Issue 20 October 28, 2021

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National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which is an opportunity for the US to recognize the vital role people with disabilities 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 COVID pandemic has shown that a lack of accessible information technology is a serious barrier to employment. 

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WANT REAL INCLUSIVITY? START HIRING MORE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

COVID has unveiled new opportunities for employees to shine and showcase their talents. But employers need to make some big changes if they want to tap into a population of millions of workers ready to contribute: employees with disabilities. One in four Americans live with a disability that impacts life activities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and of that population, just 17.9% are employed, compared to 61.8% of individuals without a disability, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics Data.

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Government Spotlight

 IOWANS WITH DISABILITIES SHOULD RECEIVE THE SAME ACCESS TO INCLUSIVITY AS OTHER MINORITY GROUPS

Diversity, equity and inclusion have become common buzzwords in job applications over the past year and a half. That mainly has to do with a public outcry for better, more equitable practices and policies from employers to foster accountability. For employers, that looks like not only obtaining, but retaining a workforce which reflects the makeup of their surrounding environment and community. While people often think of race and gender in relation to DEI efforts, the scope of accountability expands much further beyond those demographics.

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Education Acccesssibility

‘THIS IS NOT INCLUSIVE.’ SOME STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES ARE GOING WITHOUT AS DISTRICTS SCALE BACK VIRTUAL PROGRAMS

As the new school year approached, Susan Graham wanted to know: Would her California school district have a remote learning option for her fifth grader? State lawmakers put strict limits on virtual learning this year, so her sonís district wasnít offering daily classes over Zoom anymore. Instead, the district had an ìindependent study program. Graham hoped it could work as a stopgap until her 10-year-old, who has Down syndrome and a respiratory condition, could be vaccinated against COVID.

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 FSU PHD CANDIDATE RECEIVES NEH GRANT TO IMPROVE VISUAL ACCESSIBILITY

Aaron Rodriguez, an English doctoral candidate in Florida State Universityís History of Text Technologies program, has been awarded a $99,915 grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH). According to the NEH, the $2.3 million in Digital Humanities Advancement Grants awarded supports the implementation of digital humanities projects which have successfully completed a start-up phase and proven value to the field. A number of 20 Digital Humanities Advancement Grants were awarded

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Current Legal Actions

LAWSUIT PROVIDES BLIND INDIVIDUALS WITH ACCESS TO NEW YORK STATE’S EMERGENCY MASS NOTIFICATION SYSTEM

People who are blind and use screen readers will now have independent access to life-saving information offered by NY-Alert, New York Stateís Mass Notification System.  Under a settlement agreement just reached between blind advocates and the New York State Office of Information Technology Services (ITS), the state agency will bring critical information on the NY-Alert website into compliance with web accessibility standards within six months, so that individuals who use screen readers can ensure they receive urgent emergency notifications, including time-sensitive alerts about dangers like hurricanes, floods, fires, and winter storms.

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Business Accessibility

DON’T FORGET PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE EFFORTS, REPORT SAYS

Even companies committed to diversity, equity and inclusion may be getting accessibility wrong for people with disabilities. The missing piece? Inclusive language. In a September 2021 audit, B2B research firm Forrester found that many companies shy away from DEI conversations for fear of “othering” people. While the report mostly talks about front-facing DEI commitments, employers also can apply Forrester’s accessibility tips to internal communications…

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BIDEN DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE STEPS UP ADA TITLE III ENFORCEMENT

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LEGAL UPDATE: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, U.S. ATTORNEYS OFFICES, CHAMPIONING DIGITAL ACCESS

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As we predicted in January, the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the Biden Administration has been very busy.  In the nine months since President Biden took office, the DOJ has issued a guidance on ìlong COVID, filed Statements of Interest (SOI) in three ADA Title III (public accommodation) cases and three ADA Title II (state and local government) cases, and renewed its effort, dormant under the prior presidential administration, to pressure businesses to make their websites accessible to users with disabilities through threats of enforcement actions.

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Healthcare Accessibility

WHAT IF WE COULD END BLINDNESS FOREVER?

I would be willing to bet you take seeing for granted. Unfortunately, an estimated 43 million people worldwide are not so fortunate. Today marks World Sight Day, an annual event launched to call public attention to the ancient scourge of blindness. The blind are constricted in ways the sighted could never really imagine. Virtually every step beyond the narrow confines of a memorized space is an adventure into the unknown, and even within those known spaces, chairs and table corners have a way of jumping out at you, making falls a common occurrence, along with cuts, scrapes, broken bones, and endless frustration.

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PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES FACE MORE BARRIERS ACCESSING COVID-19 VACCINE, CDC DATA SHOWS

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Accessible Technology

CREATING OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN STEM CAREERS

Professionals with disabilities often face considerable difficulties in the workforce, specifically in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In my view as the founder of a firm that helps companies strategically include people with disabilities, some of the reasons for this are a lack of confidence on the part of technology companies in embracing people with disabilities, in addition to a lack of awareness and belief in the ability of these people in the domain of STEM…

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 EQUALITY ACT COULD UNDERMINE BUSINESS DEFENDANTS IN WEB ACCESS SUITS

There’s probably no issue of regulation on which I’ve been sounding the alarm for a longer time than on web accessibility, as it’s called. Many disabled rights advocates believe it should be, or already is, a violation of federal law for a business or a professional practice to post content online that is not fully accessible. That means, fitted out with video captions and action descriptions, alternative text, or alternative navigation methods for the benefit of potential users who are blind, deaf, or lacking in the fine motor skills needed to control a mouse, to name but three user groups…

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