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.
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.
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.
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.
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, email@example.com Purdue
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.
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.
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.
NOIDA, INDIA: A school for persons with disabilities has launched a picture-based application for the speech impaired and also an e-commerce portal that sells products made by children with speech disabilities.
The mobile app, Vaakya, is helpful for persons with speech disabilities, those affected by autism, cerebral palsy.
The authorities of Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan, which came out with the application, said the app is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) tool and can also be used for rehabilitation of children with disabilities.
The app creates a combination of custom images and phrases, which can be related to an individual user in order help them effectively communicate.
The application does not rely on internet connectivity and utilises the phone’s own memory. It will be available on Google Playstore free of cost from February 16.
The school has also integrated an e-commerce portal with its website — www.mbcnschool.org — which allows customers to buy products made by children with disabilities of the school under the vocational training program, Swayam.
The handmade products include wedding gifts, packaging items, office stationery, paper bags and other gift products which will be available online for purchase.
Product details such as price, size and other specifications have been mentioned along with customers’ reviews.
The prospective buyers can log on to the school’s website and buy the products using the simple user interface, the school authorities said.
Speaking about the initiative, Vandana Sharma, director, Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan, said, “MBCN has been working towards empowering children with disabilities for 18 years now. With Vaakya, our mission is to give the specially abled a tool to communicate efficiently and make them independent and self-reliant.”
She said the vocational training programme Swayam provides a sense of self-worth and economic independence. “The students get a stipend for the hours they spend on their skill as an encouragement for their hard work and give them a sense of economic independence.
Source: Hindustan Times
PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: The head of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is calling for strong collaboration among stakeholders to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower persons with disabilities, citing that “it requires the involvement of Governments, Persons with disabilities and the Organisations that serve them, ICT Service Providers, Network Operators, Regulators and the support of corporate citizens, with whom the CTU is prepared to facilitate.”
Ms. Lewis was speaking at the demonstration of the features of the Caribbean Video Assistance Service (CVAS), which enables people who are deaf not onlytocall each other and communicate directly, but also to speak with agents (trained sign language interpreters) who relay conversations between them and hearing parties.
The proposed CVAS is a collaboration between the CTU and VTC Secure that uses a technological platform to facilitate communication, without expensive equipment, via an individual’s smart phone, computer or wireless device from virtually anywhere. VTCSecure is a global company that provides secure On-‐Demand, Video, Voice & Text Call Center Services.
Using a Personal Universal Communicator (PUC) app, the demonstrations featured following five scenarios:
Deaf to Deaf ‐ a person who are deaf uses his smartphone equipped with internet access and the PUC app to sign with another person with hearing disability.
Deaf to hearing/hearing to Deaf via an interpreter – People with hearing disabilities uses his smart phone with internet access and the PUC app to communicate with an agent, who connects them toa hearing third party using a normal landline phone. Conversely, the hearing person can call the agent and speak to people with hearing disability.
Video assistance service for people who are blind – a person with vision disability uses his smart phone to contact an agent for assistance in identifying, for example, his medication and finding his way in a building, in particular in an emergency situation.
Hearing to Deaf without interpreter – Both hearing and Deaf parties use smart phones with internet access and the PUC app.The hearing party speaks and the voice is converted to text in real time. The Deaf person responds in text. A hard of hearing person responds with voice.
Trevor Prevatt, CTU Consultant, provided some of the next steps, which included an estimated breakdown of the costs involved in operating the service and which will eventually be extended to other Caribbean territories, stating that “We need to enlist secure financial support for the Service from a number of stakeholders, in particular corporate citizens.” He emphasized that secure funding is needed to ensure the sustainability of the service.
The demonstration gathered a cross-‐section of representatives, including persons with disabilities and DPO’s, social development and ICT sectors, as well as members of the diplomatic corps. Two persons with disabilities, one Blind and the other Deaf, testified to the usefulness and importance of the Service in enhancing the quality of their daily lives.
TEHRAN, IRAN: Recommendations of a two-day expert meeting with representatives from the Ministry of Education, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Organization, the State Welfare Organization, UNECSO, and academia and NGOs working in the field of disabilities, will be presented to Iranian policy makers to foster greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in the economy and the social milieu.
The meeting on January 24 was a joint initiative of the UNESCO Tehran office and the Iranian National Commission of UNESCO, on the development of a national policy to introduce ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities.
It discussed national policies and plans to employ information and communication technologies (ICT) in empowering the disabled and the need to keep them updated.
“Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have the potential of making significant improvements in the lives of persons with disabilities, allowing them to enhance their social, political and economic integration in communities and society, by enlarging the scope of activities available to them,” said Esther Kuisch Laroche, director of the UNESCO in Tehran.
“Removing barriers to accessing ICT by persons with disabilities is of paramount importance. In today’s world, no one should be excluded from using mobile phones, the Internet, TV, computers, electronic kiosks and their myriad of applications and services, including in education and cultural activities or for e-government or e-health services, to cite just a few examples.
Being excluded from these ICT-enabled applications implies being shut out not only from the information society, but also from accessing essential public services, as well as from the opportunity to live an independent life,” she said, un.org.ir reported.
Sadollah Nasiri Gheydari, secretary general of the Iranian National Commission of UNESCO, stressed that practical action plans should be implemented to employ ICT technology to enhance social inclusion of the physically challenged.
He referred to the newly developed Nation Plan of Action for the implementation of SDG 4 (Education) and said this could be used as a “very good example.”
Nasrollah Jahangard, head of the ICT Organization, said the field of ICT accessibility for the disabled is new and “we need to use the best global practices and successfully implemented projects as models to develop our own national policies.”
1.5m With Moderate to Severe Disabilities
According to the SWO, about 2% (1.5 million) of the Iranian population, including 400,000 in rural areas, are living with moderate to severe disabilities. Statistics show 8% of Iran’s population comprises seniors, and 40,000 disabled are added every year.
With rates of disability increasing, rehabilitation and social inclusion have become an integral part of healthcare and other services.
The high number of traffic accidents, aging population and the increase in chronic health conditions, as well as the nation’s proneness to natural disasters are factors contributing to a growing demand for rehabilitation and related services.
“Around 11.5 million in Iran suffer from some form of disability,” Gheydari said.
“Nearly 90% of disabled children across the world are out of school due to lack of access to proper equipment,” and this goes against international conventions. Irmgarda Kasinskaite-Buddeberg, program specialist at the Communication and Information Sector in UNESCO headquarters, introduced UNESCO’s model policy on inclusive ICTs in education for persons with disabilities, which was published in 2014, and the guideline on the inclusion of learners with disabilities in open and distance learning.
Among the short-term recommendations made by the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion was the adoption of a Universitywide policy on information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility. A broad-based University committee has met monthly since April 2015 and completed a draft of the policy that has been reviewed by the provost and the senior vice president and chief human resources officer, and faculty and student stakeholders. The policy is now available for review and comment on the University’s technology accessibility website. Once the comment period has closed, feedback will be reviewed and considered. The policy will then be vetted by the University’s Policy Advisory Committee as set forth in the University’s policy process.
Monday, Jan. 23, 10-11:15 a.m., 500 Hall of Languages
Thursday, Feb. 2, 3:30-4:45 PM, 500 Hall of Languages
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 3-4:15 p.m., Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, 114 Bird Library
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 9-10:15 a.m., Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, 114 Bird Library
All University faculty, students, and staff are welcome to attend. CART and ASL services will be provided. All attendees are encouraged to become familiar with the policy, available on the University’s technology accessibility website.
About the Information and Communication Technology Accessibility Policy
The policy is designed to ensure that all people can effectively access University content on information and communication technologies (ICT). These comprise equipment, systems, technologies or processes for which the principle function is the creation, manipulation, storage, display, receipt or transmission of electronic data and information as well as technology-based equipment.
The policy states:
Priority areas include: