How driverless cars can empower Americans with disabilities

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A new report shines light on the possibilities of more equitable autonomous transportation

The hype over driverless cars often paints pictures of the incredible freedom riders and former drivers would obtain when they can take their hands off the wheel and let the car do the work. The futuristic life of leisure, however, doesn’t always take into account the significant population of Americans for whom any regular transportation access would be revolutionary. For those with disabilities, access to public transportation, much less control of their own vehicle and life, would be empowering. The possibilities of autonomous vehicles designed for everyone could impact a huge swath of the population: a recent government report found that 6 million Americans with disabilities have difficulty getting the transportation they need.

According to a new report, Self-Driving Cars: The Impact on People with Disabilities, released yesterday by the Ruderman Family Foundation and Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), the potential of driverless vehicles to liberate Americans with disabilities from transportation issues, bring more people into the workforce, and save substantially on health care, is vast. By engaging with government and private industry to make sure that tech firms and carmakers address the needs of drivers with disabilities, the report suggests new transportation options can be designed that would create 2 million more job opportunities and save $19 billion annually in health care costs.

The landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates equal access to transportation, was supposed to help Americans with disabilities get around. But decades after its passage in 1990, the promise of equality hasn’t been met, especially when it comes to employment. Transportation is one of the key hurdles. A 2003 Department of Transportation study found 45 percent of Americans with disabilities didn’t have access to a passenger vehicle.

Public transportation systems often lack full access for riders with disabilities and only cover certain parts of the country, streets don’t always have proper access for wheelchairs, and public paratransit systems, which allows riders to book trips in advance, are often crowded and offer minimal access. Agencies that run these services often run with high operating costs and don’t have the resources to provide reliable and convenient services. According to Andrew Houtenville, an expert on disabilities at the University of New Hampshire, “there is no expectation whatsoever that paratranist will perform to the level necessary.”

Continue onto Curbed to read the complete article.

The Tourette’s community is livid over the ‘TikTok tics’ media frenzy

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The Tourette’s community is livid over the ‘TikTok tics’ media frenzy

By Jessica Lucas, Input

Last month, a Wall Street Journal article titled “Teen Girls Are Developing Tics. Doctors Say TikTok Could Be a Factor” went viral on social media.

The piece reported a rise in young women presenting with symptoms of Tourette syndrome, a widely misunderstood neurological disorder that impacts roughly 0.6 percent of children and causes people to experience tics — involuntary and repetitive movements or sounds.

The Journal cited “a spate of recent medical journal articles,” in which doctors claim many girls with unexplained tics “had been watching videos of TikTok influencers who said they had Tourette syndrome.” The piece, which featured two teenage girls who linked their tics to TikTok, said that pediatric movement-disorder centers across the U.S. had reported “an influx of teen girls with similar tics.”

“PEOPLE automatically think we’re doing things for ATTENTION, or that there’s NO WAY that Tourette syndrome can be REAL.”
The article acknowledged that the “TikTok tics” epidemic was anecdotal and even quoted an academic who cast doubt on TikTok being the root cause of this phenomenon. “There are some kids who watch social media and develop tics and some who don’t have any access to social media and develop tics,” Dr. Joseph McGuire of Johns Hopkins University Tourette’s Center told the paper. “I think there are a lot of contributing factors, including anxiety, depression, and stress.”

But the headline was damaging enough. And it was worsened by subsequent coverage: Buzzfeed, the New York Post, People, and Business Insider ran with the story — all without any input from the Tourette’s community itself, which has been horrified by the press frenzy.

Ben Brown, host of the Tourette’s Podcast, has been deeply perturbed, as have his listeners. “There’s a lot of frustration. Some people are just livid,” says Brown, who is 41 and based in North Carolina. He was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at the age of five, but lived a “closeted” life with the condition while he worked as a photojournalist. Brown “came out” with Tourette’s when he launched his podcast in 2018.

“Now we have scientists who are saying things we know from experience are just not safe,” Brown says. He and many others living with Tourette syndrome fear the current rhetoric around TikTok tics could further stigmatize Tourette’s, especially for young women.

Britney Wolf is a 31-year-old Tourette’s campaigner from Ohio. “People automatically think we’re doing things for attention, or that there’s no way that Tourette syndrome can be real,” says Wolf, who was diagnosed with Tourette’s at the age of seven. She interviews people with the condition on her YouTube channel in a bid to challenge stereotypes. “There’s already so many of these people trying to tear us down,” she says, “and articles like this give them more fuel to start claiming that all advocates are faking it.”

Jaleesa Jenkins, a 24-year-old Tourette’s YouTuber from California, is most frustrated by the suggestion that Tourette-like symptoms can be “caught” through platforms like TikTok. “The idea is really oversimplified and really stigmatizing,” she says. “It’s just not true. It makes people afraid, suspicious, or scared to be around us.”

It seems that the recent press attention has undone years of campaigning. “People with Tourette syndrome have worked hard for a very long time to feel understood — particularly for people to understand that tics aren’t voluntary or done for attention,” says Dr. Christine Conelea. The clinical practitioner and researcher is an assistant professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Minnesota and has worked with Tourette’s patients for 15 years. “I worry that those who are doing advocacy on social media spaces will be questioned and targeted.”

Wolf finds the situation heartbreaking. “So many people have told me how much they have learned about Tourette’s because of people online,” she says. “It felt like we were finally getting somewhere. Now it feels like we’re being pulled back.”

Click here to read the full article on Input.

Homeless Man With Arthritic Hands Rebuilds His Life After Discovering Keyboard App For Easier Typing

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Typewise hexagonal keyboard with blue keys in five rows

By sam.baldwin@typewise.app

A formerly homeless man with a severely deformed hands has been able to rebuild his life after discovering a new way to communicate, thanks to a novel hexagonal smartphone keyboard made in Switzerland.

Russ Miller, 36, from Ohio, was first diagnosed with the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis when he was just 26. The condition attacks the body’s joints, making it progressively more difficult for him to do everyday tasks.

“My hands are deformed. They’re not shaped properly and I can’t bend them like everyone else can. Recently my thumb has stopped working, so I can’t bend it,” said Miller in a letter to the company. “I can no longer use normal computer keyboards and it’s hard for me to even hold a pen anymore.”

Russ’ condition led to a downward spiral which resulted in him living on the streets in Florida for 4 years—but in 2018, he started trying to turn his life around.

“I was trying to get help and get myself out of my situation. I had a phone, but I struggled typing on keyboards… So I started looking for alternative smartphone keyboards that might enable me to type again. I found Typewise by accident.”

Russ attributes Typewise smartphone keyboard with enabling him to “get his life back” by empowering him to communicate with people, and therefore get help, get an apartment and even get a job:

“I was able to communicate a lot better than talking, because my voice is kind of monotone so people don’t understand me very well. And because I was able to start typing on my phone again, I was able to use social media to reach out to an organization that helps people with disabilities.”

It’s the hexagonal layout of the keyboard that Russ finds a whole lot easier. “I can move my fingers around and not mess up as often.”

“Now I have a part-time job where I take care of dogs and cats; Tuesdays and Thursdays. I can’t work full time, because of my physical issues but at least I have something to do and something to look forward to.”

The company making the smartphone app, which has a popularity rating of 4.5 stars, had been unaware that their unique keyboard design could help people with reduced dexterity, until they received Russ’s letter.

Continue on to The Good News Network to read the complete original article.

Photo Credit: Typewise

How Google Makes Android Apps, And The World’s Information, Universally Accessible To Everyone

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Google's Android Studio now helps developers scan for accessibility issues in their apps

By Steven Aquino, Forbes

As iPhone and Apple Watch are the standard-bearers in their respective product categories, so too is Apple the standard-bearer when it comes to designing and shipping best-of-breed assistive technologies. The Cupertino company has long been lauded by those in the disability community as creating the best accessibility software, just as iPhone is the best smartphone and Apple Watch the best smartwatch.

Still, where Apple leads, it is incumbent on its contemporaries to follow. Maintaining good accessibility practices is obviously not exclusive to one company, nor should it be. Indeed, Apple’s Big Tech peers in Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, all do admirable work in their own right to push accessibility’s importance to technology and to raise awareness of disabled people. In particular, the Mountain View-based Google has made significant strides in recent times to make accessibility on Android and other properties better in various ways. Additionally, the company recently begun airing a heartfelt ad called “A CODA Story”, which spotlights how Google tech such as Live Transcribe and more enables children of deaf adults communicate with their parents.

“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible,” Casey Burkhardt, a staff software engineer on Google’s Accessibility team, said in a recent interview with me conducted over email. “With one billion people in the world who have a disability, bringing that mission to life means leveraging what many people may already have in their pockets—a smartphone—to make both the physical and digital worlds more accessible.”

To Burkhardt, Google’s mission to make the world’s information accessible to everyone has special meaning. He is legally Blind, so not only is he intimately involved in building the tools that make his company’s software accessible, he uses those same tools to have easier access the world. The advent of the smartphone quite literally changed his life, as he no longer had to tote a physical magnifier with him to read small-print items in the real world, from his schoolwork to mail and more. “I can still recall the moment I discovered a free digital magnifier app that outperformed the specialized assistive hardware, which has sat in a drawer ever since,” he said.

For Google, the work on accessibility partly stems from the notion that “mobile devices have also become gateways to the digital world and an increasing amount of what we do and how we interact is app-based,” Burkhardt told me. The company declined to share what percentage of Android users use accessibility features, but Burkhardt did say much of the inspiration for what comes out of the development process is the needs of team members internally. Many have disabilities themselves, and they contribute ideas based on what they need from their devices. One example Burkhardt cited is the TalkBack Braille Keyboard. It was conceived and developed by Daniel Dalton, a software engineer at Google who is Blind, who “wanted to provide people who use braille with a fast way of communicating on their Android devices.” Another example is Live Transcribe, developed by engineers Chet Gnegy and Dimitri Kanevsky. Kanevsky is deaf, and he and Kanevsky wanted to create something that provided “additional avenues for making conversations more accessible.”

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

‘Smart’ wheelchair wheel design that aids accessibility wins student design competition

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‘Smart Wheel’, a motorised wheel which can be added to most wheelchairs and provides users with assistance on uneven ground, elevation and on long journeys. The wheel can be controlled from the user’s phone.

By , Thiis

An innovative wheelchair wheel design which aims to boost accessibility for wheelchairs users with a spinal cord injury has won a prestigious competition. Law firm, Bolt Burdon Kemp, which acts for people with spinal cord injuries, organised the Design the Change competition in collaboration with Cereba, a charity that helps children with brain conditions. The competition, announced last November, was set up to raise awareness of the day-to-day challenges facing people with spinal cord injuries and how innovative designs that boost accessibility can make a real difference. UK-based university students were invited to design a product aimed at improving the lives of people with a spinal cord injury, with the law firm stating that it was looking for a design which was both unique and practical.

Winner Thomas Salkeld, 23, a third year Product Design BSc student from Cardiff Metropolitan University, designed the ‘Smart Wheel’, a motorised wheel which can be added to most wheelchairs and provides users with assistance on uneven ground, elevation and on long journeys. The wheel can be controlled from the user’s phone.

Thomas wins £3,000, with an additional £2,000 being awarded to Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Part of Cereba’s work as a charity is to design bespoke equipment to meet families’ needs at its innovation centre, and as part of his prize, Thomas will have a week’s placement at the centre in Wales next year.

Thomas really impressed the judges by researching his design thoroughly and taking into account the challenges facing those with a spinal cord injury who use a wheelchair.

He bought a wheelchair himself and found travelling in it exhausting, especially uphill. He spoke to several people who had sustained a spinal cord injury and who were also wheelchairs users and ran his prototypes by them for feedback.

Highly commended in the competition and also offered a week’s placement at Cerebra is Anna Lis, 21, a third year Product Design student at the University for the Creative Arts. Anna’s Superhuman Shoe and Ankle Foot Orthosis design provides support for people with drop foot, a common side-effect of a spinal cord injury.

The judging panel were impressed with Anna’s detailed research and the fact her shoe celebrates the support it offers, rather than disguising its specialist features.

Victoria Oliver, Head of the Spinal Injury Team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: “We were blown away by the quality of the entries this year and it’s fantastic to see how much research went into everyone’s designs.

“A spinal cord injury is a life changing event that makes even the most mundane of tasks time-consuming, and innovative designs and products can really help make the world more accessible to the 50,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK.

“Thomas’s design showed real awareness of the challenges facing those with a spinal cord injury who use a wheelchair and he went to great lengths to make sure his Smart Wheel design was practical, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing.”

Winner Thomas Salkeld said: “I am ecstatic about winning the competition as designing to help people is my passion and what I wish to pursue in the future.

“The aim of my design was to really take into consideration what the users want and the problems they face every day in regards to their mobility in a wheelchair, then applying my engineering, design, prototyping and technology skills that were necessary.

“The aesthetics were designed to be functional but also pleasing to the eye, allowing the users to be proud of the product on their wheelchairs.”

Click here to read the full article on Thiis.

Gamers With Disabilities Praise Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart’s Accessibility Features

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cartoon Video game characters preparing for battle

BY RHIANNON BEVAN, The Gamer

The recent gameplay showcase of Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart was met with praise across the gaming community. With a detailed look at levels, items and gameplay modes, there was a lot to get excited about if you have your eyes on this next gen platformer.

Right at the end of the video, Insomniac also highlighted a wide range of accessibility features that will be in the game.

It’s hardly common practice for a game showcase to mention video game accessibility, even though it is a subject that will affect thousands of players. This break with industry convention is being met with praise among accessibility advocates, who say that such segments should feature in more gameplay trailers.

“I have mobility issues so the use of my hands is a problem in games”, explains Bobby, a freelance gaming and accessibility writer. “The toggle option will give me the ability to work the controls around my own ability level, such as toggling aim instead of being forced to hold it down to aim, using auto-aim features to help me when my hands become tired.”

Bobby has raised awareness on video game accessibility in the past, particularly in Nintendo titles that fall short. Despite the industry taking progress slowly, he tells TheGamer he’s incredibly happy with what was seen at the showcase. “This to me was very meaningful as I felt considered and seen as a disabled gamer. This does appear to be more inclusive than most other AAA games on the market right now”.

Sharing this sentiment is fellow accessibility advocate, Laura Kate Dale. After the showcase, she tweeted “I am so, so glad this is becoming a Sony first party game staple. Other developers, take notes on this. Such a great accessibility feature.”

Both Laura and Bobby allude to The Last of Us Part 2 in their praise of Sony. It was lauded for its accessibility last year, which was so well designed that a sightless player was able to complete the game multiple times.

Speaking to members of r/disabledgamers on Reddit, others were also happy to see Sony platform the topic in this manner. User tysonedwards shared that they would benefit from the visual accessibility features, as Rift Apart allows for extensive changes to the shades used in-game. The user says this will allow many with low vision to play what would otherwise be an “unapproachable game”. u/chaZ04 agrees, sharing that everything seen so far looks promising.

However, Sony hasn’t always got accessibility right. Despite the praise, u/tysonedwards also commented: “given Sony’s overall aggressive stance towards accessibility features within the hardware and operating system like screen reader support, text-to-speech, reduce motion, system wide subtitle toggle, combined with their policy of issuing PSN bans under a Code of Conduct Violation for use of modified controllers in ‘competitive games’, I won’t be buying.”

Click here to read the full article on The Gamer.

TikTok Makes Videos More Inclusive Of And Accessible To Deaf People With New Auto Captions Feature

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TikTok logo on an all black background

By Steven Aquino, Forbes

In a blog post published Tuesday, TikTok announced auto-captions. The goal is to make the service more accessible to those in the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. “Inclusivity is important because when people feel included, they’re more comfortable expressing themselves and engaging with their community.

We’re committed to fostering an inclusive app environment, and that means building products and tools that support our diverse community,” Stephanie Hind, Manager of Creator Management and Operations at TikTok US, wrote in the company’s post. With today’s update, creators are able to turn on captions from the editing page of the app, which then will automatically transcribe spoken audio into text.

Any generated captions can also be edited by the creator for better accuracy. On the viewing side, users can opt to disable captions if they so choose.

TikTok says the captioning functionality is currently localized in American English and Japanese, adding support for more languages is in the pipeline for the “coming months.” The company noted it collaborated with disability organizations such as The Deaf Collective to design and develop this feature.

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

Top 5 Outdoor All Terrain Mobility Scooters for Elderly & Aging Seniors Revealed by Electric Wheelchairs USA

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A woman in a light purple shirt and khaki smiles at the camera while sitting in an outdoor scooter.

According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report, about 40% of seniors aged 65 years and over suffer from a disability, two-thirds of these people report having difficulties in walking. This only covers the period 2008 to 2012.

Outdoor mobility scooters are one of the best current solutions for those seeking more freedom in their daily activities.

Photo : Outdoor All Terrain Mobility Scooters

For full review, visit: Top 5 Outdoor All Terrain Mobility Scooters in 2021

  1. Afikim Afiscooter S4
    This Afikim outdoor scooter bears an outstanding design of durability and comfort. It features an orthopedic seat that swivels and is fully adjustable to accommodate several body types. Plus, it comes with a delta tiller to provide smooth steering. The armrests are also adjustable and can be adjusted outward or adjusted up for the user’s comfort.
  2. Drive Medical Cobra GT4
    Manufactured by Drive Medical, the Cobra GT4 is a highly versatile yet very stylish all-terrain outdoor scooter. It offers an impressive top speed of 10 mph and can get up to 35 miles of travel on a single battery charge. This sturdy outdoor scooter can handle up to 450 pounds of weight and is staple within the Drive Medical product line.
  3. Pride Mobility Wrangler
    The Wrangler is perhaps the toughest outdoor mobility scooter on the market today and can tackle just about any type of terrain. It has large 14.5″ knobby wheels, allowing you to get traction ride through all sorts of rough terrain that other scooters would not be able to touch.
  4. Merits Silverado Extreme Bariatric Scooter
    The standard included battery gives you 37.5 miles of driving range, reaching a top speed of 7.5 mph. You can choose to upgrade the battery for 55 miles of range and 9.5 mph maximum speed.
  5. EWheels EW-72 Bariatric Electric 4-Wheel Scooter
    Ending on a high note, the EW-72 Scooter from EWheels delivers exceptional high-speed performance, reaching up to 15 mph. The included 48 Volts battery offers an impressive range of 43 miles per one charge.

Electric Wheelchairs USA is an authorized dealer for every brand so customers are qualified to receive the limited manufacturer warranty and full return policy with their purchase.

SOURCE Electric Wheelchairs USA

Read full artcile at PRnewswire.

European Space Agency announces call for ‘parastronauts’ with disabilities

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graphic of three astronautsl; standing to right of a large ruler

The European Space Agency is diversifying its astronaut pool with its first call for astronauts that is open to candidates with physical disabilities.

In this call for new astronauts, the agency’s first recruitment drive in over a decade, ESA announced that it plans to accept four to six career astronauts (who will be permanent ESA staff) and about 20 “reserve astronauts,” who could fly for shorter missions to destinations like the International Space Station.

As part of this call for astronaut applicants, ESA Director General Jan Wörner revealed during a recent news briefing that the agency is aiming to bring its first “parastronaut,” or astronaut with physical disabilities, on board, according to SpaceNews.

As part of what it calls the “Parastronaut feasibility project,” “ESA is ready to invest in defining the necessary adaptations of space hardware in an effort to enable these otherwise excellently qualified professionals to serve as crew members on a safe and useful space mission,” the agency said in a statement, adding that it will open up this opportunity for one or more applicants.

For this parastronaut, who would be the first astronaut with physical disabilities selected not just by ESA but in history, the agency is “looking for individual(s) who are psychologically, cognitively, technically and professionally qualified to be an astronaut, but have a physical disability that would normally prevent them from being selected due to the requirements imposed by the use of current space hardware,” ESA added in the same statement.

ESA consulted with the Paralympic Committee to determine exactly which physical disabilities would work consistently with space missions, according to a New York Times. Currently, the agency is accepting applicants with leg amputations, significant differences in leg length or who are very short (typically, space agencies have a height minimum for astronaut candidates), according to the Times, though the agency hopes to expand this opportunity to others in the future.

After being recruited, astronaut candidates chosen as part of this project would work with the agency to determine what physical accommodations they might need to fly to space.

Continue on to Space.com to read the complete article.

TikTok Users Rallied to Design a Better Pill Bottle for People With Parkinson’s

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jimmy choi holding a pill bottle close up wearing red shirt

Necessity has long been the mother of invention, but thanks to cutting-edge technology and the power of social media, the leap from inspiration to reality can happen almost overnight. Choi is an amazing athlete. He also suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosed at age 27 with early-onset symptoms, Choi uses fitness to battle his illness.

The four-season veteran of American Ninja Warrior has an impressive record that includes one ultra marathon, 16 marathons, 100 half marathons (and counting), plus numerous 5Ks, 10Ks, and triathlons.

On top of that, he’s also raised close to $500,000 for Parkinson’s research, which he considers his greatest accomplishment.

In addition to his TV appearances, Choi is best known for

(Image credit – Good News Network)

showcasing feats of athleticism via social media to serve as both inspiration and positive reinforcement for fans as well as those facing similar health challenges.

While dealing with the big stuff rarely fazes him, little things—like something as simple as opening a prescription bottle—have left him stymied.

In a recent TikTok video, he shared that frustration with his followers. For Choi’s online team, it was tantamount to firing a starting pistol, and off they went on a race to find a working solution.

It started with designer Brian Alldridge, who came up with a Parkinson’s friendly pill bottle, but he didn’t have a 3D printer to make one. Alldridge passed the baton, posting his design and offering to share his files with anyone who thought they could bring his idea to life.

Read the full article at Good News Network.

iPhones can now tell blind users where and how far away people are

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A woman using her iphone

By Devin Coldewey of Tech Crunch

Apple has packed an interesting new accessibility feature into the latest beta of iOS: a system that detects the presence of and distance to people in the view of the iPhone’s camera, so blind users can social distance effectively, among many other things.

The feature emerged from Apple’s ARKit, for which the company developed “people occlusion,” which detects people’s shapes and lets virtual items pass in front of and behind them. The accessibility team realized that this, combined with the accurate distance measurements provided by the lidar units on the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, could be an extremely useful tool for anyone with a visual impairment.

Of course during the pandemic one immediately thinks of the idea of keeping six feet away from other people. But knowing where others are and how far away is a basic visual task that we use all the time to plan where we walk, which line we get in at the store, whether to cross the street and so on.

The new feature, which will be part of the Magnifier app, uses the lidar and wide-angle camera of the Pro and Pro Max, giving feedback to the user in a variety of ways.

First, it tells the user whether there are people in view at all. If someone is there, it will then say how far away the closest person is in feet or meters, updating regularly as they approach or move further away. The sound corresponds in stereo to the direction the person is in the camera’s view.

Second, it allows the user to set tones corresponding to certain distances. For example, if they set the distance at six feet, they’ll hear one tone if a person is more than six feet away, another if they’re inside that range. After all, not everyone wants a constant feed of exact distances if all they care about is staying two paces away.

Continue to Tech Crunch to read the full article.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. CSUN Center on Disabilities 2022 Conference
    March 13, 2022 - March 18, 2022