The Mad Max game is every bit as brilliant on disability as Fury Road was


Mad Max: Fury Road has attracted praise for its deft handling of some of the themes that Hollywood normally gets very, very wrong. The way that women take charge, for example, the Gamergate crowd had the rare perspicacity to realize that Furiosa was a new, significant stride in the evolution of female action protagonists. Read the rest

Fury Road cosplay: wheelchair and amputated arm edition

When Fury Road came out, Laura Vaughn made an iconic post about how her left-arm transradial amputation gave her the potential to be the world's greatest Imperator Furiosa cosplayer -- and now she's done it, homebrew prosthetic and all. Read the rest

Stephen Hawking's speech synthesizer now free/open software

Intel has released ACAT (assistive context-aware toolkit) under an Apache license in the hopes that people will improve it -- it only runs on Windows XP or better at the moment, and has a limited range of input-sensors. Read the rest

3D printed cochlear implants for your toys

Building on their Toy Like Me accessories, Makies has shipped 3D printed cochlear implants for your 3D printed custom doll, in white or pink. Read the rest

Dolls with hearing aids, port-wine stains and canes

Makielab, the 3D printed toy company my wife Alice founded, has created a line of toys for the Toy Like Me campaign, which urges toy companies to make toys that all children can see themselves in. Read the rest

Lying down in bed desk

The kneeling desk led to the standing desk and thence to the treadmill desk, but I propose that we bring this full circle to the lying down in bed desk (instructions available in Japanese only). (via Sean Bonner) Read the rest

DRM screws blind people

Any digital text can be read aloud through text-to-speech, granting people with visual impairments the basic human right to read -- unless there's DRM in the way. Read the rest

El Deafo: moving, fresh YA comic-book memoir about growing up deaf

Cece Bell's young adult graphic novel El Deafo is a beautiful, sweet, moving and funny memoir about growing up deaf. Take one part Ernie Pook's Comeek and two parts of Peanuts, mix thoroughly, and add some indefinable secret ingredients, and you'll get El Deafo, which Cory Doctorow thoroughly enjoyed.

Adversarial Compatibility: hidden escape hatch rescues us from imprisonment through our stuff

My latest Guardian column, Adapting gadgets to our needs is the secret pivot on which technology turns, explains the hidden economics of stuff, and how different rules can trap you in your own past, or give you a better future. Read the rest

UN copyright body passes treaty on rights of people with disabilities

The World Intellectual Property Organization's Treaty to Faciiitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired. Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities (the "Treaty for the Blind") has finally passed, after many years of hard work by copyright activists and activists for the rights of people with disabilities.

They were fought, tooth and nail, by the big copyright groups, who were shameless in their willingness to use people with disabilities as pawns in their ideological war on the idea that anyone should be able to do anything with a copyrighted work without explicit permission. The Motion Picture Association was especially terrible here -- a new low for an industry that has made a lobbying career out of plumbing the depths of depravity.

My congratulations to all the copyfighters who made this unprecedented treaty come to pass: the World Blind Union and Dan Pescod (especially!), Knowledge Ecology International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- all of you. As a former WIPO delegate, I can say that this is an unbelievable shift in the way that the UN makes copyright policy.

What's more, it was a (mostly) open process, in sharp contrast to the sinister closed-door process that the Obama administration has insisted upon for the Trans Pacific Partnership and other copyright treaties. Bravo to all of you for setting an example of how copyright policy can be crafted to uphold human rights.

To the shameless lobbyists at the MPA, remember: if you live long enough, the odds are good that you, yourself, will become print disabled. Read the rest

Public Resource liberates "Life in the UK" book, building codes

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,

Public.Resource.Org has always been a strong supporter of British-American cooperation. In order to further what Winston Churchill so aptly dubbed our “Special Relationship,” I'm happy to announce two hands across the sea.

If you would like to be a citizen of the United Kingdom, you need to study a book called Life in the UK. The book is published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, which is part of the amazingly well run National Archives. These are the folks that run, the best legislative reference site in the world. Life in the UK has the kind of open license one has come to expect for government information, so we asked our friends at the Rural Design Cooperative to take a stab at creating an open version. They totally went to town, replacing the commercial stock photos with open artwork, creating much better navigation across the book, study guide, and tests, and making the tests better, and (of course!) publishing the whole thing as valid html and open source so you can fork it if you'd like and create your own version. Thanks to Oliver Morley, the Archivist of the United Kingdom, for enabling open publishing and to the folks at the Rural Design Cooperative for creating the new version. You can read the all new Open Life in the UK here.

I'm sorry to report that another agent of the UK government, the British Standards Institution, apparently didn't get the open government memo. As you know, we've posted a bunch of crucial public safety standards from the UK as well as the rest of Europe and the world.

Read the rest

Today Show busts rent-a-disabled-guide/skip-the-lines services in Disneyland

Remember the New York Post story about disabled people renting themselves out to rich New York families in order to skip the lines at Walt Disney World?

The Today Show followed up on this, investigating the phenomenon of rent-a-disabled-guide services across the country in California's Disneyland. They found people advertising openly on Craigslist, offering to rent out their company and the use of their disabled pass. They sent an undercover crew out with one such guide, and then confronted her in the parking lot and asked her if she felt bad about abusing the system of disabled passes.

Disney has promised to crack down on the practice, threatening lifetime bans from the parks for anyone caught offering the use of their disabled passes.

On ads we found on Craigslist, tour guides brag about their disabled passes: "Let's cut the Disney lines together," "access to ... special entrances." So we had our producer and his family go undercover with home video cameras, hiring two of those disabled guides to show them around Disneyland.

First up was a guide named Mara, who said she got her pass after a car accident. "I'm here to make sure everyone has fun at Disneyland and we get on as many rides as possible," she told us.

"And you have a secret weapon that's going to help us?" our producer asked.

"I do. I have a special card that's going to help us beat the lines," Mara replied with a wink.

And she charged $50 an hour to do it.

Read the rest

Obama's trade reps and the MPAA are killing a copyright treaty that gives rights to disabled people

Jim Fruchterman, founder of the NGO Benetech, writes in frustration from the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva, where the US Trade Representative is scuttling a treaty that will help blind people and people with other disabilities access copyrighted works, largely by making the (actually rather good) US laws the standard around the world.

Rather than promoting the US approach -- which allows for the creation of works in accessible formats without permission -- the US Trade Rep and his friends from the MPAA are advocating for a treaty that is far more restrictive than US law, ensuring that the US itself could never sign it.

In the process, they're killing a badly needed project to help people with disabilities around the world help each other to access creative works in formats that are adapted for their use.

To give you an idea of the poison pills being advocated for by the MPAA, publishers, and now the U.S. trade delegation, I've outlined the most notable ones below:

1. Commercial Availability Requirements. This poison pill says that if a book is commercially available in an accessible format, it can't be provided by a library to a person with a disability. This is equivalent to walking into a public library and finding padlocks on all the books with a note that says: "If you want to read it, buy it." With a commercial availability requirement, libraries like Bookshare, with hundreds of thousands of accessible books available to people with print disabilities, would have to go through such complex bureaucracy that we couldn't afford to serve people outside the U.S.

Read the rest

New York City adopts new International Symbol of Accessibility

The new International Symbol of Accessibility replaces the old, static "disabled" icon, which depicted a rather static, object-like disabled person in a wheelchair -- the new ISA shows a person zooming dynamically in a wheelchair instead. It's been officially adopted in NYC:

After several years of petitioning for change, designers from Gordon College in Massachusetts have come up with an alternative to the traditional stick figure sitting back in a wheelchair.

Their new character is dynamic, leaning forward with its arms at the ready.

"It's such a forward-moving thing," Victor Calise, commissioner of the New York mayor's Office for People With Disabilities, told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Calise, who himself was paralyzed in a cycling accident at the age of 22, plans to begin putting the new logo in place all over New York City this summer.

Revamped disability icons coming to New York City (Thanks, Matthew!) Read the rest

Prosthetic tentacle

Taiwanese design student Kaylene Kau created this motorized prosthetic tentacle for a class project: "For this project we were pushed by our Professor to push the boundaries of current upper-limb prosthetic design. Through extensive research I found that the prosthetic functioned as an assistant to the dominant functioning hand. The prosthetic needed to be both flexible and adjustable in order to accommodate a variety of different grips."

PROSTHETIC ARM (via Kadrey) Read the rest

Skepticism about the rent-a-disabled-guide/skip-the-lines Disney World story

I was skeptical of the NY Post story alleging that rich New York private-school parents use a service that lets them hire disabled people to act as line-jumping Disney World guides. Now Lesley, a Disney-obsessed local, has published a rebuttal pointing out that such a service wouldn't work well because there are lots of rides that can accommodate wheelchairs through the regular entrance. She also points out that the article claims that the wheelchair guide helped skip a 2.5h line for Small World, which sounds like BS, because Small World doesn't really get 2.5h lines. The whole thing is worth a read.

I've visited Disneyland and Walt Disney World with friends who had disabilities. I went to Disney World with my mom and a friend who were both in wheelchairs (my Mom had just had a hip replacement; my friend had a broken foot), and found that there were hardly any long-queue rides that offered any priority queuing to people in wheelchairs. On the other hand, I once visited Disneyland with a blind friend and her service dog in the late 1990s and found that people with dogs and their parties did go straight to the front of the line in most cases (I don't know if this is still the case, though).

YEAH NO: Rich Manhattan Moms Allegedly "Renting" Disabled People To Skip Lines At Disney World (Thanks, Irk!) Read the rest

White House tells blind people: the MPAA says we have to kill your treaty, sorry.

Jamie Love from KEI sez, "During the WIPO negotiations on disabilities, the White House has told U.S. Blind groups it will kill a WIPO treaty on copyright exceptions for persons who are blind or have other disabilities if the treaty covers audiovisual works, including those used in education, including distance teaching programs. The fight at WIPO is being fought over the definition of a work. The US wants to limit the exceptions to works [in the form of text, notation and/or related illustrations], and opposes [in any media]. India, country with a large film industry, is among those who want to exceptions to cover audiovisual works, and India is supported by other countries. Brazil has suggested the decision on audiovisual works be left to national discretion. The US delegation has sent a tough message to the blind organizations, effectively threatening to kill the treaty is AV works are included." Read the rest

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