In February, the annual African American Conference on Disabilities (AACD) was virtual, free, and lasted throughout February. Britney Wilson, a graduate of Howard University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a Black woman born with Cerebral Palsy, gave the opening speech. She discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates why disability, and especially at the intersection of race and disability, has always been and always will be a social justice issue that deserves more public attention. The hashtag #BlackDisabledHistoryMonth trended on Twitter as advocates and civil rights organizations, such as the NAACP, celebrated the amazing work that Black Americans with disabilities have contributed to American culture and society. The hashtag produced stories of many famous Black Americans with invisible disabilities and visible disabilities alike. To highlight a few of the mentioned individuals, Halle Berry, an actress with 80% hearing loss in one ear; Harry Belafonte, actor, and civil rights activist, has dyslexia; and Amanda Gorman, the young poet laureate who spoke at Biden’s inauguration, has an audio processing disorder. These few stories highlight the need to continue to honor, acknowledge, and bring awareness to the amazing contributions that Black Americans with disabilities have added to society.
In regulatory news, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved several regulations aimed at connectivity and equipment access expansion. These included a subsidy for low-income households for broadband services and digital devices via the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, the renewal of the National Deaf-Blind equipment distribution program, and increased 2.5 GHz band licenses for rural Tribal communities. This month, the FCC also acknowledged the 25th Anniversary of the Telecom Act with a commemorative video, press release statement, and Twitter chat that can be viewed with the hashtag #TelecomActChat.
The Wireless RERC is currently seeking research participants with sensory disabilities from the Metro Atlanta area to participate in a study investigating the accessibility of emergency alerting signals. Also, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology seek people with disabilities and people without disabilities who work in nontraditional jobs to help improve the reliability of a new survey: The Contingent Employment Participation Survey (CEPS). If you are interested in participating in either of these studies, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This issue also includes news about accessible COVID-19 testing, home automation, hands-free interfaces, artificial intelligence, mental health, language development, and more.