Marilee Talkington stars alongside Jason Momoa in Apple TV+’s upcoming futuristic, post-apocalyptic drama “See”

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Apple TV Movie poster with images of Marilee Talkington and Jason Momoa with the word "SEE" printed on it

A lifelong advocate and a voice for other actors that are also visually impaired, Marilee Talkington will be lighting up television sets alongside Jason Momoa (“Game of Thrones,” AQUAMAN) in Apple TV+’s upcoming futuristic, post-apocalyptic drama “See,” premiering Friday, November 1st.

Legally blind herself, Marilee will be playing more than just a role in a show, but a pivotal role in the fight for authentic casting and representation.

From the producers of the PLANET OF THE APES Trilogy, written by Steven Knight (“Peaky Blinders”) and directed by Francis Lawrence (THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE and MOCKINGJAY PARTS 1 & 2), “See,” tells the story of a future where a virus has wiped out most of mankind, leaving the survivors blinded. Marilee stars as “Souter Bax,” an emotionally complicated character, authentically representing the blind community. In addition to Jason Momoa, the show also stars Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning actress, Alfre Woodard (12 YEARS A SLAVE, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR) and Archie Madekwe (MIDSOMMAR).

Marilee also spends her time as a consultant for TV shows, films, theater, university, and conservatories for authentic casting and representation on stage and screen. She has even created an acting program for authentically blind/low vision actors and is heavily involved in SAG-AFTRA Performers with Disabilities Committee, as well as 50/50 by 2020. Marilee even went viral in 2017, being featured for HuffPost and the Observer, when at a panel for the World Science Festival, a female panelist kept getting cut off by the male moderator, Marilee jumped in from the crowd asking him to “Let her speak, please!” Passionate about her activism, she is fighting for those around her and coming after her.

Born with cone-rod dystrophy, a retinal disease she had inherited from her mother, Marilee had no central vision, and learned how to not just survive, but thrive. Heavily involved in basketball throughout high school, even earning herself a spot on the CA All-Star team, Marilee could not play in college as her sight continued to deteriorate. While studying Psychology, she took an acting class on a whim and fell in love immediately. Moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, she worked hard, honing her craft before attending the American Conservatory Theater, graduating with honors as one of just a handful of legally blind actors in the country with an MFA in Acting.

WATCH THE TRAILER!

Following school, Marilee took to writing and directing groundbreaking plays, including “Sticky Time,” a show that took place around the audience, rather than the usual format, and “Truce,” (shown in San Francisco, New York and the BBC), in which Marilee played 22 different characters. ”Truce’s” cutting edge aspect was its set design as it paralleled her own vision loss so that audience members could viscerally experience what it might be like for her. In all her productions, Marilee aims to break apart the normative theatrical viewing experience and create highly visceral and experimental story-telling moments. She innovates new aesthetics to integrate her specific physical experience of the world into each show.

Since then, she has starred in NBC’s “New Amsterdam,” CBS’ “NCIS,” and countless theater productions, both Off-Broadway and Regional. In the past 25 years, she has originated over 60 characters including lead roles in world premieres by Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) and Lauren Gunderson (most produced playwright in the US, 2017).

Photo Credit: David Noles

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.

Peter Dinklage Thanks ‘Game of Thrones’ Co-Stars for SAG Award Win

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Peter Dinklage accepts SAG Award

The actor also thanked his wife and the people of Northern Ireland during his acceptance speech for best male actor in a drama series.

Peter Dinklage took home the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series at the 2020 SAG Awards on Sunday.

The Game of Thrones star prevailed over fellow nominees Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), Steve Carell (The Morning Show), Billy Crudup (The Morning Show) and David Harbour (Stranger Things).

Dinklage began his speech by joking that his nude statuette looked like it appeared on the HBO series. The win follows the final season of the acclaimed series.

“I would like to thank the people of Northern Ireland,” he said, “who put up with us for nine years.”

Dinklage then praised the show’s cast and crew. “I would also like to thank everyone at table nine and ten and beyond cause we put up with each other for nine years,” he said.

The actor concluded his speech by thanking his wife. “Finally and most importantly, I would like to thank my wife, who put up with me for more than nine years, but lived in a place far away from home, but made it home cause we were together,” said Dinklage.

Continue on to the Hollywood Reporter to read the complete article

Woman With Cerebral Palsy Pens Script For Disney

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Erin Feeney is smiling and giving a hand signal that all is good while seated in here chair at home

Erin Feeney, 28, wants to have a career in fairy tales. And so far, she has already paved a path to one of the known entities of fairy tales — Disney. Feeney just saw her first script for the Disney animated show, “Doc McStuffins” come to fruition in a cartoon entitled Ultimate Safari “Tail Spin.” The animated short premiered Monday on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior. (For those not familiar, “Doc McStuffins” is an animated children’s series about a girl who fixes toys with the aid of her toy friends.)

Feeney’s two-minute interstitial shows Doc and her toy team helping a whirly bird named Topsy get back to her flock and perform the “Sunrise Spin.” The spot is also available in the DisneyNOW app and on the Disney Junior YouTube page.

“I can hardly believe it,” said Feeney who expressed her enthusiasm via her communication board attached to her wheelchair. Feeney was born with cerebral palsy and is unable to speak. She communicates by pointing to words and letters on her board. Her father, Kevin, is her translator and is quick to spell out her messages by watching where she points.

He remembers Erin’s path to writing for the small screen started a few years ago after her short stories turned into a short film with actors who were people with disabilities, he said. That film grew into a feature that played in the Naperville Independent Film Festival in 2016 where some people who worked with Disney on Ice noticed. Shea Fontana, the writer of the Disney on Ice script, also wrote for “Doc McStuffins.” Erin attended that ice show and met Fontana, who subsequently invited Erin to submit some script ideas for “Doc McStuffins.” Erin submitted 10 ideas and two made the cut. One of them is “Tail Spin,” which took a few hours to write initially, Erin said. Some back and forth with producers and about five edits, and the script was complete in two or three weeks, her father added.

“Since it’s animation, it takes a long time to do all that stuff,” Kevin Feeney said.

After the process, Disney invited the Feeneys to Los Angeles for four days in August 2017 where they met some of the voice artists in a recording session. The Feeneys also made a visit to Disneyland.

“They were really nice and when we were eating lunch, Henry Winkler (aka the Fonz) was recording in the building for another cartoon show, so we got to meet him — a real nice guy,” Feeney said.

After that, it was just a waiting game for the cartoon to be produced. And this week, the family was up extra early to see the premiere live.

“Erin has always had talent — a huge imagination,” Kevin Feeney said. “She loves the Disney stories, Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen, those types of things. We’re reading the biography of Andersen, and she’s listening to the audio book of the life of Helen Keller.”

“I was a lonely kid, so I started watching the Disney movies and fell in love with the princesses,” she said. Her favorites (Snow White, Thumbelina and Cinderella). But she laughs saying “Elsa and Anna are cool.” (Get it? Because they’re both princesses from “Frozen.”)

“Erin’s dream has been to write fairy tales for kids all her life and in particular Disney stories, so we’re hoping that one of these days, she can make a career of that. But Erin wants to finish college first. And then go from there,” her dad said.

Continue on to The Chicago Tribune to read the complete article.

PHOTO CREDIT: Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune

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.

T-Boz Talks TLC’s Legacy, Touring with Chilli and Beating the Odds

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TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins is pictured sitting on a red chair with a colorful blue and red themed outfit

The superstar spills the deets on her health, her 30-year career in the music industry and her brand-new business endeavor.

TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins’ life is one filled with overcoming insurmountable odds and finding blessings in unexpected places.

Watkins was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at the age of 7 and spent much of her childhood in and out of hospitals due to episodes with the potentially fatal condition. She was told she wouldn’t make it past early adulthood.

Her family’s move from Des Moines, Iowa, to Atlanta when Watkins was 9, and a chance meeting former singer and music executive Perri “Pebbles” Reid and her then-husband L.A. Reid would launch T-Boz, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas into the stratosphere as the biggest-selling American girl group in music history; in addition, they earned four Grammy Awards and have sold 65 millions albums worldwide to date.

For all its success, TLC has endured a roller coaster of ups and downs over the past 30 years, the biggest blow being the loss of group member Left Eye in a 2002 car cash, which took away one-third of the lightning in a bottle that made them superstars.

Resolute in their will to go on, T-Boz and Chilli have continued to record music and tour, most recently co-headlining a tour with Nelly and Flo Rida that continues through this summer.

These days, T-Boz, author of the 2017 memoir A Sick Life, is reveling in the most recent chapter of her life as mom to daughter Chase and son Chance and co-creator of her newly launched line of CBD-infused healthy and beauty products, aptly called TLCBD.

Continue on to Ebony to read the interview with T-Boz.

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.

Actress With Autism To Debut In New TV Comedy

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Kayla Cromer is standing in front of a background with colorful butterflies wearing a bright blue floral dress

Autism is set to be front and center on a new television series starring a woman who’s on the spectrum. The cable network Freeform, which caters to teens and young adults, will introduce the show “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” this month.

The half-hour comedy is about a 20-something who steps in to take care of his two teenage half sisters when their father dies of cancer.

Matilda, one of the half sisters, is a high school senior with autism. The character is played by actress Kayla Cromer who disclosed last spring that she has the developmental disorder herself.

Cromer has spoken up about the need for people with disabilities and other differences to represent those like themselves on screen.

“So many characters on television today, they’re portrayed by people that do not have a difference. And, honestly, people with a difference, we’re fully capable of portraying our own type and we deserve that right,” she said while speaking on a panel at the Freeform Summit last March. “With so many changes in the industry right now, why not now? Just give us our chance. Include us. We can do this.”

Freeform said the show will tackle “navigating autism, budding sexuality, consent, parenthood, adolescence, family and grief” while following a family discovering the “importance of finding happiness in the middle of really difficult moments.”

Continue on to the Disability Scoop to read the complete article.

American Girl introduces doll with hearing loss for 2020 Girl of the Year

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American Girl Doll Joss Kendrick wearing hearing aid and surfing with her dog on the surfboard

By Rachel Paula Abrahamson

Meet American Girl’s 2020 Girl of the Year: Joss Kendrick.

The 10-year-old surfer and competitive cheerleader from Huntington Beach, California, has long brown hair and a penchant for hooded sweatshirts.

Joss also wears a hearing aid in her right ear. She can’t hear at all in her left.

American Girl introduced a wheelchair in 1996, and went on to offer items such as service dogs, diabetes kits and leg braces, Joss is the first doll whose disability is a storyline in her book series.

“We’re proud to welcome Joss Kendrick, whose stories are sure to instill confidence and character in girls who are learning to think about the possibilities in their own life,” American Girl’s general manager Jamie Cygielman said in a statement.

To make Joss as authentic as possible, the Mattel-owned company worked with a team of experts including pro surfer Crystal DaSilva, who was born deaf.

“Deaf children should know that they can accomplish anything in life with hard work and dedication,” DaSilva, 35, told TODAY Parents in an email. “They should not be afraid to do anything they set out to do in life simply because they have a physical challenge.”

American Girl also partnered with Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and donated $25,000 to support the organization’s education and awareness programs.

Continue on to Today to read the complete article.

Abilities Expo is back in Los Angeles February 21-23

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Los Angeles Convention Center for the Abilities Expo is pictured with blue skies and palm trees

Abilities Expo is about bringing necessary products and services together under one roof for the community of people with disabilities, their families, caregivers, seniors, and healthcare professionals.

It’s about introducing opportunities that can enrich your life …especially ones that you never knew were out there.

What’s in Store for you at Abilities Expo?

New products and tech. High-impact workshops. Fun, inclusive recreation including an all-inclusive climbing wall.

 

Special Features include:

Adaptive Sports
Dance Performances
Can’t Miss Experiences
Service Animals
Face Painting

Workshops include:

Accessible Home Design
Can I retrofit my master bathroom to include a spacious roll-in shower? What must I do to install an elevator in my two-story home? How can my flower garden be made more accessible? Who should I hire to make sure my home renovation project will fit my needs?

Mosquitos, Mess Halls, and More Like Me: The Importance of the Summer Camp Experience for Youth with Disabilities
Is summer camp relevant for my child? Is it really the best use of our time and resources? How does the camp experience prepare my child for their future?

Watch the video to find out more about the Abilities Expo!

Abilities Expo Los Angeles has it all so register for free today!

Jim Ryan and the Wheelie 7: A Game-Changer For Mobility

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HOOBOX Robotics' Wheelie 7 kit allows users to pick from 10 facial expressions to control their motorized wheelchair moving forward, turning and stopping. Instead of invasive body sensors, the Wheelie 7 uses a 3D Intel RealSense Depth Camera SR300 mounted on the wheelchair to stream data that AI algorithms process in real time to control the chair

By Jaeson “Doc” Parsons

The date of March 30th, 2016, will be forever etched into the mind of Jim Ryan. That day, while vacationing in Maui with his wife, Isabelle, a wave struck him in waist deep water, driving him into the sea floor. He surfaced, unconscious and unresponsive. In that split second, Ryan was paralyzed, becoming a quadriplegic from his C4 vertebrae down. In that moment, his life was changed forever.

Ryan is not alone. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, nearly 288,000 people in the United States are living with spinal cord injuries, and there about 17,700 new cases each year.

For those with movement-limiting conditions like Ryan, getting around can exact a terrible toll on quality of life and autonomy. A 2018 study found that physical mobility has the largest impact on quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries. Mobility is often enabled through caregivers or through a motorized wheelchair with complex sensors placed on the body that require special education to operate.

With this in mind, technology company Intel partnered with robotics company Hoobox to create the first-ever artificial intelligence-powered wheelchair that translates facial expressions into freedom of movement.

Using a combination of Intel hardware and software, Hoobox developed ‘The Wheelie’—a wheelchair kit that utilizes facial recognition technology to capture, process, and translate facial expressions into real-time wheelchair commands, finally providing individuals such as Ryan with autonomy, regardless of the physical limitations they’re facing. This system is a kit which can be installed on any motorized wheelchair system and, at under 7 minutes for installation, is relatively easy to implement.

Like many individuals suffering from spinal cord injuries, Ryan was using a conventional motorized system, one that uses a head array to translate gestures into movement.

“Before the Wheelie I drove my wheelchair with the head array. It is like a horseshoe around my head with five buttons that I used to turn left, right, forward, back, and change modes,” Ryan said. “Because of the head array, I am unable to look left and right. Nor can I wear hats of virtually any type. The hats get in the way of my buttons.”

Hoobox saw this limitation and found a way through it. By incorporating AI and a camera, the Wheelie 7 operates without invasive body sensors, providing users with independence and control over their location. It translates 11 different facial expressions into wheelchair commands in real time with 99.9% accuracy. And its performance improves over time as the algorithm learns to recognize the user’s expressions, allowing for increased freedom of movement.

“The Wheelie allows me to turn my head left and right and wear any hat I want,” said Ryan, who was introduced to Hoobox’s Wheelie through a group in Vancouver. He is one of more than 60 individuals who are testing the new technology to help Hoobox developers understand their needs and requirements.

Since being introduced to the Wheelie 7, Ryan has improved not just his mobility, but his lifestyle as well.

“I now can look left and right, up and down. I can wear a sun hat or baseball hat in the summer and nice winter hat or hoodie in the winter,” he said.

As technology continues its march forward with advances in AI systems, the limitations on mobility for those suffering from debilitating injuries like Ryan are beginning to see a transformation.

Wheelie 7 is a game changer in improving access to mobility solutions for those with conditions resulting from nearly 500,000 spinal cord injuries per year. But through continued research and development by companies such as Intel and Hoobox, and with the help of individuals such as Ryan, mobility is becoming a reality.

“For a person like me it gives a tremendous amount of freedom,” he said. “By using facial expressions instead of head movements, the Wheelie allows me more freedom and comfort in my wheelchair. And for anyone else with limited movement like me, it can be at true asset.”