The 10 Best STEM Schools  

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a teacher sits with student going over paperwork together

As 2023 has arrived, you may be looking to take the next big step in your STEM education journey. While specific needs will differ from person to person, knowing which schools are the best for a STEM education can be a great start.

Here are the top STEM schools of the last year:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, most popularly referred to as MIT, is a private land-grant research university. The school is best known for its key role in the development of modern technology and science.

  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Average Tuition: $74,500 without grants, $21,100 with grants
  • Acceptance Rate: 7%
  • Graduation Rate: 94%
  • Notable Alumni: Apollo 11 Astronaut: Buzz Aldrin; Economics Nobel laureate: Esther Duflo; CEO of General Motors: Alfred P. Sloan

Georgia Institute of Technology: The Georgia Institute of Technology, commonly referred to as Georgia Tech, is a public research university and institute of technology. Their specialty is in science and technology, but they are additionally recognized as an elite institution for computer science, engineering and business.

  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia
  • Average Tuition: $30,600 without grants, $18,400 with grants
  • Acceptance Rate: 21%
  • Graduation Rate: 87%
  • Notable Alumni: President Jimmy Carter; Nobel Prize in Chemistry Winner: Kary Mullis; CEO of Earthlink: Charles “Garry” Betty

California Institute of Technology: The California Institute of Technology, also known as Caltech, is a private research university known for its specialties in science and engineering. Caltech is ranked among the best academic institutions in the world and is among the most selective in the U.S.

  • Location: Pasadena, California
  • Average Tuition: $79,900 without grants, $28,100 with grants
  • Acceptance Rate: 6%
  • Graduation Rate: 92%
  • Notable Alumni: Father of Silicon Valley: William Shockley; Co-founder of JPL: Qian Xuesen; Director of NSF: France A. Córdova

Harvey Mudd College: Harvey Mudd College is an American private college in Claremont, California focused on science and engineering. The school produces graduates who earn the highest mid-career salaries of any college or university in the country.

  • Location: Claremont, California
  • Average Tuition: $81,800 without grants, $39,300 with grants
  • Acceptance Rate: 14%
  • Graduation Rate: 92%
  • Notable Alumni: Co-inventor of SQL: Donald D. Chamberlain; Former US Ambassador to Israel: Richard H. Jones; Esports commentator and game designer: Sean “Day9” Plott

Stanford University: Stanford University is a private research university and one of the top-ranking universities in the world. Though they have many specialties, they are known for their graduate programs in law, medicine, education and business.

  • Location: Stanford, California
  • Average Tuition: $80,400 without grants, $21,100 with grants
  • Acceptance Rate: 4%
  • Graduation Rate: 94%
  • Notable Alumni: President John F. Kennedy; Astronaut Mae Jemison; Co-creator of the internet: Vint Cerf

University of California, Berkeley: A founding member of the Association of American Universities, UC Berkeley is a public land-grant research university. As one of the top universities in the country, Berkley hosts many leading research institutes dedicated to science, engineering and mathematics.

  • Location: Berkeley, California
  • Average Tuition: $42,700 without grants, $20,400 with grants
  • Acceptance Rate: 16%
  • Graduation Rate: 92%
  • Notable Alumni: Co-founder of Apple Computer: Steve Wozniak; Astronaut Leroy Chiao; Nobel laureate in Physics and former Secretary of Energy: Steven Chu

University of California, San Diego: UC San Diego is a public land-grant research university specializing in medicine and oceanography. The school is home to the region’s only academic health system, UC San Diego Health.

  • Location: La Jolla, California
  • Average Tuition: $36,300 without grants, $16,100 with grants
  • Acceptance Rate: 31%
  • Graduation Rate: 86%
  • Notable Alumni: Philanthropist and GoPro Founder: Nick Woodman; Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine: Susumu Tonegawa; Professor and Political Activist: Angela Davis

Texas A&M University-College Station: Texas A&M is a public land-grant research university and senior military college. They are home to one of the largest student bodies in the United States and hold simultaneous designations as a land, sea and space grant institution.

  • Location: College Station, Texas
  • Average Tuition: $32,300 without grants, $21,000 with grants
  • Acceptance Rate: 58%
  • Graduation Rate: 82%
  • Notable Alumni: Former US Secretary of Energy: Ricky Perry; Mechanical engineer and first woman to be chief flight director at NASA: Holly Ridings; CEO of U.S. Wal-Mart Stores: Eduardo Castro-Wright

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, or UIUC for short, is a public land-grant research university. Besides producing several Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners, UIUC is home to the second-largest university library in the country and the fastest supercomputer on a university campus. They are also home to Research Park, an innovation center for some of the biggest start-ups and corporations in the country.

  • Location: Champaign, Illinois
  • Average Tuition: $32,000 without grants, $14,300 with grants
  • Acceptance Rate: 59%
  • Graduation Rate: 84%
  • Notable Alumni: Double Nobel prize winner in Physics: John Bardeen; Paypal Creator: Max Levchin; YouTube Founders: Steve Chen and Jawed Karim

University of Michigan: The University of Michigan is a public research university consisting of nineteen colleges and degrees in 250 disciplines. They specialize in architecture and urban planning, business, medicine, law, public policy, pharmacy, social work, public health and dentistry. The school has produced over 250 high-level government officials such as senators, cabinet secretaries and governors.

  • Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Average Tuition: $32,000 without grants, $14,300 with grants
  • Acceptance Rate: 23%
  • Graduation Rate: 92%
  • Notable Alumni: Former United States Secretary of Agriculture: Julius Sterling Morton; Boeing co-founder: Edgar Nathaniel Gott; Founder of the Swarm Corporation and “Father of Artificial Life”: Chris Langton

Sources: Money.com, College Avenue Student Loans, Wikipedia

10 Women Scientists Leading the Fight Against the Climate Crisis
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Rose Mutiso speaks at TEDSummit: A Community Beyond Borders. July 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED | Flickr/TED Conference

By Tshiamo Mobe, Global Citizen

Climate change is an issue that affects everyone on the planet but women and girls are the ones suffering its effects the most. Why? Because women and girls have less access to quality education and later, job opportunities. These structural disadvantages keep them in poverty. In fact, women make up 70% of the world’s poor. In a nutshell, climate change impacts the poor the most and the poor are mostly women.

Poverty driven by and made worse by climate change also makes girls more susceptible to child marriage, because it drives hunger and girls getting married often means one less mouth to feed for their parents. Climate change also leads to geopolitical instability which, in turn, results in greater instances of violence — which we know disproportionately impacts women and girls.

Ironically, saving the planet has been made to seem a “women’s job”. This phenomenon, dubbed the “eco gender gap”, sees the burden of climate responsibility placed squarely on women’s shoulders through “green” campaigns and products that are overwhelmingly marketed to women.

There are several hypotheses for why this is. Firstly, women are the more powerful consumers (they drive 70-80% of all purchasing decisions). Secondly, they are disproportionately responsible, still, for the domestic sphere. And finally, going green is seen as a women’s job because women’s personalities are supposedly more nurturing and socially responsible.

Women should be involved in fighting the climate crisis at every level — from the kitchen to the science lab to the boardroom. Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained it best when she said: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” However, women are underrepresented in the science field (including climate science), with just 30% of research positions held by women and fewer still holding senior positions. The Reuters Hot List of 1,000 scientists features just 122 women.

Having more women climate scientists could allow for an increased emphasis on understanding and providing solutions for some of the most far-reaching implications of climate change. Diversity in background and experiences allows for different perspectives. More perspectives allow for different research questions to arise or even a different approach to the same question.

There are, however, women all over the world in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) that have made some incredible strides in the fight against the climate crisis, from fire-resistant coating to protect places prone to wildfires, to a water-storing park for a region usually overwhelmed by floods. Here are just some of the world’s incredible women scientists leading the way on tackling the climate crisis.

Click here to read the full article on Global Citizen.

The Hottest STEM Jobs of 2023
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Female architects discussing ideas for the new project

As 2022 comes to a close and the New Years’ resolutions start to flow, you may have “Pursue a New Career” as one of your 2023 goals.

The STEM field is growing now more than ever with jobs in every sector of science, technology, engineering, arts and design and mathematics. Here are the top jobs in the STEM field going into the new year:

Bioengineers and Biomedical Engineers

Bioengineers and biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems and software. They are usually responsible for designing and operating medical equipment and devices such as artificial organs, prosthetic limbs and diagnostic technology. The bioengineering field is one of the highest “in-demand” jobs currently. They are currently estimated to grow at about 10 percent, a much higher rate than average.

  • Education: Bioengineers and biomedical engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering, biomedical engineering or a related engineering field. Some positions require a graduate degree.
  • Top States of Employment: California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas
  • Average Pay: $97,410 per year

Physicists

Physicists study the interactions of matter and energy. Theoretical physicists and (including astronomers) may study the nature of time or the origin of the universe. They typically work on research teams to conduct research and experiments about the natural world, but they also work to design and create lasers, telescopes and other scientific equipment that will aid them in their research. Not only are jobs in this field in high demand, growing at about 8 percent, but are one of the highest paid jobs in the STEM field today.

  • Education: Physicists and astronomers typically need a Ph.D. for jobs in research and academia. However, physicist jobs in the federal government typically require a bachelor’s degree in physics.
  • Top States of Employment: California, Colorado, Maryland, New York and Virginia
  • Average Pay: $147,450 per year

Computer and Research Information Scientists

Computer and information research scientists design innovative uses for new and existing technology. They study and solve complex problems in computing for business, science, medicine etc. and have a profound knowledge in programming, complex algorithms and robotics. Many of their day-to-day tasks consist of research, computer work, team collaboration and experimentation. Jobs are growing at a little over four times the normal rate compared to average, with a whopping 21 percent increase.

  • Education: Computer and information research scientists typically need a master’s or higher degree in computer science or a related field, such as computer engineering. For federal government jobs, a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for certain positions.
  • Top States of Employment: California, Maryland, Texas, Virginia and Washington
  • Average Pay: $131, 490 per year

Software Developers

Software developers create the computer applications that allow users to do specific tasks and the underlying systems that run the devices or control networks. They typically work with cliental to assess the company’s current programming and computer systems and work to create systems that are more efficient and helpful to their needs. They can also be responsible for the creation, development and functionality of computer programs and systems. Software development is a rapidly growing industry with a 25 percent outlook.

  • Education: Software developers typically only need a bachelor’s degree to work in the field.
  • Top States of Employment: California, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington
  • Average Pay: $109, 020 per year

Information Security Analysts

Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. They are heavily involved with creating their organization’s disaster recovery plan, maintaining software, monitoring networks and fixing potential and confirmed program threats. They must also keep up to date on the latest news and developments surrounding the tech field. IT Analysts are one of the fastest growing fields in the STEM field at 35 percent.

  • Education: Information security analysts typically need a bachelor’s degree in a computer science field, along with related work experience. Employers may prefer to hire analysts who have professional certification.
  • Top States of Employment: Florida, Maryland, New York, Texas and Virginia
  • Average Pay: $102, 600 per year

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, NBC

Diagnosing Mental Health Disorders Through AI Facial Expression Evaluation
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Researchers from Germany have developed a method for identifying mental disorders based on facial expressions interpreted by computer vision.

By , Unite

Researchers from Germany have developed a method for identifying mental disorders based on facial expressions interpreted by computer vision.

The new approach can not only distinguish between unaffected and affected subjects, but can also correctly distinguish depression from schizophrenia, as well as the degree to which the patient is currently affected by the disease.

The researchers have provided a composite image that represents the control group for their tests (on the left in the image below) and the patients who are suffering from mental disorders (right). The identities of multiple people are blended in the representations, and neither image depicts a particular individual:

Individuals with affective disorders tend to have raised eyebrows, leaden gazes, swollen faces and hang-dog mouth expressions. To protect patient privacy, these composite images are the only ones made available in support of the new work.

Until now, facial affect recognition has been primarily used as a potential tool for basic diagnosis. The new approach, instead, offers a possible method to evaluate patient progress throughout treatment, or else (potentially, though the paper does not suggest it) in their own domestic environment for outpatient monitoring.

The paper states*:

‘Going beyond machine diagnosis of depression in affective computing, which has been developed in previous studies, we show that the measurable affective state estimated by means of computer vision contains far more information than the pure categorical classification.’

The researchers have dubbed this technique Opto Electronic Encephalography (OEG), a completely passive method of inferring mental state by facial image analysis instead of topical sensors or ray-based medical imaging technologies.

The authors conclude that OEG could potentially be not just a mere secondary aide to diagnosis and treatment, but, in the long term, a potential replacement for certain evaluative parts of the treatment pipeline, and one that could cut down on the time necessary for patient monitoring and initial diagnosis. They note:

‘Overall, the results predicted by the machine show better correlations compared to the pure clinical observer rating based questionnaires and are also objective. The relatively short measurement period of a few minutes for the computer vision approaches is also noteworthy, whereas hours are sometimes required for the clinical interviews.’

However, the authors are keen to emphasize that patient care in this field is a multi-modal pursuit, with many other indicators of patient state to be considered than just their facial expressions, and that it is too early to consider that such a system could entirely substitute traditional approaches to mental disorders. Nonetheless, they consider OEG a promising adjunct technology, particularly as a method to grade the effects of pharmaceutical treatment in a patient’s prescribed regime.

The paper is titled The Face of Affective Disorders, and comes from eight researchers across a broad range of institutions from the private and public medical research sector.

Data

(The new paper deals mostly with the various theories and methods that are currently popular in patient diagnosis of mental disorders, with less attention than is usual to the actual technologies and processes used in the tests and various experiments)

Data-gathering took place at University Hospital at Aachen, with 100 gender-balanced patients and a control group of 50 non-affected people. The patients included 35 sufferers from schizophrenia and 65 people suffering from depression.

For the patient portion of the test group, initial measurements were taken at the time of first hospitalization, and the second prior to their discharge from hospital, spanning an average interval of 12 weeks. The control group participants were recruited arbitrarily from the local population, with their own induction and ‘discharge’ mirroring that of the actual patients.

In effect, the most important ‘ground truth’ for such an experiment must be diagnoses obtained by approved and standard methods, and this was the case for the OEG trials.

However, the data-gathering stage obtained additional data more suited for machine interpretation: interviews averaging 90 minutes were captured over three phases with a Logitech c270 consumer webcam running at 25fps.

The first session comprised of a standard Hamilton interview (based on research originated around 1960), such as would normally be given on admission. In the second phase, unusually, the patients (and their counterparts in the control group) were shown videos of a series of facial expressions, and asked to mimic each of these, while stating their own estimation of their mental condition at that time, including emotional state and intensity. This phase lasted around ten minutes.

In the third and final phase, the participants were shown 96 videos of actors, lasting just over ten seconds each, apparently recounting intense emotional experiences. The participants were then asked to evaluate the emotion and intensity represented in the videos, as well as their own corresponding feelings. This phase lasted around 15 minutes.

Click here to read the full article on Unite.

Your favourite Instagram face might not be a human. How AI is taking over influencer roles
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South Korean influencer Rozy has over 130,000 followers on Instagram.

By Mint

South Korean influencer Rozy has over 130,000 followers on Instagram. She posts photos of globetrotting adventures, she sings, dances and models. The interesting fact is, unlike most popular faces on the medium, Rozy is not a real human. However, this digitally rendered being looks so real that it’s often mistaken for flesh and blood.

How Rozy was designed?
Seoul-based company that created Rozy describes her as a blended personality – part human, part AI, and part robot. She is “able to do everything that humans cannot … in the most human-like form,” Sidus Studio X says on its website.

Sidus Studio X explains sometimes they create an image of Rozy from head to toe while other times it is just a superimposed photo where they put her head onto the body of a human model.

Rozy was launched in 2020 and since then, she pegged several brand deals and sponsorships, and participated in several virtual fashion shows and also released two singles.

And a CNN report claims, that Rozy is not alone, there are several others like her. Facebook and Instagram together have more than 200 virtual influencers on their platforms

The CGI (computer-generated imagery) technology behind Rozy isn’t new. It is ubiquitous in today’s entertainment industry, where artists use it to craft realistic nonhuman characters in movies, computer games and music videos. But it has only recently been used to make influencers, the report reads.

South Korean retail brand Lotte Home Shopping created its virtual influencer — Lucy, who now has 78,000 Instagram followers.

Lee Bo-hyun, Lotte representative, said that Lucy’s image is more than a pretty face. She studied industrial design, and works in car design. She posts about her job and interests, such as her love for animals and kimbap — rice rolls wrapped in seaweed.

There is a risk attached
However, there is always a risk attached to it. Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta has acknowledged the risks.

In a blog post, it said, “Like any disruptive technology, synthetic media has the potential for both good and harm. Issues of representation, cultural appropriation and expressive liberty are already a growing concern,” the company said in a blog post.

“To help brands navigate the ethical quandaries of this emerging medium and avoid potential hazards, (Meta) is working with partners to develop an ethical framework to guide the use of (virtual influencers).”

However, even though the elder generation is quite skeptical, the younger lot is comfortable communicating with virtual influencers.

Lee Na-kyoung, a 23-year-old living in Incheon, began following Rozy about two years ago thinking she was a real person. Rozy followed her back, sometimes commenting on her posts, and a virtual friendship blossomed — one that has endured even after Lee found out the truth, CNN report said.

“We communicated like friends and I felt comfortable with her — so I don’t think of her as an AI but a real friend,” Lee said.

Click here to read the full article on Mint.

Terrence Howard Claims He Invented ‘New Hydrogen Technology’ To Defend Uganda
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Terrence Howard on the red carpet for

By BET

Former Empire actor and red carpet scientist Terrence Howard is currently visiting Uganda as part of a government effort to draw investors from the African diaspora to the nation. He is claiming he has what it needs to change the world.

According to Vice, Howard made a lofty presentation on Wednesday, July 13, addressing officials and claiming to have developed a “new hydrogen technology.”

Famously, Howard argued in Rolling Stone that one times one equals two, and now he says his new system, The Lynchpin, would be able to clean the ocean and defend Uganda from exploitation via cutting-edge drone technology. The proprietary technology he announced in a 2021 press release is said to hold 86 patents.

“I was able to identify the grand unified field equation they’ve been looking for and put it into geometry,” he shared in front of an audience of Ugandan dignitaries. “We’re talking about unlimited bonding, unlimited predictable structures, supersymmetry.”

“The Lynchpins are now able to behave as a swarm, as a colony, that can defend a nation, that can harvest food, that can remove plastics from the ocean, that can give the children of Uganda and the people of Uganda an opportunity to spread this and sell these products throughout the world,” he added.

Howard, who briefly quit acting in 2019 only to come out of retirement in 2020, has seemingly made rewriting history a personal side hustle. According to Vice, he made nebulous claims that rapidly went viral on social media, saying, “I’ve made some discoveries in my own personal life with the science that, y’know, Pythagoras was searching for. I was able to open up the flower of life properly and find the real wave conjugations we’ve been looking for 10,000 years.”

While his latest claims have yet to be clarified, Howard was invited to speak by Frank Tumwebaze, the minister of agriculture, animal industries, and fishery.

Click here to read the full article on BET.

A 76 million-year-old dinosaur skeleton will be auctioned in New York City
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A 76 million-year-old gorgosaurus dinosaur skeleton

By NPR

The fossilized skeleton of a T. rex relative that roamed the earth about 76 million years ago will be auctioned in New York this month, Sotheby’s announced Tuesday.

The Gorgosaurus skeleton will highlight Sotheby’s natural history auction on July 28, the auction house said.

The Gorgosaurus was an apex carnivore that lived in what is now the western United States and Canada during the late Cretaceous Period. It predated its relative the Tyrannosaurus rex by 10 million years.

The specimen being sold was discovered in 2018 in the Judith River Formation near Havre, Montana, Sotheby’s said. It measures nearly 10 feet (3 meters) tall and 22 (6.7 meters) feet long.

All of the other known Gorgosaurus skeletons are in museum collections, making this one the only specimen available for private ownership, the auction house said.

“In my career, I have had the privilege of handling and selling many exceptional and unique objects, but few have the capacity to inspire wonder and capture imaginations quite like this unbelievable Gorgosaurus skeleton,” Cassandra Hatton, Sotheby’s global head of science and popular culture, said.

Sotheby’s presale estimate for the fossil is $5 million to $8 million.

A Gorgosaurus dinosaur skeleton is displayed at Sotheby’s New York on Tuesday.

Click here to read the full article on NPR.

At 17, she was her family’s breadwinner on a McDonald’s salary. Now she’s gone into space
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Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced he'll be on board a spaceflight next month, in a capsule attached to a rocket made by his space exploration company Blue Origin. Bezos is seen here in 2019.

By Jackie Wattles, CNN

A rocket built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin carried its fifth group of passengers to the edge of space, including the first-ever Mexican-born woman to make such a journey.

The 60-foot-tall suborbital rocket took off from Blue Origin’s facilities in West Texas at 9:26am ET, vaulting a group of six people to more than 62 miles above the Earth’s surface — which is widely deemed to make the boundary of outer space — and giving them a few minutes of weightlessness before parachuting to landing.

Most of the passengers paid an undisclosed sum for their seats. But Katya Echazarreta, an engineer and science communicator from Guadalajara, Mexico, was selected by a nonprofit called Space for Humanity to join this mission from a pool of thousands of applicants. The organization’s goal is to send “exceptional leaders” to space and allow them to experience the overview effect, a phenomenon frequently reported by astronauts who say that viewing the Earth from space give them a profound shift in perspective.

Echazarreta told CNN Business that she experienced that overview effect “in my own way.”

“Looking down and seeing how everyone is down there, all of our past, all of our mistakes, all of our obstacles, everything — everything is there,” she said. “And the only thing I could think of when I came back down was that I need people to see this. I need Latinas to see this. And I think that it just completely reinforced my mission to continue getting primarily women and people of color up to space and doing whatever it is they want to do.”

Echazarreta is the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space and the second Mexican after Rodolfo Neri Vela, a scientist who joined one of NASA’s Space Shuttle missions in 1985.

She moved to the United States with her family at the age of seven, and she recalls being overwhelmed in a new place where she didn’t speak the language, and a teacher warned her she might have to be held back.
“It just really fueled me and I think ever since then, ever since the third grade, I kind of just went off and have not stopped,” Echazarreta recalled in an Instagram interview.

When she was 17 and 18, Echazarreta said she was also the main breadwinner for her family on a McDonald’s salary.

“I had sometimes up to four [jobs] at the same time, just to try to get through college because it was really important for me,” she said.
These days, Echazarreta is working on her master’s degree in engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at NASA’s famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. She also boasts a following of more than 330,000 users on TikTok, hosts a science-focused YouTube series and is a presenter on the weekend CBS show “Mission Unstoppable.”

Space for Humanity — which was founded in 2017 by Dylan Taylor, a space investor who recently joined a Blue Origin flight himself — chose her for her impressive contributions. “We were looking for some like people who were leaders in their communities, who have a sphere of influence; people who are doing really great work in the world already, and people who are passionate about whatever that is,” Rachel Lyons, the nonprofit’s executive director, told CNN Business.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Disabled people are ‘invisible by exclusion’ in politics, says Assemblymember running to be the first openly autistic member of Congress
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Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou

By , Business Insider

The halls of Congress have yet to see an openly autistic legislator, but New York Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou could change that.

Niou, who was diagnosed with autism at 22, said she was “surprised” to learn she could be the first openly autistic Congressmember but also said it showed a lack of representation of disabled communities in policy making.

“I think we hear a lot of the first and only sometimes,” Niou told Insider. “While it’s an amazing thing, I think that what’s more important is that there are people understanding that it’s also a really lonely thing. And I think that it really is important to have representation because you need that lens to talk about everything in policy.”

Niou, a progressive Democrat and Taiwanese immigrant who represents New York’s 65th district, announced her run for Congress this year in a high-profile race against Bill de Blasio and Rep. Mondaire Jones.

Niou’s diagnosis became well known after Refinery 29 published an article discussing it in 2020. After parents and kids reached out to her relating to her, she became aware of how talking openly about her autism helped to “drive away stigma.”

Among full-time politicians, disabled Americans are underrepresented. People with disabilities make up 6.3% of federal politicians, compared to 15.7% of all adults in America who are disabled, research from Rutgers shows.

“People with disabilities cannot achieve equality unless they are part of government decision-making,” said Lisa Schur in the 2019 Rutgers report.

The number of disabled Americans may have increased in the past two years. Estimates show that 1.2 million more people may have become disabled as a result of COVID-19.

Niou also said that she knows what it feels like to be shut out of the government process. In 2016, Niou became the first Asian to serve as Assemblymember in her district, a large Asian district that includes New York’s Chinatown.

Disabled people have been “invisible by exclusion from the policy-making process,” Niou said. Her disability status helps her bring perspective to a host of laws from transportation to housing, and she wants to make sure that neurodivergent people have more of a say in the legislative process.

“We’re not considering all the different diverse perspectives, especially when you’re talking about neurodivergent [issues] or when we’re talking about disability issues,” Niou said.

Disabled people are more likely to be incarcerated, are at a higher risk of homelessness, and more likely to face impoverishment.

Click here to read the full article on Business Insider.

Disability Inclusion Is Coming Soon to the Metaverse
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Disabled avatars from the metaverse in a wheelchair

By Christopher Reardon, PC Mag

When you think of futurism, you probably don’t think of the payroll company ADP—but that’s where Giselle Mota works as the company’s principal consultant on the “future of work.” Mota, who has given a Ted Talk(Opens in a new window) and has written(Opens in a new window) for Forbes, is committed to bringing more inclusion and access to the Web3 and metaverse spaces. She’s also been working on a side project called Unhidden, which will provide disabled people with accurate avatars, so they’ll have the option to remain themselves in the metaverse and across Web3.

To See and Be Seen
The goal of Unhidden is to encourage tech companies to be more inclusive, particularly of people with disabilities. The project has launched and already has a partnership with the Wanderland(Opens in a new window) app, which will feature Unhidden avatars through its mixed-reality(Opens in a new window) platform at the VivaTech Conference in Paris and the DisabilityIN Conference in Dallas. The first 12 avatars will come out this summer with Mota, Dr. Tiffany Jana, Brandon Farstein, Tiffany Yu, and other global figures representing disability inclusion.

The above array of individuals is known as the NFTY Collective(Opens in a new window). Its members hail from countries including America, the UK, and Australia, and the collective represents a spectrum of disabilities, ranging from the invisible type, such as bipolar and other forms of neurodiversity, to the more visible, including hypoplasia and dwarfism.

Hypoplasia causes the underdevelopment of an organ or tissue. For Isaac Harvey, the disease manifested by leaving him with no arms and short legs. Harvey uses a wheelchair and is the president of Wheels for Wheelchairs, along with being a video editor. He got involved with Unhidden after being approached by its co-creator along with Mota, Victoria Jenkins, who is an inclusive fashion designer.

Click here to read the full article on PC Mag.

For people with disabilities, AI can only go so far to make the web more accessible
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AI technology

By Kate Kaye, Protocol

“It’s a lot to listen to a robot all day long,” said Tina Pinedo, communications director at Disability Rights Oregon, a group that works to promote and defend the rights of people with disabilities.

But listening to a machine is exactly what many people with visual impairments do while using screen reading tools to accomplish everyday online tasks such as paying bills or ordering groceries from an ecommerce site.

“There are not enough web developers or people who actually take the time to listen to what their website sounds like to a blind person. It’s auditorily exhausting,” said Pinedo.

Whether struggling to comprehend a screen reader barking out dynamic updates to a website, trying to make sense of poorly written video captions or watching out for fast-moving imagery that could induce a seizure, the everyday obstacles blocking people with disabilities from a satisfying digital experience are immense.

Needless to say, technology companies have tried to step in, often promising more than they deliver to users and businesses hoping that automated tools can break down barriers to accessibility. Although automated tech used to check website designs for accessibility flaws have been around for some time, companies such as Evinced claim that sophisticated AI not only does a better job of automatically finding and helping correct accessibility problems, but can do it for large enterprises that need to manage thousands of website pages and app content.

Still, people with disabilities and those who regularly test for web accessibility problems say automated systems and AI can only go so far. “The big danger is thinking that some type of automation can replace a real person going through your website, and basically denying people of their experience on your website, and that’s a big problem,” Pinedo said.

Why Capital One is betting on accessibility AI
For a global corporation such as Capital One, relying on a manual process to catch accessibility issues is a losing battle.

“We test our entire digital footprint every month. That’s heavily reliant on automation as we’re testing almost 20,000 webpages,” said Mark Penicook, director of Accessibility at the banking and credit card company, whose digital accessibility team is responsible for all digital experiences across Capital One including websites, mobile apps and electronic messaging in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada.

Accessibility isn’t taught in computer science.
Even though Capital One has a team of people dedicated to the effort, Penicook said he has had to work to raise awareness about digital accessibility among the company’s web developers. “Accessibility isn’t taught in computer science,” Penicook told Protocol. “One of the first things that we do is start teaching them about accessibility.”

One way the company does that is by celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day each year, Penicook said. Held on Thursday, the annual worldwide event is intended to educate people about digital access and inclusion for those with disabilities and impairments.

Before Capital One gave Evinced’s software a try around 2018, its accessibility evaluations for new software releases or features relied on manual review and other tools. Using Evinced’s software, Penicook said the financial services company’s accessibility testing takes hours rather than weeks, and Capital One’s engineers and developers use the system throughout their internal software development testing process.

It was enough to convince Capital One to invest in Evinced through its venture arm, Capital One Ventures. Microsoft’s venture group, M12, also joined a $17 million funding round for Evinced last year.

Evinced’s software automatically scans webpages and other content, and then applies computer vision and visual analysis AI to detect problems. The software might discover a lack of contrast between font and background colors that make it difficult for people with vision impairments like color blindness to read. The system might find images that do not have alt text, the metadata that screen readers use to explain what’s in a photo or illustration. Rather than pointing out individual problems, the software uses machine learning to find patterns that indicate when the same type of problem is happening in several places and suggests a way to correct it.

“It automatically tells you, instead of a thousand issues, it’s actually one issue,” said Navin Thadani, co-founder and CEO of Evinced.

The software also takes context into account, factoring in the purpose of a site feature or considering the various operating systems or screen-reader technologies that people might use when visiting a webpage or other content. For instance, it identifies user design features that might be most accessible for a specific purpose, such as a button to enable a bill payment transaction rather than a link.

Some companies use tools typically referred to as “overlays” to check for accessibility problems. Many of those systems are web plug-ins that add a layer of automation on top of existing sites to enable modifications tailored to peoples’ specific requirements. One product that uses computer vision and machine learning, accessiBe, allows people with epilepsy to choose an option that automatically stops all animated images and videos on a site before they could pose a risk of seizure. The company raised $28 million in venture capital funding last year.

Another widget from TruAbilities offers an option that limits distracting page elements to allow people with neurodevelopmental disorders to focus on the most important components of a webpage.

Some overlay tools have been heavily criticized for adding new annoyances to the web experience and providing surface-level responses to problems that deserve more robust solutions. Some overlay tech providers have “pretty brazen guarantees,” said Chase Aucoin, chief architect at TPGi, a company that provides accessibility automation tools and consultation services to customers, including software development monitoring and product design assessments for web development teams.

“[Overlays] give a false sense of security from a risk perspective to the end user,” said Aucoin, who himself experiences motor impairment. “It’s just trying to slap a bunch of paint on top of the problem.”

In general, complicated site designs or interfaces that automatically hop to a new page section or open a new window can create a chaotic experience for people using screen readers, Aucoin said. “A big thing now is just cognitive; how hard is this thing for somebody to understand what’s going on?” he said.

Even more sophisticated AI-based accessibility technologies don’t address every disability issue. For instance, people with an array of disabilities either need or prefer to view videos with captions, rather than having sound enabled. However, although automated captions for videos have improved over the years, “captions that are computer-generated without human review can be really terrible,” said Karawynn Long, an autistic writer with central auditory processing disorder and hyperlexia, a hyperfocus on written language.

“I always appreciate when written transcripts are included as an option, but auto-generated ones fall woefully short, especially because they don’t include good indications of non-linguistic elements of the media,” Long said.

Click here to read the full article on Protocol.

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