VMI Launches the Most Spacious Accessible SUV on the Market

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Consumers, able-bodied or not, prefer SUVs to minivans at a rate of more than 6:1 based on annual automotive sales reported in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Tim Barone, CEO of Vantage Mobility International (VMI), said “One of VMI’s core values is to never forget the challenges faced by our customers. When we started to explore the possibility of converting an SUV, our core value remained the focal point of our mission as we spoke with wheelchair users and their families to understand their wants and needs.” Barone continued, “We started with people who wanted an accessible SUV, but couldn’t find one that met their needs. During our research, we consistently received feedback that an SUV meant more than style. It meant normalcy. We learned that an SUV itself isn’t enough. The right SUV must have the physical design and practical space to meet our consumers’ specific demands.”

“The introduction of the VMI Honda Pilot Northstar E™ accessible SUV with its innovative manual in-floor ramp offers the perfect combination of simplicity, space and style at a great price,” Barone said. Customers looking for a caregiver vehicle that offers accessibility and sweet style will find this vehicle delivers exceptional wheelchair maneuverability and room for the family. It’s equipped with practical features that put the “utility” in an SUV, such as a ramp that’s easily stowed out of the way, a removable front passenger seat for greater seating flexibility, and plenty of usable storage.

Built into this new SUV from VMI is its exclusive Access360® which sets a new standard for generous wheelchair space and maneuverability. “VMI’s Honda Pilot Northstar E™ SUV boasts more space for large power chairs to enter the vehicle and maneuver comfortably, more flexibility with a removable front seat and confidence that it will deliver a superior experience,” said Barone. VMI’s stated unique features of the product include:

  • Expansive door opening width (33.5 in.) and door height (55.5 in.) to make entry and exit easy.
  • An in-floor ramp which is stowed within the vehicle floor with no squeaking or rattling—keeping dirt and debris out of the vehicle cabin.
  • A wide (32 in.) durable ramp to accommodate large power wheelchairs.
  • Flexible seating lets the wheelchair user sit in the front passenger position or the spacious mid row.
  • An obstruction-free doorway for safe entry and exit without having to deploy the ramp for able-bodied passengers.
  • Overhead, and added floor and door lighting making wheelchair securement easier in lowlight conditions.
  • A rear bench footrest that’s easy to use and offers additional comfort for passengers seated on the rear bench.
  • An extra cargo storage area conveniently incorporated below the rear bench seat.
  • 100% crash tested to all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards governed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration

For more information or to test drive the all-new Honda Pilot Northstar E™ SUV available from VMI, call 855-864-8267 or visit www.myvmisuv.com.

About VMI

Vantage Mobility International (VMI) is a leading manufacturer of wheelchair accessible vehicles built on Toyota, Honda, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) chassis. The company has advanced the mobility industry for 30 years with a robust portfolio of minivan and SUV conversions as well as platform lifts. VMI, based in Phoenix, Arizona, has been awarded the prestigious Toyota Gold Certificate for Quality and its manufacturing facility utilizes Six Sigma techniques to employ continuous process improvements and deliver high quality products for personal use and commercial applications.

Asos praised for disabled-friendly clothes

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Asos has been praised for selling clothes designed with people who have disabilities in mind.

The online retailer has released a tie-dye waterproof jumpsuit for festival season, which has been adapted to be wheelchair friendly.

It was designed in collaboration with GB Paralympic hopeful Chloe Ball-Hopkins, who also modelled it for the site.

Chloe says she wants to make “fashion that is accessible to everybody”.

The collaboration came about through a single email sent to Asos by Chloe, who’s also a BBC Bristol sports reporter as well as an athlete.

She’s currently training for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics after an injury stopped her competing in archery in Rio two years ago.

“To see the final product I can’t believe that we actually worked in conjunction so much. I thought maybe they’d take it and run with it,” Chloe says.

“You get the same version whether it’s you or I buying it – that’s the point. It is exactly the same for me as it is for you.”

People have reacted excitedly to the release and to seeing Chloe model it in her wheelchair.

Gurls Talk, an online community founded by model Adwoa Aboah, praised it for challenging “the stigma around disabilities”.

Chloe had the idea for the jumpsuit after getting soaked at Splendour Festival last year left her looking, as she told her boyfriend, “like you’ve taken your gran out of the care home for a day”.

It features a zip around the waist so that despite being an all-in-one it’s easy to get in and out of, and also means people can choose to wear just the top or the bottoms.

Chloe says the ankles are cuffed, “so not only is that good for people with different heights, it also means it’s easy to put wellies on.”

Continue onto BBC to read the complete article.

‘Black, queer, disabled and brilliant’: Activist hopes to make history in space

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Eddie Ndopu wasn’t expected to live past 5 years old. Now, the 27-year-old South African hopes to be the first person with a disability to travel to space.

Eddie Ndopu describes himself as “black, queer, disabled and brilliant.”

“I embody all of the identities that position me at a disadvantage in society,” he told NBC News. “But I am turning that on its head.”

By the end of the year, the 27-year-old South African hopes to become the first person with a disability to go to space.

When Ndopu was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), an incurable condition that causes progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. His prognosis was devastating: His family was initially told he would not live beyond the age of 5.

But a tenacious Ndopu said it wasn’t long before he was able to “outstrip and outlive all expectations,” both academically and medically. He attributes this in part due to his mother, whom he said never gave up on him or stopped fighting for him.

Ndopu said when he was 7 years old and living in Namibia (he moved to neighboring South Africa when he was 10), his mom came home to find him sitting in front of the television staring despondently at a blank screen. “She held my head in her hands and begged me to tell her what was wrong,” Ndopu recalled.“Finally, I told her all I wanted was to go to school.”

Despite inclusive education laws, growing up disabled in southern Africa meant a mainstream education was never guaranteed. In fact, a 2017 United Nations report revealed that even today, 90 percent of disabled children in developing countries never see the inside of a classroom.

But Ndopu said his mom is a “fearless warrior” who knocked on “every door” until finally he was accepted to a small elementary school on the outskirts of his hometown.

Ndopu has so far outlived his prognosis by more than two decades, and last year he became the first African with a disability to graduate from Britain’s prestigious University of Oxford. The disability-rights activist, who admits he has a weakness for lipstick and fashion, said he is “a living manifestation of possibility.”

Now Ndopu, whose disease has left him unable to walk, has set himself a new “audacious” goal: to become the first person with a disability to go to space.

Backed by the United Nations, he hopes to deliver “the speech of [his] life,” championing disability rights from a space shuttle to the UN’s New York headquarters this December.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, a South African lawmaker and the executive director of UN Women, told NBC News if Ndopu attains his goal, it would be “a powerful symbol to demonstrate that people with disabilities can break barriers.”

“By reaching space,” she added, “it clearly demonstrates that determined disabled people, in an enabling environment, can excel like anyone else.”

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.

What Can You Do?

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Every day, people with disabilities can and do make important contributions to America’s businesses. They have the drive to succeed in employment, and the skills and talent they need to deliver value and results for their employers.

These are messages that bear repeating far and wide. And that’s what the Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE) is all about.

The CDE’s multi-faceted campaign called “What Can YOU Do?” features a series of public service announcements (PSAs) and coordinating media products, all designed to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities. Our products and positive messages are encouraging businesses and others to recognize the value that individuals with disabilities bring to the workplace, and the benefits that come with full inclusion.

For more information please visit: whatcanyoudocampaign.org

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.

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.

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

Tommy Hilfiger’s Spring 2018 Adaptive Collection Is Here

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For individuals with disabilities, getting dressed in the morning can pose a significant challenge. Fastening buttons, pulling a shirt over one’s head, and shimmying into tight-fitting garments can be next to impossible—and for the most part, no mainstream clothing retailers do anything to help.

In the spring of 2016, Tommy Hilfiger launched a collection of clothes for kids specifically designed for those with disabilities. Instead of buttons, there were clever hidden magnet closures. Necklines expanded with touch fastener closures along the seams. And then in fall of last year, the collection expanded to include pieces for adults.

The spring 2018 Adaptive Collection launches today, with a campaign that features notable figures from the disabled community. There’s Paralympian gold medal track star Jeremy Campbell, motivational speaker Mama Caxx, paraplegic dancer Chelsie Hill and 18-year-old autistic chef Jeremiah Josey.

With learnings from the first collection, this season’s Adaptive Collection has made improvements: Double plackets at the waistline make it easier for those in wheelchairs, bungee cord closure systems replace unwieldy zippers and the Velcro closures got a little better.

Continue onto Elle to read the complete article.

Six Simple Tips for Smooth Travel With a Disability

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Times have changed for travelers who use wheelchairs, are visually or hearing-impaired or have another disability, says Jayne Bliss, a travel adviser with Tzell, who has more than 30 years of experience in planning trips for those with special needs.

“No place is off limits, and hotels, museums and cultural institutions offer more accessibility than ever before,” Ms. Bliss said. Here are some of her tips to travel smoothly with a disability:

Ask Your Airline for Help

Asking your airline for assistance, either at the time of booking or a few days before your trip, will make your time at the airport much easier. Many airlines will designate an employee to meet you curbside when you arrive or at check-in with a wheelchair (if you need one) and guide you through security. You can also request assistance when you land at your destination.

There is usually no charge for this service, but policies vary by airline and may depend on available staff and your disability, so be sure to clarify with your carrier before you fly. Also, many carriers allow guide dogs on board free of charge for passengers who are visually-impaired (as long as you make a reservation for your guide dog at least 48 hours in advance of your flight).

Plan With Your Hotel in Advance

Most hotels in all price ranges welcome travelers with disabilities, according to Ms. Bliss. However, it’s key to give them a heads up about what your needs are if there’s anything specific. If you’re in a wheelchair, for example, get measurements for the front, guest and bathroom doors in advance of your stay. Most hotel concierges will be happy to provide you this information, any many list it online. Ms. Bliss said that some her clients’ wheelchairs are too large for many properties, even if they claim to have accessible rooms and facilities. Also, if you’re visually impaired and find buffet breakfasts or continental breakfast bars challenging, ask your hotel’s concierge to fill your in-room fridge with breakfast items, or deliver them to your room instead.

Work With a Travel Agent

An agent who specializes in working with disabled travelers can arrange every aspect of your trip including booking your airline tickets, tours and restaurants. They can make sure to get the measurements you need, verify the hotels, resorts, or restaurants you’re interested in are accessible, and provide other services to make sure you have a smooth trip and a comfortable stay.

Some of these agents, including Ms. Bliss, don’t charge trip planning fees, and instead make money by booking you with hotels and resorts that are hungry for your business (and ideally, accessible). To find other specialists, consider agencies that have experts on-staff that specialize in accessible travel, like the ones at Travel LeadersNew Directions Travelor Disabled Travelers, among others.

Continue onto the New York Times to read the complete article.

Sesame Place Theme Park Is the First ‘Certified Autism Center’ in the World

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“Sesame Street” has been a strong supporter of kids on the autism spectrum in the last few years. In 2015, through the “Sesame Street and Autism: see amazing in all children” initiative, they introduced Julia, a muppet on the autism spectrum, in a story book. Last spring, Julia made her TV debut as a regular cast member on the “Sesame Street” show.

Now, Sesame Place in Philadelphia will become the first theme park in the world designated as a “Certified Autism Center” (CAC) by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).

IBCCES provides training and credentials through their “Certified Autism Specialists, Board Certified Cognitive Specialists and Certified Autism Center.” A representative from IBCCES told The Mighty all their programs are research-based, and their boardincludes two professionals who are on the autism spectrum (Dr. Stephen Shore and Kerry  Magro), as well as neurologists and psychologists — one of whom is also the parent of a child with Down syndrome — and other experts. “We work hard to ensure our programs are well rounded, evidence-based, practical and inclusive!” the rep said. The programs originated almost 18 years ago and are available in all 50 states and 42 different countries.

On April 2, “Sesame Street” announced in conjunction with IBCCESS, the completion of a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training at the theme park. Sesame Place is the first theme park in the world to receive such a distinction, according to a press release. The park is getting ready for its 38th season, opening on April 28, 2018.

According to “Sesame Street’s” release, Sesame Place will be required to provide ongoing training for team members “to ensure they have the requisite knowledge, skills, temperament, and expertise to interact with all families and children with disabilities, specifically on the autism spectrum. Training takes place in the areas of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development, and emotional awareness as well as a comprehensive autism competency exam.”

To keep their certification, Sesame Place must take the autism training every two years.

“As the first theme park in the world to complete the training and become a CAC, Sesame Place is better equipped to offer families inclusive activities for children with autism and other special needs,” said Sesame Place park president Cathy Valeriano in their official release.

Continue onto The Mighty to read the complete article.