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Portland Launches Adaptive Biketown, an Accessible Bike-Share Program

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Portland, Oregon is expanding its popular Nike-sponsored Biketown program, a year after its initial launch, to include disability-friendly options. According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), the new program, called “Adaptive Biketown,” is the nation’s first city-sponsored program for riders with disabilities.

Portland began considering an adaptive form of Biketown last year at the urging of then-candidate City Council Member Chloe Eudaly, whose son lives with cerebral palsy.

At first, officials of the initial advisory committee didn’t understand what creating an adaptive bike service entailed. “The first time they wanted to speak to us, they were like, ‘Give us a list of disabilities, and give us a list of the bikes that work for them,’” said Jennifer Wilde, who works with a nonprofit assisting people with disabilities told the Los Angeles Times. “And that’s just not the way it works in the world of disability, because there’s just so much diversity.”

In creating the bike share program, PBOT interviewed and surveyed people living with disabilities and established a public work group to advise the program’s development.

“When Biketown launched, I was disappointed that there weren’t bikes for me,” Jeremy Robbins, a member of PBOT’s Adaptive Bicycle Pilot Project Work Group, said in a statement for PBOT. “Working with PBOT and others on developing Adaptive BIKETOWN has been very rewarding. I’m very excited for the launch of this historic project.”

While its parent program was originally intended for commuters, Adaptive Biketown is geared towards recreation and exercise. The service offers a variety of disability-friendly hand cycles, foot cycles and multi-person cycles for rental. Those interested in renting a bike can make a reservation by completing a rider profile and arriving fifteen minutes before a scheduled rental for a bike fitting process. Adaptive Biketown services also include helmets, mobility device storage and crate storage for service animals.

Adaptive Biketown is shaping up to be both an environmentally friendly initiative as well as an affordable one. It is not uncommon for children’s adaptive bikes to cost several hundred dollars while adult adaptive bikes can cost several thousand. However, Adaptive Biketown offers rentals for as low as $5 an hour for hand cycles, foot cycles and multi-rider bikes.

Portland’s adaptive bike share will be run as a pilot program this fall, and will use user feedback to expand in 2018.

Header credit: City of Portland

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Microsoft Will Feature Eye-Tracking Software on Windows 10

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On Tuesday, Microsoft announced a new initiative to make its products more accessible to those living with disabilities. The tech-giant is currently testing a new eye-tracking software which will be integrated into Windows 10.

The feature, simply called “Eye Control,” will utilize Tobii’s Eye Tracker 4C technology, allowing users to interact with their devices through eye movements.

Eye Control began in 2014 at Microsoft’s One Week Hackathon, an event where employees are encouraged to pursue passion projects and innovative ideas. There, former NFL player Steve Gleason, who lives with ALS, challenged software engineers to craft technology that addresses constraints he faces as someone living with a physical disability. Gleason wanted to play with his son and communicate with his wife more easily — everyday activities made difficult by his condition and gaps in disability-friendly technology.

According to iMotions, current low-end laptop compatible eye-trackers can cost between $100 to $1,000, while high-end trackers reach upwards of $10,000. Eye Control, on the other hand, will be available across all devices as part of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system. The software will allow users with disabilities to operate an on-screen mouse, keyboard and text-to-speech features using only their eyes

“Bringing Eye Control to Windows 10 will empower people using just their eyes to utilize Windows features.” Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s chief accessibility officer, told The Mighty “We are incredibly grateful for the partnership with the ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and MND (motor neuron disease) communities for their active engagement and feedback throughout the development cycle. We look forward to our ongoing collaboration to further develop these features in future releases as we continue on our mission to empower people to achieve more.”

Eye Control is currently in beta. Those interested in early testing and feedback can sign up to be a Windows Insider.

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What You Need to Know About That Clip of Trump 'Ignoring' a Boy in a Wheelchair

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There’s more you need to know about that clip of President Donald Trump ‘ignoring’ that boy in the wheelchair.

Read the full version of What You Need to Know About That Clip of Trump ‘Ignoring’ a Boy in a Wheelchair.

Read the full transcript:

What You Need to Know About That Clip of Trump ‘Ignoring’ a Boy in a Wheelchair

J.K. Rowling tweeted a clip of President Donald Trump seemingly ignoring a little boy in a wheelchair.

However  the full video shows the President does greet the boy before moving to the podium.

Since this is all getting so much attention, though, let’s set some things straight.

Politics aside, disabled people deal with being ignored and overlooked every day — and it needs to stop.

Yes, Donald Trump said hello to that little boy, but the healthcare policies he’s been pushing could ultimately harm people with disabilities and health conditions.

Key components of recent Republican-proposed healthcare bills include:

Permitting insurers to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions

Making major cuts to Medicaid

Reinstating lifetime caps

The virality of this story should start a lot of necessary conversations.

And disabled people should be included in all of them.

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The Reality of Needing to Be on Disability

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I’ve been debating whether to risk writing about this for about two months. It feels incredibly, personally risky.

Judgment can be so fierce when it comes to this topic.

Disability. Financial disability support from the government.

I live in Canada, and see some similarities and some vast differences in how permanent disability works in different countries. But the stigma and the judgment, the anger and the disregard for others is just as bad in many of them, from what I’ve seen. So I want to make a few points to try to spread some awareness.

1. Disability payments from the government are usually not enough to live on. The idea that sick people are eating bonbons, living the high life and laughing about how rich they’ve become by living/ripping off the system is just ridiculous. And insulting. I could make more money by working part time.

Unfortunately, my body does not allow me to work. I loved working. I was good at it. I felt accomplished. And I made enough to live on. The reason I qualify for permanent disability is because my doctors have deemed I will never be well enough to work again. It’s a hard pill to swallow. It sucks. My future, at this point, barring something miraculous, does not include my health or my pain, improving. Being judged for needing to still have food and shelter is really harsh on top of that reality.

2. Judgments about what type of phone, clothing, shoes, or purses someone has are completely unfair and uninformed. I have an iPhone. I’ve been judged about having an iPhone. However, the reality is that my iPhone is cheaper than the “pay as you go” flip phone I used to have. My iPhone cost me $0. My plan is cheaper and always the same price every month. With pay as you go minutes, I was always running out of minutes every month because I couldn’t afford to buy more.

I am not a chatty phone talker. I have severe phone anxiety. I do not call people just to chat. Ever. Yet, it was costing me a fortune to simply keep in touch with my doctors, my disability worker, my dentists, my pharmacy, my family. It saves me about $100 a month to have my free iPhone and plan, compared to what I had to pay for my cheap flip phone each month… and with my iPhone, I never wind up running out of minutes, unable to use my phone, unable to call my doctors. A phone is essential. I can’t afford both a landline and a cellphone, and it is safer for me to always have a phone on me.

I also have a really beautiful purse I’ve been judged for. The thing is, this nice purse was a gift for me. My friends all pitched in $20 for my birthday present and surprised me with a gorgeous pink purse. I would never be able to buy such a thing for myself. Never. It means so much to me. It’s my favorite color and my friends picked it out just for me.

I’ve been openly judged, quite a few times, for having this purse. The next time you go to judge possessions in this way, please realize there can be a lot more to the story. Don’t automatically assume the person is a hustler.

3. It is really hard on the pride to apply for and receive disability. There’s the stigma, but even more than that, I used to pride myself on my independence. My strength. My perseverance. My health took some of that away from me, and it is hard to deal with. On top of that, I need to report every tiny detail about my financial and personal life to the government, and they can request more at any time. They can also decide to take away the help I receive at any time.

It is a scary, unpredictable and invasive way to live. If I did not have to live this way, trust me, I wouldn’t. I don’t mind that I have to give all of my personal information, I understand the need, but it still feels lousy. I am so incredibly grateful for the financial and medical help I receive from the government. I’m not complaining, I’m simply stating that as a proud person, it is a process that can strip you of dignity. But without this help, I would have nothing. I would be homeless and starving.

Whether I get disability or not, I still won’t be able to work. If it is taken away tomorrow, I won’t be able to just suck it up, push past my pain and illness and go back to work. No. If that were physically possible for me, I would already be doing that. I’d be working.

So I take this risk and write this, knowing it could lead to me seeing some comments that judge me in the exact ways that I’m asking to not be judged. Despite my explanations and my pleas for understanding, I know I may read some comments that are hurtful. I’m taking this risk anyway, with the hope that it will help even one person see this topic with more understanding and empathy. I also take this risk for my fellow chronic illness friends who could use another voice supporting them. I want to show them they aren’t alone and that I, at least, understand.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Ekaterina79.

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J.K. Rowling Apologizes for Tweet About Trump 'Ignoring' a Young Boy With a Disability

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J.K. Rowling apologized on Monday for a tweet she shared late last week of President Trump seemingly ignoring a young boy in a wheelchair.

“‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ – Maya Angelou,” Rowling tweeted with the clip, which has since been removed. The author continued with a series of heated tweets, stating:

Trump imitated a disabled reporter. Now he pretends not to see a child in a wheelchair, as though frightened he might catch his condition. (unless related to him by ties of blood, and therefore his creations) are treated with contempt, because they do not resemble Trump. My mother used a wheelchair. I witnessed people uncomfortable around her disability, but if they had a shred of decency they got over it. So, yes, that clip of Trump looking deliberately over a disabled child’s head, ignoring his outstretched hand, has touched me on the raw. That man occupies the most powerful office in the free world and his daily outrages against civilised norms are having a corrosive effect. How stunning, and how horrible, that Trump cannot bring himself to shake the hand of a small boy who only wanted to touch the President.

As Rowling’s tweet made its way around the internet, people were quick to point out she’d only shown a portion of Trump’s interaction with the boy. When you watch the full video of Trump’s statement, released by the White House, you can see at the 2:18 mark, the President does greet the boy before moving to the podium.

Rowling shared a series of tweets stating she had not seen the full video and apologized to the young boy’s family.

Many people have replied to Rowling’s tweets thanking her for rectifying her original tweet, while others have demanded Rowling apologize to Trump, as well.

What’s your take? Let us know in the comments below.

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The Differences Between Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs

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With the increasing use of, and attention directed towards, emotional support animals on the internet and social media, there has never been a greater need to lay out the difference between emotional support dogs and service dogs. This article serves to help explain what separates the two and where we should go from here.

Emotional support animals, or ESAs, and service dogs are incredibly important and useful tools for those with all kinds of disabilities. This article will mostly focus on and reference the use of dogs, as that is where most of the confusion between the two lies.

Besides their titles themselves, the first key difference lies in their actual job function. A service dog is for those who 1) require assistance with doing a certain activity; and / or 2) must be alerted to an illness such as diabetes, seizures, and more. In contrast, an emotional support animal does as its name implies, providing a calming influence, comfort and joy.

Those who have emotional support animals do not necessarily have a mental illness; however, it is perhaps one of the biggest assumptions attached to emotional support animals. Many people with ESAs have chronic illness and chronic pain, something which can be difficult to deal with, and may contribute to depression. This leads to the second point, which is the stigma sometimes attached to the owners. People with service dogs, especially those with a visible disability, are usually viewed as legitimate handlers with “real” health issues. However, owners of emotional support animals are often seen as fakers or using it for free pet airfare, looping back to the constant misconceptions of mental vs. physical illness.

The third area where we can see the differences in treatment is the rights of the animals and owners. Only a few rights apply to both ESAs and service dogs. These are 1) the protection clause under the Fair Housing Act, which allows them to have their animal in no-pets housing, provided they have the proper documentation; 2) the animal may fly for free on airlines, provided they have documentation present and can behave properly. Service dogs, by contrast, are allowed anywhere with their handlers, including restaurants, stores, public transportation and any businesses, and may not be asked to provide identification.

The fourth difference is how a person obtains an emotional support dog or service dog. In the United States, there are no national government registries for either emotional support animals or service dogs, and any that claim to be are scams. However, many organizations and businesses will provide their own documentation for you, or accessories such as vests, leads, and patches for both ESAs and service dogs.

There is only one way to legally and officially acquire the documentation for an emotional support animal — a letter from either your doctor or psychologist stating your need for the emotional support animal. The animal can be one you already own or have access to. The animal should have basic obedience and behave properly when in public. If the animal is a dog, the most common and easiest way of having proof of this level of obedience is by passing a Canine Good Citizen test. It is also possible to get a trained emotional support dog, but they are not as common and can be expensive to find, usually with a waiting list.

For service dogs, most training organizations require a doctor’s letter stating your need for a service dog. Medical documentation is also required for no-pets rental housing and air travel, but other businesses cannot require it. The most common way to get a service dog is by finding one from a group or organization who has already trained one. This may involve high costs and/or a waiting list. Some people with dog training experience choose to train their own service dogs; these dogs have the same access as those trained by an organization.

Sierra and Rose.
Sierra and Rose.

I am thankful that my experience has been much more pleasant and easier than many others. Thanks to the encouragement of my doctors and therapist, I got a puppy that I have been training as a support dog, as well as a possible service dog in training. As of now we don’t know what my health is going to bring, and we still don’t even know my full diagnosis, but there is a high probability of me needing a service dog in the future. I worked for a professional dog handler and taught advanced obedience to our 4-H dog project participants for many years.

The end result of this “experiment” has been incredible. She has just turned a year old, and is already fairly advanced in her obedience, and is a wonderful support dog. She is almost always by my side, my little shadow, constantly watching me to make sure I am OK. She has incredible instincts and always knows when I am upset, if I am not feeling well or if I am in pain. She is a living embodiment of the saying “man’s best friend,” and I honestly don’t know what I would do without her.

After getting Rose, I have become more attuned to the world of disabilities, accessibility, judgments, and of course emotional support animals and service dogs. To my surprise and sadness, I discovered that a lot of the judgment of emotional support dogs was coming right from our own disability community. With the recent increase of people  abusing the system so their pets can fly for free, or to get out of pet fees for housing, there needs to be more accountability. Additionally, we as a community need to be more supportive of service dogs and emotional support animals. Those who need them are dealing with a variety of issues, many of which we can’t see, and to pass judgment is exactly what we ask those around us not to do to us.

Emotional support animals are an incredible and amazing tool we should be utilizing to help people, but we can’t begin to do that unless we start embracing them more and stop judging them so much. Emotional support dogs are not service dogs, and we need to continue to separate the two. Nevertheless, service dogs and emotional support animals are critical issues which need to examined and discussed more. The question remains, who else is willing to speak up about this?

For more information:

What are the differences between a service dog, an emotional support animal and a therapy dog?

Frequently Asked Questions About Service Animals and the ADA

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo by contributor.

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