Racism and other ‘Isms’- Shaping Systemic Change Through An Equity Lens

From Michigan Department of Civil Rights: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Hosted by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights on June 15th, the 2022 Michigan Civil Rights Summit is a call to action in our current national climate. The event will provide an opportunity for activists, policymakers, funders, academics and public servants to discuss, strategize and collaborate on critical civil rights issues. 

During the day, participants will tackle topics like equity in education, housing, economics, health outcomes, voting rights, and democracy. The approach for each discussion is an examination of how structural “isms” (racism, ageism, sexism, classism, ableism, etc.) impact historically and culturally marginalized communities. Attendees will also consider how systemic advantage shapes discrimination and the role an equity lens plays in helping to dismantle institutional and structural inequity.

The summit will end with a discussion on strategies to operationalize equity in efforts to promote strategic systems change. Attendance will be possible virtually or in-person at the Lansing Center in Lansing, MI.

This event is also available on the Whova Mobile App: Download Link.
You can interact with others on your phone in the app more conveniently wherever you go.

5 Reasons Why Disability Activism Is Still Hard

By Andrew Pulrang: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Disability activism can be exciting, empowering, and enormously fulfilling — especially for people with disabilities themselves. It can also be exhausting and frustrating. And to outside observers, newcomers, and longtime activists, disability activism can seem futile, maybe even fatally flawed.

In 2017, disability activists were instrumental in fighting off efforts to abolish the Affordable Care Act and severely limit Medicaid. In 2020, most of the Presidential candidates felt it politically necessary to offer some kind of detailed disability policy plans. A few of them were notably comprehensive and ambitious.

But despite these encouraging signs of greater political influence over the last few years, the disability community still seems politically underdeveloped and underpowered. It’s worth thinking about exactly why. Here are five likely factors:

1. Disabled people are discouraged from being part of the “Disability Community”

2. Disabled people have vastly different needs and goals

3. Ableism and other prejudices within the disability community elevate some disabled people while marginalizing others

4. Like the rest of society, disabled people are divided and polarized

5. Congress and state legislatures are divided and distracted

Microsoft reinvents the mouse for people with disabilities

BY MARK WILSON: For Complete Post, Click Here…

A new wireless button design will let anyone make Microsoft’s hardware their own.

The mouse looks tiny. It’s a small square, reminiscent of one of those novelty mice sold to people who refuse to use the trackpad on their computer. It has two buttons and a scroll wheel, and when Microsoft claims that this new mouse has been designed alongside people with disabilities, I’m skeptical.

And then Gabi Michel, director of accessible accessories at Microsoft, demonstrates how this tiny mouse has been designed to slide perfectly into its “tail”—a large ergonomic grip that your hand can grasp almost like a ball, switching from left- to right-handed configurations with a simple squeeze. Then she pops it out and slides it into a different tail (this one with large finger indentations for people with tremors) and then another (with a longer and even more pronounced set of finger indentations).

“No two people are going to be the same,” Michel says. “Everyone needs a different solution.”

The mouse is part of Microsoft’s new Adaptive Accessories line, a kit of tools meant to provide an easier mouse and keyboard experience for people with disabilities—on a PC or phone. The entire kit consists of three main components: the mouse, a button that has programmable pressure sensors underneath, and a hub to connect them all. The hub can be used with the mouse, a keyboard, plus any other assistive devices one might have, whether they’re made by Microsoft or not (wirelessly via Bluetooth or through the hub’s many ports). Everything will be available later this year for an as-yet-undisclosed price.

Apple Promoting New Accessibility Features For IOS Users

From Apple: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Apple this week celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day by announcing new accessibility features that will be available later this year with iOS 16 and other software updates. However, while we wait for those updates, the company has been promoting accessibility tips that anyone can take advantage of.

For instance, Apple shows how users can increase text size, play calming background sounds, magnify objects near you using the Magnifier app, and even identify certain ambient sounds like alarms and sirens with Sound Recognition. Other tips include how to listen to what’s on the screen, control a device using custom voice commands, and lock your iPhone or iPad to stay in a single app.

One of the new accessibility features teased by Apple this week is called “Door Detection,” and it uses the LiDAR scanner on supported iPhone and iPad models to help users understand how far away they are from a door. It can also read signs and symbols around the door.

For Apple Watch users, a new option will mirror the watch’s screen on the iPhone so that people with physical and motor disabilities can interact with features such as ECG, Blood Oxygen, and Heart Rate. Also, live captions are finally coming to FaceTime on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Ticketing Accessibility: Come One, Come All

By Christine Payne: For Complete Post, Click Here…

You may remember this famous line from the ‘80s movie “Field of Dreams.” Kevin Costner, playing Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella, hears these words whispering repeatedly to him while walking through a cornfield.

Ultimately, Ray dares to dream, makes the investment (by plowing down part of his crop) and builds “it” — a baseball diamond in the middle of his Iowa cornfield. Then the ghosts of baseball legends Shoeless Joe Jackson and seven other Chicago White Sox players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series show up.

By now you are probably wondering just what does this line from a sports fantasy movie have to do with ticketing accessibility?

Direct Care Workforce Policy and Action Guide

From CHCS: For Complete Post, Click Here…

The U.S. is facing a dire shortage of direct care workers (DCW), who provide essential services to older adults and people with disabilities. Although state officials understand the importance of meaningfully supporting the direct care workforce, they often struggle to identify how to tackle the problem in a systematic, effective way.

The Direct Care Workforce Policy and Action Guide, a new Milbank Memorial Fund resource for state officials examines the challenges that direct care workers face — and the administrative, funding, policy, and regulatory levers that states can use to better support this critical workforce. The guide, coauthored by the Center for Health Care Strategies, IMPART Alliance/Michigan State University, and the Milbank Memorial Fund, underscores that simply raising wages or requiring more training hours is not sufficient. The guide outlines — with action steps and examples — how officials can build a statewide, coordinated plan that is tailored to state needs and responsive to drivers of the DCW shortage. The authors also illustrate how some states are addressing long-standing racial and economic disparities that have affected both the direct care workforce as a profession and DCWs themselves.

Feds Warn Employers Against Discriminatory Hiring Algorithms

By KHARI JOHNSON: For Complete Post, Click Here…

As AI invades the interview process, the DOJ and EOCC have provided guidance to protect people with disabilities from bias.

AS COMPANIES INCREASINGLY involve AI in their hiring processes, advocates, lawyers, and researchers have continued to sound the alarm. Algorithms have been found to automatically assign job candidates different scores based on arbitrary criteria like whether they wear glasses or a headscarf or have a bookshelf in the background. Hiring algorithms can penalize applicants for having a Black-sounding name, mentioning a women’s college, and even submitting their résumé using certain file types. They can disadvantage people who stutter or have a physical disability that limits their ability to interact with a keyboard.

All of this has gone widely unchecked. But now, the US Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have offered guidance on what businesses and government agencies must do to ensure their use of AI in hiring complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We cannot let these tools become a high-tech pathway to discrimination,” said EEOC chair Charlotte Burrows in a briefing with reporters on Thursday. The EEOC instructs employers to disclose to applicants not only when algorithmic tools are being used to evaluate them but what traits those algorithms assess.

“Today we are sounding an alarm regarding the dangers tied to blind reliance on AI and other technologies that we are seeing increasingly used by employers,” assistant attorney general for civil rights Kristen Clark told reporters in the same press conference. “Today we are making clear that we must do more to eliminate the barriers faced by people with disabilities, and no doubt: The use of AI is compounding the long-standing discrimination that job seekers with disabilities face.”

The Federal Trade Commission gave broad guidance on how businesses can use algorithms in 2020 and again in 2021, and a White House agency is working on an AI Bill of Rights, but this new guidance signals how the two agencies will handle violations of federal civil rights law involving the use of algorithms. It also carries the credible threat of enforcement: The Department of Justice can bring lawsuits against businesses, and the EEOC receives discrimination complaints from job seekers and employees that can result in fines or lawsuits.

Grads With Down Syndrome Change the Narrative at GMU

By Cory Smith: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Charlotte Woodward and Madison Essig are just the fifth and sixth students born with Down syndrome to earn a bachelor’s degree in the United States.

Their achievements were recognized during the commencement ceremony, and they’re both honored to hold that distinction.

But it’s also bittersweet because they both believe that number should be much higher.

“Our society seems to have low expectations of what we can and can’t do,” Woodward said.

“I want other people with Down syndrome and other disabilities to have high expectations for themselves and do what they love, do what they want to do with their education,” Essig said.

The pair changed GMU. Thanks to Essig, students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in George Mason’s LIFE program can enjoy a full college experience and do things like participate in Greek life and student government. She was the first student with a developmental disability to join a sorority and she was also an elected student senator.

USPSTF Guidance Misses the Mark on Youth Suicide Risk Screening

by Christine Yu Moutier, MD: For Complete Post, Click Here…

We can all play a role in identifying at-risk kids.

With increasing rates of suicide and mental health issues among U.S. youth, and with suicide as the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34, the state of youth mental health has reached crisis proportions. For this reason, I’m gravely concerned about the impact of the recent draft recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) that found insufficient evidence for implementing screening for suicide risk among youth.

The USPSTF’s methodology may be mismatched with the real-world implementation science and the scope of the problem concerning youth suicide. Clinicians and mental health professionals must have a clear understanding of the USPSTF’s guidelines for reviewing evidence and arriving at a recommendation, as their approach is out of touch with recent expert recommendations on screening for youth suicide risk. The USPSTF findings may cast doubt among healthcare providers on the importance of suicide screening and preventive care.

In collaboration with our partner organization on the Blueprint for Youth Suicide Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and experts from the National Institute of Mental Health, we have identified three key weaknesses of the USPSTF draft report.

Suicide Screening Can Be Done Safely

The USPSTF calls for screening asymptomatic adolescents ages 12 to 18 years for major depressive disorder, and youth between the ages of 8 and 18 for anxiety, saying there would be a moderate benefit to each. We support this recommendation and believe the benefits would be more than moderate. On suicide risk, the USPSTF concluded there is insufficient evidence to weigh the benefits and harms of screening asymptomatic children and adolescents. However, in regards to the suicide risk, the report excluded or overlooked a number of key research studies that find universal suicide screening in pediatric medical settings validated with high sensitivity (97%) and specificity (91%), and demonstrate feasibility, accessibility by youth, parents, and clinicians, and importantly, demonstrate no evidence of harm.

Youth Are the Key to a Better Adolescent Behavioral Health System

By Avery Brien: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Young people are speaking out about their experiences with mental illness and substance misuse, and many are eager to shape solutions to a growing crisis. Youth with lived experiences of mental illness and substance use challenges, including addiction, understand first-hand the limitations, inequities, and failures of the current system. This Mental Health Awareness Month, policymakers are actively working to address this issue, and it’s critical that youth with lived experience are meaningfully engaged. 

By working with young people with lived experience through a youth advisory board, Community Catalyst has learned important lessons about root causes, barriers to care, and what matters most to youth when accessing services – including BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth. These lessons are informing our federal advocacy as we engage policymakers who are actively drafting legislation related to youth mental health.  

Additionally, Community Catalyst’s state partners in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Georgia, and California have been using youth engagement strategies to inform their advocacy and to elevate youth voice to state policymakers. Here are examples of those strategies:  

  • Supporting Youth-Led Advocacy Campaigns: In addition to their Youth Advisory Board, the California School Based Health Alliance (CSHA) launched a project to build the power of high school students – particularly low-income students of color – to improve their schools’ response to youth substance use. The project trains youth on substance use prevention and advocacy using CSHA’s Youth Health Worker Curriculum and supports the development of youth-led campaigns to change school policy, as determined by the young people involved 
  • Elevating Youth Voice to Influence State PolicyChange: As part of their campaign to expand youth Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) in New Jersey schools, Salvation and Social Justice and New Jersey Citizen Action have worked together to engage youth – particularly Black youth and other youth of color – in conversations about what matters most to them. These conversations led to a series of videos and a social media takeover that elevated young people’s voices as they advocated to replace all punitive responses to youth substance use in schools with meaningful services and support.  
  • Focus Groups to Build on Previous Wins: After winning a state mandate to implement youth SBIRT in all public middle and high schools, the Massachusetts Children’s Mental Health Campaign is engaging young people in conversations about how they experience the program. These focus groups will aim to better understand how school-based SBIRT can be improved, especially for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students who often experience unique barriers to affirming care in schools and the broader health care system.  
  • Story Sharing and Zine Creation: The Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS) in Georgia developed an eight-week program to support students – primarily Asian and Latino students – in sharing their stories about mental illness and substance misuse. This work culminated in a zine where students paired written pieces with pictures and art to illuminate the impact of mental illness and addiction on themselves and their communities. This work is being shared with policymakers and health advocates in Georgia to build support for the expansion of youth services and broader improvements to the behavioral health system.  

There are numerous ways to include youth in health advocacy campaigns, and many opportunities to invest in youth leadership. As we commemorate Mental Health Awareness month, let’s amplify solutions that reflect the voices of those with lived experience. Doing so could help policymakers in states and the federal government improve the current system and build a better future for everyone.