Mobility Impairments

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. 

Fraunhofer has collaborated with victims of thalidomide to develop new IT-based fitness training. The training uses gaming elements to motivate users. The device uses a shoulder pad fitted with small sensors that record movement. The “smart shoulder pad” is connect via blue tooth to a tablet. The data from the shoulder pad controls the avatar allowing for gaming activity. The shoulder pads are part of the akrobatik@home project. Other parts such as a special seat cushion are developed by a project partner GeBioM. The game itself was developed by Exozet Berlin.

For more information see the Global Accessibility News article.

As we work our way into the new year, there are new issues every vertical must address. In 2015 many of these issues center around technology. Education is always at the forefront of new issues and ether reflects or predicts the concerns of the community at large. A January 15, 2015 article by Tanya Roscorla published on the Center for Digital Education website and titled, Top 6 Higher Ed Digital Policy Issues to Watch in 2015  demonstrates this listing the top policy issues as:

  1. Security threats
  2. State authorization for distance education
  3. Internet of Things management
  4. Competency-based education exploration
  5. Staffing shortage
  6. Electronic Accessibility for people with disabilities

Security has sat at the top of many lists for years as the protection of personally identifiable information is a paramount concern for everyone. Just as we clutch our wallets and purses on crowded city streets to keep our credit card numbers and other personal information safe, we demand that same information stay protected as we conduct business on the web.

The branches of the web grow and reach out of our computers into our everyday household items and cars. The internet of things is bringing inventory management into our refrigerators, allowing our phone to talk to our house and soon it may be driving our cars for us.

As we lock things down to protect our security and the web spreads into every aspect of our lives, number 6, the issue of access, becomes increasingly important. Convenience in everyday life needs to extend to everyone.  Digital education has put the classroom in the living room.  A convenience for anyone who is far away from the school or simply doesn’t have time for the commute, is even more necessary for a person with a disability who may have mobility issues or be blind. However, if the digital education platform is not accessible, what should be a convenience becomes a barrier for people with disabilities.

This, of course, extends to ecommerce and any other convenience on the web. Therefore, what is important for education in 2015 becomes important for business and institutions in general. When considering the issues it’s important to look at them together. If worked in silos, an issues like security can oppose accessibility. Looking at them together, however, strengthens both. The expansion of the internet into our things is easy to make accessible if they are work together. Retrofitting accessibility, however, can be much more costly.

While looking at these lists we can ask ourselves how these things are important to what we do and to the people we do it for. 

How do people that use a wheelchair know where to go during an emergency? This is the question the director of Egress Group Pty Ltd, Lee Wilson, asked as he was writing an evacuation guidebook for people with disabilities.

Realizing that existing exit signage does not cover people with disabilities, especially those that cannot use fire escapes or stairs, Lee developed the “Accessible Means of Egress Icon,” which can be used to help identify accessible egress routes, exit doors, refuges, elevators and other means of egress. The signs combine the Running Man image and the Accessible Means of Egress Icon working together to escape the building.

The Accessible Exit Signs website has ideas for accessible exit signage and example accessible exit signs.

Monday China Disabled Persons Federation (CDPF) and China Banking Association issued a guideline requiring China’s electronic banking service to provide easier access for people with disabilities.

The guideline focuses on three types of disabilities in order to promote accessibility for the E-Banking services such as phone and online banking:

  • Vision Disabilities – E-Banking will provide a specially designed shortcut menu, ID recognition and easy verification codes.
  • Hearing Disabilities – Offer multiple visual facilities and instant short messaging service.
  • Mobility Impairments – establish a long-distance self-service system allowing accounts that traditionally require a physical presents to be open from home.  

Information on accessibility assessments

The DynaVox 15, a powerful speech-generating tablet with a 15” display has been introduced by DynaVox Systems, LLC. The new tablet is part of the groundbreaking T-Series of touch-based speech-generating devices, which includes the DynaVox T10. The DynaVox tablets are intended for people who have aphasia, autism, cerebral palsy, cortical visual disabilities, early ALA, Locked-in syndrome, stroke and anyone else who can benefit from speech-generation.

The T15 was carefully developed to provide quick, simple communication and ease of use. It boasts a vibrant display with high-contrast PCS symbols that enhance clarity and target size benefitting those with vision disabilities. 

Ian Burkhart, 23, is a quadriplegic from Ohio that is the first patient to use Neurobridge, which is an electronic neural bypass for spinal cord injuries. The revolutionary technology combines algorithms that learn and decode the user’s brain activity and a high-definition muscle stimulation sleeve that translate the impulses from the brain and transmits signals to the paralyzed limb.

The Ohio State and Battelle teams collaborated to figure out the correct sequence of electrodes to enable Burkhart to move his fingers and hand functionally. Burkhart was paralyzed 4 years ago in a diving accident and volunteered for the project viewing it as an opportunity to help others.

First Exoskeleton that Helps People with Disabilities Walk Approved by FDA

ReWalk Robotics out of Marlborough, MA announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved its ReWalk Personal System for at home use. The robotic wearable exoskeleton provides powered hip and knee motion enabling people with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) to stand and walk. ReWalk is the first and only exoskeleton with FDA clearance and is now available throughout the United States.

Larry Jasinski, CEO of ReWalk Robotics said, “This revolutionary product will have an immediate, life-changing impact on individuals with spinal cord injuries.”

TabAccess from Zyrobotics is the first assistive device of its type to allow easier access to Android and iOS tablet devices. It allows people with challenges moving their hands and arms.

“Unfortunately, most applications for smartphones and tablets are not designed with accessibility in mind, especially for people with motor disabilities,” explains Dr. Ayanna Howard, founder and Chief Technology Officer of Zyrobotics. “Our strategic launch of TabAccess is both a technology game changer and life changer for so many.”

TabAccess provides access through multiple accessible devices such as sip/puff, button switches and grasp switches.

Learn more about mobile accessibility with Kathy Wahlbin’s Mobile Accessibility on the Move Slides.

The Brain Gate neural interface system allows a person to control a robotic arm with their brain. A person without use of their arms can move the robotic arm simply by imagining moving their own arm. Two paralyzed people were able to make complex reach-and-grasp movements with this assistive technology using their thoughts. The trial is funded in part by NIH.

Read about DEKA’s mind-controlled robotic arm.

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