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Panel discusses global disability rights

March 28, 2014

For U.S. citizens familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it may be hard to believe that residents and visitors with disabilities outside of U.S. borders are not always guaranteed protection from discrimination or the right to accessibility accommodations. But the protections afforded by the ADA are not recognized in other countries, and many nations don’t have equivalent laws in place.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a document known as the “Disabilities Treaty” and adopted by the international community, was developed in collaboration with the disability community to address this disparity. The Disabilities Treaty is a call to action for all participating countries to protect the rights of people with disabilities on an equal basis with others. To date, over 140 countries have joined the Disabilities Treaty, and the Obama administration is pursuing congressional ratification of the treaty. Disabilities Treaty panelists Download Full Image

Judith Heumann, U.S. Department of State Special Advisor for International Disability Rights and recognized leader in the disability community, visited Arizona State University last week and spoke about the value of the treaty during a panel discussion on Monday evening. The panel, titled "The Global Landscape of Disability Rights," was held at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and was co-sponsored by the Center for Law and Global Affairs and ASU Global. Charles Herf, faculty associate at the College of Law and lawyer representative to the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit, moderated the discussion.

“We are honored to have Judy visit Arizona to talk about the importance of the international Disabilities Treaty, which the U.S. has not ratified, and for her to learn more about ASU’s innovative disability rights initiatives and global programs,” said Daniel Rothberg, Lincoln Fellow in the School of Politics and Global Studies and representative of ASU Global.

Heumann was joined on the panel by Amina Donna Kruck, vice president of advocacy programs, Arizona Bridge to Independent Living; Joanne Philips, owner of Arizona Education Cadre and former deputy associate superintendent at the Arizona Department of Education; and Ed Myers, deputy executive director, Arizona Center for Disability Law. Each panelist emphasized the importance of U.S. ratification of the Disabilities Treaty.

The panel discussed the potential for the treaty to protect citizens and benefit American businesses. For example, it would ensure protection of U.S. veterans with disabilities who work overseas for the government or U.S. companies.

No new legislation or commitments would result from U.S. ratification of the treaty. However, Heumann noted that by not ratifying, the U.S. risks being left out of conversations about global protection of people living with disabilities.

“The Conventions (included in the Disabilities Treaty) are great restatements of American principles,” noted Myers.

In a recent State Department video message, Heumann spoke of the impact of the treaty on university students.

“More students with disabilities are attending universities than in years past, and have the same career aspirations as students without disabilities. You want to study, work, travel and serve your country abroad. But many countries don’t have the same accessibility standards or protections against discrimination as we do in the United States,” she said.

On Monday, Heumann emphasized the significance of bringing the conversation to universities and to ASU in particular. She said that she has learned valuable lessons during her visit to ASU about the ways universities can build successful global partnerships and serve as models of accessibility to the international community. In particular, she noted ASU’s Higher Engineering Education Alliance Program in Vietnam as an avenue for showcasing the disability resources that are part of the university.

“We are excited to be part of this important discussion,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, senior vice president of ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. “ASU is an exemplar of inclusivity in higher education, being named one of America’s ‘most disability-friendly colleges.’ In addition, our faculty and students advance research and innovate new technologies that empower people with disabilities.”

Written by Kelsey Wharton, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

Media contact:

Amelia Huggins,
Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

(480) 965-1754

ASU News

ASU mathematician earns prestigious NSF CAREER Award

March 31, 2014

Ming-Hung (Jason) Kao, assistant professor of statistics at ASU’s School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, has won a coveted CAREER Award, given by the National Science Foundation to young academics expected to make significant impact in their chosen fields.

The $400,000 CAREER Award will support Kao's research in an increasingly important area: he is designing functional brain imaging experiments that are crucially important for understanding the inner workings of the brain. portrait of ASU assistant professor Ming-Hung (Jason) Kao Download Full Image

Kao’s focus is developing novel statistical methods for the design of functional brain imaging experiments that utilize pioneering neuroimaging technologies, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG) and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Research results to guide the selection of designs best suited to these experiments are very lacking. Often times, the researcher selects an experimental design without knowing its performance. This results in a poorly designed experiment and makes it difficult, if not impossible, to render a precise statistical inference for providing a valid answer to the research question of interest.

“One of my research goals is to steer experiments away from wasting time and money on such poorly designed experiments,” says Kao. “I would like to derive insightful analytical results to provide useful guidelines for evaluating and selecting experimental designs for functional neuroimaging studies.

“I would also like to develop efficient computational approaches to provide powerful tools for obtaining highly effective experimental designs.”

Kao’s research will not only contribute to statistical research, but also be of practical importance. The results will help researchers to conduct well-designed neuroimaging experiments to collect high-quality data for making precise statistical inference. This will further lead to a better understanding of the brain and some brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury.

“One of the key contributions of statistical and computational modeling is that it guides scientists to perform the ‘right experiments’ instead of randomly trying approaches that lead down blind alleys,” says Al Boggess, director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. “Dr. Kao’s scientific contributions provide this insight, and I am very pleased that his accomplishments and potential have been recognized by the National Science Foundation through this prestigious award.”

A graduate of National Central University in Taiwan, Kao earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics and his master’s degree in statistics. He earned his doctorate in statistics from the University of Georgia. He joined the faculty at Arizona State University in 2009.

“I want to thank University of Georgia professors John Stufken, Abhyuday Mandal and Nichole Lazar, who introduced me to this exciting research area and guided me to build the skills and strength to make further contributions,” said Kao.

“I have been fortunate enough to join Arizona State University, which provides an inspiring academic environment to help young scholars to grow stronger. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences seed funding is one of the important factors that made this possible. I also am grateful for (school director) Al Boggess' support and encouragement.”

Kao’s grant not only helps fund his research project, but also allows him to develop a new program for undergraduate students. NSF CAREER Awards have a built-in educational component that provides support for researchers’ efforts to engage and build new generations of scientists.

“We will be developing new courses in design of experiments and statistical methods for biomedical studies,” Kao explains. “We want to broaden students’ knowledge on modern statistical methods, equip students with practical statistical skills and help students to gain hands-on experience on statistical applications. I am excited that students will play an important role in this research project.”

Rhonda Olson

Marketing and Communications, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences