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Sharyn Morrow, CPACC Posts

Complicated Consumerism

Capitalism never stops. Pre-internet, I recall the deluge of catalogs and mailers clogging up our mailbox. Plus the endless commercials on tv and radio. We still have that, despite trying to opt out of it. E-commerce has made it even more excruciating. Unless one is diligent with their ad blockers, nearly every website visit shoves ads in our faces and we end up on email lists from any company we’ve purchased something from in the last decade. I first learned about “Buy Nothing Day” 20+ years ago and I’m a big fan. I relate to the slogan “the more you consume the less you live.” In the U.S., most of us have so much unnecessary stuff. When I do give gifts to friends and family, I prefer experiences over things. Travel, activities, food, etc. We’re in the thick of the holiday shopping frenzy again. Black Friday has passed, and yesterday was Small Business Saturday. If you are planning to shop this season, please consider supporting the organizations who employ those of us with disabilities. 

From Angela Young via LinkedIn:

“82% of people with disabilities are unemployed. How can you support our community this holiday season? Look no further — check out this list of Small Businesses that specifically employ and support us!!! 👇 👇 👇

Popcorn for the People, led by CEO Rachel Cheng, creates careers for disabled people – specifically people with autism. I ordered Butter, Cheddar, Cookies n’ Cream, and Caramel and received my bright red box this week. Let me tell you — all of the flavors are phenomenal! My personal favorite way to eat popcorn is by mixing caramel and cheddar together for a sweet and savory sensory explosion. What’s your favorite flavor??

Bitty & Beau’s Coffee was created by parents Amy Wright and Ben Wright, who have four beautiful children — three of whom have autism and Down Syndrome. They primarily employ people within the autistic and Down Syndrome communities as a way to show that individuals with differences can be a valuable, contributory part of their community! (And their coffee is pretty badass too — check out the holiday roast! I had it during a recent visit to their Annapolis, MD location, but you can ship nationwide across the United States!

Design By Humans is an art collective founded by Mindy Hernandez that supports many disabled artists (my personal favorite is DisabledAF) that you can find by searching “disabled” at the top of the page. I love the way DisabledAF specifically situates themselves at the intersection of Queer and Disabled, my favorite place to be!!

Collettey’s Cookies was founded by Collette Divitto, a rockstar speaker and human with Down Syndrome. She employs 10+ other employees, all with disabilities. You can check out much more of her story on YouTube!

Alissa Smith is a cancer survivor and an incredible warrior who lives with chronic illness… AND she’s an incredible jewelry designer!! Check out her creations at her online store and support her efforts! The Harper Cosmopolitan ring is absolutely stunning… which piece is your favorite??

Tricia Baden suffers from Lyme Disease, which causes chronic headaches. The toxins in regular candles can exacerbate headaches and migraines, so everyone benefits from her amazing scents at Flores Lane that are toxin-free and use a soy-based wax! The chakra and meditation collection is my personal favorite for my Buddha and crystal altar!”

What a wonderful roundup. Adding to that list, the Isadore Nut Company:

“In 2018, Tasya toured Jewish Housing and Programming and the kitchen at Cornerstone Creek, where she learned more than 82 percent of adults with disabilities are unemployed. She decided to create a workplace for people of all abilities.

Tasya moved production to Cornerstone Creek and began partnering with social service organizations and advocating for persons with disabilities. Now more than half of the staff at Isadore Nut Company are adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

Tasya believes that everyone, regardless of ability, should be given the opportunity for employment because everyone holds value and has something to contribute.”

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World Usability Day 2022

The annual global event, World Usability Day, will be observed on Thursday, November 10th, 2022. I’m slated to deliver accessibility training to international colleagues that day, so I’ll be missing my local UXPA MN event but I’m a big fan. World Usability Day is a single day of events occurring around the world that brings together communities of professional, industrial, educational, citizen, and government groups for a common objective: to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use. The theme for this year’s World Usability Day is “Our Health.”

In our theme “Our Health” we look to explore systems that provide healthcare in all its many forms such as virtual/telehealth, electronic health records, healthcare products and all digital health related solutions. This theme will help us explore timely and important issues such as continuity of care, access to treatment, telemedicine, systems for mental health, exercise, nutrition and many more. In addition, Our Health includes health problems related to environmental issues such as air and water pollution impact on health.

World Usability Day

Participate in one of the global events, if you are able to. And be sure to sign the Usable Tech for Good petition.

If the UN recognizes usability as a core digital technology value, this will create an awareness of HCI/UX at the policy making level, increase the public engagement with the investment in user experience, potentially lead to a global impact, and let usability do its part for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

WorldUsability Initiative
World Usability Day logo with the earth surrounded by a green circle and the text Make Things Easier Day
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Ableism in the Public Eye

Some of you may know about Pennsylvania senate candidate John Fetterman, who experienced a stroke in May of 2022. This left him with some auditory processing challenges. He is now making us of assistive technologies like closed captioning. Despite your political beliefs, his public use of AT should be celebrated for a number of reasons. He’s helping to normalize and destigmatize temporary and permanent disabilities. His willingness to use common assistive technologies in his personal and professional life shows he is adaptable and can troubleshoot. Unfortunately, this has led to some awful ableist attacks.

The lines of attack used against Fetterman, many of which are ableist (meaning they convey prejudice, either overt or subtle, against people with disabilities), tap into long-standing stereotypes about people with disabilities and could affect voters’ perceptions of him. That’s because there continues to be stigma against people with disabilities, according to Lisa Schur, a co-director of the Rutgers Program for Disability Research. As a result, she said, political “candidates with disabilities have to work extra hard to ensure voters that, yes, I’m competent and capable of doing the job.” This stigma can be particularly intense for candidates with mental or cognitive disabilities — or even for candidates where questions are raised about their cognitive function. 

What Attacks On John Fetterman’s Health Reveal About Disability And Politics from FiveThirtyEight

This is all upsetting enough, but particularly jarring as October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month:

Observed annually in October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrates the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities past and present and showcases supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices. In recognition of the important role people with disabilities play in a diverse and inclusive American workforce, the theme for NDEAM 2022 Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.

Office of Disability Employment Policy

But it’s not all bad news. Teen Vogue put out an excellent op-ed about how ableism bars people with disabilities from seeking — or winning — elected office. While discouraging, they describe some gains:

Despite systemic inaccessibility and ableism in electoral politics, the disability community continues to gain mainstream attention around its political participation through organizing and movements like #CripTheVote. As these movements have grown, disabled candidates and elected officials are being more open about their disabilities and we have seen a number of historic firsts: the first full-time wheelchair users serving in Colorado and Arizona, the first appointed and elected Deaf mayors, and some of the first openly autistic state legislators.

John Fetterman’s Stroke Has Led to Ableist Criticism From Media, Politicians via Teen Vogue

Meanwhile, some cool programs are popping up around the country:

Ablr Works is the workforce development arm of LCI, one of the largest employers of Americans who are blind or visually impaired with headquarters in Durham. It has teamed up with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Services for the Blind (DSB) to kick off the statewide initiative this month. The benefits are twofold: It will make websites and digital content more accessible, as well as reduce the high unemployment rate among people with disabilities, the company said.

‘First-of-its-kind’ program to train visually impaired as digital accessibility testers

And last but not least, disabled people were among the hardest hit by pandemic-related job losses, but the rise in remote work also created new opportunities.

Recent employment figures indicate that disabled people have, in fact, gained a stronger foothold in the workforce, likely due to the popularity of remote work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of disabled workers ages 16 to 64 who are employed was well over 5.5 million during the summer months; as of September, that figure had crossed 5.8 million, accounting for nearly 4% of workers overall. The labor force participation rate rose to 38% in September, up from 37.6% in August, a year-over-year increase from 36.4% in September 2021.

The employment rate for disabled workers is higher than it has been in years
Politician John Fetterman looking thoughtful behind a podium, with a microphone in hand, and a large American flag as a backdrop
Jeff Swensen for The New York Times
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Creating a More Humane Social Order

Writer, disability-justice activist and performance artist Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha knows that it’s possible for society to become more equitable. They envision a future in which “people are free to be, regardless of their ability to fit into capitalist institutions.”

‘The Future Is Disabled’ book review from Ms. Magazine

I’m excited by the work of activists like Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. And their latest book that “lays out a bare-bones agenda for what is needed to make the U.S. more socially just: affordable, available and accessible housing; healthcare and pharmacare; a universal basic income for all residents; free, high-quality public education programs; and the elimination of punitive policing and incarceration.” A resounding YES PLEASE to all of it!

Unfortunately, the systems in place are resistant to change. Instead, those in power propose much smaller, incremental tweaks. For example, recently the State Department announced the finalization of their Five-year Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) Strategic Plan. Don’t get me wrong, this more intersectional approach is a step in the right direction. But it will only protect federal employees. Only 20% of people with disabilities are employed, compared to 64% of non-disabled people, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a huge gap. Only 4% of DEI initiatives include disability and that’s just in organizations that even have a DEI initiative. Most companies don’t have their disabled employees or customers in mind. A perfect example came from the amazing Meryl Evans. Yesterday she posted about her experience with an Apple Watch, and more.

“People with disabilities can bring a lot more to your team than what you see on their resumes.

They have an uncanny ability to come up with innovative ideas and solutions. Feeling excluded has a way of driving people with disabilities.

For instance, I never wanted an Apple Watch. I hadn’t worn a watch in years. A friend convinced me to try it. It made my life as a deaf person easier!

How? It became an accessibility tool.

It buzzes when cooked food is ready. No more overcooked food! It buzzes when someone is at the door. No more packages sitting on the porch for stealing. No more leaving my sister stranded on my doorstep when she dropped by unexpectedly.

No one advertises these benefits. Apple never marketed it that way. If they had, they may have gotten more buyers and fans.

These are examples of how someone who is different from you can innovate and come up with creative solutions.

We don’t always click when we meet someone. This isn’t because of a bad interview. We tend to click with those most like us. You’ll gain more when hiring someone different from you.

The thought of creating a more accessible hiring process feels overwhelming. Just start. How can you get started?

– Ask every candidate what accessibility they require.
– Verify the online application process is accessible for keyboard-only navigation and works with screen readers.

These are starting points. Keep working on it and adding more pieces. Progress over perfection. Just start.”

Again, yes to all of these things! I’m neurodivergent and have an auditory processing disorder. I wear noise-canceling headphones a good portion of the day. The Apple Watch’s haptic feedback has made my life so much easier too. And I want that for others. There’s so much we could do, as a society, to improve the quality of life for our fellow humans. But the pace of change is moving too slowly. More people are being forced to survive with less…while profit margins are on the rise for those at the top. We could all be thriving instead.

Author Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha on the left, a femme non-binary person with green hair, and the cover of their book on the right, The Future Is Disabled
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Inclusive Design 24

September is id24 time! I didn’t think of it in time this year, but I have gotten approval to have my employer support the conference in 2023. For now, I will follow along September 21st into September 22nd.

The inspiration behind Inclusive Design 24 (#id24) was to bring together the global community to share knowledge and ideas without the difficulties of attending a traditional conference. From the beginning, #id24 has only been possible because of the community. It took just three weeks to organise the first conference, and everyone gave their time generously. We had no budget, but many respected and notable people gladly agreed to give a talk because they wanted to help. 

About #id24

This year’s schedule is fantastic, just like past years, celebrating inclusive design and sharing accessibility knowledge. All the videos will be available on YouTube in this playlist.

inclusive design 24 banner with black text on a yellow background
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The 32nd Anniversary of the ADA

How We Got Here

On this day in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. This historic civil rights legislation is intended to protect the rights of people with disabilities (like myself and my family members and many others I care about). The Administration for Community Living has a page with some backstory and a timeline of ADA milestones. Members of the disability community have been commemorating the anniversary in different ways. Too many to post!

Where We’re At

Where We’re Headed

As many have noted, the ADA was a hard-won victory and a great starting point. Unfortunately, the laws aren’t always enforced. Demystifying Disability author Emily Ladau shared a post about waiting for the ADA to be fully realized. We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation author and journalist Eric Garcia wrote an article about “how endangered disability rights are” and “why many people within the community are afraid the ADA is next on the chopping block.” Read the full piece: How this Supreme Court is setting back disability rights — without even trying. We need to keep fighting for our rights. Perhaps on this anniversary, more than any other.

ADA 32 (1990-2022) Americans with Disabilities Act. Celebrate the ADA! July 26, 2022
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Giving, Receiving, and Sharing Information

Occasionally people outside of my field ask me to explain digital accessibility. I like to break it down to the basics. It’s about communication. About ensuring people can access information, unhindered. There’s a lot more nuance to it, of course. Especially with the minutiae involved in making that happen. But providing a few common examples usually gets the point across. For example, say you built a desktop web page. And users can only identify a link by hovering over it with a mouse or activating the link by clicking on it. Then people who use keyboards without a mouse will be unable to access the links. Likewise, for visually impaired and blind folks who use screen readers, an image on its own isn’t going to be useful. Unless that image is paired with a decent description of it.

Alt Text

A couple of things are on my mind today. First, alternative text on twitter. A while back, I started following the AltTxtReminder account. If you follow that account, you will automatically receive a direct message letting you know when you’ve posted an image without alt text. Twitter doesn’t allow editing published tweets, but one option is to quickly delete the tweet and recreate it with alt text. I think AltTxtReminder is a wonderful service but the account only has about 20,000 followers. A drop in the bucket considering there are close to 400 million twitter users. Today, Twitter officially began rolling out a similar feature. Twitter announced that this feature has been pushed to 10% of global users. Pretty neat.

Fun with Captions

First off, captions are designed for viewers who cannot hear the audio in a video. Subtitles are designed for viewers who can hear but do not understand the language being spoken in the video. I see these terms being used interchangeably. As in this fun write-up: Wet Writhing and Eldritch Gurgling: A Chat With the Stranger Things Subtitles Team. I’m a fan of the show and I’m glad other folks who enjoy it are getting a kick out of the captions. But sometimes less is more. I follow Deaf accessibility professional Meryl Evans on LinkedIn and Twitter and find her posts to be insightful.

If I notice the captions, it’s usually a sign that there’s a problem. I noticed them in Season 4, Chapter 5. There were too many sound captions. It took away from the show.

Imagine watching a baseball game and the captions show [thwack] every time someone hits the ball or [blip] when the ball lands in a glove. That would weigh down the viewing of the game.

Every sound does not need captioning. Just like when we describe images in alt text, the key is to describe them in context to the content. We don’t describe every single detail, only the key points.

The key is to answer: What sound is important to the story that may not be obvious from visuals?

Meryl Evans on LinkedIn

She has additional information on her site including a Captionioning Videos FAQ page and a Complete Guide to Captioning.


Lastly, a Twitter user posted a video of their latest Lego acquisition:

I got this minifig with a wheelchair and I was so excited like “ooh look at this representation” but turns out it’s also a representation of accessibility issues bc the wheelchair doesn’t fit through the door frames.

T.L. Pavlich

How bittersweet. But as Meryl Evans often says, this is about progress, not perfection.

A stone wall with a paper sign affixed to it with the text Examine what you tolerate
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Disability Pride Month Challenge

We’re nearly a week into July, but I’ve just found a great way to engage with Disability Pride Month. It’s not too late to join in! Visit Kelsey Lindell’s site to sign up for the challenge. She will email you a calendar of activities. These are things like listening to podcast episodes, watching the Crip Camp documentary, following disability activists, sharing information with friends and colleagues, etc. Below is information from her site.

Disabled people still don’t have our basic civil and human rights:

  • Due to a loophole in the law, there is no national minimum wage for disabled people. The average amount disabled people get paid is $3.34 an hour, versus the federal standard of $7.25.
  • 83% of disabled women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
  • Disabled women are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to nondisabled women.
  • People with intellectual disabilities are 7X more likely to be victims of sexual assault.
  • When a disabled person is unable to work, then the maximum disability benefit is $841 a month, which is a quarter below the federal poverty line.

This continues because most people don’t know this is happening. So, we’ve created a bootcamp for you. Each day you’ll get a prompt or call to action that will help you learn about ableism, disability history, disability justice and how to be a better ally. We’ll send you lists of amazing disabled creators to follow, podcasts to listen to, free events to attend, entertaining and educational clips and films to watch and so much more!

A charcoal grey flag with a diagonal band from the top left to bottom right corner, made up of five parallel stripes in red, gold, pale grey, blue, and green Description ends

Lastly, I’d like to share the Disability Pride Flag along with what the colors represent.

The Disability Pride Flag was a collaborative design effort by Ann Magill, a disabled woman, with feedback within the disabled community to refine its visual elements:

Having All Six “Standard” Flag Colors: signifying that Disability Community is pan-national, spanning borders between states and nations.

The Black Field: Mourning and rage for victims of ableist violence and abuse

The Diagonal Band: “Cutting across” the walls and barriers that separate the disabled from normate society, also light and creativity cutting through the darkness

The White Stripe: Invisible and Undiagnosed Disabilities

The Red Stripe: Physical Disabilities

The Gold Stripe: Neurodivergence

The Blue Stripe: Psychiatric Disabilities

The Green Stripe: Sensory Disabilities

Ann Magill, creator of the updated Disability Flag
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July is Disability Pride Month

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990. This was decades in the making. For those unfamiliar with the history, one great starting point is the 2020 documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. Growing up, I didn’t have any summer camp experiences (we were too poor). But I sent my son to a summer camp with an autism inclusion program. He wouldn’t have been able to attend otherwise. This program was in place thanks to the work of those who came before us. Disability Pride Month has been celebrated in July since 1990, along with the ADA victory. The disabled community isn’t a monolith. But members come together to support one another. Disability justice movements advocate for intersectional approaches to meet the needs of people with disabilities. The “nothing about us without us” mantra was born from this movement, expressing the conviction of people with disabilities that we know what is best for us.

Disability Pride Month looks to celebrate disability as an identity by sharing the experiences of the disabled community. The reason behind the month is a chance to share the joy and pride that disabled people can bring to their local and global communities. The disabled community is a vibrant part of society and makes up 15% of the population, and we are proud of that.

Caroline Casey for Forbes

This is the perfect time to remind folks about the anthology, Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century, edited by Alice Wong.

One in five people in the United States lives with a disability. Some disabilities are visible, others less apparent—but all are underrepresented in media and popular culture. Now, just in time for the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, activist Alice Wong brings together this urgent, galvanizing collection of contemporary essays by disabled people.

From Harriet McBryde Johnson’s account of her debate with Peter Singer over her own personhood to original pieces by authors like Keah Brown and Haben Girma; from blog posts, manifestos, and eulogies to Congressional testimonies, and beyond: this anthology gives a glimpse into the rich complexity of the disabled experience, highlighting the passions, talents, and everyday lives of this community. It invites readers to question their own understandings. It celebrates and documents disability culture in the now. It looks to the future and the past with hope and love.

Disability Visibility at Penguin Randomhouse

And Alice Wong is at it, again. This time with a memoir! I’ve pre-ordered my copy from my favorite local bookstore, Moon Palace. You can support local bookstores too!

Book cover for Year of the Tiger An Activist's Life by Alice Wong depicting a red tiger on a yellow background

This groundbreaking memoir offers a glimpse into an activist’s journey to finding and cultivating community and the continued fight for disability justice, from the founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project

In Chinese culture, the tiger is deeply revered for its confidence, passion, ambition, and ferocity. That same fighting spirit resides in Alice Wong.
Drawing on a collection of original essays, previously published work, conversations, graphics, photos, commissioned art by disabled and Asian American artists, and more, Alice uses her unique talent to share an impressionistic scrapbook of her life as an Asian American disabled activist, community organizer, media maker, and dreamer. From her love of food and pop culture to her unwavering commitment to dismantling systemic ableism, Alice shares her thoughts on creativity, access, power, care, the pandemic, mortality, and the future. As a self-described disabled oracle, Alice traces her origins, tells her story, and creates a space for disabled people to be in conversation with one another and the world. Filled with incisive wit, joy, and rage, Wong’s Year of the Tiger will galvanize readers with big cat energy.

Year of the Tiger at Penguin Randomhouse
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Hold My Bag

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, my childhood was chock full of microaggressions and microinvalidations. At school and at home. Most often related to my ethnicity, gender, intelligence, physical appearance, etc. Some classmates called me “Qaddafi’s daughter” for years, despite my family coming from a completely different country — Lebanon — a continent away from Libya. Often there were outright slurs too. Directed at me, but also bandied about so casually in day-to-day life and in pop culture. It’s appalling. I cringe when I attempt to rewatch many movies and television shows from my youth. We have come a long way but there is still so much work to do. We can and should strive to learn and grow. Which Lizzo has done recently and done well.

Following criticism that her new single, “Grrrls,” included the word spaz, Lizzo announced on Monday that she has released another version of the track with the offending lyric removed. “It’s been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song,” Lizzo wrote in a statement accompanying the rerelease. “Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I overstand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally).”

Lizzo Releases a New Version of ‘Grrrls’
Photo of Lizzo by Arturo Holmes at the Met Gala

Nothing About Us Without Us

When situations like this come up, as they often do, I share one of my favorite resources.

What is self-defined?

A modern dictionary about us.
We define our words, but they don’t define us.

Self-Defined seeks to provide more inclusive, holistic, and fluid definitions to reflect the diverse perspectives of the modern world.

With the foundation of vocabulary, we can begin to understand lived experiences of people different than us. Words can provide us with a sense of identity and allow us to find kinship through common experiences.

Ableism and Implicit Bias

Unfortunately, ableism continues to go unaddressed in too many diversity initiatives. Kelsey Lindell has some excellent suggestions on how to avoid situations like these in the future:

  1. Take personal responsibility for your own growth
  2. Educate your teams  
  3. Hire Disabled People (For more information: It’s time for a culture shift where disability inclusion is concerned)

Read Kelsey’s entire post for more.

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