International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3rd

https://www.un.org/en/observances/day-of-persons-with-disabilities

Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world

Disability inclusion is an essential condition to upholding human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security. It is also central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind. The commitment to realizing the rights of persons with disabilities is not only a matter of justice; it is an investment in a common future.

The global crisis of COVID-19 is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing the extent of exclusion and highlighting that work on disability inclusion is imperative. People with disabilities—one billion people— are one of the most excluded groups in our society and are among the hardest hit in this crisis in terms of fatalities.

Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are less likely to access health care, education, employment and to participate in the community. An integrated approach is required to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind.

Disability inclusion will result in a COVID19 response and recovery that better serves everyone, more fully suppressing the virus, as well as building back better. It will provide for more agile systems capable of responding to complex situations, reaching the furthest behind first.

The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy

When launching the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy in June 2019, the Secretary-General stated that the United Nations should lead by example and raise the Organization’s standards and performance on disability inclusion—across all pillars of work, from headquarters to the field.  

The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy provides the foundation for sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion through all pillars of the work of the United Nations. Through the Strategy, the United Nations system reaffirms that the full and complete realization of the human rights of all persons with disabilities is an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In October 2021, the Secretary-General submitted his second report on steps taken by the UN system to implement the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy in 2020.  Given the impact of the COVID-19 on persons with disabilities, the report also contains a brief reflection on disability-inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery.

Register for 11/30: How Disability Drives Innovation with Sinéad Burke, Wesley Hamilton and Jeff Mansfield

The Washington Post LIVE

DISABILITY IN AMERICA

Tuesday, November 30th

1:30 p.m. ET

in partnership with Ford Foundation

REGISTER

Society was created for individuals with specific physical abilities. Some disability advocates would argue that this reality has bred ingenuity and adaptability among disabled people that drives innovative, technological change.

Join Washington Post Live on Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 1:30 p.m. ET for a conversation that explores how disability drives innovation featuring:

Founder and CEO of Tilting the Lens Sinéad Burke

Entrepreneur Wesley Hamilton

Architect Jeffrey Mansfield

REGISTER: https://disabilitynov2021.splashthat.com/

ASL and closed captioning will be available throughout the program. Please email postlive@washpost.com as soon as possible if another accommodation would be useful.

Stream here: wapo.st/disabilitynov2021

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Kevin Leonard

Today would have been Kevin Leonard’s 59th birthday. I just wanted to acknowledge that.

Kevin Leonard was a colleague of mine for a very long time. He worked for Goodwill / Miami Valley Easter Seals in Dayton, and ran a program that was similar to ours in many ways. His program, Assistive Technology Services, allowed citizens of the greater Miami Valley have access to the types of technologies they needed to go to school, succeed in the workplace, and live more independent and inter-connected lives. Hundreds of people with disabilities got their first computer from Kevin Leonard. We were proud to support his program with an annual grant for the better part of 10 years. I learned a lot from him.

Kevin spent most of his adult life in a wheelchair. It is an understatement to say that it is not good for one’s health to spend most of your life in a wheelchair. He frequently battled health issues and would have to temporarily leave the store in the capable hands of his wife, Diana. It is amazing he lived this long, but Kevin Leonard had uncommon strength and perseverance. He was an incredibly hard worker and I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone with Kevin’s physical challenges who had a more productive life. He was a marvel to me. He accomplished more than I would have ever thought possible for him.

Rest in peace, Mr. Leonard. Well done. Thank you for everything you did in this life to help Ohioans with disabilities.

Federal judge rules Texas school mask ban violates Americans with Disabilities Act

By Raja Razek and Christina Maxouris, CNN

Updated 1:04 AM ET, Thu November 11, 2021

https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/10/us/federal-judge-texas-mask-ban-americans-with-disabilities-act/index.html

(CNN)A federal judge has ruled that Texas’ ban on mask mandates in schools violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to court documents filed Wednesday in US District Court for the Western District of Texas. 

The ruling follows months of clashes between state and local leaders over mask mandates in schools — not just in Texas, but across the country. Similar mandates became the topic of heated debates earlier this year as the Delta variant sent Covid-19 case numbers surging once again and schools across the United States began to reopen while many students were still ineligible for a vaccine. 

According to the court documents filed Wednesday, Texas independent school districts could choose whether to implement mask mandates for in-person instruction during the 2020-2021 school year. But before the new school year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order which, among other things, prohibited public schools from requiring students, staff and visitors to wear masks in their facilities. 

“Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities,” Abbott had said in May. “We can continue to mitigate COVID-19 while defending Texans’ liberty to choose whether or not they mask up.” 

But as the state grappled amid a nationwide spike in cases and hospitalizations over the summer, some school districts sought out ways around the ban or chose to ignore the governor’s order in hopes of curbing the spread of the virus. 

Disability Rights Texas, an advocacy group, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of several Texas families against the governor, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, claiming the spread of the virus was posing “an even greater risk for children with special health needs.” 

“Children with certain underlying conditions who contract COVID-19 are more likely to experience severe acute biological effects and to require admission to a hospital and the hospital’s intensive-care unit,” the lawsuit said. “This includes children with conditions including, Down syndrome, organ transplants, lung conditions, heart conditions, and weakened immune systems.” 

The ruling signed by US District Court Judge Lee Yeakel says that “at issue is whether Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-38 violates Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.” 

“The evidence presented by Plaintiffs establishes that Plaintiffs are being denied the benefits of in-person learning on an equal basis as their peers without disabilities. The court concludes that GA-38 violates the ADA,” the ruling said. 

Following the judge’s decision, the Texas attorney general wrote on Twitter, “I strongly disagree with Judge Yeakel’s opinion barring my office from giving effect to GA-38, which prohibits mask mandates imposed by government entities like school districts.” 

“My agency is considering all legal avenues to challenge this decision,” the attorney general wrote. 

The ruling also follows a September announcement from the US Education Department’s civil rights enforcement arm that it was opening an investigation to determine whether the state’s school mask mandate ban was preventing school districts from “considering or meeting the needs of students with disabilities.” 

At the time, the department said in a letter to Morath it was “concerned that Texas’s restriction on schools and school districts from putting masking requirements in place may be preventing schools in Texas from meeting their legal obligations not to discriminate based on disability and from providing an equal educational opportunity to students with disabilities who are at heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19.” 

Ohio Tech Ambassador Network hiring new Tech Ambassadors

The Ohio Tech Ambassador Network announces that the Ohio Tech Ambassador program is ready to grow. The grant funding the program has been renewed for an additional two years. The Network will continue encouraging people with developmental disabilities to use technology until June 2023.

The Ohio Tech Ambassador Network intends to hire two to three new Tech Ambassadors this fall and is reaching out for help spreading the work about this employment opportunity.

Do you, or does anyone you know, use technology to live more independently and enjoy sharing your experiences with others? If so, please read the Position Description, fill out the Application at ohiotechambassadors.org and send it to: info@ohiotechambassadors.org

The Ohio Tech Ambassador Network looks forward to adding some new tech stories to the great ones already being told by their current Tech Ambassadors.

Additional contact information is below:

George W. Myers
Grant Director
Ohio Tech Ambassador Network
614.354.2870
www.ohiotechambassadors.org

New Augmentative and Alternative Communication Speakers Connection

United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (USSAAC) has launched a new campaign called “Amplifying AAC Voices,” designed to provide people who rely on AAC more opportunities to be heard. The initial initiative involves the creation of an online “AAC Speakers Connection,” a web portal that facilitates the matchmaking between AAC Speakers and those that wish to engage them as paid speakers for a wide variety of purposes. 

If you know of any adults who use AAC and enjoy public speaking that would like to join USSAAC’s AAC Speaker Connection, please encourage them to sign up at https://speaker.ussaac.org/

Also, Just FYI from this non-profit —

Their first fundraiser is a Virtual Auction, October 1-15, 2021.  

If You Wish, here’s a sneak peek at the items we have collected for the auction so far.  https://www.silentauctionpro.com/bidonlinegrid.php?groupId=1860

WHAT’S THE MOST FREQUENTLY MANUFACTURED ITEM IN HISTORY?

Recently, the recordings of the 2021 TechSummit have been made publicly available at: https://nisonger.osu.edu/technology-project/techsummit-2021-virtual-bag/

In addition to presentation videos, conference handouts and a complete list of TechSummit 2021 vendors & their websites are available.

As I was reviewing the information from the 2021 TechSummit Conference, and the many technological advancements that give people with disabilities more options to live independently with supports, I am reminded of the importance of a piece of technology much earlier in my life.

Or as Billy Joel put it in part of a well-known song lyric –

“… I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes …”

I am reminded of a portable transistor radio with a single ear earpiece.

Why am I bringing forward this decades old technology when the 2021 TechSummit was discussing some of the newest technology? Please journey with me for a few moments.

Over my numerous surgeries and medical procedures as a person with Cerebral Palsy, many of them entailed 3-4 months or more far away from home in the hospital. Many times, television was only available for an hour or two in the evening. And, as I again betray my age, smart phones and the internet were many, many years away.

But I could have a portable handheld transistor radio with a single ear earpiece – about the size of a small paperback book.

This gave me access to the outside world and intellectual stimulation at a time when most of my energies were taken up with surgery, post-surgical physical challenges joined by considerable pain and rehabilitation. The radio allowed me intellectual freedom with news, sports, music, talk shows and the like from local stations. In a time when physical focus and recuperation was the top priority, this now simple technology kept my thinking brain engaged and kept my energy up for the next day’s physical therapy (also, it gave the nurses, aides, janitors, cooks, and other staff a rest from my constant questions and discussion as I tried to keep my thinking up to date in addition to physical improvement).

Okay, before I relate this discussion back to the 2021 TechSummit, let’s answer the question: WHAT’S THE MOST FREQUENTLY MANUFACTURED ITEM IN HISTORY?

As you may have guessed, it is the transistor (although it may not now be the same type as in my handheld radio).

In a 2018 article, computerhistory.org says “MOS transistors are microscopic electronic devices that serve as the fundamental building blocks of silicon computer chips. Millions could fit inside the period at the end of this sentence.”

It goes on to say, “In 2014 industry analyst Jim Handy estimated that 2.9 sextillion transistors had been manufactured by the industry since the first one sprang to life in late 1947. A sextillion is one followed by 21 zeros—that’s orders of magnitude greater than the number of stars in the Milky Way. He recently updated the total to 13 sextillion. As modern graphics and artificial intelligence chips each contain billions of transistors the total continues to build at an astronomical rate.”

Link to entire article if you’re interested: https://computerhistory.org/blog/13-sextillion-counting-the-long-winding-road-to-the-most-frequently-manufactured-human-artifact-in-history/

Last point, how does my trip down transistor radio memory lane and the 13 sextillion transistors made as of 2018 relate to the 2021 TechSummit and new possible choices for people with disabilities to live more independently with supports and help from the latest technology?

First, listen to some or all the presentations from the TechSummit conference at the link above.

Next, I submit for your consideration that this new technology has the potential to change, support and enrich our lives as people with disabilities in the same way my transistor radio gave me freedom and choices in a time in my life when my choices were not that numerous.

Don’t be afraid of these new technologies and just say I want to keep things the way they are. Learn all you can. That’s what events like the TechSummit are all about (and thanks to all the sponsors you’ll see on the website for making the conference possible). Ask a lot of questions. Try out new things to see if they will work for you.

This new technology might just give you access and support the same way my little radio did so many years ago.

No, Your Brother Getting Covid Doesn’t Make You a Person with a Disability

An interesting ruling came down this week from the Federal Court for the Middle District of Georgia regarding Covid and the ADA.

Mannington Mills is an international company that makes fine floor tiles with several plants, including one in Madison, Georgia. In March of 2020, an employee started feeling poorly, went to the hospital and tested positive for Covid19. The HR department at Mannington then started to interview people regarding possible close contacts. That’s when things got interesting.

One of the people interviewed was the gentleman’s sister, who also worked at Mannington. They asked her if she had visited his work station during his last shift, and she said no. They then asked her if she had any other close contacts with him, and again she said no. The next day, however, HR called her and said a few witnesses had seen her talking with her brother for several minutes, while he sat in the car and she stood just outside the open window.

She claimed she forgot about that conversation and apologized and was subsequently sent home to quarantine for 14 days. She claimed in later court filings this action made her feel “diseased and discarded” which, if nothing else, is an excellent use of alliteration. The following day, HR called her and told her they felt she had been dishonest with them regarding the conversation, rather than the innocent forgetting she professed. One day later she was fired from Mannington Mills.

The woman sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), claiming she was fired because she was the sister of someone who had tested positive for Covid19. Remember, this case originated in March of 2020, when people were on edge about Covid and so much was unknown. Even given that, her claims seem legally dubious.

The ADA was passed during the heights of the AIDS epidemic in our country. It was an unknown disease, and a scary one. There was a powerful social stigma associated with having AIDS and, in the early stages of the epidemic, there was no cure or effective treatment. People weren’t just being fired for having AIDS – they were, in some cases, being fired because the employer THOUGHT they MIGHT have AIDS. In this scenario, the ADA covers them if they are perceived to have the disability (even if they do not) and face discrimination based on that assumption.

I don’t think that argument applies here. Covid19 is indeed serious. Approximately 1.6% of the people in Georgia who tested positive for Covid ended up dying of it. But for the overwhelming majority of people who contracted Covid, they were sidelined for a couple of weeks and then recovered. Many were asymptomatic. By comparison, when AIDS came along, contracting it was assumed to be a death sentence.

In the 40 years since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic (as of 2018) approximately 700,000 Americans have died of AIDS, which is strikingly similar to the amount of people killed by Covid in the past 18 months (682,569, as of this writing). But contracting a disease – even one that can be fatal – doesn’t automatically (or even generally) make you a person with a disability. And yes, while people in 2020 or 2021 would keep their distance from someone who has Covid, there is simply no comparison between this type of public health decision and the stigma attached to contracting AIDS 30 years ago. Her feeling “diseased and discarded” because she was asked to quarantine doesn’t measure up.

The plaintiff’s brother got Covid. There is no indication that Mannington Mills fired him for it. And while it is possible he could have long-term effects from Covid that might render him a person with a disability someday, there’s no indication that this is the situation now. Absent evidence to the contrary, he appears to NOT meet the definition of a person with a disabilty under the law. And, even if he did, there is no indication in that the employer fired his sister (and not him) because he got Covid.

It’s possible she may have a case for wrongful termination. I’m not a lawyer, but getting canned for forgetting you talked to your brother seems a tad harsh. But her brother getting Covid doesn’t make her a person with a disability, or give her coverage under the ADA. The case was dismissed.

Florida State University Seeks People with Disabilities for Employment Survey

I received this note from Dr. Shengli Dong, from the Department of Educational Psychology and Learning Systems at Florida State University. He is a leading researcher on the incredibly important topic of transitioning to work and post-secondary education for people with disabilities. He is looking for people with disabilities to fill out a survey regarding employment outcomes.

Clinical research on the employment of people with disabilities is so incredibly important. It is an area of life where there is so much more progress left to be made. If you are a person with a disability, please consider taking the survey (you can even win a $20 gift card!). If you are not, please forward it on to someone who is. Thank you!

“You are invited to participate in a study on resource seeking strategies and impact on employment outcomes among individuals with disabilities. The study is conducted completely online and will be kept confidential. To participate you must be an individual with disability, at least 18 years of age, and will work either fulltime or parttime. The survey should take about 10-15 minutes of your time. You will be given the opportunity to opt into a raffle for a $20 gift card (given to approximately one of every 25 participants). This study has been approved by the FSU Internal Review Board as part of the research requirements. If you have any questions about the research study or need an alternative survey format, please contact Dr. Shengli Dong by e-mail: workplace_accommodation@fsu.edu 

Please click on the survey link for more details: https://proxy.qualtrics.com/proxy/?url=https%3A%2F%2Ffsu.qualtrics.com%2Fjfe%2Fform%2FSV_cIaV5L8GVdj9Y2i&token=yzY%2BGC8FzQN0nxibGr0R%2BAs905LAbiR%2Bt9CljTlwvyo%3D 

Thank you!