How Xbox Adaptive Controller Will Make Gaming More Accessible

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xbox adaptive controller

On Wednesday night, Microsoft unveiled its new Xbox Adaptive Controller for the Xbox One console, aimed at making gaming more accessible for those with disabilities and mobility limitations as part of their Gaming for Everyone initiative.

The device allows for individual customization through a series of peripheral attachments that allow gamers to cater the controls to their own specific comfort.

For many, the current Xbox controller design (and those of other consoles’ controllers like Nintendo’s Switch and Sony’s Playstation 4) presents a challenge to use as it was not designed for individuals with mobility impairments. The Adaptive Controller is a foot-long rectangular unit with a d-pad, menu and home buttons, the Xbox home icon button and two additional large black buttons that can be mapped to any function.

On its back are a series of jacks for input devices and various peripheral accessories, each of which can be mapped to a specific button, trigger or function on the Xbox controller.

“Everyone knew this was a product that Microsoft should make,” Bryce Johnson, inclusive lead for product research and accessibility for Xbox, told Heat Vision.

The original inspiration for the Adaptive Controller came during 2015’s Microsoft One-Week Hackathon, an event where employees develop new ideas and tackle issues with their products. Through a partnership with Warfighter Engaged, an all‐volunteer non-profit that modifies gaming controllers for severely wounded veterans through personally adapted devices, a prototype was put together that would eventually become the Adaptive Controller.

“We had been doing our own stuff for a couple of years before that, making custom adaptive items for combat veterans, and it was kind of a challenge for even the most basic changes, requiring basically taking a controller apart,” Warfighter Engaged founder Ken Jones said. “Microsoft was thinking along the same lines. It was really just perfect timing.”

As development on the project went on, Microsoft began working with other foundations aimed at making gaming more accessible such as AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and Craig Hospital, a Denver-area rehabilitation center for spinal cord and brain injuries.

While third-party manufacturers have created more accessible peripheral controllers in the past, Microsoft is the first of the major gaming publishers to make a first-party offering.

“I think we’re always open to exploring new things,” Johnson said of Microsoft developing their own peripherals for the Adaptive Controller. “Right now, I think the challenge is that there is a super large ecosystem of devices that we intentionally supported as part of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and we want people to go out and find that vast array of toggles, buttons, etc. and have those work with that device.”

Continue onto The Hollywood Reporter to read the complete article.

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

Fashion show — called ‘I Love Me and My Disability’ — will celebrate everyone, organizer says

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Trinity Jagdeo, center, with some of the models scheduled to participate in the I Love Me & My Disability Fashion Event this weekend in Vineland.

By 

The I Love Me and My Disability Fashion Event promises to be just that, an organizer said this week.

The show features 16 contestants — ranging from toddlers to young adults, all with disabilities — strutting up and down a catwalk in an array of donated fashions.

The charity event will be held Saturday at the Landis Theater in Vineland and will also be streamed online. It will benefit From We Can’t to We Can, a nonprofit started by a Cumberland County 20-year-old who has also created a comic book series four years ago featuring superheroes with disabilities. The goal, she says, is to highlight challenges these children and young adults face and overcome.

“In a world where they’re forced to look at their disabilities and what they can’t do, this is their time to shine, to show who they are,” said Trinity Jadgeo, 20, of Vineland who started the charity and created the comic books. “We have 16 contestants, ranging in all types of disabilities. It’s just an expression of being proud of who they are.”

Jadgeo also had a personal reason for starting her nonprofit. Her best friend Alexus Dick, 20, has a debilitating illness with no cure.

“I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing about it, knowing what I’ve witnessed with my best friend,” she said. “It opened my eyes about having a disability in a world that doesn’t cater to disabilities.”

Jadgeo said all of the clothes the models will wear Saturday were donated by local merchants. Food and beverages were also donated. Even though she bills the event as a contest, she said everyone who participates will be a winner.

Click here to read the full article on NJ.Com.

10 TikTok Creators You Should Follow This Disability Pride Month

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TikTok creators are using their platforms to celebrate Disability Pride Month

Very Well Health

During the month of July, many TikTok creators are using their platforms to celebrate Disability Pride Month—over 100 million videos so far have been tagged under #DisabilityPride. The hashtag uplifts posts created by a wide range of disabled people, sharing their lives online.

These celebrations honor the July 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. But nearly 31 years later, people with disabilities still face a number of barriers to equitable treatment, varying from physical hurdles to economic challenges. Misconceptions and biases about people with disabilities continue to exist. Some TikTok creators hope to challenge these notions by sharing their experiences candidly online. With everything from self-deprecating jokes to glimpses into their lives as disabled people, these 10 TikTok accounts are embracing #DisabilityPride and challenging others to do the same.

Andy (@theonewiththeservicedog)

TikTok creator Andy posts videos for her audience about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and the other diagnosed illnesses she has. Through her posts, she educates people about some of the social and political barriers she faces. She even has an adorable service dog, Obi, that often makes an appearance.

Jay Johnson (@itsjaaayyy)

Jay Johnson is a 19-year-old creator growing her following on TikTok, where she posts makeup tutorials and get-ready-with-me style videos. For Disability Pride Month, she’s shared stories about her polymyositis diagnosis, which often leaves her fatigued and in pain.

Erin Novakowski (@wheelierin)

Comedian, writer, and disability advocate Erin Novakowski has amassed a huge following on TikTok with her funny, provocative content. Erin, who uses a wheelchair, posts makeup and lifestyle videos, but more often her videos are comedic while bluntly calling out the biased and negative comments she often receives.

Spencer West (@spencer2thewest)

Spencer West is a motivational speaker and advocates for LGBTQ+ and disability causes. After losing his legs as a child, Spencer now answers questions and corrects misconceptions about his own disability and about accessibility issues that the disabled community faces. He also frequently profiles restaurants, travel, and exercise routines.

Louie (@notlewy)

TikTok creator Louie posts trendy content, advocates for disability awareness, makes music, and creates comedy videos that are often about his arthrogryposis. Louie’s deadpan humor is a hit on the app, and his videos treat disability with a lightheartedness that acknowledges and celebrates difference.

Britt (@myelasticheart)

Britt posts content about living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Her videos are honest and emotional, explaining the ignorance and injustices that many disabled people face. But they also show moments of joy and hope that are often overlooked in mainstream depictions of people with disabilities.

Click here to read the full article on Very Well Health.

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.

‘The Incredible Hulk’ Lou Ferrigno hears with a cochlear implant

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Lou Ferrigno hears with a cochlear implant

By Yahoo! Finance

During May’s Better Hearing and Speech Month, Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH), the global leader in implantable hearing solutions, is pleased to celebrate Lou Ferrigno, 69, actor, fitness expert and retired bodybuilder, receiving a cochlear implant and addressing his hearing loss. Taking the step to treat his profound sensorineural hearing loss with a cochlear implant will aid Ferrigno’s desire to remain fit and healthy as he ages. ‘The Incredible Hulk’ Lou Ferrigno treats his hearing loss with a cochlear implant.

Most known for his role in the TV series “The Incredible Hulk” and being the youngest, only two-time consecutive and Guinness World RecordTM holder for the IFBB Mr. Universe title, Ferrigno has been impacted by profound hearing loss nearly his whole life. Hearing loss started for him when he was a toddler because of ear infections, and he began wearing hearing aids at 4 years of age. Over the years, Ferrigno tried a number of different types of hearing aids – none helping him achieve the hearing he needed. In February 2021, Ferrigno underwent surgery for his cochlear implant, the CochlearTM Nucleus® Profile™ Plus Implant. His new hearing system was successfully turned on in March 2021. Ferrigno now hears the world with his Cochlear Kanso® 2 Sound Processor, the first off-the-ear cochlear implant sound processor with direct streaming from both Apple® and Android™ devices.*

“I worked very hard to speak and hear with hearing aids for so long, but I finally learned that with my profound hearing loss, the best hearing aid in the world was not going to give me the clarity in speech I needed at my level of loss,” said Ferrigno. “My cochlear implant has, so quickly, taken me to a new level of hearing. It’s like I’m reliving my life again.”

“I can hear S’s. I’ve not been able to hear consonants clearly for so long, maybe ever. I have better diction and speech clarity already. Now, I don’t have to try so hard to hear,” Ferrigno continues.

Ferrigno describes the joy of being able to hear his wife, who whispered from 50 feet away in their home, after his implant was turned on. He is surprised by the little, ambient noises he can hear now too, like tapping and ticking of home appliances. And he is very much looking forward to hearing the cries of his new twin grandchildren.

“I heard a lot of misinformation about cochlear implants over the years, but a friend of mine received the device and went from 15 percent word understanding before the implant to 95 percent with the implant,” said Ferrigno. “I’m someone that has had profound hearing loss almost all my life, so if this cochlear implant is working for me already, it can give other people hope too. I wish I would have entertained a cochlear implant sooner. There is no shame in hearing loss and getting it treated.”

Ferrigno has been putting practice into his hearing therapy and rehabilitation as well, underscoring that like working out, hearing rehab takes work, practice and patience. He touts his commitment to rehabilitation, including using hearing therapy apps, watching online talks and movies, as being critical to his fast success with his cochlear implant, stating “The more you put into it, the better it is.”

In the United States, one out of three people over the age of 65 and half of people over 75 have disabling hearing loss, but only 5 percent of people who could benefit from a cochlear implant have them.1,2 Research continues to show aging adults with untreated hearing loss can be substantially affected by social isolation and loneliness with impacts to brain health and quality of life.3

Once hearing loss becomes severe to profound, cochlear implants are the only U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medical solution to treat it effectively. Research shows that moving from a hearing aid to a cochlear implant significantly improves hearing ability in noise, including doubling speech understanding.4 However, many adult cochlear implant candidates are not appropriately diagnosed, referred and treated.5

Adults who currently use hearing aids can try the Cochlear Hearing Aid Check, a free online hearing check tool, to learn if they may benefit from a cochlear implant. The Hearing Aid Check aims to help individuals compare their hearing performance with hearing aids to people with a cochlear implant, and depending on their results, to seek further hearing healthcare advice to treat their hearing loss.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Finance.

Why Nike and its CEO are focusing on mental health

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John Donahoe, CEO of Nike wearing a gray hoodie while seated in an interview

By John Donahoe, Yahoo! News.

John Donahoe is the CEO of Nike. When I was 28 years old, I got some advice that changed my life. It was 1988, and I was a consultant at Bain. These were intense years-long hours, little sleep, lots of travel, constant work, and trying to balance family life with a spouse and two young children. I was glad to be learning as much as I was, but I also remember feeling like I was barely staying afloat.

One day, during a training program for young consultants, a speaker came to impart some wisdom. I was half-listening at first, my mind drifting back to the office, when he asked us a question: How many of us wanted to be world-class at what we did?

Naturally we all raised our hands. The speaker laughed and said, well, that’s the intelligence test.

Then he explained. He said he spent years studying world-class athletes. (I’d always looked up to athletes and my ears perked up at this.) And he said that these top athletes all shared a unique trait: They take care of themselves.

He said for every hour they’re on the playing field, they train for 20 hours. They work out, they sleep well, they eat right. They look inward to learn their own strengths and weaknesses. And importantly, they are not afraid to ask for help — in fact, they view asking for help as a sign of strength.

“Michael Jordan has a bench coach, a personal trainer, a chef, and a mental coach. He wants to get help so he can get better,” the speaker told us. “But you businesspeople don’t take care of yourselves. You think not getting sleep is a badge of honor! And you want to be world-class? You think asking for help is a sign of weakness, not strength. I don’t get it!”

‘I was sacrificing my mental health at the altar of my work’
I was rocked back. My eyes were opened. He was right. Like so many others, I was sacrificing my mental health at the altar of my work, simply because I thought that was the only way.

As my career continued, I took his advice to heart. I’ve been fortunate enough to have some high-impact, challenging jobs over the years. And despite these leadership positions, I have always tried to keep perspective by taking care of myself and by asking for help.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! News.

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.

Feeling the Music and Fueling Inclusivity – A Moment with Mandy Harvey

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Mandy Harvey onstage sideview signing in to microphone bright pink show lights in background

If you watch Mandy Harvey perform, one of the first things you notice about the “America’s Got Talent” finalist is her amazing voice. What you might miss is that she’s not wearing any shoes.

“[It’s] so you can feel things better when you’re standing on the stage,” Harvey told NPR news. “You can feel the drums, and you can feel the bass. So, being able to feel the music through the floor, it makes me feel like I’m a part of the band and not just the only person in the room who doesn’t really understand what’s going on.”

This award-winning singer, songwriter and motivational speaker lost her residual hearing at the age of nineteen while a freshman vocal major at Colorado State University. She pursued multiple career options, but returned to music, her true passion. She quickly became an in-demand performer and has released four albums as well as a book about her incredible journey.

DiverseABILITY Magazine had the pleasure of speaking with Harvey about her personal journey, her songwriting career and the impact she’s had on disability inclusivity – both within and without the music industry.

DiverseABILITY: You partnered with Voya Financial and Disability:IN to create and headline a concert that featured multiple artists (musicians, and even a painter, with disabilities) in October 2020 for National Disability Employee Awareness Month, encouraging and highlighting the push to hire people with disabilities and special needs in order to create more inclusivity in the workplace. Why was this event so important to you and what were your considerations as you planned and orchestrated this event? Do you think it had the measurable impact you were hoping to achieve?

Harvey: First and foremost, I wanted to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which is incredibly important because it is painfully obvious that a lot of businesses are not inclusive. They’re missing out on having a lot of really talented and amazing workers be a part of their company and team. And so, it was important to me to be able to encourage businesses to hire diversely.

There are a lot of businesses that are already striving, but [there were also] a lot of other businesses that made big commitments to hiring inclusively with the event. So that’s a measurable impact; even if that means one company hired one person – that’s a measurable impact in my life. We had a lot of CEOs make good commitments to change for inclusion, which is amazing.

The other part that was important to me is that I wanted to have a concert that was totally inclusive. With everything going virtual, there’s all these pop-up concerts but most of them are not inclusive or they’re featuring people who are not necessarily living inside of that community. And so, I wanted to allow different people to have the opportunity to showcase their art and to further the understanding that it doesn’t matter if you have an ability or disability, that you are an active contributor to the world, and you have the ability to make a difference.

Mandy Harvey book cover
Photo Credit: Amazon.com

DiverseABILITY: When you imagine inclusive spaces, especially in the music industry, what do they look and sound like? How are they different from what is most often seen and experienced by our society now?

Harvey: For the music industry, having an inclusive environment is so rare that it’s difficult to know what that would look like. I have personally been invited to several concerts where the building ended up providing an interpreter, but the interpreters didn’t have any access to the feed, so they couldn’t understand what the singer was singing. They were not given any materials, so they ended up just standing there and staring at me for the entire concert.

To be able to have different forms of communication throughout a concert, or in the music industry in general, is difficult because it’s one more thing for a company to have to think about — but at the same time, when you don’t think about it, you’re excluding a large pool of people who could be attending your shows and who want to.

Having lyrics available, having an interpreter who actually knows the songs ahead of time and is prepared to be there, even for big corporate events, having some type of audio description or captioning would [all] be amazing and beneficial. And not just for the people who are needing it — how many times has there been a concert or a corporate event where you didn’t understand what they were saying because too many people were talking at the same time? If you could actually see the captions in front of you, you would be more of a participant than you were before.

DiverseABILITY: The song that introduced and catapulted you into the spotlight was your self-written “Try.” It deals a lot with the issue of self-advocacy, which is the very difficult but necessary first step towards achieving anything in life. If you could expand on that song today and its message, now that you’ve traveled and spoken to so many fans who love it and have shared their stories with you, what would you add or change? What would you tell the young woman who wrote that song those years ago?

Harvey: I think that having that first step is so incredibly important, to be brave enough to even contemplate getting up off the floor. However, I’ve written other follow-up songs to “Try” that continue forward with the next stages of what I did — including the song “This Time.” The central idea of that is, “Yes, I’m trying. I keep failing, but I’m going to continue to try. However, because I’m not doing it alone, I know that I’ll be successful.” So, that song is a lot more about gathering a team around you of people who can encourage you when you fail or fall apart, and who can push you past your comfort zone to achieving something beyond maybe what you’re capable of even dreaming in that moment.

I don’t think there was anything that I could have said to that young woman that would have really hit home at the time. I needed to live my experiences, and I would have ignored anything that you said in the midst of that pain anyway. I was told everything, but I needed to find my own path.

DiverseABILITY: There’s a great song by another beautiful artist called “I Was Here” that boldly declares, “When I leave this world, I’ll leave no regrets/ Leave something to remember, so they won’t forget.” What do you want your something to be? When it’s all said (or signed) and done, what does your legacy look like?

Harvey: If I could work towards anything, it would be to continuously be a gracious and compassionate person in everyday life. Yes, I would like to have a ripple effect for change, positivity and inclusion, and to be able to be there for people on a grand-scale, but just being a person who can sit next to somebody and not say a word while they cry has an impact that is a legacy in itself.

“Try” is about understanding that you’re broken and wanting to be different. My new single coming out in March, “Masterpiece,” is saying that I am embracing the parts of me that are broken, and realizing that they’ve made me who I am.

The point of “Masterpiece” is to say that even though you might not know where you’re going in that moment, when you shoot forward in time and you look back on it, you’ll realize how much you’ve learned and how much you’ve grown. And that’s a part of such a big story that I feel people should know about.

I don’t ever want to change that girl who wrote “Try,” and diminish the struggle that she went through because that has changed and impacted who I am and how compassionate I am towards others, so much so that I would never want to take back any part of my past journey. I hope that people can truly embrace their journeys however difficult they may be, and realize that it’s making you stronger.

Mandy Harvey continues to perform around the United States and has been featured on CNN, NBC Nightly News, Canada AM, The Steve Harvey Show and in the Los Angeles Times. In addition to performing and speaking, Mandy has become an ambassador for No Barriers USA with a mission to encourage, inspire and assist others to break through their personal barriers. She published her first book on her life story, Sensing the Rhythm: Finding My Voice in a World Without Sound, in 2017.

Oscars 2021 – Disabled actors, characters take center stage at this year’s Academy Awards

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Crip Camp team pictured on the red carpet of the academy awards

2021 will go down in history books for the record number of Oscar nominations for disabled actors and characters in the Academy Awards. Disabled actors and disabled characters won nominations in prominent categories, all signs of inclusive storytelling becoming a more authentic part of Hollywood.

With three team members on wheelchairs, one accompanied by a service dog, the much talked about Crip Camp made a strong statement for disability inclusion on the Oscars Red Carpet in the 2021 Academy Awards. The documentary tells the story of Camp Jened, a summer retreat in the Catskills where many young people with disabilities experienced the joys of community from 1951 to 1977.

“We’re on the red carpet! #Oscars,” Crip Camp’s official Twitter account said proudly. “Sending hope & gratitude to my friends on the #CripCamp team today!,” tweeted “Crip Camp” writer David Radcliff, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. “No matter what #Oscars bring, I hope this is a tipping point after which seeing disabled people at awards doesn’t seem so revolutionary. Thank you for all the work you’ve done & the doors you have helped to open.”

And Crip Camp has indeed opened doors. It may have lost out in the Best Documentary Oscar category but the nomination clearly led to a major push for disability inclusion in the awards ceremony. For the first time an accessible stage was created and there was captioning for the broadcast as well.

Spotlight on movies on disability
The greater emphasis on disability inclusion was evident all around. A Google commercial during the 2021 Oscars generated nearly as much attention as the nominees. This was a Google ad featuring a pair of grandparents who are deaf using various pieces of technology to communicate amid the pandemic.

“Thank you so much @Google for featuring this story during the @Oscars2021Live_ about a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult),” was one of the tweets. “I absolutely loved the inclusion of the grandson signing “more” when he was eating. Sign language at its finest! #Google #Oscars2021 #inclusion.”

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Upcoming Events

  1. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  2. The Arc’s 2021 National Convention
    September 27, 2021 - September 29, 2021