Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Meeting the challenge of finding employment

One of the regular RSS feeds I subscribe to is
Fred’s Head Companion,
sponsored by the American Printing House for the Blind and of general interest to blind and visually impaired readers. However, I often find that the items discussed or information being offered would be useful and of interest to a broader scope than tjust the BVI population.

This is definitely the case with the recent post,
Meeting the challenge of finding employment.

The insight offered covers many subjects -- from resume writing, filling out an employment application, interviewing tips, and some information that would be of use to anybody just entering the world of work. The information would apply equally well to a high school student looking for a summer job or to a college graduate entering the professional world. It works just as well for somebody managing an onset disability trying to think through the sometimes daunting prospect of re-entering the job market. The post raises job issues that others will need to address, but also poses these questions, such as transportation, in the light which are essential issues to be answered by job applicants with a disability.

Check out Fred’s Head Companion for this post, but when you’re finished, either bookmark it or put it in your RSS feeds. If you’re reading Access Ability, then FHC has relevant information that will suit your needs just as well.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Review of KNFB Reader Mobile in Braille Monitor

Thanks to the
Top Tech Tidbits for Thursday
newsletter for letting me know about the review below.

There is a very good and informed review of the
KNFB Reader Mobile
in the May, 2008 issue of the
Braille Monitor.

In the review, Michael Barber discusses features of the KNFB Reader Mobile that he likes and also offers up some input on aspects he wishes the unit had. He gives a descriptive and detailed account of how easy it was to use and what he learned via the portable talking OCR device upon arriving at his hotel room. He also gives a quick comparison of the handheld reader against the two big names in computer-based OCR programs.

While Barber does note some shortcomings, the review highlights the key points that are, what I believe, the device’s strong points.
* OCR in a device that has complete portability
* User adjustable settings
* Its lightweight and compact design.

From what I discern in Barber’s review, it appears that one of the biggest hang-ups I had with the original product – bulky design that didn’t really lend itself to being convenient – has been totally eliminated. On the flipside, though, there is still a significantly noticeable delay in processing time, even though this sounds like it is quicker than its predecessor.

New assistive technology blog to share with you

I just learned about a new assistive technology blog that I want to tell you about.

James Bailey’s
Managing Assistive Technology in Higher Education
Blog is one of those “right on target” resources for postsecondary disability service professionals.

I learned of this blog through a news alert about his most recent post,
Faculty Development and Document Accessibility,
Which gives some great suggestions for helping faculty understand just what some assistive technology can do. The post offers the idea that by conducting this type of outreach, the DS coordinator can also open the faculty members’ minds to what the needs of different students are as well. Bailey uses this piece to stress the positive aspects of universal design and shows how this can be implemented by proactive involvement by the DSO.

Even if you are in some other role besides postsecondary disability services, this blog may provide useful information. If you have an understanding or need of assistive technology, then check it out. It is definitely on my list of blogs to watch. I’m adding it to my RSS feeds and to my blogroll.

And, if you like what you see and want more, Bailey also has a personal web site,
where he offers additional AT resources and also promotes his consulting business.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Survey attempting to define aspects of assistive technology decision making

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s
Midwest Alliance in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
is in need of some input on how
people with disabilities make decisions prior to purchasing assistive technology.

The survey, which has the approval of the Institution Review Board, Is seeking input from people with any type of disability.

The survey is attempting to define two aspects of decision making, both pre-purchase and pre-acquisition:

• how users receive or find information regarding AT before a purchase and their level of participation in and satisfaction with the process; and

• who is involved in the AT purchase decision, and (c) primary funding sources of AT.

The Midwest Alliance is a consortium of researchers, educators, disability service providers, and engineers promoting the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and careers.

If you have any questions or comments, or would like any information about the Midwest Alliance, please contact Liam Martin at either 608-239-0264 or

Friday, June 06, 2008

Access Ability is joining the Disability 411 podcast

I’m excited to share this news with the regular readers of Access Ability.

A couple of weeks ago, Beth Case, of the
Disability 411 Podcast
Invited me to be a regular contributor to the program. The latest episode of D411 is now up and ready to download , on which, she makes this announcement publicly official.

Needless to say, I’m eager to do this. The opportunity to do something in audio as well as in print here on Access Ability is something I’ve considered for quite a while. Now, thanks to Beth, this is becoming a reality.

I’ve written here before about how much I enjoy the ease of use and accessibility of the
Digital Audio editing program. Now, I’m going to be able to use it even more regularly to produce my segments on D411.

And, on the current D411 show, Beth gives a good primer on transitioning from high school to college for students with disabilities. She raises some key issues that all students with disabilities need to be aware of, so do check it out for that important information.

So, now you know what you need to do…make sure to download the current episode and then check out the future episodes of Disability 411 for news and information regarding the world of disability and accessibility. This has always been a quality, professional podcast, and I am looking forward to adding value to the high standards Beth has set.

I’ll see you soon on D411!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Latest news regarding ADA Restoration Act of 2007

There seems to be some stirring on the legal front regarding the ADA Restoration Act of 2007.

According to this Human Resources Executive Online article,
a compromise is in the works
between advocates for disability rights and the business community. These represent the two factions in the legal tug of war that has been going on in Congress as the lawmakers attempt to retool the Americans with Disabilities Act.

While the fine points are still subject to change, it is good to see that things are progressing. Two of the biggest sticking points for employers have been the language of the proposed change in defining the criteria for a qualified disability and the use of mitigating devices, such as hearing aids . I'm glad to see that these have apparently been worked out.

The following information is from the article:

The proposed language, which could still change, would redefine "disability" to be any actual, past or perceived physical or mental impairment that "substantially limits a major life activity" and then defines this phrase to mean "materially restricts a major life activity," according to details released by the American Association of People with Disabilities.

The proposal also includes a non-exhaustive list of covered major life activities, and defines the operation of major bodily functions as a covered major life activity.

According to the language released, the proposed compromise:

* States that mitigating measures should not be considered when determining whether an impairment materially restricts an individual's major life activity, including medical devices, assistive technology, behavior adaptations, reasonable accommodation or auxiliary aids. This would reverse the ruling in the Sutton vs. United Airlines decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that "mitigating measures" should be taken into account when determining whether a plaintiff is disabled.

* Excludes minor impairments and impairments with an actual or expected duration of six months or less as disabilities.

* States that employers would not need to provide reasonable accommodations to employees they regard as disabled.

* Includes a section with examples of major life activities such as caring for oneself, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working. The high court, in Toyota vs. Williams, ruled a disability must "substantially limit [an individual's] daily life activities," not just abilities at work. The case involved the inability of an assembly worker with carpal tunnel syndrome to do her job.

Both Michael Layman, manager of employee and labor relations for the Society for Human Resources Management, and Michael Imparato, AAPD CEO and president, say technical details are still being worked out, but they are confident a compromise will be reached soon, possibly within two weeks.

"We know the clock is ticking and we want to move forward with a deal," Layman says. "We are close to coming up with a proposal that will be fair to both employers and employees."