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.

Mobile Accommodation Solution for Workplace Accomodation

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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 20.4 percent of people with disabilities were employed in March 2017, as opposed to 68.7 percent of people without disabilities. Therefore, creating better support for job applicants and employees is critical to creating a diverse pool of talent in the workplace, optimizing the productivity of every worker, and increasing job satisfaction.

The Mobile Accommodation Solution (MAS) app – the iOS version of which is now available in the app store – is a first-of-its kind tool that helps employers and others manage workplace accommodation requests throughout the employment lifecycle. Using the app, employers can track the status of requests; access fillable forms; and store, print and export records that can be imported into enterprise information systems. The app was developed by West Virginia University’s Center for Disability Inclusion in partnership with the Job Accommodation Network and IBM; funding came from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research.

Netflix Renews Atypical For A Third Season

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ATypical

Netflix has renewed Atypical, the critically acclaimed original series created, written and executive produced by Robia Rashid (How I Met Your Mother, Will & Grace) for a third season.

Atypical season 3 will feature 10 half-hour episodes.

In season two of the series, which launched in September 2018, Elsa and Doug faced the aftermath of their marriage crisis and Casey tried to adjust to her new school, while Sam prepared for life after graduation.

Academy Award winning producer Seth Gordon and Mary Rohlich, who have both worked on hit series and films including Baywatch, The Goldbergs and Horrible Bosses also executive produce alongside Rashid. Jennifer Jason Leigh, who stars as Elsa, also serves as a producer. Michelle Dean, who received her PhD from UCLA and worked at the UCLA Center for Autism and Research and Treatment before joining the faculty of CSU Channel Island, was also brought into the production to help guide an accurate depiction of autism spectrum disorder. The series is produced by Sony Pictures Television for Netflix.

The cast returning for season three has not yet been confirmed. Atypical season two starred Keir Gilchrist (United States of Tara), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Michael Rapaport (Justified), Brigette Lundy-Paine (Margot vs. Lily), Amy Okuda (How to Get Away with Murder), Raul Castillo (Looking, Seven Seconds), Nik Dodani (Alex Strangelove), Graham Rogers (Ray Donovan, The Kominsky Method), Fivel Stewart (Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft), Jenna Boyd (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and Casey Wilson (Happy Endings, Gone Girl).

About Atypical

Atypical is a coming of age story that follows Sam (played by Keir Gilchrist), an 18-year-old on the autistic spectrum as he searches for love and independence. While Sam is on his funny and emotional journey of self-discovery, the rest of his family must grapple with change in their own lives as they all struggle with the central theme: what does it really mean to be normal?

Continue on to the Netflix newsroom to read the complete article.

Cox and Comcast Focusing on Accessibility

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The Cox Communications new Contour voice remote, powered by Comcast’s X1 platform, empowers customers who have limited mobility or dexterity or a visual disability. With the push of a button, you can search, surf and record your favorite programs, all with the sound of your voice.

Plus, the new Contour features Voice Guidance, a “talking guide” developed by Comcast, that speaks what’s on the screen, including program descriptions and navigation options. Now individuals with accessibility needs can easily explore thousands of TV shows and movies.

This proactive step is not limited to their product offering. Cox is also hiring individuals with disabilities to test their products.

Mona Lisa Faris, president and publisher of DIVERSEability Magazine spoke with representatives from Cox and Comcast to discuss how their collaboration is helping both companies become more proactive.

Ilene Albert, Executive Director, Value Added Services and Diversity Products at Cox, began with some history behind this new focus at Cox.

“Last December we launched a center of excellence for accessibility, to focus on developing products, support and services for our customers who have disabilities and accessibility needs. We are very excited about this; we work with all of our peers across the product organization to make sure we are looking at the broad picture of accessibility,” Albert explained. “We partner well with Comcast, who has been the leader in helping develop products for the accessibility community.

Jennifer Cobb is Director of Diversity Products at Cox. She told us, “Last year, we worked to set up the business processes so that, going forward, we were included in all new product development. One of the things we are working toward is integrating more research with persons with disabilities into our overall processes.”

Thomas Wlodkowski is the Vice President of Accessibility at Comcast. He was brought in to start up an accessibility office and, because he is visually impaired, he provides a unique perspective for Comcast, helping the company open products and services to the widest possible audience.

“I’ve been in the accessibility field before it was really considered a field—since the early 1990s,” Wlodkowski reports. At Comcast, our program is founded on three pillars: customer experience, product capabilities and infrastructure. My team is in the product group, and we launched voice guidance, which enables people who are visually impaired to navigate onscreen menus. We have an accessibility lab in our Philadelphia corporate headquarters that we use to drive employee awareness, and we also bring external community members in to help with user testing. It’s a big piece of our effort.”

Wlodkowski went on to say, “There is a saying in the disability civil rights community: Nothing about us without us. We really need to bring people with disabilities into the development process to find out where the barriers are.”

“At Comcast, we are building a lot of the accessibility solutions that, essentially, Cox would have had to build on their own. They get accessibility as part of the relationship. Then the two accessibility teams can partner to share best practices.”

“X1 has been a great product for us,” Wlodkowski said. “It’s based in the cloud, so we don’t have to install additional software or hardware in the box. We can roll new features in—and as we do that, Cox can also pick them up as well.”

New features were recently added just as Tom said, as Cox released a statement earlier this month announcing that YouTube is now available for Cox customers via their Contour app.

As Tom Wlodkowski pointed out, “By building accessible products, it builds a better product overall for everyone.” Accessibility is a fairly new frontier, as more and more companies realize that dedicating teams to ensure accessibility not only improves the products offered to those with disabilities but it provides a better experience for all customers.

Cox’s licensed version of Comcast’s X1 platform, Contour, is now its flagship video product.. And fans of The Voice who have Comcast or Cox as their cable provider will be happy to know they can now use their remote to cast their votes on the popular live show. The Contour/X1 technology is truly changing the television viewing experience, offering something for everybody to love!

Hailey Dawson’s incredible journey to pitch at every MLB stadium with a 3D-printed hand

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Hailey Dawson likes to be photographed with her 3D-printed hand front and center. Sometimes she curls it into a fist and flexes her biceps. Other times she keeps it flat as a pancake, elbow bent into a classic dab.

However she holds it, the point is that it’s there and she wants you to look at it.

She’s gotten baseball fans around the country to pay attention to it, too, by throwing the first pitch at every MLB stadium to raise awareness of the need for affordable prosthetics. After she pitched at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Sept. 16, the 30th and last stadium on her list, she completed what her family is calling her Journey to 30.

When Hailey was born, her right hand came out different than the left. The right had a pinky and a thumb, but the three fingers in the middle were missing — her “nubbins” as her family calls them. Poland syndrome, the genetic condition she was born with, inhibits the development of a chest muscle. This makes the affected side of the body smaller and in some cases, causes abnormalities in an individual’s fingers.

After her tour of baseball stadiums, which started in 2015, Hailey is looking towards the future. The 8-year-old says she’s ready for some vacation.

Her mom bursted her bubble on those vacation plans, though, during a phone call with Mashable in August.

“You still have school,” Yong Dawson, Hailey’s mom said. The third-grader grunted audibly in response.

Journey to 30

Hailey’s journey began when she threw the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles baseball game. After tossing the ball to her favorite player, Manny Machado, the two celebrated with a fist bump. The experience made her so happy, her mom wrote to a second team to see if she could do it all over again, this time with the Washington Nationals. It took a little while for it to be arranged, but she eventually got an in for Game 4 of the 2017 World Series Game.

Continue onto Mashable to read the complete article.

Runner becomes first pro athlete with cerebral palsy to sign with Nike

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Justin Gallegos, a runner at University of Oregon, has made history by becoming the first professional athlete with cerebral palsy to sign with Nike. Gallegos, a junior with the school’s running club, made the announcement in an emotional video on his Instagram page.

Gallegos was finishing a race on Saturday when he was met by a camera crew, a bunch of his teammates and Nike’s Insights director, John Douglass, who told him of the deal. In the video posted to his social media account, Gallegos collapses out of pure joy as his peers applaud him.

“I was once a kid in leg braces who could barely put on foot in front of the other!” he wrote on Instagram. “Now I have signed a three year contract with Nike Running!”

A spokesperson with Nike confirmed to CBS News the signing of Gallegos. It was even more special because it landed on Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day. The condition is a neurological disorder that affects movement, motor skills and muscle tone.

Gallegos used a walker as a toddler and pre-schooler, and did physical therapy in order to improve his gait, according to Running Magazine. He began competing in long-distance running in high school and caught the attention of Nike, then helped the company develop a shoe designed for runners with disabilities.

Gallegos, who is aiming to run a half-marathon under two hours, calls this one of the most emotional moments in his seven years of running.

“Growing up with a disability, the thought of becoming a professional athlete is, as I have said before, like the thought of climbing Mt. Everest!”

“Thank you everyone for helping show the world that there is No Such Thing As A Disability!” he said.

Continue onto CBS to read the complete article.

Baltimore Orioles Become First Pro Sports Team to Wear Braille Jerseys

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The Baltimore Orioles want everyone to be able to root, root, root for the home team.

On Tuesday, as they faced off against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Orioles became the first professional sports team to wear jerseys with braille lettering at a game, according to Sports Illustrated.

The fashion statement honored the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), which relocated its headquarters to Baltimore 40 years ago, SI reported.

The team’s efforts at inclusion did not stop with the special apparel. Carlos Ibay, a blind concert pianist, performed the national anthem, and Mark Riccobono, the NFB president, threw out the first pitch, The Washington Postreported. The Maryland team passed out cards with the braille alphabet to attendees.

The team hosted 95-year-old Merle Caples, a blind World War II veteran, on the field, according to its Twitter account. She told The Baltimore Sun that she gets her baseball fix by listening to the radio announcers.

“They are my eyes; they paint a picture for me,” Caples said. “It’s like I’m sitting behind home plate.”

Continue onto PEOPLE to read the complete article.

Jillian Mercado hasn’t let a wheelchair stop her from becoming a top model who reps Target and Beyonce

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In the world of professional modeling, Jillian Mercado is certain to stand out — the native New Yorker is one of the rare models in the U.S. with a physical disability.

In her early teens, Mercado, now 31, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. She gets around using a motorized wheelchair and wakes at least an hour before most people. Broken subway elevators ( or sometimes no elevators at all), cabs that sometimes choose not to pick her up and cavernous, hidden hallways deep inside buildings are just a few of her daily challenges.

Her infectious laughter and boundless patience could make it easy to overlook the struggles Mercado faces — though that would be a mistake. But she’s developed a reputation for getting where she wants to go (literally and otherwise), whatever it takes. “I come up with things if I can’t do them,” she tells CNBC Make It. “I put on my Bob the Builder hat.”

Raised in New York by a seamstress mom and a shoe salesman dad, Mercado developed an early affinity for fashion. She’d sport her mom’s collections as early as age six, paying close attention to fabrics and shoes. But she never imagined she’d become a model. None of the magazines she read growing up featured anyone with a disability.

“It’s not like I never wanted to be a model,” she says. “But when you don’t know something, how are you supposed to want to be that person?”

Mercado studied at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, planning on a career as a fashion editor. In 2009, she landed a coveted internship as an editorial beauty intern at Allure. She says she hoped to create greater inclusivity for people with disabilities in fashion. She started blogging. But change came infuriatingly slow.

In 2013, Diesel posted a worldwide open casting call on Tumblr in search of social media influencers of all ages and sizes to model for the brand’s spring 2014 campaign. Encouraged by friends — but with no intention of becoming a professional model — Mercado answered a few questions online and submitted photos. She recalls answering a question about why she wanted to participate in the campaign by writing, “‘Cause I wanna change the world.”

She was one of 23 people from around the world chosen. “I just saw a whole different world and a whole different opportunity to voice the opinions that I’ve been suppressing for a really long time,” she says.

After Diesel, various modeling gigs came her way, and by the summer of 2015, she caught the attention of IMG Models. “I remember the first day I met Ivan Bart, president of IMG, I had bright pink hair,” Mercado says. IMG signed her, and Mercado joined an agency that represents Gisele Bundchen, Heidi Klum, Bella Hadid, Kate Moss and Elon Musk’s mother, Maye Musk.

Continue onto CNBC News to read the complete article.

The Ability Hacks: The story of two hackathon teams embracing the transformative power of technology

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Microsoft's Hackathon

This week is the Microsoft One Week Hackathon, where employees from around the company work tirelessly to “hack” solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. The opportunity to empower people through technology, particularly those with disabilities, has never been more important.

Back in 2014, we had 10 ability hack projects, last year we had 150 projects and 850 people, and this year – well, it’s going to be exciting to see. This is a wonderful testament to our employees and their passion for innovation and conviction in the importance of empowering every person and organization to achieve more.

An inspiration for many was two Ability Hack projects that won the company hackathon in 2014 and 2015, and this year we will be giving away copies to hackers of a new book covering the journeys of those hackathon teams. “The Ability Hacks” shares the behind-the-scenes stories of the hackers who pioneered two innovative hacks-turned-solutions used today by people with disabilities around the world – the Ability EyeGaze Hack team and Learning Tools Hack team.

We hope this book, and the journeys these teams have been on, can help spark a conversation about the transformative power of technology, and encourage engineers and developers to build the next wave of inclusive technology. I encourage you to read, and as a teaser, here are a few highlights:

EyeGaze: Reinstating independence by revolutionizing mobility

“Until there is a cure for ALS, technology can be that cure.” – Steve Gleason, former NFL player

In 2014, former NFL player Steve Gleason, who has a neuromuscular disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), sent an email to Microsoft challenging employees to develop a technology that could allow him to drive a wheelchair with his eyes. A group of software engineers, program managers, marketers and advocates formed the Ability Eye Gaze hack team and accepted this challenge ahead of the 2014 Microsoft hackathon.

Through hard work, determination and despite a few twists and turns, the team collaborated to build a solution complete with duct tape that allowed Steve to control his wheelchair with his eyes. This invention had impact, ultimately inspiring the formation of the Microsoft Research NExT Enable team, who have continued working on technology for people with ALS and other disabilities. This has already resulted in a new feature named Eye Control, which was developed in collaboration with the Windows team, and was included in Windows 10 last year.
Learning Tools: Transforming education and learning in the classroom
“If you design things for the greatest accessibility – Learning Tools is like that – it makes everything accessible to all, and why wouldn’t we want that?” – A fourth-grade teacher

While Learning Tools involved a different set of players in a different part of Microsoft, its story shares the same lessons, opportunities, passion and impact experienced by the Eye Gaze team. Winner of the 2015 Hackathon, Learning Tools helps students with dyslexia learn how to read and is now transforming education for teachers, students, administrators and parents.

What’s amazing about this story was the diversity of the team, which included developers, a reading team and a speech pathologist, working extensively with students and educators to create the product. While originally created for folks with dyslexia, the Learning Tools team is seeing benefits to folks with dysgraphia, ADHD, English language learners and emerging readers. Today, Learning Tools is incorporated into apps, Office, and Edge, reaching 13 million active users in more than 40 languages. Like the Eye Gaze team before it, the Learning Tools team evolved from a passionate hackathon into a strategic business.You can even read “The Ability Hacks” using Learning Tools, just download the PDF and open in Microsoft Edge.

‘It’s not about the technology. It’s about the people.

As Peter Lee, corporate vice president, Microsoft Healthcare, shares in the book’s foreword, “A focus on inclusion helps a team become more empathetic with its users, which in turn affects deeply the design and development process of products.”

Personally, I go to work every day feeling humbled that I represent a company with an incredible mission to empower every person on the planet to achieve more. I’m grateful for the chance to share just a few of their stories in “The Ability Hacks.” Trust me, it’s two stories of many that have taken place over the last four years and there will be a lot more in our future.

While we’ve come a long way in incorporating accessibility and inclusivity in everything we do, the truth is that accessibility is a journey. There is more in front of us than behind us. Please read the book and join the conversation about inclusive technology design on Twitter via #abilityhacks. And if you want to create products for people with disabilities, do check out our AI for Accessibility program, which provides access to advanced Microsoft Azure cloud computing resources to individuals and organizations working on empowering people with disability across the world at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/ai-for-accessibility.

The Ability Hacks

Aligned with the first day of Microsoft’s One Week Hackathon, Microsoft will launch a new book which shares the behind the scenes stories of two Microsoft Hackathon teams who embraced their passion and pioneered two innovative hacks-turned-solutions used today by people with disabilities around the world.

The book includes a foreword by Corporate Vice President Peter Lee and an afterword by Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie, and is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.com and for download on PDF and EPUB.

We hope this book and the journeys these teams have been on, can help spark a conversation about the transformative power of technology, and encourage engineers and developers to build the next wave of inclusive technology. If you want to create products for people with disabilities, do check out our AI for Accessibility program, which provides access to advanced Microsoft Azure cloud computing resources and grants to individuals and organizations working on empowering people with disability across the world at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/ai-for-accessibility.

Continue on to Microsoft’s newsroom to read the complete blog.

 

Alice Sheppard Proves It’s Time To Redefine Virtuosity

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It can be hard to focus when Alice Sheppard dances.

Her recent sold-out run of DESCENT at New York Live Arts, for instance, offered a constellation of stimulation. Onstage was a large architectural ramp with an assortment of peaks and planes. There was an intricate lighting and projection design. There was a musical score that unfolded like an epic poem. There was a live score too: the sounds of Sheppard and fellow dancer Laurel Lawson’s bodies interacting with the surfaces beneath them.

And there were wheelchairs. But if you think the wheelchairs are the center of this work, you’re missing something vital about what Sheppard creates.

“Often for non-disabled audience members,” she says, “the work isn’t real until they see the chair.” Curious requests to know why Sheppard uses a wheelchair are telling of how disability typically traffics in the public imagination. “The movement and the art somehow challenge what they think is possible,” she says.

Excellence in dance is often de ned at the exclusion of disability. The idea of virtuosic performance involves dancers with precise technical control over each body part. The best dance, it’s often assumed, is performed by artists who are intensely able-bodied.

But Sheppard’s work models a truth that is rarely understood among dance audiences: Disability does not signify incompleteness. In fact, it offers novel pathways to several movement styles, each of them whole and generative of unique choreographic forms.

Disability Is A Creative Force

Alice Sheppard initially became a dancer to make good on a dare. It was 2004 and she was a professor in medieval studies at Penn State. During a conference on dis- ability studies, she attended a performance by Homer Avila, a renowned dancer and choreographer who had lost one of his legs to cancer. Sheppard got to talking with him in a bar after his performance. He dared her to take a dance class. About a year after Avila died, she did—and shortly after resigned from academia.

What hooked Sheppard was a question that has motivated her work ever since: How can we move beyond questions of ability to culture and aesthetics? In popular culture, disability often stands in for a vague and generalized adversity. Sheppard wanted to find a radically different process.

“Disability,” Sheppard writes in her “Intersectional Disability Arts Manifesto,” “is more than the deficit of diagnosis. It is an aesthetic, a series of intersecting cultures and a creative force.”

After leaving academia, Sheppard began exploring the techniques of dancing in a wheelchair and learning how disability can generate its own movement. She trained, performed and toured with several physically integrated dance companies, including AXIS Dance Company, Infinity Dance Theater, Full Radius Dance and Marc Brew Dance Company.

Eventually, she launched the New York–based Kinetic Light, which has been invited to residencies at places like the prestigious Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography and Gibney, and to perform at Jacob’s Pillow’s Inside/Out. She chose to form Kinetic Light as a production company rather than a dance company in an attempt to bring the work “outside of the arts bubble,” as she puts it on her website.

The Pursuit Of Wheel Joy

Intersectionality—a term that has become increasingly conspicuous in the dance world—is what activates Sheppard’s work from content to process. As a queer disabled woman of color, she makes dance that explores the multiple identities she inhabits. DESCENT, for instance, imagines a queer and interracial love affair between the mythical figures Andromeda and Venus, performed through the disabled bodies of Sheppard and Lawson.

In their wheelchairs, the dancers pursue what Sheppard often calls “wheel joy.” The pleasures of wheeled movement are palpable when the chairs produce beautifully tight and precise turns, often using inclined planes to harness momentum.

During one sequence, Sheppard lies downstage on her back. Lawson tips forward and launches over Sheppard as her wheels lift behind, her stomach resting on Sheppard’s shins. The dancers spread their arms and hold each other’s stare with intimate tension. Lawson’s wheels spin silently, each spoke catching the cool hues of the lights.

The movements do not represent the triumph over disability. They do not shore up myths about independence. And, even when Sheppard and Lawson dance without their wheelchairs, they do not scorn the wheelchair.

The intersectionality that drives Sheppard’s work also leads her to collaborate with other artists. To design the ramp for DESCENT, Sheppard tapped Sara Hendren, an artist and design researcher for the Accessible Icon Project, which seeks to dislodge the staid blue-and- white wheelchair symbol as the central iconography of disability. And Sheppard turned to Michael Maag, also a wheelchair user, to design the production’s intricate projection system.

Just as she dispenses with the notion that one’s identity can be simplified to just one thing, Sheppard dispenses with the idea that disability artistry must be produced by a sole pioneer. She stresses the interdisciplinary nature of disability art, and recognizes the lineage, influence and conversation amongst artists of the past and the present.

Continue onto DANCE Magazine to read the complete article.

Huey Lewis Opens Up About Sudden Hearing Loss: ‘I Haven’t Come to Grips with the Fact That I May Never Sing Again’

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huey lewis holding microphone on stage

In mid-April, Huey Lewis shocked fans when he canceled all upcoming tour dates, citing a battle with Meniere’s disease that robbed him of his hearing. While he hopes the health problems are treatable, the “Power of Love” rocker says he’s facing the possibility that he may never return to live performance.

It’s a reality that Lewis, 67, admits he’s finding hard to accept. “I haven’t come to grips with the fact that I may never sing again,” the Huey Lewis and the News frontman said in an interview with the Today show on Monday. “I’m still hoping I’m gonna get better. They say a positive attitude is important.”

Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder that produces feelings of vertigo, as well as tinnitus (or ringing) and hearing loss. Lewis says he first noticed the symptoms in March during a performance in Dallas. “As I walked to the stage, it sounded like there was a jet engine going on,” he continued. “I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t find pitch. Distorted. Nightmare. It’s cacophony.”

In a tragic twist, the lifelong rocker says his hearing loss is most severe when it comes to music. “Even though I can hear you, we can talk, I can talk on the phone — I can’t sing,” he told Today‘s Jenna Bush Hager. “I can’t hear music. I can do everything but what I love to do the most, which is a drag.”

While there’s no known cure for the disease, Lewis says that his hearing may improve with a new dietary regimen. “No caffeine, lower salt, and keep your fingers crossed. It can get better. It just hasn’t yet.”

On April 13, Lewis posted a message to social media announcing the cancellation of all upcoming tour dates because his condition made it “impossible” to continue singing for the time being.

Continue onto PEOPLE to read the complete article.