Service dogs navigate the challenges of covid: ‘The dog doesn’t understand social distancing’

By Jenna Portnoy: For Complete Post, click here…

The pandemic has complicated life for everyone, but social distancing, mask-wearing and other practices to reduce the spread of coronavirus present particular challenges for people with disabilities who rely on service animals.

Organizations that train dogs — often Labrador and golden retrievers, among other breeds — are just beginning to see what the first classes of pandemic puppies can do after 18 months of diminished socialization and exposure to public places.

Dog-handler teams have had to adapt to virtual training, different commands and new ways to keep their skills sharp in order to avoid uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations.

This is especially important, trainers and people with disabilities say, as more people return to their pre-pandemic routines of taking public transportation and attending in-person work and school.

Spooky, Not Scary: Staying Safe this Halloween

By Kathrine C: For Complete Post, click here…

COVID-19 restrictions have made maintaining our social lives a challenging effort over the course of the past half year, but with one of the first social holidays of autumn approaching, many are wondering how it can be enjoyed while staying safe. Where It’s AT is here to help, with a few tricks and treats of our own.

In-Person Celebrating

If giving out candy or taking little ones to trick-or-treat, please remember that a costume mask is not the same as a medical face mask; costume masks do not provide any protection against COVID-19. To make your little ghouls excited to wear their face mask, you can try decorating their mask to match their costume, using fabric markers, iron on patterns (Etsy has great creators) or premade masks to match any theme, whether it be: sugar skulls, vampires or clowns.

If you are still feeling concerned about the bag of candy that your little one has worked so hard to collect, think ahead and buy an assortment of big bars of their favorite candy, so that their collected candy bag can have time to quarantine to your degree of comfort, while they have an exciting treat to tide them over.

On that note, please only hand out candy if you and everyone in your household is feeling well. If you decide to hand out goodies, be sure to wash hands properly and frequently, while also sanitizing regularly. There are a variety of ways for you to hand out treats in a socially distant fashion. NPR is reporting that people have even gone so far as to create candy chutes out of PVC pipes in order to keep themselves and their visitors safe. You could also set up a table on your lawn with little piles of candy or disposable paper cups of treats, or hang baggies along bushes, fences or trees for little ones to take as they pass your home.

If you feel more comfortable keeping the festivities to your household, you can decorate the inside of your home like a haunted house and have household members trick-or-treat from room to room in the fun ambiance. You can also organize a candy hunt at night using flashlights and plastic eggs filled with candy. To accommodate households with participants who have a range of ability to hunt for well-hidden eggs, add glow sticks or glow bracelets to some eggs to help them stand out.

Coordinate with your neighbors through social media groups or neighborhood apps like Nextdoor and Patch to organize a drive-by reverse trick-or-treat where you can drive by all of the costumed kids on their lawns and gently toss candy to them while honking and cheering-on their awesome costumes. You could also coordinate a decoration theme for your neighborhood and/or organize a drive-by Halloween experience for others, kind of in the fashion of neighborhoods who decorate over the top with Christmas lights. You can even coordinate music with any light decorations or play a spooky ambiance to fit your neighborhood’s Halloween theme by using an FM audio transmitter, simply put a sign in your yard to let your viewers know which station to tune into.

Setting up a projector to play a movie against the side of your house or garage door creates a great opportunity to have a mini, socially distanced “drive-in” movie theater experience. People can bring snacks and blankets and stay socially distant, together, for the holiday. This is a particularly good option if you live in a cul-de-sac, as you can include the neighborhood in on the fun. If there are small kids that you worry about keeping socially distant for such a long event, it can truly be arranged like a drive-in, with people parking and watching and simply playing the audio to the movie over an FM transmitter, like the one described in the above paragraph. Remember to keep it family-friendly if it will be being broadcast against the front of your house though, as you never know whose eyes may be watching.

Have a Halloween make-up tutorial party. Figure out which tutorial you wish to try (beware, some videos are on the gory side of special effects, so search without any kiddos nearby) and buy supplies to follow along to YouTube makeup tutorials from inspiring special effects artists like Madeyewlook who has made herself into an old school tattoostorybook Alice in Wonderland, and a Beetlejuice inspired lookdope2111 has done ElsaCorpse Bride, and Edward Scissor Hands. While Kandee Johnson has done Betty BoopAsh from Pokémon, and a Barbie Doll.

Virtual Celebrating

You can schedule a Zoom Halloween party. People can dress up, the participants can mail treats to each other like secret Santa, and everyone can nosh and hang out. Hold contests for participants like costume contests, pumpkin carving/painting contests and scavenger hunts. Play Pictionary with Zoom’s whiteboard feature with spooky Halloween themed topics or simply hang out and enjoy each other’s company with a Halloween themed virtual background.

Set up a virtual Halloween/Scary movie marathon on Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party). By using the Teleparty extension on a chrome browser on your desktop or laptop, you have the ability to watch programing in sync with other Netflix, Disney, Hulu and HBO subscribers. There is a chat feature so everyone can comment about the streamed program to one another.

News on No-Fault: DIFS Bulletin addressing reimbursement limitations to certain products, services and accommodations

From CPAN: For Complete Post, click here…

On October 11, 2021, the Director of the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (“DIFS”) issued Bulletin 2021-38-INS addressing the applicability of the reimbursement limitations set forth in MCL 500.3157 to certain products, services and accommodations that constitute “[a]llowable expenses” under MCL 500.3107(1)(a).  Specifically, in the Bulletin, DIFS opined that “[p]roducts, services, and accommodations that are not provided by physicians, hospitals, clinics, or other like persons . . .” are not subject to the reimbursement limitations set forth in MCL 500.3157.   In the Bulletin, DIFS also expressed its view that MCL 500.3157 “governs the amount payable to any persons providing attendant care” services to auto accident survivors.

The Bulletin provided examples of several types of products, services, and accommodations that are, in DIFS’ view, exempt from the “fee caps” in MCL 500.3157, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Services related to guardianship or conservatorship;
  • Vehicle modifications;
  • Home modifications;
  • Computer equipment and supplies;
  • Generators;
  • Non-emergency medical transportation;
  • Non-prescription drugs;
  • Over-the-counter medical supplies; and
  • Certain case management services

Notably, the list of exempted products, services, and accommodations set forth in the Bulletin is not exhaustive, as DIFS itself acknowledged.  Instead, according to DIFS, the proper inquiry for determining whether a particular product, service or accommodation is subject to the reimbursement limitations set forth in MCL 500.3157 is whether it was “provided by physicians, hospitals, clinics, or other like persons.”

Moreover, in the Bulletin, DIFS explicitly directed no-fault insurers who have applied the reimbursement limitations in MCL 500.3157 to products, services, and accommodations that are exempt (including those listed above) to “re-process” the claim immediately, applying only the “reasonable[ness]” requirement set forth in MCL 500.3107(1)(a).  Further, DIFS instructed providers whose bills have been processed improperly to contact the no-fault insurer at issue to request reconsideration.

In short, DIFS’ Bulletin 2021-38-INS may be used by providers other than “physicians, hospitals, clinics, or other like persons” to assert that the “fee caps” set forth in MCL 500.3157 should not be applied to limit reimbursement by no-fault insurers for the products, services, or accommodations that those providers  render to auto accident survivors.

The ADA lawsuit settlement involving an accessibility overlay

By Sheri Byrne-Haber: For Complete Post, click here…

What the settlement agreement included, and what does it mean for the industry?

Eyebobs’ is an online glasses company that was sued for not meeting accessibility requirements by a blind plaintiff in January 2021. “Accessibility” refers to whether or not something is usable by an individual with a disability. The general standard used globally is WCAG

Like hundreds of thousands of websites, the Eyebobs’ website used an accessibility overlay to attempt to mitigate its known inaccessibility. Accessibility overlays are tools that attempt to make websites accessible. However, overlays (also known as tools, plugins, and widgets) force users with disabilities to use the assistive technology provided by the overlay rather than the assistive technology that the user may prefer to use that might be customized for their unique needs. Overlays do not make websites accessible, and can actually create accessibility problems for users.

What distinguished this case from the almost 200 other accessibility lawsuits involving overlays was the participation of Karl Groves as an expert witness, who wrote (and made public) this 35-page scathing indictment of how inaccessible the Eyebobs’ website was despite using a well-known accessibility overlay.

Karl is also responsible for creating overlayfactsheet.com, a website where over 600 accessibility professionals have signed a pledge which requires in part that the signatory “never advocate, recommend, or integrate an overlay which deceptively markets itself as providing automated compliance with laws or standards.” Note: I am proud to be signatory #38 on overlayfactsheet.com

The Eyebobs’ settlement requires them to make numerous changes to policies, procedures, and personnel to promote the accessibility of its digital properties. I will address each of these changes one by one. All of the statements in the remainder of this article attributed to the overlay companies were copied directly from their respective vendors’ sites on October 17, 2021.

NDEAM at NCIL

From NCIL: For Complete Post, click here…

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which is an opportunity for the US to recognize the vital role disabled people play in the workforce, kicked off earlier this month with the signing of a proclamation by President Joe Biden.  This year’s theme, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” rings especially true as the Independent Living (IL) network continues to engage in conversations regarding inclusion gaps in our own spaces.  We at the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) appreciate that the White House has an awareness of the challenges multiply-marginalized disabled people experience as members of the workforce:

“Despite the progress our Nation has made in recent decades, people with disabilities are still too often marginalized and denied access to the American dream.  Americans with disabilities — particularly women and people of color — have faced long-standing gaps in employment, advancement, and income.  The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these inequities, as people with disabilities have faced heightened risks — particularly the disproportionate share of people with disabilities employed in the hardest-hit industries.  Our Nation will never fully recover and rebuild unless every single community — including disabled Americans — is fully included.”

Check out Chromebook’s new accessibility features

By Cynthia Shelly: For Complete Post, click here…

Chromebooks now have enhanced, natural-sounding voice options for Select-to-speak, which lets you hear selected text on your screen spoken out loud.

With accessibility features on Chromebooks, we want everyone to have a good experience on their computer – so people can get things done, families can play together, students and teachers can learn together, and employees can work productively and efficiently, wherever they are. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, so we wanted to share a few recent and new Chromebook features that help people access information in a way that works for them.

New enhanced voices for Select-to-speak

People spend a lot of time reading on their laptop, doing things like reading news articles or reviewing school textbooks. Reading on a screen can be less than ideal for many, including people with dyslexia (an estimated 10-20% of the population), low vision, those learning a new language or people who have a hard time focusing on busy text.

With a few clicks, Select-to-speak on Chromebooks allows you to hear selected text on your screen spoken out loud. Earlier this year we added new features like controls to speed up, slow down or pause the reading voice, and to easily jump to different parts of text. Plus, you can choose to highlight the words being spoken while shading background text to help focus your attention.

Making Chromebooks more accessible

Over the past year, we’ve also made it easier to use, discover and customize Chromebook’s built-in accessibility features. This includes updates to the screen magnifier, like keyboard panning and shortcuts. We have also developed new in-product tutorials for ChromeVox, and we’ve introduced point scanning to make the selection process for switch users more efficient.

7 TikTokers Educating Their Audiences About Disabilities

By Khanyi Mlaba: For Complete Post, click here…

Social media has helped expose us all to the lived experiences of those around us, people and communities that might live different lives to our own. 

While traditional media has typically failed to highlight marginalized voices globally, the accessibility of social media alongside a massive global audience, offers an opportunity for greater inclusivity and a greater insight into the experiences of all people than ever before. 

Over the last year and during the pandemic, TikTok has risen to become one of the most beloved social media platforms, and it has brought with it content from people with diverse backgrounds and livelihoods. People with disabilities in particular have been using the platform to help show that while their differences can and must be acknowledged, they do not define them. 

This visibility has been an essential message to help dispel a culture of ableism that the world has long been too comfortable with, and to bring awareness to the harmful stereotypes that are often associated with people with disabilities. 

Despite there being over one billion people in the world living with a disability, those who are disabled are still overlooked and left behind in global development. People with disabilities are up to 10 times more likely to experience sexual abuse, have a high probability of experiencing police brutality, experience significant struggles finding and securing employment, and depending on the disability, may also have limited accessibility in a world that hasn’t been designed to consider them. 

Video Game With Biofeedback Helps Kids and Teens Regulate Stress and Anger

From Neuroscience New: For Complete Post, click here…

A video game with biofeedback — aimed at keeping heart rate low during fast-paced play — can help youth learn to regulate their anger, finds a small randomized trial at Boston Children’s Hospital. If the game is further validated in larger studies, the researchers hope it would reduce the need for psychiatric medications and help children and teens who cannot immediately access psychotherapy.

Findings of the pilot study were published 9/1 in Frontiers of Psychiatry.

Android accessibility update lets you control your phone, communicate using facial gestures

By Abrar Al-Heeti: For Complete Post, click here…

The new features, called Camera Switches and Project Activate, let users navigate their devices without their hands or voice.

Google is rolling out a few new accessibility features for Android users, including the ability to control your phone and communicate using facial gestures, the company said Thursday. It also rolled out an update to Lookout, which uses a person’s phone camera to identify objects and text in the physical world. 

The first update, called Camera Switches, detects facial gestures using your phone’s camera. Users can choose from six gestures — look right, look left, look up, smile, raise eyebrows or open your mouth — to navigate their phone. They can also assign gestures to carry out tasks like open notifications, go back to the home screen or pause gesture detection.

Additionally, a new Android app called Project Activate lets people use those same facial gestures from Camera Switches to activate customized actions using a single gesture, like saying a preset phrase, sending a text and making a phone call. 

A new online tool provides detailed accessibility info for disabled gamers

From PCGAMES: For Complete Post, Click Here…

A new online tool has launched today that provides detailed accessibility information on a growing list of modern games. The Accessible Games Database, created by games accessibility platform DAGERSystem, allows users to select the accessibility options they need and then view a list of games that include those features.

Currently, the Accessible Games Database includes information on 141 games, and includes filters for more than 70 accessibility features. There are additional filters to narrow down the list to show only games from specific publishers or in specific genres, and you can select ESRB ratings as well.