Airbnb buys ‘Airbnb for disabled people’ startup Accomable in accessibility upgrade

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Airbnb, the accommodation and travel startup that is now valued at $31 billion, is today announcing an acquisition that points to how it wants to address the travel needs of more kinds of customers. It has bought Accomable, a startup based out of London that focuses on travel listings that are disabled-friendly. Along with the announcement Airbnb is refreshing its own accessibility features as the first stage in how it hopes to develop them.

As part of the acquisition, Accomable will be winding down its business, co-founder and CEO Srin Madipalli said in an interview this week here in London, as the startup’s team begins work on building out both more specific features for the Airbnb platform, and a community of hosts who can accommodate disabled visitors — and in turn, to attract more of those looking to book disabled-friendly travel.

This will start with accommodation for those in wheelchairs first, he said, with an invitation being extended to Accomable’s existing hosts to list on Airbnb as part of the transition. Accomable had amassed listings for 1,100 properties in 60 countries with details about step-free access, other accessibility adaptations and with photos to show it all to would-be visitors.

Over time, the idea will be to create communities for travellers with other accessibility needs, and potentially move into areas that are aligned with Airbnb’s own expansion into Experiences once you get to your destination, which is another important area of travel where those needing special accessibility have been underserved.

“It’s something that has frustrated me from the start, that we weren’t able to do everything for everyone,” Madipalli said. “One of the challenges in an early startup is that you have constrained resources, but within Airbnb we can diversify.”

And hopefully grow: he also added that one of Accomable’s biggest issues up to now has been that demand for places has far exceeded the supply of available listings.

Airbnb — which has booked accommodation for 260 million guests and currently features over four million listings — is coupling the news with some accessibility announcements of its own. While the company has offered the ability to search for whether a property is wheelchair accessible, the company now acknowledges that this wasn’t cutting it.

“Guests weren’t getting the information they needed to find the right homes, nor the confidence that the home they selected would actually be accessible for them,” Airbnb notes in a blog post. Now, the company is updating and enhancing this with more detail, including whether there is step-free entry to rooms, and if entryways are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. These search features are now live on the web version of Airbnb and will soon get added to its iOS and Android apps.

Financial terms of the Accomable acquisition are not being disclosed, after the startup raised less than $500,000, mostly from angel investors. For now, Madipalli will be the only one who is relocating to San Francisco, with the rest of the small team continuing to work out of London.

Accomable was founded in 2015 by Madipalli and Martyn Sibley, who together previously had co-founded a magazine and online community called Disability Horizons. The two friends are avid travellers but found that it was a lot of work to organise trips: both have Spinal Musular Atrophy and use wheelchairs.

In the very crowded market of online resources out there for tourists of other stripes, they saw a gap: planning accommodation, travel and activities around accessibility needs should be as straightforward as planning for any other need, they thought. And thus Accomable was born.

“The original idea we had was to solve a problem that Martyn and I specifically had,” Madipalli recalled. “We said to ourselves, ‘we can fix this problem with tech.’”

Continue onto Tech Crunch 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

This New Prosthetic Limb Transmits Sensations Directly To The Nervous System

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Even with the most advanced prosthetics, amputees cannot feel the ground when they walk on a synthetic leg, or know if someone is touching a mechanical arm. This new MIT tech hopes to change that.

In 1992, Hugh Herr, now head of the Biomechatronics Group at MIT Media Lab, had both of his legs amputated below the knees after sustaining frostbite during a mountain climbing accident. “I”m basically a bunch of nuts and bolts from the knees down,” Herr says, demonstrating his prosthetic legs on the stage at TED 2018 in Vancouver, “but I can skip, dance, and run.”

Herr’s team at MIT focuses on building prosthetic limbs that respond to neural commands with the flexibility and speed of regular limbs. Around 24 sensors and six microprocessors pick up neural signals from Herr’s central nervous system when he thinks about moving his legs. They transmit those signals to the prosthetics, which move accordingly. But despite this remarkable connectivity between man and machine, it’s not a complete fusion. “When I touch my synthetic limbs, I don’t experience normal touch and movement sensations,” Herr says. In order to know his neural commands worked, he has to look and actually see his foot hit the ground–he can’t feel it.

Reproducing the sensations of having a real limb in prosthetics is, Herr believes, the last remaining hurdle to creating truly effective synthetic limbs. “If I were a cyborg and could feel my legs, they’d become a part of myself,” Herr says. But for now, they still feel separate.

His team, however, is working on a new type of limb that would receive not only commands, but sensations, from the central nervous system. This principle, which Herr calls neuro-embodied design, involves extending the human nervous system into synthetic body parts.

Since the Civil War, when limbs are amputated, doctors have generally truncated the tendons and nerve endings, which minimizes sensation and often leads to the “phantom limb” feeling experienced by many amputees. But in a new process Herr’s team pioneered at MIT, doctors leave the tendons and nerve endings intact so they can continue to feed sensations down past where the human leg ends and the prosthetic begins.

Last year, a fellow mountain climber and old friend of Herr’s, Jim Ewing, became the first patient to undergo the new amputation process and get fitted with a cyborg-like synthetic limb.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

What you can expect from this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is led every October by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), and it’s not too early to start thinking ahead to NDEAM 2018! From simple displays of support, such as putting up a poster, to comprehensive initiatives, such as implementing a disability education program, there are many ways to take part.

The Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) encourages organizations of all sizes and in all industries to participate in NDEAM, because all efforts play an important part in fostering a more inclusive workforce, one where every person is recognized for his or her abilities—every day of every month.

What can you expect for the 2018 celebration?
Individuals and organizations hosting events and activities to celebrate the important contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

Ideas include:

  • Review policies — NDEAM is an opportune time to review your company’s policies to ensure they convey a commitment to an inclusive workplace culture. For assistance in doing so, read Business Strategies that Work: A Framework for Disability Inclusion (see in particular the first section, “Lead the Way: Inclusive Business Culture”).
  • Establish an ERG — NDEAM is a perfect time to launch a disability Employee Resource Group (ERG). Sometimes referred to as Employee Networks or Affinity Groups, ERGs offer employees an opportunity to connect and receive support from others with similar backgrounds or interests. For more information, see A Toolkit for Establishing and Maintaining Successful Employee Resource Groups. If your company already has a disability ERG, consider using NDEAM to remind employees about it through displays, information tables or other communication channels.
  • Create a display — NDEAM is a great time to freshen up bulletin boards in break areas or other locations that employees frequent by posting positive messages about your company’s commitment to a disability inclusive workforce. Start by putting up this year’s NDEAM poster, which is available in both English and Spanish. Additional display materials include the “What Can YOU Do?” poster series.
  • Train supervisors — Supervisors are the individuals closest to an organization’s workforce. As part of NDEAM, consider conducting training to ensure they understand their role in fostering an inclusive workplace culture. Such training may include a review of relevant policies, including the process for providing reasonable accommodations. One easy way to provide such training is to make use of available “turn-key” training modules and available materials, such as the Building an Inclusive Workforce tabletop desk guide.
  • Educate employees — It is critical that companies committed to disability inclusion effectively and regularly reinforce that commitment to employees. NDEAM offers an opportunity to do this through disability training or informal educational events such as brownbag lunch discussions. Several ready-to-use resources can assist in facilitating such activities, such as disability etiquette materials and the “I Can” public service announcement and accompanying workplace discussion guide. Another option is to contact local disability organizations to see if they offer workplace training programs.
  • Publish articles — NDEAM offers timely and fresh content for an employee newsletter or internal website. Articles could address a range of topics, such as general information about the company’s commitment to an inclusive workplace, the process for requesting reasonable accommodations, or perhaps recognizing the contributions of employees with disabilities — either in general or on an individual level. Alternatively, or in addition, your company’s top executive could issue a message to all employees recognizing NDEAM.
  • Feature NDEAM in social media activities — Likewise, NDEAM provides an interesting hook for social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. For the latter, organizations are encouraged to include the hashtag #NDEAM. Sample postings and tweets are available to assist in incorporating NDEAM into social media activities.
  • Issue an NDEAM press release — Employers can also issue a press release to local media to announce their involvement in NDEAM. To assist, a “fill-in-the-blank” template is available that organizations can quickly customize and pitch to their local media.
  • Participate in Disability Mentoring Day — Disability Mentoring Day promotes career development for youth with disabilities through hands-on programs, job shadowing and ongoing mentoring. The nationwide observance is the third Wednesday of each October, but companies may choose to host their own events on any day of the month (or year for that matter). The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) offers information to assist in implementing a Disability Mentoring Day event.

For more NDEAM ideas, visit dol.gov/ndeam.

What It’s Like To Be A Blind Software Engineer At Amazon

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blind person working on computer

By Lydia Dishman

Michael Forzano has worked at Seattle’s e-commerce giant for nearly six years, using a regular laptop with a screen he’s never seen.

Everyone’s dream job is different. For some, it may be working with a bold leader, while want to have a hand in world-changing innovation. But Michael Forzano’s a dream job was rooted in a more the practical concern: making shopping more accessible.

Forzano isn’t some shopaholic racking up credit-card debt from his couch, though. He’s a 26-year-old engineer who’s been blind since birth due to a genetic condition called Norrie disease. When it comes to buying basic necessities, Amazon has been a huge help. “Instead of having someone walk me around a store and help me find what I’m searching for, I can just order it from Amazon,” Forzano explains. “I have access to all of the information about the product. It enables me to be much more independent.”

Forzano has always been comfortable around computers, playing audio-based games as a kid and later teaching himself to code in high school. While earning an engineering degree at Binghamton University, he interned for the summer at Amazon in Seattle. It turned into a job offer after Forzano graduated, in 2013, and he’s been working with the e-commerce giant ever since.

Forzano is among a small population of fully blind people to be employed, much less as software engineers. According to disability statistics from the American Community Survey (ACS) for working-age adults reporting significant vision loss, only 42% were employed in 2015 (the most recent year with data). And of the 64,000 software developers Stack Overflow polled last year, 1% are blind. Amazon doesn’t require its employees to disclose that information, so there’s no hard data on how many of the company’s staffers are blind or visually impaired. Still, Forzano says he’s the only person on his immediate team with Norrie disease and full blindness.

At a time when most of us–software developers or not–spend hours each day staring at screens, it’s hard to imagine not using our eyes to work. In a recent email exchange with Fast Company (lightly condensed and edited for clarity), Forzano shared how he’s handled the traditional whiteboard coding challenge during his job interview and many of the other obstacles he’s confronted since as an engineer at a highly competitive tech company.

LANDING THE JOB

At the time [I applied to work there], Amazon recruited directly from Binghamton. They posted the position on our school job-board and a friend encouraged me to apply. I thought, “Why not?” Being a shopper at Amazon, I thought it was really awesome that I could be a part of the technology that creates the experience for so many customers.

[Even so,] I thought I had no chance to work at one of the big companies like Amazon. Being blind, people may be focused on how you’re going to do the job–without even seeing the results you produce. I view blindness as just another characteristic, it’s not something that defines me. My process may be different, but I deliver results.

I walked into the room [on campus where Amazon recruiters were meeting students], and they saw that I was blind. I asked them if I could use my computer (instead of a whiteboard). They said sure and I did my interview [on a standard laptop with screen-reader software, which translates every aspect of using a computer into audio cues.] In software engineering you can see someone doing their job; there was no doubt I was writing the code. I just answered their coding questions in two 45-minute interviews. Ultimately, they must have been impressed because I got the job and have been here ever since. I’m pretty glad I took the chance now!

“DIFFICULT BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE”

When I first started my internship [in summer 2012], I was assigned to a project I wasn’t super interested in, and there was a lot of UI development involved. It would be difficult but not impossible for a blind person to do front-end development. You’re dealing with the visual layout of the web page–colors, styles, how the elements are positioned on the page. So my manager switched me to a back-end project for the summer that didn’t require me asking my coworkers about what the user experience looked like. I didn’t even have to ask; he wanted me to be successful and enjoy my project. So instead I helped develop a service that would send out email reminders for the people who rented out textbooks. It was really exciting working on a launch for something that hadn’t been provided to customers before.

When I came back as a full-time employee, I came to work on the trade-in team. That’s a team that works on when you have an old product, you trade it in and Amazon gives you a gift card. In July 2016, I came to my current team where we build tools that enable other teams to ensure that the retail site features are accessible.

I faced a lot of the same challenges as any new hire out of college: new technology at work, transitioning to a working schedule, moving across the country, living on my own, making new friends. Any time you have a 22-year-old straight out of college, people probably have doubts [about how that new hire will perform]. As for my blindness, I can’t read their minds. It seems like people are pretty open-minded here. When I interact with people over email, they have no idea I’m blind. Let’s say I’m at a meeting with someone I’ve never met in person, my blindness has yet to come up in conversation.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.

8 Best Work-from-Home Jobs

LinkedIn
Work-From-Home Jobs

If you’re on disability and in need of some supplementary income, you should feel at ease knowing that they are plenty of work-from-home jobs available, perfect for people with disabilities. Each of the jobs listed in this article can supply you with the side income you’re looking for.

1. Freelance Writer

Upwork.com/Freelancer.com

If you enjoy writing, you might try your hand at freelancing with companies like Upwork and Freelancer.

Most likely, it’ll take a while to get the ball rolling on these sites, but once you get a few gigs under your belt and start to build a reputation, you’ll have an easier time landing gigs and charging higher rates. Here are a few pointers to get started.

First, you’ll need a portfolio to catch the eye of prospective clients. If you don’t have one already, offer to write a few articles for free until you do. Your portfolio should also cover a variety of subjects to show you’re versatile.

Second, make sure to personalize each application letter just like you would with a resume. Cookie-cutter, cut/paste applications won’t get noticed.

Third, request that the client leave you a good review when completing a gig (super important!)

Fourth, apply to recently posted jobs before others do!

Hubpages.com/eHow.com

Hubpages and eHow are websites made up of user-generated content wherein you get paid by the number of views your article gets. As you might suspect, you need a LOT of traffic to get a nice payout!

Textbroker.com/iWriter.com

You can also write for content writing services like Textbroker, iWriter, and HireWriters. While pay rates aren’t great, you’ll probably have an easier time making consistent money than freelancing on Upwork (at least initially).

2. Customer Service Representative

Are you outgoing and energetic? Are you a good listener and problem-solver? Can you multi-task and think on your feet? If you exhibit these qualities, customer service may be right for you. As a customer service representative, you’ll help answer customers’ products and billing-related questions, take reservations, supply technical support and other services over the phone or via internet chat. And if you’re bilingual, even more opportunities will be available to you.

They are several companies that offer customer service jobs for people with disabilities including Convergys, Arise Virtual Solutions, LiveOps, and government-sponsored My Employment Options, and NTI (National Telecommuting Institute).

3. Medical Transcriber

Medical transcription is a popular home-based job that involves converting a doctor’s voice recordings into text format. But unlike other jobs mentioned in this article, medical transcription requires extensive training, sometimes up to two years depending on the country. But at this point, it’s debatable whether it’s worth your time and money as the profession is slowly being phased out as more doctors now use voice-recognition software instead.

Still, there are plenty of non-medical transcription jobs available which you could pursue (without needing much training), such as becoming a law transcriber for an online service like SpeakWrite.

4. Translator

Can you speak AND write fluently in at least one other language besides English? If so, you might try your hand at translation. And if you have expertise in a field like law, you’ll likely find even more jobs. The more specialized the subject matter, the more work opportunities. Check out Proz and Translators Cafe to get started.

5. Online Tutor

If you have at least a bachelor’s degree and good communication skills, online tutoring may be a good fit for you. Depending on the company, you’ll probably be asked to take a screening exam to test your writing ability and knowledge of the subject you’d like to teach. Keep in mind, some subjects are in more demand than others, especially math, finance and science. Here are few companies to look into: Tutor, e-Tutor, and eduboard.

6. Etsy/eBay Seller

Do you like making crafts with your hands? Things like jewelry, pottery, or teddy bears? Why not try selling your work online through platforms like Etsy or eBay? Once you buy supplies and create your products, you can make them available for sale online! But be forewarned—it can take a fair amount of work to build up residual income from your efforts.

Whatever you do, don’t get involved with work-from-home craft “assembly” jobs, where companies require you to buy materials through them to assemble and send back in exchange for payment. Often, these companies reject the work you submit. Why? Because they set unrealistic quotas and deadlines that no one could possibly meet, and you’ll likely wait forever for a check that doesn’t arrive. If you still want to make money assembling items, stick with a reputable company like TaskRabbit instead.

7. Survey Taker

Every year, billions of dollars are spent on market research to understand consumers in every area of life, from food and travel to cars and gadgets. One way these companies gather data is by conducting surveys and that’s where you company. You get paid for simply completing surveys online!

But here’s the truth … while it may be fun in the beginning, the monotony of survey-taking may test your patience after a while. And you’ll need to complete a TON to make anything more than pocket change. Still, it’s a viable option; just make sure not to fall for the dozens of survey scams out there. A few trustworthy ones worth checking out include Cash Crate, Global Test Market, Panda Research, and Toluna.

8. Affiliate Marketer

As an affiliate marketer, you get paid commission for selling a company’s product through a website. In time and with enough effort, you can build a business that even pays you while you’re sleeping!

You won’t have the stress of dealing with unfriendly customers like you might in a customer service job.

You won’t have to look for the next gig as soon as one has ended like you would as a freelance writer, transcriber or translator.

You won’t have to contend with inventory, packaging, and customer returns like you would as an Etsy/eBay seller.

You won’t have to suffer from boredom after completing the umpteenth survey as a professional survey taker.

Instead, you can build a side business around something you actually enjoy.

Of course, they’re other work-from-home jobs for the disabled but the ones listed in this article provide more opportunities than most for homebound individuals. So why not give one or more of these jobs a try!

Source: confinedtosuccess.com

About the Author
Stephan Zev
Stephan Zev is the owner of ConfinedToSuccess.com. He created confinedtosuccess.com to help people with disabilities and chronically ill individuals take better control of their lives physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even financially.