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.
Chris Nikic’s journey to becoming an elite athlete began with a single step. What kept him going was a single recipe for success: get “1 percent better” every day.
“One percent — stick with that goal,” Chris says. “If you stick with that goal, (you) can succeed and be a successful person.”
Last fall, Chris showed the world the power of small but consistent improvement, setting a Guinness World Record as the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN triathlon: a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bicycle ride, ending with a 26.2-mile marathon. But crossing that finish line was only the beginning.
Now, the 22-year-old Special Olympics Champion Ambassador from the Orlando area is on a mission to promote inclusion and highlight human potential.
From birth, Chris faced a number of cognitive, physical, and sensory challenges, according to his mother, Trish Nikic. He underwent open-heart surgery at five months old and years of therapy to help with things like eating, speech, and balance.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle he encountered, though, was how other people perceived him.
“People treated me different,” Chris recalls. “They were telling me that I can’t do that or can’t do this.”
When Chris was eight, he and his family found a supportive and welcoming community in Special Olympics Florida. Inspired by his athletic older sister, Chris eagerly took to sports like basketball, golf, and track.
Their true benefits went beyond exercise for the growing boy. Athletics “gave him an opportunity to be socially included with others,” Chris’ father, Nik Nikic says.
As Chris got older, he became more sedentary while recovering from a series of ear surgeries. After Special Olympics Florida launched its triathlon program in 2018, Chris’ parents encouraged him to try it to get in shape and have fun.
“The first time he ever did a sprint with Special Olympics, he came in dead last,” Trish says. “But you know what? Chris was happy.”
Chris soon outgrew his first triathlon coach. Dan Grieb, the captain of a local triathlon club, came on board to help take Chris to the next level. In a year and a half of training, Chris went from the couch to a sprint 14-mile triathlon.
Chris set his sights on a half IRONMAN race scheduled for May 2020. When Covid-19 forced organizers to scrap the official event, Chris and his team held their own race. CNN affiliate Spectrum News 13 followed Chris’ journey, ultimately ending with him qualifying to compete in the full IRONMAN competition in Panama City.
Being a superhero wasn’t part of Lauren Ridloff’s plan. The Eternals star wanted to be a children’s book author before an American Sign Language tutoring gig for the director of Broadway’s Children of a Lesser God led to a starring role in the show’s revival.
Theater, she says, is a “much more natural and inviting medium for deaf actors,” and the production came fully staffed with a toolbox ready to support its deaf and hearing artists. But coming off that critically praised performance in 2018, Ridloff wasn’t sure she wanted to keep acting. TV and movies weren’t a place she had seen herself represented growing up, instilling the idea that it couldn’t be part of her dream.
Yet, after scoring The Walking Dead as her first TV role, Ridloff found herself in demand. Now, she’s set to star in the Chloé Zhao-directed Marvel movie that will take her and deaf representation to marvelous new heights when it releases on Nov. 5.
During her transition from stage to screen, Ridloff says she’s felt like she wanted to prove she’s easy to work with, something that has led to her not always advocating for what she needed as an actor. But being on this massive Marvel production full of A-listers who “know exactly what they want” helped change her outlook.
Ahead of The Eternals’ anticipated release, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Ridloff about her journey from stage to screen, how working on a blockbuster as an emerging actor changed her perception of self-advocacy on set, and why the Eternals cast wasn’t sure what to expect in the final cut.
Your journey to acting was a bit of being in the right place at the right time. Before that Broadway break-out, what were your acting ambitions and how have those changed?
My goal growing up was to write a book. That’s why I studied English and creative writing in college, and that is a big reason I started teaching. I wanted to write children’s books. I felt that the best way to understand how a child thinks in their mind is to be with them all day. So I started teaching because of that. I didn’t dream of acting. I didn’t want to pursue acting. I had some acting experience — your basic high school play, or I was a part of a performance group in college, a dance group. I just didn’t see enough people on the screen like myself. Every once in a while, like maybe Marlee Matlin, I saw on the big screen, and then years went by, and you would see somebody appear on one episode of a TV show or another episode there. Acting on Broadway came so completely as a surprise to me. It wasn’t part of my plan.
And, yes, absolutely, my goals have changed since I’ve gotten into acting. When I was on Broadway, my manager was interested in pursuing and looking for other projects, and I told him to then I didn’t know if I wanted to continue acting. Maybe this was just a one-time thing. I wasn’t even sure if it was my thing. But then, when I saw the theater audience full night after night, and I saw the lines forming at the back door, I realized that my classroom just got a lot bigger. I made a bigger impact here. It seems like I can act, and I enjoy the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a character, which is very connected to reading and writing. When you write, you need to drop into that character and how it represents itself on the page. So I felt like it was a very natural leap into acting because of that.
Click here to read the full article on The Hollywood Reporter.
Strength training is associated with improvements in muscle strength, gait speed, balance, and gross motor function in children and adolescents with spastic cerebral palsy, according to study results published in Clinical Rehabilitation.
Prior research on the effects of physical training on improving functional mobility and gross motor skills has been mixed. For example, some studies have found that with muscle strengthening, muscle strength improves but not function. Other studies have reported improvement in motor activity and functions such as gait. The objective of the current study was to review the most recent data on the effect of strength training on function, activity, and participation in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy.
The meta-analysis included 27 randomized controlled trials which evaluated muscle strength training in children, adolescents, and young adults (age range, 3-22 years) with spastic cerebral palsy. In the pooled cohort of 873 patients, a total of 452 patients underwent strength training, while the remaining patients participated in a different physical therapy technique or were assigned to a control group with no physical therapy.
Researchers excluded 3 studies, yielding 24 studies in the meta-analysis. According to the researchers, there were significant standardized mean differences that were in favor of the strength training techniques vs other physical therapy techniques or control in terms of improvements in muscle strength at the knee flexors, muscle strength at the knee extensor, muscle strength at the plantar flexors, maximum resistance, balance, gait speed, Gross Motor Function Measure (global, D and E dimension), as well as spasticity.
A limitation of this meta-analysis, according to the researchers, was the high levels of moderate risk and high risk of bias among analyzed studies. Additionally, the studies in the meta-analysis did not assess the long-term effect of muscle strength training in this population. Given this limitation, the investigators noted that children with cerebral palsy should perform “high-intensity strength training regularly to maintain and ideally accumulate benefits over time.”
Click here to read the full article on Neurology Advisor.
If you were to read Amy Purdy’s medical history, you’d be introduced to a journey that, for many, could feel incredibly daunting.
If you were to check out her accomplishments as a snowboarding champion, a renowned motivational speaker, a dancer, an actress, a model, a podcaster, a New York Times bestselling author and a philanthropist, you’d be introduced to her toughness and will.
And if you watched her shredding the slopes on her way to medaling in the Paralympics or ball-rooming her way into America’s hearts on “Dancing with the Stars,” you’d start to see the big picture.
Purdy’s mantra? “Live beyond limits.”
“Live beyond limits became my mantra very organically. I personally never liked being told what I could or couldn’t do,” said Purdy, 41. “I always wanted to figure out what the possibilities were. Snowboarding, for example, felt impossible at first, and I could have just walked away but I got creative, made my own feet and figured out a way to not just do it again but to excel at it. I’m so grateful that I never gave up.”
The Fight of Her Life
Born in Las Vegas in 1979, Purdy was just 19 years old when she contracted bacterial meningitis. She was given a two percent chance to survive. She lost both of her legs below the knees, lost both of her kidneys and her spleen (she later received a kidney transplant from her father).
Purdy met the challenge head-on, weathering unthinkable surgeries and rehab, teaming with medical experts, designing her own prosthetic feet and legs (through trial and error, sometimes with chunks of wood) and never losing sight of her goals.
“There’s always going to be something preventing you from your goal, whether it’s a loss of legs or anything else, but you’ll never be happy if you surrender to circumstances,” she said.
Purdy’s immediate goal after her initial diagnosis was to snowboard again. After getting prosthetic legs, she achieved that. It turned out to be the start of big things.
Purdy eventually won a bronze medal in snowboarding at the 2014 Paralympics and a silver in 2018. She formed a non-profit organization — Adaptive Action Sports — along with her husband, Daniel Gale, who is also a competitive snowboarder, to get snowboarding included in the Paralympics. Adaptive Action Sports, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, targets those with physical disabilities who want to get involved in action sports (snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing). Their organization, founded in 2005, also trains athletes with physical disabilities to qualify for the U. S. Snowboard Team. Purdy believes part of her mission is helping others with health challenges.
“It was an evolution from losing my legs, relearning to snowboard, helping others learn to snowboard and finally getting it into the Games.”
Purdy began snowboarding seven months after she received her prosthetic legs. About a year after her legs were amputated, she finished third in a snowboarding competition at Mammoth Mountain.
On Her Own Two Feet
In 2003, Purdy was recruited by the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) as a spokesperson. At the time, she didn’t live far from the CAF headquarters, as she and Daniel had moved back to San Diego to pursue surfing.
In San Diego, she continued her pre-amputee profession as a massage therapist. She also started working for Freedom Innovations, a prosthetic feet manufacturer, as its Amputee Advocate.
On top of all that, Purdy has numerous television and film credits. In 2012, Purdy and her now husband Daniel Gale participated on the 21st season of The Amazing Race.
After nearly winning the first leg of the race, they were the second team eliminated and finished in 10th place out of 11 teams.
In 2014, Purdy was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.” Paired with five-time champion Derek Hough, Purdy was the first double amputee contestant to ever appear on the show. Hough was, at the time, fresh from winning his fifth Mirrorball trophy and did not plan on coming back to the show.
However, he changed his mind when Purdy joined the show as a contestant. Purdy wowed judges from the get-go, and kept improving. She never received a score lower than 8. She received her first perfect score (40 out of 40) for her eighth dance, the Argentine tango, after having an intense back injury the week prior. She eventually made it the finale, where she finished as a runner-up to Olympic gold medalist Meryl Davis.
In 2015, Purdy was featured in a Super Bowl advertisement for the Toyota Camry. The ad showed Purdy snowboarding, dancing and adjusting her prosthetic legs to a voiceover of Muhammad Ali’s “How Great I Am” speech.
Purdy has penned a memoir titled, On My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life (HarperCollins), created a podcast (“Bouncing Forward”) and carved out a lucrative and inspirational career as a motivational speaker.
Among her accolades, along with two Paralympic medals, are being named one of ESPNW’s Impact 25 and one of Oprah’s SuperSoul 100 visionaries and influential leaders.
Purdy says that healing is never a linear process; it’s full of ups, downs, twists, turns, setbacks, victories.
And it’s lifelong.
After experiencing medical setbacks — including an injury to her popliteal artery — in 2019, Purdy has undergone 10 more surgeries, including amputation revisions on her left leg.
“Phase one of my journey was all the surgeries and trying to find stability with the injury and phase two is getting legs that I can live comfortably in,” she said of her latest plight. “Once they are comfortable, then I’ll be able to snowboard again.”
Meantime, she continues to move forward on myriad other projects. She continues, in other words, to live beyond limits.
“I’m currently excited to be planning the second season of my podcast “Bouncing Forward,” and I’m always looking for new ways to help others live their possibilities,” she said.
“I have a handful of projects I’m working on in TV that I can’t talk about yet and some that are online. With COVID, I went from doing many live speeches to doing virtual speeches, which has been fantastic, although I want to go to even a deeper and more immersive experience with my community.
I’ve been so grateful to connect with so many amazing people in real life and on social media that I’m really inspired to create ways to connect even deeper.
That’s what life is about: living, learning and growing, and helping others do the same.”
Click here to read the article in the digital magazine.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this year’s theme, selected by the U.S. Department of Labor, is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. By creating diverse, equitable and inclusive work cultures, we open the door for more people to do great work and move the country forward.
At this moment in our economic recovery, all industries are in need of great employees, yet people with disabilities are still twice as likely to be unemployed and also more likely to be underemployed compared to those without a disability. 26% of all American adults — or 61 million people — have a disability, but as of August 2021, only 35.6% of people with disabilities who are of prime working age (ages 16 through 64) are actively employed, compared to 76.8% of people without disabilities in the same age range.
In other words, there is a tremendous, untapped talent market of capable professionals who are ready to fill your open roles, once you commit to disability inclusion. It’s also important to point out that inclusion benefits the whole workforce, not only people with disabilities, since research shows that a robust disability inclusion program makes it easier for all employees to perform to their highest potential. And, companies that commit to disability inclusion have, on average, 28% higher revenue, double the net income, and 30% higher economic profit margins than their peers.
How can you get started toward a more disability-inclusive culture? First, learn best practices for respectfully communicating and interacting with people who have disabilities. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to find the best ways to lead every one of your employees, but it’s not uncommon for people to feel uncomfortable and unsure as they begin to practice disability etiquette.
The overarching point to keep in mind is that etiquette is less about doing the right thing, because that can vary from person to person, and more about making individuals feel comfortable and respected. Two great resources I’ve consulted on my own journey to become a more inclusive leader are understood.org and the DC Office of Disability Rights. Below, I’ll share a few of their guidelines for disability etiquette and ways you can put them into practice this month.
Create a safe space for conversations
Employees are not required to disclose a disability and may fear that, when they do, they will be seen as unreliable or receiving special treatment. While you shouldn’t inquire about a disability if the person hasn’t openly shared it with you, you can create a space where employees feel supported and able to ask for what they need to be most productive. If you ask employees to self-identify their disabilities, conditions, invisible illnesses, learning differences, and more, make sure you also explain why their sharing is important — because you are committed to providing what they need for success.
Build a culture of trust and transparency by speaking and acting with empathy and by personalizing your leadership style to each person’s strengths and needs. Some employees may thrive with a regimented daily plan of tasks and priorities while others may thrive with flexible work schedules and self-set deadlines. Encourage each person to reflect on their own working style and name the things they need to be excellent.
Don’t make assumptions
People’s needs and preferences for treatment may differ, even among those with identical conditions. It may be tempting to assume you know what someone with a disability can or cannot do, but only they know that for certain. As a guiding principle, remember this phrase from the movement for disability rights: Nothing About Us Without Us.
Always start by asking the person for their input on what will help them be most productive. Sometimes, a simple adaptation to their workspace or work schedule can make a big difference in a person’s productivity as well as increase their feelings of belonging and trust.
Ask before you help
Should you offer to help an employee with a disability? If you’re not sure, ask them. As Rebekah Taussig writes in Time magazine, well-intentioned people can often overstep personal boundaries by offering assistance before asking if their help is necessary or even wanted. Respect each person’s bodily autonomy and privacy, and accept that they will ask for what they need. Even if you think you are trying to help, you should never touch a person or their assistive devices without their expressed permission.
Before you rush to assist someone with a disability, Taussig suggests you pay attention to the other person’s body language: “What signals are they giving you? What expression do you see on their face? Even if this isn’t intuitive for you, pay attention to their eyes — are they avoiding your gaze or looking toward you like they want to engage? If you really can’t tell, you can ask, but if someone says, “No thank you,” listen.”
Be gracious with yourself and others
As a forward-thinking leader who is trying to create an inclusive work culture, it’s common to feel like you may be judged for any slight misstep. You’re going to make mistakes, but don’t stop trying. Be open to learning, admit what you don’t know, and keep moving forward. By doing so, you will create a culture of trust for your employees and set the stage for real change.
When someone asks for an accommodation to perform their job, it shows they feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work. And, you benefit from their increased productivity, collaboration, problem solving, and decision-making skills. By working together to remove barriers, you will enrich and improve the workplace for everyone.
If you aren’t already investing in disability inclusion as a strategic imperative, this month offers a great chance to start your engines and learn the business benefits of hiring more people who have disabilities. Reach out to my team at The Diversity Movement or our partners at Ablr, who can help you get started toward a more accessible, inclusive workplace.
Click here to read the full article on WRAL Tech Wire.
The theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) 2021, “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
NDEAM is held each October to commemorate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy. Browse our website for ideas and resources for employers, community organizations, state and local governments, advocacy groups and schools to participate in celebrating NDEAM through events and activities centered around the theme of “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.”
As remote working takes a greater hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, a wealth of opportunities can open up for people that may not have existed before.
For example, less of a focus on the office can draw more people with disabilities into the workforce.
But for companies, there are still a great deal of considerations to take into account when creating an inclusive remote environment for blind and deaf people.
Martin O’Kane of the Royal National Institute of Blind People in the U.K. said in the case of people with sight loss, they may often rely on public transport to get to an office. Remote working may now present a chance for employers, but it will put their commitments to inclusivity to the test.
During the pandemic, video calls became the lifeblood for many companies to keep operations flowing whether in team meetings or for recruitment of new talent.
Organizations like RNIB and the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Center at University College London have issued guidance to employers on best practices for remote working with people that are visually impaired or hard of hearing.
But these guidelines are ever-evolving with the rapidly changing future of work.
“If you’ve sight loss, you’re probably using types of technology that will allow you to read information so that could be magnification or it could be speech reading software,” O’Kane said.
“The key thing for an employer is that you make sure that whatever system you’re using is compatible with that software.”
A spokesperson for DCAL said the organization is in the process of “working out how we will deal with this blended way of working”.
“It is vital that the views of deaf people and their lived experiences are taken into account so that any improvements in tech are actually what deaf people want and need. Not what hearing [people] think they want and need.”
Technology tools, especially for communication and video conferencing, present ways for employers to keep their staff engaged but it’s not always a straightforward option.
Gilles Bertaux, the CEO of Livestorm, a French video conferencing and webinar platform, said it is currently making tweaks to its platform to better serve the visually impaired.
“In our online room meeting, we’re trying to meet the standards for blind people based on the ARIA specifications,” Bertaux said, referring to a set of standards for web accessibility from the World Wide Web Consortium.
“It’s mainly targeted at people who are visually impaired or blind. In practical terms, it allows anyone to navigate the Livestorm room with their keyboard. We’re going to work hard on it next year to improve it again.”
He added that its design team is also working on filters to boost the color contrast on calls that will make people and objects more discernible.
For staff that are deaf or hard of hearing, real-time captioning and subtitles on video calls is still a nascent but advancing technology with major platforms like Zoom and Google Meet implementing live audio captioning.
Simon Lau, vice president of product at Otter.ai, a transcription software company, told CNBC that live captions can help reduce so-called “Zoom fatigue” for people that rely on lip-reading while on calls.
Meanwhile, Josh Miller, CEO of video transcription firm 3Play Media, said that while technology in this field is improving, it can be “still pretty clunky,” but companies should not be afraid to test the tech out with their employees.
“I think there’s a hesitation to engage in these types of services because of the complexity and not necessarily because of the cost. It’s that unknown of how does this actually get implemented. One of the things that we’re really excited about is simplifying it,” Miller said.
The film is co-directed by Leo Scott and Ting Poo and produced by Kilmer, his son Jack, 26, and his daughter Mercedes, 29. Scott, Poo, Jack and Mercedes all spoke to PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
“Now that it’s more difficult to speak, I want to tell my story more than ever,” Kilmer says in the documentary, which is an intimate look at the Top Gun star’s personal and professional life, including his cancer battle and recovery.
Val received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and features a treasure trove of Kilmer’s personal video footage from behind the scenes of his most popular films, along with vulnerable, candid moments from the star about coping with his physical limitations in the documentary. His son Jack also reads Kilmer’s words to narrate much of the film.
“I obviously am sounding much worse than I feel,” Kilmer says in the film, his voice thin and raspy.
“I can’t speak without plugging this hole [in his throat]. You have to make the choice to breathe or to eat,” he adds, and now has his meals through a feeding tube. “It’s an obstacle that is very present with whoever sees me.”
Filmmakers Scott and Poo tell PEOPLE they were inspired to pursue making the documentary with Kilmer after learning about the actor’s extensive personal film archive and getting to know the man himself.
“We approached him three years ago,” says Scott. “I’d worked with him on his Cinema Twain project and when he couldn’t tour the play Citizen Twain, he was touring a film of the play, so I was working with him on that and some other projects too, archiving his footage.”
Poo respects how open Kilmer was to collaborating with them and showing all facets of his personal and professional life.
“He doesn’t have the vanity that you would expect from someone of his fame and celebrity. There was never any of that kind of artifice or protection that people who are really famous have to put up around themselves,” she says. “It’s humbling to be around that.”
MIDLOTHIAN, Texas – Midlothian police officers and firefighters helped make the first day of kindergarten special for a little boy who is facing some challenges this school year.
Batman and Captain Marvel greeted 5-year-old Michael Denison outside his house Monday morning. He got a look inside a police squad car and fire engine before taking off for his first day of school.
Then at Mountain Peak Elementary, classmates and teachers gave him a warm welcome.
Last week, Michael’s mom, Brittany Denison, made a plea on social media for kids to be kind and asked parents to educate their children about people who are different.
Michael was born with a rare condition called Treacher Collins syndrome. All of the bones in the lower half of his face are smaller than they should be just like the boy Auggie in the movie “Wonder.”
“We’ve had multiple instances where people have used the words scary, monster or weird and that’s really uncomfortable,” she said. “When you’re in a room with Michael for two minutes you understand immediately that he is just the same as every other kid.”
Midlothian’s fire chief said as the story spread on social media, his firefighters knew they wanted to do something to help. So they reached out to the family and school to coordinate the special escort.
“My name is Dale, I am the fire chief,” Dale McCaskill told Michael. “We heard you might be a little nervous going to school your first day so we are going to give you a ride on the fire truck.”
Michael’s mom said when she made that plea on social media she had no idea it would lead to so much support in both the community and from people all across the world.
“To see him smile like that, that was once in a lifetime. That was amazing, unforgettable,” she said after dropping him off for his first day. “He’s an extraordinary kid so I wanted him to have an ordinary year. But I can’t imagine this will be an ordinary year for him anymore. The welcoming experience of the kids being outside, the waves and the smiles, that’s what you want for your kid to be welcomed with open arms.”
She hopes that it creates an even bigger conversation for all families and all students about accepting each other despite differences and standing up for one another.