Toyota​ ​Mobility​ ​Foundation launches $4M prize for mobility tech targeting lower-limb paralysis

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Toyota​ ​Mobility​ ​Foundation,​ a charity set up by Toyota in 2014 to help bring about “a truly mobile society,” has launched a $4 million competition to encourage the development of new smart mobility technology to support the lives of people with lower-limb paralysis.

Dubbed the ‘Mobility​ ​Unlimited​ ​Challenge​’, the competition — which has several rounds and prizes, leading up to the winner being unveiled in Tokyo in 2020 — is being run in partnership with the U.K.’s Nesta, and is open to teams around the world, including, of course, startups.

Specifically, Toyota​ ​Mobility​ ​Foundation and Nesta are on the look out for teams working on the creation of what it calls “personal mobility devices incorporating intelligent systems”. Whilst not limited to the following tech categories, this could include anything from exoskeletons,​ ​​artificial intelligence​ ​and​ ​machine​ ​learning,​ cloud​ ​computing​ ​to​ ​batteries.

However, although the Mobility​ ​Unlimited​ ​Challenge website contains a list of product ideasthat would quality for entry to the competition, Toyota​ ​Mobility​ ​Foundation are keen not to point too much in any one direction or to presume it knows what mobility problems people with lower-limb paralysis face.

Instead, I’m told that “co-creation” is very much the mantra here and that there will be a crowdsourcing component to solicit the kind of things that innovators should focus on, which will in turn help determine which entries should be rewarded.

In addition, entrants will be expected to demonstrate how co-creation with people with lower-limb paralysis who are representative of the tech’s eventual users has shaped its creation and development.

Toyota​ ​Mobility​ ​Foundation are also stressing that the competition hopes to attract teams — startups, companies, academics etc. — who aren’t necessarily already working in assistive technology, although these are welcome too. The thinking here is to make the Mobility​ ​Unlimited​ ​Challenge as deep and wide as possible and not limit where new ideas and new approaches come from.

The Mobility Unlimited Challenge Prize is supported by a number of ambassadors from around the world, all of whom have experience of living with lower-limb paralysis. Global​ ​ambassadors​ ​include​: August​ ​de​ ​los Reyes​, Head of Design at Pinterest); Yinka​ ​Shonibare​ ​MBE​, Turner-Prize nominated British/Nigerian artist; Sandra​ ​Khumalo​, South African Paralympic rower; Indian athlete and campaigner Preethi​ ​Srinivasan​; Sophie​ ​Morgan (pictured)​, British TV presenter, U.S. paralympian Tatyana​ ​McFadden​, and Rory​ ​A​ ​Cooper​, director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh.

Here’s a breakdown of the prize pot itself, which is more akin to a series of grants at various stages of the competition:

  • Discovery Awards – 10 awards of $50,000 (combined total: $500,000)
    Means-tested grants to support small, early stage innovators to enter the Challenge.
  • Finalist Grants – five awards of $500,000 (combined total: $2,500,000)Grants given to 5 finalists to spend during the Finalist Stage to develop their prototype
    device. Finalists will be selected from the eligible entries on the basis of their ability to
    meet the eligibility criteria requirements and their potential against the judging criteria.
  • Winner’s Award – one award of $1m (combined total: $1,000,000)
    Grant awarded to the finalist whose prototype device best meets the challenge statement, demonstrating how it meets the judging criteria.

Continue onto TechCrunch to read the complete article.

Resources for Women with Disabilities Who Own Businesses

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By Michelle Herrera Mulligan

For women with disabilities, entrepreneurship offers a dynamic opportunity to break through barriers. In the corporate world, women with disabilities face a high unemployment rate and other challenges with employers who can be less than accommodating. But, as the Disability Network reports, the good news is that for the 27 million women with disabilities in the United States, being SELF MADE helps create a promising future.

For SELF MADE women, flexible schedules and custom careers are par for the course. And in the past few years, more programs have launched that offer loans, mentorship, and support. Check out our list of business resources for women with disabilities below.

Resources for Funding
What’s a great business idea without funding? Just another great idea! Don’t let your business dreams fall by the wayside for lack of funding. Below you’ll find information on funding specifically for disabled entrepreneurs. For more funding leads, please visit our “ALL WOMEN” section.

Accion
Provides small business loans to businesses that have a hard time gaining capital, such as small businesses owned by disabled persons. bit.ly/1Qx9k50

Abilities Fund
Offers business development training, referrals to funding and other financial assistance options, and more support designed to help people with disabilities succeed. abilitiesfund.org

Kaleidoscope Investments
This financial institution pledges a commitment to helping entrepreneurs with disabilities gain capital for their businesses. kaleidoscopeinvestments.com

American Association of People with Disabilities
The largest nonprofit for all people with disabilities, this organization fights for economic and political empowerment for people with disabilities. aapd.com

State Assistive Technology Loan Programs
Services vary state by state, but this organization offers a range of financial assistance including low-interest loans to buy assistive technology that helps provide access to educational, employment and independent-living opportunities. bit.ly/1Suwc7m

CouponChief.com
While this isn’t a fund-raising resource per se, it is a great way for women with disabilities to save funds. couponchief.com/guides/savings_guide_for_those_with_disability

Resources For Training
Women with disabilities face unique challenges in entrepreneurship but these challenges do not have to keep you from your startup dream. Below are more business resources for women with disabilities that specialize in training and development to help entrepreneurs with disabilities achieve their dreams of owning a business.

Community Options
Operating in 10 states, this organization helps people with disabilities find housing, employment opportunities, and other support services. comop.org

Disabled Businesspersons Associations
These groups offer entrepreneur education courses specifically for people with disabilities. disabledbusiness.org

Disability.Gov
An online database of resources and links to assistance for entrepreneurs-in-training with disabilities. disability.gov

Job Accommodation Network (Jan Network)
This network connects entrepreneurs with disabilities to other people in their field and provides technical assistance and mentoring programs for entrepreneurs with disabilities. careersbeyonddisability.com

Hadley Forsythe Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Offers free online training courses that prepare its blind and visually impaired students to become entrepreneurs.hadley.edu

Disability.biz
This group offers business plan consulting and coaching for disabled entrepreneurs. disabilitybiz.org

Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Education for People with Disabilities (CREED)
Chicago-based training and development center for entrepreneurs with disabilities.ceedproject.org

WSU Online MBA
This online resource is loaded with all varieties of tools and tips for entrepreneurs with disabilities, from writing a business plan to marketing and pretty much everything in between. onlinemba.wsu.edu

Resources For Networking

When it comes to business resources for women with disabilities, finding like-minded business owners and a close network of friends is a great way to get jump-started on your journey to success. Here are business resources for women with disabilities that focus on networking.

American Association for People With Disabilities
The largest nonprofit cross-disability member organization in the United States, this organization helps people with disabilities find independence and political power in the United States. aapd.com

Global Network for Entrepreneurs with Disabilities
A networking and public advocacy group offering real life stories, resources and networking opportunities for people with disabilities. entrepreneurswithdisabilities.org

International Network of Women With Disabilities
A blog that catalogs women’s groups around the world and offers links to different organizations. inwwd.wordpress.com/network

The Mighty
A moving blog that shares inspirational stories of people with disabilities overcoming obstacles and creating new opportunities for their lives. themighty.com

National Organization on Disability
An organization that raises awareness and creates employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for the community. nod.org

Source: becomingselfmade.com

For online: Becomingselfmade.com

 

Getty is trying to bring disability inclusion to stock photos

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man in wheelchair working on computer

Nearly one in five people have a disability, but just 2% of publicly available imagery depicts their lives. The photo company, alongside Oath and the National Disability Leadership Alliance, is working to change that.

In the stock photo world, images of people with disabilities tend to cluster at two poles. “They’re either depicted as superhuman or super pathetic,” says Rebecca Swift, Getty Images’ director of visual insights. “There doesn’t seem to be that broad range that you get with able-bodied people.”

Getty has seen searched for disability-related images spike in the past year–“wheelchair access” searches were up 371% from 2016 to 2017, and autism-related searches climbed 434%–and the issue of representation became impossible to ignore.

That also became clear to Oath, the parent company of Yahoo and Tumblr, as they were working to set up a website highlighting their work around accessibility in tech and having difficulty finding representative images. So the company, with consult from the National Disability Leadership Alliance, tapped Getty to help change the current representation paradigm from the inside out. Launched May 17, The Disability Collection, a new subcategory of Getty images, will feature people with disabilities in everyday settings.

What you notice first are people’s faces. In contrast to those common images that focus on a person’s hands gripping a wheelchair, or frame a blind person before a window to show what they can’t see–or depict the blur of a prosthetic leg as it strikes a track–the images in the new Getty collection focus on human interaction and people’s facial expressions.

Of course, there are challenges to capturing a range of disabilities. Visual media gravitates toward visual cues, but not all disabilities are necessarily visible. “That’s why the wheelchair tends to be the icon of disability,” Swift says. “This project for us as a business is about getting it all down and saying: Don’t just focus on wheelchairs. Think about the entire range, and think about how people with disabilities want to be depicted.”

For Getty, that meant building out a set of guidelines for photographers in their network to follow. They emphasize focusing on mundane moments from everyday–texting, taking selfies, grocery shopping. A lot of the guidelines come from focus groups with disability organizations that Oath hosted and shared with Getty. “We’ve taken input from a host of advocacy groups about how people in their communities want to be depicted,” Swift says.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

How to build a bike-share system for people of all abilities

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group of people with all abilities riding bikes

Just ask Detroit, whose Adaptive MoGo program, featuring 13 cycles designed to work for people with disabilities, launched this month.

MoGo, Detroit’s bike-share system, launched in 2017. But a couple years before, when it was still in the planning phases, Lisa Nuszkowsi, MoGo’s founder and executive director, got a call from John Waterman, who heads up a Ypsilanti-based nonprofit initiative called Programs to Educate All Cyclists. PEAC helps people with disabilities learn to ride bikes and use cycling as a means of empowerment and self-transportation, and Waterman wanted to know how Nuszkowski planned to make bike sharing accessible to people of all abilities.

“I said: ‘That’s a great question–what are we going to do?’” Nuszkowski tells Fast Company. She proposed working with Waterman to find a solution, and the result of that collaboration–a fleet of adaptive bicycles–launched as a pilot program May 15.

The adaptive MoGo program comprises 13 specially designed bikes. There’s a tricycle that users can pedal with their hands; this option is particularly beneficial to people with limited mobility below the waist. The cargo bike contains enough space in the front attachment for a passenger with mobility impairments to sit comfortably while someone pedals behind them; it’s also workable for parents of small children or service-dog owners who want to bring them along for a ride. And there are several tandem bike options that allow riders who may have issues with vision or balance to experience the benefits of cycling while having someone help steer in the front.

For the duration of the pilot program, which runs through October, people can rent out the bikes at a local shop, Wheelhouse Detroit, which sits right along the city’s popular Riverwalk greenway path. A single day pass on one of the bikes is $12, or users can buy a season pass for $30 and get unlimited use (based on availability) during that time. Either way, users have to first reserve a bike online. “It functions more like a bike rental,” Nuszkowski says. It’s very different from the standard MoGo model, where users check out bikes independently at one of the city’s 43 docks for $8 a day. But after hosting numerous focus groups with members of the disability community, “the feedback that we heard was that many people have mobility devices that they use, whether it be a wheelchair or a cane, and having a place to store that is really useful,” she adds.

Continue onto FastCompany to read the complete article.

How Xbox Adaptive Controller Will Make Gaming More Accessible

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xbox adaptive controller

On Wednesday night, Microsoft unveiled its new Xbox Adaptive Controller for the Xbox One console, aimed at making gaming more accessible for those with disabilities and mobility limitations as part of their Gaming for Everyone initiative.

The device allows for individual customization through a series of peripheral attachments that allow gamers to cater the controls to their own specific comfort.

For many, the current Xbox controller design (and those of other consoles’ controllers like Nintendo’s Switch and Sony’s Playstation 4) presents a challenge to use as it was not designed for individuals with mobility impairments. The Adaptive Controller is a foot-long rectangular unit with a d-pad, menu and home buttons, the Xbox home icon button and two additional large black buttons that can be mapped to any function.

On its back are a series of jacks for input devices and various peripheral accessories, each of which can be mapped to a specific button, trigger or function on the Xbox controller.

“Everyone knew this was a product that Microsoft should make,” Bryce Johnson, inclusive lead for product research and accessibility for Xbox, told Heat Vision.

The original inspiration for the Adaptive Controller came during 2015’s Microsoft One-Week Hackathon, an event where employees develop new ideas and tackle issues with their products. Through a partnership with Warfighter Engaged, an all‐volunteer non-profit that modifies gaming controllers for severely wounded veterans through personally adapted devices, a prototype was put together that would eventually become the Adaptive Controller.

“We had been doing our own stuff for a couple of years before that, making custom adaptive items for combat veterans, and it was kind of a challenge for even the most basic changes, requiring basically taking a controller apart,” Warfighter Engaged founder Ken Jones said. “Microsoft was thinking along the same lines. It was really just perfect timing.”

As development on the project went on, Microsoft began working with other foundations aimed at making gaming more accessible such as AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and Craig Hospital, a Denver-area rehabilitation center for spinal cord and brain injuries.

While third-party manufacturers have created more accessible peripheral controllers in the past, Microsoft is the first of the major gaming publishers to make a first-party offering.

“I think we’re always open to exploring new things,” Johnson said of Microsoft developing their own peripherals for the Adaptive Controller. “Right now, I think the challenge is that there is a super large ecosystem of devices that we intentionally supported as part of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and we want people to go out and find that vast array of toggles, buttons, etc. and have those work with that device.”

Continue onto The Hollywood Reporter to read the complete article.

Assessing and Treating Adult ADHD

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ADHD

Adults diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) say that having ADHD significantly impacts their ability to focus at work, as well as their responsibilities at home and their relationships. These findings were according to a national survey including more than 1,000 adults across the United States diagnosed with the condition.

ADHD is thought to affect about nine million adults in the United States, and research on the life span of the condition notes the disorder can impair academic, social and occupational functioning, and is often associated with academic underachievement, conduct problems, underemployment, motor vehicle safety and difficulties with personal relationships.

It is a universal condition with a strong biological and hereditary predisposition that presents itself similarly across the world. Research confirms that Latino/Hispanic children with the disorder present a neurocognitive, educational, social and clinical impairment profile similar to that reported among Anglo American children with the disorder. However, in spite of this similarity, the cultural background of a child has been shown to significantly influence the expression of ADHD, the meaning given to these behaviors, the level of tolerance toward them and the disposition to seek treatment.

Understanding the influence of culture is especially relevant for Latino/Hispanic individuals with ADHD, since there is evidence that they are not properly identified and treated.

Language

Latinos differ considerably in their proficiency of the English language. Understanding language barriers is essential to avoiding serious diagnostic and assessment errors in using ADHD rating scales, questionnaires and other tests in English.

Parents of Latino/Hispanic children with ADHD that lack English proficiency and literacy can have difficulty participating in activities such as attending parent-teacher conferences, helping with homework, seeking services for their child and participating in other orientation and educational activities.

Adult ADHD Survey Findings

In a study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of McNeil Pediatrics™, some of the key survey findings included a variety of participant perspectives, including:

  • Most adults with ADHD agree that having the condition strongly affects their performance in multiple areas of their lives, including:

—Their responsibilities at home (65 percent)

—Their relationships with family and friends (57 percent)

—Their ability to succeed at work (56 percent of those employed)

—Up to half (50 percent) of those employed worry ADHD symptoms affect opportunities for promotion, and the majority feel they have to work harder (65 percent) and/or longer (47 percent) than their co-workers to accomplish similar work.

  • Three-quarters of respondents said their ADHD symptoms strongly affect their ability to stay on task at work (75 percent), while others listed challenges such as:

—Concentrating on what others were saying (70 percent)

—Wrapping up projects (61 percent)

—Following through on tasks (61 percent)

—Sitting still in meetings (60 percent)

—Organizing projects (59 percent)

Just as their needs differ, adults with ADHD report divergent goals in managing ADHD symptoms. In selecting their top three goals for managing the condition, half cited being able to finish projects and tasks (51 percent), and getting their household more organized (51 percent). Other goals included:

  • Feeling less irritable and upset (38 percent)
  • Getting personal finances more organized (28 percent)
  • Improving personal relationships (26 percent)
  • Feeling calmer and to feel less need to always be moving (22 percent)
  • Getting along better with others in social situations (20 percent)
  • Gaining control of their ADHD symptoms (36 percent) and feeling satisfied with their ability to handle stress (58 percent)
  • Not feeling like a failure because their symptoms are not under control (54 percent)
  • Not getting depressed thinking about how hard ADHD is to deal with (37 percent)

Adults with ADHD who participated in the survey also reported utilizing a variety of techniques to help manage their symptoms. Four out of five have used visual reminders, such as post-it notes, to help manage their ADHD symptoms. Those in the survey also reported:

  • Taking prescription medication (82 percent)
  • Listening to music (75 percent)
  • Using a planner or organizer (71 percent)
  • Exercising (69 percent)

Sources: add.org; adapted and reprinted from Attention Magazine, published by CHADD, the National Resource on ADHD, help4adhd.org

This Latina Is Using Her Own Experience With Blindness To Bring About Change In The Workforce

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minorities in business

Over the course of her career, Kathy Martinez has worked with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, served under two administrations, and led Wells Fargo’s Disability and Accessibility strategy — when she was just starting her career, her counselor at the California Department of Rehabilitation believed that her career aspirations would not extend past working at a lock factory, all because she was blind.

“My counselor at the California Department of Rehabilitation had minimal expectations for people with disabilities and tended to offer low-levels jobs with no hope for growth,” explains Martinez. “Although his expectations for me were low, I had people in my life who knew I could do more, and were behind me every step of the way while I pursued my degree.”

While it took Martinez 13 years to graduate from college, the later start in her career has not prevented her from making an impact where it matters most to her — ensuring that those living with disabilities are not discounted.

“My passion is to help create a society and work environment where people with all abilities are able to obtain an education, secure a good job, buy a house, and be successful,” shares Martinez. “This includes building a society that is physically and digitally accessible, and help change attitudes about the capabilities of people with disabilities and our desire to contribute to our communities and corporations.”

Martinez’s own career has helped moved the needle forward in how those with disabilities are both treated and see themselves in the workforce. She has made it a point to both champion inclusivity within companies, while not erasing that humanity and dignity should be prevalent values in a company culture, regardless of the employee.

“My focus is on delivering an experience that recognizes disability as a natural part of the human condition and helping people with disabilities fully engage with the company to succeed financially,” shares Martinez. “With a more accessible workplace, more people with disabilities will be on the payroll rather than rely on benefits and, ultimately, increase their capacity to be productive members of their communities.”

Below Martinez shares further thoughts on how companies should be expanding their cultures to champion those with disabilities, what advice she has for Latinas, and her biggest lesson learned.

Vivian Nunez: What are your goals in changing how those with disabilities are able to access career opportunities?

Kathy Martinez: When I was growing up I never saw people with disabilities who worked at banks unless they were in entry-level jobs. Today financial institutions, like Wells Fargo, are hiring people with disabilities at all levels. I never imagined I would have the job title of senior vice president at Wells Forgo or Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy. And now that I have attained those titles, I want other people, such as Latinos and people with disabilities, to know that they can achieve their professional goals, including the position of CEO.

One of my key goals is to ensure that more people with disabilities are at all levels of the career ladder. That is why was passionate in helping develop and roll out Wells Fargo’s Diverse Leaders Program for People with Diverse Abilities. This unique three-day program enables team members, who identify as individuals with a disability, understand, and embrace their strengths, overcome challenges, and learn how their differences help them add value as leaders on the Wells Fargo team.

Another goal is to get more people to serve as a mentor and mentee to others with disabilities. I serve as a mentor for people of all abilities inside and outside of the company, and continue to learn what it means to be a team member of choice so that I can share that information with the Latino and disabilities communities.

Nunez: What role did you play in the Obama administration?

Martinez: I consider disability an issue that is important to both political parties. From 2009 – 2015 I served as the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy.

I also worked for President George W. Bush’s administration for seven years,    serving as a member of the National Council on Disability and as a member of the U.S. Department of State Advisory Committee on Disability and Foreign Policy.

Nunez: What advice do you have for Latinas who are navigating both a disability and building lasting careers?

Martinez: Find a mentor and set high expectations and goals for yourself. I have had mentors with and without disabilities, men, women, and people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, and have learned something from every one of them.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Don’t let mobility challenges hold back your loved ones – fight back!

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iwalkfree

May is National Mobility Awareness Month, and a great time to take stock in this important topic that the majority of us take for granted, at least until we are presented with a mobility challenge and are able to see just how important our mobility is. Mobility issues affect more people than most realize. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 18 million adults find it difficult to walk a quarter mile, and that roughly 40 million adults have some physical functioning difficulty. For those who may know others who have mobility challenges, there are things they can do to help with the challenges, as well as reduce the risks that they may become worse.

A device that is helping people to be more mobile is the iWALK2.0. The iWALK2.0 is hands-free, pain-free alternative to using crutches and leg scooters.  It’s easy to learn to use, intuitive, and safe. From the knee up, the leg is doing the same walking motion that comes naturally to it. The device is essentially a temporary lower leg, which gives people their independence and mobility back as they recover from an injury. The device helps to make it possible for people to engage in many of their normal routine activities, such as walking the dog, grocery shopping, and walking up or down stairs.

“Mobility is something that is essential and when we have it in a diminished capacity it can affect both our body and our mind,” explains Brad Hunter, the innovator of iWALK2.0 and the chief executive officer of the company, iWALKFree, Inc.  “The goal is to help make limited mobility more tolerable and find ways to still be able to enjoy life. That’s what we have done with creating the iWALK2.0.”

Here are 5 ways to help someone in your life who may have limited mobility:

  1. Focus on accessibility. It’s easy to overlook those devices that may make life simpler for those with mobility challenges, but they can be a tremendous help. Take stock in the devices and items that the person has and determine if there are better ones that can be offered up to help them with mobility. For example, many people have found that the iWALK2.0 medical device provides much easier mobility for those with lower leg injuries.
  2. Offer your help. Many people with limited mobility, whether temporary or long term, are too proud to ask someone for help. By offering it they will be more likely to take the assistance that they need.
  3. Keep them social. Mobility challenges can weight on one’s mind and mood, making it important that they stay social. Find them social groups that would interest them or support groups, where they can share, talk, and have a few laughs.
  4. Help them exercise. Limited mobility doesn’t mean there are no ways they can exercise. Today, there are people who do chair yoga, chair exercises, swimming workouts, and more. Find something they can do to keep as active as possible and keep them doing it, as it will help their mental and physical health.
  5. Offer healthy foods. Having mobility challenges may make it more difficult for them to exercise, which could help lead to weight gain. Providing them with healthy meals and snacks can go a long way toward keeping the weight down and their health in good condition.

“Making just some small changes can provide big results for someone with mobility challenges,” adds Hunter.  “When they have your support, the best devices, and are keeping their mind and body as engaged as possible, they will do much better.”

Clinical research, the results of which are on the company website, shows that patients using the iWALK2.0 heal faster, and have a higher sense of satisfaction and a higher rate of compliance. The iWALK2.0 sells for $149 and is available online and through select retailers. Some insurance companies may cover the cost of the device. The device can be used with a cast or boot, and comes with a limited warranty. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at: iwalk-free.com. To see a video of the iWALK2.0 in action, visit: iWalkFree.

About iWALKFree

The iWALK2.0 is a hands-free knee crutch, made by iWALKFree, Inc.  It’s a mobility device used instead of traditional crutches and knee scooters. It offers more comfort and independence, with the hands and arms remaining free. The device offers people a functional and independent lifestyle as they are recovering from many common lower leg injuries. For more information on the iWALK2.0, visit the site at: iwalk-free.com.

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Pinterest Just Redesigned Its App For Blind People

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pinterest on desktop

Here’s how the company confronted its own shortcomings on inclusive design–and systemically redesigned its app for everyone.

Last year, Long Cheng sat down with a group of engineers as they studied people using Pinterest. For Cheng, lead designer at the company, this sort of user testing was commonplace. But that day, something was different. The testers weren’t thirtysomething moms, or whatever stereotypical demographic pops in your head when you picture one of Pinterest’s 200 million users. They were people with a range of visual impairments, from macular degeneration to complete blindness. And Cheng wanted to see how well they could use the app.

To his dismay, many couldn’t even get past the sign-up screen. People literally couldn’t even create an account. While iOS and Android each have an accessibility feature–called Voice Over and Talk Back, respectively–which read aloud the buttons and options on the screen for visually impaired users to navigate, Pinterest had failed to properly label its own user interface for this feature to even work properly. Similarly, when people did eventually get into the app, recipes read aloud would be missing steps or ingredients. People found themselves trapped inside pins, unsure how to escape. Even for partially sighted people, Pinterest design, with its minuscule type, was a challenge to discern.

“It was definitely personal for me, and me specifically. Because I’ve been a designer here for five years, and it’s a product I really love to work on, and I want everyone to be able to use it,” says Cheng. “For the group of engineers and designers sitting there, we felt like we weren’t doing enough. We wanted to do more.”

Blind people using Pinterest–the app for visual inspiration–may sound like an oxymoron. But in fact, Pinterest, like all mainstream apps, has a contingent of blind users (though the company admits to not tracking them). Many use Pinterest simply to bookmark stories on the web they’d like to read later. And those who don’t use the service might like to, if they were better welcomed.

“We asked one user, would you use Pinterest? You can’t see what’s on the screen!” Long recounts. “She said, ‘of course I would.’” Visually impaired or not, we all want tasty recipes, better haircuts, and fashion advice. And Pinterest is loaded with billions of pins full of this stuff.

Over the past year, Pinterest has committed to practicing inclusive design, and making its product more accessible to everyone. With a team of a dozen designers and engineers, Cheng developed a multi-part approach to redesigning Pinterest as a product that could be more accessible to everyone, leading to a fully redesigned app and desktop experience that’s been slowly rolling out for months.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

Willing and Able—Why you should hire people with disabilities

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Willing and Able

By Sarah Ryther Francom

Temple Grandin, renowned autism spokesperson, is known for saying, “The world needs all kinds of minds.” This is also true for the business world. Hiring individuals with disabilities not only benefits the individual hired, but also benefits your business, employees, customers, and the community at large.

Leah Lobato, director of the Governor’s Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities, part of the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation, has seen countless lives changed when companies recruit and hire workers with disabilities. She says that one in five Americans has a disability, and 30 percent of families have a family member with a disability, with numbers anticipated to increase.

A win-win hire
Hiring individuals with disabilities isn’t just a feel-good idea—it can have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line. Individuals with disabilities often bring a diverse range of skills and attributes to the workplace and can enhance the team dynamic.

“Individuals with disabilities have had to problem-solve a lot of different situations in their life due to their condition, so they bring a unique perspective,” Lobato said. “The diversity of people with disabilities and what they bring to a company is really broad.”

Beyond bringing diverse skills to the workplace, individuals with disabilities often have a strong sense of loyalty to their employers, Lobato has found.

Kristy Chambers, CEO of Columbus Community Center, a nonprofit organization serving adults and teens with disabilities, says individuals with disabilities often fit seamlessly into a company. “When you find that right fit, they become a part of the work culture, and they truly can be an inspiration to their coworkers, customers, and stakeholders,” she says.

Lobato and Chambers agree that having a diverse workforce that includes individuals with disabilities is an attribute that resonates with customers.

“When a customer sees a diverse workforce, it raises their comfort in your business,” Lobato says.

Overcoming common fears
Lobato says it’s normal for a business owner or manager to fear the potential consequences of hiring an individual with disabilities but that misinformation is often the real culprit. “One of the most common issues I run into with businesses I talk to is fear. Fear of disability. Fear of how to communicate with people who have disabilities. Fear of the legal things that might come up when hiring them.”

Lobato acknowledges that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can be overwhelming. She advises companies to seek guidance from her office or a nonprofit, like Columbus Community Center, when beginning to actively recruit individuals with disabilities.

“The ADA provides a clear definition of what a disability is and provides a clear understanding of what the hiring guidelines are,” she says. “It provides support and protections for a person with disabilities, but it also clearly outlines what a business can and cannot do.”

How to provide reasonable accommodations is one of the most common questions employers have asked ADA compliance, says Kevin Keyes, chief program officer at Columbus.

“There’s greater fear than what should be there about providing reasonable accommodations,” he says. “Studies have shown that the cost of providing accommodations is overestimated.”

“A lot of the folks that come into employment with disabilities already have supports in place,” Keyes adds. “That’s what [organizations like Columbus] do. We’re not only there to support the individual, but also the employer.”

Companies with questions about how to create reasonable accommodations can seek guidance from the state, Lobato says. She points to a woodshop created for the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired as an example of what the state can help with.

Beyond state assistance, businesses that actively recruit and hire individuals with disabilities can receive financial aid to help cover associated costs, including work opportunity tax credits, small business tax credits, and grants to establish workplace accommodations and vocational training.

The biggest piece of advice Lobato offers all employers is to treat individuals with disabilities just as you would any other employee.

Everyone benefits
Stephanie Mackay, chief innovation officer at Columbus, says employers should view hiring individuals with disabilities as an opportunity to strengthen their workforce.

Chambers points out that communities are the greatest beneficiaries when individuals with disabilities land and keep good jobs. “Employers who get it and understand the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities realize that they are contributing to the community by hiring somebody who may be more challenged on gaining that employment. This allows individuals to not be a burden on the community, because without employment they become an individual who relies on entitlements. Those who participate on the employer end realize that there’s an economic benefit to everyone—the employee, company and the community at large.”

Source: utahbusiness.com

ADA Guidelines for Employers:
Employers covered by the ADA have to make sure that people with disabilities:

  • have an equal opportunity to apply for jobs and to work in jobs for which they are qualified
  • have an equal opportunity to be promoted once they are working
  • have equal access to benefits and privileges of employment that are offered to other employees, such as employer-provided health insurance or training
  • are not harassed because of their disability

Source: EEOC

Basic ADA hiring rules:
•The ADA does not allow you to ask questions about disability or use medical examinations until after you make someone a conditional job offer.

  • The ADA strictly limits the circumstances under which you may ask questions about disability or require medical examinations of employees.
  • The ADA requires you to consider whether any reasonable accommodation(s) would enable the individual to perform the job’s essential functions and/or would reduce any safety risk the individual might pose.
  • Once a person with a disability has started working, actual performance, and not the employee’s disability, is the best indication of the employee’s ability to do the job.
  • With limited exceptions, you must keep confidential any medical information you learn about an applicant or employee.

Source: EEOC

SUNRISE MEDICAL QUICKIE® Xenon2 – New Ultra Lightweight, High- Performance, Folding Wheelchair Series

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Today, Sunrise Medical announced the launch of its latest high-performance ultra lightweight folding manual wheelchair. The QUICKIE Xenon2 offers all the benefits of QUICKIE’s high-end rigid chairs, now in a folding version. This series brings a sleek look to the portfolio and delivers the ride of a rigid wheelchair with the convenience of folding.

At the core of the Xenon2 is a unique cross-brace that gives the chair a minimalistic, open frame that you would usually associate with a rigid wheelchair. A more forward axle provides greater responsiveness, and a more rearward axle provides greater stability. The combination of the cross-brace and axle provide the stiff, stable driving performance feel of a rigid frame but with all the portability of a folding one. The Xenon2 allows for a custom fit with adjustability to the center of gravity, backrest angle, rear seat height, along with other key areas.

“We are excited to follow up on the successful introduction of 7000 series aluminum and ShapeLoc technology offered in our rigid portfolio by extending the same benefits into our family of folding wheelchairs,” said Jesus Ibarra, Sunrise Medical Associate Product Manager, Manual. “After years of success across Europe, we’re bringing the same proven technology to our North American markets and manufacturing them in our Fresno, California facility.”

Available in three unique frame styles – Fixed Front, Hybrid (Dual Tube), and Swing- Away – this lightweight, high-performance folding series is designed to be adaptable to the changing needs of the user. With its clean and streamlined design, the Fixed Front model is the lightest with a transit weight weighing less than 20 lbs. The Hybrid model is the strongest of the three, and its reinforced fixed front frame allows a maximum user weight capacity of 300 lbs. Its dual tube design reduces flex, giving the chair a more rigid ride and greater push efficiency. The Swing-Away model is designed with a reinforced frame with removable swing-away hangers for easy transfers and has the most compact folded dimensions for easy portability.

For videos, images and additional information on the QUICKIE Xenon2, please visit http://www.sunrisemedical.com.

About Sunrise Medical: A world leader in the development, design, manufacture and distribution of manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, motorized scooters and both standard and customized seating and positioning systems, Sunrise Medical manufactures products in their own facilities in the United States, Mexico, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain, China, Holland, Poland, Norway and Canada. Sunrise Medical’s key products, marketed under the QUICKIE, Sopur, Zippie, Breezy, Sterling, Jay, Whitmyer and Switch It proprietary brands, are sold through a network of homecare medical product dealers or distributors in more than 130 countries. The company is headquartered in Malsch, Germany, with North American headquarters in Fresno, Calif., and employs more than 2,180 associates worldwide.

For additional information, please contact Karen Gallik; Karen.Gallik @ sunmed.com