Expansion of Best Practices leads to 19,745 new jobs for Californians with Disabilities

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man sitting in a wheelchair at his desk talking on the phone while looking at his computer screen

By Philip Kahn-Pauli, RespectAbility Policy and Practices Director

Washington, D.C., April 9 – Nationwide 111,804 people with disabilities got new jobs last year, including 19,745 new jobs for Californians with disabilities. The Golden State now ranks 35th among the 50 states in terms of the employment rate for people with disabilities.

The newly published 2018 Annual Disability Statistics Compendium shows there are 1,980,677 working-age (ages 18-64) people with disabilities living in California. Out of that number, 721,536 have jobs. That means California has a disability employment rate of 36.4 percent.

Further analysis by the nonpartisan advocacy group RespectAbility shows that California’s disability employment rate has slowly increased over the past two years. However, even as more and more people with disabilities are entering California’s workforce, other smaller states such as North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah have higher employment rates for their citizens with disabilities.

The economic exclusion of people with disabilities is reflected in the stories that Hollywood tells. According to a recent report by The Media, Diversity, & Social Change Initiative at USC, only 2.7 percent of all speaking or named characters in film were shown to have a disability in 2016. According to GLAAD’s reporting, less than two percent of characters on television have a disability.

The disability community in California is hopeful that newly elected Governor Gavin Newsom will prove himself to be a strong ally in the Governor’s mansion. Diagnosed with dyslexia at age five, Newsome has been open about his experiences with an invisible disability.

California is also home to a range of best practices and programs to empower people with disabilities into the workforce. Project SEARCH is a perfect example of the types of opportunities now open to more and more youth with disabilities in California. SEARCH is a unique, employer-driven transition program that prepares students with disabilities for employment success. In California, new partnerships between the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nonprofit Best Buddies and Kaiser Permanente are having transformative impacts on the lives of young people with disabilities. Nationally and locally, more than 70 percent of Project SEARCH alumni now have jobs.

California has a unique network of Regional Centers, originally established in the 1960s, which provide legally mandated support and services. The state also adopted a Competitive Integrated Employment Blueprint just last year to promote competitive job opportunities for all.

“Clearly California leaders understand the steps needed to increase employment opportunities for those with disabilities,” added Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility. “But what is also evident from the data is that more needs to be done.”

“Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life,” said Hon. Steve Bartlett, current Chairman of RespectAbility, who co-authored the Americans with Disabilities Act when he was in Congress. “People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else.”

A National Issue

Beyond California, how is the workforce changing for people with disabilities? What is driving these changes? The answer is simple. According to Vincenzo Piscopo of the Coca-Cola Company: “People with disabilities bring a unique skill set that it is very valuable for companies.” He went on to add, “As it relates to employment and competitiveness in the workplace, we have to stop thinking of disability as a liability and start thinking of it as an asset.”

Brand-name companies such as JP Morgan Chase, Coca-Cola, Ernst & Young, IBM, Walgreen’s, Starbucks, CVS and Microsoft show people with disabilities are successful employees. These companies also know that these workers improve the bottom line. “People with disabilities bring unique characteristics and talents to the workplace,” said RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. “Hiring people with disabilities is a win-win-win for employers, people with disabilities and consumers alike.”

As more companies hire employees with disabilities, conversations are shifting to focus on inclusion. “Disability inclusion is no longer about automatic doors, curb cuts, ramps, and legislation,” says Jim Sinocchi, Head of the Office of Disability Inclusion at JP Morgan Chase. “Today, the new era of disability inclusion is about “assimilation” – hiring professionals with disabilities into the robust culture of the firm.”

According to the Census Bureau, there are more than 56 million Americans living with a disability. Disabilities include visible conditions such as spinal cord injuries, visual impairments or hearing loss and invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities, mental health or Autism.

An Election Issue

Voter research, conducted by RespectAbility, shows how disability issues connect to all aspects of American life. “Fully three-quarters of likely voters either have a disability themselves or have a family member or a close friend with disabilities,” said former Representative and Dallas Mayor Steve Bartlett. “People with disabilities are politically active swing voters, and candidates should take note of the important issues they care about.”

As 2019 moves into 2020 and the political campaign season heats up, continuing job growth for people with disabilities will be a crucial indicator of the health of the American economy.

Continue on to RespectAbilityReport.org to read more.

How Interior Design Can Be A Tool In Managing Life With Autism

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Jess Faerman at home in her apartment with her dog

Justin Moehn’s vast amiibo collection, comfortable gaming chairs and a large screen set up in a very specific way in his Richmond bedroom are evidence of his highly focused affection for video games. Jess Faerman’s small apartment in Houston has a single chair she’s willing to sit on and a circular path for her compulsive need for pacing.

For Hannah Warren, who lives in Southeast Houston, a velvety soft covering on an air mattress and drops of lavender oil are her keys to a good night’s sleep, for now, anyway.

All three have autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, a developmental disability whose cause is still a mystery to researchers. As they, educators and parents all look for ways to cope in the classroom and at home, one thing they know for certain is that the right interior design can help children and adults manage the anxiety and behaviors that typically accompany autism, improving life for them and other members of their families.

Important elements include color, texture, lighting and the durability of furnishings, say parents and experts.

Don Lawrence, who works in health care facility planning at CannonDesign, comes to the topic with two points of view: one as a trained design planner and the other as a father of a 29-year-old son who has autism.

“Research has taken off in the last five years,” Lawrence said of both searching for information about cause, treatment and daily coping skills.

Lawrence, who lives in Sugar Land, had a background in health care when he returned to the University of Texas to study architecture years ago. Now he works exclusively in health care design planning, and recently finished work on an autism clinic at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in California.

“We did research on current thinking about interventions, primarily looking for ways to create a calming and relaxing environment. There’s a lot of research on color and sound and transitions from space to space,” Lawrence said, noting that design elements that work in a clinical setting work in homes and schools, too.

Color and light — both natural and artificial — are two important elements of home design, and they’re big factors in homes that have a child or adult with autism.

Lawrence explained that the slight flicker of a fluorescent light bulb, which are still used extensively in offices, stores and schools, can seem to a person with autism as the rest of us might see a strobe light. Imagine all of the homes built in the 1980s and 1990s with light boxes for fluorescent tubes over their kitchen islands — every one of them is a problem if someone in the household has autism.

Lawrence and special education consultant Robin Rettie of Lighthouse Learning & Resource both said that soothing colors are essential. In a bedroom, pale greens and blues with gray undertones are often talked about as calming colors — the same holds true for people with autism. Muted shades of lavender or purple also help calm people with ASD. Bright colors such as red, orange or yellow — colors you see often see in classrooms and toys for young children — appear so harsh that they can cause outbursts.

Nearly everyone with autism avoids bright lights. In Moehn’s bedroom — where he spends a good deal of his time — he has just a single bulb in the three-light ceiling-mounted light fixture and usually keeps the plantation shutters on his only window closed.

Rettie and Lawrence both said dimmable lights and bulbs with a warmer glow are best, so they can be adjusted.

Texture is a huge factor — people with autism generally prefer soft, silky fabrics over anything rough or scratchy — so bedding and upholstery have to be chosen carefully. You don’t have to use them everywhere in your home, just in the bedroom of the person with autism — it’s advisable they have their own room — and in a place they like to sit when they’re with others.

Moehn, 37, who lives with his parents, treats his room as his own retreat, with satin sheets on his bed to help him sleep. Faerman, 33, who has her own apartment, puts a soft blanket on the only chair she will sit on in her apartment. The softness of the plush toys on her bed helps soothe her.

Janice Warren has struggled to help her daughter, 12-year-old Hannah, whose challenges change as she ages. She slept on a twin bed but wore it out — jumping on furniture can be an issue, so it needs to be more durable. While she looked for a new bed, she let Hannah sleep on an air mattress that had a soft, velvety cover. Her daughter was getting the best sleep she’d ever had, so she halted the new-bed search.

Warren has also incorporated aromatherapy, using plant-based lavender oil that helps calm her daughter, who is mainstreamed in school but not highly functional and has poor verbal skills. She adds the oil to shampoo and lotion and occasionally puts a couple of drops on her pillow and in dresser drawers, which, by the way, have labels for individual items that go in them.

Structure is vital for people with autism, so organizing systems help them cope. Knowing which shelf in a pantry, drawer in a refrigerator or container in a closet has their things fosters independence via daily living skills and is comforting. When things are out of place, though, it can be overwhelming, and the person may shut down or act out.

PHOTO: Jess Faerman / Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

Continue on to The Houston Chronicle to read the complete article.

‘Beautiful moment’: Mom moved to tears seeing 2-year-old in awe of inclusive Target advertisement

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Young child sitting in wheelchair in Target stops to see advertisement of a young boy in a wheelchair

PEORIA, AZ — An Arizona mother was moved to tears when an advertisement at Target caused her son to stop in his tracks and stare in awe at the sign.

“It was just a beautiful moment to see. Him admiring somebody like him because he doesn’t get to see that often,” Demi Garza-Pena said to KNXV in Arizona.

Garza-Pena’s son, Ollie, is almost two years old.

He uses a wheelchair to get around because he was born with a rare condition called caudal regression syndrome, which affects his lower spine and organs.

While the pair were shopping in Target, Ollie noticed something inspiring on a sign hanging above a rack of clothes.

The sign showed a young boy in a wheelchair.

Seeing her son’s response to the advertisement showed Garza-Pena how important representation can be, especially for children. She hopes other stores will follow Target’s lead.

“Everywhere…everybody, everywhere, all the time. That would make a huge difference,” Garza-Pena said about where she’d like to see more inclusive advertisements.

Target launched the more inclusive ads in 2017, mainly in apparel, and refreshes them regularly. The next batch will come later this month.

Continue on to ABC News to read the complete article.

The 2020 M-Enabling Summit is coming to Washington, D.C.

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M-Enabling Summit 2020 flyer announcing the dates and location

Please join us at the M-Enabling Summit, the leading conference and showcase promoting accessible technology and environments for seniors and users of all abilities, which will be held June 22-24, 2020 at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel, in Washington, D.C. It is the annual meeting place for all who create and contribute to accessible ICT products, services and consumer technologies.

With its 2020 theme of “Digital Inclusion Strategies: A Catalyst for Action,” the M-Enabling Summit will highlight how organizations can successfully leverage innovative enabling technologies to make their digital workplaces, learning environments and product and services accessible to users of all abilities. It also offers an ideal platform to network with accessibility professionals, organizations, and decision makers seeking to address compliance challenges and market development opportunities.

This year’s thought-provoking agenda is set to be led by over 150 experts and industry leaders exploring how to further drive digital inclusion forward across all sectors of activity. A powerful differentiator in gaining a competitive advantage and establishing a positive culture, digital inclusion is embraced by leading organizations across all sectors of activity.

The M-Enabling Summit is proud to be welcoming Vint Cerf, Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist, to deliver the opening keynote address at the 9th annual M-Enabling Summit.

REGISTRATION:

The M-Enabling Summit offers a discounted early bird registration rate through April 30th. Register today and save: https://m-enabling.com/conference-registration/

What kind of questions should you ask at the end of a job interview?

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man sitting at a desk being interviewed by a man and womanfor a job

It’s a scenario many of us have found ourselves in. You’re nearing the end of a job interview and finally, you can begin to relax a little. Despite the nerves, you’ve come across well and answered all the questions confidently – and with a little bit of luck, you may just be offered the position.

Before you can run out of the room, however, the interviewer wants to know if you have any questions for them.

It might be tempting to say no, so you can leave as quickly as possible – but asking questions can be of huge benefit when it comes to interviewing for a job.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that interviews should always be considered a two-way street. Yes, the recruiter is interested in finding out if your skills and abilities are suited to the role in question. But a job interview is also a chance for you to work out if this is the right job for you – and if you are going to fit in well at the company.

“As candidates, we can often get caught up in the whole process, particularly as we try to remember the answers we’ve prepared but it’s equally as important to take time towards the end of the interview to ask your own questions,” says Row Davies, HR business manager at the recruitment firm Macildowie.

While you’re preparing for your interview and imagining the kind of questions you might be asked, it’s also useful to think about any queries you might have too. However, don’t ask an interviewer anything you can find out easily yourself, either online or on the company’s social media channels.

“It’s crucial for you to assess whether the company is the right fit for you, as just like any relationship, both need to benefit and feel comfortable with the partnership,” Davies says.

“Not only does the process allow you to show your enthusiasm for the company, asking questions also gives you the opportunity to check your goals and values are aligned with the business. You don’t want to be a year or more down the line and find that the company is heading in a direction that you don’t want to or perhaps can’t follow.”

So what kind of questions should you be asking as an interview candidate?

Davies believes there are three key questions that should be on every job applicant’s list.

“The first, is asking the interviewer ‘is there anything regarding my experience you would like me to expand upon?’. Not only does this show that you are engaged, it also provides you with the opportunity to further emphasise your strengths and how you believe these will be an asset to the company’s objectives,” she says.

The second is about learning and development – and specifically, whether the company is actively investing in their employees. After all, you want to know that you’re going to move forward in a job.

“Ask, ‘how do you support the professional development of your employees?’. Answers to this question will give you an insight into how the business will support you as you progress up the career ladder,” Davies says.

“It also shows the interviewer you have aspirations and a drive to succeed in the organization.”

Finally, it’s a good idea to find out more about the company’s environment and whether they look after their employees.

“I would encourage any of my candidates to ask the interviewer, ‘what do you like most about working for the company?’ This is great for building a personal connection with the interviewer, giving them the opportunity to share their personal views and the passion they have for the company,” Davies says.

Continue on to Yahoo News to read the complete article.

Paralyzed Veterans of America to host Wheelchair Rugby Tournament for wounded heroes and adaptive athletes

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PVA logo includes man in wheelchair saluting

Paralyzed Veterans of America will host 12 wheelchair rugby teams from across the country to compete in its 3rd Annual Code of Honor Quad Rugby Invitational.

The tournament brings together national league wheelchair rugby teams made up of disabled military veterans and civilian adaptive athletes, to compete in a 3-day round-robin style tournament. A wheelchair rugby skills clinic will be held prior to the start of the tournament to introduce novice players to the sport.

The clinic is free and individuals with disabilities as well as rehab health professionals who are interested in learning more about the sport are invited to attend.

The Quad Rugby Invitational is one of many year-round adaptive sports opportunities Paralyzed Veterans of America provides for disabled veterans and other individuals with disabilities.

WHEN: Friday, February 7, 2020
Wheelchair Rugby Skills Clinic 10:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Opening Ceremony 11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Competition begins 12:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Saturday, February 8, 2020
Competition 8:45 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.

Sunday, February 9, 2020
Competition 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Championship Game 10:30 a.m.
Closing Ceremony and Awards 11:45 a.m. (approx.)

WHERE: The St. James
6805 Industrial Road
Springfield, VA 22151

The St. James is a 450,000 square foot sports, wellness and active entertainment destination in the Washington, DC metro area. Paralyzed Veterans of America hosted its 2019 Code of Honor tournament at The St. James, making it the first adaptive sports event to be held at the facility.

WHO: Paralyzed Veterans of America (host)

Eleven Division II teams from the U.S. Quad Rugby Association (USQRA) and PVA’s at-large team comprised of military veterans:

Northern Virginia Mutiny
Maryland Mayhem
MedStar DC NRH Punishers
PVA at-large team
Brooks Bandits
Philadelphia Magee Eagles
NEP Wildcats
New York Warriors
Oscar Mike Militia
Raleigh Sidewinders
Richmond Sportable Possums
Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch

For more information or to view the full tournament schedule, please visit pva.org/codeofhonor.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America
Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Learn more at pva.org.

About The St. James
The St. James is the premier sports, wellness and entertainment destination in the country. Our mission is to maximize human potential by designing, developing and operating sports, wellness, entertainment and hospitality programs, services and experiences that engage, inspire and empower people to pursue their passions and be their best at play, at work and in life. The St. James aims to serve as the center of the universe in every community where it is located by delivering the most comprehensive combination of best-in-class sports and wellness venues, developmental and elite coaching, training and competition, five-star lifestyle experiences and family centered active fun all in an environment that engages, inspires and delights everyone that comes through our doors. The St. James, which opened its first location just outside of Washington, DC in the fall of 2018, plans to open its second complex in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire in the fall of 2021. For more information, please visit thestjames.com.

Top 5 Tips for Job Seekers with Disabilities

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man in wheelchair talking with hiring manager

By Adam Kaplan

Despite an unemployment rate nearly double that of their non-disabled peers, people with disabilities can look forward to a bright jobs future—provided that they approach their career activities the right way.

Both experienced job seekers as well as those new to the world of employment can follow these five tips, culled from our conversations with hundreds of disabled individuals and other job seekers searching for work over the past few years.

1 Dare to Dream

When we speak to candidates who tell us they want a job, the first thing we ask is, “doing what?” Know what you want and why you want it before hitting the job market: this is essential to your eventual success. Most individuals have enough self-awareness to know what work activities they enjoy performing, and these usually correlate with what they are actually good at. When skill and interest are combined they are usually also accompanied with passion, which a recruiting or hiring manager can plainly see.

2 Identify In-Demand Skills

While perfecting your skills is essential, knowing how they fit in the market for talent is also important. Demand for certain skills is always evolving—yet some are consistently in higher demand than others. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that such diverse jobs as computer programmer, actuary, and market research analyst fit the bill. Matching your interest to those of talent managers can be the key to getting a good job.

3 Let Everyone Know!

The best way to find a job is through networking. Tell your friends, families and people you meet about the job you are seeking. Go to networking events. Promote your interests on social media.

4 Getting a Job Is a Job; Treat it as Such

Getting a good job is usually a marathon, not a sprint, especially for recent graduates and those who have been out of the job market for a while or are making a career change. Set aside certain hours for networking and research. Filling out applications is OK, too—just remember that answering help-wanted ads is usually the least effective way to find work. Use job boards to identify open positions, then network to identify the hiring manager.

5 Practice Makes Perfect

If you follow the first four tips correctly, you will have good leads to jobs that will lead to interviews. To have the best chance of translating those interviews into job offers, you need to practice, practice, practice. In fact, never go to a job interview without practicing beforehand. Ask the recruiter what to expect on interview day. Have someone you trust play the interviewer. Give him or her some questions to ask or have them ask their own. See where you can improve your answers. Use the practice interview to ace the real one, and get the job you want!

About the Author
Adam Kaplan founded Kaplan Executive Search, a retained executive search company.  He partners with CEOs of middle market and emerging growth companies to recruit top talent, including COOs (Integrators), CFOs and VPs of Sales.

Adam also has a personal passion for workforce diversity, especially in creating opportunities for talented professionals with hidden and visible disabilities.  He was appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to serve on the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services.

Gears 5 sets a higher bar for accessibility with features that mean more people can play the game

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Two guys and two girls play on the game console. One of the guys is disabled in a wheelchair.

Video games have saved Cherry Thompson’s life many times, from ‘80s game Rainbow Islands providing escape from a difficult childhood to Pokémon Red giving solace when Thompson was a homeless teenager. Games were about community, therapy, adventure and passion.

But more than six years ago, Thompson had a stroke at age 31 that led to vestibular and cognitive disabilities and a diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that weakens joints, skin, blood vessels and muscles. Thompson, who uses they/them/their pronouns, wanted to play games to cope with pain and surgeries, but found many games impossible to play without suffering severe migraines, motion sickness, hand pain and other barriers.

“I really, really struggled,” says Thompson, who’s also autistic with co-occuring dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which affect how they process information and play games. “But as I slowly came to terms with my disabilities, it was revolutionary, because I realized the problem was with the games, and not with me.”

Now a well-known game accessibility specialist and developer in Vancouver, Canada, Thompson recently got a chance to try out Gears 5 — a game with a long list of accessibility features that mean more people can play it. With a stronger focus on inclusivity than ever before, The Coalition studio developed the third-person shooter and latest installment in the Gears of War series, released in September by Xbox Game Studios. The game has since been widely lauded for its thoughtful accessibility.

Unlike with Gears of War 4, Thompson can actually play Gears 5, thanks to a new option to turn off “camera shake,” or quick camera movements that trigger their vertigo, nausea and headaches. They can customize an on-screen display of information to minimize distractions and sensory overload while playing. And even though their hearing is fine, improved subtitles in an adjustable text size helps them process information.

“I’m excited to play the game more,” Thompson says, still holding the controller on a recent Friday after killing a few monsters. “The accessibility really shows a commitment from the game developers that they care about their audience and they understand their players include different types of people with different types of experiences.”

The Coalition, also based in Vancouver, had wanted to make Gears 5 as approachable and accessible as possible while still appealing to its experienced fanbase.

“We have a very hardcore franchise with a lot of fans with Gears tattoos,” says Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson. “How do you grow a franchise like that and welcome new players? How do you remove barriers and help them enjoy the experience? One of the ways was through inclusive design and the principle of ‘solve for one and expand to many.’”

Early in development, the studio hosted a two-day inclusive design sprint in 2017, bringing in Thompson and other people with disabilities who discussed their challenges, work-arounds and passions in gaming. It was at the sprint where many Gears 5 accessibility ideas first took root, including the message that the series’ subtitles needed improvement to better serve gamers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“There were a lot of light bulbs that went off in our team,” says Otto Ottosson, lead multiplayer producer and accessibility lead for Gears 5. He was the one who brought team members to a Microsoft gaming and accessibility boot camp, where they worked with the Gaming for Everyone team and met more gamers with disabilities.

“The players were explaining why they love games, and it was all the same reasons why I love games, except they were limited from playing,” Ottosson says. “That really affected me. I remember coming away thinking, ‘This is not good enough. We need to do better.’ It was definitely the launching point for us to understand and be inspired to make accessibility something we took seriously.”

In the past, game developers sometimes saw accessibility features as serving only a niche audience, says Fergusson. Good subtitles, for example, take more work, time and resources, but also appeal to many people beyond those with hearing disabilities. They include parents who want to play on silent while their baby sleeps nearby, or players who game in a public space like an airport.

Continue on to Microsoft News to read the complete article.

U.S. Access Board launches study to assess feasibility of equipping aircraft with wheelchair restraint systems

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rear view of a man in wheelchair at the airport with focus on hand

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is pleased with the launch of the U.S. Access Board’s study to assess the feasibility of equipping aircraft with restraint systems so that passengers who use wheelchairs can remain in them while in-flight. The Board announced in October 2019 that it would conduct a study.

The U.S. Access Board is carrying out this study through the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board (TRB). TRB organized a team of experts to serve on the Committee on the Feasibility of Wheelchair Restraint Systems in Passenger Aircraft for the study’s evaluation. PVA members Peter W. Axelson and Dr. Rory A. Cooper were both appointed to serve on the Committee.

“We appreciate that the U.S. Access Board is conducting this study, which was required under the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018,” said Carl Blake, Paralyzed Veterans of America’s executive director. “During air travel, catastrophically disabled veterans and others with mobility impairments have to transfer from their wheelchairs which causes serious risk of injuries and limits their freedom.

Passengers with disabilities also frequently have their wheelchairs damaged or mishandled while being stowed in the aircraft cargo hold. We look forward to the results of the U.S. Access Board’s study, which has the potential to be life-changing for airline passengers who use wheelchairs. We thank PVA members Peter W. Axelson and Dr. Rory A. Cooper, who are both experts in their fields, for serving on the Committee.”

Visit pva.org/travel to learn more about PVA’s work on accessible air travel.

About Paralyzed Veterans of America

Paralyzed Veterans of America is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of veterans with spinal cord injury or disease. For more than 70 years, the organization has ensured that veterans receive the benefits earned through service to our nation; monitored their care in VA spinal cord injury units; and funded research and education in the search for a cure and improved care for individuals with paralysis.

As a life-long partner and advocate for veterans and all people with disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America also develops training and career services, works to ensure accessibility in public buildings and spaces and provides health and rehabilitation opportunities through sports and recreation. With more than 70 offices and 33 chapters, Paralyzed Veterans of America serves veterans, their families and their caregivers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Learn more at pva.org.

Clothing Size Guide In Works For Those With Down Syndrome

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young man with Down Syndrome looks on as two women review clothing laid out on a table

It’s often difficult for people with Down syndrome to find clothes that fit, but now researchers are working on a solution: the country’s first size guide for this population.

When Jayden Niblett wakes up each morning, his mind races to remember what he is doing that day, and what he can wear to impress his friends.

The last often leads to annoyance. Jayden, 11, who has Down syndrome, struggles to find clothes that fit his unique body type and are accommodating of his motor deficits, an issue that people with physical disabilities face every day in a world where fashion is built on single-size body standards.

“It’s really frustrating for him,” said Janet Littleton, Jayden’s grandmother. “It absolutely affects his mood and how his whole day is going to go.”

People with Down syndrome have shorter limbs, rounder bodies and common sensitivities to tags and fabrics, which make it difficult to find everyday clothes, like jeans, that fit them and feel good. Jayden would often wear women’s capri pants because they fit his waist and shorter legs. But as he has grown into a more muscular body, capris are no longer working.

Now, though, Jayden and his grandmother are working on a solution: They’re participating in a research study at the University of Delaware’s Innovation, Health and Design Lab to generate the country’s first size guide for people with Down syndrome. The lab’s mission is to provide a whole community with access to outfits that help them function with more independence and confidence.

At the end of the study, Jayden and the nearly 1,000 other participating children with Down syndrome will receive a free custom-made pair of jeans that accommodate their size and limited motor functions.

The lab, which opened in September 2018, is powered by the vision and leadership of Martha Hall, a fashion designer turned biomechanical engineer. Hall, who was born in Newark, Del., earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Delaware and then a Ph.D. in biomechanics from the school in 2018. She started her career designing cocktail dresses, but once she saw the work that University of Delaware professor Cole Galloway was doing for children with motor deficits, she dedicated her work to improving minority populations’ quality of life through functional clothing.

“People think of fashion as a sort of fluffy science,” said Hall. “But I’ve always encouraged people to consider fashion as being all about self-advocacy and self-expression.”

The lab started with two students working on four projects, and now has 34 students — and a wait list — with 22 projects, which address everything from inclusive apparel and athletic wear to medical devices that can increase the survival chances of premature babies. Its work centers around improving quality of life through clothing, and has been so successful that by fall, Hall plans to launch health design as a major at the university, the first program of its kind in the country.

Some brands have tried to make accessible, sensory sensitive clothing lines, but they’re not using accurate size guides, said Hall.

“There’s not a lot of evidence for the design decisions that (some brands) are making,” said Hall. “It’s great that there are designers interested in serving the population, but you have to talk to the community and understand what the actual issue is … in order to design something that actually suits them.”

That’s where Hall’s student researchers come in. With the Down syndrome size guide and jean project, Kiersten McCormack interviews caregivers to learn their child’s specific needs. Senior Elizabeth deBruin built an “obstacle course” for kids to pick out fabrics, designs and colors for their jeans. Sydney Solem, a senior majoring in medical diagnostics, manages the body scanner. Together, the group focuses on fashion, function, fit, fasteners and fabric.

To generate the size chart, the lab uses a three-dimensional scanner that scans participants’ bodies and creates a 3D colored avatar with exact measurements of their size and shape. Once all participants are scanned, the company that created the machine, Human Solutions, will take the measurements, create a size guide, and sell the guide to companies, which will be able to design clothing based on accurate measurements for this population of people.

While learning to dress themselves independently is a key rite of passage for children, for those with disabilities who need assistance, it can become one more thing that makes them feel different from their peers.

Continue on to DisabilityScoop to read the complete article.

Lexilight is a reading lamp designed to help people with dyslexia

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The Lexilight is pictured on a desk

The precise causes of dyslexia remain a mystery, though research out of France two years ago suggests the condition occurs when someone has two dominant eyes, rather than the usual one.

This means letters appear mirrored or blurred, making it difficult to read. The Lexilight lamp tackles this problem with LEDs — it pulses at a customizable rate, enabling the brain to process information from a single “dominant” eye and clearing up mashed-together letters instantly.

The Lexilight is completely adjustable — knobs on the back of the light change the pulsation, allowing users to find the rhythm that works for them.

Lexilife is a new company out of France, and it showed off at the Lexilight at CES 2020.

The lamp itself is available now in Europe and will come to the United States soon, according to Lexilife founder Jean-Baptiste Fontes. It costs €549, and is available for a free 30-day trial.

Lexilife partners with dyslexia support organizations, and it’s tested the lamp on more than 300 people with dyslexia. Ninety percent of them found it improved their reading abilities.

Continue on to Engadget to read more.