Toyota announced five finalists for its Mobility Unlimited Challenge at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas yesterday. Launched in 2017, the Mobility Unlimited Challenge is a contest that invites engineers, inventors, and designers from around the world to rethink the conventional wheelchair and develop a new way for people with lower-limb paralysis to get around. Each of the finalists will receive a grant of $500,000 to develop their concept further, with the final winner receiving $1 million in Tokyo in 2020.
Beginning in January 2019, airline passengers can search the U.S. Department of Transportation website to determine an airlines’ track record of handling wheelchairs and other mobility devices. A new law sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., requires air carriers to be more transparent, obliging them to provide monthly reports that are publicly accessible and which detail the number of wheelchairs, checked bags, and motorized scooters lost, broke, or mishandled during flights.
The law was actually passed two years ago, but the Department of Transportation delayed its implementation until Duckworth–a veteran and wheelchair user herself–urged U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to force airlines to make the data — which they already collect each month — available to the public.
The death this week of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was mourned by millions of fans around the world. His passing also prompted several important conversations about how his disabilities should be discussed in the media, especially in the context of his remarkable professional achievements.
Several disability advocates on Twitter, such as Alice Wong, recommended writers “avoid subjective language” such as “suffered from ALS” and focus on Hawking’s scientific contributions without turning them into “inspiration porn.” Andrew Gurza, a self-described “Professional Queer Cripple” and creator of the podcast “Disability After Dark” wrote an opinion essay for Men’s Health explaining why wheelchair use shouldn’t be described as “confining” or something Hawking was “freed from.”
In an article for the Los Angeles Times, science reporter Jessica Roy quotes several disability experts who agreed Hawking’s advocacy for disability awareness should be more visible. In an interview on Wisconsin Public Radio Lawrence Carter-Long emphasized that Hawking didn’t “overcome his disability to achieve the things he did,” but instead he accomplished them “while he was disabled.”
A new lawsuit filed in court in New York City claims that commuting while using a wheelchair in the city is made nearly impossible, with only around a quarter of wheelchair-accessible stations. Read more
The New York Times’ travel section interviews the authors of a new book on traveling with a disability. Read more
A lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago is demanding more wheelchair-accessible vehicles from the ride-sharing service Uber. Read more
The Department of Transportation is considering sweeping rules to make airlines more accessible for travelers with disabilities. Read more
The National Council on Disability recently released a report on the ways self-driving cars may impact people with disabilities. The report urges lawmakers to consider prioritizing accessibility in legislation governing the new vehicles. Read more
Wheeliz may be the Uber-like startup disabled advocates have been asking for. The new company aims to help people in need of accessible transportation. Read more
A Detroit Metropolitan Airport spokesman defends a decision to move the Michigan Flyer AirRide and SMART bus stops to the Ground Transportation Center, which seniors, wheelchair users and others complain is less convenient. Michigan Flyer officials complain that a plan to move its stop at the McNamara Terminal, which serves Delta and Air France fliers, has several disadvantages. Read more