Californians with disabilities want to work

It’s the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, historic landmark legislation meant to ensure the civil rights of people who have disabilities. Since the ADA was passed, architecture and infrastructure have improved, yet attitudes and opportunities have not. Today there are many ramps to get into buildings, but far fewer to get into jobs.

Only 3 out of 10 of California’s 1,793,900 working-age people with disabilities are employed. This creates poverty, powerlessness and poor health. People who have disabilities want and deserve the opportunity to have the dignity, friendships, income and purpose that jobs and careers provide.

An estimated 1 in 5 Americans has a disability. The good news is that evidence shows that people with disabilities can be highly successful workers. For example, Virgin Airways founder Richard Branson and finance wizard Charles Schwab are dyslexic. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas uses a wheelchair, as did President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Today in California, 115,600 youths with disabilities, between the ages of 16 and 20, are preparing to enter the labor market. They have high expectations and deserve the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Young people with disabilities may simply need some thoughtful help to transition into the workforce.

People who are blind, deaf or non-verbal frequently use assistive technology. Similarly, people with developmental disabilities can benefit greatly from internship opportunities and job coaches. Comcast, Ernst & Young LLC, Lockheed Martin, Sprint and other companies have seen that people with disabilities can be extremely capable and loyal workers.

Vocational rehabilitation programs in California helped 11,187 people with disabilities find work in 2012. It’s not good enough.

Under the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act, which I voted for, Gov. Jerry Brown can further break down the silos between the branches of government so that education, transportation, workforce development, health care and other departments work together with employers to create strategies to enable people to obtain jobs and careers. He has access to a large pool of funds from the federal government that he can use to enable people with disabilities in California to get jobs.

Project SEARCH and Bridges to Work continue to produce outstanding results for employers, people with disabilities, and taxpayers around the country. Project SEARCH California has become one of the largest and most successful programs for integrating people with disabilities into the workforce by building relationships between the private and public sectors. By expanding such programs, California can enable people with disabilities to get jobs and careers. It’s a win-win-win for people with disabilities, employers and taxpayers alike.

Rep. Brad Sherman has represented California interests in Congress since 1997.

Fear of fun

Some day not all that far in the future, a new kind of entertainment is going to be perfected that will either be the coolest video game ever, or the media equivalent of a lethal man-made super-virus.

You can predict what that entertainment might be like just by extrapolating from technology that already exists.

Start by imagining CGI on steroids, a future version of the computer-generated imaging that today enables battalions of post-production wizards working for movie-makers like James Cameron and Peter Jackson to put up on the screen real- seeming 3D renderings of anything that anyone can dream up.

Add to that the successor to the virtual reality technology now used in Google goggles, which relocates those digital fantasies from the screen into the real space all around us, but swap the goggles for contact lenses or neural implants.

Combine that with the power to convincingly simulate the feel of touching objects that don't exist, which haptic gloves can currently approximate, and extend that capacity to your whole body, whose entire anatomy will become an exquisitely sensitive, interactive input device, the nth gen of game controllers like Wii and Kinect.

Throw in superb 360-degree sound, plus a way to trigger micro-spurts of the molecules that cause the sensations of smell and taste.

Miniaturize everything down to the atomic scale, which is where computing is already going, so that the gizmos that do all this are featherweight and forgettable.

Store the content – the entertaining stories and experiences that this technology delivers – in the cloud, which is where more and more software is heading now, so that it's ubiquitous, available (for a price) to anyone in any place at any time.

And just as advances in processing power have turned laptops into animation and recording studios, imagine that this new entertainment content will be produced not only by the Comcasts and NewsCorps and Activisions, but also by scrappy startups, and kids in dorm rooms.

Think of the porn that will make possible.

And the first-person shooters.

And the trips to the rain forest, the Sistine Chapel, the moon, the gates of heaven and of hell.

It's not a question of whether the technology to confect and convey this digital dream, or nightmare, will one day exist; it's only a matter of when.

In 1975, as molecular biologists were recognizing the potential dangers of the recombinant DNA technology then becoming widespread, ” target=”_hplink”>no scientific evidence connecting the dots between exposure to video game violence and actual violent behavior.

But there's plenty of ” target=”_hplink”>debate ” target=”_hplink”>depicts torture as an ” target=”_hplink”>intelligence. ” target=”_hplink”>Jane Mayer reported, the dean of West Point flew to Hollywood to meet with 24's writers and producers to explain that real U.S. soldiers – instead of paying attention to their teachers and their textbooks; instead of learning that torture is wrong, counterproductive, inefficient and produces false intelligence – were instead trusting the instruction about interrogation methods that they were tacitly getting from a fictional, made up TV show.

The NRA is obscenely wrong about the relation between gun regulation and gun violence. But before we dismiss its case about popular culture out of hand, we might want to take seriously the way that entertainment thrills, enthralls, enrages, instructs and inspires us, all of us, no matter how sophisticated and media- savvy we may think we are. One fine day, awesome technology will enable the pleasure industry to pretty much erase the line between simulation and reality. I wonder whether we'll arrive at that point without first having wrestled with the consequences that might follow from that fun.

Marty Kaplan is the ” target=”_hplink”>USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Reach him at