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.

Be the Light: Elizabeth Bonker’s 2022 Valedictorian Speech at Rollins College Commencement

From Rollins College: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Rollins College’s 2022 Valedictorian Elizabeth Bonker, who is affected by non-speaking autism and communicates solely by typing, urges her fellow graduates to use their voices, serve others, and see the value in everyone they meet in her valedictory address. Read more about Elizabeth’s story: https://bit.ly/3P4rsdP

Apple previews innovative accessibility features combining the power of hardware, software, and machine learning

From Apple Newsroom: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Software features coming later this year offer users with disabilities new tools for navigation, health, communication, and more.

Apple today previewed innovative software features that introduce new ways for users with disabilities to navigate, connect, and get the most out of Apple products. These powerful updates combine the company’s latest technologies to deliver unique and customizable tools for users, and build on Apple’s long-standing commitment to making products that work for everyone.

Using advancements across hardware, software, and machine learning, people who are blind or low vision can use their iPhone and iPad to navigate the last few feet to their destination with Door Detection; users with physical and motor disabilities who may rely on assistive features like Voice Control and Switch Control can fully control Apple Watch from their iPhone with Apple Watch Mirroring; and the Deaf and hard of hearing community can follow Live Captions on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple is also expanding support for its industry-leading screen reader VoiceOver with over 20 new languages and locales. These features will be available later this year with software updates across Apple platforms.

“Apple embeds accessibility into every aspect of our work, and we are committed to designing the best products and services for everyone,” said Sarah Herrlinger, Apple’s senior director of Accessibility Policy and Initiatives. “We’re excited to introduce these new features, which combine innovation and creativity from teams across Apple to give users more options to use our products in ways that best suit their needs and lives.”

Door Detection for Users Who Are Blind or Low Vision

Reebok Releases Adaptive Sneaker Collection

By Michael Franz: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Reebok and Zappos Adaptive have partnered to launch Reebok’s first adaptive footwear collection, Reebok Fit to Fit.

The Reebok Fit to Fit collection includes two models of shoes designed to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. The Nanoflex Parafit TR offers a breathable mesh upper, along with a medial zipper and heel pull tab to make it easier to put on and take off the shoes. The Club MEMT Parafit features a medial zipper, extra 4E width, a low-cut design for enhanced mobility and a removable sock liner for custom fitting.

“At Reebok, we continue to prioritize innovation and creating products that inspire human movement,” says Todd Krinsky, senior vice president of product at Reebok Design Group. “We’re proud to introduce our first official adaptive collection to help those with disabilities thrive — from sports and fitness to everyday life.”

The Reebok Fit to Fit collection will be available in multiple colorways beginning May 19. The Nanoflex Parafit TR is available for $90 and comes in adult unisex sizes. The Club MEMT Parafit is available for $65, also in adult unisex sizes. Both models will be available in single shoe options soon. The Nanoflex Parafit TR and Club MEMT Parafit can be purchased from opens in a new windowReebok and Zappos Adaptive.

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.

Aaron Fotheringham on Hot Wheels’ New Remote-Controlled WCMX Wheelchair

By Ian Ruder: For Complete Post, Click Here…

In 2018, Hot Wheels introduced its first-ever wheelchair, a slickly-packaged, matchbox-sized WCMX chair. Now, Hot Wheels is releasing a remote-controlled wheelchair toy modeled on WCMX icon Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham.  

The RC Aaron Wheelz Wheelie Chair can do wheelies while traveling up to 6 miles per hour and comes with a ramp, allowing users to replicate Fotheringham’s high-flying jumps and death-defying tricks.

Fotheringham says he grew up playing with Hot Wheels and remembers their impact on him as a child. Now he’s been able to relive those moments with a toy modeled on him. “It’s honestly been unreal,” he says. “Out of everything I’ve been able to do, the partnership with Hot Wheels has repeatedly blown my mind.”

As much fun as he’s had driving the remote-controlled Wheelz off ramps, Fotheringham is most excited about the toy’s potential impact on expanding representation and changing the way people think about disability.

“It’s been cool to be able to bring a different light to the wheelchair and disabilities in general,” he says. “It’s cool to see the way people play with the toy and then something clicks in their head and changes their perspective.”

Microsoft Expands Adaptive Accessories to Include Mouse, Hub and More

By Lori Grunin: For Complete Post, Click Here…

And the company consolidates its accessibility research into a single, broadly focused facility.

Microsoft made a big splash when it introduced its Xbox Adaptive Controller for gamers with disabilities a few years ago, and followed up with its low-tech Surface Adaptive Kit for laptops last September. Now, it’s introducing a new general-purpose line of adaptive accessories that the company announced Tuesday. The new peripherals were announced alongside a new research facility called the Inclusive Tech Lab, signaling the company’s commitment to further supporting users with varied accessibility needs. 

Slated to launch in the second half of the year, the initial products are a modular Adaptive Mouse, four Adaptive Buttons and the Microsoft Adaptive Hub for wirelessly pairing the various input devices.

All the accessories are created with the intent to support third-party components. The mouse is composed of a small central core, the technology part, to which you add the pieces most suited to your navigation needs, supporting both left- and right-handed operation. They can be Microsoft’s official components, the Adaptive Mouse Tail and Thumb Support (a traditional back with a gaming-like thumb rest) or custom 3D-printed ones.

The Adaptive Hub supports up to four Adaptive Buttons, as well as standard 3.5mm assistive tech switches, and can store three profiles for use with different devices. Like the mouse, you can choose from various button toppers — such as a D-pad, joystick or dual button — as well as add 3D-printed custom toppers. 

Since availability is still a bit further out, we don’t have any pricing or information about bundles.

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.  

Setting Standards for Delivering High-Quality Care to Veterans with Invisible Wounds

by Carrie M. Farmer, Sierra Smucker, Natalie Ernecoff, Hamad Al-Ibrahim: For Complete Post, Click Here…

he Veteran Wellness Alliance, an initiative of the George W. Bush Institute, is a coalition of seven veteran peer network organizations and nine clinical provider organizations that aims to improve access to high- quality care for post-9/11 veterans with invisible wounds. The alliance collaborated with RAND researchers to develop a shared definition of high-quality care and identify corresponding standards of care for treating invisible wounds.

There are four components of the shared definition of high-quality care for veterans with PTSD, depression, substance use disorders, and TBI:

  1. Veteran-centered care: High-quality care accounts for veterans’ unique needs, values, and preferences. Providers are culturally competent and assess veterans’ experiences, engage them in shared decisionmaking, and involve family members and caregivers in their treatment.
  2. Accessible care: High-quality care is both accessible and timely.
  3. Evidence-based care: High-quality care is based on the best available research and adheres to clinical practice guidelines. Providers perform a comprehensive assessment to guide treatment; conduct screenings; and take an interdisciplinary, team-based approach to care.
  4. Outcome monitoring: High-quality care promotes the use of validated measurement tools to assess and monitor clinical outcomes and veterans’ well-being, guide treatment decisions, and facilitate coordination.

Characteristics of Standards of Care for Invisible Wounds

For standards of care to be useful, they must be feasible to apply and must address important aspects of care.

Feasibility

From an initial list of 103 potential high-quality care measures and standards, 33 were feasible to collect—that is, the necessary data were available, and collecting these data resulted in a minimal burden on programs and providers.

Importance

Standards of care were considered important if clinicians and administrators rated them as addressing a very important element of high-quality care. Ambiguous standards and those that applied to only a subpopulation of veterans were considered of low importance. Of the 33 standards of care that were considered feasible, 17 were rated as highly important.

Incorporating feedback from clinical providers, administrators, and policymakers, the researchers consolidated and edited standards for clarity, parsimony, and specificity and recommended a set of ten standards of care (shown below) that address each of the pillars of high-quality care and all four conditions.

Veteran-Centered Care

  • Veterans report being told about treatment options.
  • Program/clinic staff who interact with veterans have completed training in military cultural competence.

Accessible Care

  • Care is available at no or minimal cost to veterans: Program accepts insurance, has resources to support veterans without insurance, or is free.
  • Veterans who request a new outpatient appointment are seen within 30 days.

Examples of Evidence-Based Treatments

  • Evidence-based psychotherapies for depression include acceptance and commitment therapy, behavioral therapy/behavioral activation, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and problem-solving therapy.
  • Evidence-based trauma-focused psychotherapies for PTSD include prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, CBT for PTSD, brief eclectic psychotherapy, narrative exposure therapy, and written exposure therapy.
  • Psychosocial interventions for substance use disorder include behavioral couples therapy, CBT, the community reinforcement approach, motivational enhancement therapy, and 12-step facilitation. Psychosocial interventions are recommended for alcohol, cannabis, and stimulant use disorders. The evidence is unclear on the benefit of psychosocial interventions for opioid use disorder.