June 2010

Think to Type Brainwave Technology


Imagine being able to think words, and they appear on the screen. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic are now able to do just that in a lab. For people who are unable to speak after an injury or a stroke, this brain wave technology provides hope.

Through measuring electrical activity using metallic sensors, brain waves can be translated into words on a screen.

“They know what they want to say. They can still think about what they want to do, but they can’t express it. This is technology that would allow people like that to communicate with the world,” says Dr. Jerry Shih.

Right now a person concentrates on a flashing letter on a computer monitor. This creates an electrical charge in the volunteer’s brain, and that information is sent to the computer. The computer translates that particular signal to mean the letter that the person was thinking and projects it on the screen.

This is today’s technology, and Doctor Shih envisions much more for the future.

He says, “It’s certainly in the realm of possibility that in the next several years your brain waves can control an external device that can walk over to that pencil, pick it up and move it to write something.”

Currently other research is being done to allow people to move prosthetic limbs or a wheelchair using only brainwaves. Dr. Shih says this technology is in its early stages and may take ten years or more before it is ready for public use.

There are similar other brainwave to speech/movement projects happening around the world at the same time. See some of these videos below:

Wheelchair Simulator Game Prototype


A wheelchair simulation game, controlled by a real wheelchair, requires a player to “escape the maze.” The simulator came in 2nd place at a worldwide Game Changers competition. 

The goal of the contest is to present an idea and design for a game that can improve lives or inspire new behaviors, whether personally, professionally or communally, to create change. In short, design a game that aims to create change by improving lives or inspiring new behaviors.


Playful Shark, a leading game development studio in Israel, created the chair simulator by hooking up a wheelchair to a computer with magnets to measure the speed and direction of each wheel. The head of the project team, “Goldy,” explained that the original concept was very different than the current concept.

“The original and “Gamer-like” concept was to set the game in a dark hospitalized world, where the medical staff (zombies?) are actually the bad ones, and the disabled hero’s goal is to fight his way out of the maze. I was captivated by the idea that the “poor” handicapped person is actually the action hero who gains control over the hostile environment. I found the metaphor rather empowering, and also imagined a scenario where a (real life) disabled player will actually find the game easier then the ordinary player,” explained Goldy.


Judges liked the wheelchair driving simulator because it makes people aware of experiences of being disabled and demonstrates the importance of accessibility to participants.  Many found new respect now aware of what people in wheelchairs overcome every day.  The games were judged based on “overall effectiveness,” “creativity,” “practicality” and “aesthetics.”

1st Place Winner – be-B Braille Education Ball


As for who came in first place, that award goes to the be-B Braille Education Ball.  This game allows users, blind and sighted, the ability to learn braille in a playful way.  The ball has a peg for each letter of the alphabet with braille on one side and latin on the other.  The toy speaks the letter that is touched and emits a chime when the peg goes in the correct hole.

$500 Scholarship from 1800wheelchair


Established in 2005, 1800wheelchair, provider of wheelchairs, walkers and scooters, promotes a bi-annual scholarship. Awarded in June/July and January of each year, the scholarship awardee walks away with $500 in cash.

We caught up with the owner of 1800wheelchiar, Joseph Piekarksi, and asked him about why he offers this program:

“We try to run our business by the maxim – do well while doing good.” Piekarski went on, “Yes, we have a business selling mobility equipment and medical supplies, yet we’re also in the unique position of being able to help create a community. Offering this scholarship and selling mobility gear does not have to be exclusive.”

Previous essays have explored how disability and college life intersect. The most recent essay question solicited student views on the health care debate.

1800wheelchair owners offer, “Healthcare is so important that we reprised the essay question for our spring contest.”

This is a great program spread the word and submit your essay.

Full details on the 1800wheelchair Scholarship can be found here.

Canadian students can apply for the Canadian Scholarship here.

Cat Walks Again with Prosthetic Paws


Owners Kate and Mike Nolan were heartbroken last October when their cat Oscar was struck by a combine harvester while napping in the sun.   The event nearly took his life.  After visiting their veterinarian and Oscar was stabilized, they were suggested to try out a new innovation with bionic legs.


They did a lot of soul searching and wondered what would be best for 2 year old Oscar.  “Through our background reading, we were aware that this sort of procedure is cutting edge and also has an impact on human medicine. So knowledge about the way that Oscar’s been treated can be carried over to human treatment going forward.” said Mr. Nolan.

They were referred to neuro-orthopaedic surgeon Noel Fitzpatrick in London.  Fitzpatrick has been working in a partnership with Professor Blunn and his team from the University College of London.  The weight-bearing implants, called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prosthetics (Itaps),  have been designed similar to deer antlers where the skin attached to the metal and bone safely without infection.  This is where the real challenge lies, having never been done before.


In a three hour operation, doctors fitted Oscar with the limbs.  Within a day, Oscar was trying to stand on his own.  Within 4 months he was able to stand and put weight on all four limbs.

Now, 8 months later, Oscar can run and jump about as other cats do.


See Oscar walking around after his full recovery

This is Oscar trying his new legs for the first time 4 months after the accident

Tool for Paralyzed to Create Art using Eyes


An international team merged together in an collaborative effort to create a new way for artists to create art using only their eyes, and they succeeded by creating a very low cost solution that you can build yourself for less than $50 with free software and detailed video instructions.

The invention has been a lifesaver for artist Tony Quan, aka Tempt One, a legendary LA graffity writer, publisher and activist.  He is now creating art again, something he has not been able to do ever since ALS left him completely paralyzed except for his eye movement.


“Art is a tool of empowerment and social change, and I consider myself blessed to be able to create and use my work to promote health reform, bring awareness about ALS and help others.”

The team has taken a projection device out into downtown Los angeles to display Quan’s art live as he drew it in his hospital room.  The designs were visible from the freeway as drivers watched the creations take place.


The next step for this international dream team is to connect ALS patients together online to create eye art as well as build a network of software developers, hardware hackers, and urban projection artists.

This project was made possible by Members of Free Art and Technology (FAT), OpenFrameworks, the Graffiti Research Lab, the Ebeling Group communities, the Not Impossible Foundation, with additional support from Parsons Commucations Design & Technology.

Are you interested in creating an Eyewriter for someone?    Learn how to build one yourself with the detailed 10 step process here : https://www.instructables.com/id/The-EyeWriter/

Watch the video below or learn more about the Eyewriter for disabled and paralyzed artists from their official website here: https://www.eyewriter.org/




Move that Truck

Just like most little communities in North Carolina, Woodleaf has a volunteer fire department, post office, an auto repair shop, several in-home beauty shops (only one of these would NOT be enough for us older ladies), and one gas station with mini-grocery store and restaurant.

Woodleaf is a farming community where a lot of tomatoes and strawberries are raised and marketed both locally and long distances. The BP, as the restaurant is called, always has been a place where retired guys hang out and workers come in for breakfast and lunch. The air has always hung heavy with cigarette or cigar smoke. After my husband and I finally quit smoking in 1989, we seldom ate there. Sometimes in the past eight years since I had the multiple sclerosis exacerbation and moved back to Woodleaf, friends and family have brought breakfast out to me from the BP; that is my favorite meal of the day!

Well, now that there is a no-smoking law in public places and I have the handicapped conversion van I can go back there like we did when my grandsons were little guys (both being nearly 5’10”tall now).

So for the first time in several years, I met my daughter and oldest grandson at the BP for breakfast. We both needed gas so they filled my tank. To one side of the establishment there is a retaining wall and there are parallel parking spaces. They were all empty when I went in and I was confident I would not get blocked in there because traffic flows in and out just to the right of where I parked.

It was so nice to sit there without all that smoke and we enjoyed our breakfast.

As I started out, I saw the beer distributing truck blocked parallel to me and I knew I would not be able to get the ramp down and get my scooter in position.

He was pushing several cases of beer in as I went out the door. I said, “Sir, how long will you be here? You have blocked me in.” He said he thought he had allowed enough room for me to get in and he would move it shortly.

Once again, I guess I wasted $20 for the sign I had put on the window on the passenger side: “Ramp Van, Allow 8’ for clearance.” The only way I would have had room to get in would have been if I were an able-bodied passenger. The driver’s door was blocked against the retaining wall. As I sat waiting, I though about the audience on the TV show, “Extreme Makeover,” when they scream, “MOVE THAT TRUCK!” I was tempted but I just prayed for patience. Then I laughed when I remembered back when I was a 4-H volunteer leader; my assistant leader and I were talking one day when some parents had not returned our calls. I had said, “We need to pray for patience!” She said, “Okay… Father God, we need some patience and we need it right now.” I couldn’t help but smile when the driver came back and realized what a mistake he had made. He moved the truck, offered to help me and we both went our separate ways.

I ran two other errands and went to the once-a-month meeting that I had organized for volunteers to help recycle cards for our soldiers in Iraq. Then several of us went to lunch in Salisbury. I had only recently tried the Honey-baked Ham Restaurant after years of passing by and it had been so good, I convinced the other ladies to go there. It is operated by a man from Egypt. He had been extremely nice and allowed me to sample the ham salad. It was so good that I had bought some home; so now it’s time for me to head to the kitchen to fill my tummy with a late-night snack. At least here, I won’t have to ask anyone to “Move that truck.”

Oprah Rigging TV Show Contest Against Handicapped?


Last week we posted a story about Zach Anner, a boy with cerebral palsy that entered a video into Oprah’s talk show contest for her new tv network. Anner was winning the contest by over a million votes for a solid week, and suddenly people noticed a glaring change with the voting system on her website. For several days, the number 2 contestant would be uplifted by 10,000-20,000 votes every few minutes, and votes for Anner wouldn’t increase, in fact, they would decrease.

Things went downhill fast, so fast that the contestant in 2nd place surpassed Anner by 300,000 votes in less than 20 minutes when they were at their closest.

Screen shots have been taken by various people across the internet:

…and even some charts have appeared:

chart with stats detailing a time period that the 2nd place contestant
was given 2 votes for every 1 that Anner would receive during regular intervals

Some people even went so far as to check the code of the page, and they noticed that the contestant in 2nd place was coded differently than everyone else during the time that the votes changed. (coding differences)

Comments left by Anner’s voters include:

  • “Is this contest rigged? I just voted and so did a couple other people and his vote counter is stuck at the same number. The lady who jumped ahead is getting 10,000 every couple minutes. I wonder who is rigging it. Zach was winning for so long until they stopped counting his votes.”
  • I’ve voted a few times, and it doesn’t seem to be counting… Its been stuck at the same number for a while now. Yet, the top video, Dr. Phyliss seems to be getting hoards of votes coming in. What is happening?
  • I just voted and instead of the points going up they went down what is going on?
  • my votes aren’t showing up either : ( but they do whenever i try voting on anyone elses
  • My votes aren’t showing up… Plus 5 minutes ago, Zach had 3.8 million votes. And now it says 3.6 millions votes.
  • Zach has all the charisma and charm needed to make an excellent host – not to mention the sexiest of palsies! I don’t know about this voting situation except for what I’ve seen with my two eyes, but all I’ve seen are Zach’s votes going DOWN while Dr. Phyllis’ votes shoot up at unprecedented rates – 500,000 in an hour or two!!! I hope this does not affect Zach’s chances, he seems like such a great guy…. go ZACH!
  • Um! I have tried voting for Zach for the past 2 days and none of my votes have showed. Now Zach is number two in the most votes category… I really hope this computer glitch is fixed within the next day because if it is not…. it is going to look very suspicious. This guy deserves to win because he is so natural and entertaining in front of the camera.
  • My computer was being slow so I refreshed and I couldnt help but notice that his points dropped by a few thousand. Anyone kno why the points keep dropping?
  • “This contest is rigged! Every time someone posts about it being rigged it gets deleted! ZACH SHOULD BE WINNING. THIS IS RIGGED. THIS COMMENT WILL BE DELETED.”
  • “I voted for Zach and he didn’t get one! WHY?! I think something is wrong with the voting system as my vote did not get counted! WE LOVE YOU ZACH!”

On the bright side, the top 5 contestants are the ones that move forward to be voted upon by Oprah herself, so Zach is still well positioned… at least, this week.

So is the contest really being rigged?  Longtime viewers of Oprah hope not and rely on the trust that she has built over many years, but the changes in the website code speaks louder than anything else.  Let’s hope it isn’t true.

Others wonder if the contest is even reliable because video entries are still coming in, yet they receive little attention compared to those that have been getting votes for a couple weeks.  How does one compete with someone that is already 5 million votes ahead of you?  Perhaps they should have received all the entries and then allowed people to vote.  Regardless, sorting through the (current) 5,573 video entries is to say, daunting at the very least.  If every video was two and a half minutes long like Zach’s, it would take 232 hours to sit through all of them.  Plus they are doing live auditions as well across the United States.

Despite the outcome, Anner and his mother remind everyone to remain positive like the true heroes they are.

Anner is a former University of Texas student and seasoned television host. He calls himself a “wheelchair-bound lady magnet.”  See his original video entry below.

Bob the Builder Bulldozer Wheelchair Costume

15 Halloween Costumes for Wheelchairs

We scoured the internet and found some amazing examples of wheelchair costumes for Halloween. Yes, it’s a bit early, but proper planning and some time makes for an amazing wheelchair costume.

Wheelchair Costume Jousting Knight
The Jousting Knight

John Deere Tractor

Darth Vader (photo by Kevin Tostado – Tostie14)


Drummer Boy


Boba Fett


Bad to the Bone Biker


Fred Flintstone

Steampunk Wheelchair



Make Halloween special either for yourself or someone close to you by turning a wheelchair into a fabulous costume. You can never be too old to enjoy dressing up, especially when they look this good. What are you going to be this year?


Man Drives Wheelchair 2,000 miles for Disabled Veterans


A man that goes by Dutch, The Rolling Dutchman, and officially by the name of Robert William Van Vranken II is on a mission, again.  Currently Van Vranken is on a 2,000-mile journey in his wheelchair that began on Memorial Day.  He will be on the road for quite a long time.  He is starting his trip in northern Minnesota, and he doesn’t plan on stopping until his wheelchair hits the Gulf of Mexico.  His cause?  He is raising awareness of all the struggles that disabled vets face.

Van Vranken will be stopping at every American Legion, VFW post, military base, and veterans cemetery he can find on his trip. He plans on staying at local campgrounds with a spot to plug in his wheelchair and cellphone, motel rooms, and local host families along the way.


Van Vranken lost his leg from above the knee down back in 2006 in an automobile accident.  Within months of his accident, he was rolling down the road from Minneapolis to New York in a similar journey with an effort to raise awareness for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

Retired from Northwest Airlines where he was a ground services crew chief and currently an amateur blues guitarist in a local band called “Mr. Blue,” Van Vranken is not taking any of the money that he raises.  In fact, he’s never been a veteran and only does this out of respect for them. All money will be given the the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

What does he want from all of us? “Remember, when you see a veteran just say thank you.  See ya’ on the road!”

With a top speed of about 9 miles an hour and a 10 hour battery life, he hopes to dip his front wheels into the Gulf in about 6 or 7 months.

Ms Wheelchair America Pageant

As one of the oldest pageant programs in the country, the Ms Wheelchair America pageant was organized in 1972 by a physician named Dr. Philip K Wood in Columbus, Ohio that specialized in the treatment of the disabled.