Virtual Ability, Inc.® presents the 9th Annual International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference (IDRAC), October 10, 2020.

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 Island.

The conference will also be Live Streamed on YouTube.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disability Act, our theme this year is “Where have we been? Where are we headed? How should we get there?”   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 Time.

IDRAC 2020 Schedule of Events

All times are in SLT/PDT.
Saturday, October 10
TimeNameInstitutionTitlePresentation Summary
7:00 AM Manohar SwaminathanMicrosoft Research IndiaLudic Design for AccessibilityTechnology solutions for accessibility have long been created using a narrow utilitarian lens, especially in the global south due to multi-dimensional challenges and resource constraints. We propose an alternate design methodology called the Ludic Design for Accessibility (LDA) that puts play and playfulness at the center of all assistive technology design and use. We present some current efforts in the use of AR and VR technologies as arenas of play while imparting skills and abilities to children who are blind. We briefly touch upon the challenges of accessibility faced by the huge population of people with vision impairments in India.
(Disclaimer: This talk is on the research work being done at MSR India by the speaker and not about accessibility products of Microsoft, though there are many.)
8:30 AM Amelia FiskeTechnical University of MunichExploring Ethical and Social Implications of Embodied AIResearch in embodied artificial intelligence (AI) has increasing clinical relevance for therapeutic applications in mental health services. With innovations ranging from ‘virtual psychotherapists’ to social robots in dementia care and autism disorder, artificially intelligent virtual and robotic agents are increasingly taking on high-level therapeutic interventions that used to be offered exclusively by highly trained, skilled health professionals. This talk explores the ethical and social implications of embodied AI for mental health care, and argues that further research is needed to address these broader concerns in order to negotiate best research and medical practices in innovative mental health care. The talk concludes by indicating areas of future research and developing recommendations for high-priority areas in need of concrete ethical guidance.
9:15 AMMargaret NosekBaylor College of MedicineMemories of July 26, 1990Dr. Nosek has worked closely with Justin Dart and others in the independent living movement. She was present at the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on the White House Lawn thirty years ago. She will share her memories of that historic event.
10:00 AMBarry WhaleySoutheast ADA CenterWho are the Heroes? A History of the Disability Rights MovementIn celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, this presentation traces where we have come from in the struggle for equality and full participation. Many do not know the histories of the heroes that came before us who, through their courage and conviction, fought for equality and laid the foundation of the four "pillars" of the ADA; full participation, independent living, equality of opportunity, and economic self-sufficiency. The disability rights movement has been one of constant struggle for basic human dignity. The ADA was the emancipation proclamation for people with disabilities. While the ADA can ensure facility access, effective communication and legal protections, It is only by our continued struggle and the leadership of a new generation that we will ensure the achievement of full equality.
11:30 AMDavid LarsonHamline School of Law, Dispute Resolution Institute
1:00 PM Krista WatsonEqual Employment Opportunity Commission
2:30 PMRhoda OlkinAlliant International University Women with Disabilities: Experiences of MicroaggressionsOnly two previous studies have examined the experiences of microaggressions against people with disabilities. We conducted the third study, focusing on women with disabilities, collecting data on a survey and in focus groups. Results indicate a high level of both frequency and bothersomeness. We confirmed previous themes and added two that may be more pertinent to women than men with disabilities.

IDRAC 2020 Speaker Biographies

Biographies are listed in order of scheduled presentation.
Manohar SwaminathanDr. Manohar Swaminathan is a Principal researcher at Microsoft Research India, where he is part of the Technologies for Emerging Markets group. Manohar is an academic-turned technology entrepreneur-turned researcher with a driving passion to build and deploy technology for positive social impact. He has a PhD in CS from Brown University, was a Professor at the Indian Institute of Science, and has co-founded, managed, advised, and angel-funded several technology startups in India.
Manohar has guided over 40 graduate students and has more than 50 refereed publications. His research interests as a professor spanned graphics, virtual reality (taught a graduate course in VR in 1995), and internet technologies. These inform his current research focus, ludic design for accessibility, which puts play and playfulness central to all technology solutions for accessibility, especially in the global south. The current applications include enabling gamers without sight to play mainstream video games, computational thinking for children who are blind, and gaze-tracked interfaces for children with sensory motor impairments.
Amelia Fiske Dr. Amelia Fiske holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology, with a specialization in Medical Anthropology, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She situates her research at the intersection of anthropology, feminist science and technology studies, and medical ethics, crosscut by an interest in non-traditional and decolonial approaches to knowledge production. She is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for History and Ethics in Medicine at the Technical University of Munich.
Margaret Nosek Dr. Margaret (Peg) Nosek 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). She is the Executive Director of the Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD). Dr. Nosek’s main research interest is on improving the health of women with physical disabilities, especially developing interventions to address 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.
Dr. Nosek lives with spinal muscular atrophy, a severe congenital physical disability, and is a disability rights activist. She has been honored as a “Disability Patriot” by the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
Barry WhaleyBarry Whaley works at the Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University. He is the Project Director of the Southeast ADA Center. Barry has over thirty-eight years of experience in providing employment services for people with disabilities. He has over 39 years in the field of disability civil rights and employment. Barry is an alumna of Indiana University and holds a Master of Science in Mediation, Arbitration, and Conflict Management from Sullivan University.
David Larson
Krista Watson
Rhoda OlkinDr. Rhoda Olkin is a Distinguished Professor at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University in San Francisco, and the author of What psychotherapists should know about disability (1999), Disability-Affirmative Therapy (2017), and Teaching Disability (in press). As a person with polio since age one, she has considered disability from many perspectives: as a child, partner, and parent. Her particular interest is in the intersectionality of disability and gender, sexual orientation, and race/ethnicity.