Thursday, November 30, 2017

Final IDRAC 2017 Schedule

The 6th annual International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference is a professional conference, free and open to the public, where we continue to celebrate progress in the disability rights movement and examine areas where we must continue to find ways to advance the rights of people with disabilities.

Below is the schedule for this year's conference, themed "Who Is Responsible?" We look forward to having you with us at this year's conference, which promises to be a particularly interesting one.
Note, all times given are US Pacific Standard Time.
SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Virtual%20Ability/53/172/23

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FRIDAY December 1
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8:00am
Beyond accountability: Moving towards answerability for students with disabilities
Mr. Louis Olander, Doctoral Candidate, Urban Education, CUNY Graduate Center

9:30am
Access to Health Care and the Liberation of People with Disabilities
Dr. Margaret Nosek, Baylor College of Medicine

11:00am
Who's Responsible for Inclusion?
Dr. David Wasserman, Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health

12:30pm
Are We Empowered Yet? Definitions, Interventions, and Outcomes
Dr. Margaret Nosek, Baylor College of Medicine

2:00pm
Stories from young women with intellectual disability: Meanings of gender and disability
Dr. Amie O'Shea, Deakin University, Australia

3:00pm
Social/Networking After Party

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SATURDAY December 2
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6:30am
Human Rights Under Attack: The struggle against cuts and austerity in the UK, 2010-2017
John McArdle, disabled activist, co-founder of the user-led campaign network Black Triangle

8:00am
Advocate or Mechanic? The Role of the Citizen Practitioner in Social Change
Dr. Christopher McMaster, New Zealand high school educator

9:30am
Diverse identities, diverse tactics: Bringing disability activist wisdom to all political movements
Ms Katie Tastrom, MSW, Esq., blogger and author

11:00am
On Speaking and Not Speaking: Autism, Friendship, Interdependency
Dr. Sonya Freeman-Loftis, Morehouse College

12:30pm
"We Are Not Disposable": “Psychiatric”/Psycho-Social Disabilities and Social Justice
Dr. Carol Moeller, Moravian College

2:00pm
Disability Identity Development
Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt, Vanderbilt University

3:00pm
Social/Networking After Party

If you are entering Second Life® for the first time, information about creating an account and your avatar can be found here: How to Attend the IDRAC Conference in Second Life. Once you enter Second Life, to get to the conference venue, click here and click the 'Visit this location' button: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Virtual%20Ability/53/172/23

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

IDRAC Speaker Spotlight: David Wasserman

The International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference will convene on Friday, December 1, 2017. Under the theme of "Who Is Responsible?" we will hear from speakers from various parts of the country and the world, sharing their observations and thoughts as we look at what the Disability Rights movement has accomplished along with identifying the work that remains to bring full equality to all people, including those with disabilities. This professional conference is free and open to the public to attend.

Today we feature David Wasserman, of the National Institutes of Health, who will discuss the importance of universal social welfare reforms to achieve full inclusion for people with disabilities, and how individuals and society efforts can make this happen.

Speaker Spotlight: David Wasserman, JD, MA

David Wasserman, JD, MA, is at the Department of Bioethics, National Institutions of Health. Previously, he was Director of Research at the Center for Ethics, Yeshiva University (New York City, NY). He has written extensively on ethical issues in biotechnology, neuroscience, disability, reproduction, genetics, and health care. He is the co-author of the book, Disability, Difference, Discrimination.

Presentation: Who's Responsible for Inclusion?

In his words: "I argue that both individual and collective efforts are necessary for meaningful accommodation. But I conclude that full inclusion is only possible through universal social welfare reforms that must be collective undertakings."

Mr. Wasserman will present at 11:00am US Pacific Time on Friday, December 1, 2017, in Second Life®.

IDRAC Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Carol Moeller

The International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference will convene on Friday, December 1, 2017. Under the theme of "Who Is Responsible?" we will hear from speakers from various parts of the country and the world, sharing their observations and thoughts as we look at what the Disability Rights movement has accomplished along with identifying the work that remains to bring full equality to all people, including those with disabilities. This professional conference is free and open to the public to attend.

Today we feature Dr. Carol Moeller, of Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA, who brings her perspective on social justice where it comes to people with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities. Don't miss this presentation!

Speaker Spotlight: Carol Moeller, PhD

Carol Moeller, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Moravian College (Bethlehem, PA), where she currently teaches courses in ethics and philosophy. She is interested in the ethics and philosophy at the intersection of gender, race and disabilities, and has written extensively on social justice issues experienced by persons with intellectual disabilities. She was a Fulbright-Hays Scholar in Ghana in 2000, and was the Greenwall Fellow in Bioethics and Health Policy at Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University (2001-2003).

Presentation: "We Are Not Disposable”: “Psychiatric”/Psycho-Social Disabilities and Social Justice

How does social justice for persons relate to psycho-social or “psychiatric” disabilities? I draw upon and theorize from my own experience – working to develop transformative ways of thinking and living with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities. Investigating several different activist and service organizations, as well as voices and representations of people with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities, I ask which are truly empowering. Following Tobin Siebers and Margaret Price, I critique the “ideology of ability” and its tendency to de-humanize people with “psychiatric”/psychosocial disabilities. I argue for expansive liberatory practices that embrace neurodiversity and work toward a world of social justice more enabling of human flourishing. I link Audre Lorde’s social justice vision to these concerns. People with “psychiatric”/psycho-social disabilities are such bodies that “do not fit” with the reigning “ideology of ability” (using Siebers’ terms). It is precisely in our not fitting that we reveal barriers, harms, injustices, moral-political insights, and need for revolutionary change. In reading and unpacking how we do not fit we can identify obstacles that point to blueprints for such changes.

Dr. Moeller will present at 12:30pm US Pacific Time on Saturday, December 2, 2017, in Second Life®.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

IDRAC Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Margaret Nosek

The International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference will convene on Friday, December 1-2, 2017. Under the theme of "Who Is Responsible?" we will hear from speakers from various parts of the country and the world, sharing their observations and thoughts as we look at what the Disability Rights movement has accomplished along with identifying the work that remains to bring full equality to all people, including those with disabilities. This professional conference is free and open to the public to attend.

Today we spotlight Dr. Margaret Nosek, of the Baylor College of Medicine, who will share her insights twice on Friday, on two different topics. Be sure to mark your calendar for these two very worthwhile presentations.

Speaker Spotlight: Margaret A. Nosek, PhD

Margaret (Peg) Nosek, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine and Senior Scientist at TIRR Memorial Hermann (Houston, TX, US). She is the Executive Director of the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD). She holds an additional position as Adjunct Professor in the College of Nursing at Texas Woman’s University, Houston. Her doctorate is in rehabilitation research from the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Nosek’s main research interest is on improving the health of women with physical disabilities, especially developing interventions disparities in reproductive health and access to healthcare services. She has conducted many large funded studies, several of which have taken place in Second Life. She is the author of numerous publications and the recipient of several prestigious awards, from organizations such as the American College of Physical Medicine and the Rehabilitation Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association.

Dr. Nosek lives with spinal muscular atrophy, a severe congenital physical disability, and is a disability rights activist. She has worked closely with Justin Dart and others in the independent living movement. She has been honored as a “Disability Patriot” by the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

Presentation: Access to Health Care and the Liberation of People with Disabilities

Current debate in the US about health care reform has not covered issues related to the well-being of people with disabilities. This presentation compares healthcare financing under the current US system versus a single-payer national health program from the perspective of people with disabilities and factors affecting their life options.

Dr. Nosek will speak on this topic on Friday, December 1, 2017 at 9:30am US Pacific Standard Time, in Second Life®.

Presentation: Are We Empowered Yet? Definitions, Interventions, and Outcomes

The word "empowerment" is used very freely in advocacy, healthcare, and social services, but definitions and measures of it are rare. This interactive presentation invites audience members to name and prioritize elements and strategies that lead to the empowerment of people with disabilities.

Dr. Nosek will speak on this topic also on Friday, December 1, 2017 at 12:30pm US Pacific Standard Time, in Second Life®.

Editor's Note: Due to a change in the conference schedule, Mr. John McArdle of Black Triangle in Scotland, United Kingdom, will speak in the early morning US Pacific Time on Saturday, December 2nd. Upon receiving confirmation of the presentation time, we will publish an updated conference schedule.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

IDRAC 2017 Speaker Spotlight

The International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference is coming up on Friday and Saturday, December 1-2, 2017. Under the theme of "Who Is Responsible?" we will hear from speakers from various parts of the country and the world, sharing their observations and thoughts as we look at what the Disability Rights movement has accomplished along with identifying the work that remains to bring full equality to all people, including those with disabilities. This professional conference is free and open to the public to attend.

Today, we feature a speaker who will present on Saturday, December 2nd. Read on, then plan to attend with us!

Speaker Spotlight: Anjali J. Forber-Pratt

Anjali J. Forber-Pratt, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Human and Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University. Her research agenda adopts a social-ecological framework looking at issues related to identity development, school safety, social-emotional learning, the impact of gang presence and school climate particularly for individuals who are different in some way, with a large focus on disability. She presents regularly at state, national, and international conferences and is author on 16 peer-reviewed journal articles and several chapters. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) has also recognized her as an emerging leader within the national disability community. She was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change in 2013 and had an opportunity to participate in a roundtable discussion with President Obama about disability policy issues.

Presentation: Disability Identity Development

This presentation will explore the term “disability identity” and present current and ongoing research. The presenter will first situate herself within the disability rights and disability community, as a researcher with a disability. Disability occurs across the lifespan and is cross-cultural making it complicated to study. Additionally, the presenter believes that we must be inclusive in our definition of disability for this type of research. Disability is then defined broadly and including individuals with apparent or visible and/or less apparent or hidden disabilities across as many disability groups as possible (i.e., physical, intellectual, learning, mental illness).

Disability identity is unique because disability often occurs in individuals who do not have others with disabilities around them. People with disabilities, then, shape an identity around a particular impairment or difference that their families, immediate circles and communities likely do not share. A coherent disability identity is believed to help individuals adapt to disability, including navigating related social stresses and daily hassles. By providing an overview of the existing models of disability identity, including seminal work from Carol Gill (1997), a description of how this body of work has informed the development of a new measurement tool of disability identity will also be discussed.

Dr. Forber-Pratt will close the conference with her excellent topic on Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 2:00pm US Pacific Standard Time, in Second Life®.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

How to Attend the IDRAC Conference in Second Life®

A Little Bit about Second Life
Second Life (also known as SL) is a virtual world created in 2003 by Linden Research (also known as Linden Lab). Second Life is an interactive, simulated environment populated with avatars that is similar in some ways to online games (multi-user, interactive between users and objects, is immersive and three-dimensional) but with some significant differences. It has no clear objectives, goals or points; it serves as a platform for communities, educational institutions and nonprofits. Viewer software is installed on a user's computer in order to access the virtual world.


Hardware Requirements
You need a computer or laptop with a minimum of 512MB of RAM available and a powerful video card with a high-speed internet connection. The operating system can be Windows, Mac or Linux. See more details about system requirements, here: http://secondlife.com/corporate/sysreqs.php.


Headset
For voice chat capability, you need at least a microphone and speakers. Using a headset is the preferred option. The Logitech Premium USB Headset 350 is one example of a headset that works well with Second Life, Voice-over-IP (such as Skype), recording podcasts and online games. When using a headset you will need to indicate this in your Preferences (found under the Me menu at the top left in your viewer).


Personal Capability Requirements
These are the basic skills needed to navigate Second Life well, all of which can be performed with assistive technology if needed.

  • Typing text
  • Seeing the computer screen well enough to read text
  • Pressing and holding down keyboard one or more keys for several seconds
  • Pressing two keys on opposite sides of the keyboard
  • Moving the mouse and pressing mouse buttons
  • Moving the mouse and pressing mouse buttons

Entering Second Life
There is a short process in which you will create a Second Life user account with your avatar name and a password. Then you will choose your avatar, download and install the viewer software. Next you will log into Second Life, and when you log in for the first time, you will find yourself at the beginning of a 3D orientation course that will take you through some basic skills including those mentioned above. This orientation course is on Virtual Ability island, near the auditorium where the IDRAC conference will take place.

When you come into Second Life to attend the conference, there will be mentors and greeters available to assist with any questions and to direct you to The Sojourner Auditorium.

This page on Virtual Ability's website has more details: http://www.virtualability.org/sign-up-for-second-life/essential-second-life-skills/.

We look forward to having you with at Virtual Ability's sixth annual International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference, at The Sojourner Auditorium in Second Life, December 1-2, 2017.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

IDRAC 2017 Speaker Spotlight

The International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference is coming up on Friday and Saturday, December 1-2, 2017. Under the theme of "Who Is Responsible?" we will hear from speakers from various parts of the country and the world, sharing their observations and thoughts as we look at what the Disability Rights movement has accomplished along with identifying the work that remains to bring full equality to all people, including those with disabilities. This professional conference is free and open to the public to attend.

As we continue to receive information from our presenters we will share it here. Today, we feature two speakers who will present on Saturday morning, December 2nd. Read on to learn about them and their presentation topics, then plan to attend with us!

Presenter Spotlight: Ms. Katie Tastrom

Katie Tastrom is a disability lawyer, writer, activist, and sick person. Her work has been featured at Slate, Ravishly, and The Establishment, and she is a former content writer for The Body Is Not An Apology. She has a website at katietastrom.com, and she spends her days working to get disabled people in the US the benefits they are entitled to.

Presentation Description
Diverse identities, diverse tactics: Bringing disability activist wisdom to all political movements

Disabled-led activism has been transformational in enhancing the rights and lives of disabled people, though we have an incredibly long way to go. As people with lived experiences of disability we have skills and talents that can be helpful in furthering the rights of other marginalized people, and it is crucial that we use these skills. We have multiple identities and even though we may be oppressed in some ways due to our disabilities, we need to always think about areas we are privileged and how to leverage those privileges to create change. This presentation will talk about why and how we can do this.

Ms. Tastrom will present on Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 9:30am US Pacific Standard Time, in Second Life®.


Presenter Spotlight: Ms. Sonya Freeman-Loftis

Sonya Freeman-Loftis is an associate professor at Morehouse College. She is the author of two books: Shakespeare’s Surrogates and Imagining Autism. Her work on autism is strongly influenced by her personal experiences as an autistic, while her work on Shakespeare is inspired by her deep and abiding and unyielding and boundless passion for Shakespeare. Her essays on drama and disability have appeared in many journals, and she currently serves on the editorial review board for Disability Studies Quarterly and Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal. In 2015, chapter three of Imagining Autism received honorable mention for the Society for Disability Studies Irving K. Zola Award for “best emerging scholar in the field of disability studies.” Sonya is also a wife and mother. Her husband is not jealous when she says that Shakespeare is “the light of her life.”

Presentation Description
On Speaking and Not Speaking: Autism, Friendship, Interdependency

This collection of autobiographical fragments explores the subject of autistic voice. Juxtaposing moments when autistic communication is recognized and understood with moments in which it isn’t, this work of creative nonfiction examines ideological tensions between independence and interdependency, the potential lines (or lack of lines) separating friendship and support, and some of the inevitable problems that are created when one person speaks for another. The piece also explores the dangers that may arise when social systems and authority figures fail to recognize autistic voices.

Ms. Freeman-Loftis will present on Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 11:00am US Pacific Standard Time, in Second Life®.


Coming into Second Life® for the First Time?

If you are coming to attend the IDRAC conference and it is your first time, we encourage you to create an account and your avatar as soon as possible, to get oriented and able to arrive at the conference venue comfortably. Your account and avatar are completely free. Virtual Ability, Inc.® has created a signup process that helps you through it all, by giving you some important information, then you can sign up for your account. When you first enter Second Life, you will arrive at the start of Virtual Ability's award winning, accessible orientation course which will help you learn the basics of navigating and doing things in Second Life. To create your account and avatar, begin with Virtual Ability's Second Life signup process.

Presenters' images source: Ms. Tastrom from her blog katietastrom.com; Ms. Freeman-Loftis from her page at Morehouse College; Second Life image taken by iSkye Silverweb.

Monday, November 20, 2017

IDRAC 2017 News: Opening Speakers!

Virtual Ability, Inc.® is pleased to announce the speakers who will open each day of the 6th annual International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference coming up December 1-2, 2017. They are Mr. Louis Olander and Dr. Christopher McMaster.

Presenter Spotlight: Louis Olander

Louis Olander is a doctoral candidate in the Urban Education program at the CUNY Graduate Center, and teaches graduate and undergraduate students about inclusive education and assessment of students with dis/abilities in the Special Education department at Hunter College.

His research interests are in universal design, appreciative inquiry, and critical participatory action research. Previously, he taught special education in New York City, and now lives in Yonkers with his wife and two kids. His email address is louis.olander@gmail.com.

Presentation Description
Beyond accountability: Moving towards answerability for students with disabilities

In the United States, accountability has broadly become the dominant paradigm for accommodating the needs of individuals with disabilities and for addressing equal education. While those paradigms have been useful in the past in promoting a modicum of equality, they have often prevented any movement beyond mere compliance. Moreover, accountability movements have elevated what Danforth (2014) calls technocracy, obscuring social justice arguments for meaningful inclusion. In this presentation I will talk about my dissertation research, in which I hope to help teachers outgrow technocratic, compliance, or accountability frames through teacher inquiry that is appreciative of their existing strengths and critical of structures that sustain exclusion. In so doing, I hope to promote what Patel (2015) terms answerability, reframing questions of what exactly educators are responsible for.

References

Danforth, S. (2014). Technocracy and inclusive education in the United States. In F. Kiuppis & R. Hausstatter (Eds.), Inclusive Education Twenty Years after Salamanca. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.

Patel, L. (2015). Decolonizing Educational Research: From Ownership to Answerability. New York: Routledge.

Mr. Olander's presentation will open the conference on Friday, December 1, 2017 at 8:00am US Pacific Standard Time, in Second Life®.


Presenter Spotlight: Dr. Christopher McMaster

Dr. Christopher McMaster is a writer and educator living in New Zealand. He completed a PhD in education from the University of Canterbury based on a critical ethnography of developing inclusive culture in an Aotearoa New Zealand high school. He designed a thesis topic that incorporated two of his passions — community activism and inclusion — and builds on the experience of 15 years as a teacher and 25 years as a parent. This study was recently adapted and published as Educating all: Developing inclusive school cultures from within by Peter Lang. This presentation draws upon that research, as well as subsequent work.

Christopher received a Master of Arts from the University of London, before becoming a primary teacher in the UK. Returning to his native US he specialized in special education, earning a postgraduate diploma from the University of Alaska Southeast. Christopher was recently an Assistant Professor of Education, Special Education at Augsburg University, in Minneapolis, USA. He has since returned to his adopted home of New Zealand where he teaches in the local community, developing a model of alternative education within a mainstream high school. Christopher can be contacted at drchrismcmaster@gmail.com.

Presentation Description
Advocate or Mechanic? The Role of the Citizen Practitioner in Social Change

This talk will explore the role the professional plays in the process of social change. How responsible is the professional, in their professional capacity, to act as an agent of change? Two terms will be used, advocate and mechanic. If it is true, as Gamsci asserts, that there is no such thing as neutrality, then the professional is faced with a clear choice: accept and thus defend the status quo, or continually question and challenge that status quo in their professional role. This apparently simplistic dichotomy will be open for discussion and challenge.

The basis of this talk will be research undertaken at a mainstream high school and published as the book, Educating All: Developing Inclusive School Cultures from Within (Peter Lang). The role I assumed as researcher was that of the critical ethnographer — not there to simply observe the school culture, but to play an active role in helping to change it. Working with the most minoritized population of the school (students with so-called ‘special needs’), change happened, but only so much. I got to return to the school three years later in a different role and work with another part of the school population. I noticed that once an advocate for change was not there, the change process was affected. In Educating All, I identify five elements of inclusion. Maybe advocate was the most important? Maybe it needed someone to be responsible.

Dr. McMaster's presentation will open the second day of the conference on Saturday, December 2, 2017 at 8:00am US Pacific Standard Time, in Second Life®.

Presenters' images source: LinkedIn.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

ComingUp: IDRAC Conference 2017

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

Virtual Ability, Inc.® presents the International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC), which will take place December 1-2, 2017. This is an annual professional conference held online, that is free and open to the public. The conference will take place in Second Life® at The Sojourner Auditorium on Virtual Ability.

This year's theme is "Who Is Responsible?" This theme is broad and open to interpretation by the presenters we invited to this year's event. If past conferences are any indication, we look forward to lively discussions and information sharing among presenters and our very interested and interactive audience.

Below is an at-a-glance schedule of the presenters who will share their observations of the progress, benefits and challenges in disability rights in different parts of the world as applied to the current theme. We will provide more information about the speakers and their presentations as it becomes available. Note: All times are listed in US Pacific Standard Time.

Friday December 1

8:00am
Mr. Louis Olander, Doctoral Candidate, Urban Education, CUNY Graduate Center
9:30am
Dr. Margaret Nosek, Baylor College of Medicine
11:00am
Dr. David Wasserman, Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health
12:30pm
Dr. Margaret Nosek, Baylor College of Medicine
2:00pm
Dr. Amie O'Shea, Deakin University, Australia
3:00pm
Social/Networking After Party

Saturday December 2

8:00am
Dr. Christopher McMaster, New Zealand high school educator
9:30am
Ms Katie Tastrom, MSW, Esq., blogger and author
11:00am
Dr. Sonya Freeman-Loftis, Morehouse College
12:30pm
Dr. Carol Moeller, Moravian College
2:00pm
D. Anjali Forber-Pratt, Vanderbilt University
3:00pm
Social/Networking After Party

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Heads Up! Windows 10 Upgrade for Assistive Tech

Contributing Author: Flicka Ninetails

If you use assistive technologies, you can upgrade to Windows 10 at no cost as Microsoft continues their efforts to improve the Windows 10 experience for people who use these technologies. Please take advantage of this offer before it expires on December 31, 2017.

Microsoft is making its upgrade path extremely generous: "We are not restricting the upgrade offer to specific assistive technologies," the company says. "If you use assistive technology on Windows, you are eligible for the upgrade offer."

All you need to do is visit the assistive support page in question, assert that you use assistive technologies, and then download the upgrade tool to Windows 10.

The web URL for the assistive support page is: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility/windows10upgrade

Remember, this offer expires on December 31, 2017.

Image source: Pixabay