Wheelchairs Now

BMW is building wheelchairs for the Paralympics

The 2016 Paralympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil between Sept 7th to the 18th. BMW has announced that they will be building 6 custom racing wheelchairs to start, one for each member of the U.S. team.  This is quite unusual for a car company, even though BMW designed a two-man bobsled for the U.S. Olympic team to use in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.  The bobsled helped the U.S. overcome a 62-year medal drought at Sochi.  

The wheelchairs are being made by BMW's Designworks Group.

Each seat will be custom made for each racer, and the gloves to go with the wheelchairs will also be custom made from a 3D printer.  3D scanners are being used to custom fit these new chairs and gloves to each racer.  The chair will also be made out of carbon fiber which is a lot lighter and stronger than aluminum chairs. 

The Olympians will be able to test out just how fast these new chairs are, before they debut at the Rio Paralympics in September 2016.

The racers are anxious and excited to try the new piece of equipment.  Josh George, a former gold medalist in the 100 meters, seemed excited at the prospect of receiving it, but not only because it will help him with his craft.

“It’s the coolest-looking piece of equipment I’ve ever seen,” he said of the new design.

He also said, “If I’m pushing the BMW and other racers are pushing aluminum frames, I’m going to be able to go the same speed as them with less energy exerted,” George said. “That means at the end of a race, the last 5K, the last 10K, I’m going to have more in the tank than they are.” 

Meet Mac N'Cheez, a paralyzed rescue kitten

Veterinarian, Donna Terris, at the Massapequa Pet Vet, said that a Good Samaritan brought in a litter of 5 week old kittens abandoned by their mom.  Each kitten was quickly adopted, except one that was paralyzed from the waist down and unable to walk.  

The staff at the Massapequa Pet Vet named the remaining cat Mac N'Cheez, or Mac for short.  He had reportedly been brought to them in a macaroni and cheese box.  To better help the paralyzed kitten settle into his temporary home, technicians even constructed a make-shift wheelchair out of K'NEX or Erector set toy pieces. In a video by the Massapequa Pet Vet, Mac can be seen taking his first "steps" as they fastened the K'NEX/Erector Set wheelchair to his hind legs. Mac and Cheese quickly discovered he had a penchant for speed, whizzing off on his new set of wheels and basking in his new found mobility.

 

 

The toy wheelchair has been confused as a "Lego Wheelchair", but you can clearly see that they are not Lego.  It is most likely K'NEX or Erector set toy pieces.  Also, this should not be confused with the recent Lego Wheelchair the toy company came out with in January of 2016.  That's when Lego unveiled their first disabled figure.  The company later confirmed the tiny wheelchair will be part of the new Lego City set that will come out in the June of 2016.

Doctors are still unsure why Mac's legs aren't working.  They are not broken and there doesn't seem to be a physical reason they currently won't work.  The wheelchair is the first step to recovery.  Mac has also started swimming in a little pool to hopefully stimulate and help rehabilitate his hind legs.

Mac does respond to squeezes and seems to be able to feel pain on some parts of his hind legs - indicating that the hospital may be able to help him walk again.  Horowitz said Mac could be walking on his own within a few weeks and may soon be ready to find his forever home.  In the meantime you can follow Mac and Cheese's adorable zooms on the Massapequa Pet Vet Facebook page. 

USA Wins Gold at the Invictus Games for Wheelchair Rugby

Orlando, FL. -- The US Wheelchair Rugby team completely dominated the Invictus Games, taking home the gold medal on Wednesday night.  They handed Denmark their silver medal with a 28-19 victory.  The US team also brutally defeated Australia in the semis with a Invictus Games scoring record of 36-15.  Some video footage of the final against Denmark is below. You can see how the US team makes scoring seem effortless. 

It's good to see that even celebrities got involved in the Invictus Games.  John Cena was one of the couches for the wheelchair rugby team, sponsored by Land Rover and Jaguar. Derek Hough was also there to lend a hand.  Even Vice President Joe Biden and of course Prince Harry, the founder of the Invictus Games, were apart of the event.  Prince Harry presented the UK players with their silver medals, and also greeted the third place team Denmark and the US winners.

THE INVICTUS STORY -  Most of us will never know the full horrors of combat. Many Servicemen and women suffer life-changing injuries, visible or otherwise, whilst serving their country. How do these men and women find the motivation to move on and not be defined by their injuries?

How can they be recognized for their achievements and not given sympathy? Prince Harry asked these questions. On a trip to the Warrior Games in the USA in 2013 he saw how the power of sport could help physically, psychologically and socially. His mind was made up. London would host the inaugural Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick Service personnel.  And the Invictus Games were created. 

UberWAV has expanded to London

UberWAV

UberWAV allows riders with relevant disabilities to request wheelchair accessible vehicles. When riders select the UberWAV option, they're connected with vehicles equipped with ramps or lifts.  UberWAV is expanding on the city’s and state’s efforts by connecting riders with wheelchair accessible vehicles directly through the Uber app. For the first time, riders requiring a wheelchair accessible vehicle now have access to reliable, on-demand transportation.  

Uber has just announced that it will be expanding is UberWAV services to London, UK.  It will give disabled customers the power to call a car that features a rear-entry ramp, winch and restraints.  UberWAV, operates in more than 10 US cities including Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington. Toronto and Sydney are also covered. UberWAV carries the same cost UberX, and can now be booked across Greater London.  Uber says that UberWAV drivers will have "received Disability Equality Training from Transport for All, and Inclusion London."  Uber has said that it is launching the service with 55 vehicles, and plans to expand to have more than 100 vehicles in the coming months.  While Uber has pledged to keep waiting times to a minimum, average wait times in the service's first few weeks are expected to be around 25 to 40 minutes. 

Google.org Awarded $20 Million to Better the World for the Disabled

Google.org recenlty awarded 29 nonprofits to build transformative technologies for the disabled.  Google.org is the philanthropy division of Google that has just set out to help the 15% of the world's population with disabilities. That's 1 out of every 7 people, and 50% of the disabled people can't afford healthcare. 

Here is the list of the 29 nonprofits and a little information about what they do:

 e-Nable is a global community of volunteers that designs and creates 3D printed prosthetics.

• World Wide Hearing is developing an inexpensive tool for health workers anywhere to screen for hearing loss.

• Mission Arm | exiii are working together to make affordable prosthetics accessible for everyone.

• Royal National Institute for Blind People | Smart Glasses is developing smart glasses to help people with sight loss regain their independence and confidence.

• J’accede is building a community of advocates to map accessible locations around the world using a mobile app.

• Wheelmap is creating a global dataset of accessible locations for people with disabilities.

• My Human Kit is launching an online platform to connect people in need of prosthetics to low-cost, open-source 3D printed models.

• The Arc is building a search and recommendation tool to help people with cognitive disabilities find the right technology to reach their goals.

• Motivation is testing customizable postural support designs to provide better fitting wheelchairs to users around the world.

• Royal London Society for Blind People / Wayfindr is developing technology that delivers audio-based directions to users’ smartphones, providing a more independent lifestyle to the visually impaired.

• The Center for Discovery is developing an open-source power add on to quickly convert any manual wheelchair into a power chair.

• UCP Wheels for Humanity is collecting data on wheelchair usage in developing countries to ensure everyone has access to the chair that best suits their needs.

• Ezer Mizion | Click2Speak are piloting an onscreen keyboard to help people with low mobility and high cognitive function better communicate.

• DAISY Consortium is developing a suite of industry-standard accessibility tools for publishers to ensure that every book is accessible to people with disabilities when printed.

 Benetech is scaling access to their library and content conversion process to make more books accessible to the visually impaired.

• Dan Marino Foundation is developing software that uses interactive avatars to help young people with autism train for job interviews.

• Miraclefeet is augmenting clubfoot treatment by providing monitoring, engagement, and training software to keep providers and patients on track.

• Perkins School for the Blind is using crowdsourced data from sighted individuals to develop technology that helps the visually impaired to navigate the gap between GPS and the real world.

 Inclusion without Borders | Livox’s nonprofit arm is helping people with limited speech ability participate in conversation more fully by making assistive communication technology more intuitive and responsive.

• Beit Issie Shapiro | TOM are creating a template for “Makeathon-in-a-box,” which connects makers with people with disabilities to develop new accessibility solutions.

• Neil Squire Society is developing a mouth-operated controller that will allow individuals with limited use of their arms to interact with a mobile device.

 TDI is developing software to make live captioning services more affordable and more available for the deaf and hard of hearing.

• ProPortion is developing and distributing a device that quickly and easily produces high-quality prosthetic sockets in developing countries.

• Leprosy Mission Trust India is producing 3D-printed custom footwear that allows people with leprosy to maintain the ability to walk.

• Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust is working to bring comfortable, easy-to-produce prosthetic sockets to rural areas of India using 3D scanning and printing.

• Nia Technologies is training prosthetic technicians to use 3D scanning and printing to produce prosthetic sockets more quickly.

 APAE Brasil is developing an SMS messaging system to support families who have children with developmental disabilities.

• Beit Issie Shapiro | Sesame are partnering to pilot a solution that allows people with limited mobility to operate smartphones by moving their head.

• Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled | University of Washington are creating a platform that tracks data about the supply and distribution of assistive technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa to expose gaps in availability and spur further adoption.

The programs fall into one of five categories of disabilities. They are mobility, education, communication, independence, and employment.  The average amount they'll each receive is $750,000, with six of the grant winners getting more than $1 million.  $20 million dollars is probably a drop in the bucket for Google, but it's not always the amount you spend, its how you spend it.  We hope that all these projects succeed and make the lives of people in need a little better.