Welcome back to our disability news roundup! It’s Friday, March 3, 2017 and this past week has given us some great news stories to cover. We’ll see how you can stop throwing away money on new pieces of technology that don’t work for you and learn how Cisco is working to make the world a more inclusive place. We’ll even talk about how disabled models are taking the fashion industry by storm. Read on for some of this week’s best news highlights.

Testing Out Assistive Tech

In previous articles, I’ve written about how while assistive technology is great, it can also be an exclusive thing. A lot of the new tools and types of technology are incredibly expensive to buy and to maintain. More than that, the fear that you will invest money on assistive technology only to find that it does not work the way you need it to, or that another similar device would have been more useful to you, keeps a lot of disabled people from purchasing things that could help their daily lives.

This is why Georgia’s assistive technology labs are such an exciting concept. They’re free (by appointment) and give people the chance to try before they buy. That way, they will get a clear idea of what the technology is, how it can help them, and how it should work. We’ve all probably encountered a new piece of technology that seems baffling until it’s demonstrated for us. This type of lab reduces that issue, and brings people in contact with new and useful devices they may never have known existed. Hopefully, more of these labs will begin cropping up in communities so that the technology gets in front of the people who need it most.

Read more about these awesome labs, and possibly make an appointment by checking out the whole AJC article.

Cisco Increases Education Efforts

Tae Yoo wrote a great piece for the Cisco technology blog called, “How Digital Skills Create Opportunities for People With Disabilities.” The article notes that the company will now be increasing its inclusion efforts by expanding its Networking Academy for diverse abilities. This commitment specifically means that they plan to include 10,000 students around the globe with disabilities in the program over five years.

Technology can open up a world of possibilities for people with all types of disabilities. Learning and using assistive technology can increase individual’s independence and boost their quality of life. I think the author says it best when she notes, “We live in a world where we can empower anyone to be a global problem solver…”[1] Teaching everyone the skills they need to succeed is a step towards inclusion, and Cisco certainly seems to get that.

You can learn more about Cisco’s renewed commitment to their Networking Academy for diverse abilities by visiting their blog.

San Diego’s Assistive Technology Conference

There are conferences for pretty much everything from comics to cars, so it makes sense for assistive technology companies and enthusiasts to meet up, share ideas, and try out some new tech! In This past week, San Diego hosted an Assistive Technology Conference, giving people a chance to do just that. In fact, this is the 32nd year of the conference, and it’s pretty popular. When great minds get together to discuss the future of assistive technology, it is certain that there will be some exciting outcomes.

Diversity and Disability

Another way that people are trying to advance the lives of people who are living with disabilities in by including them in part of the diversity discussion. Crain’s Chicago Business website shows how two local organizations, Access Living and ADA25 Advancing Leadership, are working to make a case for including those with disabilities when we talk about diversity,“They’re also creating pipelines that will help nonprofits and other public-sector organizations identify new board members.”[2]

There is a lot of great reasoning behind this line of thinking. Most notably, it is important for organizations to get a broad perspective and a lot of different viewpoints. This means that including the underrepresented disabled population could bring a lot of new ideas and ways of thinking to the table. However, the article also notes it might be difficult in certain situations to ensure that disability is counted in the diversity discussion. Some disabilities are considered “invisible” or “hidden” and those groups may still lack representation. As this type of inclusion becomes more commonplace, the hope is that it will be easier for people with disabilities to find representation in businesses around the globe.

Read more about how disability could begin to be considered in diversity discussions, and what some groups are doing to make sure that happens, in the full Chicago Business article.

Inclusion and Disability

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I have started to see more and more modeling agencies and runways including disabled models in their runway shows and advertisements. Honestly, it’s been a bit hard to miss with a lot of headlines being written and coverage given to these inclusive shows. Some fashion lovers are praising the companies while others are concerned that holding them up as examples with continue to make disability rarer and less mainstream. Whatever side of the issue you fall on; you still have probably noticed the conversation being brought up more often than in years past.

The modeling industry is just one (albeit prominent) example of how people are working to make a more inclusive world. A Bustle article describes how this type of inclusion is notable because the industry tends to set trends, and including an often unrepresented group might show how beauty is a universal quality and not one that is defined by specific situations or outdated thinking.

Check out Bustle’s article on modeling with disabilities to learn more about the fashion industry’s inclusion efforts.

What news stories did you notice this week? Any assistive technology advancements that jumped out at you? Share your favorite stories from the week in the comments below!