Did you know that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)?  NDEAM is a favorable time to educate Americans about “disability employment issues and to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.”

Disability Employment 2014

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, Kathy Martinez stated:

“We all have a role to play in–and benefit to gain from–increasing opportunities for meaningful employment for people with disabilities.  This year’s theme (‘Expect. Employ. Empower.’) encapsulates this in three powerful words.  It conveys that advancing disability employment is about much more than just hiring.  It’s about creating a continuum of inclusion.  And the first step on this continuum is expectation.”

To find out how you can help or to find employment options for individuals with disabilities, keep on reading.

History of NDEAM

The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.”  In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities.  In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Employment Services

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

There are many services available to help individuals with disabilities find employment.  For individuals in the state of Indiana, Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) is an ideal place to start.  VRS is a program that provides “quality individualized services to enhance and support people with disabilities to prepare for, obtain or retain employment.”  Some specific services provided may include:

  • Vocational guidance and counseling;
  • Medical treatment to correct or modify mental or physical impairment;
  • Training (i.e. vocational school, college or university, on-the-job, and other training);
  • Assistive devices and services (see INDATA Project below);
  • and more!

Easter Seals Crossroads

Easter Seals Crossroads (ESC) is another helpful resource for adults with disabilities looking for employment opportunities.  Some of the services offered at Easter Seals Crossroads include career assessment, job placement and supported employment services.  The Employment Programs’ staff at Easter Seals Crossroads helps job-seeking individuals identify their employment goals and create a plan to meet those personal goals.

  • Career assessment.  At Easter Seals Crossroads, the staff at Employment Programs focus on “vocational counseling and career exploration to identify employment capabilities and interests related to job responsibilities and to investigate possible accommodations.”
  • Employment Services.  While working with a representative of Employment Services, individuals will receive ongoing support and guidance before, during and after receiving secured employment.
    • Guidance is provided for:
      • Effective resume development;
      • interviewing and job seeking strategies;
    • Services include:
      • building relationships with employers,
      • arranging job interviews,
      • employer advocacy,
      • job shadowing,
      • and assisting with job accommodations.

Indiana Assistive Technology Act (INDATA)

A major barrier one may encounter while seeking employment is not having access to assistive technology.

“The term ‘assistive technology device’ means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”  -Assistive Technology Act of 1998

The INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads provides information and access to such assistive technology, at no charge, for Hoosiers with disabilities.  These services are offered statewide and are derived through the Indiana Assistive Technology Act (INDATA) state/federal grant and include:

  • device demonstrations,
  • device loans,
  • recycled computers
  • reutilized assistive technology equipment,
  • alternative financing resources,
  • and educational trainings and conferences.

#Work4LifeIN Campaign

To celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Indiana Vocational Rehabilitation Services is embarking on an exciting social media campaign targeting transition-age youth in Indiana. The campaign, Disability Employment 2014#Work4LifeIN, encourages the many benefits of employment for individuals with disabilities, as well as to promote awareness about employment concerns.

“How can I participate in this exciting campaign?!” you may ask.

  1. First, follow the official Twitter account for the campaign @IndianaVR
  2. Second, you can retweet to help participants tell the stories of how important work is in their lives.
  3. You can encourage individuals with disabilities to tweet videos or pictures with them holding the #Work4LifeIN sign (as demonstrated by yours truly on the right.)
  4. Post your photo or video with your #Work4LifeIN sign on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the #Work4Life hashtag.
  5. Share your empowering video or photo with friends and family!
  6. GOAL:  Together we can all deliver a strong message stating the importance of work for individuals with disabilities.

On my sign you can find I filled in the blank with I Work 4 INDEPENDENCE, but I honestly had a difficult time choosing a single word.  I stayed with independence because it is very important to me.  Since I was a young child I have tried to maintain as much independence as possible, and working helps me obtain that goal; working gives me a grand sense of accomplishment.  I also work for happiness, camaraderie, exciting opportunities, adventure, to challenge myself–I work to use my unique abilities to positively influence my community.


We may often find ourselves uttering to a stubborn appliance or device.  “Television, turn on.”  Soon, though, it could be more common for those devices to actually listen and obey our commands.  Several large companies such as Google and Apple have their own voice recognition technology; however, smaller companies and independent developers don’t have the necessary budget to create voice software that continuously learns from collections of data.  A startup called Wit.ai plans to make it easier for these smaller companies to add custom voice controls to everything, including (but not limited to) smartphones and smart watches to Internet-connected thermostats and drones.

With Wit.ai, developers type a handful of plain-English commands they want it to recognize such as “Wake me up
tomorrow at 6″ or Wake me up in 30 minutes,” and note what they want to accomplish through each command.  In this case, set the alarm on a hypothetical voice-controlled smart watch.  In an MIT Technology Review, Rachel Metz explains: “Wit.ai uses what it knows about language to figure out the different ways a command might be expressed.  Then, when a user wants to set the alarm for a specific time, that person’s utterance’s are sent to a Wit.ai server, which analyzes the audio and sends structured data back to the gadget.”

wit home automation

Nick Mostowich, a student at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, attended a hackathon last month at his school at which he and his team used Wit.ai to add voice control to a toaster and microwave.  Mostowich says they quickly put together a set of “commands and targets that could be mapped to a list of recipes on a remote server, so a user could say something like, ‘Cook me some bacon’ and the microwave would turn itself on, set to the right power level and time.”

For his project submitted for the hackathon, Home Ease, Mostowich and his team wanted to prove that home automation can be “cheap, simple, open and fun,” and he utilized the technology at Wit.ai to prove this.  He firmly believes that home automation may benefit the general population, but especially benefits individuals with disabilities.

There are plenty of obstacles Wit.ai needs to overcome.  Many similar systems, like Siri, rely on the cloud meaning it’s not as quick to respond as it could be, and it can’t work if you don’t have an internet connection.  However, with the 4,600 developers sending data to Wit.ai, cheap, simple, voice-controlled home automation may be coming to a house near you soon.


Tech Tip: Defender Otterbox for iPad

October 27, 2014 Tech Tips

Steve Carter shows us the assembly of the Defender Otterbox for the iPad.  Check it out!

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Registration now open for FREE Web Accessibility Training for Developers

October 24, 2014 Training

What: Web Accessibility Training for Developers When: December 10, 2014 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM EST Where: Online Registration: https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/3257300260773286914 Description: Join renowned web accessibility professional Dennis Lembree in a full day of training. This webinar begins with a background on disability, guidelines and law. Many techniques for design and developing an accessible website are then […]

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ATU178 – Dan Hubbell from Microsoft, Boy with Autism develops relationship with SIRI, Tablet Computer for Braille Users, Exoskeleton allows groom to walk down aisle

October 24, 2014 Assistive Technology Update

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs. Show notes: Dan Hubbell – Microsoft’s Accessibility Technical Evangelist | http://blogs.msdn.com/b/accessibility/ How One Boy With Autism Became BFF With […]

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Touchable Memories allows visually impaired to “see”

October 23, 2014 Products and Devices

Birthdays.  Holidays.  Graduations.  Weddings.  Our lives consist of a series of memories, several that we wish to cherish and remember forever.  As we grow older, we may forget these wonderful moments, which is why we often capture them in photographs.  But how could individuals with visual impairments experience the pleasure of “viewing” a precious memory?  Touchable […]

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A Chance to Reach for the Stars

October 22, 2014 Communication

Writer: Tiffany Whisner, Coles Marketing It’s a week-long camp giving visually-impaired students an experience that’s truly “out of this world.” Since it began in 1989, Space Camp for Interested Visually-Impaired Students (SCIVIS) has offered kids with special visual needs the chance to do everything Space Camp® has to offer — from learning how the space […]

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4 facts (and more) about Apple Pay

October 21, 2014 Products and Devices

Well folks, it’s finally here!  Apple’s new payment system, Apple Pay, was released yesterday.  I have mentioned this new payment system in two blogs both last month and last week, when I covered Apple’s two large events.  If you’ve read those past two posts, you probably know how excited I am for Apple Pay. If you don’t yet know […]

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Tech Tip: Optelec ClearView C

October 20, 2014 Tech Tips

Greg Blackman from EYE Can See introduces us to the newest video magnifier from Optelec called the ClearView C.  Check this out! For more information on this product, visit last week’s blog or go to the Optelec website.

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ATU177 – Accessible PDF documents (Shannon Kelly from Actuate), VEST device for Deaf people, MathML with JAWS, SimplEye for Android, KNFB for iPhone

October 17, 2014 Assistive Technology Update

Podcast: Play in new window | Download Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs. Show Notes: Accessible PDFs with Shannon Kelly | https://www.linkedin.com/in/accessibilityshannonkelly Technology-enhanced vest could help deaf people experience sound – NY […]

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