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, 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


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.


School launches picture-based app for people with disabilities

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 — — 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

Caribbean Telecommunications Union Promotes Using ICT to Empower Persons with Disabilities

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.”

a person with vision disability uses the appMs.  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.

Debate on Improving ICT Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

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.

person using mouse

Photo: Leonardo Tote/FreeImages

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, 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.

Source: financialtribune

ICT Accessibility Policy Available for Open Comment

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.

Disability sign in place of enter keyTo encourage discussion and understanding of the policy and its ramifications, four public comment sessions will be held. Sessions are scheduled as follows:

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.

Included are:

  • academic and administrative software applications
  • websites, web-based and mobile applications
  • interpreting services for events
  • email and electronic documents
  • search engines and databases
  • multimedia (audio and video)

The policy states:

  • ICT services and products shall be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  • ICT shall adhere to International (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 AA) and Federal (Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) standards.
  • Events on campus shall be accessible and enable full participation

Priority areas include:

  • course content: documents, video and library reserves
  • University websites and associated documents
  • public non-academic video and audio resources
  • auxiliary aids and services for University events
  • library multimedia resources
  • procurement of information and communication technology
  • oversight and support for sustaining ICT accessibility


Lack of accessible toilets restrict access to public places for women with disabilities in India

INDIA: “I don’t eat a full meal for dinner. We don’t have a toilet at home and I can’t see at night to go out in the open to relieve myself if needed. I control myself till around 8 or 9 am when it becomes light enough for me to see at least a foot or two around me. But with my low vision, I am never sure if someone is watching me,” Mumbai-based disability rights and gender justice activist, Nidhi Goyal quotes a young girl from Gujarat as saying, in her 2015 blog post for Azaadi Ki Udaan.

Wheelchair user Parliament recently passed the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Bill, 2014. While the new Act covers many more disabilities and issues, is it equipped to address the challenges that a woman with disability faces in her daily life? If toilets didn’t seem like a top-of-the-list challenge for women with disabilities to most people, an Internet post by a woman in wheelchair in India changed that last month. The woman wrote about being forced to wear adult diapers to work because offices didn’t have accessible toilets.

“Absence of accessible toilet is not a microcosmic problem. It is a major worry. It is one of the things that restrict access to public places for women with disabilities,” says Delhi-based academician and gender rights activist Anita Ghai. Ghai admits to not drinking water when she is outside home, so that she doesn’t have the urge to relieve herself. “It is common for women with disabilities to suffer from kidney stones because either they don’t drink enough water or don’t relieve themselves for long hours,” she says.

“I don’t drink water when I am outside the house, so that I don’t need to visit the toilet. It is common for women with disabilities to suffer from kidney stones because either they don’t drink enough water or they don’t relieve themselves for long hours” In the film Q2P, filmmaker Paramita Vohra had addressed the issue of lack of enough public toilets for women. “It is disturbing that the simplest of human needs, to relieve oneself, is often so difficult for women to satisfy,” Vohra had told Hindustan Times in an interview in 2014. The problem is more acute for a woman with disability. “The lack of toilets, and accessible ones at that, is the grassroots example of the disabling environment that the social model of disability describes,” Goyal writes in her blog post.

Bengaluru-based Meenu Bhambhani gives her own example. “On a recent road trip from Jaipur to Ajmer, when we stopped for a loo break, I couldn’t use the toilet because there was not even a basic western-style toilet. This is a problem especially in the smaller towns and in rural India – most toilets are Indian-style.” Where there are accessible toilets, they are often locked. Ghai remembers a recent visit to a multiplex in Delhi. “The mall where the multiplex was located had an accessible toilet, but it was locked. Clearly they were not expecting anyone to use it,” she says.

If it can be accessed, it is often so dirty that one wouldn’t want to use it. “When I use the accessible toilet at the airport, I usually peep in once to see whether it is clean. At the accessible toilets, the floors are often left wet, there is no toilet paper or soap. There is never a full-length mirror, though there is always one in the general women’s toilet,” says Bhambhani.

It is the same in the few offices that do have accessible toilets. “The janitor doesn’t bother to clean perhaps because they are not expecting too many people to use it,” says Shivani Gupta, inclusive design consultant. Designs are also often not according to specifications. “The height of the toilet, the basin etc are often not according to globally-agreed upon standards,” she says.

The bigger issue being the absence of accessible toilets, few waste time cribbing about the fact that in India all accessible toilets are unisex. “In the US, both men’s and women’s toilets had one kiosk each for people with disabilities. We do need unisex toilets because sometimes the people with disabilities might need to be assisted and the caregiver may not be of the same gender. But that’s no reason why they can’t also have a stall inside the men’s and women’s toilets also,” says Gupta.

The fear of being not able to relieve themselves, restricts access to public place for many, feel activists. “The government talks of creating inclusive spaces, but there are no ramps on public transport, crossing roads is difficult. And there are no toilets. Just the physical access is so difficult,” says Ghai.

Source: Hindustan Times