Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Progress Since The 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Ever wondered what the outcome was of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014 that swept the entire nation? A lot of money was raised from that challenge which is being used for research and projects for curing ALS.  Read the infographic below to find out more.

Text description of infographic right below it.

1. $115 million donated through the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge during an 8 week period in 2014.

"The Ice Bucket Challenge was a game changer. It showed us that when each of us contributes - even just one small act - it adds up and accelerates our pathway toward a treatment for ALS"

 - Nancy Frates 'Ice Bucket Mom'

2. $77 million dedicated to research, advancing the search for treatments and a cure.

3. 15,000 patients per year helped with community-based services through their local ALS Association chapter.

4. 3 new genes discovered in the last two years, which will help us identify new therapies.

"With support from The ALS Association, we have already identified a new gene that we hope will lead to promise therapeutics in the future."

 - Bernard Muller, Co-founder, Project Mine

5. 150 + Active Research Projects funded by The ALS Association since the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

"With Ice Bucket Challenge donations, The ALS Association was able to then double down on its investment in antisense technology that targets C9orf72, the most common genetic cause of ALS, which will likely enter clinical trials early in 2017.

 - Don Cleveland, Ph.D., Cleveland Lab, La Jolla, California

6. $2 Billion cost to develop ONE new drug. Your support is urgently needed.
7. 30% increase in funding to support the National ALS Registry, the single largest ALS research project designed to identify ALS cases throughout the entire United States.

8. $7.5 million to the ALS Research Program at the Department of Defense to study why veterans are twice as likely to develop the disease.

9. 100% increase in funding to ALS Certified Treatment Centers of Excellence to enhance patient care. 

"We were so proud to earn the distinction as an ALS Certified Treatment  Center of Excellence…This certification and the funding helped us attract more patients and to substantially enhance the care we were providing.

 - Sandeep Rana, M.D., Alleghany Neurological Associated, Pittsburgh, Penn.

10. 1st  ever guidance submitted to the FDA to speed the development and approval of new ALS treatments.

11. 9 global research collaborations that have already resulted in 2 new antisense drugs targeting S0D1 and C9orf72, going into clinical trial in patients.

Your support has enabled significant progress in advancing the search for treatments and a cure for ALS through research, care services and public policy. Our integrated mission ensures that no stone is left unturned when it comes to ending this disease. Visit ALS.org to learn more.

Source: ALS Association

Monday, July 25, 2016

Smartphones & Bluetooth Beacons Make It Easy For Blind People To Catch Buses

a blind person waiting at a bus stop gets immediately notified when a bus arrives. A notification is sent to their phone which is automatically translated to the language set on their phone.

Details of the next bus are given in real time based on the detection range of the BLE beacon approaching the person's smartphone at the bus stop.

The city of Strasbourg is ready to make catching buses much easier for blind people. The buses will be equipped with BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) beacons that will interact with the transport app on the blind commuter's phone. As a bus approaches  the bus stop, the beacon will "wake up" the phone app and transmit the bus information - route number, direction, arrival time, to the phone which will be immediately vocalized by the phone app so the blind person could hear it. ("Line 19, direction Arago, arrives in five seconds,") This becomes especially important when a bus stop services multiple bus routes going in different directions. The audio notification is translated in the language that's set on the user's phone.

This system was tested over a six week period in November 2015 with 12 buses. After a lot of positive feedback from local associations for the disabled, this system is now ready to be deployed for daily use.

Source: ZDNet

Thursday, July 21, 2016

This Is Healthcare Of The Future

Imagine not having to organize a visit to your nearest primary care physician because they can "visit" you virtually through hologram technology. You won't have to imagine for much longer - this is the future of healthcare.

Note: Click image below to enlarge

infographic showing future of healthcare. text description in post below.
Click to enlarge
Potential Savings of Virtual Healthcare
  • Replacing annual ambulatory patient encounters with virtual healthcare could save each of the USA's 37,000 physicians an average of 5 minutes per encounter, a time saving equivalent with an economic value of  more than $7 billion.
  • If each patient has 1 in-person physical examination a year, with half of all other encounters converted to eVisits, the time savings could be the equivalent of roughly 1,500 physicians, and an annual saving of $300 million.
  • A combination of 1 annual physical examination with patient self-care for the remainder of the year could save time equivalent to roughly 24,000 physicians to the tune of almost $2 billion a year.
  • An average reduction on ambulatory visits by 5 minutes could add almost $63 million a year in physician capacity, equivalent to 320 physicians.
  • A 5 minute time saving for an organization with 800 physicians could free up the equivalent to 140 physicians' capacity, an annual saving of just under $28 million.
How virtual healthcare can revolutionize the industry
  • More clinical care work can be completed without the need to increase the supply of physicians.
  • Virtual healthcare models can expand physician capacity by enabling of patients to care for themselves, the replacement of time consuming labor with technology, and the automation of healthcare tasks.
  • A combination of these can streamline the work of physicians, decrease the demand for physicians, and allow physicians to focus their time and resources where it is most needed.
  • More available time results in coverage for more patients and also better treatment for patients.
Examples of virtual healthcare technology
1. Hologram House Calls
This allows for a physician to visit their patients anywhere in the world as a life-size hologram next to the patient, conducting the conversation as if it was an ordinary phone call.
It would be particularly beneficial to patients who live in remote areas and are unable to access transport services to hospitals and clinics, or to those with a serious condition which physically prevents them from visiting a physician.
2. Virtual Doctor App
The app asks users to enter their specifics (age, medical condition, family's medical history), and then provides information about various treatments specifically tailored to them.
The user then has the option of pursuing these treatments if they wish, all with just a few taps on their smartphone or tablet.
Benefits to Healthcare professionals
Reduces the need to visit patients' homes if house calls are required
Increased numbers of patients treated in a given timeframe
Can increase patient reach by accessing patients in rural areas
Reduced hospital admissions for non-emergency situations.
Monitoring long term patient care while the patient recovers at home.
New revenue streams through virtual consultations
Easier to access patient information

Benefits to Patients
Reduces the need to travel to hospitals/clinics for treatment or to book an appointment
Increased likelihood of receiving instant treatment
Prescriptions refilled automatically
Easier to reschedule appointments
Receive tailored advice & updates  direct to their mobile device

Challenges Faced By Virtual Healthcare
Need for licensing for any physicians providing telemedicine services
Physicians who oppose the use of virtual healthcare technology
Doubts about reimbursement for virtual medical services through existing payment  models
Costs & labor involved in installation & streamlining of virtual healthcare technology
Potential security risks to patient data

Industry opinions
"Virtual health programs present new opportunities for patients to take a stake in their personal health needs. By better connecting patients to medical information and to physicians, and in turn connecting healthcare providers to key health data, the doctor-patient relationship is enhanced, and quality of life increases." - Harry Wang, Director of Health & Mobile Product Research with Parks Associates
"Studies show that physicians were really necessary for only about 6% of clinic interactions. Why should we stick to a system that creates so much generalized unhappiness when we have an opportunity to do something that would be much more satisfying , and more productive, for everybody - physicians nurses, and patients?" - Dr. Douglas Wood, Medical Director of Centre of Innovation at Mayo Clinic
"Patients records are so important. If you go to your optician, they have now way of knowing that you have diabetes unless they ask the question and you tell them. This potential breakdown  in communication can cause havoc. We need an integrated system. I am not talking one database here but a distributed system." - Prof. Vinesh Raja, Warwick Manufacturing Group
The people quoted here are in no way affiliated to Home Healthcare Adaptations.

Infographic Source: Home Healthcare Adaptations

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

CAPTCHA Be Gone: Solves CAPTCHAs For Blind People Quickly

image saying "captcha be gone"

CAPTCHA Be gone was released earlier this month from Accessible Apps, makers of QRead, the accessible EBook reader for the blind, and Chicken Nugget, a popular windows twitter client in the blind community. CAPTCHA Be Gone, currently available for Firefox and internet explorer, and coming soon to other browsers, enables visually impaired individuals to solve CAPTCHAs in seconds with a quick keystroke.

CAPTCHAs are codes embedded in images found on websites, often during the sign up or payment process, which humans can visually solve, but which are difficult for robots. Thus they are used by websites to ensure the legitimacy of new accounts, payments, and other key content. Prior to CAPTCHA Be Gone, visually impaired individuals had to contend with alternatives such as audio CAPTCHAs, available on some sites, which are often deliberately garbled, prone to skipping, and otherwise difficult to access. CAPTCHA Be Gone solves this problem by securely detecting CAPTCHAs on webpages, solving them, and copying the result to the user's clipboard in a matter of seconds with the press of a single keystroke. It is not even necessary for the user to know the precise location of the CAPTCHA. No data, other than the CAPTCHA, is sent out, so the user's personal information, websites, and other identifying data is secure.

CAPTCHA Be Gone ordinarily retails at $3.50 monthly ($36.00 yearly), but take advantage of the limited time introductory pricing and download it now to receive unlimited CAPTCHA solutions for just $3.00 a month, $30.00 a year. At this time, CAPTCHA Be Gone is only available for Firefox and internet Explorer. However, Accessible apps is also working on developing extensions for Crome, edge and even desktop and mobile versions of Safari.

Visit CAPTCHA Be Gone's website for more information!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

DIY Project: Objects Describe Themselves On Touch (For Blind People)

Wouldn't it be great if objects around us could just describe themselves instead of us having to figure out where and what they are? How convenient would it be for a blind person to touch or grab an object, and immediately get a description of what that object is - from the object itself?

I have started working with Bare Conductive's Touch Board - an Arduino based prototyping tool that can interact with objects via touch. It can be connected to practically anything through Alligator Clips or Electric Paint (for non metallic objects) and allows interaction with them when they are touched. In the video below, for example, I am using a can of chick peas (metallic object) and a photo frame (non metallic object). Touching or holding both of them gets me an audio description from the speaker connected to the Touch Board.

If you don't want to watch the video above, these simple instructions should give you an idea of how to set it all up.

The set up is extremely simple. You will need the following for this project:

1. Bare Conductive Touch Board.
2. Micro SD Card for recording audio clips.
3. Alligator Clips.
4. Electric Paint.
5. Speaker for audio output.

photo shows touch board, alligator clips, electric paint, and a small speaker.
Click to enlarge

The Touch Board has 12 electrodes (row of holes on one side) which allow up to 12 objects to be connected. Each electrode gets its own audio description/file, so that when the object connected to the electrode is touched, the file associated with it is played (as description of the object).

You would want to record audio descriptions of the objects that you want to connect first. Once done, transfer those files to the Micro SD card, and insert the Micro SD card into its slot on the Touch Board.

Note: You have to follow a very specific naming convention. For example, audio file meant for the first electrode E0 must be titled "TRACK000.mp3", E1 - "TRACK001.mp3", and so on. If this convention is not followed, the files won't play.

photo showing where the electrodes are and where the SD card goes on the touch board. It also describes the naming convention for the audio files.
Click to enlarge

Start connecting your objects to the Touch Board's electrodes. For metallic ones, you can use Alligator Clips. For non metallic ones, a little dash of electric paint on their surface will make them conductive, after which you can use Alligator Clips to connect them to the Touch Board or use electric paint all the way!

Plug in the speaker into the audio jack.

Power the Touch Board with a USB cable.

That's it! You are up and running! On touching the connected objects, you will hear audio descriptions from the connected speaker.

This set up can be used anywhere, and with any object. Whether it's someone's house, kitchen, office, a museum - the list can go on and on. Just touching objects would not only enable a blind person to get familiar with their surrounding, but also help them understand what each object does/depicts. A simple example is these four photos on canvas below. For a blind person, there is no way to know what these photos are of, unless a person accompanying them describes these photos to them.

4 canvases on a wall

But if we use Touch Board, and connect these canvases with electric paint, a blind person would just be able to touch them and get a sense of what's printed on them without having to depend on someone else. 

4 canvases on a wall with connected Touch Board. The touch board has audio description of each canvas so when a blind person touches them, they hear the description.

Similarly, if you have a blind person coming in to your office for the first time, you can set up an "audio map" in a similar fashion on the wall where touching objects will tell them where conference room A, the cafeteria, or the bathroom is.

I started with the Bare Conductive Touch Board Starter Kit which I bought for $90. If you play with it in the future let me know what you come up with! :)

Check out Bare Conductive's website for more information and projects!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pokemon Go: Where Does It Stand With Disabled Gamers?

pokemon go logo

Released less than a couple of weeks ago, Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm. It is all the rage these days, with young adults walking around out in the real world, with their phones out,  looking for Pokemon they can capture, battle, and train. In case you haven't heard of it yet, Pokemon Go is basically an app (game) that uses the phone camera and maps. The player is required to go out to the streets, parks, running trails, malls, stores, restaurants, coffeeshops, gyms - any place in the real world really in order to find pokemon in an augmented form. They basically collect these Pokemon and use them to fight other Pokemon at gym locations.

This video should give you a good understanding of how this game is played.

This is not the first time an augmented reality mobile game has been created. Ingress is another popular game that was released a few years ago by Google, but not as popular as Pokemon Go. However, the success of Pokemon Go, with "Pokestops" practically everywhere in a person's local geographic area, has raised some concerns and questions, the biggest being that it is not a very convenient and feasible game for  people with physical disabiltiies. A lot of times, Pokemon are placed in inconvenient locations like running trails, in the middle of parks, places that require climbing stairs or generally inaccessible places for people who have limited mobility or are in wheelchairs or use walkers.

3 screenshots showing pokemon at various physical locationsThere are around 33 million gamers with disabilities in the US alone, and being unable to be a part of an extremely popular gaming phenomenon  screams of ableism. Able bodied people have seen great benefits from Pokemon Go. It makes them be more physical, encourages them to venture out, and be more social. However, for people in wheelchairs, it may not be that easy to just go out  to "catch 'em all". Not having the same kind of access to a global phenomenon can be frustrating and demoralizing. Could the game developers have included an accessibility mode that didn’t  spawn Pokemon in difficult to reach areas? How about giving disabled people an option to just stay home and play the game without physically getting out?

Why should there be barriers to fun?

In the grand scheme of things though, lack of options for disabled gamers makes you wonder why accessibility is never even considered in the first place when a new game (or software or product) is being designed and developed. There are various not for profit organizations that work with disabled gamers to make their gaming experiences easier and more enjoyable. One such organization, called AbleGamers, has also released a 48 page guidelines document that addresses accessibility in video games, specifically mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive accommodations. Any serious video game developer, who wants to reach an even wider audience, should  start with these guidelines to understand what kind of accommodations can be created for disabled gamers, and at least have some basic levels of accessibility in their game. Many requests for accessibility by disabled gamers are quite simple, and completing those requests will definitely be appreciated by the disabled gamers' community.

Coming back to Pokemon Go though - every cloud has a silver lining, and Pokemon Go is no exception to this rule. It has had positive impact on people with social anxiety and depression, and has encouraged a vast number of people to go out. Although there are locations that people in wheelchairs and walkers cannot access, it still encourages them to go out more. Adults in wheelchair especially, who used to hangout outside all the time when they were kids but don't get to do that anymore as grown ups, find it refreshing to escape the mundane indoors and just be out enjoying the sun and fresh air!

Source: Kotaku
Images source: Google Images
Video Source: CNN

[Thank you for sharing, Adam!]

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Oak City Soccer: Soccer Program For Kids With Autism

a little boy kicking a soccer ball at the oak city soccer venue

Oak City Soccer is not just another soccer program for kids. It is special, in that it is meant for kids ages 2 - 10 who are on the Autism spectrum. Shelley and Roxy, founders of the program, struggled to find a class where they could enroll their little son who has Autism. (the classes they looked at were  over stimulating) Having found no options, they decided to start their own program where kids with Autism,  and ADHD and social anxiety can sign up to play and learn soccer. Oak City Soccer is located in Cary, North Carolina.

Joining this program not only teaches kids the fundamentals of soccer but also helps them build a foundation in social skills, work on their gross motor skills, and at the same time teaches them the concepts of sharing and taking turns, which can be a challenge for any child. It also gives the children an environment where they are accepted and understood, which gives a big boost to their confidence.

Classes cost $95 for a 6 weeks block, and they fill up fast, typically months in advance! (they do have a waiting list) The class gets lots of returning students, which is also highly encouraged. The program aims to have a 1:1 instructor/student ratio, and for that reason, are always looking for volunteers who must be at least 10 years old.

Watch the video below to find out more about the facility they have and the program.

Source: WRAL

Monday, July 11, 2016

How To Make Your House Wheelchair Accessible

Ever wondered what it takes to make a house wheelchair accessible? The infographic below shows some really good guidelines that one can use in and around the house to make sure a person in a wheelchair gets to move around freely, has easy access to objects in different parts of the house, and can go around doing their day to day activities worry free.

  • Phone/alert system near bed
  • Overhang lift/manual trapeze to get in/out of bed

  • Phone/alert system near toilet & shower
  • Bath tub lift (13”-30” bottom)
  • Commode lift
  • Grab bars next to toilet
  • Grab bars in tub & shower with 36” clearance

  • Vertical platform lift for higher outdoor staircases
  • All-weather, outdoor stair lift
  • Portable ramp (front entrance)

  • Wheelchair-accessible countertop & cabinet height.
  • Table: 27” floor-to-table height & 30” x 48” seat spacing
  • Door (minimum 32” width)

  • Garage entry/interior door ramp for safe, quick car access
  • Wheelchair accessible floor area for easy car loading/unloading
  • Entry door (minimum 32” width)

  • A stair lift for easy basement access to washer, dryer, pantries, etc.

Accessibility Tips

1. Clear Pathways

Interior/exterior pathways should have accommodating widths for:

  • Mobility scooters
  • Rollators
  • Power wheelchairs
  • Standard wheelchairs

Standard Widths

  • 36” for hallways
  • 32” for doorways
  • Minimum clearance for 180 degree turns: 36” in all directions

2. Lighting

  • All rooms should be well-lit during evening, nighttime, and early morning.
  • Lighting controls should be easy to access and use.

3. Security

  • Phones & alert systems should be installed throughout the home for quick, easy access
  • A reliable security or alarm system should be installed to protect you & your home



Infographic Source: KD Smart Chair

Friday, July 8, 2016

Apple Watch For Wheelchair Users: How It Was Made Possible

two apple watches showing different screens. One shows "time to roll! take a break and push around a little for one minute". The other shows activity tracking options for wheelchair users - "outdoor wheelchair walking pace" and "outdoor wheelchair running pace".

Around 650 million people around the world have some disabilities, and 10% of that population uses wheelchairs. Recently, Apple  announced that Apple Watch's next update will enable wheelchair users to use it for keeping track of calories burned as well as their fitness goals. What's remarkable is that in order to come up with this feature - tracking pushes instead of steps (for able bodied people), Apple did its own study  with wheelchair users and collected a lot of data.

For tracking steps, the Apple Watch looks at someone's arm movement as well as their feet hitting the ground.  Wheelchair users have a different arm movement when they push and also don't hit their feet to the ground, so the algorithm used for tracking steps doesn't work for them. With the help of Lakeshore Foundation and the Challenged Athletes Foundation, two organizations dedicated towards promoting fitness among people with disabilities, Apple did some tests with wheelchair users. Each person used their own wheelchair (as compared to wheelchairs provided by the study team which the subjects were not used to), which was fitted with various sensors that collected very precise data on their movement. Calories burned while pushing a wheelchair was determined by an oxygen mask they wore during the study. At the end of the study, Apple collected 3,500 hours worth of data from 700 wheelchair users from all walks of life - fitness athletes to those who can barely move, and in various environments like trails, asphalt, carpet (as compared to  just one surface in a lab setting). They used this data to understand how wheelchair users move their body and burn calories. This data is being used to enable wheelchair users to track their fitness in the upcoming watchOS release.

In the study, Apple found that wheelchair users push themselves in three ways:

1. Semicircle: Pushing from 10 o' clock to 3 o'clock position.
2. Arc push: This is when someone has to go up an incline - short, powerful pushes with a quick jerk to return position in order to prevent rolling back.
3. Semi-loop-over: This is typically done while playing sports, like wheelchair racing, where the person is really leaning in to push.

Apple has also introduced the "time to roll" feature in its interface too. For able bodied people, it is "time to stand", but the next update will encourage wheelchair users to move around for a minute every hour, and not stay in one position for very long.

Apple's introduction of this feature not only encourages people to keep track of their fitness but also sends a strong message to the entire community - Not only are exercising and good health important, but there's a tool available now that will encourage them to live and sustain a healthy lifestyle.

Source: Fast Company (Great read!)

[Thanks for sharing, Erin!]

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Captioning Services In Theatres For Deaf & Hard Of Hearing Audience

a stage in a theatrical performance. There is a chair in the middle and some metal frames that depict a sort of a wall. To the right is an electronic screen that is displaying captions.

For the 11 million deaf people in the UK, Stagetext, a local charity organization,  provides captioning and subtitle services at theatrical performances (very similar to television captions)  to give access to deaf and hard of hearing people to live cultural events.

In order to provide captions, A trained captioner prepares the text that mirrors how the actors are going to deliver them during the performance, and cues the lines to appear just as the actor speaks them. These captions are displayed in one or two electronic displays on or to the right of the stage. Character names are also shown so the audience knows who is saying or singing the lines, and sound effects like gunshots,  etc. are displayed as well so the deaf audience understands the meaning and essence of the scene.

While buying tickets, the person needing captions should let the box office know, so they can be seated in the right area.

It is not easy for someone to understand the plot from start to finish if they cannot fully or partially hear the dialogues. It can be a frustrating experience for many, and eventually discourage them from going to theatre. With the help of Stagetext's captioning services, various deaf people, who were hesitant to go to theatre because they couldn't understand or hear the dialogues, and thus couldn't keep track of the plot, are flocking to the theatre again! Captioning enables the audience to not only grasp every word that is being said, which can be extremely critical, especially in the case of Shakespeare, but also keep track of the plot throughout the show. Captioning has made an enormous difference in deaf visitors' lives - in addition to experiencing wonderful performances, they also see themselves enjoying the social scene that theatre is a part of. Through Stagetext's services, the theatre community understands how much captioning adds to the enjoyment of people coming to the theatre sto watch shows.

Watch the video below to see deaf and hard of hearing audience members describe their experiences of attending captioned theatre performances, and how much and why they love it so much!

Do you have theatres in your local area that provide captioning services at live shows? Do let us know in the comments below!

Source: Official London Theatre
Website: http://www.stagetext.org/