Mobility Impairments

adeline Delp, former Ms. Wheelchair USA, was terrified to put herself out in the spotlight the first time she participated in a beauty pageant. “It was one of the most difficult and uncomfortable experiences that I’ve ever had,” she wrote in a story for Glamour magazine. However, determined to show the world that all women, able-bodied or not, are beautiful, she continued to compete and recently placed in the top 15 in her latest Miss Carolina USA competition. She’s now focused on winning the top crown of Miss USA. Madeline informed People magazine of her grand plans, stating “Is Miss USA ready for someone in a wheelchair? I believe so… maybe they won’t get it this year, but I certainly hope that is a barrier broken soon.”

 

Pushing a shopping cart in a wheelchair is a Sisyphean task. However, those with limited mobility shopping at Publix may encounter a much easier experience, thanks to the newly redesigned shopping carts that are designed to hook onto the front of a wheelchair. 9-year-old Amaria Borders, who gets around in her sporty pink wheelchair, was overjoyed with excitement at being able to shop like others she sees in the store. Her mother, Tiffany Borders, couldn’t be happier, remarking "For a long time, I wouldn't let her push the buggy, because it was hard. Her wheelchair would always knock it around, so when we saw this buggy, it was like, 'Yes! Something just for her.’” The redesigned carts will gradually replace the existing assistive ones in store, and include lowered edges to make it easier for shoppers to deposit items and pick them out of the cart.

Becoming paralyzed from the waist down at 23 after a diving accident was a turning point in Marca Bristo's life. After seeing how patients with disabilities were treated at the hospital where she worked, she became an advocate for them, fighting for equal rights across multiple platforms. She helped co-found Access Living, a non profit organization that helps people with disabilities maintain independence, and led it for many years. She also joined other disability rights leaders to help pen the ADA, and Bill Clinton even appointed her chair of the National Council on Disability, a role she held for eight years. She succumbed to cancer at age 66 on Sunday, August 31.  

Brent Lowe is no stranger to difficult personal situations. He’s blind, and has lived for years alone with his 24-year-old son (who has cerebral palsy) and a caretaker on Abaco in the Bahamas. Recently, however, Hurricane Dorian made his life exponentially harder. After its fierce winds ripped off the roof of the house where they were hunkering down, Lowe knew he had to get himself and his son out of their house, or risk death. As soon as he stepped off his front porch he found himself chin-deep in water. He had no choice but to put his son over his shoulder and carry him to a neighbor’s house to wait out the storm. Lowe was evacuated to Nassau while his son stayed on Abaco with a family member. With his house gone, Lowe is understandably devastated. "We need a place to go," he said. "I don't know exactly what we are going to do. We need help."

 

Kevan Chandler loves traveling but his spinal muscular atrophy makes it difficult: he has never been able to walk on his own and all too many destinations around the world are not wheelchair-friendly.

Despite this, he and six friends decided to tackle the challenge of traveling together sans wheelchair through Ireland, France, and England. One person always had the 65-pound Kevan strapped to his back, so they were all able to enjoy the magnificent sights of western Europe without worrying whether or not a site would be wheelchair accessible. Kevan chronicled his travels in his book We Carry Kevan: Six Friends. Three Countries. No Wheelchair, which will be released in 2019.

New research from the CDC shows that one in four US adults have a disability that impacts their daily activities. The most common one is mobility disability, which disproportionately affects older adults ages 65 and above at a rate of 40%. The research also reveals an inverse relationship between income and disability, especially mobility. According to the CDC, “mobility disability is nearly five times as common among middle-aged (45- to 64-year old) adults living below the poverty level compared to those whose income is twice the poverty level.” The study also reported that those with vision disabilities were the least likely to have access to medical care.

People with speech disabilities could soon be speaking with their eyes. Building on a technology originally intended to help ESA astronauts, Ivo Vieira, used augmented reality to create the eye tracking technology used in EyeSpeak glasses, which helps people with speech disabilities communicate.

The EyeSpeak glasses detect eye movement across a virtual keyboard displayed on its lenses. The wearer can use the keyboard to write what will be spoken by a speaker worn on the arm. Moreover, the wearer can access content on the internet including email. All the information is overlaid on the lenses so the user can still see their environment.  

Read more about EyeSpeak on GAATES

Google has a well-known policy that allows its employees to spend 20% of their time working on projects not related to their main job. Rio Akasaka, a project manager on Google Drive, took advantage of this policy and put in 20% of his time as a project manager to work on accessibility features for Google Maps.

Mr. Akasaka has worked for a year with a small team of contributors to introduce accessibility guidelines to Google Maps. The result is that, in addition to the information the map tool displays about venues and locations, it now displays information helpful to people with access needs.

While this may seem minor it is a major help to those who use a wheelchair. As with much accessibility, the new information will help other people as well including people who use other devices to assist their mobility and parents of small children using strollers.

For more information read the Business Insider India article.

Crowd sourcing brings the knowledge of the masses to the needs of an individual. As a wheel chair user, Maayan Ziv had an individual need – to know if places in her city were accessible before showing up. This was the inspiration for her new crowd sourcing app, AccessNow, which collects and shares accessibility information around the globe.

AccessNow is a web based app that shows the accessibility status of hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and tourist destination all gathered from the globally crowdsourced information. The information is shown on an interactive map giving the user the benefit of the knowledge prior to traveling to the location. 

Developed at Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (FPFL), a mind-controlled telepresence system aims to give some independence to people with paralysis or mobility disabilities.

Nineteen people tested the robot with a hundred percent success rate. Nine people with disabilities and 10 people without disabilities piloted a robot with their thoughts for several weeks. The testers wore an electrode-studded hat, which analyzed their brain signals and transmitted their instruction via the internet in real time to the robot. The robot was located in a lab in Switzerland. 

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