’s impact reaches way beyond the music industry and the people who listen to his work.
He may be a celebrity, but Stevie Wonder is one famous figure who uses his popularity to influence positive change in the world for all people, for generations to come.
Stevland Hardaway Judkins was born on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan. Born prematurely, he experienced complications with the growth of blood vessels in his retinas, causing his blindness. That, however, did not hinder the child prodigy from learning to play multiple instruments at a young age. From the harmonica to the drums to the piano, Stevie taught himself how to play them all before he reached the age of 10. He was also singing in his church choir by that time.
Stevie’s entrance to the music industry did not begin until he was discovered by singer and songwriter Ronnie White of The Miracles. He was then introduced to Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, was given an audition, and later signed to the record label. It was Gordy who dubbed Stevie “Little Stevie Wonder,” which was changed to “Stevie Wonder” as he grew older.
And what a wonder he was. According to his biography in Rolling Stone, “[Stevie’s] third single, ‘Fingertips (Part 2)’ was a number 1 pop and R&B hit eight months later. Both on records and in live shows, he was featured playing harmonica, drums, piano, and organ, as well as singing—sometimes all in one number. During his first three years in show business, Wonder was often compared to Ray Charles—much was made of the fact that both were blind.”
But Stevie’s brilliance was his own. As he broke out into his career, Wonder became self-sufficient inthe studio—writing his own music, playing his own instruments and even producing his own work. Noted in his Rolling Stone biography, the Signed, Sealed, Delivered singer also distinguished himself with music and lyrics “with such socially conscious subjects as ghetto hardship and political disenfranchisement.” It was not surprising that he was a lifelong advocate of nonviolent political change patterned after Martin Luther King Jr.
Stevie met Martin Luther King Jr. at a rally when he was just 15 years old. Three years following MLK’s assassination, Stevie joined in the decade-long movement to pass a bill that would make King’s birthday a national holiday. He composed the song “Happy Birthday,” which became a rallying song for the initiative. According to journalist Marcus Baram in an article at Cuepoint on Medium.com, “Wonder put his career on hold, led rallies from coast to coast, and galvanized millions of Americans with his passion and integrity.”
“Why should I be involved in this great cause?” Wonder asked as he addressed the crowd at an MLK rally. “As an artist, my purpose is to communicate the message that can better improve the lives of all of us.”
Through his career, Stevie Wonder created a platform to not only share his talents but also make a difference and inspire others to do the same. His many accomplishments can be attributed to his drive, his perseverance, and his determination, both as a musician and an advocate for the causes he believes in.
A true philanthropist, Stevie Wonder promotes AIDS awareness, donates to humanitarian relief efforts, and holds an annual House Full of Toys benefit concert to provide toys for children in need. Wonder has also worked on the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, Junior Blind of America and the creation of the Wonder Vision Awards Program.
In 2009, Wonder was named a UN Messenger of Peace, with a focus on persons with disabilities by the United Nations in 2009. At the news conference to announce his new position, then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had this to say of Wonder: “I recognize that he has consistently used his voice and special relationship with the public to create a better and more inclusive world, to defend civil and human rights, and to improve the lives of those less fortunate. Stevie Wonder is a true inspiration to young people all over the world about what can be achieved, despite any physical limitations.” In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Wonder the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Wonder was asked by The Guardian if he had ever considered “that it’s his ‘disadvantages’—being born blind and black—that have made him what he is.” To this, the award-winning artist responded, “You know, it’s funny, but I never thought of being blind as a disadvantage, and I never thought of being black as a disadvantage. I am what I am. I love me! And I don’t mean that egotistically—I love that God has allowed me to take whatever it was that I had and make something out of it.”
Stevie has found success both on and off the stage. Whether he is going on Twitter to encourage people to share their dreams, performing at the dedication ceremony of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, attending a conference to learn about assistive technologies for the blind or visually impaired, or advocating for an international disabilities treaty, Wonder has continuously taken steps to make a positive impact with everything he does.
In 2013, Stevie met with young Viet Nam’s Got Talent singer Crystal (real name: Nguyen Phoung Anh) at the United Nations General Assembly to push jointly for greater inclusion for children with disabilities. Crystal, now 21, became a singing sensation when she auditioned for the popular show in 2012. She was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, or “glass-bone disease,” a genetic disorder causing fragile bones. “My bones have broken 30 times or more,” she says. “We stopped counting, because we thought it didn’t matter anymore.” The 16-year-old adds, “Crystal is my alter ego, because it is fragile and shiny.”
“No one should be excluded because they’re blind, or because of any disability or because of their status or their color,” Wonder said. “We cannot allow our differences to let our fear put dreams to sleep.”
In 2017, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) announced the presentation of the first Key of Life award to Stevie Wonder for his groundbreaking “contributions to the world through his music.” According to the association, future recipients of this honor will be given to “songwriters and composers who best exemplify [Stevie’s] legacy through their commitment to the art form he elevated through his talent, dedication and unparalleled heart.”
Stevie Wonder is a man who is driven by his beliefs. “You need to put your heart into making a difference,” Stevie told The Guardian. Upon receiving his key of Life Award, Wonder had this to say about an artist’s social power: “There’s always power in the work… So those of us who have been blessed with the gift of expression, don’t be afraid to express your truth. But do it with love. When you think about it, music is probably the most integrated thing that we have. We’re all influenced by each other.”
With Stevie, it’s not just his music that inspires others but also the man that he is. His actions and words go hand in hand in nurturing a movement to help make the world a kinder place. He has become a true inspiration for people all over the world.
Eddie Ndopu wants to become the first physically disabled person to travel to space. MTV will follow a South African activist on his quest to become the first physically disabled person to travel to space.
Eddie Ndopu, 27, was born with spinal muscular atrophy and given a life span of five years. He has obviously exceeded that, going on to earn a master’s degree in public policy from Oxford and has spent more than a decade advocating for the rights of disabled young people.
Now Ndopu is hoping to travel to space and deliver a message from above Earth to the U.N. General Assembly, sending “a powerful message on behalf of young people everywhere who have ever felt excluded by society.” MTV cameras will follow him as he enlists an aerospace company to facilitate the mission and chronicle his thoughts and emotions as the launch approaches. The cabler will also document his voyage and message to the United Nations.
The project was announced ahead of the International Day of Persons With Disabilities on Dec. 3.
World Disability Day 2018 is meant to promote rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of development and society.
December 3 is observed as International Day of Persons with Disabilities or World Disability Day. Commemoration of this day was done by United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1992. The day is meant to promote rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of development and society. The idea is to increase awareness about persons with disabilities, their situation and their means to survive in cultural, economic, social and political life. On this day, awareness is spread on how organisations and individuals can get involved in breaking down attitudinal and structural barriers for people with disability.
Around 1 billion people around the world live with a disability. This number makes for around 15% of the global population. On World Disability Day, celebrations are done for achievements of people with disabilities.
World Disability Day 2018 theme
World Disability Day 2018 theme is, “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” According to the United Nations, The theme focuses on empowering persons with disability with equal opportunities and inclusiveness. The idea is to empower them with equitable, inclusive and sustainable development as part of Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030.
The 2030 agenda aims at including every single person with disability, and leave no one behind. Persons with disabilities can be both beneficiaries and agents of change. They can speed up the process of sustainable development which is inclusive in nature. They can promote a society which is resilient for all, including in the context of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian action.
A Kent State basketball recruit will become the first player with autism to earn a scholarship for a Division 1 NCAA team sport when he joins the team next year.
Kalin Bennett, an 18-year-old from Little Rock, Arkansas, was recruited by several schools, but chose Kent State University not only for its basketball team but for its dedication to autism awareness, his mother, Sonja Bennett, told INSIDER.
Bennett, a 6’10”, 300-pound center, signed a letter of intent to join Kent State’s team earlier this month, according to Cleveland.com.
Now Bennett, who is attending a gap year program at Link Year Prep in Branson, Missouri, wants to use his platform to inspire others.
“It feels good to be able to make history like this,” Bennett told INSIDER. “It feels good to hear stories about other people struggling with autism looking up to me.”
He hopes that his rebound talents, positive attitude and ability to be a team player will help Kent State succeed next season.
“They someone who can hoop — and I can hoop,” he said.
Doctors didn’t know if Bennett would ever speak or walk
As a child, doctors that Bennett would remain nonverbal throughout his life, and early diagnosis suggested he may never walk. But Bennett prevailed, and through hard work and therapy he overcame his struggles to become the basketball player he is today.
His coach at Link Year, Adam Donyes, said Bennett is the glue that holds his team together.
WHILL, Inc. recently announced their Model Ci personal electric vehicle (EV) received top accolades from one of the nation’s most esteemed publications, TIME, as one of the “50 Best Inventions of 2018.” The annual list hit newsstands, Friday, November 16.
TIME noted that the Model Ci “Empowers its users,” and was selected out of hundreds of editor and expert submissions from around the world including online applications. To choose the top 50 best inventions for the annual list, TIME carefully evaluated each contender on key factors, including originality, creativity, influence, ambition and effectiveness. According to the publication, the list highlights groundbreaking inventions that are changing the way we live, work, play and think about what’s possible.
Debuted in January 2018 at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the Model Ci enables people who have difficulty walking to experience movement in a new way, gaining newfound freedom and confidence to further participate and engage in the activities they love. This innovative personal EV disassembles in seconds for easy transport, offers best-in-class indoor/outdoor versatility, provides a variety of adjustments for maximum comfort, and is equipped with the latest in technology, such as Bluetooth and mobile data connectivity, creating additional peace-of-mind for both the user and their loved ones.
This year, the Model Ci also received the CES 2018 “Best of Innovation Award” in the Accessibility Tech category, and was an Engadget “Best of CES 2018” finalist. Additionally, WHILL was recognized by Fast Company as one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Robotics for 2018.
The Model Ci’s MSRP is $3,999 USD and is available nationwide and in Canada through WHILL’s premier reseller network, as well as through online partners such as shop.scootaround.com and spinlife.com. The Model Ci is also available for conference, land and cruise rentals at major metros and ports through scootaround.com.
Since its founding in 2012, WHILL’s mission is to transform today’s antiquated power wheelchair and scooter experiences into a new kind of empowering devices, intelligent personal electric vehicles (EVs). WHILL is reinventing the personal mobility industry with personal EVs that focus on an approachable and aesthetically pleasing powered vehicles that boosts confidence and pushes the boundaries of personal transportation. Headquartered in Yokohama, Japan with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taiwan and EU, WHILL is focused on enabling everyone to explore the world in comfort and style.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 20.4 percent of people with disabilities were employed in March 2017, as opposed to 68.7 percent of people without disabilities. Therefore, creating better support for job applicants and employees is critical to creating a diverse pool of talent in the workplace, optimizing the productivity of every worker, and increasing job satisfaction.
The Mobile Accommodation Solution (MAS) app – the iOS version of which is now available in the app store – is a first-of-its kind tool that helps employers and others manage workplace accommodation requests throughout the employment lifecycle. Using the app, employers can track the status of requests; access fillable forms; and store, print and export records that can be imported into enterprise information systems. The app was developed by West Virginia University’s Center for Disability Inclusion in partnership with the Job Accommodation Network and IBM; funding came from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research.
A crowded room quiets as Parker Thornton approaches the podium. He has been tasked with motivating Special Olympics Athlete Health Messengers to commit to being fit every day by working out more, eating healthy, and cutting down on soda.
He starts his speech by proclaiming the three words he says to himself in the mirror every day, “I’m happy, I’m healthy, and I feel fantastic!” Parker let those familiar words calm his nerves at speaking in front of the large crowd. After the speech has concluded, the audience erupts into applause, motivated and encouraged to take on the challenge of living a healthy life.
Parker’s life didn’t start at peak health. As a newborn, he contracted viral meningitis and was hospitalized at Boston’s Children’s Hospital for five weeks, much of it on life support. He survived his first challenge, but the result of the viral meningitis left Parker with significant learning disabilities, which resulted in an anxiety disorder and depression.
When Parker was eight years old, he was introduced to Special Olympics New Hampshire when local families came together to start a ski team for children with intellectual disabilities. That introduction has led to more than 28 years of involvement with Special Olympics. Parker has won numerous gold medals in sports ranging from basketball, golf, skiing, and pentathlons. “I realized that Special Olympics was more than just sports; it taught me how to be a better man, a proficient communicator, and how to be a mentor to other athletes who have their own challenges. Special Olympics tells you how to speak up, get healthy to be a better athlete, and blossom gifts in yourself and others,” Parker said.
Parker recently had an opportunity to make his own life healthier. “I wasn’t happy with my body, and I was depressed,” Parker said. He signed up for a sprint triathlon, which motivated him to train for seven months. Parker lost 20 pounds and was able to go off prescribed medication. Seeing a positive change in his body and completing the triathlon showed Parker that even if it takes hard work, he can accomplish whatever he sets his mind to.
Parker has set his mind to tackling new challenges in the last few years. He speaks frequently on topics related to disabilities, Special Olympics, and the health disparities of people with disabilities. “Inclusive health is such a big issue. No one understands the health differences between people with and without intellectual disabilities. I want to motivate and get people thinking about how they can make changes to better the lives of people with intellectual disabilities,” he said.
Parker is now a consultant for Special Olympics International. He lead an Athlete Health Messenger training for a new cohort of athlete leaders who are tasked with taking the charge for equal access to health for people with disabilities. He co-edits a monthly health newsletter that goes out to thousands of recipients and is continuously tasked with being called upon to give motivational speeches. Speaking fills Parker with a sense of purpose. He wants to motivate others to see people with intellectual disabilities as part of human diversity and should be celebrated as such.
Parker is planning on accomplishing his next goal in 2019: attending professional stunt school in California. “It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to get trained to do professional stunts like you see in the movies,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
The Cox Communications new Contour voice remote, powered by Comcast’s X1 platform, empowers customers who have limited mobility or dexterity or a visual disability. With the push of a button, you can search, surf and record your favorite programs, all with the sound of your voice.
Plus, the new Contour features Voice Guidance, a “talking guide” developed by Comcast, that speaks what’s on the screen, including program descriptions and navigation options. Now individuals with accessibility needs can easily explore thousands of TV shows and movies.
This proactive step is not limited to their product offering. Cox is also hiring individuals with disabilities to test their products.
Mona Lisa Faris, president and publisher of DIVERSEability Magazine spoke with representatives from Cox and Comcast to discuss how their collaboration is helping both companies become more proactive.
Ilene Albert, Executive Director, Value Added Services and Diversity Products at Cox, began with some history behind this new focus at Cox.
“Last December we launched a center of excellence for accessibility, to focus on developing products, support and services for our customers who have disabilities and accessibility needs. We are very excited about this; we work with all of our peers across the product organization to make sure we are looking at the broad picture of accessibility,” Albert explained. “We partner well with Comcast, who has been the leader in helping develop products for the accessibility community.
Jennifer Cobb is Director of Diversity Products at Cox. She told us, “Last year, we worked to set up the business processes so that, going forward, we were included in all new product development. One of the things we are working toward is integrating more research with persons with disabilities into our overall processes.”
Thomas Wlodkowski is the Vice President of Accessibility at Comcast. He was brought in to start up an accessibility office and, because he is visually impaired, he provides a unique perspective for Comcast, helping the company open products and services to the widest possible audience.
“I’ve been in the accessibility field before it was really considered a field—since the early 1990s,” Wlodkowski reports. At Comcast, our program is founded on three pillars: customer experience, product capabilities and infrastructure. My team is in the product group, and we launched voice guidance, which enables people who are visually impaired to navigate onscreen menus. We have an accessibility lab in our Philadelphia corporate headquarters that we use to drive employee awareness, and we also bring external community members in to help with user testing. It’s a big piece of our effort.”
Wlodkowski went on to say, “There is a saying in the disability civil rights community: Nothing about us without us. We really need to bring people with disabilities into the development process to find out where the barriers are.”
“At Comcast, we are building a lot of the accessibility solutions that, essentially, Cox would have had to build on their own. They get accessibility as part of the relationship. Then the two accessibility teams can partner to share best practices.”
“X1 has been a great product for us,” Wlodkowski said. “It’s based in the cloud, so we don’t have to install additional software or hardware in the box. We can roll new features in—and as we do that, Cox can also pick them up as well.”
New features were recently added just as Tom said, as Cox released a statement earlier this month announcing that YouTube is now available for Cox customers via their Contour app.
As Tom Wlodkowski pointed out, “By building accessible products, it builds a better product overall for everyone.” Accessibility is a fairly new frontier, as more and more companies realize that dedicating teams to ensure accessibility not only improves the products offered to those with disabilities but it provides a better experience for all customers.
Cox’s licensed version of Comcast’s X1 platform, Contour, is now its flagship video product.. And fans of The Voice who have Comcast or Cox as their cable provider will be happy to know they can now use their remote to cast their votes on the popular live show. The Contour/X1 technology is truly changing the television viewing experience, offering something for everybody to love!