Accessibility News - Summary for the Week of February 24th, 2017 Feb 24, 2017

Computer screen with "Accessibility in the News" written on it

Today is Friday, February 24th, 2017 and it’s about time for another quick recap of accessibility news stories. This week we are looking at an exciting outcome from a stem cell study done on patients will multiple sclerosis. There is also a call for art in Massachusetts for an upcoming juried exhibition, and some great new disabilities studies programs that you might want to consider enrolling in to learn how to be an even stronger advocate.

Stem Cell Advancements

If you or someone you know has multiple sclerosis (MS), then this bit of news should be extremely interesting to you. The MedPage Today website shared that there have been advancements in stem cell research with regards to MS in a recent article entitled, Stem Cell Tx May Halt MS Disability Progression. The JAMA Neurology editorial piece written about the research showed how promising the results of the study were in the conclusion section of their write-up, “In this observational study of patients with MS treated with AHSCT, almost half of them remained free from neurological progression for 5 years after transplant.”[1] While there are likely a lot of individual considerations and specifics to review, the data seems pretty encouraging at present.

I’d recommend heading to the JAMA Neurology site to learn more about this study and its potential impact for patients in the future.

Get a Degree in Disability Studies

I found this story interesting because it addresses a pretty concerning issue. While we work towards a more inclusive and accessible world, how are we teaching best practices and principles for people to follow? I’ve done some research, and a lot of people tell me they fell into advocacy or learned from their own disability. While that’s logical, there should be another way for people to understand more about how to achieve universal accessibility.

Schools are starting to catch on, including Central Washington University (CWU). The student news reported that CWU is now offering a disability studies minor and certificate program. This coursework will apparently focus on teaching the program participants about the everyday challenges that people with disabilities experience, “Said accessibility studies allows students the opportunity to learn about different approaches and accommodations to functioning in a daily environment.”[2] This isn’t the only school to offer disabilities studies programs, and the University of Illinois at Chicago offers a PhD. in the field. Hopefully these programs will become standard in more institutions so that we can create a more accessible world by using best practices and teaching the latest to eager students that can enact real change.

An Artistic Endeavor

The Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD) has announced that they will be holding a juried art exhibition called Breaking Barriers, according to the Mass.gov website.[3] This art exhibition has a very clear purpose, “A central purpose in holding this exhibition is to showcase the talent of our Commonwealth residents and to present works to the public that will raise awareness of and challenge the barriers and stigma that persons with disabilities encounter.”2

If you’re interested in submitting a piece or learning more about the type of art they will accept, you can submit your work via the program’s online form. It is important to note that the show is only open to Massachusetts residents over the age of 18, however the site says they will accept art from students of MA colleges and universities even if those students are originally from out of state.

IDEA Website Issues

To be honest, this story is a bit older (a week or so), but it’s still very important and I think it’s best to discuss now rather than never. Apparently the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) website went down and then redirected to another site according to the Disability Scoop website. This caused a lot of questions about what happened to the site, and some political and public question about whether they were tied to any bigger issues.

However, as of right now (February 24th) the site appears to be back up and functioning. It does have a note alerting visitors that some information might not be current, “Please be aware that some of the materials herein are outdated, and that you may find the most current regulations, statute, and additional IDEA-related resources on the OSERS/OSEP IDEA webpage.”[4]  While the controversy appears to have died down for now, it is still an issue that people are watching to ensure that unexpected changes aren’t made. This is especially true for Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington who told Disability Scoop, “’I am glad that the website appears to be back online, but I am going to continue monitoring this issue and working to make sure that the Department of Education is doing everything possible to protect every student and make sure they have every opportunity to learn.’”[5] While more changes occur in the US government, a lot of educators and lawmakers will likely continue to look for and report similar changes.

What stories did you find interesting over the past week? Were you surprised or happy to see any positive stories about advancements in accessibility? Share them in the comments below!

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