31 May 2010

Teens turn Wii remote into physical therapy tool

BY LESLIE BIXLER • Staff writer • May 13, 2010

Andrew Nichelson, a student at Ross High School, and Tiffin Columbian students Seth Sholl and Cody Semer came up with the idea as a senior project for the Tech Center's Computer Communications Network Technician program.

"We modified a Wii mote and turned it into a mouse," Sholl said, adding that they added Velcro straps to secure it to a person's wrist.

Originally, the teens thought to create a variant of a data glove used for gaming. But they turned it into a medical device after talking to Sholl's father, a physical therapist. Sholl said it ended up being more convenient and less expensive to go that route.

Semer said they connect the Wii remote to a computer through Bluetooth signals. The signals are emulated as mouse movements on the screen. He said the program is almost like a game, but tests a person's movement capabilities.

"We're hoping people can use this at home, and the program could send information to an occupational therapist," Semer said.

This would help people with cerebral palsy and people who have had a stroke, the students said. It could also help slow down muscular sclerosis.

"We incorporated three dimensions with the project to test depth perception and ataxic cerebral palsy," Sholl said.

Semer said the project is still not complete.

"We had the project done for state (competition), but we're thinking about taking it further," he said.

They worked with Floyd Collins, their instructor; Terry Ritchie, another instructor; an instructor at Terra Community College; and an occupational therapist at Bellevue Hospital.

They also credit fellow students for help.

"They worked very hard on this project, and we came into the school on weekends while other students where home relaxing and enjoying the weekend," Collins said. "The biggest hurdle for the team was overcoming their fears of presenting the project to the judges.

"They learned more from this project than can be taught from books or the classroom. They learned what it is to be a team and working for a common goal, relying on each other's strengths and overcoming their weaknesses. I am very proud of each of them, and I hope they take what they learned from this and keep going."

Last month, the teens went to Columbus for a business and technology competition and took third place for their project.

They were the first team from the Tech Center in the Tech Prep Showcase in March at Terra Community College.

Dynamic duo aids disabled

By Phil Fairbanks News Staff Reporter

Dan D'Andrea and Dave Whalen are a dangerous duo.

One, they have money, and, two, they have a passion, a righteousness if you will, that drives them.

Together, they're a recipe for success unless you're a municipality, restaurant or hotel that thumbs its nose at people with disabilities.

"There's nothing worse than traveling to some place and not being able to get inside," said D'Andrea, a former construction worker paralyzed from the chest down in a 2004 workplace accident.

With the first-ever grants awarded by D'Andrea's charitable trust, a $1 million fund formed last year, the men are out to correct a great wrong — widespread ignorance over the needs of the disabled community.

The result is two initiatives that could open doors for thousands of people with disabilities.

Our intent is to ensure that everyone is included in society," said Whalen, a disability awareness trainer and consultant. "That's not happening right now."

Their first initiative is to create a Web site — www.accessbuffalo.com — that reviews local restaurants and hotels with an eye toward rating their accessibility. The site will be up and running July 1.

The second initiative is "Town Hall Training," a new program aimed at training local government officials in what their legal responsibilities are under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"That's the law, but most people don't know the law, or say they don't," said D'Andrea, "And if people don't know what to do, how can we hold them responsible?"

Whalen said a lack of awareness "permeates local government," and the most obvious symptom of that is the dearth of local municipal committees dedicated to addressing the needs of the disabled community.

One of the few towns with an active and effective committee is Amherst. By no strange coincidence, D'Andrea and Whalen are members.

Just this year, at the committee's urging, Amherst Council Member Mark Manna asked building inspectors to review town-owned facilities with deficiencies identified by the committee. The problems ranged from poor signs to inadequate doorknobs to doorways too narrow for wheelchairs.

"Every elected official needs to look inside himself and ask if they're committed to spending taxpayers' money on these things," said Manna, the Amherst Town Board's liaison to the committee.

Whalen thinks Amherst eventually can become a model for the rest of Western New York as he and D'Andrea push for the creation of committees for the disabled in every city, town and village.

They also plan to target Western New York's restaurants and hotels as part of a new Web site offering recommendations on where people with disabilities can eat or stay.

The local restaurant industry is cooperating.

"Bottom line, it's the right thing to do," said Robert Free, president of the local chapter of the American Restaurant Association. "It also opens the door to an expanded and largely untapped market."

In short, it's good business to be open and accessible to the disabled.

As director of food service at Coca-Cola Field, Free knows the benefits. Pettibones, the heart of his operation there, is known as a restaurant with widespread access.

And thanks to accessbuffalo.com, even more people will soon know that.

When the Web site debuts in July, people will be able to select from reviews that look at everything from a restaurant's entrances to the accessibility of its restrooms.

The reviews will be done by volunteer college students from Canisius, Niagara, Hilbert and the University at Buffalo.

"We're not coming in and saying, "You're bad because you're not accessible,' " Whalen said. "What we're saying is, "This is what you need to do to become accessible.' "

The common theme in everything Whalen and D'Andrea do is access and inclusion. Spend a few minutes with them, and you'll hear it over and over again.

Poke a little deeper, and you'll find out why.

For D'Andrea, it's a passion rooted in a December 2004 accident at the old Holling Press building, the site of one of downtown's first housing rehabilitation projects.

D'Andrea was working there when a large piece of scaffolding fell and landed on his back. The young construction worker eager to start his own business found himself in a wheelchair instead.

"My goal," he said, "is to make as many places as possible — public and private — accessible to people like me."

For Whalen, it's not so much about him as his young son, who was born with cerebral palsy. "I've worked in the field for years," he said, "but what drives me now is my son. I want to ensure that he, like everyone else, is included in every aspect of our society."

A tall order, but then again, you should never sell righteousness short.


30 May 2010

Can and abled

Subhash Mishra

January 8, 2010

Namita Gupta, 19, from Varanasi has been suffering from cerebral palsy, a disease in which the mind and the body do not work in sync. She was a top student and her parents had wanted to send her for higher studies but failed to do so because of the hostile atmosphere at regular universities and colleges. Though Gupta comprehends well, she speaks slowly with multiple breaks and can neither write nor walk properly. But Gupta has hope now, thanks to the Dr Shakuntala Mishra Rehabilitation University (DSMRU) in Lucknow, an initiative of Chief Minister Mayawati and BSP General Secretary Satish Chandra Mishra. She is now pursuing a BEd in hearing impairment and will acquire a job soon. With the help of two assistants provided by the university, Gupta can now express herself in writing and go wherever she pleases. Her mother has also been lodged with her on the campus. For thousands like Gupta, the DSMRU is fulfiling dreams every day.

The Central Government had been promising such a university for the last 15 years. As awareness about the needs of the physically challenged grew and social attitudes to them changed, it was realised that there simply aren't enough opportunities for them, especially in higher education.

The chief minister was so committed to the cause that she did not lose time in sanctioning over Rs 398 crore for the university. Last September she inaugurated the university in the name of Satish's mother, the late Shakuntala Mishra, who worked with the physically challenged for 20 years. Satish and Shakuntala have fought long battles in the courts trying to ensure reservation for the physically challenged in educational institutions and have been instrumental in the construction of ramps on footpaths and in providing them with government jobs. Satish is now personally monitoring the development of this university spread over 130 acres.

Till now, the physically challenged were left stranded when it came to deciding where to study and where to get financial support from. "As a result, they dropped the idea of pursuing higher studies all together," says Vice-Chancellor R.P. Singh, DSMRU. Despite the fact that Uttar Pradesh alone has more than 35 lakh physically challenged persons, only a small percentage of them have access to higher education due to social and economic reasons. "Many a time the government is not even able to fulfil the 3 per cent mandatory reservation in its services," says the Principal Secretary (Disabled Welfare), Shailesh Krishna, who is also the principal secretary to the chief minister. He said this is where the DSMRU is going to provide the best trained manpower.

The DSMRU is providing special education in BEd in hearing impairment, mental retardation, visual impairment and a diploma in education in these specialised courses. The annual admission fee starts at about Rs 15,000 and varies from course to course. Speaking to INDIA TODAY, Satish explained that all the rooms and washrooms have been designed with ramps and holding bars. He said that even the study material and technology have been modified to suit the students' needs, like books in Braille for the visually challenged students. Fifty per cent of seats in each course have been reserved for normal students with an aim to integrate regular and the differently abled students. It was on Satish's petition to the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court that the state had to ensure all facilities to the visually challenged.

"In the 2001 Census, the population of the physically challenged in India was about 22 million, of whom 48 per cent were partially or completely blind and 25 per cent physically challenged," says Satish. Mayawati has set up a special committee under Satish's chairmanship to submit a report for taking welfare measures for the differently abled. "This is my small contribution to the physically challenged," said the chief minister while inaugurating the university. Apart from providing an education, the DSMRU is also assuring placements for the students pursuing courses like hearing impairment and mental retardation, says the registrar of the rehabilitation university, S.K. Srivastava. "We are already receiving requests from schools and colleges for qualified teachers," he says.

"We have no words to express our gratitude to the chief minister and Mishra who has been instrumental in setting up the rehabilitation university," says S.K. Singh, general secretary of the National Association of the Visually Handicapped. He says that not even 3,000 physically challenged persons of the 35 lakh in the state make it to colleges and universities. "The condition in the rural areas, especially that of women, is pathetic," says Singh, adding that hundreds of posts reserved for the differently abled are lying vacant and the Government should look into it.

Singh said that there are many institutions which provide such an education, but this university is one of its kind as this is where the physically challenged can receive higher education and get proper jobs as well. "We had been liabilities on our families and on society. But the DSMRU has changed our lives. It has elevated us to the status of regular human beings who can earn and feed their families also," says visually impaired student Dinesh Kumar, from Deoria district. The university is showered with calls from all over the country from students with a range of impairments and specific learning difficulties to know about the details of admission, says Srivastava. It's a start, but there's a long way to go.

One small step for Connor, one big step to help others

TEARS streamed down Wendy Jones's face as she watched her little boy take his very first steps.

Courageous Connor Lamb has learned how to walk – at the age of five.

"I counted as he went," said 30-year-old Wendy. "He managed 19 steps. How fantastic was that? We are really proud of him.
"It has taken him a long time to learn how to walk."
Connor was born with a life-threatening brain defect which delayed his development and movement. Following brain surgery, he was still unable to crawl at the age of three and was forced to spend his early years sitting on the floor.
Before his first birthday, Connor had endured two operations to treat his hydrocephalus, which is also known as fluid on the brain.
"He had a rough time after he was born," explains Wendy, who works as a teacher. "He spent his first Christmas in hospital after developing an infection and that set his development back even further.
"The first operation failed so he had to have another one. Surgery controls the conditions and allows people with hydrocephalus to lead a normal life.
"Surgeons fitted a shunt which drains the fluid from the brain. It was absolutely vital."
Connor, a pupil at Hilton Primary School, can now walk with the help of specialist splints which support his legs.
But Wendy, from Foston, believes Connor's success is all thanks to an independent therapy unit in Shropshire.
"Connor started going to the centre in 2008 and the changes in his development have been amazing," she said.

"We managed to secure funding from our local NHS trust and these sessions at the centre changed Connor's life. We can't thank enough the team who have worked with our son and helped him get on his feet.
"It has been an emotional journey but one which has a happy ending."
As a way of thanking The Movement Centre and highlighting its work, Connor asked his mum if he could raise money for the clinic.
On Sunday, he will set off on a sponsored walk around Branston Water Park.
With the help of his walking frame, and perhaps a hand from his mum and grandmother Daphne Broomfield, Connor plans to complete a short walk along the footpath.
"I don't know how far Connor will be able to go," said Wendy. "It's quite a walk. I think it would probably take me half an hour so Connor is going to need a little bit of help.
"But it's the taking part that counts and walking is his biggest achievement."
It is Connor's wish to raise enough money to pay for another child's treatment who might not be eligible for NHS funding. Each block of therapy, which can last a number of months, costs around £2,000. Connor needed two.

"It's very expensive," said Wendy. "But when you see how much it has helped Connor, you can't fail to want it for your child."
The Movement Centre, near Wales, is an independent, not-for-profit therapy centre dedicated to helping children with problems of movement control. It mainly deals with children with cerebral palsy and other severe conditions which affect mobility.
Wendy contacted the centre in July 2008 and asked if Connor could be assessed. After their first consultation, staff agreed to work with Connor.
"We were thrilled to get a place," said Wendy, who has another son, 22-month-old Reece. It was brilliant. I'd been told how wonderful it was and I really wanted Connor to go.
"I was desperate to help my son, that's why I got in touch.''
Connor started the programme only being able to sit on his bottom. He couldn't stand or walk or crawl.
Staff devised Connor his personal physiotherapy programme and made unique pieces of equipment to help him get around.

Between sessions at the unit, Wendy was shown how to help her son progress.
"I had to strap Connor into his frame for 30 minutes every day," said Wendy. "It supported him whilst he stood upright.
"The equipment helped to strengthen muscles and get him used to being in a vertical position. We also had lots of physiotherapy to do. We had targets to achieve.
"We went back to the unit every two months so the frame could be altered and his development assessed.
"We had two frames, together with physiotherapy and it really helped Connor find his feet. We had to do all kinds of exercises but the hard work paid off.
"In the beginning Connor learned how to pull himself up on things and then he was able to take his own weight.
"Within no time at all, he showed some positive results. I was thrilled. We all were. When we actually took his first steps I was totally overwhelmed. We all cried. It was so emotional."
Wendy and her partner, Stephen Lamb, 29, a duty manager for rail firm Stagecoach, believes life has never been better for Connor.

He loves school, has made some firm friends and is able to walk around like other five-year-old children. Specialist splints still aid his mobility, but they're not visible.
"He just wants to be like every other little boy," said Wendy. "And now he is. He's such a determined child. I'm so glad that he's done so well."
Wendy knew Connor had problems with his brain even before he was born. At her 20-week scan she was told that something was wrong with her unborn baby.
"I was totally devastated to hear that," said Wendy. "Connor was my first baby so it was just awful news to receive.
"I was transferred to Birmingham Women's Hospital where I had more tests.
"It was a worrying time because at first we didn't know exactly what would be wrong with Connor. Pregnancy defect – that's what medics banded about and that worried me even more."
After Connor was born he was transferred to Birmingham Children's Hospital where he was assessed. A scan confirmed he had hydrocephalus.
"It was exhausting," said Wendy. "We didn't know much about the condition and that worried us more.
"He had to have two operations on his brain and as a new mum I was petrified. We were in and out of hospital because he kept getting ill and developing infections."

Wendy has battled every step of the way to get the right treatment for her son and her hard work has paid off. Now she's enjoying a more laid back life with her two, very happy and very mobile children.
"I can't thank everyone enough for what they have done for Connor and me and my family," she said.
"Dig deep and help raise some money for Connor's walk – that's all I ask."
Penny Butler, lead physiotherapist at The Movement Centre, said: "We are thrilled to hear about Connor's sponsored walk. He has made such huge progress since he started coming to us.
"His efforts to raise money for us are much appreciated. Around 40% of the children we treat here do not secure NHS funding. This money could make such a difference to people's lives."

For ways to donate, e-mail Wendy at wendy19804@yahoo.co.uk

02 May 2010

Fire and Water

Hey Guys,

I have returned from my vacation in Portland, it was awesome. I visited my friend Garret, slept in a room full of books and movies. Slept on a Memory Foam Mattress, which was pretty comfy. For the first time I learned how to cut things with a knife, make rice and a whole bunch of other stuff. Also I did a whole bunch of dishes, which is some what of a therapy for me. Weird huh? Portland is a very beautiful place, it thrives with artists of all kinds, the trees are massive and very green.
I miss it so much, it was cool waking up to community everyday. People who do life together everyday, share struggles, food and laughs together. I’ve made some really awesome new friends while being there, I’d share a lot of the beautiful moments that I had there. However they will be saved for the new book, which is going very well. Wrapping up chapter one sometime this week.

Counseling is going well, though I’ve only just started , it’s cool to have a safe place to go to. Being in Portland lit a fire in my heart. I have an ache in my heart for the outcasts in this world, ones that have fallen through the cracks in life.
I’m tired of seeing life being wasted, people going through life without passion. To some people life is just life, a event in which we live, do are thing and that’s the end of it. And if I may say so, that is very sad. It breaks my heart. For me, in my understanding, once your dead, your dead. You cannot have a repeat.
In the movie brave heart, there’s a line that goes like this: I DON’T WANT TO LOOSE HEART, I want to believe as he did.”

I want to live my life, knowing that when that last breath leaves my body, I will know that I poured myself out like a drink offering. For the last handful of years I’ve had a vision of teens and young adults throwing notebooks on the ground one by one. In each of these notebook was the story of each young life. I’d love to give every young person a chance to share their story with the world, not in terms of publication. But as a way to leave something beautiful behind. I’m not sure how this would happen, however it is something I’m willing to give my time too.
I LOVE you guys, take it easy and live wide awake.

01 May 2010

Informal Carers, Who Takes Care Of Them?

Until recently, informal care (provided by relatives and friends) has been overlooked by policy-mak­ers in the context of long-term care for dependent older people. Driven by concerns about the fiscal sustainability of long-term care servic­es and by more self-conscious and demanding carers' movements across countries, informal care has been brought into the limelight. Data on carers is still relatively scarce due in part to the nature of the care itself as it is often provided informally at home. In view of this, what do we know about informal carers and who benefits from them? Which country differences exist? Which policies are set in place to support them? This Policy Brief tries to shed light on these issues by using available data from (inter)national sources as well as qualitative information gathered in our recent publication "Facts and Figures on Long-term Care - Europe and North America". It seeks to increase knowledge on informal carers and discuss some of the implications surrounding social policies that impact them. The analysis is very much policy-oriented and takes a comparative view, focusing mostly on the wider Europe.

Informal care-giving provided by relatives and friends remains the backbone of care provision for the elderly and until recently it has been overlooked by policy-mak­ers in the context of long-term care for dependent older people. Concerns about the fiscal sustainability of long-term care servic­es and more self-conscious and demanding carers' movements across countries have pushed informal care into the limelight.

This Policy Brief highlights a series of societal, demographic and pol­icy developments that are likely to change informal care in its current form (i.e. mostly female relatives of working age). This should not necessarily be perceived as a potentially harmful evolution as the cur­rent arrangement probably does not suit many of today's carers who are overburdened with demanding care tasks.

The key issue that public policies should address is not to try to crystallise the current informal care arrangements, but rather to adapt to the changing conditions. Data on carers is still relatively scarce due in part to the nature of the care itself as it is often provided informally at home. In view of this, what do we know about informal carers and who benefits from them? Which country differences exist? Which policies are in place to support them? This Policy Brief sheds some light on these issues by using available data from (inter)national sources as well as qualitative information gathered in our recent publication "Facts and Figures on Long-term Care - Europe and North America".

The analysis is very much policy-oriented and takes a comparative view, focusing mostly on the wider Europe. It seeks to increase knowledge on informal carers and discuss some of the implications surrounding social policies that impact them. Policy-makers should ensure that the carers' own needs as much as those of the care recipi­ents are taken into consideration and met. As this Policy Brief shows, certain policies aimed at supporting carers come with trade-offs (such as balancing employment goals with financial support for carers) and these should be borne in mind when setting-up those measures

Source: European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research