September 2010

Panasonic – Not Just TVs, but Hair Washing Robots too!

Panasonic is best known in America for their home electronics like appliances and entertainment equipment. However, as Japan's largest electronics manufacturer, their research and development division is now working on a series of robots designed for assisting Japan's quickly aging population including a robot that washes your hair.

How a Dad Became One of the ‘Best Dads on Wheels’

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In 2003 Joe White became paralyzed from the neck down. No longer was he able walk about freely. However, while the accident robbed him of the ability to walk, he refused to allow it to keep him from being a good father. In fact his efforts have been so admirable that he was nominated as one of the ‘Best Dads On Wheels’.

While attending a county fair in 2003, Joe White was thrown from a mechanical bull and suffered severe spinal trauma. Joe White found himself without the ability to move any portion of his body below his neck and using a wheelchair for mobility. For some this setback would be more than enough to keep them from moving forward in life or deprive them of the inspiration necessary to be a good father. Not for White though.

“Being a good dad is being a good dad, whether you’re in a chair or not,” say White.

Since his accident, White has taken his two daughters Paige, 12, and Zoe Patterson, 17, on many trips across the country and even to Canada. It wasn’t until one such trip to Florida, about a year after White’s initial accident, that he realized that he was capable and ready to give his daughters the great father he knew they deserved.

In the beginning, White saw his paralysis as a mixed blessing. On the one hand he had loss the use of most his body. However on the other he gained something far more precious, pure quality time with Paige. The transitional period was understandably rough at first. White had to learn what he could and could not do for his daughters. Initially it even seemed as though he was being taken care of. White quickly caught up and adapted to the situation.

In addition to being a great father to his daughters, White has dedicated himself to advancing himself and others who suffer from spinal cord injuries. He is responsible for starting the Northwest Indiana Spinal Cord Injury Group as well as annual walks to raise awareness and money for research. Also White has taken his desire to help and educate a step further by previously serving as a substitute teacher and now attending Indiana University Northwest part in hopes of becoming a science teacher in secondary education. And if that wasn’t enough, he has also served as the coach of Paige’s basketball and soccer team at the Boys & Girls Club.

With all of this in mind, it wasn’t hard for White’s girlfriend, Christy Earheart, to have the inspiration to nominate him for the “Best Dad on Wheels” award. The award, which is sponsored by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, recently concluded it’s polling. White impressively secured a position amongst the top 10 finalists, coming in above 50 other prospective candidates and 8,000 votes.

“I just do what I do. I don’t look for or expect any special recognition for it.”

Groundbreaking Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Pill Gains FDA Approval

Multiple Sclerosis patients struggling with daily injections to slow the progress of the disease now have a new option in oral pill form. Originally created as an anti-rejection drug for transplant patients, Gilenya from Novartis has been unanimously approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is officially the first drug to treat MS that does not have to be injected.

Silver Scorpion: Muslim Boy in Wheelchair is New Superhero Character

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There is a new superhero character that has been created who is a Muslim that loses his legs in a landmine accident and later becomes the Silver Scorpion after realizing he can control metal with his mind.  This superhero comic will be the first in a series of comics with international heroes produced by Liquid Comics.  Sharad Devarajan, CEO of Liquid Comics, notes that not all the characters will have disabilities, but their ideas will come from the seeds planted by the kids with disabilities that created the superhero character.

The concept of creating this first superhero character was envisioned by US Philanthropist Jay T Snyder, a comic book collector who heads HBJ Investments LLC, after he saw the effort that Barack Obama had towards reaching out to the Muslim world in his January 2009 inaugural address in which the president called on the Muslim world to “extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”  In response, Snyder flew 12 Americans with disabilities over to Damascus last month to meet a group of their Syrian counterparts to work together on a new comic book script for a Muslim superhero.  He calls the non-profit effort the “Open Hands Initiative” to promote understanding between cultures of the West and the Muslim world.

Liquid Comics LLC will take the kids’ ideas and create a comic book out of it, which will have 50,000 Arabic and English-language comics distributed throughout Syria and surrounding areas in November with worldwide availability online in digital format.

Devarajan noted that the two groups ideas were original and distinct, and that none of them wanted their ideal heroes to be cured of their disability as it was their source of empowerment, not weakness.

“The only limit was the imagination these kids had — the opportunity for a great story,’’ said Snyder.  “They helped create something by their combined talents, and that becomes a gift to the world.’’

“The opening question we asked the kids was if you could have any superpower what would it be? I’ve asked that question in many different groups before and the typical answers are always the ones you’d expect – flying, reading minds or being super strong,” Devarajan said.

“The fascinating thing about this group was that I don’t think I heard any one of those three,” he said.

“Each of their ideas was so originally distinct, whether the Syrian kids or the U.S. kids,” he said, adding that perhaps because of their disabilities, the young people think as individuals without being influenced by outsiders. One girl, for example, wanted to have the power to combine the energy of the moon and the sun.

The dozen Americans were selected after a national call for applications by The Victor Penada Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization that promotes the rights of young people with disabilities. They included youths who were blind, deaf, using wheelchairs, or suffering from Down syndrome, autism and cognitive disabilities.

The Syrians were invited by the Al-Amal school for the disabled, whose chairwoman, Asma Assad, the wife of Syrian president Bashar Assad, spent an afternoon meeting with the youngsters.

“It must be every child’s dream to create a superhero,” the Syrian first lady said in a video provided to the AP. “But I really do hope that we can bring our powers together – our human powers together – to be able to make a difference.”

Hamza Jaka, 18, of Fontana, Wisconsin, who is co-chairman of Kids as Self-Advocates which promotes the rights of young disabled people, said the visit to Syria was great because it was people-to-people, “not politicians flying in and blustering.” Jaka, a freshman at the University of California at Berkeley who is studying linguistics, said the trip has inspired him to study Arabic.

“There’s a lot of hatred, and it really can be dispelled by just sitting down and talking to people and realizing you share experiences in common,” he said. “That’s what happened when I started talking to one of the disabled Syrians. We both discovered that we had a love of basketball and . . . loved the same players,” Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

“I am a disabled Muslim and I love comic books, so this is like the highlight of my life,” said Jaka, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

“As somebody who owns a lot of comics and has studied how they affect social change, it was fun to be part of an exchange that hopefully can do the same,” he said, especially in changing attitudes towards the disabled, towards Muslims, and towards Syria.

Abdulrahman Hussein, 20, a Syrian student who was born handicapped and uses a wheelchair, said meeting the young Americans “made me feel that I have to improve my life.”

He said he is studying library administration at a university and wants to learn English so he can have contact with more people.

“I like the American people as I found them friendly,” Hussein said. “I’d like to visit America because I want to get acquainted with the achievements (of) the Americans.”

Man with Cerebral Palsy Harassed Daily by Citizens While Working

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Jamie Johnston has a job holding a sign for a Halloween store on the side of a popular street in Texas.  People passing by have not been taking it so well due to Johnston having cerebral palsy, even going so far as to call Adult Protective Services, contacting the police, honking their horns, and threatening to boycott the Halloween store for hiring him.

Johnston’s manager at the Spirit Halloween Store, Grant Gassaway, says he gets complaints daily.  “[They say things like] you guys are wrong, this is an unjust cause, we’re going to call the police and adult protective services.”

All of the informed groups have talked to Johnston themselves, and there is no case because they understand that his condition affects motor skills and not mental health.

Johnston notes, “Thank you for your concern, but I’m fine. I’m just happy to bring home a paycheck every week.”

Johnston has been married for 14 years.  His wife also has cerebral palsy and works full time.  He says that he gets bored at home and prefers to enjoy his independence.  He drive his motor powered wheelchair 19 blocks to work and sometimes takes the bus.

Gassaway reaffirms his decision to hire Johnston and states that he is one of the best employees they’ve ever seen.  “His work ethic is top notch. He’s been one of the best employees we’ve ever had, bar none. He’s completely dependable and that’s what we like. He’s done a great job for us.”

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Johnston is upset over the disruption it causes in his quest to lead a fuller life, but he will continue working until the season is over.  He also took the time to write a letter to the concerned citizens:

Hello, my name is Jamie, I am a 35-year-old male with cerebral palsy, and make use of a motorized wheelchair. I have been married for 14 years. For many years I have been trying to find gainful employment, but it can be difficult and frustrating.

I have been a bell ringer for the Salvation Army for about 10 years, in front of Market Street on 50th and Indiana which I really love. I also work at Goodwill.

I have recently applied at The Halloween Store as a sign holder. I appreciate them giving me the opportunity to work. For the most part people have been encouraging and supportive, and I really appreciate their support. However, they have been receiving a few complaints about me being out on the corner where I’m supposed to be, and I have been informed that it is starting to affect their business.

This is very disappointing to me. The police have been called out several times. Adult Protective Services has also been contacted. I appreciate people’s concern for me and my safety; I’m just trying to do the best I can to contribute in making a living for me and my wife.

Thanks,
Jamie

Futuristic Wheelchair Designed to Solve Common Problems

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A new concept wheelchair has been created for people with use of their upper body that is very futuristic in its style and features.  This wheelchair was created in the effort to solve some very specific problems.

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1) Storage
Instead of relying on a bulky backpack slung over the back of your chair, an elegant teardrop pocket was designed with an ultra sleek and modern feel.

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2) Avoiding Pressure Sores
Designers incorporate the use of Herman Miller’s Aeron chair fabric, Pellicle.  This unique fabric has interwoven technology that distributes the body weight evenly.  In theory they expect this to allow use for longer without any negative impacts to the user’s circulation and skin health.

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3) Home Use
A new and futuristic rear ball assembly allows for a near perfect turning curve which allows users to live in a home with minimal modifications.  A suspension system was also added to support movements on a variety of  gradients.  Designers would have preferred to have used the Segway balance mechanism, but that would have resulted in licensing costs and the purchase price being out of range for many people.

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4) iPhone Integration for Voice Controlled Hands-Free Movement and More
Through the use of an iPhone 3GS, users can control the wheelchair by using voice commands.  In addition, internet and phone access is available.  The iPhone is attached via a suction cup or flexible goose-neck device.

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5) Easy Tire Changes
Rimless wheels allow easy tire changes to suit the environment while also keeping things from getting trapped in tire spokes

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This futuristic wheelchair was designed by Thomas Ross & Dave Cochrane.  It is not known when the wheelchair will become available.

How would you change a wheelchair to make it better?

Handicapped and Terminally Ill Children Can Go Hunting with Non-Profit Organization

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Camo Inc, a non-profit organization based out of Wewahitchka, Florida, has a unique and specialized way of helping handicapped and terminally ill children. The staff takes these children on outdoor trips where they get one-on-one hunting time.

Derek Fussell and Chad Redding, the hearts and minds behind Camo Inc, know exactly what it’s like to be immersed in the love that comes from caring for others. The two old friends each had a loved one who they stood by in their time of medical need. Fussell’s mother fell ill in 2004. Redding’s own daughter at one point was sick with Leukemia. However, in neither of these instances were they forced to stand alone. They were surrounded by those who felt sympathy and compassion for their situation and truly wanted to help. Both friends and neighbors pitched in, brought food, and made themselves available to help in whatever way they could. Eventually Fussell’s mother recovered and Redding’s daughter’s Leukemia went into remission. However, forever touched by the generosity of others, Fussell and Redding decided it was time to give back. Enter Camo Dreams Inc, a non-profit organization created to take handicapped and terminally ill children out hunting.

“I wanted to find a way to give back, to give what I enjoyed back,” Fussell said. “It kind of snowballed after that.”

Having conducted trips since 2004, the group has managed to take 17 children out. In that time they have managed to accomplish a high success rate of about 80%. The children whom they have taken out have had diseases which range from Spina Bifida, Polyostotic Fibrous Dysplasia to Osteogenesis Imperfecta.

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One of the things that separates Camo Dreams from other similar organizations is how it handles it’s hunt. Other organizations tend to take out multiple children at a time. However, not Camo Dreams. They prefer to only take out one child at a time, which Fussell personally believes contributes to the high rate of success the hunts have.

“I personally feel like, if you have five or six kids, somebody may feel left out,” Fussell said.

The one-on-one attention may also explain the many special moments that are spawned during each of these trips.

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For more information or to donate money for trips to the organization, visit www.camodreams.org.

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D.C. Disabled Parking Space Injustice Has Karmic Twist

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On a lovely Washington, D.C. evening, Martena Clinton of Randallsville, MD — excited to attend the Congressional Black Caucus dinner and dressed to the nines — drove up to the Washington Convention Center, located a handicapped accessible parking space on the street closest to the entrance, prominently displayed her handicap hang-tag and went inside. When she emerged from the building six hours later, her Lexus was missing.

She immediately called for police help and the responding officer informed her that several cars needed to be removed from the area and relocated, because President Obama was speaking at the dinner that evening. The only problem was that the police had no record of having moved her Lexus. Civilian tow-truck operators were supposed to make note of license plate numbers and vehicles’ new locations, and report those to the police department, but Clinton’s car was not listed among them.

After several hours of the police circling the area and searching for her moved car, they gave up their search and assured her that the car would be simple to find, as all vehicles were relocated within a few blocks of the center. They also told her that if it had not been found within 30 days, she should report it to her insurance company. Beyond that, they could not help her.

Feeling exhausted by the long night, Clinton decided to wait until daylight and ended up checking into a hotel room for the night with her same friend who had invited her to the event. The two women found Clinton’s Lexus later the following afternoon, parked just a half of a block from the center (one block from where she left it), blocking access to a fire hydrant and with no signs indicating the vehicle had been moved officially.

Frustrated by the police’s lack of further interest, Clinton called the press and her story actually made the front page of The Washington Post, with a photo of Clinton appearing distraught in front of the disabled parking space where she had last seen her vehicle.

Photo by Katherine Frey via the Washington Post

Photo by Katherine Frey via the Washington Post

What is buried deep in the story, however, is the one sentence that stood out to many shocked readers: “Clinton has the handicapped tag because her husband suffered a stroke.” That is to say, the hang-tag is for Clinton’s husband, who was not with her for the event.

The Post’s comment boards lit up with hundreds of angered readers — some complaining about the incompetency of the D.C. police, but the overwhelming majority angered by the audacity of Clinton herself, using a handicapped parking space when she herself is not disabled. The main word that came up repeatedly in the comments was: karma.

There has been no word as to whether the D.C. police with ticket Clinton for illegal use of the hang-tag to park in a handicapped accessible zone, a fine that ranges from $250 to $500 in the District, and the previously chatty victim-turned-violator has become quite silent over this latest detail. When Clinton was later questioned by a reporter for The Washington Examiner as to why she parked in the space reserved for people with disabilities, she had no comment.

Tell us what you think?

Criminal, Vigilante or Hero? Father Arrested for Defending His Daughter with Disabilities

A Florida father is facing criminal charges for doing what he felt was right to protect his bullied daughter. He went through proper channels and felt that the administrators and officials did nothing to protect his child.

James Jones is the proud and highly protective father of his 11 year old daughter. His daughter has cerebral palsy and attends a public middle school to try to have a normal childhood.

We’re all familiar with schoolyard bullying, and if you have disabilities then it doesn’t make matters any better. If you’re not able to defend yourself because of your disabilities then it makes matters worse. That was the case with Mr Jones’s daughter.

Recently his daughter had to change to a different middle school. That was roughly one month prior to the videos that you’re about to watch. According to Mr Jones, his daughter was the victim of relentless bullying and torture at the hands of other students in her new school.

The older students on her school bus, with one of the primary antagonists being in 7th grade, would pinch her, hit her, call her names and pull her ears. This pushed his daughter to the point of being suicidal. Again, she is just 11 years old and tormented enough to contemplate suicide.

Imagine if you were in Mr Jones’s position. You would talk to your daughter daily to learn why she was upset and find that again and again, for a month, she was being harassed at the hands of young instigators who had no regard for human decency and tolerance. You would go to the school officials for them to stop the bullying and see no changes. You would watch helplessly as the bus driver ignored the actions of the students day after day after day.

This cycle happened for a month. The breaking point for Mr Jones was when one of the young thugs threw an open condom onto his daughter’s head and then laughed, along with the rest of bus, as she tried to pull it off. This is the raw video of the bully throwing the condom onto his daughter.

This cycle happened for a month. The breaking point for Mr Jones was when one of the young thugs threw an open condom onto his daughter’s head and then laughed, along with the rest of bus, as she tried to pull it off.

Imagine your daughter with tears streaming down her face as she is ridiculed and humiliated in front of 30 of her peers. See what Mr Jones did the next day.

You saw in the video that Mr Jones takes full responsibility for his actions and will accept any consequences that will happen. He agrees that he shouldn’t have yelled and threatened his daughter’s bullies. As a parent, what would you have done?

The bus driver was powerless or simply chose to do nothing. The Greenwood Lakes school administrators were powerless or simply chose to do nothing. The Seminole County sheriff’s office now says that he should have contacted them, but in reality, when was the last time that a sheriff’s office acted on a bullying case, even with Florida’s Anti-Bullying Law?

Now Mr. Jones faces criminal charges for his actions including disorderly conduct and disturbing a school function. Is Mr Jones a criminal, a vigilante or a hero?

Make Your Home More Wheelchair Accessible with 10 Low Cost DIY Projects

Make your Home More Wheelchair Accessible with 10 Low Cost DIY Projects

While you are saving to make more extensive renovations, here are some inexpensive things that you can do yourself to improve wheelchair accessibility in your home.

Top Ten Low Cost DIY Wheelchair Accessible Home Tips

1. Replace door knobs with levers. Levers can easily be pushed down, making it easier to get in and out of rooms.

2. Install mini ramps on high door thresholds by gluing down tiny wedges of wood or metal.

3. Rearrange furniture to allow ease of movement by wheelchair. Allow a 32 inch path, and leave enough room for a turning radius of 5 feet.

4. The wheelchair user generally finds that transferring to a bed, couch or chair is easier and safer if they are the same height as the seat of the wheelchair. Comfortably sitting at a standard kitchen table is not possible in a wheelchair. Blocks of wood securely attached to the legs of furniture can raise existing objects to the desired heights.

5. Install grab bars in the bathroom, around the bathtub, shower and toilet.

6. Most clothes rods in closets are too high to be reached easily by anyone in a seated position. Lowering the bar to a maximum height of 54 inches or installing an adjustable bar is recommended. Many pre-fabricated closet accessories are now available that can be combined in various configurations to meet one’s own storage needs.

7. Rugs can make it very difficult to move a wheelchair, especially in the bathroom, kitchen and entry way. Remove them whenever possible. If you must have a rug in the living area, make sure that it has a non-slip backing, is of a low pile, and has no tassels.

8. Get a cordless phone that comes with additional units. You won’t have to hurry to another room to answer when it rings.

9. Gravel walkways can be very difficult to manage in a wheelchair. Replace gravel with paving stones.

10. Build your own wheelchair ramp for your house! There are tutorials online that give you the plans to build your own wheelchair ramp out of wood or concrete. Have a friend or loved one help you for a great birthday present or holiday gift project!

There are many do-it-yourself projects that can be accomplished with little time and money. Even though these modifications aren’t expensive, they can still make a huge difference in your day to day life by making your home much easier to maneuver around in your wheelchair.