In preparation for the busy holiday travel season, and in celebration of the 37th anniversary of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced that it has launched a campaign, #AccessibleAirTravel, to raise awareness about the right of air travelers with disabilities to safe, dignified, and accessible air travel. An estimated 5.5 million Americans use a wheelchair, and many encounter barriers when it comes to air travel.
Today, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that it awarded nearly $16 million in grant funding to 91 national, regional, and community programs to help more than 13,000 Veterans and service members with disabilities participate in adaptive sports. This funding will help these organizations plan, develop, manage, and implement a variety of sports and equine therapy activities, including life-improving programs for Veterans and training for providers. Adaptive sports are competitive or recreational sports and activities customized to fit the needs of Veterans with disabilities, including paralympic sports, archery, cycling, skiing, hunting, rock climbing, and sky diving. These activities allow Veterans to rehabilitate through recreation and encourage an active and fit lifestyle.
The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) marks the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 by adding two new resources on the federal government's Schedule A hiring authority to its Section 501 Info Center. This info center includes a collection of guides and information federal employers can explore to bolster their diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) goals as they relate to the Rehab Act and become a model employer of people with disabilities.
Often, effective workplace accommodations are easy to identify. But what should employers do when that's not the case? A new resource from ODEP's Job Accommodation Network (JAN) explains options to consider when an employer is not able to identify an accommodation after making a good faith effort to do so. These include communicating further with the employee, seeking guidance from outside resources, trial accommodations, job reassignment and more.
Imagine you want to carry a large, heavy box up a flight of stairs. You might spread your fingers and lift the box with both hands, then hold it on top of your forearms and balance it against your chest, using your whole body to manipulate the box. Humans intuitively adapt their responses to many variations such that a box can rest against fingers, arms and torso. Robots, in contrast, typically struggle to plan such full-body manipulations. Whenever a contact is made or broken, the mathematical equations that describe the robot's motion are suddenly restarted. Thus, the movements corresponding to each possible pattern of contacts must be calculated independently, quickly leading to an intractable computing task. An artificial intelligence method called "reinforcement learning" has been used to plan contact-rich manipulations, smoothing the sudden changes in the dynamic equations caused by contact.
Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced that United Airlines will implement industry-leading actions that go above and beyond Federal requirements to improve the air travel experience for passengers who use wheelchairs. This action is part of an agreement with USDOT that follows a lengthy investigation by the Department into a disability complaint filed against United by Engracia Figueroa. Disability complaints received by the Department against airlines, such as the one by Ms. Figueroa, highlight the significant challenges that people who use wheelchairs face during air travel to, from, and within the United States. USDOT has made it a priority to improve the air travel experience for those who use wheelchairs.
The U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has awarded more than $35 million in funding for 138 new awards supporting personnel preparation, ongoing professional learning, and leadership development to increase the number of well-prepared, diverse and effective personnel serving children with disabilities.
Gulf Coast VA and VA Immersive are working to define a new reality in health care by broadening implementation of a virtual reality (VR) exposure therapy system called BraveMind. BraveMind was developed by Dr. Albert Rizzo and his team at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. It creates 14 “worlds” of combat scenarios from a desert roadway to a crowded Iraqi marketplace to a remote Afghan village. It allows Veterans to confront traumatic experiences in a highly controlled, clinical environment.
The National Conference of State Legislatures, a partner of the State Exchange on Employment & Disability, published a new policy brief highlighting “Trends in Disability Employment Legislation.” The resource explores key trends from the 2022 and 2023 state legislative sessions in advancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities, including incentivizing hiring and competitive, integrated employment for those with disabilities, adapting to Long-COVID and addressing mental health concerns in the workforce.
Earlier this year, the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) hosted a virtual Think Tank. The Think Tank’s goal was to help states build inclusive State Digital Equity Plans that serve the needs of people with disabilities. PEAT recently launched a Broadband Equity Think Tank Report detailing the event, key takeaways, discussion topics and more.
ACL’s Disability Information and Access Line has launched a new tool to help people with disabilities to find local services and resources to support community living. Through DIAL’s new website and its searchable database, users can now find the information they need, at any time of day, every day of the year. DIAL is a first-of-its-kind contact center, initially established in 2021 as a national hotline to help people with disabilities access COVID-19 vaccinations.
Today, Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), designated people with disabilities as a population with health disparities for research supported by the National Institutes of Health. The decision was made in consultation with Robert Otto Valdez, Ph.D., the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, after careful consideration of a report delivered by an NIMHD advisory council, input from the disability community and a review of the science and evidence.
The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) employment program connects transitioning active duty service members, Veterans, and members of the Guard and Reserve to employment prospects. One way DAV does this is through its partnership with RecruitMilitary, which aims to empower the military community through career opportunities. DAV and RecruitMilitary have teamed up to offer 107 career fairs in 2023, both in-person and virtually.
For the first time ever, blind Veterans can now read their VA benefits decision letters inside the VA Health and Benefits mobile app. This new feature is part of VA’s move to improve its accessibility and enable Veterans to view their decision letters immediately, online, a significant improvement over previously waiting ten days to receive letters in the mail.
Every state sets a course to ensure that workplace systems provide equal opportunity and full participation for those with disabilities. View the recently updated “State Specific Policies and Data” section of the LEAD Center website to find newly updated Executive Orders, legislation, policies, programs and more from every U.S. state and territory!
On Sep. 7, ODEP announced the award of a $7.5 million, five-year cooperative agreement to continue support for a policy center aimed at boosting disabled youth employment. The agreement will provide $1.5 million annually for the agency’s Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth, which will be operated by the Council of State Governments. ODEP first created the center in 2019 to enhance national, state and local workforce systems, focusing on improved outcomes for youth with disabilities, especially those from underserved communities.
A new resource from the ODEP-funded Campaign for Disability Employment—What Can State Agencies Do? A Step-by-Step Implementation Guide for State Agencies—provides concrete steps state agencies can take to raise awareness about disability-inclusive workplace policies and practices, both externally and internally, and resources to assist in doing so. Funded by ODEP, the CDE is a collaborative effort among several organizations that showcases supportive, inclusive workplaces for all workers.
For people who have suffered neurotrauma such as a stroke, everyday tasks can be extremely challenging because of decreased coordination and strength. These problems have spurred the development of robotic devices to help enhance their abilities. However, the rigid nature of these assistive devices can be problematic, especially for more complex tasks such as playing a musical instrument. A first-of-its-kind robotic glove is lending a "hand" and providing hope to piano players who have suffered a disabling stroke.
Transportation remains one of the greatest barriers to increasing Veterans’ access to health care. Veterans may face a wide range of transportation challenges ranging from not having access to transportation to relying on a caregiver who may be unavailable or to needing a long-distance drive to their nearest VA. Following a successful pilot at 10 VA medical centers in 2022, the VHA-Uber Health Connect (VUHC) Initiative is now expanding to 60 new VAMCs to continue addressing this challenge.
Read the recently released issue brief from ODEP’s Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE) initiative titled “Employment and Education Services for Young Adults with Mental Health Conditions.” The brief summarizes findings from a systematic review of seven randomized controlled trials showing substantially better employment outcomes for young adults with mental health conditions receiving Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model of supported employment compared to those receiving standard employment services.
The Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) released a newly revamped Workplace Mental Health Toolkit. The updated resource includes practical guidance and research-based insights to help employers create supportive work cultures for all employees. The user-friendly toolkit now includes information to address issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, including Long COVID’s impact on mental health and strategies to ensure employers are supporting the mental health needs of workers from historically marginalized communities.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy announced the availability of more than $69 million for four, five-year cooperative agreements to help youth and young adults with disabilities connect with good jobs. Information for the Equitable Transition Models (ETM) Demonstration Grants Project can be found via ODEP’s news release and on Grants.Gov.
Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced the appointment of 24 members to the Advisory Committee on Transportation Equity (ACTE) under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). Appointees to the Advisory Committee are drawn from academia, the private sector, and the transportation industry. They include experts in community engagement, transportation planning, design, research, policy, advocacy, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA).
The National Paralysis Resource Center (PRC) — operated by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation — is announcing two grant funding opportunities through its 2023 second cycle Direct Effect and Priority Impact Quality of Life (QOL) grants initiatives that will open for applications on August 30.
On the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced a new rule which requires airline lavatories to be more accessible. This rulemaking, authorized by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), would require airlines to make lavatories on new single-aisle aircraft large enough to permit a passenger with a disability and attendant, both equivalent in size to a 95th percentile male, to approach, enter, and maneuver within as necessary to use the aircraft lavatory.
Drawing inspiration from nature, Penn State scientists have developed a new device that produces images by mimicking the red, green and blue photoreceptors and the neural network found in human eyes. … This research could trigger further developments in artificial retina biotechnology. Devices based on this technology could someday replace dead or damaged cells in the eyes to restore vision, according to the scientists.
A Penn State-led team of researchers has literally put pencil to paper to create an accessible, affordable, waterproof and wearable sensor to monitor multiple vital signs. … The researchers used a silica hydrophobic coating, which had been used for other sensors, but never for the pencil-on-paper sensors. These sensors were also designed to be stretchable, making it possible to wear on the skin. In addition to capturing temperature and gas molecules, the sensors could capture electrical physiological action to monitor muscular motion, cardiovascular activity and brain signals.
Bill Curtis-Davidson, Co-Director of the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT), recently accepted an invitation to join the Partnership on AI Global Task Force for Inclusive AI. PEAT champions the creation and use of inclusive artificial intelligence (AI), and their recent work includes an AI & Disability Inclusion Toolkit, a Think Tank on AI in Automated Employment Decision-Making Tools and many other resources.
Researchers at North Carolina State University have shown that a caterpillar-like soft robot can move forward, backward and dip under narrow spaces. The caterpillar-bot's movement is driven by a novel pattern of silver nanowires that use heat to control the way the robot bends, allowing users to steer the robot in either direction.
“The share of American children who have ever been diagnosed with a developmental disability increased again in 2021, according to a new report from” the CDC, “and now more than 1 in 10 boys have had an intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder or another developmental delay.” The CDC’s National Center for Health Interview Survey found that “among kids ages 3 to 17 years old, 8.56% have ever been diagnosed with any developmental disability as of 2021.” CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics statistician and lead report author Benjamin Zablotsky said, “We’re interested in understanding the prevalence of these conditions in the population so that we can make sure we have adequate services available for families and children who need them.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), announced the award of $31.5 million in behavioral health grants for children, youth and young adults today. Addressing the mental health crisis and overdose epidemic is a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration, and part of President Biden’s Unity Agenda for the nation.
A new brief published by ODEP-funded Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) outlines policy considerations for engaging employers in efforts to advance successful transitions for youth and young adults with disabilities. Recommendations in the brief point to the Guideposts for Success youth policy framework and outline concrete ideas for action by entities such as employer organizations, state and regional business councils, and state and local government agencies.
The Simulation Learning, Evaluation, Assessment and Research Network (SimLEARN) is testing a revolutionary new technology to advance Veteran care capabilities: holoportation. With the support of the University of Central Florida (UCF) and industry partner Dr. Hologram, SimLEARN is discovering how this advanced technology can bring more immersive and detailed telehealth care experiences to Veterans who use it. … Holoportation enables people to come together in real-time no matter their proximity.
For a company to truly advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) efforts it must address the needs of all underserved communities, including disabled workers and those with intersecting identities. Expressing a genuine commitment to inclusion—including valuing and utilizing the skills and talents of disabled workers—is a simple and impactful way to foster a disability-inclusive culture and progress towards achieving and exceeding DEIA goals.
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) celebrates the 24th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Olmstead v. L.C., with a new national initiative to help drive compliance with the integration mandate and protect the rights of people with disabilities. Olmstead recognized that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protect the right of people with disabilities to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.
Newly developed "smart" coatings for surgical orthopedic implants can monitor strain on the devices to provide early warning of implant failures while killing infection-causing bacteria, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers report. The coatings integrate flexible sensors with a nanostructured antibacterial surface inspired by the wings of dragonflies and cicadas.
ACL is announcing a new Assistive Technology (AT) Alternative Financing Program (AFP) funding opportunity. The $700,000 one-year AFP grant will support the purchase of AT devices, including through a low-interest loan fund, interest buy-down program, revolving loan fund, loan guarantee, insurance program, or additional activities that result in the acquisition of AT devices. This opportunity is open to a variety of organization types, including many of ACL’s aging and disability networks.
Hero’s Bridge is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Veterans 65 and older. Molly Brooks, the CEO and founder of Hero’s Bridge, stood up and said, “Not one more Vet will live out their golden years in lonely hardship.” The organization’s mission is to bridge our Veterans to a better quality of life through age-specific and innovative programs. These services are available to our heroes wherever they call home, at no expense to them or their families.
As part of its "Mental Health at Work" initiative, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has released a video public service announcement (PSA) to help advance mental health and wellness in the workforce. The video features Acting Secretary of Labor Julie A. Su, as well as employers, association leaders and workers who have lived experiences related to mental health in the workplace.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), today published National Model Standards for Peer Support Certification - PDF for substance use, mental health, and family peer workers. The national model standards were created to accelerate universal adoption, recognition, and integration of the peer workforce across all elements of the healthcare system. A peer worker is someone who, through their own lived experience of addressing a substance use or mental health issue, works to help others.
Check out the newest issue of the LEAD ON Newsletter "The Power of the Community Reinvestment Act: Strategies for Success." Explore opportunities to use the Community Reinvestment Act to bring financial institutions, community development and disability communities together to promote successful employment and economic outcomes for people with disabilities and others with low and moderate incomes.
On May 31, SSA published the new Request for Applications for the Interventional Cooperative Agreement Program (ICAP) on Grants.gov. The ICAP allows us to enter into cooperative agreements with non-federal entities to conduct interventional research supporting our programs.
How would you feel if, due to poor eye health, you could no longer see your loved ones clearly or perform routine tasks that you’ve been doing your entire life? Many of our nation’s Veterans are, unfortunately, facing this reality. For Veterans like Earl White, 92, who is functionally deaf and losing his vision due to age-related macular degeneration, having virtual eye care services has made adapting to a different lifestyle a little easier.
The National Governors Association, in partnership with the State Exchange on Employment & Disability, published a new commentary, “Governors Lead on Solutions to Improve Mental Health in the Workplace.” The commentary highlights a recent panel discussion at the NGA 2023 Workforce Symposium featuring ODEP Assistant Secretary Taryn Williams, among others, and examines three key strategies for states to better serve workers with mental and behavioral health conditions.
Last week, the State Exchange on Employment & Disability presented on a disability-focused legislative panel to more than 20 members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly during Representative Dan Miller’s 10th Annual Disability & Mental Health Summit in Pittsburgh, PA. The session, “Recommendations of the Employment First Oversight Commission,” featured model state employer examples of disability-inclusive policies and practices.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced this week the availability of $1.5 million in funds for the first year of a cooperative agreement to operate a policy development center focused on advancing employment opportunities and outcomes for youth with disabilities. Administered by the department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, the funding will build on the work of ODEP’s Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth.
Today, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology (OET) released a new report, "Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Insights and Recommendations" that summarizes the opportunities and risks for AI in teaching, learning, research, and assessment based on public input. This report is part of the Biden-Harris Administration's ongoing effort to advance a cohesive and comprehensive approach to AI-related opportunities and risks.
A report recently published by the ODEP-funded Job Accommodation Network reveals that the benefits of providing accommodations for workers with disabilities significantly outweigh the costs. Key findings, based on a survey of employers over the past four years, are that nearly half (49.4%) of accommodations cost nothing to implement, and 43.3% incur a one-time median cost of only $300. In addition, a majority (68.4%) of employers surveyed reported that the accommodation they made was either very effective or extremely effective, leading to multiple direct and indirect benefits.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, the U.S. Department of Labor launched Mental Health at Work—a new initiative that connects work being done across DOL agencies to improve worker wellbeing, reduce stigma, and promote equitable access to mental health resources and treatment, especially for historically marginalized populations. As part of this, DOL developed a new webpage centralizing workplace mental health tools and resources and published a blog post highlighting the importance of the initiative to DOL’s mission.
Earlier this week, the Society for Human Resource Management launched its 2023 Disability Inclusion Pledge. Developed in coordination with ODEP as part of its Alliance with SHRM, this new initiative encourages human resource professionals and other business executives to commit to fostering a culture of inclusivity and provides a suite of tools and resources to help them implement related policies and best practices.
The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) at ACL has opened two new funding opportunities under the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Projects (DRRP) program.
Today’s announcement is part of a broader effort across the federal government to advance a cohesive approach to AI-related opportunities and risks. The new AI Institutes will advance foundational AI research that promotes ethical and trustworthy AI systems and technologies, develop novel approaches to cybersecurity, contribute to innovative solutions to climate change, expand our understanding of the brain, and leverage AI capabilities to enhance education and public health.