Wheelchair Blog from AMS Vans

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A physical disability presents unique challenges for the individual, the family and the caregivers. Our wheelchair blog is here to empower all of you with tips, trends in wheelchair technology, wheelchair news, inspiring stories, insightful interviews, medical breakthroughs, helpful links, the latest in adaptive products, disability news, upcoming events and, of course, information about AMS Vans' wheelchair accessible vehicles. We focus on anything and everything that enriches your life and makes it easier.

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Prosthetic Bone Implant for Veteran Amputees

Prosthetic Implant Offers Greater Options to Amputee Veterans

A team of researchers and surgeons from the University of Utah and the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City are working hard to address the needs of the thousands of wartime veterans returning home with limb amputations unable to support traditional prosthetics. Often these veterans have skin issues or lack ample remaining limb length to qualify for the standard socket-type attachment system.

The researchers have spent the last six years developing an alternate solution that involves osseointegrated direct skeletal attachment of prosthetic limbs. The device is implanted directly into the remaining bone, then passes through the skin so that a prosthetic limb cam be attached without the need for a socket. Nothing like this has been attempted before in the United States, and only 250 procedures have been attempted world wide, with mixed results.

“We are trying desperately to provide relief to the many veterans who have lost a limb,” says Roy Bloebaum, professor of orthopaedics at the University of Utah and the director of the VA Bone and Joint Research Lab. “Most of these people are very young and have many years to live. Our goal is to give them back all of the abilities they had before they were injured.”

Utah Researchers of Prosthetic Implant for Veterans

Recently, the researchers, which include Kent Bachus, an engineer, professor, and director of the Orthopaedic Research Lab at the University of Utah, and Peter Beck, an orthopaedic surgeon and adjunct professor of orthopaedics, partnered with DJO Surgical. DJO Surgical is a global developer and manufacturer of medical devices that has licensed the implant technology and is playing an active role in the remaining research and development.

The Food and Drug Administration accepted the device into a program that permits designing a human early feasibility study. DJO Surgical applied for the FDA study and will be responsible for managing the implementation of the study, which will last up to three years. During the three years, ten patients will have the device implanted. The team can develop and refine the device between each operation, which supporters hope will streamline the refinement process and compress the development cycle.

The three problems that must be overcome include getting the bone to grow into the device, preventing infection, and addressing the skin interface. The team of researchers believes they have overcome these problems by coating the titanium device with a porous titanium material called P2 (P squared), which allows skin and bone to grow into the material to form a secure bond.

“We are excited to sign this partnership agreement with the University of Utah and Dr. Bloebaum,” says Bryan Monroe, DJO’s senior vice president and general manager of DJO Surgical. “With the combination of our proprietary titanium P2 porous coating and Dr. Bloebaum’s unique approach for percutaneous osseointegrated prosthesis, we believe that we have developed a winning solution that will have a monumental impact on the lives of amputees.”

The three researchers have quite a way to go before hospitals will consider offering their implant prosthesis. They are working on securing $5 million in grants and other partnerships similar to the partnership with DJO Surgical, so they may fine tune and perfect the process and device.


Voters with Disabilities

Despite Recent Advances, Many Voters with Disabilities Still Face Multiple Accessibility Barriers

As many as 3.2 million Americans may have been “sidelined” from participating in this year’s presidential election day, despite 20 years of fighting for laws to boost access to the polls. Who are these people who may be denied the ability to access their polling location and vote? They are the nation’s citizens with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Help America Vote Act require that polling places have accessible voting systems, and that they ensure equal access and participation for people with physical and visual disabilities, yet voter turnout for people with disabilities is still 11% lower than non-disabled voter turn-out. Some critics of the current election day system think that number may be enough to change the results of a close election. Part of the problem is a lack of motivation to vote, but part is also due to a lack of accessible polling places.

Standing Polling Stations in New York

New York City made headline news recently, when a Federal Court judge listened to testimony about how to make polling sites in New York City more accessible for people who use wheelchairs and have vision impairments. The lawsuit came on the heels of a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling from early August that conceded that there were pervasive barriers at the voting sites for people with disabilities.

Voting with Disabilities

That lawsuit was first filed two years ago, claiming that the Board of Elections has violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The case presented a laundry list of challenges city residents with disabilities faced at polling places, including wheelchair ramps too narrow or steep, missing handicapped entrance signs, and voting booths too close to the wall for wheelchair access. While the ruling on the case was a victory for disabled voters, other areas of the country still face a litany of problems.

“The truth is that voting is a really symbolic act. And to be denied the right to vote in person at your polling place is to have your voice silenced, to be excluded from your community and from having a voice in your country,” explained Julia Pinover, one of the attorneys in the NYC case.

Disabilities Matter when Voting

New York is not alone in its “open to interpretation” form of disability discrimination. In 39 of the nation’s states, there are laws that disqualify voters deemed “mentally incompetent” by a court from having the right to vote.

For example, in Virginia, election officials refused to provide absentee ballots for people in state psychiatric facilities because they read state law to allow ballots only for people with physical disabilities. And in Philadelphia during the 2008 election, nursing home residents were denied the right to vote based on the nursing home’s assessment of the capacity to vote, despite the fact there are no Pennsylvania laws that require voters to be deemed competent in order to vote.

Voter Handicap Parking Signs

Health and Human Rights Advocacy Director Rebecca Schleifer at Human Rights Watch says, “According to a 2009 US Government Accountability Office study, more than two-thirds of polling places are not fully accessible; nearly 25 percent did not have equal access to a secret and independent ballot and voting in a polling place, considered the ‘hallmarks of an effective and informed right to vote,’ as voting-rights expert Michael Waterstone has noted.”

What was your experience in this year’s election? Were your polling places accessible? Did you or a loved one face any disability discrimination that impeded your right to vote?


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Team Long Brothers Finish the New England Kids Triathlon

Triathlon Brothers–One with Cerebral Palsy–Win Hearts

The morning of July 22, 2012 was a big one for folks at the Johnson Athletic Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA. It was the start of the first annual New England Kids Triathlon, sponsored by the New England Patriots and the YMCA of New England, and it’s one of the largest events of its kind in the U.S. Despite all the celebrations for the event, the national spotlight turned to two amazing and inspiring brothers, Conner and Cayden Long.

Team Long Brothers Compete in New England Kids Triathlon

The pair, who compete under the name Team Long Brothers, were the first to enter the pool in the eight and under swimmers, despite the fact that Conner is nine years old. He entered the competition with the younger kids because his brother Cayden is a 6-year-old with cerebral palsy.

Conner Tows Cayden Long in New England Kids Triathlon

“People don’t realize that when you’re special needs and in a wheelchair, you won’t be able to get out that much,” 9-year-old Conner told ESPN in November last year.

Conner came up with the idea of competing with his brother after seeing an ad for a kid’s triathlon last year. He asked his parents for permission, and with the help of the event’s organizers the brothers were able to compete alongside the other children.

Team Long Brothers Swim the New England Kids Triathlon

“It was pretty inspiring to some people and it was cool to me that I took on the challenge to pull my younger sibling,” said Conner. “When I see him smiling and laughing, that means he’s having a good time.”

Team Long Brothers Run in the New England Kids Triathlon

For the swimming portion of the triathlon, Conner had a special harness fitted around his chest that allowed him to pull an inflatable raft which held his younger brother. A lifeguard swam alongside the pair to make sure everyone was safe, and the crowd fell in love with the duo at first sight.

Conner Long Pushes Cayden in New England Kids Triathlon

After completing the 100m swim for the first portion of the triathlon, Cayden was pulled from the water and buckled into the back of a special cart. The cart was attached to Conner’s bicycle, and he pulled his brother along behind his bike through the second portion of the event.

New England Patriots Mascot Cheers Team Long Brothers

The cart was then detached from the bicycle, and Conner pushed it while jogging the half-mile final leg of the triathlon. As they jogged along, Pat Patriot, the New England Patriots mascot, was among the many fans cheering them on. As they crossed the finish line, in second from last place, the other children that had finished the race met them with hugs, medals, and some water for Conner.


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