Disability News Service, Resources, Diversity, Americans with Disabilities Act; Local and National.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Federal Court Rules in Favor of EEOC in Disability Discrimination Charge against Amsted Rail

Denying Employment Based on Carpal Tunnel Screening Found Unlawful
ST. LOUIS - A federal judge ruled in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Nov. 16 in its discrimination charge against Amsted Rail Co., Inc., the federal agency announced today. The judge ruled that Amsted, a leading manufacturer of steel castings for the rail industry, violated federal disability law when it disqualified job applicants based on the results of a nerve conduction test for carpal tunnel syndrome rather than conducting an individualized assessment of each applicant's ability to do the job safely.

According to the ruling in EEOC v. Amsted Rail Co., Inc., No. 14-cv-1292-JPG-SCW (S.D. Ill.), the court found that Amsted's practice screened out job applicants based on a small statistical risk that they might develop carpal tunnel syndrome, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court also ruled that Amsted violated the ADA when it refused to hire Montrell Ingram because he previously had successful surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.

In motions filed with the court last year, the EEOC asked the court to rule that Amsted's use of the nerve conduction test was discriminatory as a matter of law, as well as its policy not to hire applicants who had previously had carpal tunnel syndrome surgery. The EEOC argued that Amsted regarded applicants as disabled because it unreasonably perceived them as at risk to develop carpal tunnel syndrome based upon previous surgery for the condition or the results of the nerve conduction test. Amsted argued that its nerve conduction test and previous surgery rule were justified to identify persons with an enhanced risk for the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The court rejected the majority of Amsted's arguments and ruled that the company's conduct was unlawful because it discriminated on the basis of disability, finding that the nerve conduction test had little to no value in predicting the likelihood of future injury.

"While Amsted would like to claim it was protecting workers, its practice denied employment opportunities to workers who were ready and able to do the job," said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney of the EEOC's St. Louis District. "Employment decisions, including hiring decisions, must be based on a person's ability to perform the job, not on stereotypes, assumptions or conjecture. An individualized assessment of the applicant's present ability to safely perform the job duties is required before an employer may screen out an applicant based on medical tests or exams in the hiring process."

The case is pending in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in Benton, Ill., and will now proceed with determining damages and remedies for the applicants who were harmed by Amsted's discriminatory conduct.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and southern Illinois.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
source: EEOC press release

American Airlines and Envoy Air to Pay $9.8 Million to Settle EEOC Disability Suit

Airlines' Policies Discriminated Against Disabled Employees, Federal Agency Charges

Nov. 20, 2017 - American Airlines and Envoy Air will pay $9.8 million in stock, which is worth over $14 million if cashed in today, and provide other significant relief to settle a nationwide class disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC's suit said the airlines unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to hundreds of employees.

"This matter highlights the critical role of the Americans with Disabilities Act in getting people back to work as quickly as possible," said EEOC Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic. "The parties deserve credit for working diligently to bring this matter to resolution."

According to the EEOC's suit, American and Envoy violated federal law by requiring their employees to have no restrictions before they could return to work following a medical leave. Under this policy, if an employee had restrictions, American and Envoy refused to allow them to return to work and failed to determine if there were reasonable accommodations that would allow the employee to return to work with restrictions.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability and also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. If employees with disabilities are not able to do their current job, even with a reasonable accommodation, employers are obligated to look for a reassignment to another position for those employees.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, Civil Action No. 17-cv-04059-SPL, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process and continued negotiations prior to filing suit. The consent decree resolves the EEOC's lawsuit and several charges of discrimination filed by individuals with the EEOC. The systemic investigation was conducted by the EEOC's Phoenix District Office.

In addition to the $9.8 million in stock, the two-year decree includes injunctions against engaging in any future discrimination or retaliation based on disability, and requires the companies to adopt policies that ensure reasonable accommodations are provided to persons with disabilities. American and Envoy will provide mandatory periodic training on the ADA to employees. The settlement applies to all American and Envoy employees throughout the country.

EEOC Deputy General Counsel James L. Lee said, "We are pleased the parties were able to resolve this important case without resorting to prolonged and expensive litigation, and we are proud of the Commission's long record of protecting people with disabilities from workplace discrimination."

Elizabeth Cadle, district director for the Phoenix office, added, "This settlement demonstrates the need for employers to have good ADA policies. That means policies which consider employers' obligations to provide reassignment without competition as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities who become unable to do their current job even with accommodations."

EEOC Regional Attorney Mary O'Neill added, "This consent decree is the result of productive and thoughtful negotiations with American. We appreciate American and Envoy working with the EEOC to reach a settlement. In addition to providing meaningful monetary relief for hundreds of former employees, the settlement contains important equitable relief, including company policy changes and training designed to provide people with disabilities equal opportunities in the workplace."

According to its website, www.aa.com, American Airlines, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, is an airline that operates an average of nearly 6,700 flights per day to nearly 350 destinations in more than 50 countries, and employs over 120,000 people.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
source: EEOC press release

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Disability Issues Town Hall in Chicago on Nov 28, 2017 at Access Living

This TOWN HALL will address issues that impact many people with disabilities such as pain relief, wheelchair repair, food stamp and food security, access to health care, how is Illinois doing to get people out of nursing homes or in preventing needless institutionalization before it happens. Your experiences and your questions will help us to have a deeper understanding of the needs of the disability community!

You are invited to a Health Care Town Hall on issues facing the disability community.
WHEN: November 28th, 2017 from 2:30-5:30 pm  

WHERE: Access Living, 115 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL.

Schedule of Events:
Welcome! Tom Wilson of Access Living & Dr. Joy Hammel of UIC Project 
WHAT DO WE WANT? WHAT DO WE NEED? WHAT DO WE WANT?Community Living Barriers, Supports & Needs: Independent Voices community mentors & UIC Action Research students 
WHERE ARE WE AT IN ILLINOIS?Update on Olmstead Class Action Lawsuits & Monitoring of Colbert & Williams cases:
Equip for Equality with Barry Taylor 
HOW DOES ILLINOIS COMPARE TO THE REST OF THE COUNTRY?Dr. Hammel discusses Impact on Disability Community Participation: ADA/Participatory Action Research Consortium Olmstead Interview project findings nationally & in Chicago 
Refreshment Break
Action Updates from the Community:
Barbara Shaw, Nurse Practitioner, Rush Hospital: Chronic Pain & Persons With Disabilities 
Judy Panko Reis, Access Living: Food Stamp & DME Advocacy Updates
Please refrain from wearing scented care products. Sign Language Interpreters and Personal Attendants will be provided. Snacks will be served. For other accommodations please contact Tom Wilson at twilson@accessliving.org or call (312) 640-2125.
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Partial Funding for this event provided by the ADA/PARC funded by the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research under grant H133A120008.

Illinois Home Medical Equipment Vendors Worried About States Medicaid Managed-Care Reboot

A company hired to reboot Illinois’ Medicaid managed-care program plans significant cuts in payments for medical equipment, a move that providers say will hurt low-income patients and make it harder for them to be cared for at home.

Solid Article by Dean Olsen for the State Journal-Register | Nov 18, 2017                                        
IlliniCare Health, a company based in Elk Grove Village that is part of publicly traded Centene Corp., plans cuts of 10 percent to 50 percent in payments next year to vendors who sell equipment such as wheelchairs, portable oxygen, adult diapers, feeding tubes and ventilators.

Those cuts could push some medical providers out of business and persuade others to not participate in IlliniCare’s network, said Kevin Stewart, president of the Great Lakes Home Medical Services Association. He also contended companies that stay in the network might survive by skimping on the quality of supplies or amount of professional support that patients receive.

“Patients are going to be backed up in the hospital, which is going to cost the state more money in the long run,” Stewart said.

Medical equipment providers across the country have already been hit with fee reductions through the federal Medicare program’s “competitive bidding” program, with 45 percent of supplier companies going out of business or leaving Illinois since 2013, said Kam Yuricich, executive director of the Great Lakes association.

John Hoffman, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the agency overseeing the managed-care reboot, said IlliniCare and others with state contracts are paid a fixed amount per patient.

Excessive health-care costs will eat into the companies’ profits, so managed-care organizations have a financial incentive to provide good service, Hoffman said.

“The healthier people are, the better it is for the company,” he said.

Officials from IlliniCare and St. Louis-based Centene didn’t return phone calls and emails from The State Journal-Register last week. A spokeswoman from the Illinois Association of Medicaid Health Plans couldn’t be reached for comment.

Testing the waters’
IlliniCare, based in Elk Grove Village near Chicago, is one of seven managed-care organizations (MCOs) that won state contracts for the Jan. 1 launch of the next phase of managed care affecting more than 80 percent, or 2.7 million, of Illinois’ 3.14 million Medicaid recipients.

Durable medical equipment in fiscal 2016 accounted for about $101 million, or one-half of 1 percent, of Illinois’ $20 billion-plus Medicaid program. But vendors said home-based services are essential for patients to avoid hospitalizations and readmissions that can be much more expensive for the state.

Members of the Great Lakes association, which covers Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, worry that IlliniCare’s rate cuts will be picked up as a model by other managed-care organizations in Illinois and in other states where managed care is being used to contain cost increases in the federal-state Medicaid program.

“They’re testing the waters to see whether this works,” Stewart said. “It’s a dangerous test.”

State Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, said he introduced Senate Bill 2262 earlier this month to require managed-care organizations pay medical vendors at levels at least equal to the traditional “fee-for-service” rates in response to providers’ concerns.

Koehler said he expects the bill to be considered by the General Assembly early in 2018.

Like many Democrats in the legislature, he is skeptical about the state’s move to managed care for Medicaid recipients, a trend that has been embraced by Gov. Bruce Rauner and other Republicans.

“This whole thing is a mess, and it’s going to cause people who depend on Medicaid to get less service,” Koehler said. “We’ve set this up so MCOs make money by denying services.”

Hoffman said Healthcare and Family Services “is committed to ensuring that health plans offer Medicaid members the services and equipment they are entitled to.”

“Under managed care,” he said, “it is the responsibility of the health plans and providers to negotiate with each other to accomplish this within the framework of contracts, laws and rules overseen by the department.”

Cost savings
IlliniCare billed the state for $1.4 billion in services in the fiscal year that ended June 30, Hoffman said. That money went to pay for health care as well as IlliniCare’s internal costs and profits.

Healthcare and Family Services estimates that the reboot, dubbed HealthChoice Illinois, will lead to annual savings of $200 million to $300 million.

That’s more than $1 billion in total savings during the life of the four-year contract compared with the current managed-care system serving 63 percent of Medicaid recipients, Hoffman said.

However, there is “not a great deal of evidence” that managed care saves money for state Medicaid programs or improves care for beneficiaries, according to Robin Rudowitz, associate director of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

By shifting financial risk to for-profit companies and other groups, managed care does give states more predictability when it comes to the cost of Medicaid, she said.

Medicaid costs per recipient have been rising less than costs in the private health insurance system, she said.

Healthcare and Family Services officials say the reboot in Illinois is designed so payment of vendors will be streamlined. The process of receiving and acting on complaints will be streamlined, too, Hoffman said.

The Illinois Academy of Family Physicians is “working in good faith” with the state and MCOs on the reboot, and everyone involved seems interested in seeing the initiative succeed, according to Gordana Krkic, the Bolingbrook-based group’s deputy executive vice president for external affairs.

Worries at home
Such assurances don’t ease the worries of some Illinoisans.

Rebekah Strate, a Murrayville resident, is raising two children with complex medical needs who use equipment to keep them breathing. Strate said she is worried that she will lose her children’s current DME provider, Memorial Home Services, in the reboot.

If 9-year-old McKenzie or 10-year-old Miracle don’t receive equipment and supplies that work best for their conditions, or if replacements aren’t provided right away when supplies run out, the girls can end up in the hospital or worse, Strate said.

McKenzie joined the Strate family as a foster child and since has been adopted. She continues to be covered by Medicaid.

Miracle is still a foster child and is being adopted by the family.

A special provision in the reboot will place all 16,200 children who are in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, as well as 23,000 others, including former DCFS wards who have been adopted, into IlliniCare’s managed-care network. The children currently are served in the fee-for-service system, no matter where they live in Illinois.

It’s unclear whether Memorial Home Services, which currently serves the Strate children, will be part of IlliniCare’s network. The contract affecting DCFS clients is expected to begin July 1, 2018.

“Memorial Health System has not finalized contracts yet with any Medicaid managed-care organization, but we are having conversations with most of them, including IlliniCare,” Memorial spokesman Michael Leathers said last week. “Three of the four MCOs have not yet provided contract proposals for our review, but we have been and continue to be in discussions with them.”

Rebekah Strate, 42, a homemaker, and her husband, Jeff, 45, a pharmacy technician, switched from a national medical vendor to Memorial for the children two years ago after a crisis involving McKenzie.

The national company was slow to provide a new $50 nebulizer for McKenzie for breathing treatments after the old one broke, Rebekah Strate said.

She said the delay resulted in breathing problems for McKenzie, who has a tracheostomy and chronic lung disease, and a subsequent stay in the emergency department of Jacksonville’s Passavant Area Hospital. The hospital provided a new nebulizer and apparently billed Medicaid for the equipment and ER visit, she said.

By contrast, a Memorial respiratory therapist has been available immediately by phone, and Memorial has driven equipment and supplies to the family’s Morgan County home, rather than wait for the mail, to make sure the children get good service, Strate said.

There are about 1,000 “medically fragile” children in Illinois, like those in the Strate family, who could be put in jeopardy if IlliniCare skimps on care, said Susan Agrawal, a Chicago resident and founder of a support group for parents of kids in the Medically Fragile and Technology Dependent waiver program.

“Companies hope parents and other caregivers will pick up the slack,” Agrawal said.

DCFS spokesman Neil Skene said IlliniCare has experience serving clients in the child-welfare system in Washington state, Florida and Texas.

DCFS, through careful monitoring, will work so that the fears voiced by Strate and Agrawal about the Medicaid managed-care reboot don’t become reality, Skene said.

“We’re going to make sure it doesn’t adversely affect any child,” he said.


About Illinois’ Medicaid managed care plan
Medicaid recipients in the Springfield area currently aren’t served by IlliniCare or any other managed-care groups, but that will change in 2018.

Managed-care networks stopped operating for the counties of Sangamon, Menard, Logan, Christian, Macon and Piatt earlier this year after companies and health-care providers withdrew.

As in other parts of the state, many providers complained about payment delays and payment denials.

For the six counties including Sangamon, and the other Illinois counties currently in Medicaid managed care, the reboot begins Jan. 1. Managed-care organizations, or MCOs, are setting up their provider networks, and patients are receiving notices in the mail asking them to choose an MCO or be automatically enrolled in one.

For all other counties, including Morgan, Cass, Macoupin, Montgomery, Mason, Greene and Jersey, the reboot takes effect April 1.

As part of the reboot, the state awarded contracts to seven MCOs, a smaller number than are in the current managed-care system.

Five plans will operate in all 102 counties — IlliniCare, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, Meridian Health Plan, Molina Healthcare and Harmony Health Plan. CountyCare and NextLevel will operate only in Cook County.

IlliniCare currently serves 211,000 in the Chicago, Rockford and Quad Cities areas.

Thanksgiving Holiday Shoppers Abusing Disability Parking at Illinois Malls Statewide, Abusers Beware

Once again it's a favorite time of year for many, Thanksgiving. Time to spend time with family, and friends, volunteering is another great way to enjoy the holiday. Another tradition is shopping for the Thanksgiving week deals, and on Black Friday shopping at malls.

Black Friday, marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season and one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

In Illinois another tradition is one that we wish was not necessary, but as a advocate for disability issues I enjoy,

The Illinois Secretary of State Police will be for the 11th year in a row visiting shopping malls statewide. They will conduct statewide parking stings targeting individuals illegally parking in spaces reserved for persons with disabilities at shopping malls beginning Black Friday, Nov. 24, 2017.
Drivers caught misusing a placard face a six-month driver’s license suspension and a $600 fine. Repeat violators will face a one-year driver’s license suspension and a $750 fine for a second offense; for third or subsequent offenses, violators will face a $1,000 fine plus a one-year driver’s license revocation. The fine for parking in an accessible parking space without a disability placard or license plates can be up to $350 and using a deceased person’s placard or a fraudulent placard can result in a $2,500 fine and one-year revocation of a driver’s license.
The Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois State Police are also enforcing the importance of their never-ending “Click It or Ticket” campaign aimed at getting motorists to wear seat belts.

As shared from the Illinois Secretary of State office in a press release.  Currently, 627,281 permanent disability placards and 51,416 disability license plates are registered in Illinois.

Illinois Secretary Of State Jesse White urges individuals to report abuse of parking spaces for people with disabilities by calling 217-785-0309. Callers should be prepared to report placard and license plate numbers as well the as the location of vehicles. People can also report abuse via the Secretary of State’s website at www.cyberdriveillinois.com and complete the Parking Program for Persons with Disabilities Abuse Complaint Form.

article by Jim Watkins, Ability Chicago Info |Nov. 21, 2017

Oklahoma State Officials Sued over Termination of Disability Services

OKLAHOMA CITY–The ACLU of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Oklahoma’s federally funded Protection and Advocacy system, filed today an action against public officials of the State of Oklahoma seeking to ensure Oklahomans with disabilities receive the critical services required by federal law.

On October 31, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services notified the over 20,000 recipients of Advantage and In-Home Supports Waivers for Adults that their benefits would be terminated on December 1, 2017. Regardless of potential action from the Governor’s office today, the ACLU of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Disability Law Center will continue to push for a reliable, long term solution to funding these critical services.

“Our office has been inundated with calls from families terrified about what will happen to their loved ones come December 1 and beyond, “ said Melissa Sublett, Executive Director for the Oklahoma Disability Law Center. “In addition to the families whose services will be cut on December 1, we have been contacted by countless families whose loved ones have waited decades on the waiting list for waiver services wondering what will happen because there are no services in sight. The state of Oklahoma has neglected its duty to people with disabilities for far too long.”

“These benefits are absolutely essential to the Oklahomans who receive them,” said Brady Henderson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Whether or not the Governor signs a budget with one time funding sources, these critical services remain under threat. Critical services of this nature require funding stability. Failing to adequately and reliably fund these services risks stripping thousands of Oklahomans of their ability to live in community-based settings, a basic right that the state has a legal and moral obligation to honor. A failure to maintain these services illegally forces Oklahomans with disabilities into institutions, creates greater ongoing costs to the state, and in some cases, can cause a completely preventable and senseless loss of life.”

Source: ACLU of Oklahoma press release Nov. 17, 2017

Ohio State University Lose Lawsuit of ADA Violations Over Students Service Dog in Sorority House

CNN News - Nov 19, 2017 - A judge has decided that a sorority sister who uses a service dog can return to live in the Chi Omega house at The Ohio State University for now, even though another sister claims that she’s allergic to the dog and it’s making medical conditions she suffers from even worse.

“The panic attacks restrict her breathing”

Madeleine Entine, a sophomore, sued the school’s ADA coordinator for forcing her and her service dog to move. She says the school violated the Americans with Disability Act and the Fair Housing Act in making its decision.

Entine says she suffers from panic attacks, ones so severe they interfere with her daily activities.

“The panic attacks restrict her breathing ability and cause her to hyperventilate. They also cause her muscles to lock up and prevent her from walking on her own,” court documents said.

So Entine gets relief from Cory, a service dog. Cory is trained to climb on her stomach and apply pressure. That helps bring her relief so she can restore her ability to breathe and move, court documents say. He also helps her have less frequent attacks.

“The two individuals are at odds”

At the start of the school year, Entine and Cory moved into the Chi Omega house. Just a few weeks later, another sister in the house began complaining about Cory, saying she was allergic to dogs.

Freshman and sophomore students are required to live either on-campus or in Greek housing. Since she’s the Chi Omega chapter vice president, she lives in her sorority house.

Court documents say Cory exacerbates the other sister’s “allergies and asthma, which, in turn, causes a flare-up of Housemate’s Crohn’s disease.” According to court filings, the dog is regularly played with by others throughout the house.

The lawsuit does not name the other sorority sister.

The situation made its way to the university’s Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinator, Scott Lissner, to intervene. Lissner determined that, “…over time, continued exposure to dog dander would ultimately be untenable and unsafe for Housemate.”

Because of this conundrum, Lissner based his course of action on who signed the lease first: in this case, the sister with the allergy. OSU says they’ve used this same parameter in other cases.

So Entine was forced to decide: either move out of the sorority house or stay in it without Cory.
“Physcial parameters” would allow separation

Entine claimed that the proposed solutions violated the Americans with Disabilites Act and asked if she could remain at the house, but with “physical parameters” that would allow separation between Cory and the other sorority sister, the complaint says.

In a letter to Entine’s attorney Bart Keyes, OSU said that “Due to room configuration and house mechanical systems, it was determined that restricting the dog to a certain area or assigning the students to different living locations or rooms within the house would not accommodate the disabilities of both students.”

OSU said it provided Entine an “offer of assistance from the University to make alternative housing arrangements, which she declined.”

Ultimately, the university stood by Lissner’s assessment, and Entine was given two weeks to make a decision.

Allergies “are not valid reasons for denying access”

In the federal suit filed by Entine, she maintains that this is a clear violation of the ADA, and quotes the federal regulations.

“Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.”

But Ohio State says the situation is difficult to manage.

The “case is not about whether plaintiff can have her assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation. She can. Instead, this is about how OSU, specifically Lissner, must accommodate two students with disabilities whose accommodations are in conflict.”

Entine’s lawsuit claims Lissner violated the ADA, the Fair Housing Act and other Ohio codes.

US District Judge Algenon L. Marbley heard the case and issued a preliminary injunction, allowing Entine to remain in the sorority house with her dog until a verdict is handed down after trial. A trial date has not been assigned yet, Keyes told CNN.

The judge’s decision was based on the fact that “Lissner did not perform the inquiry required under the ADA before disallowing the use of a service animal. In fact, Lissner did not even establish that it was Cory who aggravated the symptoms of (the other sister’s) disability,” according to the court documents.

CNN reached out to OSU, but officials said the university does “not comment on pending litigation.” Calls to the Chi Omega sorority have not been returned.


Nationwide Class Action Challenges Hulu’s Discrimination against Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals

Boston, Massachusetts—November 20, 2017—A coalition of blind and visually impaired individuals and advocacy groups filed a nationwide class action today against Hulu to end the video streaming company’s ongoing exclusion of blind and visually impaired Americans. The lawsuit—filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts—challenges Hulu’s violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Hulu, one of the largest online-streaming services in the country, offers thousands of shows and movies, including award-winning original content, to most customers at the click of a mouse. However, the company fails to provide audio description—a separate audio track that blind and visually impaired people need in order to access the exclusively visual content of a show or movie—for any streaming videos.

Because Hulu fails to include audio description tracks on any of its streaming content, blind and visually impaired individuals cannot independently enjoy Hulu’s video streaming services. Audio description is a separate audio track that, when activated, provides a verbal description of visual elements on screen, especially in scenes with no dialogue. The audio description track plays between pauses in dialogue. Hulu boasts an extensive library of live TV and on-demand movies and series—including its Emmy-award winning original series, “The Handmaid’s Tale”—but currently excludes customers who are blind and visually impaired.

In addition, Hulu’s website and applications are not accessible to blind and visually impaired individuals who use screen readers to navigate the internet. A screen reader is software that converts the visually displayed content on the screen into audible, synthesized speech or outputs that information on a digital braille display.

The American Council of the Blind, Bay State Council of the Blind, and blind individuals brought this action to end Hulu’s discriminatory business practices. Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national nonprofit legal center, and the Disability Law Center (DLC), Massachusetts’s Protection and Advocacy system, represent these individuals and organizations.

Kim Charlson, President of the American Council of the Blind, said, “Movies and television are pillars of American culture. As delivery of such media transitions to video streaming services, it is critical that these platforms be accessible in order to ensure the inclusion of blind and visually impaired individuals in contemporary society.”

Rebecca Williford, Senior Staff Attorney at DRA, said, “Hulu is owned by a collection of some of the most powerful companies in the entertainment business and is itself one of the nation’s most popular online streaming services. Its utter failure to provide access to individuals who are blind and visually impaired is astonishing.”

“BSCB members have been expressing their concerns about Hulu’s lack of audio description for years now,” said Brian Charlson, President of Bay State Council of the Blind, “and it is time that Hulu join with other industry streaming services out there and meet its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

“As forms of entertainment evolve, equal access must transition to meet industry innovation. Equal access means the ability to fully use and enjoy all aspects of entertainment, just like everyone else,” said Christine Griffin, Executive Director of DLC.

Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages, but seek only to achieve equal access to Hulu’s services.

A copy of the Complaint can be found HERE (pdf).

About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA)
Founded in 1993, DRA is a leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. DRA’s prior cases advocating for accessible entertainment include Blanks v. AMC Theaters (2017) (reaching a settlement to improve audio description in AMC theaters nationwide), and negotiations with Netflix in 2016 that resulted in a settlement to provide audio description for Netflix’s streaming and disc rental libraries, including “Netflix Originals.” For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.

About Disability Law Center (DLC)
The DLC is the Protection and Advocacy system for Massachusetts and is authorized under federal law to protect and advocate for the legal rights of individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts. DLC worked with Bay State Council of the Blind in a series of negotiations with Fleet Bank, Sovereign Bank, and Citizens Bank to ensure that their ATMs, websites, and other banking services were fully accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. For more information, visit www.dlc-ma.org.

About American Council of the Blind (ACB)
ACB works to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life, for all people who are blind or visually impaired. ACB advocates for policies that provide services, opportunities, infrastructure, and equipment that are necessary for an inclusive society, in federal, state, and local governments, and among service providers and industry. For more information, visit www.acb.org.

About Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB)
BSCB is a membership organization of blind, visually impaired, and sighted individuals committed to an enhanced quality of life for Massachusetts’ residents who are blind or visually impaired. BSCB convenes meetings and conferences, organizes recreation activities, provides publications, radio programs, and information, and advocates for services and legislation that improve access for people who are blind. For more information, visit www.acbofma.org.

source: Disability Rights Advocates press release

Monday, November 20, 2017

What and When is #GivingTuesday 2017?

A question many have in the last few years is about #GivingTuesday.

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

One of the best ways to get involved is in your own community. There has been created a directory to help you find organizations, charities, events and more in your own community.

A #GivingTuesday website is available to learn more, and explore charities, organizations, community groups that will benefit from your participation with #GivingTuesday.

A Global Giving Movement | November 28, 2017
YouTube published by Giving Tuesday

ACLU 2018 SUMMER INSTITUTE - Apply by January 19, 2018

From free speech to privacy and from mass incarceration to voting rights, students will become experts on the issues currently being confronted in the United States’ courts and political arena.

The ACLU’s 2018 Summer Advocacy Institute will bring together a diverse group of students entering their junior and senior years of high school from across the United States to participate in an advanced, firsthand learning experience for the next generation of social justice advocates. Through an intensive 8-day program, students will learn directly from lawyers, lobbyists, community activists, and other experts working to defend the civil rights and liberties critical to a free and open society. The Close Up Foundation — a DC-based civic-education nonprofit — will serve as a partner with the ACLU to provide substantive experiential learning opportunities that help students hone their skills as issue-focused campaigners.

In classroom sessions, lectures, and daily debates, students will explore the complex nature of defending and advancing civil liberties as well as examine the importance of these freedoms in our current society. Students will be immersed in the real world of political and legal decision making in Washington, D.C., meeting with elected officials and/or congressional staff and community organizers as well as participating in workshops with civil rights pioneers and other current youth activists.

Application Deadline: January 19, 2018

source: ACLU post

Illinois Disability Rights Consortium meeting - Dec 6th - focus on intersection of disability and emergency preparedness

The next Illinois Disability Rights Consortium meeting will take place on Wednesday December 6, 2017 from 9:30-11:00 (ct) at Equip for Equality (20 N. Michigan, Suite 300 in Chicago).

Given the numerous recent weather and gun-related emergencies, we thought having a session on the intersection of disability and emergency preparedness would be timely. I will start the session by reviewing how the ADA has been used to ensure that people with disabilities are included in emergency preparedness plans by municipalities and schools. And then Laurie Dittman, Senior Policy Analyst for the Chicago Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, will provide an update on the work of the City of Chicago on emergency preparedness and people with disabilities.

Continuing legal education credit will be provided for attorneys in attendance. A captioner will be present for the meeting. If you need any other accommodations to participate in the meeting, please email by November 29.

To participate remotely, you can call: 800-910-8278 and then enter code: 1940990.

Former Massachusetts Police Sergeant Sentenced to Prison for Embezzling Funds from Disabled Veterans

Department of Justice

Nov. 14, 2017 - A former Whitman, Massachusetts, police sergeant was sentenced to 48 months in prison today for preparing false income tax returns for clients of his tax preparation business, obstructing the internal revenue laws, and misappropriating funds from the accounts of disabled veterans while he was a fiduciary appointed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb for the District of Massachusetts.

According to documents filed with the Court, from 2007 to 2012, Glenn P. Pearson, 61, was appointed a VA fiduciary for eight disabled veterans of the U.S. armed forces. A veteran, who has been awarded VA benefits but is unable to manage his or her funds due to injury, disease, mental incompetence or infirmities of advanced age, can have a fiduciary appointed by the VA to receive funds on the veteran’s behalf and to manage those funds for the benefit of the veteran. Pearson used his position as a fiduciary to embezzle more than $250,000 in VA-issued benefit money from the accounts of several veterans.

Moreover, beginning in 2012, Pearson operated FTS Tax Services, a tax preparation business through which he prepared false tax returns for clients for a fee. From 2012 through 2015, Pearson prepared numerous tax returns that included false credits and fictitious deductions in an effort to obtain bigger refunds for his clients than they were entitled to receive. When Pearson’s clients were audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Pearson took steps to obstruct the IRS—including making false statements to the IRS and preparing false documents for his clients to submit to the IRS during the audits. Pearson also falsely underreported his own income on his personal federal income tax returns. Pearson admitted to causing a total tax loss of more than $1.5 million.

In addition to the term of prison imposed, Chief United States District Judge Patti B. Saris ordered Pearson to serve three years of supervised release and to pay restitution to the VA in the amount of $252,992 and restitution to the IRS in the amount of $826,865. Pearson pleaded guilty in May to wire fraud, misappropriation by a federal fiduciary, preparation of fraudulent tax returns and obstructing the internal revenue laws.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Goldberg and Acting U.S. Attorney Weinreb thanked special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation, FBI and VA–OIG, who conducted the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Vassili Thomadakis and Assistant Chief Karen Kelly of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case.

Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the division’s website.
source: DOJ press release                                                                                                                  

Strataforce Settles EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit, Required Unlawful Health Questionnaire

Company Required Applicants to Complete an Unlawful Pre-Offer Health Questionnaire, Federal Agency Charged

Nov. 14, 2017 - Strataforce, a staffing firm with offices in California, Indiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina, agreed to resolve a lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that the company made pre-offer health inquiries of applicants in violation of federal law.

According to EEOC's lawsuit, Strataforce asked applicants to complete an application package that included a detailed medical questionnaire before the company offered the applicant a position or placement. The medical questionnaires asked for sensitive health information, and included numerous disability-related questions. Employers are generally prohibited from making pre-offer medical inquiries and refusing to hire qualified individuals with disabilities by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

EEOC filed suit against Strataforce in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division (EEOC v. Workforce Integration Inc d/b/a Strataforce, Case No. 1:17-cv-4104, S.D. Ind.) on Nov. 6, 2017. The parties reached agreement and filed a joint motion to approve a consent judgment on November 7. The motion was approved by the Court and the Consent Judgment was entered on November 13. Under the Consent Judgment, Strataforce will be required to provide notice to applicants of their rights under the ADA and submit annual compliance reports to the Commission during the Judgment's four-year term.

"Congress recognized that prohibiting pre-offer medical inquiries was necessary to prevent applicants from being subjected to harmful and unfounded stereotypes on the basis of an actual or perceived disability," said EEOC Regional Attorney Kenneth Bird. "As staffing agencies now play a large role in our nation's workforce, eliminating any discrimination in their screening practices is increasingly important to ensuring that workers with disabilities have equal access to work opportunities. Here, EEOC's investigation showed Strataforce has hired many individuals with disabilities, and we are pleased that in the future Strataforce will conduct its hiring processes in compliance with the ADA. I commend Strataforce for entering an early resolution of the case."

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). These barriers can include exclusionary policies and practices, restrictive application processes, and the use of screening tools such as pre-employment tests, background checks and medical questionnaires.

The Indianapolis District Office's jurisdiction includes Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and parts of Ohio. The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further information about EEOC is available on the agency's website at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.
source: EEOC press release 

U.S. Schools Less Likely to identify Minority Students with Disabilities

Three Penn State researchers and their colleague replicated an earlier but provocative study that found that minority children are less likely to be identified as having disabilities as they attend U.S. schools.
originally published in Phys.org | Nov.16, 2017                                                                          
Penn State's Paul Morgan, director of the Center for Educational Disabilities Research, Population Research Institute (PRI) affiliate, and professor of education and demography; Marianne Hillemeier, associate director of PRI and professor of health policy and administration and demography; and Steve Maczuga, PRI research programmer/analyst; along with George Farkas, a professor of education at the University of California, replicated an earlier finding that minority children are under-identified as disabled, despite being otherwise similar including in regards to academic and behavioral functioning. Their new results were published in Educational Researcher, one of the educational research field's highest-impact journals.
This new study replicates the earlier study by analyzing much larger nationally representative datasets. The study, which includes individual-level data from about 400,000 recently surveyed U.S. students, also extends the earlier work by showing that racial disparities in disability identification are occurring in high school as well as elementary and middle school, and for a wider range of disability conditions than previously reported. Children who are language minorities were also found to be less likely to be identified as having disabilities.
In most prior studies, researchers concluded that minority children were being over-identified as disabled and suggested that schools may be using discriminatory identification practices. Concerns that minority children were being misidentified as disabled subsequently led to federal legislation and policies requiring U.S. schools to monitor the extent to which minority children are over-represented in special education.
However, the prior empirical work used to justify federal legislation and policies had largely not accounted for alternative explanations, including minority children's well-known greater exposure to the risk factors for disability (e.g., poverty, low birthweight, lead exposure) that in turn would result in elevated likelihood of experiencing cognitive and behavioral impairments and attending academic and behavioral difficulties in school.
New work by Morgan and his colleagues, which better accounts for minority children's greater risk factor exposure and experience of academic difficulties, repeatedly finds that minority children are less likely to be receiving special education services for identified disabilities. The researchers find this to be the case among otherwise similar white, English-speaking children, including those displaying the same severity of academic difficulties in school.
In this study, Morgan and his team analyzed data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), nationally representative data often considered to be the "Nation's Report Card." The NAEP contains student-level academic achievement scores in various subjects, including in reading, mathematics and science. The researchers adjusted for student-level academic achievement, exposure to poverty, gender and English Language Learner status, as well as variability in access to school-level resources. These analyses allowed for contrasts among students who differed in their race or ethnicity but who were observationally similar, including in their academic achievement.
Their results replicate and extend the team's prior findings. For example, analyses of the NAEP indicated that racial disparities in disability identification were evident throughout the achievement distribution, among otherwise similarly achievement males; across elementary, middle, and high school; and for low-incident conditions (e.g., autism, intellectual disabilities) as well as high-incidence conditions (e.g., speech or language impairments, learning disabilities). These disparities have been occurring since at least 2003, and are both longstanding and widespread in the U.S.
"Our results repeatedly showed that when we accounted for student-level academic achievement, as well as other factors, white and/or English-speaking students were identified as disabled more often than similar peers who were racial, ethnic or language minorities," said Morgan. "These findings suggest that students with disabilities who are minorities may not be receiving the help to which they have a civil right."
Explore further: Study examines evidence of racial disparities in special education
More information: Replicated Evidence of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Disability Identification in U.S. Schools. Educational Researcher. doi.org/10.3102/0013189X17726282

Friday, November 17, 2017

Major Announcement from Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. on his Health and Future with Diagnosis of Parkinson Disease

Nov. 17, 2017 - Rev. Jesse Jackson released a statement on Operation Push website on his diagnosis of Parkinson Disease. We have shared his statement below, Only the best for Rev. Jackson and his family on this next journey in his remarkable life...
# # #

Nov. 17, 2017
Press Release
Dear Friends and Supporters,
On July 17, 1960, I was arrested, along with seven other college students, for advocating for the right to use a public library in my hometown of Greenville, S.C. I remember it like it was yesterday, for that day changed my life forever. From that experience, I lost my fear of being jailed for a righteous cause. I went on to meet Dr. King and dedicate my heart and soul to the fight for justice, equality, and equal access. In the tradition of the Apostle Paul, I have offered myself – my mind, body and soul – as a living sacrifice.
Throughout my career of service, God has kept me in the embrace of his loving arms, and protected me and my family from dangers, seen and unseen. Now in the latter years of my life, at 76 years old, I find it increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks, and getting around is more of a challenge. My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago. For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor. But as my daily physical struggles intensified I could no longer ignore the symptoms, so I acquiesced.
After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father.
Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it. For me, a Parkinson's diagnosis is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.
I am far from alone. God continues to give me new opportunities to serve. This diagnosis is personal but it is more than that. It is an opportunity for me to use my voice to help in finding a cure for a disease that afflicts 7 to 10 million worldwide. Some 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year.
I will continue to try to instill hope in the hopeless, expand our democracy to the disenfranchised and free innocent prisoners around the world. I'm also spending some time working on my memoir so I can share with others the lessons I have learned in my life of public service. I steadfastly affirm that I would rather wear out than rust out.
I want to thank my family and friends who continue to care for me and support me. I will need your prayers and graceful understanding as I undertake this new challenge. As we continue in the struggle for human rights, remember that God will see us through, even in our midnight moments.
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Educating Disabled Veterans and Employers About Workplace Rights and Responsibilities - Online Dialog Nov. 17-30, 2017

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy and Veterans' Employment and Training Service have teamed up with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to host an online dialogue through the ePolicyWorks initiative on ways to ensure that disabled veterans and their employers understand their workplace rights and responsibilities under federal employment laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA).

In celebration of National Veterans and Military Families Month, participants are invited to submit ideas, votes, and comments beginning Friday, Nov. 17, and continuing through Thursday, Nov. 30. The goal is to help determine how the federal government can better reach disabled veterans and educate employers in an effort to reduce the number of disability discrimination complaints, and to ensure that all veterans understand their workplace rights and responsibilities. The dialogue will play an integral role in the federal government's efforts to develop resources and materials to enhance the understanding of workplace protections for disabled veterans.

Toyota Mobility Foundation $4 Million Challenge To People with Lower-Limb Paralysis

The $4 million challenge to transform the world of people with lower-limb paralysis

  • Toyota Mobility Foundation & Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre launch a multi-million-dollar challenge to expand mobility across the globe for people with lower-limb paralysis
  • Mobility Unlimited Challenge will reward development of personal mobility devices incorporating intelligent systems
  • Solutions will come from across the technological and design spectrum, from artificial intelligence to exoskeletons
  • Challenge supported by international ambassadors from worlds of sport, media, design, art and technology
November 15, 2017 / press release
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 16, 2017 -  The Toyota Mobility Foundation, in partnership with Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre, has launched a $4 million-dollar global challenge to change the lives of people with lower-limb paralysis, culminating in the unveiling of the winners in Tokyo in 2020.
The Mobility Unlimited Challenge is seeking teams around the world to create game-changing technology that will help radically improve the mobility and independence of paralyzed people.
The Mobility Unlimited Challenge aims to harness creative thinking from across the world to accelerate innovation and encourage collaboration with users to find winning devices to transform the world for people with lower-limb paralysis. The Challenge will reward the development of personal mobility devices incorporating intelligent systems.
The mobility solutions of the future could include anything from exoskeletons, to artificial intelligence and machine learning, from cloud computing to batteries.
Around the world, millions of people are living with lower-limb paralysis (the most common causes being strokes, spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis). While there are no statistics on paralysis worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates there are 250,000-500,000 new cases of spinal cord injury globally every year.
Innovation in “smarter” mobility technology has the potential to create personal devices that are better integrated with the user’s body and the environment. But the application of this groundbreaking technology is slow due to disincentives such as small and fragmented markets, regulatory burdens, and reimbursement complexities from healthcare systems and insurers.
This can make the field unattractive to small or new entrants, and prevent innovative solutions by existing innovators from getting to market. Even though huge advances have been made in improving travel between places, innovation in everyday functionality still lags.
The Mobility Unlimited Challenge Prize is supported by global ambassadors from around the world, all of whom have experience of living with lower-limb paralysis. Global ambassadors include: August de los Reyes, Head of Design at Pinterest; Yinka Shonibare MBE, Turner-Prize nominated British-Nigerian artist; Sandra Khumalo, South African Paralympic rower; Indian athlete and campaigner Preethi Srinivasan; Sophie Morgan, British TV presenter; US Paralympian Tatyana McFadden; and Rory A. Cooper, director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh.
All global ambassadors are available for interview on request. Statements by program directors as follows:
Ryan Klem, Director of Programs for Toyota Mobility Foundation:
“This is the beginning of our challenge, a three-year journey concluding in Tokyo in 2020. A journey where the greatest minds in technology, design and engineering, from every corner of the world, will compete to make the environment and society more accessible for people with lower-limb paralysis. We know we don’t have solutions yet: this Challenge is about working with the people who can help develop them.”
Charlotte Macken of Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre:
“Challenge Prizes are a way to make innovation happen. The Mobility Unlimited Challenge is about the freedom to move. It will support innovators, creating cutting-edge personal mobility devices incorporating smart technology and intelligent systems that will transform people’s lives."
A panel of expert judges will pick five finalists who will each receive $500,000 to take their concepts from an intelligent insight to a prototype. The Challenge winner will receive $1 million to help get their product to market - with the winning concept unveiled in Tokyo in 2020.
The Mobility Unlimited Challenge aims to attract and support smaller innovators who might otherwise struggle to break into the assistive technology market. The Discovery Awards will provide seed funding of $50,000 for 10 groups with promising concepts, but who might otherwise lack the resources to enter the Challenge. Interested innovators can apply online at mobilityunlimited.org.
Building on universal design principles to create a more equitable environment, entries for the Mobility Unlimited Challenge will be user-centered. The Challenge will be a catalyst for innovation through co-creation with the people around the world who will benefit most from the solutions discovered by our entrants.
At the end of the Mobility Unlimited Challenge, the Toyota Mobility Foundation and Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre will have supported teams of innovators in creating leading edge technological solutions, opening a new chapter in personal mobility for people with lower-limb paralysis.
For more information please visit mobilityunlimited.org

Alzheimer's Research Receives Major Donation From Bill & Melinda Gates - $100 Million

(Reuters) Nov. 13, 2017 - Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is to invest $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund, a venture capital fund that brings together industry and government to seek treatments for the brain-wasting disease.

Bill & Melinda Gates
The investment is not part of Gates’ philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will be followed with another $50 million in a number of start-up ventures working in Alzheimer’s research, Gates said.

With rapidly rising numbers of people suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the disease is taking a growing emotional and financial toll as people live longer, Gates told Reuters in an interview.

“It’s a huge problem, a growing problem, and the scale of the tragedy — even for the people who stay alive — is very high,” he said.

Despite decades of scientific research, there is no treatment that can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Current drugs can do no more than ease some of the symptoms.

Gates said, however, that with focused and well-funded innovation, he’s “optimistic” treatments can be found, even if they might be more than a decade away.

“It’ll take probably 10 years before new theories are tried enough times to give them a high chance of success. So it’s very hard to hazard a guess (when an effective drug might be developed).

“I hope that in the next 10 years that we have some powerful drugs, but it’s possible that won’t be achieved.”

Dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form, affects close to 50 million people worldwide and is expected to affect more than 131 million by 2050, according to the non-profit campaign group Alzheimer’s Disease International.

The DDF, which was launched in 2015 and involves drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Pfizer and Biogen Idec as well as the UK government, has already invested in at least nine start-up companies investigating potential ways to stop or reverse the biological processes that lead to dementia.

Gates told Reuters the additional $50 million would be put into start-ups working on some “less mainstream” approaches to the disease, but said he had not yet identified these companies.

The philanthropist, whose usual focus is on infectious diseases in poorer countries, said Alzheimer’s disease caught his interest partly for personal reasons, and partly because it has so far proved such a tough nut to crack.

“I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity… It feels a lot like you’re experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew,” he said in a blog post about the dementia investments.

He added: “Some of the men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s, but I wouldn’t say that’s the sole reason” for this investment.

Through talking to experts in the field over the past year, Gates said he had identified five areas of need: Understanding better how Alzheimer’s unfolds, detecting and diagnosing it earlier, pursuing multiple approaches to trying to halt the disease, making it easier for people to take part in clinical trials of potential new medicines, and using data better.

“My background at Microsoft and my (Gates) Foundation background say to me that a data-driven contribution might be an area where I can help add some value,” he said.

Alongside the $50 million investment in DDF and the additional $50 million planned for start-ups, Gates said he would like to award a grant to build a global dementia data platform. This would make it easier for researchers to look for patterns and identify new pathways for treatment, he said.

(Editing by Dan Grebler)
source: press release

PEAT Blog Explores Accessible Technology Awareness Building

At large companies, some of the most challenging aspects of managing an accessibility program relate to enterprise-wide awareness and adoption. Getting thousands of employees to understand accessible technology basics and integrate an accessibility mindset into their day-to-day work is no easy task. This type of systemic change can require an entire cultural shift. During a recent PEAT TalkCapital One(link is external) Senior Manager of Accessibility Mark Penicook shared some of their experiences in implementing a range of internal efforts to promote widespread awareness of accessibility standards and best practices.

Taking Accessibility to the Bank

Mark leads Capital One’s Digital Accessibility Team. This team works with the company’s designers, software engineers, managers, and product owners to ensure that all the company’s web, mobile, and messaging applications are usable by everyone, including those with disabilities.
Five years ago, when Mark and his team set out to promote accessibility within Capital One, they faced a key challenge: most colleagues they spoke with simply weren’t aware of accessibility in the first place. Even those familiar with the term often only understood it in the context of making physical spaces accessible. The Digital Accessibility Team knew they had their work cut out for them and ramped up their awareness-building efforts to educate their colleagues about digital accessibility.
Soon they encountered their next challenge: integrating accessibility into the early stages of the product design process. “The right way to accomplish accessibility without it feeling like an overwhelming additional burden,” Mark explained, “is not to bolt this on to the end of the process or try to correct things at the last minute.” Mark and his team promoted the benefits of earlier integration and better partnerships, but they still weren’t always recognized by other teams within Capital One. They encountered pushback from those who viewed accessibility as a difficult, complex task. Meanwhile, other teams expressed feelings that they didn’t have the expertise, time, or capacity to make accessibility fixes.   

Creative Messaging Approaches

Mark and his team decided the next step was to educate everyone at Capital One that a dedicated team was available to assist them. They created a logo, stickers, and other branding materials to spread the word among their 40,000 associates across the globe. They also developed a video showcasing the accessibility experiences of three people with disabilities. The end product was highly successful, and this video is now a part almost every presentation that his team does, including their annual computer-based job training.
Mark also saw an opportunity to reach new Capital One employees during their onboarding orientations. Because new hires are given so much information during orientation, Mark’s team focused on making their presentation concise, memorable, and interactive. For example, one Digital Accessibility Team member who plays guitar asked participants what accessibility means to them in one word, and then used those words to make up a song that he sang on the spot.
The Capital One Digital Accessibility Team works hard to foster and maintain partnerships throughout the company, not just because it’s good for business, but also because of their belief that it’s the right thing to do. And as Mark reflected, “if we do well at accessibility, we're almost guaranteed to have a better product, a better design, a better code base, a more usable interface or interaction for literally everyone.”
Learn more about Capital One’s digital accessibility awareness initiatives by checking out the archived PEAT Talk. And in the comments, please let us know how your business is working to promote the importance of digital accessibility company-wide.
source: Peat blog post

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