Thursday, July 26, 2012

Statement of NCD on the 22nd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Today, the National Council on Disability (NCD) joins the rest of America in celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. As we do, we also celebrate NCD’s own history as the federal agency that proposed the landmark legislation.

As we consider the progress made in over two decades, we also use the anniversary to recommit ourselves to the full achievement of the ADA’s potential – that “equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency” is possible for every American, including those with disabilities.

Truly, this law warrants every celebratory observation it enjoys each year. Since its passage, the ADA has opened doors – literally and proverbially – for the more than 54 million Americans with disabilities, and everyone else, too. That’s because disability laws are hardly legal protections for the select few. Everyone benefits from the ADA. That’s because, in addition to the law’s visible impacts – curb cuts and ramps and the like -- anyone at any time can join the disability community due to aging, illness, or injury, as our wounded warriors and burgeoning senior population know well.

Because so many Americans’ lives are touched by disability directly or through a loved one, it’s not surprising that disability issues enjoy a proud history of bipartisan support. The ADA was a poignant example of that 22 years ago -- a Republican President appointed the members of the small federal agency – our agency – that conceived of the ADA; a Democrat-controlled House and Senate passed the ADA with broad Republican support; and Republican President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on this day 22 years ago on the South Lawn of the White House.

A more recent example of the truly bipartisan quality of disability right issues came to mind again in recent months in the U.S. Senate. Six years after an American delegation under President George W. Bush helped negotiate and approve the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and three years after President Obama signed the Convention, Republican Senators John McCain, Jerry Moran, and John Barrasso, and Democratic Senators John Kerry, Dick Durbin, Tom Harkin, and Tom Udall all announced their support for U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in May following the submission of the treaty package to the Senate. At the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Convention just this month, written or oral testimony from former President George H.W. Bush, former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, and Senator Bob Dole was also received in strong support of the Convention. NCD staunchly supports ratification of the Convention and is hopeful that the full Senate provides its consent for ratification in the days ahead.

As this most recent example continues to drive home – disability rights are no longer a radical concept. They are the norm; the standard. Those who oppose equal access and inclusion are increasingly out of touch with the majority of Americans, and, indeed, the rest of the world.

New battles seem perpetually ours, just as our disability rights movement forbearers have taught us by life examples spanning decades.  Persistently high unemployment, school bullying, entitlement reform… the work never seems completed.

But let us take heart. In the words of Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.” So with the same spirited determination that our community’s leaders demonstrated in securing the law we celebrate today, let us march and roll together to greet the next wall with our hammers of justice and our shared hope as our unifying bond.

Happy anniversary, ADA! Lead on! Lead on!

Link to ADA Anniversary statement on NCD's web page:

National Council on Disability

1331 F Street, NW, Suite 850

Washington, DC 20004

202-272-2004 Voice

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New Technology Lets People Write Just With Their Eyes

From ABC News:
PHOTO: New technology in development allows people to write in cursive with their eyes.

Patients without the ability to use their limbs may have a new way to communicate, thanks to researchers in France. This offers hope to sufferers of strokes, spinal injuries, or degenerative diseases such as ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, who may be left without the ability to type, pick up a pen, or even speak.

The researchers developed a system that allows users to write in cursive on a video monitor using only their eyes. Dr. Jean Lorenceau of the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris has developed a method for translating eye movements into writing on a screen, and by doing so has simultaneously advanced possibilities for patients and solved a tricky puzzle posed by biology. The results are in today's issue of the journal Current Biology.

Lorenceau's device overcomes a difficult physiological problem called saccadic eye movements. If you try to move your gaze smoothly across a stationary object, you will will instead find your eyes "saccading," or jumping from one point to another. So-called smooth-pursuit eye movements are reserved by our bodies for following moving objects. This is normal, but presents problems for researchers trying to devise methods of eye writing, just as a constantly jerking hand would severely hamper someone trying to write with a pen.
PHOTO: New technology in development allows people to write in cursive with their eyes.
Dr. Lorenceau's technique bamboozles the body's own circuitry by using a flickering screen. It tricks the brain into thinking the eyes are following a moving object. The device then uses known eye motion-detection technology to translate these movements into smooth cursive writing, fully controlled by the subject.

Other devices for communicating solely with the eyes do exist. They're less ambitious -- they let a user select choices from a menu in sequence rather than write -- but Lorenceau says they work well. However, he points out that users' ability to create something themselves is unique to his device.
"Maybe more important is the fact that cursive eye writing provides personal and creative means of expression," Lorenceau said. Furthermore, it allows people to achieve shades of meaning not available on a menu. "What if the figure you wish to draw is not in this repertoire," he said, "[such as] the drawing of a heart to indicate you love something?"

Lorenceau has just been selected by the French National Research Agency to partner with a physician caring for ALS patients in developing his device further, as well as a company to continue to develop the device and a programmer to develop software for cursive eye writing recognition.
But Lorenceau sees uses for his device beyond helping those unable to write on their own. "A training program could be helpful for children with oculomotor deficits or [even] athletes [or] artists and is therefore not necessarily exclusively to be used by patients unable to move their limbs," he said. "Although speculative, these ideas will be tested in the near future."