Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Halloween! Creative Costume Ideas for People That Use a Wheelchair

There have been many pictures floating around on the internet of creative costume ideas for people that use wheelchairs.   

Here are a couple of websites that have some great compilations of Halloween costumes:

These costumes are fun to look at and obviously many of them took a considerable amount of time to make.  So, how does someone go about creating their own unique design?  Check out the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s Paralysis Resource Center’s page for some more ideas and specific instructions on wheelchair costume design. This page will inspire you to re-create one of these amazing costume ideas or to come up with your own desgin idea.  On this page, there is even a how-to video where they show the viewers how to create a flower-in-a-garden costume for a young girl that uses a wheelchair.

Another great site that includes links to instructions for making some unique costumes a reality is called DIY – 25 Halloween Costumes for Wheelchairs.    

Furthermore, we also found a couple of Halloween costume ideas for someone that uses a walker. Click here for instructions on how to make a KingKong (with the Empire State Building) costume or click here to make a Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs costume

Finally, we also found this site, Coolest Wheelchair Costumes, that includes even more links to instructions -including some preparation tips- should you decide that you are ready to create a similar design yourself.

Have you incorporated AT into your Halloween costume? Or, have you thought of a great costume that uses your AT? Tell us about it! Write in the comment box below to share your Halloween AT costume idea.  

Enjoy the photos and have a happy and safe Halloween everyone! 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

AT for Your TUSH!

Whether you call it your butt, backside, behind, bottom, bum, buttocks, cheeks, derrière, fanny, gluteus maximus, haunches, heinie, hindquarters, keister, posterior, rear, ass, rump, seat, or tush… one thing is for sure—you gotta keep it clean!

There are many reasons why a person may have difficulty in
Installed Toto Washlet
keeping their tush clean independently. Surely, we can all agree that the paper-in-hand method does not work for everyone.  Sometimes people turn to incontinence products like pads and specially-designed underwear, or some folks may turn to caregivers and family members for assistance with this task. However, there is an AT alternate option that could help many people accomplish this task completely independently.

Coco 1035 Bidet
The alternate option we are talking about is an assistive device for a toilet more commonly known as a washlet. A washlet is a toilet seat that includes a water spray that rinses the user clean. While it is rare for a bathroom in the U.S. to have a washlet, they—along with their similar original French cousin version called a bidet—are very common in many other countries. In fact, 79% of households in Japan use washlets and 97% of households in Italy have bidets. A washlet has many of the same functions of a bidet, but rather than have a separate system like bidets, washlets can be mounted to your existing toilet.

There are a variety of washlets available on the market.  Some washlets have controls on the side of the seat, others have wall mounted displays and some even use remote controls. There are even washlets with heated seats! The different options and controls allow the user to determine the water pressure, direction of the spray, air drying system, temperature options, and more depending on the model.
Portable Washlet

The cost of washlets vary and prices range from $350 to $1200. Installation requires an electrical source near the rear of the toilet and professional installation by a licensed contractor. However, there are other more inexpensive non-electric versions that are also available starting at $59. These can be installed by a motivated do-it-yourselfer. There is even a portable travel-sized washlet available for $100.  

Have you ever seen or used a washlet?  Can you recommend one?  Write your comments in the box below.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Partnership to Move People with Disabilities into the Digital Age

California Emerging Technology Fund invests $260,000 in California Foundation for Independent Living Centers to provide discount home Internet, Digital Literacy training and low-cost computers
San Francisco and Sacramento– October 15, 2013 – The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) and California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC) today are launching a new statewide partnership to connect people with disabilities to affordable high-speed Internet at home and the tools they need to succeed in the Digital Age.

CETF is announcing a 2-year, $260,000 grant to CFILC to launch Digital Access, an unprecedented initiative to help improve the lives of Californians with disabilities by providing access to broadband service, low-cost computing devices and Digital Literacy training.  Digital Access will engage 40 organizations statewide to help more than 2,100 people with disabilities and their families subscribe to broadband at home for as little as $10 a month.

Slightly more than half of Californians with disabilities have access to high-speed Internet at home, according to recent polling.  With 60 percent of working-age persons with disabilities unemployed or underemployed, affordable universal access to broadband at home is crucial. Those without high-speed Internet access at home must deal with an obstacle course to reach public-use computers, which includes transportation barriers, lack of accessible software options and inaccessible locations.

“We are working to close the Digital Divide in California by accelerating the adoption of home broadband among those who can benefit most.  An online connection is a link to opportunity for all Californians, and new assistive technologies are allowing Californians with disabilities to gain access to online educational, employment and civic engagement opportunities,” said CETF President and CEO Sunne Wright McPeak.  “CFILC has strong connections to Independent Living Centers throughout the state, making them a critical conduit in connecting people with disabilities to affordable broadband service, training and computers.”

CFILC Executive Director Teresa Favuzzi said, “The return on investment for people with disabilities is significant, ranging from live streaming video and instant text communication that liberates people who are hard of hearing from the phone to software programs that read text and describe visual content aloud for the visually impaired.   Attending classes remotely, online medical consultations and operating home Internet businesses eliminate the need for unnecessary trips or commutes and those with certain learning disabilities can access digital teaching tools.”

CFILC will work with device lending libraries, which provide digital devices to people with disabilities throughout California, to "try before you buy" or to meet an unexpected or temporary access need.  Broadband service and refurbished computer options will be offered as a part of digital device loans. The AT Network, reachable at atnet.org or toll-free at 800-390-2699, TTY: 800-900-0706, will be used to provide support and follow-up to organizations and individuals seeking to subscribe to broadband, purchase refurbished computers, and attend digital literacy training at accessible sites, as well as online training resources.

About California Emerging Technology Fund
The mission of CETF is to close the Digital Divide in California by breaking down barriers to high-speed Internet access at home through its Get Connected! campaigns and other initiatives. The goal is to reach 98% of all residences with broadband infrastructure and to achieve 80% home adoption by 2017.  This statewide goal can only be accomplished if the following specific hard-to-reach target communities achieve at least a 70% adoption rate:  low-income populations, Latino households, rural communities, and people with disabilities.  For more information, visit www.cetfund.org and www.getconnectedtoday.com.

About California Foundation for Independent Living Centers

The mission of CFILC is to increase access and equal opportunity for People with Disabilities by building the capacity of Independent Living Centers.  For more information, visit www.cfilc.org.

Friday, October 11, 2013

History of the Wheelchair

by Rachel Anderson

Happy Disability History Week! To celebrate this week, we will be highlighting the history of a few different AT devices.

No one knows exactly when the first wheelchair was invented, however its origins date back to ancient times. The earliest records of a wheeled transportation device were found in a stone carving in China and an image on a Greek vase of a wheeled child’s bed.

The first known wheelchair purposefully designed for disability and mobility was called an "invalid's chair". It was invented in 1595 specifically for King Phillip II of Spain. The chair had small wheels attached to the end of a chair's legs and it included a platform for Phillip's legs and an adjustable backrest. It could not be self-propelled but most likely the King always had servants transporting him around.

Steven Farffler
Skipping forward to 1655, Steven Farffler was a young German watchmaker with a disability that limited his mobility. He is the first known person to invent and use a wheelchair that could be independently propelled. It was a stable chair mounted on a 3-wheeled chassis with attached handles on both sides of the front wheel used to propel the chair forward. Mr. Farffler, who is believed to have had paraplegia, created the wheelchair himself when he was only 22 years old!
The Bath Chair

In 1783, John Dawson of Bath, England invented a wheelchair and named it after his town. The Bath wheelchair had two large wheels in the back and one small one in the front. The user would steer the chair by a stiff handle, but all the Bath designs had to be pushed or pulled by a donkey or horse, as they were heavy. The Bath wheelchair did outsell all other models of wheelchairs for 40 years.

Then, in the 1800s, the first wheelchairs that are more similar to today’s designs were developed. In 1869 a patent was taken out on a wheelchair that could be self-propelled and had large wheels at the back. Wheelchairs were starting to get less bulky but still were not easily transportable until 1932 when the folding tubular steel version was made by Harry Jennings. Harry Jennings was an engineer that designed it for his friend, Herbert Everest. Together they founded Everest and Jennings company, which had a monopoly on the wheelchair industry for decades.

Outside at a park a woman is in an iBot chair that is on two small wheels only smiling

iBot gives young woman newfound freedom

Electric-powered wheelchairs were invented by George Klein and others to assist injured veterans after WWII. As you know, designs from then have consistently improved in size, weight and to adapt to an individual's needs. They are even currently developing a new “iBot type chair“ (the former iBot chair is currently discontinued and was extremely expensive) that can rise up on to two wheels, walk up and down stairs, traverse sand, gravel and water and cannot be easily flipped over. Some speculate that in the future wheelchairs will be able to be controlled by neurological impulses from the brain. What do you think wheelchairs will look like in the future? Tell us your ideas in the comment box below.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ray Kurzweil: Assistive Reading and Writing Software

by Rachel Anderson

Happy Disability History Week! To celebrate this week, we will be highlighting the history of a few different AT devices.  

Many of you may be familiar with Ray Kurzweil’s reading and writing software, but do you know how and when it was first developed?

Ray sitting at a desk with a large printer-like machine
Ray Kurzweil & the Revolutionary Reading Machine
Ray Kurzweil developed the world’s first reading system, the Kurzweil Reading Machine, back in 1976. The Reading Machine was revolutionary in that it was the first machine that could scan and speak text. Kurzweil had also  already developed a powerful optical character recognition system (OCR) which was the first program to be able to read the typical font types that were used in publishing at the time. He then invented the CCD flatbed scanner and the voice-synthesizing technology to read the scanned text aloud. Each one of these innovations continues to play an important role in much of the assistive technology (AT) products that we use and enjoy today.

Kurzweil first developed these technologies to assist people who are blind or have low vision, but many others soon found the technology particularly useful as well. Kurzweil's innovations were also adapted to different software programs to be used by people who have learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia and attention defict disorder, as well as English language learners. Kurzweil’s inventions continue to assist many individuals in reading and writing.

The two main software products that exist today from Kurzweil Educational Systems are Kurzweil 1000 and Kurzweil 3000. Kurzweil 1000 is for people with vision loss to help them gain access to web-based, digital or scanned print materials through its OCR and text to speech features. It provides easier access to most printed forms and presents the user with the fields, labels, boxes, and text areas in the appropriate reading order.

Picture of Ray Kurzweil's face next to his most recent book cover, How to Create a Mind
Kurzweil 3000 is an AT software which provides a reading, writing and study platform aimed at people with disabilities that make reading or writing difficult. Kurzweil 3000 is used to support those learners in school, higher education, at home and in the workplace. It reads aloud web-based, digital or scanned print material and converts these materials into mp3s to provide audio files to listen to on the go or through its firefly web app that can be used on a tablet.

Kurzweil has won numerous honors and awards for his incredible accomplishments. He has written five national best-selling books and continues to design and create technology for the future.