Just in time for the new year, Abilities Expo has re-launched abilitiesexpo.com with more accessibility, streamlined navigation, improved personalization, a better look and more emphasis of Expo products and features. The initial launch under Abilities Expo’s new management took place nearly one year ago.
The widely recognized Triple A in the top navigation bar now allows visitors who are visually impaired to increase the point size as necessary. In fact, each page was designed to better accommodate the inevitable size increase.
Based on the feedback from the Community and our own analysis, we have created a new, more intuitive navigational structure. Within each city section, the workshops and special features that visitors were finding difficult to access have been elevated to the city-level navigation.
Regardless of your age or disability, Abilities Expo is here for you. To ensure that visitors understand the breadth of the programs that we offer, we encourage visitors to click on Adults, Kids or Seniors as it applies to them. When we get closer to each event, these pages will specifically outline the products, workshops and special events that cater to each group.
Look out for future updates where we will address what Abilities Expo has to offer the different types of disabilities.
Lighter and brighter, the site is more engaging, more dynamic, has more pictures and has lots more to click!
More emphasis of Expo products and features
The show home pages (i.e. the landing page for the Los Angeles Abilities Expo) features a Product Showcase which highlights products you won’t want to miss at the upcoming Abilities Expo. Likewise, a revolving flash bar teases the many compelling show features to whet the appetite of potential attendees. Also, an explanation of each show feature (i.e. assistive technology pavilion, artist market, adaptive sports) can easily be found on its own page under the Special Features drop-down menu. Explicit details will be added to each of these pages as soon as they become available in advance of the event.
This website is a work in progress and the Abilities Expo team is continually refining and improving. Your suggestions are welcome!
Product Spotlight: Switch-Adapted Guitar for Guitar Hero
RJ Cooper & Associates, Inc., manufacturer of the Switch-Adapted Guitar for Guitar Hero, will exhibit at the Los Angeles Abilities Expo on April 9-11, 2010.
Longtime pioneer in assistive technology, RJ Cooper has introduced the switch-adapted guitar, an ingenious device has closed the gap between kids with disabilities and the ultra-popular video game, Guitar Hero.
The product is actually a Guitar Hero guitar adapted with switch inputs for any switch and is compatible with all gaming systems. Cooper selected Guitar Hero over video game rival Rock Band because the beginning level of Guitar Hero allows the gamer to play without pressing the neck buttons. The child with the disability can press the switch and “strum” in time with the program.
Sue R., special education teacher in La Crosse, Wisconsin, recounted the experience of one of her pupils. "Erik (pictured here) is a student with severe motor challenges. He is always ready to participate in age-appropriate activities. He uses a single switch mounted at the left temple to access the guitar controller. He LOVES Guitar Hero as you can see. Despite his physical challenges, Erik scored 600 points on his first try!"
For more information about this and other clever adaptations for people with disabilities, visit www.rjcooper.com.
And the winner is…
Four lucky Atlanta Abilities Expo attendees who brought in their promotional postcards were randomly selected to receive a $50 American Express gift certificate. And just in time for the holidays!
Our congratulations goes out to:
- Naomi Cook
- Betsy Eggers
- Christie Schmidt
- Lynda Turley
We thank you for helping to make Abilities Expo a huge success!
Linda is an Abilities Expo Ambassador, a Paralympian in wheelchair track and a Chicago-based attorney whose practice focuses on disability law and advocacy. Photo provided by RIC Wirtz Sports program.
Congratulations to 2002 gold medalist and Paralympian Patrick Byrne, the first sled hockey player to be inducted into the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame. He will be honored along with other inductees in a ceremony to be held January 31, 2010.
Byrne is thrilled at his selection. “It’s fantastic!” he says. “To be in the company of great players like Stan Mikita, Chris Chelios and Eddie Olczyk is a tremendous honor.”
Byrne was a competitive athlete prior to losing his leg in a work accident. That accident caused him to reevaluate himself and his worth. He says, “I used to think, what can a guy do with one leg?” Through learning about sled hockey and the Paralympic Games, Byrne learned he could do quite a lot.
“When I became part of sled hockey, and it took me to the level where I could actually compete, I thought, now I can be somebody!” On winning the gold medal in 2002, Byrne says, “I realized dreams do come true.”
The Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame was created to honor the excellence of those individuals who, through their exceptional endeavors both on and off the ice, have contributed in an extraordinary way to enhance the sport and image of hockey in Illinois.
Jeff Jones, former head coach of the RIC Blackhawks, believes Byrne is perfect for this honor. “Patrick was without a doubt the hardest working of the eight RIC Blackhawks who were members of the 2002 US Paralympic squad. He spent countless late night hours on the ice, working on conditioning, perfecting his shot and learning the game. And, Patrick not only worked hard on the ice, but he was an invaluable contribution to the team off the ice. “
Mitch Carr, Director of the RIC Wirtz Sports Program agrees. “Patrick is passionate about developing the future of sled hockey and the Paralympic movement, giving tirelessly of himself to teach the next generation of players, including children with disabilities, wounded veterans and newly disabled adults.”
Pam Redding, Director of Paralympic and Disability Sport for World Sport Chicago lauds Byrne’s selection. “This is an incredible honor for Patrick, and celebrates him as a champion of the sport of hockey. He is an excellent teacher, and children with disabilities are fortunate to have him as a role model and mentor.”
Jones agrees, saying, “Patrick wasn’t the fastest player on the ice and didn’t he score the most goals, but leadership is not only about what happens on the ice. With his induction, he joins a select group of individuals who have given back more to the game than the game has ever given to them.”
Byrne, never one to rest on his laurels, isn’t done yet. “Winning the gold medal was great. Being inducted into the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame is beyond fantastic! But what does it mean if you can’t share that with anyone else? A while back, I was at an event. This little kid was crying, he didn’t want to go on the ice. I put my medal around his neck. You should have seen him smile! Then I couldn’t get him off the ice. That’s what it’s all about.”
Letter to the Editor
Cutting-edge AT Hits Home at Atlanta Abilities Expo
Q: I missed Atlanta show and, unfortunately, the new Assistive Technology Pavilion. How did it go over? What were some of the technologies featured?
(Answer provided by Jennifer French, executive director of Neurotech Network, one of the sponsors of the Atlanta Assistive Technology Pavilion.)
A: We’re sorry you couldn’t make it but, rest assured, the AT Pavilion will be back next year!
Attendees at this recent Atlanta Abilities Expo were in agreement: the newly debuted Assistive Technology Pavilion, which showcased a wide array of technologies for people with sensory, mobility or developmental disabilities, was a resounding success. Expo-goers were not only mesmerized by their sneak peek at the future of AT, they were also touched by the personal stories of the people whose lives were changed by these technologies.
Diaphragm Pacer. At only 18 months of age, an automobile accident left Don Pollard with an incomplete injury to his brain stem and the classification of quadriplegic. Fast forward 27 years later to 2007 when Don was implanted with the life-altering diaphragm pacing device, in which electrodes in the diaphragm connect to an external unit that works like a pacemaker. Today, he thoroughly enjoys the independence this technology has afforded him. He is no longer dependent on a mechanical ventilator and no longer requires a person to be with him all the times, in case of emergency. Outings interrupted by the search for a plug-in and occasions spoiled by expended batteries are now a thing of the past. Don even feels that the simple act of breathing on this own has dramatically improved his health. In addition, his independence has increased exponentially by reducing the bulk of his wheelchair. He can now take advantage of the more efficient styles of wheelchairs which has make accessibility issues far easier. If you are interested in learning more about Don’s experience, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EMG Communication Switch. Abilities Expo was honored by a special appearance by Dr. Phil Kennedy, MD PhD , the scientist who developed ImpulseTM, an EMG (electromyography) sensing electrode that detects tiny muscle contractions, wireless transmits the signal to a computer using Bluetooth technology and processes the activity as a traditional switch “click”. Essentially, it allows people with disabilities to control their computers with the smallest muscle activities.
Dr. Kennedy is now working on a new speech prosthesis for people with locked-in syndrome. One of his active users Erik Ramsey, who had a brain stem stroke from an auto accident, along with this father, were on hand to relay their personal experience of how Erik can now communicate using this experimental device.
FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation) cycling. An alternative means to exercise paralyzed or weak limbs, the RT300 cycle from Restorative Therapies uses blue tooth technology and new wireless electrode channels to exercise legs, arms and trunk muscles for people with paralysis.
Drop Foot Stimulation. An assistive device for walking, the L300 by Bioness was demonstrated by user David Perry and his therapist, Beth Pharo of the Shepherd Center. This drop foot stimulation device is an external system designed to stimulation the calf muscles allowing the foot to lift while walking. This gives the user a more natural and less fatiguing gait.
Tongue Drive System. Created for power chair users, this TDS is being developed under the supervision of Dr. Maysam Ghoolavoo of Georgia Institute of Technology. The power chair user wears a custom designed headset and a magnet on the tongue. With this adaptation, the power chair user is able to independently drive a wheelchair just by the movement of the tongue. Volunteers will be recruited in 2010 to participate in further studies which use this adaptation at Shepherd Center in Atlanta and the Rehabilitation Institute in Chicago.
Assistive Technology Center at Shepherd Center. The Shepherd Center offers a variety of off–the-shelf solutions for cell phones and iPods, such as single switch technology with large tap buttons, voice to switch interaction and magnet activations particularly for those with only head movement. New adaptations to control an iPod are designed with various disabilities in mind, such as sip and puff controls, large push button interface and wireless voice command. All of these adaptations are available through the Assistive Technology Center at the Shepherd Center.
Wireless Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC). In Atlanta, the RERC is developing advanced auditory interfaces for cell phones. The technology allows user with visual impairments can take a picture of text, such as a restaurant menu or assembly instructions. The phone will process the text from the photo and translate it to verbally read the text to the user.
Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA). In conjunction with the Georgia Institute of Technology, they are developing important improvements to mobility devices. For the manual wheelchair user, the Center created a prototype of a dynamic hub braking system with spring loaded push rims. The push rims are spring loaded to gradually apply braking and bounce back for easy release. They are also developing a new wheelchair cushion to help alleviate pressure in key areas.
Service Robots. Using the technology based on the Roomba®, engineers at the George Institute of Technology have created the first prototype of a service robot. It can pick up an item weighing up to 5 pounds and lift it to wheelchair height and is controlled by a simple remote. Her name is Dusty and she is still in development.
Implantable Electrode Technology. This revolutionary equipment includes implantable wireless receivers, nerve cuff electrodes and the wireless electrode, the BION® and is currently being tested in human clinical trials sponsored by the Cleveland FES Center and the Alfred E. Mann Foundation. The advantages to using this electrode technology are that it requires less invasive surgical implantation, it capitalizes on wireless technology and it has greater flexibility to use with more systems. For example, possible applications include pressure sore prevention, rehabilitation of shoulder subluxation due to stroke and providing hand function to persons with quadriplegia. At present, these treatments are under investigation and are not FDA-approved.
For more information on these and other technologies, visit:
- Assistivetech.net – A public database of assistive technologies
- Central Neurotech Database – A public database of neurotechnology devices and therapies.
By Kelly Mixon, Disaboom
With the increase in adaptive ski programs throughout the country and the advances in adaptive equipment, adaptive skiing is fast becoming one of the most popular sports. Who can blame people for wanting to try it? The blue skies, the views from the top, and the feel of your edges slicing through the fresh snow: that’s hard to beat!
Adaptive skiing provides people with disabilities the opportunity to ski using specialty equipment (sit-skis, outriggers, etc.). Skiing is one of the few truly inclusive sports. Many of the same skiing concepts carry over to the sit ski. Also, it is an individual sport, so you don’t need other wheelchair users to participate. It’s a great activity to do with family and friends. So, whether you were previously a stand-up skier or have never tried the sport before, adaptive skiing has a lot to offer.
Sign me up, right?! Well, before you get started, there are a few things you should consider before hitting the slopes. You want to first understand the types of skis and which one is best suited for you. Next, you will learn the gear to keep you warm and looking good (of course). Then, you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to get started. By the end of the article, I will have you geeked up with tons of knowledge about adaptive skiing before you can say “fresh powder.”
Types of Adaptations for People with Disabilities
Mono ski—The skier sits in a molded bucket-style seat that is mounted to a frame attached to a single ski. A shock absorber between the bucket and the ski cushions your ride. Since good upper-body strength and balance are needed, good candidates for the mono ski are typically lower extremity double amputee, spina bifida, spinal cord injury levels T6 and below (although exceptions occur).
Bi Ski—The skier sits in a rigid shell that is attached on top of two wide specialty skis. The two skis allow for a wider base ensuring more stability for the skier. The bi ski does not have a suspension system. Good candidates for the bi ski include beginner skiers, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and higher-level spinal cord injury.
Dual ski—The dual ski is a system designed to bridge the gap between the mono ski and bi ski. It sits like the mono ski, but it is attached to two skis. Those who have advanced past the bi ski but are not yet ready for the mono ski are most appropriate for the dual ski.
3-Track—These skiers require one regular ski and two hand-held outriggers, hence the three points of contact to the snow. Good candidates would be amputees, post polio, hemiplegic, those who ambulate with or without assistive device, do not have full use of one leg, but have one strong non-impaired leg.
4-Track—Skiers use two skis and two hand-held outriggers or an attached walker. A skin bra can be used to help ensure the ski tips do not cross. It is simply a tube that slips across the ski tips. Individuals with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, or anyone who uses crutches or a cane would benefit from trying the 4-track system.
Outriggers—These are forearm crutches with a smaller ski tip on one end and a jagged blade on the other. Outriggers help with stability and turning. Hand-held outriggers are most common, but sometimes fixed outriggers can be attached to the bi ski.
Blind Skiing—The instructor uses various auditory cues and aides from behind or in front of the skier. The skier uses regular size skis and poles, but will not hit the slopes until he/she is comfortable with all maneuvering skills and cues.
Other adaptations—A tether strap is used as a training and safety device by instructors to tether to the skier. Grasping cuffs allow those with limited grip the ability to grip the outriggers using a Velcro strap. Chest straps/shoulder harnesses are available for individuals who need extra assistance for trunk stability.
The Dress Code
Staying warm and dry is the most important lesson to learn. With all the new outdoor gear there is out there, it will be easy to stay comfortable and look suave. When dressing for the mountain, there are three basic layers to follow.
Your first layer is your base layer. This should be moisture-wicking to keep your skin dry since it is the first layer that touches your skin. Stay away from blue jeans and anything cotton. The next layer can be of various thicknesses and you can have as many layers as your want. The fabric should be weather depending. Your outlayer should be waterproof. Think of this layer as the barrier between you and the outside elements (rain, sleet, or snow). It’s not a fun day on the mountain when you’re wet.
Other essentials include a hard shell helmet to protect your noggin, goggles are needed to protect your eyes and maximize visibility, and water resistant or waterproof gloves to keep those fingers warm.
Adaptive Equipment Essentials
When choosing a ski, the fit is everything. Just as you would try on a pair of shoes before buying or test drive a car before making the purchase, try it before you buy it or even rent it. Not only are you going to want your bucket seat to put you in the most comfortable position for you, but you want it to put you in the most efficient position as well. Various pieces of foam sheets are tucked around your body for padding and ensuring a secure fit. This is especially important for those with impaired sensation.
How to Get Started
When looking for a good adaptive snow ski program, the National Sports Center for the Disabled offers this advice:
- Ski instructors should be PSIA certified (Professional Ski Instructor of America)
- Instructor conducts a personal evaluation of your goals and specific needs
- Ask what is included in the lesson (rentals, lift ticket, etc.)
- Find out about accessible buildings and how to get to and from the slopes.
After you are paired with your qualified instructor and smiling volunteers and you have discussed your goals and needs, you are fitted for your ski. After getting familiar with the adaptive equipment, they will take you to a flat area to practice methods for balancing and using outriggers. You will most likely fall during this process, but it is a good opportunity to learn how to get back up.
In the lesson you will learn techniques for controlling speed and chairlift procedures. The instructors hold a tether attached to the ski to help control speed and turns. Getting on and off the chair lift frightens even non-disabled beginners; however, there are several factors that make this process easier.
Some skiers are strong enough to push up on the chair using their outriggers, but in time that can wear your shoulders out. Majority of people will need some assistance loading on/off the lift. Your instructor and volunteer will lift you safely onto the chairlift until you are able to safely do it yourself. Mono skis and other custom skis come equipped with a hydraulic or mechanical system that raises the bucket seat high enough to clear the lift. Once you are safely on the lift, sit all the way back in the chair and enjoy the views.
The first time I ever attempted snowboarding, my friend gave me the best advice. He said, “You’re gonna fall like crazy at first, so just have a good time and soak it all in.” So, my little grasshoppers, go, try, be like sponge: soak up all the experience you can take. You’ll be glad you did.