Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Push for Equal Access to Technology

Interesting coalition of organizations (Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology Launched For Full Disability Access in the 21st Century) pushing an agenda of increased attention to access for persons with disabilities in the technological realm:

See the original press release at:

"WASHINGTON, March 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Get your COAT! Today, a new coalition of disability organizations was launched to advocate for legislative and regulatory safeguards that will ensure full access by people with disabilities to evolving high speed broadband, wireless and other Internet protocol (IP) technologies. The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology, or "COAT," consists of over 45 national, regional, and community-based organizations dedicated to making sure that as our nation migrates from legacy public switched-based telecommunications to more versatile and innovative IP-based and other communication technologies, people with disabilities will not be left behind.
Emerging digital and Internet-based technologies can provide peoplewith disabilities with new opportunities for greater independence, integration, and privacy, but only if these are designed to be accessible. The guiding principle of this Coalition will be to ensure the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of daily living through accessible, affordable and usable communication technologies as these continue to evolve. To this end, and in order to achieve equal access in the 21st century, COAT has identified the following initial broad objectives:

* Extend current disability protections under Sections 255 and 710 of the Communications Act to IP technologies with improved accountability and enforcement measures, to ensure more accessibility, usability and interoperability for all persons with disabilities, including persons who are aging.

* Expand the scope of devices that must transmit and display closed captions under the Decoder Circuitry Act from the present requirement of television sets with screens that are 13 inches or larger to video devices of all sizes, including recording and playback devices, that are designed to receive or display digital and Internet programming.

* Apply existing captioning obligations under Section 713 of the Communications Act to IPTV and other types of multi-channel video programming services that are commercially distributed over the Internet.

* Restore the video description rules originally promulgated by the FCC in 2000 (overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit) and ensure that this access continues in the transition to digital television programming.

* Extend existing relay service obligations under Section 225 of the Communications Act to VoIP providers (i.e., extend the obligation to contribute to the interstate relay fund that supports these services), including obligations for greater outreach to consumers.

* Require accessible interfaces on video programming and playback devices, such as televisions, VCRs, and DVD players.

* Ensure that people with disabilities have equivalent access to emergency information through identification of barriers and implementation of solutions in current and new technologies, including solutions for achieving access by people with disabilities to 911 emergency PSAPs through the receipt of text and video.

* Ensure universal service fund availability for persons with disabilities (e.g., Lifeline/Link-up programs), to increase the number of people with disabilities as broadband users.

The above objectives were recommended in a report released by theNational Council on Disability: The Need for Federal Legislation andRegulation Prohibiting Telecommunications and Information ServicesDiscrimination, available at (releasedDecember 16, 2007).

COAT MEMBERS* National organizations:

1. Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
2. Alliance for Technology Access
3. American Association of People with Disabilities
4. American Association of the Deaf-Blind
5. American Council of the Blind
6. American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association
7. American Foundation for the Blind
8. American Society for Deaf Children
9. Assistive Technology Industry Association
10. Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs
11. Association of Late-Deafened Adults
12. Communication Service for the Deaf
13. Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf
14. Deafness Research Foundation
15. Deaf Seniors of America
16. Gallaudet University
17. Gallaudet University Alumni Association
18. Hearing Loss Association of America
19. Helen Keller National Center
20. Inclusive Technologies
21. International Center for Disability Resources on the Internet
22. National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments
23. National Association of the Deaf
24. National Black Deaf Advocates
25. National Catholic Office of the Deaf
26. National Court Reporters Association
27. National Cued Speech Association
28. Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
29. Speech Communication Assistance by Telephone, Inc.
30. Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc.
31. USA Deaf Sports Federation
32. WGBH Media Access Group
33. World Institute on Disability

Regional and Community-Based Organizations:

1. Association of Late Deafened Adults, East Bay - Northern California
2. Center on Deafness - Inland Empire
3. Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center, Inc. Fresno
4. Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center, Inc. Roanoke, Virginia
5. Deaf Community Services of San Diego, Inc.
6. Deaf Counseling, Advocacy and Referral Agency, San Leandro, CA
7. Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness
8. Hearing Loss of Northwest Indiana Support Group for Hoosiers
9. Northern California Center on Deafness
10. North Carolina Governor's Advocacy Council for Persons with Disabilities
11. Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons
12. Orange County Deaf Equal Access Foundation
13. Roanoke Valley Club of the Deaf
14. San Diego - Hearing Loss Network
15. Tri-County GLAD

* Members as of March 12, 2007

SOURCE Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology

Monday, March 12, 2007

The "Poor Thing" Syndrome

It is no exaggeration to say that I rarely have the thought, "poor thing", in reference to a fellow human being. It is, I think, a descriptor that is (probably) oft and inappropriately applied to moi, by people who don't know me. If anyone who did know me did think of me as a "poor thing", I know that they would never tell me to my face -- not without risking injury.

So, it was with some surprise that I found myself applying this "poor thing" appellation to someone I saw a couple of weeks ago.

Setting the Scene

I was leaving work, still on Ivy West's campus, barrelling out of my building in my power wheelchair, on my way across campus to the train station. Where our building's path intersects with a more general path, I slowed to go around a pedestrian -- and thought, "poor thing".

I have since seen this woman again, which confirmed my thought that she is a fellow Ivy West employee, walking to her car at the end of the day. She and I are of an age -- somewhere between 50 and 60, at a wild ass guess.

She clearly was in discomfort, walking -- my guess is an arthritic hip or knee. Like I said, we're of an age.

But, I thought "poor thing" because she was moving slowly, clearly (to me) in pain. And I, more disabled by pretty much anyone's standards, was happily zipping along, not particularly in pain (I'm never completely discomfort free -- but who is?).

And then I thought,

I wonder if she is thinking the same thing -- i.e., "poor thing", about me.

And Now for Something Completely Different...

Not really.

Just wanted to point my faithful readers to a new blog I'm initiating, The View From Where I Sit -- NEW . I'm just combining a couple of other failed blog attempts to branch out -- a place to write about non-disability issues.

My first entry is a brief book review -- I hope to add more, more consistently.

If only my day job didn't take up so many hours in the day...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I Know The Type

In checking on Charles Dawson's blog (The Meanderings of a Politically Incorrect Crip) today, I followed a provided link to this, Anne by Colin Cameron. Go and read it -- I'll wait.

Like many crips, I suspect, particularly those of us in the biz -- the service provision biz, that is -- I found myself feeling both angry and sick when I read Cameron's piece. We have been on the receiving end of services provided by "Anne" and her ilk; or we have interviewed for jobs with her, or she has been a co-worker.

In fact, it brings to mind a co-worker of a few years ago (a saint in the minds of many), I'll call her Lucy. Lucy had been a Voc. Rehab. Counselor, and a provider of services in the higher ed setting -- where I met her.

One day we were talking with our boss about interviewing candidates for an open position in our office -- a disability services office for students at Ivy West. One of the candidates had disclosed a disability, and Lucy said glibly, "Oh, we don't want anyone with a disability or with kids -- they'll be out sick all the time."

Seriously. Sitting there in my power chair, I just looked at her and looked at my boss, who looked suitably taken aback.

So many people -- I venture to guess far more women than men, but I don't have the numbers to prove it -- just fell into a variety of "helping professions" as the laws started mandating inclusion in education and later, in employment. Sometimes they were an unqualified crip in the right place at the right time. Sometimes they were social workers who wanted to "help the handicapped".

I can't say that they are all terrible, but I can say that 90% do more harm than good, when you add up all of the gains and losses for the "cause" at the end of the day.

Another "saint" I dealt with out of law school, was the Voc. Rehab. counselor -- the only one, apparently -- who handled law school graduates in San Francisco in the '90s. Even though I had graduated from law school, had worked successfully in business for over 10 years, had filled out reams of complex forms in my time, ad nauseam, she wouldn't let me fill out my own federal application forms, nor would she give me access to the names and phone numbers of the supposed leads she had for me.

As it turned out, every single one of the interviews she sent me on were "practice/informative" in nature -- meaning there was no job to be filled. But she didn't tell me that ahead of time.

Ultimately, I found my own job. But, my hatred of that woman is a vivid ugly memory to this day.

I insist on treating the students that I deal with as adults. I "help" by providing information, and advise based upon my own experiences. There are the laws and then there is the real world, and they only bear a tangental relationship to each other.

The don't call me Reality Check Woman for nothing.