Friday, August 10, 2012

US DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy Announces $950,000 Grant to Establish Accessible Technology Action Centre

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy today announced the availability of approximately $950,000 to fund a cooperative agreement to establish and operate the Accessible Technology Action Center, a new national resource that will facilitate and promote the use of accessible technology in the hiring, employment, retention and career advancement of persons with disabilities.

“Accessible technology can have a significant impact on persons with disabilities when it comes to succeeding in the workplace,” said Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. “This new center will build on previous partnerships and focus on specific issues facing employees with disabilities and the technology industry.”

The ATAC will expand access to information and communication technologies in the workplace for persons with disabilities. The center will promote the knowledge, technical skills, tools and leadership strategies needed to address accessibility issues, and will seek to raise awareness of the impact critical accessible workplace technologies have on competitive employment opportunities.

The initial award will be for 12 months with the possibility of up to four optional years of funding, depending on the availability of funds and satisfactory performance. The full announcement for this grant opportunity can be found at Applications will be accepted until Aug. 31, 2012.

Source: GAATES

US Scientists Aim to Deliver Visual Images to People with Vision Disabilities

Humans possess the unique ability to form mental images of things that exist only in their minds, and U.S. scientists now believe there may be a way to harness this ability someday to give sight to people who are blind.

Neuroscientists at Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Texas Medical School at Houston have recently advanced their understanding of how the brain conjures up images, and hoped to someday bypass the eyes to directly deliver visual images into blind people’s brains, according to the latest online edition of the Texas Medical Center News on Monday.

In studying three individuals and creating an illusion of the flash of light to stimulate the brain, the scientists discovered two regions of all the three people’s brains required stimulation before the individuals could generate mental images in their mind.

The occipital lobe, a part of the brain at the back of the head, is responsible for vision and mental images, but the scientists discovered the brain’s temporoparietal junction must be active and work in conjunction with the occipital lobe for individuals to “see” an image in their mind, at least in the three people studied.

“This new study is a step toward our goal of better understanding visual perception, which will help us make a useful visual prosthetic,” said Daniel Yoshor, the study’s senior author.

A visual prosthetic, Yoshor said, could work like this: People who is blind might wear a prosthetic consisting of eyeglasses containing a webcam. The tiny camera would film the scene before blind person’s eyes, then relay information to a computer chip implanted in the person’s brain, which would stimulate the brain to generate mental images.

“If successful, we would in essence bypass eyes that no longer work and stimulate the brain to generate mental images,” said Michael Beauchamp, the study’s lead author and an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the UT Medical School.

However, Yoshor, also chief of neurosurgery at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, noted that a key obstacle to progress right now “is our limited understanding of how brain activity leads to visual perception.”

CRTC Approves Proposal to Establish Broadcasting Accessibility Fund

On August 7, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved BCE’s proposal to establish a Broadcasting Accessibility Fund. This independent fund will support initiatives to improve access to the Canadian broadcasting system by persons with disabilities.

“Canadians with disabilities should be able to access broadcasting content using the latest technologies, applications and services,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. “The new fund will serve as a catalyst for the development of innovative solutions and help ensure the needs of persons with disabilities are taken into consideration at the design stage.”

When BCE purchased CTVglobemedia in 2011, it committed $5.7 million to create an independent Broadcasting Accessibility Fund. The company subsequently presented a proposal to the CRTC.  Different groups representing persons with disabilities were consulted and provided their comments through an open consultation process.

The fund will support accessibility projects that are supplementary to the CRTC’s existing regulatory obligations for the broadcasting industry.  This could include accessibility initiatives for online and mobile programming services. The CRTC is requiring that the fund provide services and publish documents (such as application forms, policies, and annual reports) in both official languages.

The Broadcasting Accessibility Fund will begin accepting applications by December 5, 2012.

For more information, visit

Source: GAATES