Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Assistive Technology Can Be Easy

Today my nephew received his mic to try out Dragon Dictation on his iPod touch.

Here's a demonstration by another young man:

Yes, it's that easy.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Watching Wheels

A parent of a child with autism offers some insight into what parents of kids with autism experience

I’m just writing to give you an insight into what us parents with kids with autism go through. So if you see a child at a park or where ever and they are doing something a little unusual, have an open mind and open heart. What they’re doing may be soothing to them if they have sensory issues, they might not have learned some social cues yet and they may still be working on some self help skills. What they’re doing isn’t bad or wrong or weird it’s just a bit different than what you’re used to. As parents we all want our children to be accepted and understood and this couldn’t be truer for parents of kids with autism. I think next time I see that mom I’ll say something so she knows that I know and that Tristan and I think watching wheels is the coolest thing in the world to do.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dueling iPod Touches

It was a busy week around here.

My youngest nephew is reading the Iliad on his iPod touch. Every now and then he shakes his head and says "Another guy is going to make a speech!"

I asked him if it was okay to write about his summer reading on my blog. He shrugged and said "Sure."

He uses his iPod touch as an assistive device too. We compare apps. He tells me about free games. I tell him about free apps like Evernote so he can sync notes to his computer. Today he mentioned that he found some educational apps. I was all excited about that, but calmly told him to write them down if any were useful.

He used his iPod touch to take notes. I reminded him about Evernote and he gave me the same look he had on his face when the guy made too many speeches. He just used the app called Notes.

Fine by me.

He's going into high school. (Can you believe that? Of course you can. I'm the one who remembers him sitting in my lap in my wheelchair.) He toured the place yesterday. It's so big they call it a campus. It has a pool, performing arts center and fitness center and three floors of hallways to get lost in. I got lost in high school my first day with just one floor. No basement even. But he's got a map and says his older brother showed him where everything is.

Guess there isn't an app for that - yet.

We are both using many of the same free apps, such as Stanza and Kindle (for reading books), Dragon Search and Dragon Dictation (voice apps), wi-fi finder and battery magic.

Here are some more Back to School apps I found. Just happened to notice Evernote is on there.

Oh, don't give me that look....

First Double Backflip in a Wheelchair - Ever

Congratulations, Aaron!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Suspension after passenger films train employee's refusal to help him board

If you've ever had a bus or train employee refuse to assist you in boarding with a ramp or a lift, you'll be glad to see that action was taken after it happened. An employee in Manchester was suspended after refusing to help a passenger board who needed a ramp after the passenger filmed him. This video shows how difficult it can be to get assistance boarding transit and how unpredictable that help is. Employees argued with the disabled person, citing law and telling him that the police would be coming to try to intimidate the person.

When this happens to me , I always think how they could just go get the ramp or lower it by the time they waste all that energy arguing with me.

Incidents like this happen, where passengers with disabilities are refused assistance and get to their destinations late or are left stranded. It's good to see that action was taken, but not everyone can film it when it happens.

More on this story here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Getting it Done- The Little Sisters

via YouTube

Jorden is away for the week...as a family we have had to do a lot of stuff that we are used to not doing because Jorden steps up and helps tremendously. Every time we go somewhere Jorden helps Erin by putting her walker in the car... We were on our way to dinner and I told the girls to get in the car...and I found them working together to put Erin's walker in the trunk. Even though it such a challenge for both of them...then don't give up! What an example for all of us to live by!

Eden Little is a Mom of three children who all have cerebral palsy. She is writing a daily blog about how it is to raise three children with cerebral palsy as a single mother and a Special Education Teacher. See her authenticity as she gets through the daily trials while living and playing life to it's fullest! To follow the Little Family daily go to www.thelittlelife.net

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Daytona Beach nonprofit gets adaptive technology to those in need

Visual Innovations and Solutions in Daytona Beach is a nonprofit company that tries to fill the needs of people who fall through the cracks when trying to get assistive technology.

Their services include help with computer technology, instruction and job searches.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Quadriplegic Man Tries to Finish School from Nursing Home

34 year old Paul Boyd lives at a nursing home , 12 miles away from the college he plans to start attending on August 30, while litigation is pending.

The problem is state Medicaid will not pay for him to live independently, Boyd said. Medicaid currently pays for his housing in the Chandler Health and Rehabilitation Center, where he receives around-the-clock care.

Less costly care of 10 hours a day would allow Paul to live in the community, from which he is now apart. Paul's attorneys say his case fits squarely within Olmstead, which ruled against unnecessary institutionalization of disabled people.

Boyd plans to study community counseling, but fears that the logistics of his current location will mean his plans will go on hold pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

We're still at a point where programs pay more money to institutionalize people with disabilities rather than support them living - and being productive- in the community. This is bad for everyone- including taxpayers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Cripper Arrives!

I wrote a while ago about a quad reacher called The Cripper. It was on my wish list after I saw how it worked because I needed a reacher that would fit me properly and save as much energy as possible. Living alone can involve a lot of reaching issues, especially when your arms are paralyzed. It's a real drag to risk falling out of your wheelchair or wait for someone else to come over to get some things done. So I ordered The Cripper a few weeks ago. I've tried out a lot of quad reachers, so I'll admit I was wondering if my money would be well spent or once again wasted.

Today my custom made Cripper came. I was thrilled with the speed of delivery. The first thing I noticed when I slipped it on was how well it fit (see photo of Cripper on my hand and arm above). I had to take a moment or two to figure out exactly how far to push my arm into the device, but once I had my wrist and forearm in the right place, the Cripper felt comfortable , like a new arm. And the next time I put it on, my arm went exactly into the right place without a second thought. I love that kind of ease of use.

I began right away to pick items up. Letters, envelopes, plates and coins were first. I noticed that instead of my arm getting tired, it felt supported by the Cripper. Since using it only involves a slight raise of your wrist, I was able to do much than usual without stopping to rest my arm. I also seem to be able to pick up items that are heavier without hurting my arm. I could easily reach my printer and hit the buttons with more accuracy. (See photo at right).

The paperwork that comes with it suggests practicing a bit and there were certain items I tried to pick up that took a few tries. I'm not concerned about this because I'm learning new ways to use it every time I put it on. The grippers on the end aren't the usual dull plastic I'm used to, but have edges. So when I picked up a plastic fruit cup with a clear cover on it, the Cripper not only put it on the table but opened it as well. I'm looking forward to using that feature since opening items is difficult, particularly many of those single serving snack packets that are handy to keep around, but are packaged in a way that require assistance. The Cripper also effortlessly holds slippery items such as pens. (See photo at left).

The workmanship on the Cripper is very impressive. I was relieved when I saw that, since years ago I spent at least twice as much on a quad reacher that broke easily and often. I'm a busy and active person who needs equipment that can keep up with me and prefer items that are durable and don't require frequent replacement. In fact, the Cripper comes with paperwork that assures that ordering parts at a minimal cost is possible - even if your arm changes sizes. The good thing about this reacher is that there aren't many parts, unlike other quad reachers I tried.

If you're a quadriplegic with use of your tenodesis muscle, I recommend the Cripper. The web site can be found here. A video demonstrating it is shown below.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


via YouTube:

Segs4Vets is an unprecedented grass-roots effort sustained and administered by volunteers. This video talks about what it means to both volunteers and recipients in the program to participate.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Comments on "Body Matters"

Wheelchair Dancer's post Body Matters was in my google reader this morning.

I'd like to share part of it with a few comments of my own:

WD: With regard to work, exercise, and life, a person with a "slipped disk" could easily be regarded as disabled. But our culture treats someone with this impairment very differently from someone with, say, spinal cord injury. And I don't know why. Perhaps, it is in the way the impairments are legible/visible to the external viewer. Perhaps, the difference lies in the possibly mistaken understanding that it is "just" a disk. Recovery is around the corner. Whatever the reason (and to be honest, I don't care), I do know that one set of back impairments allows the person to retain social value and capital -- even if they aren't working -- while another strips away humanity and leaves the person vulnerable to all kinds of prejudice and stereotyping.

WC: At a dance recital for my niece years ago, I was sitting in my wheelchair next to a woman in a wheelchair who had her leg in a cast - a temporary injury. We were both in the aisle next to the folks we came with in the same exact spot, just in rows feet apart. I was told I had to move because I was a fire hazard and she was not. When I refused to move because of the disparate treatment, I was told that 'it was different for her, because it's just a broken leg'. Yet she was sitting in a wheelchair larger than mine, blocking more of the aisle.

WD: And that is part of it for me. Regardless of their medical complexity, some impairments are just medical states, while others plunge their person into a membership in a group of people who experience prejudice, oppression, discrimination, higher rates of unemployment, violence, ... and, on the good side, a wild, wonderful history and culture. Some impairments, no matter how visible they are on the body, allow their person to continue to participate in society, while others leave their person vulnerable to such idiocy as the commentary of my stranger.

And if that is you out there, bowling on up to disabled folk, congratulating us for being out, blessing us for being so inspirational, courageous, brave, whatever ... please, just don't. You know nothing of the complexities with which we do and do not live or even of the joys of our bodies. You are on autopilot, mindlessly reaffirming cultural fears and prejudices which, actually, we can do without. Shut up. Go away.

WC: This is why I hate the word inspirational when it's applied to people with disabilities, e.g., just for being outside. It comes across as patronizing if someone walks over to me when I'm out and says "Good for you for not giving up!" I look over my shoulder to see who they are talking to.

People need to remember that just because my disability may be novel to you, I live with it every day. When you act that way, it sends the message that my disability is the only thing you see about me. It's alienating.

I'd rather someone encourage me for working hard, for achieving success in my career, for any of the accomplishments I've worked hard for. But people don't have that on their radar if they remain stuck at a level where they congratulate me for being out.

When I have time, I'd like to blog about the differences in reactions toward my disability that I've seen since I started using a power chair in public. There's a social hierarchy of disabilities without doubt which, although it may often go unspoken, exists. I'm not saying that those of us with disabilities allow us to keep this hierarchy down. In fact, often the opposite is true.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not Bound to My Wheelchair

There is Outward Bound.

There is Bound to Be, a phrase my Irish grandmother used a lot when the inevitable happened. She'd say "That was Bound to Be." It sounded capitalized. There's Homeward Bound, by Simon and Garfunkel. There's Bounder, a great name for a dog.

That's all well and good. But there's a problem with the word bound when it's used with wheelchair, i.e. wheelchair bound. It drags up images of someone duct taped to a wheelchair or melded into its cushions or metal frames. It denies the very real fact that the person using the wheelchair gets in and out of it and is not a part of it, is not a machine, that the wheelchair is a tool.

That kind of language is why, when little kids ask me questions, one of the questions is Bound to Be:

"Do you sleep in your wheelchair?"

"No," I say.

"Well, where do you sleep?"

"In a bed, just like you."

I explain that I get in and out of my wheelchair, that I use it to get around, but that I get out of my chair to do certain things. Finally they get it.

Unfortunately, many journalists still don't and use the phrase wheelchair bound on headlines.

This morning I saw five of those headlines. One was about wheelchair bound people going up in a hot air balloon. Yes, it was an uplifting experience for wheelchair bound patients. Another was about wheelchair bound people being stuck due to an elevator mishap. The next article used the word confined, but it's the same image problem. She should be confined to a wheelchair, doctors apparently said. They should know better.

As Bad Cripple writes:

I use a wheelchair like one uses their legs. It is nothing more and nothing less than a different way to navigate the world. The problems I encounter are thus not physical but social, the failure of society to negotiate difference. In my case the use of a wheelchair. This is as wrong as the headlines above and frankly it pisses me off. I am angry not because of my inability to walk but because I am not treated equally, that is with the same respect as a man that can walk. I am weary of this lack of respect and had hoped at this point in my life society would have evolved more than it has. Headlines with the words "wheelchair bound" in them reveal nothing about the person being written about but rather a significant social failure that needlessly makes life more difficult for millions of Americans.

A Day in the Life of Richard Devylder

via YouTube

Richard Devylder shows how assistive technology and public transportation allow him to live independently as a person with disabilities.

Clip courtesy of the California Department of Rehabilitation and the California Employment Development Department.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rod Keskiner makes his bar mitzvah - at 39

Rod Keskiner made his bar mitzvah when he was 13 years old, but felt as if he was just going through the motions. Today, twenty six years later, after finding a "new temple family that embraced him", he will celebrate his bar mitzvah again with his new temple family.

The idea came from his rabbi who wanted Rod to experience the rite in a meaningful way.

Keskiner, who has cerebral palsy and uses technology to talk, is a college graduate and has worked at St. Petersburg College on the Clearwater campus for 16 years. His coworkers plan to attend today's event.

Friday, August 13, 2010

ROLY - teaching kids with disabilities how to drive wheelchairs

A robotic wheelchair called the ROLY -robot assisted learning for young drivers -has been developed at the University of California by researchers. They are currently testing it in a group of nondisabled children and one child with cerebral palsy, hoping to lower the cost of teaching children with disabilities how to use wheelchairs. It will allow children to learn at their own pace with less assistance, substantially reducing the costs.

A photo showing how it works can be found here.

Instructors can provide assistance to the children, allowing them to progress at their own pace.

WheelerMom: New to the Blogroll

Wheeler Mom Button
Kara, new mom to Hannah, has started a blog called WheelerMom: Parenting with a Disability. So far, Kara has written about accessibility - now that Hannah is along for the ride, Hannah's heroes, maternity leave, and much more about being a new parent. She's also posted wonderful photos.

I'm incredibly impressed that Hannah is already reading at two months old, but not surprised.

Just click on the logo above to visit WheelerMom - and spread the word. We need more blogs about parenting with a disability!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Setting Back the Autonomy of Wheelchair Users by Years...

a robotic wheelchair that automatically follows a human companion.

One feature that has some positive merit to it is that the wheelchair can avoid objects coming toward it.

And, yes (I know someone will ask) two wheelchairs can be designed to follow one "human companion".

Can you imagine this in crowded malls?

Purple Heart Homes

via its site:

After returning home and building a house Dale realized a need for all veterans who have mobility limiting service connection injuries. This need has been recognized by some organizations which have assisted veterans and their families in acquiring housing that is suitable to their needs. This is achieved through construction, remodeling, or renovation.

Purple Heart Homes, Inc. Is dedicated to providing housing for disabled veterans that is substantial in function, design, and quality... fit to welcome home the fighting men and women of America."

Dale I. Beatty SSG USA (ret)

The Purple Heart Homes site can be found here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Infuriating wheelchair ramps

Indeed they are.

Dave was kind enough to send me a link to these photos of infuriating wheelchair ramps.

I know we've all seen some real beauts, but this collection is worth a thousand words.

RIP Paul Longmore

The disability community has lost a giant. Paul Longmore, a scholar, historian, activist- and more- has passed away.

It was in Paul's books I first learned about disability studies and its implications as an emerging field. More importantly, I first saw in print what I'd learned after living with a disability for a relatively short time: that nondisabled voices often speak for those with disabilities, that, in his words (pdf file] :

"Nondisabled voices have automatically assumed authority to declare what 'disability' is and what disabled people need. Disabled people have often been considered unqualified to speak for themselves, to interpret their own experience. They have frequently been rendered voiceless."

His words had an enormous impact on my work.

Much has changed over the years, but much work remains to be done. Paul Longmore will be greatly missed. I offer my condolences to those who personally knew him.


Not Dead Yet

Disability Studies, Temple U

Media dis&dat

Wesley J. Smith

Medical Humanities Blog


Bad Cripple

Bloggers Remember Paul Longmore

Diane Coleman Remembers Paul Longmore

More Bloggers Remembering Paul Longmore

Hannah's Heroes: Paul Longmore

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Curious sighted people want to know....

...are there grocery stores for blind people?

Check out this article over at Fred's Head about the myths-and questions- encountered by the author.

Some folks use people with disabilities as their very own Google search, with no regard for the person's feelings.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Last night my cat once again pounced on my voice-recognition headset, decided to play around with it and left me in tangled in a bunch of wires on my right side. As I protested, he continued to play with the remaining length of wire, managing to wrap that around my left hand. Nice.

It took me about 40 minutes to untangle myself. The cat left because, well, he's a cat. If he was a dog, he probably would've stayed offering moral support. Lassie would have figured out a way to get help.

Sometimes the cat chews through the wires. I know that's happened if I'm talking and no words are appearing on the screen.

I think that's what parents of teenagers must feel like.

Other times I need to transfer around to get at things and taking the headset off and on causes me to get myself tangled up without any help from the cat. This would explain the awkward pauses during phone calls, in case you've called me and that's happened.

And people wonder why I don't want to use Skype.

Wired. It has many meanings.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dr. Bob Segalman and Speech to Speech

Dr. Bob Segalman, who has CP, uses IntelliKeys to run Speech to Speech, a free relay service for people with speech disabilities.

Speech to Speech is a free national phone relay service available in the US. It provides communication assistants for those with speech disabilities for phone calls and doesn't require typing or registration. You can find out more here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chris Burke speaks at 2010 International Siblings Conference...

....about the importance of his siblings including him in everything while growing up.

"When I was born, the doctors told my parents all the things I would never do," Burke said. "They, and my brother and sisters, tried even harder, and they passed that message on to me."

The former Life Goes On actor now sings in a folk band and acts as an ambassador with the National Down Syndrome Society.

The conference was for siblings of people with disabilities to come together to share resources and get support.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

As the wheelchair breaks : Air Canada and Tanner

Those of us who travel with wheelchairs know that airlines sometimes show a cavalier attitude when our wheelchairs are lost or broken.

Air Canada is facing Twitter rage after breaking beyond repair a 10 year old boy's wheelchair.

According to news reports, Tanner, who has muscular dystrophy, was sent to NY for a trip with his aunt through a twitter-organized fundraiser. When they arrived at LaGuardia, his $15,000 wheelchair was broken beyond repair. They were told they would be given a temporary wheelchair on Wednesday, but that didn't happen- they've been told they would get a loaner on Monday. So Tanner is spending his visit to NY in a hotel bed, without any wheelchair or hope that his own wheelchair can be fixed.

A charity run for Friday is planned called Tutus for Tanner, which he was supposed to attend. A private company is trying to get him a wheelchair and, according to this article, Air Canada has no comment.

UPDATE AirCanada had Tanner's wheelchair repaired and has returned it to him, also offering him a trip to Disney.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Playing video games - with your eyes

For those interested in adaptive gaming, Waterloo labs has devised a way to play Super Mario with eye movements. Check it out in the video below.

You might also want to check out AbleGamers for more information about adaptive and accessible gaming.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

New DOJ regulations revising ADA on public accommodations

A great rundown can be found here.

Hit twice by a car

My friend Billy was hit by a car when he was four years old, leaving him with a spinal injury that affects his ability to walk. It also paralyzed his left hand. He uses a scooter to get around town.

He was telling me the other day that a few years ago he was hit again by a car while trying to cross the street. The scooter was damaged and he wound up in the hospital for about a week. He said the driver got seven points on his license because Billy had the right-of-way.

Billy doesn't drive. Even if he did, he couldn't afford a vehicle that would bring along his scooter.

Billy knows lots of places around town where he can hook up his scooter to recharge it. There's a local church and a coffee shop that lets him do it. He's also figured out ways to get around in the rain, snow and other inclement weather even though he has to travel miles everyday to odd jobs around town.

But he can't do anything about the fact that some people don't drive safely. He can't help it that they don't stop at pedestrian intersections when he has the right-of-way or wait until he's out of the intersection to hit the gas pedal. It's not his fault some streets have only one curb cut and there may be a carriage or bicycle blocking it so he has to wait in the street a few minutes longer while impatient drivers honk at him. It's also not his fault that pedestrians on the main streets get annoyed when they have to step out of his way because his scooter is large.

I've watched while Billy drives his scooter into a driveway to let pedestrians use the sidewalk as he patiently waits for them to pass. Billy is a kind and thoughtful man. He carries dog biscuits because he knows so many people in town who have dogs. The dogs have come to expect a treat from Billy.

So do people. For years, Billy has done free gardening around town- weeding and planting flowers. Sometimes store owners provide him with free sodas or sandwiches or coffee - for life.

But despite this, because we live in a tourist town, some people who see Billy don't know who he is, a kind and thoughtful man who deserves respect. They honk at him because he has to cross the street in his scooter. They sometimes yell at him or tell him to get out of the way when he's on the sidewalk.

We both agree that it's ironic that he has to use a scooter because he was hit by a car and now people get mad that he has to use a scooter which they think gets in the way of their cars. We also both agree that people need to slow down at intersections and watch out more for pedestrians.

Because my friend Billy has been hit twice by a car. And I don't want to see it happen again.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The magnetic telescope saves the day

After finishing work today and feeling wiped out, I discovered a free cartoon app for my iPod touch with the classic episode of Superman and the Magnetic Telescope.

So because I didn't feel like moving at all, I watched the cartoon. An evil scientist, hanging out behind glass walls in an observatory, basically tells the cops to take a hike.He's sitting behind the controls for the magnetic telescope which are pretty simple in this day and age. There's a lever and one side says forward and the other says reverse. The evil scientist hits the lever forward and a mysterious comet-like fireball races toward Earth.

Lois Lane is furiously scribbling notes and - just before the fireball hits the observatory and she gets buried under a pile of debris - she calls Jimmy Olsen at the daily planet. Meanwhile the evil scientist flees.

So Clark Kent takes a taxi to the observatory. The taxicab driver flees when he sees the comet heading towards the road, so Superman emerges from the cab, flies toward the observatory, and rescues Lois. Then he's off to the roof to save the world from the mysterious comet object. Superman gets tossed back to Earth a few times before he decides to use the Mysterious Scientific Knowledge all superheroes must know and runs around setting off electrical circuitry on the top of the observatory which somehow defeats the comet-like object.

Clark Kent and Lois are reunited.

When you return to the main screen of the app and hit the more button, you're led to the app which has 16 episodes of classic Superman cartoons and costs 2.99.

By then I was recovered from my day of work.

It's amazing what a magnetic telescope can do.

Max and The Magic Pill

Max Starkloff,a cofounder of Paraquad, talks about how he cofounded the organization after living for 12 years in a nursing home before finding accessible housing in Part 1 of this series.

In this video, part 2, Max talks about family and parenting, assumptions about disability and more.

You can find the other videos in this series here.