First Seminar on Inclusive ICTs in Dominican Republic

The Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict), jointly with the National Council on Disability (CONADIS) of the Dominican Republic, hosted the “First Seminar on Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)” on August 29-30 in Santo Domingo to promote accessible technologies, in line with the CRPD, in different areas of the Dominican society.

Part of a global series of training programs delivered by G3ict worldwide, the event facilitated the exchange of information and collaboration among key decision-makers in government, organizations of persons with disabilities, businesses, education, and research, in the context of the government-led campaign “República Digital”.  For more information, contact Francesca Cesa Bianchi fcesabianchi@g3ict.org

Advocates Recognised Through Victorian Disability Awards

MELBOURNE: Leading disability advocates from across Victoria have been recognised at an awards ceremony in Melbourne yesterday.

The Victorian Disability Awards formally recognise individuals, teams and organisations that make a difference in the lives of people with disability and who champion equality for all Victorians.

Presenting the awards, Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing Martin Foley congratulated all 29 finalists on their achievements and thanked them for their tireless efforts to improve outcomes for people with disability.

The inaugural Minister’s Award for Outstanding Leadership is given to an awards finalist who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership as a disability advocate. Dylan Alcott received this award as an elite athlete and media commentator who has recently established an accessibility and training company, Get Skilled Access.

Three people were inducted into the Lifetime Achievement Honour Roll, which recognises exceptional individuals who have made a significant contribution to the disability sector for 20 years or more.

The youngest award winner was Year 12 Brauer College student, Bryce Pace who won the Emerging Leader Award for outstanding work advocating for young people on the autism spectrum – encouraging them to embrace their abilities as well as promoting community inclusion of all people with disability.

This year’s awards had a renewed focus on inclusion, in line with the Andrews Labor Government’s Absolutely Everyone: State Disability Plan 2017-2020, to break down barriers for people with disability, in partnership with business and the community.

The plan also ensures the one million Victorians living with a disability can maximise the benefits of the National Disability Insurance Scheme – Australia’s largest social policy reform since Medicare.

The awards are a joint initiative between National Disability Services and the Department of Health and Human Services, with the finalists selected by a judging panel drawn from Victoria’s disability services.

For the full list of awards recipients, go to dhhs.vic.gov.au/disabilityawards.

Children with autism engage with robots rather than humans, because robots are simple and predictable. Photo: University of Portsmouth

Children with autism engage with robots rather than humans, because robots are simple and predictable. Photo: University of Portsmouth

New pathways to leadership for victorians with disabilities

AUSTRALIA: The Andrews Labor Government is supporting Victorians with a disability to become leaders in their local community.

Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing Martin Foley today opened applications for a range of scholarships and development opportunities, as part of the Disability Leadership Program.

Run in partnership with Leadership Victoria and the Disability Leadership Institute, the program offers scholarships, mentoring, role shadowing and networking for Victorians with a disability to gain valuable leadership development and training.

The program includes scholarships for a range of leadership courses delivered by Leadership Victoria.

In addition, a number of mentoring and workplace based places are available. Program participants can also apply for a 12 month membership of the national user-led Disability Leadership Institute.

Increasing the voice and representation of people with a disability is a key priority of Absolutely everyone:  state disability plan 2017 – 2020.

“We want to see more people with a disability in leadership positions in our community to help influence change.”

“With greater leadership diversity we are able to see a wider range of talent and experience, better engagement and innovation, good governance and robust decision-making.” said Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing Martin Foley

“The Williamson Community Leadership Program with Leadership Victoria was a life-changing experience for me and I encourage people to apply to be part of this amazing program.” said Chairperson of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council Colleen Furlanetto.

For more information about the Disability Leadership Program visit www.leadershipvictoria.org/programs/the-disability-leadership-program

Zambia to improve ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities

LUSAKA: Zambia’s information and technology regulator on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding with an agency representing people with disabilities aimed at enhancing access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for people with disabilities.

Person with vision disability using computer with braille display and a computer keyboard.The deal will result in the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) working with the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities in ensuring equal and unfettered access to ICT services by people with disabilities.

Patrick Mutimushi, acting director-general of the regulator said people with disabilities faced a number of challenges in accessing and using ICTs, a situation he said was against the objective of ensuring equal and unfettered access to ICT services.

According to him, no one should be excluded from using ICT gargets following the global impact of ICTs across all sectors, adding that being excluded from the use of technology implies being shut out not only from the information society but also from accessing essential public services.

Ensuring access to ICTs for people with disabilities was a key element of global, regional and national strategies, he added.

Julien Mwape, chairperson of the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities said the signing of the agreement was an excitement following challenges faced by people with disabilities in accessing and using ICTs.

The collaboration with the regulator was a significant step forward in advancing access to ICTs for people with disabilities, she added.

According to her, people with disabilities need access to ICTs in order to contribute meaningfully to development.

The agreement will allow the two organizations to collaborate on key areas by way of creating a platform where issues and challenges around provision of communication services to people with disabilities will be raised and efforts to resolve them initiated.

It will also encourage the design of accessible ICT products and services among other issues.

Source: Xinhua

Students With Reading Disabilities Sue Berkeley Unified School District for Failing to Educate Them

DREDF, with co–counsel, filed a complaint in federal court against Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) for systemically failing to educate students with reading disorders, and students who are suspected to have reading disability. BUSD is being sued for failure to comply with federal and state laws that ensure all students receive a free appropriate public education. The lawsuit was filed by Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), Jacobson Education Law, Inc., and international law firm Goodwin in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Children with reading disabilities have extreme difficulty learning skills needed to become literate, such as decoding (sounding out) words. Many are incredibly intelligent and need to be taught how to read in different ways than their peers. The complaint describes in disturbing detail how students from kindergarten to high school have been failed by the school district on perhaps its most basic academic responsibility: teaching children how to read. Some students have special education plans known as Individualized Education Programs (IEP) or Section 504 plans in place, but have nevertheless struggled unnecessarily with literacy because of the district’s across–the–board refusals. The suit contends that BUSD is failing to comply with federal and state laws, and implementing regulations (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and California Education Code Sections 56000 et seq.).

Deborah Jacobson of Jacobson Education Law, Inc. said, “What’s happening in BUSD matters because, in California alone, it’s estimated that more than 1 million students in K–12 public schools display signs of dyslexia. This is potentially an entire population of children who will struggle needlessly and possibly enter society functionally illiterate, no matter how intelligent, driven and capable they are. I’ve seen too many families in the BUSD have to resort to extreme measures including homeschooling just so their children with reading disorders are spared the shame and emotional trauma of not learning to read alongside their peers.”

Despite being aware for years of needed changes to its policies and practices, BUSD has systemically failed to identify, evaluate, and provide appropriate reading intervention services and accommodations to students with reading disorders that are necessary for them to learn to read and advance academically from grade to grade.

It is estimated that 6 to 17 percent of the population in the United States demonstrates some sign of dyslexia, making it the most prevalent learning disability by far.

DREDF is very fortunate that so many people who share in and support our work also understand one of our biggest challenges: time. Litigation, especially impact litigation, requires a huge investment of time on our part before we can even begin to think about recouping any expenses. This case is no different. We’ve been developing it for over four years, working with parents, trying to negotiate a resolution with the district, and building it for litigation. Filing the complaint, as you surely know, is just one step in a very long process. That means if you’ve been our supporter within, say, the last four years, you share our sense of accomplishment in protecting the rights of students with disabilities. Thank you for sticking with us so that we can stick up for students, and all people, with disabilities.

Source: DREDF

Seeing Pictures with Touch and Sound

WEST LAFAYETTE, IND.: Purdue University researchers are developing software in a “haptic device” that could give people with vision disabilities the ability to identify scientific images on a computer screen using their other senses.

Ting Zhang, a graduate student in the Purdue School of Industrial Engineering, is developing a system that involves a specially designed joystick attached to a computer. The joystick controls a cursor. When the cursor moves across an object on the screen, force feedback, vibrations and sound cues give the user information about the object’s size, shape, texture and color to help them identify the information displayed on a computer screen.

see caption

Ting Zhang (left), graduate student in the Purdue School of Industrial Engineering, assists David Schwarte, assistive technology specialist for Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP), as he tests a special device being developed by Purdue researchers that could give people with vision disabilities the ability to identify scientific images on a computer screen using their other senses. (Purdue Research Foundation photo/Curt Slyder)

Working under the guidance of Brad Duerstock, associate professor of engineering practice in the School of Industrial Engineering and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, and Juan Wachs, associate professor in the School of Industrial Engineering, Zhang is trying to address the number of students with visual impairments who become involved in STEM studies. A 2014 National Science Foundation publication reports that no more than 1 percent of people who are blind are involved in advanced science and engineering research and receive doctoral degrees.

“How science is conducted and how findings are typically represented is usually quite visual, making it difficult for students with vision disabilities,” Duerstock said.

“We’re hoping this technology can be used by schools in the future to assist students with vision disabilities study science,” Zhang said

Conventional methods to assist such students include printing tactile representations of computerized images on expensive 3-D sheets of material.

“The method is much less expensive and allows a person to directly interface with a computerized image using a haptic device and other sensory interfaces,” Duerstock said.

Haptic devices are handheld devices that give users feedback with forces when used with a computer system, such as controllers common with modern home video game systems.

David Schwarte, assistive technology specialist for Information Technology at Purdue, or ITaP, has been testing the system with Duerstock and Wachs’ team. He has a vision disability.

“I think this has a possibility of making things easier for people with a vision disability,” Schwarte said. “The big advantage is that it’s electronic and more real time.”

In addition to students of all ages, Zhang believes the system would be useful for scientists with visual impairments.

“We think the technology could be extended to other users as well, such as people without disabilities needing to get details about objects that only exist in the virtual state,” Zhang said.

“New Scientist” published an article about the technology.

Duerstock and Wachs’ team has a working prototype of the system and plans to do field trials this summer. The team also is looking for collaborators and investors to expedite the commercialization of the technology.

Zhang also plans to create a startup company to market the technology.

“We’re going through Purdue Foundry’s LaunchBox program right now. We’re also doing market research on the technology,” she said.

The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization has filed a non-provisional patent for the technology. For more information about developing and commercializing this or other Purdue inventions, contact the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization at 765-588-3470, otcip@prf.org Purdue

Sign language dictionary to release in India soon

NEW DELHI: The government is all set to come up with the country’s first-of-its-kind dictionary that aims to bring together various sign languages used by people with hearing disabilities.

see caption

2 Day National Conference on “Empowering Deaf Through Indian Sign Language” in Delhi. Photo: Indiaeducationdiary

The Indian Sign Language (ISL) dictionary, which is being developed by the Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC), has so far compiled 6,032 Hindi and English words and corresponding graphic representations of signs. The dictionary is being developed in both print and video formats.

“A comprehensive Indian Sign Language Dictionary is the need of the hour to facilitate communication between people with hearing disabilities and create a database for further policy making,” Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot said on Monday.

“Presently, the sign languages in a diverse country like India vary from region to region. Because of this, people from a region face difficulty in communicating with those in another region,” he said at the inauguration of a two-day national conference on empowering people with hearing disabilities.

Awanish K Awasthi, Joint Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, said that 50 lakh people with hearing disabilities and 20 lakh people with speech disabilities in the country will get a uniform language from the dictionary.

“It will contain graphic representations of popular signs used by people with hearing disabilities and will also include regional variations. Apart from that, it will have legal, technical and medical terms,” Mr. Awasthi said.

Source: Hindu

ICT

Arts Access Victoria launches three major resources for arts and disability

NEW ZEALAND: Arts Access has launched three major capacity building resources for the arts, disability and mental health sectors under the banner Art Matters.

Art and You – A Planning Guide is the first resource of its kind to empower people with disabilities and mental health issues to argue for NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) funding for their art-making.

An essential advocacy tool, Art and You was co-designed with artists with disabilities and mental health issues and identifies how the arts are related to health, wellbeing, employment and social connection, demonstrating the direct link between arts participation and NDIS outcomes.

ARTfinder is a unique online tool that allows people with disability to search for and find inclusive and accessible arts programs across the state, searchable by geographic location, access needs, art-form, cost and frequency.

Offering comprehensive, universally accessible search functions, ARTfinder provides a direct link between organisations offering accessible arts programs and the people who want to find and use the programs.

Finally, Art for Everyone is a guide to creating accessible and inclusive arts programs. It for artists and organisations and provides guidance on what makes an arts program truly accessible.

Under the Art Matters banner, all three resources work together to create and connect accessible arts programs with the people who need them.