Google announces literary activities to help kids evaluate and analyze media as they browse the Internet

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Mom and Daughter are lying in bed together looking at an ipad and smiling

Google is pleased to announce the addition of 6 new media literacy activities to the 2019 edition of Be Internet Awesome. Designed to help kids analyze and evaluate media as they navigate the Internet, the new lessons address educators’ growing interest in teaching media literacy.

They were developed in collaboration with Anne Collier, executive director of The Net Safety Collaborative, and Faith Rogow, PhD, co-author of The Teacher’s Guide to Media Literacy and a co-founder of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. Because media literacy is essential to safety and citizenship in the digital age, the news lessons complement Be Internet Awesome ’s digital safety and citizenship topics.

Overview of new activities:
1. Share with Care: That’s not what I meant!
● Overview: Students will learn the importance of asking the question: “How might others interpret what I share?” They’ll learn to read visual cues people use to communicate information about themselves and to draw conclusions about others.

2. Share with Care: Frame it
● Overview: Students will learn to see themselves as media creators. They’ll understand that media makers make choices about what to show and what to keep outside the frame. They’ll apply the concept of framing to understand the difference between what to make visible and public online and what to keep “invisible.”

3. Don’t Fall for Fake: Is that really true?
● Overview: Students will learn how to apply critical thinking to discern between what’s credible and non-credible in the many kinds of media they run into online.

4. Don’t Fall for Fake: Spotting disinformation online
● Overview: Students will learn how to look for and analyze clues to what is and isn’t reliable information online.

5. It’s Cool to Be Kind: How words can change a picture
● Overview: Students will learn to make meaning from the combination of pictures and words and will understand how a caption can change what we think a picture is communicating. They will gain an appreciation for the power of their own words, especially when combined with pictures they post.

6. When in Doubt, Talk It Out: What does it mean to be brave?
● Overview: Students will think about what it means to be brave online and IRL, where they got their ideas about “brave” and how media affect their thinking about it.

Expanding resources to families
YMCA
We teamed up with the YMCA across six cities to host bilingual workshops for parents to help teach families about online safety and digital citizenship with Be Internet Awesome and help families create healthy digital habits with the Family Link app. The workshops, designed for parents, coincide with June’s National Internet Safety Month and come at the start of the school summer holidays.

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Meet Grace Hopper Celebration 2019’s Honoree Jhillika Kumar

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Jhillika Kumar poses outside smiling wearing a white blouse and smiling

The Student of Vision Abie Award honors young women dedicated to creating a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for which they build. This year’s winner is Georgia Tech student Jhillika Kumar.

When Jhillika’s parents brought home an iPad for the first time, they could not have predicted how much it would improve their family’s lives. Accessible technology, for the first time ever, allowed her autistic and nonverbal brother to enjoy his passion for music. It distracted his mind from the physical world of disability. She watched her brother instantly swipe and tap swiftly across the interface. The smile that it brought him is the smile she wants to bring to millions of others with disabilities.

Jhillika’s family experience ignited her passion to advocate for disability rights and a career driven by a mission to create an inclusive world. She is a UX/UI designer, aspiring entrepreneur, and a third-year Georgia Tech student with a desire to improve the lives of the differently abled. She advocates to lift the barriers that exist within technology, design, and even policy, and empowers the largest underserved group by bringing attention to the importance of empathy and mutuality in design.

Knowing the impact that UX Design could make on someone who once couldn’t communicate, Jhillika decided to pursue a focus in computer science and interaction design through Georgia Tech’s undergraduate Computational Media program and Digital Media master’s program. Over the summer of her sophomore year of college, she interned at Disney where she created a short film to raise awareness to the product teams on the capacity that their technology had to empower entire communities of untapped potential, purely through improved accessibility. Expanding on this, Jhillika presented a talk at TEDxGeorgiaTech last fall, where she spoke about the importance of accessibility in the industry.

All of Jhillika’s efforts in this space have come together in her current initiative: an on-campus organization she founded called AxisAbility. In order to augment the capabilities of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, AxisAbility is creating a virtual platform to understand family needs and match them with the technology engineered to directly generate physiological changes in the brain to improve cognitive function.

At the School of Interactive Computing, Jhillika currently works in academia, collaborating with Dr. Gregory Abowd and Ivan Riobo to study how non-speaking autistic individuals could use technology-led therapies and assistive technologies to communicate. The study looks at evaluating cognitive competency through eye-gaze tracking software (retinal movement). This could provide vast insight into their cognitive abilities. Jhillika returned to school to her junior year of college engulfed with the spirit of empathy for the differently abled, and was invited as a speaker at World Information Architecture Day and FutureX Live, as well as Women in XR. Her initiatives won her the Alvin M. Ferst Leadership and Entrepreneur Award for 2019 awarded by Georgia Tech.

Continue on to “How Our College Startup’s Autism App Is Flowering Into Fruition – Enlighten Mentors to read Jhillika’s personal story and how you can help her mission.

My Disability Isn’t a Tragedy

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Annika Ariel

By Annika Ariel, AAPD intern

Picking up my laundry was only supposed to take three minutes and twenty-three seconds. I had made frantically grabbing my clothes from the dryer and taking them back up to my dorm a science, one that I had mastered in the never-ending pursuit of finishing my readings at a reasonable hour. So when I realized that the laundry room was full of people, my first thought was, Damn, this is going to take five minutes.

Smiling at the upperclassmen who had apparently taken over the laundry room for the night, I walked out. My only mistake was pausing and checking my phone just as I was out of their view.

“So is she, like, blind?”

“Yeah, think so. I have no idea how she does it. I think I’d kill myself if I were blind.”

“She’s apparently an orientation leader for next year. I wish I knew how she could do that. Can’t exactly ask, though.”

I had upstairs on my Braille notetaker a copy of Emerson’s essay “Experience,” and the first line kept running through my head—“where do we find ourselves?” At that point, I had been at Amherst College a semester and a half. While many accessibility barriers existed and continue to exist at Amherst, this was my first direct experience dealing with the misconceptions of other students. I watched awkwardly as the men, apparently having realized I was standing nearby, walked out another door.

I found myself thrust out of the comfortable disability bubble I had put myself into. Up until that point, I had believed that ignoring my disability was, somewhat ironically, the best way to educate people. If people just saw that I was a “normal” person who “happened” to be blind, they would eventually be able to look past my blindness. However, I was being forced to realize that this approach was inadequate—if I ignored my blindness as much as possible, people ended up being even more confused and misinformed. Sometimes, this manifested itself as me being told I didn’t “seem” blind or people have lingering questions they were too scared to voice. Simply put, shoving my disability to the side resulted in misconceptions remaining unaddressed.

Coincidentally, that same semester I was enrolled in Amherst’s one class on disability. For the first time in my life, I was reading about the social model of disability. I began viewing my blindness not as a flaw, not as something to be ashamed of, but just as another part of the human experience. By being open about who I was, not only was I more comfortable in my own body but others around me became more comfortable and knowledgeable about disability. My disability isn’t a tragedy; it’s simply a different way of living.

Annika Ariel was a 2017 summer intern for Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)

Source: AAPD and the AAPD Power Grid blog

PHOTO CREDIT:  LAWRENCE ROFFEE PHOTOGRAPHY

The World’s Largest MBA Tour hosted by QS

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diverse group of business professionals

The World’s Largest MBA Tour hosted by QS is coming to a city near you! Attendees will have the opportunity to speak face-to-face with representatives from dozens of top international and local business schools and get all of their MBA-related questions answered!

Earn a salary boost, gain valuable leadership skills, or change industries altogether; the possibilities are endless with an MBA! This is a unique opportunity to meet face-to-face with top local and international business schools such as Brown University, NYU, INSEAD, and many more (check your local event page for a full list of participating schools).

At the event, you will be able to get all of your MBA-related questions answered under one roof as well as network with alumni and fellow attendees. Attendees will also be able to get their resume reviewed by a professional, a professional LinkedIn headshot taken, test prep resources, and so much more – all for FREE. And if that’s not enough, by attending the event, you’ll also gain access to scholarships worth up to $7 million that will help you succeed and get that MBA you’ve been dreaming of!

Additionally, the Toronto and New York events will both have a Women in Leadership workshop!

Take advantage of this partnership between Diversity Comm and QS and register for FREE to attend an upcoming event in your city!

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High school robotics team builds electric wheelchair for boy whose family couldn’t afford one

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Rogue Robotics team member attends to the wheelchair that the little boy is sitting in

A group of Minnesota high schoolers built an electric wheelchair for a 2-year-old boy whose family couldn’t afford one.

When parents Krissy and Tyler Jackson found out their insurance would not help cover the steep price of a mobility device for their son Cillian, they reached out to the “Rogue Robotics Team” at Farmington High School to see if they could help.

The team’s coach, Spencer Elvebak, told KARE that when he presented the idea to the group, his students agreed to help the family without any hesitation.

After a few weeks of dedicated labor and a little help from the University of Delaware’s GoBabyGo program, which creates custom vehicles for children with limited mobility, the science-minded high schoolers constructed a special electric wheelchair for Cillian, who has a genetic condition similar to cerebral palsy that makes it difficult to move around.

The customized piece of equipment was created using parts of a Power Wheels riding toy, a harness from a child bicycle carrier and a joystick, which was created using a 3D printer and even has Cillian’s name engraved on it.

Similar mobility devices can reportedly cost upwards of $20,000, a hefty price tag Cillian’s parents say insurance would not cover due to their son’s young age and lack of “maturity and focus to drive an electric wheelchair in a public setting.”

Cillian’s mother told KARE that her family is extremely thankful for the chair, as it helps her son “explore like he’s never been able to do before.”

Continue on to AOL News to read the complete article.

CSUN Assistive Technology Conference Showcases Innovations For a More Inclusive World

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Photo by Lee Choo

By Jacob Bennett

The CSUN Assistive Technology Conference has a specific purpose — to advance knowledge and the use of technology that improves the lives of individuals with disabilities — but its impact is wide-ranging.

In addition to companies that specialize in such things as captioning technology for people who are deaf and hard of hearing and voice-controlled devices for people who are visually impaired, the 34th annual conference, held March 11-15 in Anaheim, was attended by representatives from banks, grocery stores, retail chains, medical companies, airlines and many more companies with vast customer bases.

If attendees weren’t developing assistive technology, they were certainly interested in using it.

At a corner booth in the bustling exhibit hall, the three-person team from Feelif, a tech company from Slovenia, found themselves addressing a steady stream of potential business partners. There was no time to check out other areas of the conference, as the Feelif team was busy showing off their premium tablet for people who are blind and visually impaired, which uses vibrations to simulate the experience of feeling Braille dots.

“It’s very busy,” said Rebeka Zerovnik, the company’s international business development associate. “We don’t have enough people to work the booth.”

The 34th CSUN Assistive Technology Conference — organized by the California State University, Northridge Center on Disabilities, and known in the industry as the CSUN Conference — attracted exhibitors, researchers, consumers, practitioners, government representatives and speakers from around the world.

For the first time, the conference was held at the Anaheim Marriott after a long run in San Diego. The change of venue didn’t seem to hurt attendance — final attendance numbers hadn’t been tallied early this week, but attendance approached 5,000.

Peter Korn, director of accessibility for Amazon Lab126, a research and development team that designs and engineers high-profile consumer electronic devices such as Fire tablets and Amazon Echo, said this was his 28th CSUN Conference, beginning when he was with Berkeley Systems, which developed the outSPOKEN screen reader so that Macintosh computers could be used by people who were blind or partially sighted, and continuing for the past five years with Amazon. In that time, he said, the company has dramatically expanded its footprint at the conference.

“CSUN is the premier assistive technology conference in the world,” Korn said. “Of course we’re here.”

The conference included more than 300 educational sessions, with updates on state-of-the-art technology as well as insights into where the industry is headed. For example, attendees could learn about how artificial intelligence will be critical to improving assistive technology applications, and best practices for including people with disabilities in usability studies.

A seventh annual Journal on Technology and People with Disabilities will be published after the conference and will highlight the proceedings from the conference’s science and research track.

A highlight of the conference was the exhibit hall, where 122 booths showcased time-tested and brand-new solutions. A wristband used sonar to locate obstacles near people with visual impairments, then vibrated to help navigate around the obstacles. An app connected people who are blind or have low vision to trained agents who serve as “on-demand eyes.” A real-time transcription and captioning service helped students who are deaf and hard of hearing access distance-learning courses.

The new venue kept all informational sessions and the exhibit hall on the same floor, which had not been the case in San Diego.

“We were very pleased to see that the attendance stayed strong at our new venue for the 2019 event,” Sandy Plotin, managing director of the Center on Disabilities. “The benefits of having all the conference activities consolidated on one floor in a ‘mini-convention’ space seems to be providing the positive outcome we were looking for. I’ve heard people say they’ve been able to network even more, and that’s probably the most important component to having a successful conference experience.”

Johanna Lucht, the first NASA engineer who is deaf and who has taken an active role in the control room during a crewed test flight, delivered a keynote address that aimed to remove barriers to developing assistive technology. She noted that many of the most beneficial technologies for people with disabilities were not designed with that purpose. As an example, she noted that ridesharing services such as Uber removed potential miscommunications that occurred when people who are deaf and hard of hearing ordered taxis through interpreter services — the new apps have enabled people to type in exact addresses.

Conversely, closed captioning can benefit even people without disabilities: For example, it enables people to understand what sportscasters on TV are saying in a noisy and crowded bar.

Lucht noted that assistive technologies are designed to level the playing field for people with disabilities, which implies a sense of “catching up.” Instead, she advocated for designers to think in terms of “universal design,” identifying potential barriers and fixing them before products are launched. She showed a zoo fence that would disrupt the view for visitors in wheelchairs. An assistive design would install a ramp to see over the fence, she said. A universal-design alternative would be a see-through barrier that provides views for everyone.

“The point I’m making is, society is too hung up on the definition behind assistive technology,” Lucht said. “This technology can also benefit everyone.”

First Female Amputee to Climb Everest Receives Honorary Doctorate

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Arunima Sinha is a serious mountaineer—she was both the first female amputee and the first Indian amputee to climb Mount Everest. And last November, she was awarded an honorary PhD from the prestigious University of Strathclyde in London.

She has made it her life’s work to encourage others, saying, “I have achieved my goal, but now I want to help physically challenged people achieve their goals so that they can also become self-dependent.”

A former Indian national-level volleyball player, Sinha had her left leg amputated below the knee after being thrown from a train while resisting a robbery. Sinha was traveling to sit for an examination to join The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), a central armed police force in India. She was pushed out of the train by thieves and lost her left leg below the knee as a result.

While recovering, she resolved to climb Mount Everest and later trained with Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest, at the Uttarkashi camp of the Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF). Sinha became the world’s first female amputee to summit Mount Everest with a prosthetic leg on May 21, 2013.

Since that achievement, she has gone on to be the first female amputee to climb some of the tallest mountains in Africa, Europe, Australia and South America.

Her book, Born Again on the Mountain, was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2014. In 2015, she was presented with the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award. She was named one of the People of the Year in India’s 27th edition of Limca Book of Records in 2016.

“Arunima is an inspiration to amputees around the world. Not only has she shown real spirit, courage and determination in overcoming adversity, she is using her compassion and positivity to help other people,” said Professor Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde. “Arunima embodies the values of Strathclyde, and we are delighted to recognize her achievements by making her an Honorary Doctor of the University.”

The award also recognizes Sinha’s charitable work through the Arunima Foundation, which seeks to empower women and people with disabilities, and generally improve the health and social and economic situation for poorer communities. “Our mission is to inspire and empower people to change their world,” the foundation says. For more information, visit the Arunima Foundation on Twitter @FlucknowA.

Source: Wikipedia, newindianexpress.com, momspresso.com

New Children’s Book Offers Highly Effective Anxiety Coping Strategies

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Reena B. Patel, a licensed educational psychologist and author, has a new book that will help parents, educators, and children with combating anxiety.

April 2nd is International Children’s Book Day, making it a great day to consider the impact that some books can have on today’s youth. One author, Reena B. Patel, is on a mission to help children learn how to identify and address stress and anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the country, affecting 18 percent of the adult population and 25 percent of children between the ages of 13 and 18. Many children under the age of 13 also experience anxiety disorders, making it an issue that impacts the population as a whole.

“Starting at a young age, children are plagued with worry and anxiety, yet we are not always good at providing them with the coping skills that will help them overcome it,” explains Reena B. Patel, a parenting expert, licensed educational psychologist, and author. “This is often because parents and educators are not sure what coping skills work, so they can pass that information on to the children in their lives.”

That’s where Patel aims to change things. Her new book, “Winnie & Her Worries,” explores the area of worry and anxiety. While the book was written for kids ages 3-10, the information and coping strategies offered are effective for all ages dealing with anxiety. The book provides examples of common stressful situations, which are often brought on by living in a competitive world that has high demands and unrealistic expectations. The book also provides coping strategies that can be used to help address the fear and anxiety.

Coping strategies are thoughts and behaviors that people can use to help them get through emotionally difficult times, such as when they have anxiety, which is the fear of the unknown. Patel’s book aims to help parents, educators, coaches, and caretakers be able to help them identify anxiety in a concrete way and learn the coping strategies they can use to become more confident and less fearful.

“Too many people experience anxiety on a regular basis,” added Patel. “The good news is that there are numerous things that people can do to address the situation. It’s just a matter of someone showing them what works, which is exactly what my new book does.”

In the January 2017 issue of the journal Annals of Psychiatry and Mental Health, researchers reported that chronic stress leads to anxiety and depression. Their report noted that stress is often neglected in day to day life when it could play a detrimental role in one’s mental health. They advise that social support, explanatory styles, locus of control, personality types, and coping skills can be significant when dealing with stress.

Winnie & Her Worries” offers healthy habits for the whole family. The book was written to target young kids, because it is harder to change maladaptive habits as teens and young adults if they do not have coping skills. Those who read the book will find that they will be able to better identify anxiety triggers, as well as gain valuable information regarding preventative tools and coping strategies for anxiety and stress. The tools are aimed at helping those who use them to feel more confident, comfortable, and able to engage in their everyday routine with ease and no worries or stress. This book has been created using professional techniques that are easy to implement, even amidst busy lives, making it an important book to have in every classroom and home.

Patel is the founder of AutiZm& More, and as a licensed educational psychologist and guidance counselor, she helps children and their families with the use of positive behavior support strategies across home, school, and community settings. She does workshops around California, where she provides this information to health professionals, families, and educators. She is also the author of two children’s books that teach compassion and kindness, called “My Friend Max: A Story About a Friend with Autism,” and “reenabpatel.com.

About Reena B. Patel
Based in the San Diego area, Reena B. Patel (LEP, BCBA) is a renowned parenting expert, guidance counselor, licensed educational psychologist, and board-certified behavior analyst. For more than 20 years, Patel has had the privilege of working with families and children, supporting all aspects of education and positive wellness. She works extensively with developing children as well as children with exceptional needs, supporting their academic, behavioral and social development. She was recently nominated for San Diego Magazine’s “Woman of the Year.” To learn more about her books and services, visit the website at reenabpatel.com, and to get more parenting tips, follow her on Instagram @reenabpatel.

# # #

Sources:

Annals of Psychiatry and Mental Health. Chronic stress leads to anxiety and depression. https://www.jscimedcentral.com/Psychiatry/psychiatry-5-1091.pdf

Anxiety and Depression Association of America.Facts & Statistics.https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

Turning the Tassel—Helping people with autism spectrum disorder earn a college degree and be prepared to enter a competitive workforce

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By Rebecca Hansen, Ed.D.

Meet Jeff Staley. Jeff is from Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and is currently studying computer and information technology at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.

Before graduating from Poolesville High School, Jeff earned 15 college credits from coursework in algebra, calculus, analytical geometry, and statistics. Jeff was accepted into The West Virginia Autism Training Center’s College Program for Student’s with Autism Spectrum Disorder following his junior year of high school. For five weeks, between the months of July and August, The College Program hosts a high school summer transition program, in which students who have been accepted by Marshall University take one college class of their choice, live in the residence halls, and participate in social skill development workshops and activities led by peer mentors and mental health counselors.

For the past 10 years, students have reported that this experience helped to ease the transition from high school to college by providing them with newfound self-confidence, autonomy, and understanding of the expectations of advanced learning.

Jeff spent the summer following his junior year of high school earning an additional three college credits in general psychology. During this summer experience, Jeff learned how to balance free time, live away from home, create and maintain peer relationships, and navigate a college landscape. Many people with autism spectrum disorder find comfort and reassurance in experiencing the physical layout of a new environment in advance, guided by a trusted professional who understands how anxiety producing establishing a new routine can be. Proper planning and anticipation of a change in routine can help alleviate the stress and anxiety related to it. The College Program recommends visiting a variety of college campuses to find out the types of supports that may exist to help with academic demands, social opportunities, and residence life needs.

An impressive 94 percent of students who have received services from The College Program have graduated or are currently on track to graduate from Marshall University.

Jeff Staley
The College Program provides individualized skill building and therapeutic supports to degree seeking students with Autism Spectrum Disorder through a mentored environment while navigating a college experience at Marshall University.

The College Program is dedicated to create safe spaces for people with autism spectrum disorder throughout campus, in the community, and on the job. The College Program’s Allies Supporting Autism Spectrum Diversity movement works to educate people who wish to provide a safe and accepting environment for individuals living with autism spectrum disorder. The one-hour training provides participants with the opportunity to better understand challenges with social communication and provides practical ways in which to best communicate with someone on the autism spectrum. Many people are still afraid to talk to someone with autism because they don’t know what to say or how to best interact. Our advice? Don’t shy away. Invest time in learning more about how autism affects someone’s daily life. Oftentimes, they will thank you for it. Knowledge decreases the fear factor and leads to an environment where everyone can experience a life of quality.

People with autism, such as Jeff, can feel empowered by talking about how the disorder affects daily life. These conversations are at the crux of creating an inclusive campus culture. Neurodiversity is becoming better understood and sought after on campuses throughout the nation and beyond the graduation stage as employers are now seeking to hire people with autism. Employers are beginning to see the benefits of hiring someone with autism because they have established creative interviewing practices so that the candidate’s skill set is emphasized over their potential inability to maintain small talk.

Every June, for three weekdays, The College Program offers an employment preparedness workshop where participants have the opportunity to learn more about the job search process, cover letter and resume development, the proper use of social media, issues surrounding disclosure, self-advocacy skills, finance management, and the importance of networking. A panel of local employers from a variety of businesses and non-profit sectors participate to share the necessary skills to obtain and maintain employment. The College Program recognizes the importance of meaningful employment and the need that exists for practical information to assist students as they transition into more independent adults. What to learn more about Jeff? Check out marshall.edu/collegeprogram/employment-preparedness and watch the six-minute video about the Employment Preparedness Workshop.

To learn more about how to become an ally, participate in the employment preparedness workshop, or to apply to The College Program, please visit marshall.edu/collegeprogram or call 304-696-2332.

STEM Professor Receives Award to Study Technologies for Disability Community

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Ashley Shew standing on porch with arm around pillar smiling

By Leslie King

The trichotillomania bracelet looks unassuming, just like any other smart technology worn around the wrist. But rather than counting steps or heartbeats, it serves another purpose.

The wristlet vibrates an alarm when it tracks the user subconsciously beginning to pull out strands of hair. For those with trichotillomania, instead of following the compulsion to yank out their hair, the wireless device helps them notice the gestures and change their behavior.

This tool, along with other technologies for the disability community, intrigues Ashley Shew, an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Science, Technology, and Society. In July 2018, she received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award that will allow her to investigate the personal accounts of people with disabilities, as well as their opinions of the technologies designed for them.

The prestigious honor, given to junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research and education, is better known as the CAREER award.

“I’m interested in the storylines that disabled people tell about their bodies and how their relationships with technology differ from popular and dominant narratives we have in our society,” said Shew, who herself identifies as disabled.

Her research focuses on discrepancies between how scientists and engineers understand and explain their work related to disability and the actual needs and wants of people with disabilities. Shew said there is a disconnect between media-based depictions and reality within the realm of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and technology design.

“This means people aren’t always designing with real users in mind, but with ideas about what users want based on the entertainment media,” she said. “This is problematic because nondisabled people create and depict disabled people. There is little authentic disability representation in the media, so all these media-driven narratives about technology get fed into engineering.”

Shew cites several misleading media-supported tropes. Negative stereotypes encourage the public to view disabled people with pity, as sinners or fakers, or as resource burdens. And while the trichotillomania bracelet is small and unobtrusive, many technologies, such as wheelchairs or exoskeletons, are not. Some people who could benefit from viable supportive devices might shy away from them to avoid public skepticism or castigation.

And the reverse depictions are just as misrepresentative.

“There are also tropes about inspiration and courage,” Shew said. “The one people lean on, which I’ll be assessing through this grant, involves a focus on inspiration and courage, along the lines of, ‘You’re such an inspiration because you’re disabled in public.’ If you’re not inspiring, you’re courageous to overcome what you’re overcoming. If we believe you’re truly disabled, then if you’re out having a regular life, you’re considered heroic in ways that don’t map onto real life at all.”

Designers often create technologies with this trope in mind. An example of this is a surge of 3D-printed hands for young amputees. Marketed with terms such as “superhero” hands or arms, the branding presents these children as different from people without disabilities. Shew describes this phenomenon as techno-ableism, when technology makers try to empower others with helpful tools but use rhetoric that has the opposite effect. As part of her CAREER award, Shew will publish a book about this phenomenon.

Shew will also seek to counter unrealistic portrayals of people with disabilities by educating creators of disability technologies. Her research will incorporate interviews, memoirs, and the compilation of existing materials into classroom public outreach, an open-access website, and a textbook to complement existing STEM educational resources.

Shew is collaborating with Alexander Leonessa and Raffaella De Vita, associate professors in the College of Engineering, who have also received CAREER awards. In 2019, she will work with them through Virginia Tech’s STEMABILTY, a summer camp for students with disabilities.

A Virginia Tech faculty member since 2011, Shew received a Certificate of Teaching Excellence in 2017 and a Diversity Award in 2016, both from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Also in 2016, she received the Sally Bohland Award for Excellence in Access and Inclusion from the Virginia Tech office of Services for Students with Disabilities.

Shew co-edited Spaces for the Future: A Companion to Philosophy of Technology with Joseph Pitt, a Virginia Tech professor of philosophy. She is also the author of Animal Constructions and Technological Knowledge, published by Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield.

Shew is the fourth faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences to receive the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER Award in the past several years.

Source: vtnews.vt.edu

 

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.