Dots and Dashes 5/3/19

“Dots and Dashes” is a short newsletter featuring a variety of topics and ACB stories. This issue features LEGO’s new braille bricks, Raleigh and Smart Cities for All partnership, the U.S. Attorney’s Office settling disability discrimination allegations relating to the CPA exam, and advocacy updates.


LEGO Releases Braille Bricks

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LEGO has unveiled a new project aimed at helping blind and visually impaired children learn braille in a "playful and engaging way." LEGO Braille Bricks, a concept originally proposed to the toy company by two charities, will allow children to learn the touch writing system through play.

The bricks, which will launch fully in 2020, feature the studs used for characters in the braille alphabet, as well as printed characters allowing sighted people to read the bricks. They will be "fully compatible" with existing LEGO bricks, the company said in a press release.

The Danish Association of the Blind suggested the concept to the LEGO Foundation in 2011, while the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind, based in Brazil, proposed the bricks in 2017.

A spokesperson for LEGO told CNN that the company had gone on to develop prototypes with both organizations, as well as the British charities Leonard Cheshire and Royal National Institute of Blind People, and the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted.

The final set will comprise approximately 250 bricks, covering the complete braille alphabet, numbers from zero to nine, math symbols, as well as "inspiration for teaching and interactive games." Braille Bricks are currently undergoing testing in schools in Portuguese, Danish, English and Norwegian. Spanish, French and German versions will be tested later this year. They will ultimately be distributed free of charge to institutions through the partner organizations.


Raleigh and Smart Cities for All Partner to Explore Power of Technology and Inclusion

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Raleigh, a city committed to being both smarter and more inclusive is piloting Smart City Digital Inclusion assessment tool created by G3ict and World Enabled with Microsoft’s support.

This week, the Smart Cities for All global initiative, a collaboration of G3ict and World Enabled, two nonprofits with a history of leadership in inclusive, accessible design, has convened in Raleigh a team of global smart technology and inclusion experts to track the city’s progress and measure commitment to digital inclusion.

The Smart City Digital Inclusion Maturity Model tool helps cities evaluate the current state of ICT accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities in city digital and smart services. Focused on a broad range of functions important to all cities, such as communications, procurement, training, and technology standards, it defines key performance indicators and metrics to support advancing accessibility and digital inclusion in a smart city context.

James Thurston, G3ict Vice President and Smart Cities for All Managing Director praised Raleigh’s commitment to using technology to benefit all people in the city, including persons with disabilities. In October 2018, Raleigh released its first ever Smart City strategy. That strategy defined five strategic priorities and an organizational plan to pursue them. The city, led by Chief Information Officer (CIO) D. Darnell Smith, conducted a comprehensive assessment to develop the strategy, including a benchmark survey of more than 200 city employees and multiple community and partner meetings. This week’s pilot assessment with Smart Cities for All will lead to a roadmap to complement to Raleigh’s Smart City strategy.

During this week’s pilot of the Smart Cities for All Digital Inclusion Maturity Model, the expert team convened by G3ict and its partners is meeting with 19 city departments to understand how effectively the city coordinates its digital inclusion and smart city efforts to create inclusive experiences for everyone. The result of the pilot will be an assessment of Raleigh’s progress on digital inclusion and a roadmap for making more progress.


U.S. Attorney’s Office Settles Disability Discrimination Allegations Related to the CPA Exam

BOSTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office has reached an agreement with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) related to testing accommodations for individuals who are blind or have low vision who take the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Exam (the CPA exam).  This agreement resolves allegations of discrimination on the basis of disability under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“People who have vision-related disabilities deserve equal opportunities to take the CPA exam and gain licensure to the profession,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “We are pleased that AICPA and NASBA worked cooperatively to adopt measures that will ensure these individuals receive appropriate auxiliary aids so that their CPA exam results accurately reflect their aptitude rather than reflecting their impaired visual skills.”

In order to become a licensed CPA, one must pass the CPA exam, which consists of four separate sections, available only on a computer. When the United States began its investigation in August 2017, there was no auxiliary aid software available to exam-takers with low vision that would allow them to both magnify the computer screen and have the computer read aloud sections of the text. Instead, those exam-takers had to use alternative auxiliary aids, and sometimes a human reader, for some portions of the exam, rather than the screen reader/magnifier they requested that was recommended by their qualified professional health care provider as appropriate for their disability. AICPA now makes screen reader/magnifier software available to exam-takers with low vision for all four sections of the exam and has made the text of the Authoritative Literature (resource materials for use during the exam) accessible through a screen reader. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, AICPA is continuing to work with advocacy organizations and auxiliary aid software developers to ensure ongoing accessibility of the exam to individuals with vision-related disabilities. 

Additionally, the AICPA will pay $15,000 to an individual who was a subject of the alleged discrimination. The United States will also identify other aggrieved persons who are blind or have low vision and recently took the CPA exam with an inappropriate auxiliary aid. Each additional aggrieved person shall receive up to $10,000 from AICPA, based on the details and extent of discrimination they suffered. Individuals who believe they are aggrieved persons under the terms of the agreement should contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office at (617) 275-8756.


Advocacy Updates

On the April 19th ACB Advocacy Update, Claire Stanley and Clark Rachfal interview Carol Tyson, an advocate from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. The three discuss numerous advocacy issues surrounding transportation and the work many different advocacy organizations are doing to fight for greater access to transportation. Listen to this episode via your favorite podcast player or online at: