Wednesday, December 29, 2010

See HAL Exoskeleton In Las Vegas In January

Cyberdyne posted an announcement on their website yesterday that they will be exibiting the HAL exoskeleton for wheelchair users in Las Vegas at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES):

CYBERDYNE will exhibit and demonstrate Robot Suit HAL and TACTO, at the 2011 CES show in Las Vegas.

* Name of Event: 2011 International CES
* Date: Thursday January 6 thru Sunday January 9, 2011
* Venue: LVCC, South Hall 2, CES Robotics TechZone Las Vegas, Nevada
* Details: Exhibition and demonstration of Robot Suit HAL and TACTO

For more information visit the CES Exibitor Directory. Read more about the Hal Exoskeleton on the Exoskeleton Website.

If you attend the event, take a video, post it on YouTube and send me a link (RehaDesign "AT" Gmail "Dot" Com. I will be looking for the best videos from CES and will post them on the blog.

Monday, December 27, 2010

CNN Interview: eLEGS Exoskeleton for Wheelchair Users

I just watched this exciting CNN interview with Amanda Boxtel and Eythor Bender. Eythor is the CEO of Berkeley Bionics, the company that makes eLEGS and Amanda is their "test pilot". Watching Amanda is amazing. Not only is Amanda very charming but she is an excellent public speaker as well. This excellent interview and demonstration really shows the potential of exoskeletons:

Read more about exoskeletons for wheelchair users on the Exoskeleton Website.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Freedom Medical Robotics Developing Exoskeleton For Wheelchair Users

A Canadian company has recently announced that they have entered the race to develop an exoskeleton for wheelchair users.

However, Freedom Medical Robotics, located in Richmond, BC, Canada is not just working on developing any old exoskeleton. Freedom Medical Robotics is working on "keeping the size and weight of a powered exoskeletal walking aid down to the point where one could discreetly wear such a 'suit' under regular clothing."

This is also my vision. The exoskeletons currently being developed are a first, very important step. But these first exoskeletons will be bulky and slow. Exoskeletons of the future will be worn much the way that amputees wear prosthetics, that is hidden discreetly under clothing. They will be small, lightweight and allow a near normal gait. One day in the future, paraplegics will wear exoskeletons under clothing and walk without anyone even noticing that they are paralyzed.

Visit the website of Freedom Medical Robotics or read more about exoskeletons for wheelchair users.

Monday, December 20, 2010

We Are Sponsoring A Wheelchair User From Nepal!

The company that manufacturers RehaDesign Wheelchair Accessories is sponsoring a child from Nepal. This girl is a wheelchair user, a triple amputee.

We will be helping her to finish her education. She is now in high school and needs two more years to graduate. Then she hopes to enter law school.

We are working with the Nepal Youth Foundation. The Nepal Youth Foundation helps children in Nepal, through a variety of programs. We are working with the sponsor a child program via the Nepal Youth Foundation to help this girl.

We have only had one contact with this young lady, so we do not want to say too much more at this point. But when we have her permission to do so, we will post more information about her.

Friday, December 17, 2010

World's Fastest Mobility Scooter: An Interview With Colin Furze

Colin Furze is a stuntman, filmmaker and plumber from Stamford, England. He holds several World Records for stunts such as building the longest motorcycle and creating the world's biggest bonfire. Not everything he does is death defying. Some of what he does crosses stunts with fun, such as serving "fast food" on the highway. But not the type of fast food you have eaten. Colin delivers his fast food to customers while leaning out of a trailer speeding along a highway. Furze calls himself "Uncle Fuz" and calls his fun "A cross between top gear, scrapheap challenge, jackass and my brain". Some of his videos have gotten alot of attention such as when Colin was riding a scooter on the "The Wall Of Death" and it crashed!

Recently Colin built and raced the world's fastest mobility scooter. Watch Colin flying on his mobility scooter with the oversized engine:


I contacted Colin Furze to find out more. Read this interview with Uncle Fuz:

Gene: Where did you get the idea to create and drive the world's fastest mobility scooter?

Colin: I had a scooter given to me to play with from the local shop about 6 months before. It was old and not really good enough to sell. I have had a few ideas what to do with it but I saw someone going really slow on one (battries dying I think) and thought what's the fastest these can go and whats the fastest anyone has ever been on one? I looked on the net but there wasn't anything impressive so I contacted guinness to apply to set a record. Then off I went.

Gene: What is the fastest you have gone on your mobility scooter?

Colin: The fastest is 71.59mph which was done on 14th October, 2010 at Santa Pod Raceway in Northamptonshire England

Gene: What did you do to get it to go so fast? Just replace the engine?

Colin: At first I wanted to do it with an electric motor. But motors that will get you up to those speeds are expensive so instead I took the engine out my motocross bike and fitted that. The hardest thing was hiding it all. Guinness stated it must look like a normal mobility scooter so bigger wheels and things where out of the question.

Gene: I dont think that mobility scooters were designed for that kind of speed. Did you do anything to make it more stable?

Colin: Ha, no nothing at all. So it was very unstable and eratic at speeds over about 20mph so at 71 its abit of a hand full.

Gene: Have you made it into the Guinness Book of World Records?

Colin: As of yet I haven't had conformation from them to say they have approved it (you have to send all the evidence of the timing) But should know pretty soon I hope.

Gene: Do you have any suggestions for someone else who is considering modifying their mobility scooter?

Colin: Yes find the biggest scooter to start with it will make it easier, hehe.

Gene: Do you have any other plans for your mobility scooter?

Colin: Yes I'm working on a Christmas themed modification and hope it will be ready at the end of the week but its proving quite hard. Also I might be making a DVD of these as I have lots of film of doing things with and on mobility scooters and simler things but havent decided to relese that or just put them on youtube. What do you think? Would there be a market for that sort of video? Its all comedy based as you can guess.

Gene: Colin, I am not sure. I have seen some pretty wild stuff on your YouTube Channel. So, if it is like that, it could be pretty popular. I wish you the best of luck and if you have any news about your mobility scooter plans, please keep us udated.

Read more about mobility scooters from the Mobility Scooter website.

This interview with Colin Furze is COPYRIGHTED and may not be reproduced without written permission.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Research on Exoskeletons For Wheelchair Users: Your Help Is Needed

I have spoken with Christopher Wilder, Executive Director of Valley Medical Center Foundation about a new research project being conducted at the Valley Medical Center on the eLegs exoskeleton for wheelchair users.

Chris has confirmed that a new eLEGS study will start at Valley Medical Center in January 2011. The project seeks to prove the efficacy and safety of working with patients using eLegs in a clinical rehab setting. How long does it take to teach a patient to use them? How long does it take to train the trainers? How much space does it require? etc.

Chris is responsible for fundraising for the The VMC Foundation. He told me that the foundation is hoping to raise a total of $130K, of which $20K has been raised, to ensure the program moves as quickly as possible and can start as soon as January 2011. A donation to the fund during this holiday season will be very timely and also help to progress the research on exoskeletons for wheelchair users.

For more information contact Chris at The VMC Foundation or donate from the VMC Foundation Facebook page.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wheelchair Discrimination At A NYC Club?

Watch what happens to this wheelchair user at Swing 46 Club in New York City:

"Fred" posted this explanation together with the video on Youtube:

This was going to be a nice video of me dancing after coming 3500 miles from
England to visit what I was told was the best swing/lindy dance venue in
Manhatten. Unfortunatly the owner (John), took a dislike to having someone with
a disability dancing in his club so this video was cut short and I left his half
empty venue, shocked and upset.

I wrote to both Fred, the wheelchair user as well as Judith, the owner of the nightclub. I got statements from both. Then I asked a disability lawyer for his thoughts. Read what Fred, Judith and the lawyer have to say in this interview about disability law.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Featured on GLEE! ReWalk Exoskeleton For Wheelchair Users

ReWalk exoskeleton for wheelchair users was featured in yesterday's Christmas Episode of Glee. Watch Artie, the character on Glee who uses a wheelchair, walk using a ReWalk Exoskeleton:

Apparently Artie just found it under the Christmas tree. With a retail price in excess of $100,000 that is quite an amazing Christmas present. Read more about Exoskeletons for Wheelchair Users on the Exoskeleton Website.

Monday, December 6, 2010

ReWalk Exoskeleton For Wheelchair Users On Good Morning America

Are you wondering what it is like to walk again using an exoskeleton? This video from ABC's Good morning America features several wheelchair users who are participants in the ReWalk Clinical trials at Moss Rehab Institute.

Watch this video of ReWalk Exoskeleton for Wheelchair users:

Friday, December 3, 2010

New Wheelchair Umbrella System Launched

Are you tired of getting drenched in your wheelchair? Are you looking for a way to stay dry without having to attach anything to your wheelchair?

Consider the Brella Buddy, the hands free way to hold an umbrella.

The Brella Buddy not only holds an umbrella keeping your hands free to push the wheelchair, it can protect your valuables as well.

The Brella Buddy has several inside pockets. There is one inside pocket large enough to hold a collapsible umbrella for after the rain has stopped. But there is also a zipped, netted pocket to safely hold your valuables. Since the Brelly Buddy is secured to your body and the netted pocket is zipped it would be nearly impossible for anyone to remove anything from there without you knowing about it.

Have a look at the Brella Buddy, the new hands free wheelchair umbrella holder ideal for wheelchair users.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wheelchair User Dies Waiting 36 Hours In Hospital Waiting Room

Brian Sinclair had everything going against him. He was a wheelchair user, homeless and aboriginal. He was also a very sick man when he went to Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre. But he did not just appear there for no reason. He went with a referral letter from his local health clinic. That should have given some importance to his condition.

What was the problem? His urinary catheter was blocked. He had not urinated in over 24 hours. But the emergency room employees had him wait in the waiting for 36 hours. During those hours Brian Sinclair was simply ignored. No food, water or medical attention. What did he die of? An acute bladder infection.

The government promised an inquest, but nothing has been done. His family is now suing. What kind of health care system makes a sick a patient wait for 36 hours? How can people be so cruel? Read more

Friday, November 26, 2010

Time Names Exoskeleton For Wheelchair Users One Of 50 Best Inventions

Time Magazine has included eLEGS Exoskeleton in a recent article about the 50 Best Inventions of 2010. But Time seems to have erred in their description saying eLEGS is " the first such device to do so without a tether".

I am pleased to see Time recognizing the promise of exoskeletons for wheelchair users in this article. Exoskeletons should be included in the top 50 inventions of 2010. But while eLEGs may be one of the most promising exoskeletons, it is certainly not the "the first such device to do so without a tether". Probably that honor should go to the HAL exoskeleton from Cyberdyne as it was the first Exoskeleton for wheelchair users to reach the market and does not use a tether.

Another Time Publication erred by declaring that there were 6 million paraplegics in the USA. This was wrong by at least a factor of 10. I had to write several emails to Time in order to get them to correct that mistake. The article has since been corrected and you can find a statement to that fact at the bottom of the article.

These all too frequent mistakes make me wonder where Time Magazine gets their information and if they do any editing or proof reading at all.

Read the latest information about exoskeletons for wheelchair users.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How Is eLEGS Exoskeleton For Wheelchair Users Unique?

While other exoskeletons are focusing on getting a wheelchair user walking again, the people at Berkeley Bionics are doing this while trying to mimic the natural human gait with their exoskeleton eLEGS (Exoskeleton Lower Extremity Gait System.). This is not an easy task.

Why is it important to mimic the human gait? Humans step first on the heel when walking, and then roll onto the ball of the foot and toes. A study done in Utah has shown that this normal human movement is much more efficient than, for example, walking constantly on the balls of the feet or on the toes.

But more than just being efficient, the natural human gait is more comfortable than any other type of movement. And if the long term goal of the exoskeleton is to allow a wheelchair user to walk in a normal manner, reproducing the human gait will be essential.

According to Katherine Strausser from UC Berkeley, in an article in Technology Review, eLegs is the first exoskeleton to reproduce the human gait:

"Other mobile exoskeletons--like those developed by companies such as Rex Bionics or Cyberdene--don't try to emulate a natural gait, Strausser says. Because walking is a dynamic motion that is essentially falling forward, Strausser says, many designs opt for a shuffle instead of a natural gait, because "it's safer and a lot easier." However, emulating a natural gait mimics the efficiency of natural walking and doesn't strain the hips, Strausser says."

Tim Swift, a UC Berkeley graduate student in the mechanical engineering department said in an interview with the local UC Berkeley newspaper, the Daily Cal, that mimicking the normal walking traits of a healthy human is one of the primary objectives of the device and also one of its primary difficulties. "There's a reason nobody else has done this before, and that's because nobody knows how to do it," he said.

Read more about exoskeletons for wheelchair users.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wheelchair Hero Stops Robbery (Full Video)

Larry Skopnik is a new Canadian Wheelchair Hero. Does the term hero seem a bit overused these days? Watch the video below. Larry wears the term very well.

This is the actual security video from the store. Fast forward to 2:20 minutes, nothing happens until then. At 3:00 minutes the action begins.

The bad guy was trying to pass a fake $50. The cashier called the police and that made the bad guy violent. He not only wanted his fake $50, he stepped behind the counter to rob the cash register. Larry rolled up and quickly put an end to that.

Larry was not the only hero that day. There were several other good souls who helped out. But Larry took the bad guy down. Larry is one of many wheelchair users who show everyday that being in a wheelchair does not mean that you can not take care of yourself and others.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hal Exoskeleton For Wheelchair Users Updated On CNN

CNN has given an update on a the HAL Exoskeleton Suit. Amongst the new points mentioned there include:

There are 140 HAL suits in use in Japan, renting for just under $2,000 a

I have not seen that number before of 140 suits. This means that Cyberdyne is earning just $3.3 million per year in Japan? I would have thought it would have been considerably higher.

Professor Sankai is in the final stages of bringing the suits to Sweden and

I am certain that HAL will launch in Europe soon. Just wish we had more information about when.

Another variation is more scaled down; looking to a future when the robotic legs
are so thin the patient could wear them underneath clothing

This is a prediction I would make. One day exoskeletons will be so advanced, they will be like prosthetic legs, that is, hidden under clothes. Paraplegics will walk and except for a slightly different gait, no one will know they are using an exoskeleton.

The problem with articles like this is that they are one dimensional. CNN presents this story as though there is only one exoskeleton in development. They do not mention, for example that Rex Bionics has an exoskeleton which is on the market in New Zealand or that ReWalk from Argo is currently launching in Europe, or that eLEGS from Berkeley Bionics will soon launch in the USA. Read about all of the leading exoskeletons for wheelchair users on the Exoskeleton Website.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shoshi's Pimped Wheelchair

I got a message from a visitor to the blog who sent me some photos of her pimped wheelchair. Shoshi puts alot of creativity and style into her wheelchair.

I invited Shoshi to tell her own story:

Pimping your wheelchair stops you being invisible. The first Christmas I was using it, I decided to put some Christmas decorations and lights on my Rolls Royce, and I was amazed at the response I got - total strangers kept coming up to me, smiling and making lovely comments, and I got into so many great conversations!

Sorry the photos are a bit dark, but it was the only way I could get the lights to show up. After Christmas I took the decorations off, and again I was amazed at the result - I was completely invisible again. So I decided I wasn't putting up with that, so I'd better have decorations on permanently. That's when I started doing it with flowers, and I haven't stopped since. This is my first attempt:

This is what I did the following summer:

and here it is against the beautiful backdrop of the gardens of Dartington Hall in Devon:

and in Bath, watching the mechanical guitar man:

We went to Naidex in April of 2009 and here I am waiting my turn for some wheelchair skills training, and you can see the Easter eggs and ribbons I put on:

I added some poppies and cornflowers for this summer's decorations:

I buy cheap silk flowers when I see them, and also sparkle trails and bits of bling to mix in with them, and of course my 2 strings of LCD lights - unfortunately the batteries don't last too well, and they don't show up in bright light, but out in the evenings they are really fun! I decorate my own spoke guards - you can find reasonably priced plain ones online. I painted the pink flowers myself, and the black ones I just stuck hotfix gems on to give some serious bling for Christmas/winter.

As a bit of reverse pimping, how's this for a bit of grunge?

I took the photo of this ancient wheelchair in its matching transport at this year's South West Disability Show, where, incidentally, I was instantly recognised by people who remembered me and my flowers from last year!

I think it's really important to make a statement with your wheelchair, or any mobility aids you may need. Nobody wants to go round looking like a grey National Health advert, and just as you express your personality with your tie, or handbag, or shoes or whatever, you can do it big time with a wheelchair. For me it's a "canvas to work on"! I also have a sticker that says "My other wheelchair is a Porsche," which like my other decorations, has an amazing effect on other people and breaks down any barriers of embarrassment they may have. I wrote an article entitled "Wheelchair Use and Attitudes" which was published on the Invest in ME website which covers this aspect as well as many other attitudes which need to be faced. The article is on page 48.

I am in the process of getting Rolls Royce Mark II at the moment - not quite sure which model it will be yet, but rest assured, it will not go out naked, but pimped to the eyeballs! I'm planning new spoke guards for it for starters. You can keep up to date with my pimping and bling-ing on Shoshi's blog

Go on, give it a go. Make someone smile today - even if it's only you!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Rex Bionics Receives Funding For New Exoskeleton

It is being reported that Rex Bionics has received new funding to develop the second generation exoskeleton. According to this report Rex has received new funding of $1.63 million to build a second version.

Part of the new money has come from TechNZ which appears to be a New Zealand funded government agency that invests in local technology.

Why is this important? An invester brings much more than just money to a project. An investor brings its experts, its network and its influence. With the New Zealand government investing in Rex, this will further help to open the doors to Rex.

Read more about Rex Bionic's Exoskeleton on the Exoskeleton website.

Monday, November 8, 2010

NUDE: Wheelchair Tennis Legend Esther Vergeer

If you did not hear about Esther Vergeer before, you probably will soon. Esther Vergeer is probably the greatest wheelchair tennis player who has ever lived. However, wheelchair tennis does not make people household names. But posing nude often will do the trick. Esther Vergeer recently did a nude photoshoot for ESPN Magazine's 2010 "Body Issue" publication. Of course, the controversy hit the fan. The big controversy surrounds the question

Should a wheelchair user, whose body is not perfect, be posing nude?

Have a look at some of the photos and decide for yourself.

You will find the nude Esther Vergeer's cover shot here
You can find an internal nude shot of Esther Vergeer here:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

New Website Reviews Exoskeletons For Wheelchair Users

As discussed in earlier posts, the Exoskeleton represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in recent medical history. The impact on the lives of people with disabilities will be enormous. No, the first generation of exoskeletons will not be ideal. But since there will be four manufacturers entering the market at roughly the same time, competition will be fierce and the result will be better and cheaper exoskeletons.

But as it is difficult to stay informed about all of the new exoskeleton technology, we have created a website which offers an overview of each of the exoskeletons for wheelchair users. The new website is named Exoskeleton.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nurse's Error Leaves Wheelchair User Brain Damaged

A Nurse turned off the life support for a wheelchair user "by mistake". Jamie Merrett had been injured in an automobile accident. He used an oxygen ventilator as life support and was able to get around using a wheelchair and to talk via a voice activated technology.

In spite of his disability, he lead a relatively active life. That is, until a poorly trained nurse who was taking care of him accidentily shut off his life support and did not know how to restart it. Merrett was left without oxygen for so long, he became brain damaged.

No one supplied information about what happened until the information was "leaked" to the BBC nearly two years later.

According to this follow up article, no charges will be filed against the nurse.

I find this unbelievable.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Berkeley Bionics: eLEGS Exoskeleton Begins Trials

Berkeley Bionics announced that their new exoskeleton, named eLegs (exoskeleton lower extremity gait system) for wheelchair users will enter clinical trials in early 2011. eLEGS will have a limited release during the second half of 2011 which will include several rehabilitation facilities in the USA.

eLEGS will be the fourth exoskeleton for wheelchair users to come to market in a very fast succession. Three other exoskeletons for wheelchair users are to be launched in 2010. Read more about exoskeletons for wheelchair users.

Friday, October 22, 2010

RehaDesign Wheelchair Gloves Available in Australia!

If you have been thinking that the selection of wheelchair gloves on the Australian market was limited, you would be right. Until now. RehaDesign Wheelchair Gloves are now available in Australia.

What makes RehaDesign Wheelchair Gloves special? RehaDesign Wheelchair Gloves are not a "one wheelchair glove for all" approach. RehaDesign Wheelchair gloves currently come in four unique styles. There are full finger, leather wheelchair gloves, half finger leather wheelchair gloves, Gel-Palm Wheelchair gloves for comfort and Flexi-Fit Neoprene Wheelchair gloves for people with limited hand mobility. Each RehaDesign Wheelchair glove has its unique properties and special target group.

So, how can an Australian Wheelchair User purchase RehaDesign Wheelchair gloves? There are two options to get RehaDesign Wheelchair Gloves in Australia:

* First, RehaDesign Wheelchair Gloves are available for worldwide delivery from the Wheelchair Website. Worldwide shipping by registered post, including all destinations in Australia, is covered by the purchase price. Read more about RehaDesign Wheelchair Gloves.

* Second, Request to be put into contact with an authorised Australian dealer of RehaDesign Wheelchair Gloves. Visit the website and click "contact us".

Monday, October 18, 2010

Worldwide Wheelchair And Mobility Equipment Rental

When people with disabilities travel, it can be difficult to know what to do about special needs equipment. Do you take your wheelchair along and risk damaging it? Should you rent a mobility scooter? If you rent, where can you get what you need?

In some locations, it is quite easy to find rental equipment. In other locations, you will have huge difficulties finding rental equipment. I recently learned about an organization which rents mobility and medical equipment worldwide---Special Needs Group. Until I discovered Special Needs Group, I was not aware that such an organization exists. I asked Andrew J. Garnett, founder & CEO of The Special Needs Group for an interview to learn more about worldwide wheelchair and scooter rental and also about cruising with a disability.
Gene: Can you give an indication of the size of your operations? Approximately how many employees do you have? Where are your warehouses located?

Andrew: We are a tightly run company with worldwide reach. We have a core staff of 12 employees at our offices in Fort Lauderdale with associates, partners and service providers at 55 locations in 20 countries around the world.

Gene: Please give a general idea about where you can and can not deliver medical and mobility equipment?

Andrew: The short answer is, we can deliver wheelchairs, scooters and other special needs equipment directly to your cruise ship stateroom, hotel, or resort in any major embarkation port city in the United States, Europe, Asia or South America.

We have delivery and pick-up, and can accommodate one-way rentals in key travel destinations around the world.

We have not yet delivered to Antarctica or the Poles – but given enough notice – we’re not canceling this out.

Gene: You rent mobility and medical equipment to people who are taking cruises or just traveling. Yet, when I read your blog, it seems to be focused on the cruise industry. Why is that? This gives me the impression that most of your business is renting to people who are taking cruises, is that right? Is it unusual to get a non-cruise related order?

Andrew: Like any service, we follow demand. And because cruises are so accommodating for travelers with special needs, there are simply more people taking this type of vacation, so that’s where the demand is now. Special Needs Group has worked closely with the cruise lines for many years. They refer their passengers to us, as do the travel agents who specialize in cruises. We assist cruisers with their pre and post cruise hotel stays and excursions.
We frequently receive requests from land travelers and deliver wheelchairs and other equipment to their hotel rooms, resorts, convention centers and other venues around the globe. The requests can include hospital beds and baby cribs for children with special needs. Our sand beach chairs are popular for families staying in a resort. We certainly welcome requests from land travelers.

Gene: Can you give an estimate of costs? Let’s say I would like to rent a manual wheelchair for a week to be delivered to my hotel in Seattle or Fort Lauderdale. How much would that cost, with everything included?

Andrew: As with any rental service, our rates vary according to location, type of equipment needed, length of rental and the availability of equipment requested. At this time, a standard wheelchair rental for seven days in Seattle or Fort Lauderdale is $75.
Gene: How much would it cost to rent a mobility scooter for a one week cruise?

Andrew: Again, prices vary depending on city, whether it is a one-way or round-trip rental, and of course, the type of scooter. But as an example, a standard scooter out of Miami or Fort Lauderdale for seven days is $175.

Gene: Do you get most of your business via travel agents, cruise lines or customers?

Andrew: It’s a good mix of all three. Travel agents frequently place orders on behalf of their clients and travelers often call us directly. Additionally, Special Needs Group is a preferred accessibility supplier for almost all of the major cruise lines. So when someone is planning a cruise, the cruise line will refer us to the travel agent or cruise passenger – and then the agent or passenger will book directly through us. We are also the first and only Preferred Accessibility Partner for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the cruise industry’s largest professional organization. Cruise lines often purchase items through us such as wheelchairs for embarkation and debarkation, Braille printing, portable hearing impaired kits, and more.


Andrew J. Garnett, is CEO of Special Needs Group. Special Needs Group is the leading global provider for special needs travel around the world. They offer a broad range of special needs equipment for purchase and rental including wheelchairs, scooters and power chairs, oxygen, specialized mobility equipment, hearing impaired equipment, and more. Recommended by all the world’s major cruise lines, Special Needs Group also services guests visiting hotels, resorts and convention centers. Andrew has over ten years of leadership within the Special Needs industry, as an advocate, educator, consultant and service provider. Known worldwide for his expertise, Andrew helps shape industry policy vessel design for the cruise industry. An advocate for the disabled and with a vision to “dissolve travel barriers”, Andrew founded Special Needs Group / Special Needs at Sea in 2007, creating a company that quickly became the category leader.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Take Action Against Wheelchair Inaccessible Hotels and Motels

Attorney David Otto is interested hearing from wheelchair users, or any persons with disabilities about access problems, or disability discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) at fast food restaurants, theaters, transit systems, streets and sidewalks, hotels, motels, casinos, and other areas of 'public accommodation.' Which is to say, access discrimination against wheelchair users and other people with disabilities by any business open to the public - the ADA applies to certain 'architectural features" doors, toilets, counters, ramps, etc. in businesses which are in buildings constructed or substantially renovated since 1993.

Some of the problems that many wheelchair users have experienced are hotel or motel doors that are too narrow,

throughout the Hotel not just the so-called disabled accessible rooms - all rooms in hotels-motels built or substantially renovated since 1993 must have doors at least 32 inches wide to accommodate wheelchairs ,lacking paddle type door hardware "knobs",

not enough disabled access rooms, so-called accessible rooms without 'roll in showers', without faucet access (too far from the bench to be safe and convenient) without benches in the showers, window blinds that can't be reached, kitchenettes with poor access such as stoves where burners have to be 'reached across" to access the knobs, no knee room under sinks and counters, hotel-motels in excess of two floors without elevators, rooms where it is difficult or impossible to enter, move around the bed or other areas. If you have experienced any problems such as these, contact David Otto to see if there is a compliance issue.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cool Wheelchair Bags Add Style To Your Wheelchair

Tired of boring wheelchair bags? Looking for a wheelchair bag to add style and functionality to your wheelchair? Check out RehaDesign Wheelchair Bags. RehaDesign Wheelchair bags, are both practical and cool. Why are they cool? RehaDesign Wheelchair bags have built in reflective strip, which is not noticable during the daytime, but at night time, help to improve your visibility. But that is not all. You can order RehaDesign Wheelchair Bags with an optional reflective tribal design, either a heart or a dragon, for a cool look that also improves safety. RehaDesign Wheelchair bags are made with a water resistant material to help protection your gear incase you are caught in the rain. RehaDesign Wheelchair bags have especially designed straps to fit wheelchair backrests between 14-18 inches without rubbing the wheels. All this in a wheelchair bag that comes with front zip pockets and side netted pockets to make it easy to store your gear. Put RehaDesign Wheelchair Bags on your Christmas Gift Wish List.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Josh Sundquist: Author, Speaker, Paralympian and Rapper?

Ready for a laugh? Watch this amazing "Amputee Rap" by Josh Sundquist:

But don't stop there, Josh is not just about rapping. This guy has more layers than an onion. Check out Josh's channel of hilarious videos, most of which seem to be featured on Josh's Blog. For example, in one video he talks about an embarrassing experience where he accidentally ran into a girl he called "T.O" who had just cancelled a date with him, probably to go out with someone else. In another, Josh talks about how a construction worker stopped traffic on a busy street for him, then he realized that it was a funeral procession that had been stopped so that Josh could cross illegally. Trust me, my retelling of Josh's stories aren't as funny as Josh's delivery. Watch Josh's videos and you could spend hours there.

Josh is also the author of a best selling book Just Don't Fall: How I Grew Up, Conquered Illness, and Made It Down the Mountain

Josh also launched an online social network for amputees called Less Than Four.

On top of all of that Josh had a career as a Paralympic skier. Wow! Where did he find time for all of that? Josh is only 26 years old!

This guy is going places. Josh, if you ever read this, let me tell you that you can do ALOT better than T.O. And believe me; You will!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Air Tran Fined For Discriminating Against Wheelchair Users

While the US Airlne Air Trans was finded $500'000 for discriminating against wheelchair users, the UK's Airline EasyJet is discriminating agains wheelchair users and getting away with it.

AirTrans was fined for violating:

rules governing assistance given to passengers during boarding, and that it frequently failed to provide an adequate written response to passenger complaints. The airline also failed to properly categorize disability complaints in reports it filed with the government.

EasyJet, on the otherhand, refuses to take a wheelchair over 60kg, if it can not be disassembled.

'EasyJet welcomes more than a quarter of a million passengers with reduced mobility every year and we regularly carry powered wheelchairs, provided they can be collapsed into separate parts weighing less than 60kg each.

'EasyJet welcomes more than a quarter of a million passengers with reduced mobility every year and we regularly carry powered wheelchairs, provided they can be collapsed into separate parts weighing less than 60kg each. An EasyJet Spokesman says:

EasyJet welcomes more than a quarter of a
million passengers with reduced mobility every year and we regularly
carry powered wheelchairs, provided they can be collapsed into separate
parts weighing less than 60kg each.

Most power wheelchairs and mobility scooters weigh over 60kg and only some can be disassembled. Most airlines accomodate all wheelchairs regardless of weight.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wheelchair Accessibility Complaints At Wendy's Restaurants

Are you a wheelchair user who has experienced wheelchair accessibility problems at a Wendy's Restaurant? The law firm of David Otto is investigating accessibility complaints against Wendy's Restaurants. According to Mr Otto, some Wendy's Restaurants may have problems with inaccessible toilets, condiment counters which are too high for wheelchair users, toilets which are not wide enough, or do not have disabled access toilets, doors which are too narrow or do not have automatic doors, doors which are too heavy, disabled parking spaces which do not have wide enough accessibility areas for Vans, or not enough disabled spaces, disable spaces with slopes which are too steep (runaway wheelchairs are no fun at all are they?), access problems with curb cuts, slopes that are too steep on wheelchair ramps, railings which do not comply with the ADA or other compliance issues. Ask yourself - is it comfortable, can I grab it, maneuver through it, get to it in a wheelchair or while using any other mobility assisting device? If the answer is no, there is a decent chance there is an ADA compliance problem. Mr. Otto encourages people to email him through his website if they feel the access at any place of "public accommodation" is, or seems to be out of compliance with the ADA. Those cases that seem to have merit will be investigated and if compliance issues are found, a lawsuit may follow.

The Wendy's restaurant currently being investigated is located in Colorado, however, Mr Otto is interested in hearing about any accessibility issues from Wendy's restaurants located anywhere in the USA.

This is not the first time that Wendys Restaurants have been investigated for non-compliance with ADA. In 1998 a lawsuit was brought against Wendy's Restaurants by a group of people with disabilities. That complaint involved queue lines which were not wide enough to accommodate wheelchair users. According a report on the Department of Justice website, Wendy's settled the complaint by agreeing to remove or modify the queue lines. In addition each of the complaining parties received $2,000 as part of the settlement.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Axis Wheelchair Dancers Prove To Hollywood That Wheelchair Users Can Dance

AXIS Dance Company is one of the world’s most acclaimed and innovative ensembles of performers with and without disabilities. Watch the talented wheelchair performers in the videos below and you will understand why:


Axis is a group of professionally choregraphed and trained dancers who are showing the world that disabled dancers are every bit as talented and entertaining to watch as able-bodied dancers. Now when will Hollywood producers, for shows like Glee stop casting able bodied performers to play the role of disabled characters?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wheelchair Accessibility: What You Can Do About An Inaccessible Building

You know that ADA laws require that all public buildings be accessible. But what exactly does accessible mean? What can you do when you find an inaccessible building? What are your rights? Who can help you with wheelchair accessibility?

We have covered these and other questions about wheelchair accessibility in our new article called "Accessibility Guide For Wheelchair Users". Learn everything you need to know about wheelchair accessibility.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quadruple Amputee Swims English Channel

I love stories like this! Philippe Croizon lost all four limbs 15 years ago. While recovering in the hospital he decided to swim the English channel.

Two years ago he could not swim two lengths of a standard swimming pool. But he trained hard swimming up to 30 hours per week! Watch this video which shows Philippe's preparations:

Philippe is a cool guy. When he is not swimming like a fish, he is jumping out of airplanes and he is writing books. Why does he do it?

After his accident, he decided he had two choices. To live or to die. He decided to live for himself and his family, including his two children Gregory and Jeremy. What better reason is there than that? As the father of an amazing 1 year old, I can't think of a better reason.

Read more about Philippe Croizon.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wheelchair Discrimination Gets Bus Driver Fired

In July 2010 a bus driver was fired for refusing to put down a ramp for a wheelchair user. Arjun Duggal filmed a bus driver refusing to put out a ramp for his mother on his mobile phone as you can see below:

Mr Duggal submitted the video to the media which led to the termination of the bus driver.

Just a month later a similar event happened to Qamar Khaliq. Khaliq video taped a train guard refusing to bring out a ramp for him. This incident also became a media event.

When will bus and train personnel get the message that wheelchair users are entitled to equal access to public transportation under the law?

Are you being discriminated against? Is someone parking where they are not supposed to be parking? Is there a building that has no ramp or other form of access? Do what these wheelchair users do. Use a video camera to teach the person a lesson! Film the discrimation act, upload it to YouTube. Send a link to your local media and send us a link well. Contact us at this email address: RehaDesign "AT"

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wheelchair User Discrimination At U2/Jay-Z Concert

A Jay-Z fan from New Zealand was forced to pay four times more than the general admission rate. Why? Because he was in a wheelchair.

Red Nicholson was excited to attend a concert in Auckland to see U2 and opening act Jay-Z, particularly since the least expensive tickets were being sold for $40. But when he contacted the ticket seller he was told "the minimum cost of a ticket, for a disabled person using a wheelchair, was $179 plus booking fee". Since he must take a support person with him, that meant he would have to pay $380 to attend rather than under $100.

Red blogged about this and asked a very valid question:

Why should regular able-bodied folk be able to choose to buy cheap tickets, but people with disabilities are asked to pay through the nose?

The local media agreed and reported on this story. The concert organizers backed down as this follow-up article reports:

After queries from The Dominion Post, concert organisers agreed to open up an allocated number of seats in the reserved section at a lower price for wheelchair users.

That is not good enough. I do not agree that "an allocated number" of seats should be reserved for wheelchair users. If this means, once a few wheelchair users have bought cheap seats, other wheelchair users must buy more expensive seats, this is still not fair. Wheelchair users should be treated like everyone else. The hall should be made wheelchair accessible and there should be sufficient space which can be converted to accessible seating should it be required. Wheelchair users should have full access to all levels of seating. Anything less is discriminatory in my opinion.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The First DOUBLE Backflip In A Wheelchair

Back in 2006, Aaron Fotheringham did the first back flip in a wheelchair. I did the first interview with Aaron Fotheringham when he was just 14 years old.

On August 26, 2010 Aaron Fotheringham hit the first DOUBLE backflip in a wheelchair. Watch this video, posted by Aaron showing how he got it done:

Want to know more about Aaron? Check out this interview by Unitriders. It is probably the funniest interview with Aaron Fotheringham that I have seen (and I have seen several). Questions include:

* First time you kissed a girl
* Last time your mom yelled at you
* Last time you went out in Vegas
* Last time you used the sympathy card on a girl

To the last question Aaron responded "I get rejected by females constantly. It's an ongoing thing".....come on Aaron, I don't believe that:

Friday, September 3, 2010

The World's Lightest Wheelchair

Just a decade ago, the world's lightest wheelchairs had a frame weight of around 8kg (17lbs) and with wheels, the lightest wheelchairs weighed around 10 kg (22 lbs). Now it is possible to find commercially made wheelchairs with a frame weight just over 2 kg (4.5 lbs) and with wheels just over 4 kg (10 lbs).

What are the world's lightest wheelchairs? Some of the worlds lightest wheelchairs include Pantera X, Proval, Quickie Helium / Q7 and Tilite ZR.

You can read more about what to look for in a lightweight wheelchair.

Do you know other lightweight wheelchairs? If you know of a commercially manufactured wheelchair with a frame weight of 4kg or less, let us know. Leave a comment below or send us an email at RehaDesign "AT"

Monday, August 30, 2010

How To Complain About Wheelchair Inaccessible Buildings

Are you having trouble with a wheelchair inaccessible building? Is there a place you need access to and the owner is not making it wheelchair accessible to ADA standards? Not sure what to do next? One possibility is to contact Hank Falstad at Access Technologies Services in Las Vegas Nevada.

Although Hank is in Nevada, he works nationwide. Hank has told me that once you contact him he will contact the owner of the building, anywhere in the country and offer Access's services in bringing the building up to standards. Should the owner not be able, willing or interested in complying, Hank says that he will find you a lawyer and work with the lawyer and judge to compell the owner to do so. All at no cost to the wheelchair user.

Access will get paid by being a consultant to the building owner. Or if necessary Access will get paid by being a consultant to the lawyer. In either case, according to Hank, the owner foots the bill and never the wheelchair user.

Hank tells me he has assisted thousands of wheelchair users in getting building owners to make the necessary changes to bring buildings to ADA standards and has been successful 100% of the time, because they do not go to trial unless they are certain they will win the case. All this is never at a cost to the wheelchair user. Since Hank works nationwide, it does not matter where you or the building are located.

So, if you are having trouble with a building that is not up to ADA standards ask Access Tech if they can help you. Watch Hank in the video below explaining how he can help you require building owners to make any building wheelchair accessible:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wheelchair Discrimination Caught On Video!

Qamar Khaliq of the UK was being discriminated against by a Northern Rail Train Guard. The Nortern Rail train guard refused to put a ramp down so that Mr Khliq, a wheelchair user, could board a train. A quick thinking man, Qamar Khaliq captured the offending guard on video. Mr Khaliq uploaded the video to YouTube:

Qamar Khaliq's video has now spread across the UK news media and has been picked up by all the local newspapers and TV channels. Just do a google search on "Qamar Khaliq" to see a few examples.

Now Northern Rail is on the defensive. According to a report on BBC the security guard has been suspended and Pete Myers, head of service quality for Northern Rail has issued an apology.

I contacted Pete Myers of Northern Rail to find out more. Myers told me that there was an ongoing investigation and the results would be disclosed to Qamar Khaliq. So, I asked Myers about his company's policies.

My Question: The troubling thing here is that three people spoke to Mr Khaliq. None of them seemed interested in helping him get on the train. This indicates to me that the problem was not with the one guard but perhaps with staff training. Can you please let me know the kind of training that staff undergo concerning the UK Disability Discrimination Act of 1995? Can you tell me how familar are your staff concerning this act?

Myers: All of our front line people attended a two day DDA Refresher Course back in 2007/8 and there is an element included within the training for all new starters.

My Question: The two men told Mr Khaliq not to take pictures. The guard was particularly upset by this. Is there some problem with a customer documenting a problem such as this with a video? Is there some kind of company policy against taking videos? If so why?

Myers: We have no specific rules, although the bylaws do forbid it without permission if it is for commercial purposes.

My Question: Will you be able to update me about the outcome of your investigation?

Myers: I am afraid we will not be in a position to disclose the outcome of our investigation to you.

I wonder why Northern Rail is unwilling or unable to make the results of their investigation public? To me it would seem like a more serious investigation if the results as well as the planned follow-up were shared with the general public. Barring a public statement and a serious follow-up, this may very likely happen again.

Are you being discriminated against? Is someone parking where they are not supposed to be parking? Is there a building that has no ramp or other form of access? Do what Qamar Khaliq does. Use a video camera as your weapon! Film the discrimation act, upload it to YouTube. Send a link to your local media and send us a link well. Contact us at this email address: RehaDesign "AT"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Proval: The Lightest Aluminum Wheelchair?

There are those who are always looking for the lightest, coolest, sweetest wheelchair available. Several companies claim to manufacture the world's lightest wheelchair, but they are often made from carbon fiber or other composite materials. Now there is the Proval Wheelchair. The ultra-light aluminum Proval weighs in at an incredible 3.4 kg (without rear wheels). This means that, depending on the selection of rear wheels, you can have an aluminum wheelchair which weighs under 5kg complete.

What makes the Proval so light weight? The answer is two things. First, while most wheelchairs use round aluminum tubing, the Proval uses a unique flat tubing which is a very light and strong design. Second, the Proval is entirely welded. Welding means no need for heavy screws or brackets.

If welding saves so much weight, why aren't all wheelchairs welded? The reason is that most wheelchairs are built to fit most body sizes and then adjusted to fit all varieties of body shapes and sizes. This one size fits all design, while inexpensive to make means alot more metal is used and alot of additional weight. The Proval is a custom made frame and built to fit only one owner. This means, only the right amount of metal is used in the design and no additional weight. It also means that the wheelchair fits the owner perfectly, like a well tailored suit.

An ultra-light, custom made wheelchair must be very expensive, right? Actually, not as expensive as you might think. Depending on your needs and requirements, the Proval costs about the same as any quality wheelchair.

How can you see a Proval? Proval is manufactured by TNS Rijan in the Netherlands. While the TNS website is currently in Dutch, you will have no problems communicating with TNS in any of several languages including English, German, French, etc.

Would you like to have a cool ultra-light wheelchair and a ultra-cool wheelchair light for the price of a standard wheelchair?

Simply tell TNS that you heard about Proval from the Wheelchair Pride website. If you buy any wheelchair from TNS, then TNS will give you a free wUnderGlow Wheelchair Light. So, you will have both an cool ultra-light wheelchair and a ultra cool wheelchair light for about the price of a regular wheelchair. Alternatively, send us an email at RehaDesign @ and we will put you in contact.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wheelchair Inaccessible Europe

For twenty years, the ADA (American Disability Act) has been opening doors for people with disabilities in the USA. Since 1990, the USA has slowly become more and more accessible and wheelchair users are gaining access to place which were once closed. To be sure, many parts of the USA have a long way to go. But how does accessibility in the USA compare to that of Europe?

Europe is a mixed bag. Some European countries, such as The UK, Germany and some Scandinavian countries are more accessible. Like the USA, the UK has a "Disability Discrimination Act" which was enacted in 1995. As far as I am aware, the UK is the only European country which has a discrimination act specifically for people with disabilities. As a result, the UK is probably the most accessible country in Europe.

Other countries, typically in the Mediterranean or Eastern Europe have a very long way to go. Examples of countries that are very poorly accessible are Greece and Lithuania. What do they have in common? Both countries are still relatively poor. While making great strides in many aspects of their economies and improving their cities, neither are making many resources available to people with disabilities.

How bad is accessibility in these European countries? Pretty bad. Steps block access to shops, restaurants and hotels. There is a lack of accessible toilets. Cobblestone roads and poorly maintained sidewalks make it extremely difficult for wheelchair users to move. There are few or no disabled parking places. Most multi-level buildings have no elevators or lifts. When ramps exist, they are often ridiculously steep only useful with the help of an assistant.

As a result, even in the capital cities of Athens, Greece or Vilnius, Lithuania you will rarely see a wheelchair user and when you do, it is invariably a manual wheelchair. I have personally never seen a power wheelchair or mobility scooter in either city? Why? If necessary with some help a manual wheelchair can be lifted over obstacles. That is much more difficult in a power wheelchair. A manual wheelchair user can ride in regular vehicles such as taxis and passenger cars. A power wheelchair user usually requires a wheelchair accessible van. We called two major taxi companies in Vilnius to ask if they had wheelchair accessible vans. Both not only said they did not, they seemed quite surprised by the question and offered no alternatives.

This is not only a pity, it is a missed opportunity. Both cities rely heavily on tourism for a significant part of their income. Imagine if these cities invested the necessary resources to making Lithuania Travel and Greece Travel wheelchair accessible and made a PR effort to invite some of the 5 million European wheelchair users and 3 million US wheelchair users to visit their cities.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wheelchair User On India's Got Talent

Vinod Thakur, a disabled student from India wowed the judges and audience with his amazing hip hop moves on the second season of "India's Got Talent":

Vinod certainly does have talent. But will the audiences of India vote him to the top?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wheelchair Ramps That Kill

Some people just don't get the idea about a wheelchair ramp. Ignoring ADA or other local disability regulations, they simply create any incline and call it a wheelchair ramp. Some do not understand that an unsafe wheelchair ramp can be worse than no wheelchair ramp at all.

Unsafe wheelchair ramps can result in painful injuries or much worse. Last month Jeremy Hammitt of Oregan was injured when he was knocked out of his wheelchair when trying to manuever over an improperly built wheelchair ramp while trying to catch a bus. Winnie Young of California was killed as a result of a ramp which had no side protectors and a dangerous drop off. Her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the ramp construction company and the owners of the restaurant she was trying to visit.

Unsafe ramps can be found everywhere, even if it is not always clear what the purpose is. Some may argue that unsafe ramps were designed not for wheelchairs, but for strollers or cycles such as these dangerous ramps.

But if a flight of stairs or other obstacle exists and a ramp is required for a stroller or a cycle to have access the ramp should be made safe for a wheelchair user as well or a reasonable alternative should be readily available. To do otherwise, allows access to the cyclist or stroller and excludes the wheelchair user. Therefore, any ramp being built for some kind of public access, should be built to specifications allowing access for wheelchair users. Some wheelchair ramp design considerations are discussed in this wheelchair ramp article and in this video:

Bottom line is, if there is an obstacle and a ramp is necessary for access for some, consult with someone experienced building ramps to legal standards which allow access to wheelchair users. To do otherwise risks unfairly excluding wheelchair users or worse, causing serious bodily injury.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Uk's Channel 4 To Feature Wheelchair Users

The UK's Channel 4 is doing something innovative which can only help the disability community and I wonder if people outside of the UK are taking notice? A press release from the TV Channel sums it up:

On August 29th 2010 it is exactly two years to the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. To mark this milestone, Channel 4 will screen a weekend of dedicated programming, promoted with a marketing campaign which aims to challenge public attitudes towards disability sport.

A bit of history: Channel 4 bid for and won the rights to broadcast live coverage of the Paralympics in 2012. It probably was not much of a fight, because there was no live UK broadcast of the 2010 Paralympics at all.

So, what is Channel 4 doing to get prepared for the 2012 Paralympics? In the run-up to the Paralympics Channel 4 is developing various new TV programs focused on people with disabilities. For example, beginning the last weekend of August 2010, the first episode of "That Paralympic Show" will premiere. "That Paralympic Show" is a 10-week magazine programme dedicated to disability sport. It will be hosted by Rick Edwards and Paralympian Ade Adepitan. That Paralympic Show will feature segments such as "Pimp My Chair", featuring a small group of charismatic sporting 12 – 18 year olds who want to take their current wheelchair and turn it into something special. We were contacted by the producers of "That Paralympic Show" for some products to help them pimp wheelchairs and donated some wUnderGlow wheelchair lights and Wheels On Fire Wheelchair Reflectors. So, if you are watching "Pimp My Chair" look for wUnderGlow and Wheels on Fire on some cool pimped out wheelchairs.

On the same weekend, Channel 4 will broadcast "Inside Incredible Athletes". From the press release: "The programme will profile seven athletes, all of whom are hoping to represent ParalympicsGB in 2012, and will feature stunning sporting performance sequences, filmed against a backdrop of iconic locations around London showing Paralympic sport as it has never been seen before."

So, while the Paralympics are generally ignored by most broadcasters around the world, Channel 4 is demonstrating its commitment to the Paralympics two years early!

From the Channel 4 press release:
As the official UK broadcaster, Channel 4 will treat the Paralympic Games as the main event, not a sideshow to the Olympic Games. We will spend the next two years filming Paralympians as you have never seen them before.

In addition, check out all of the disability programming being offered by Channel 4. For example "Crippendales" an Award-winning documentary that follows the efforts of wheelchair user Lee Kemp as he attempts to realise his dream of creating Britain's first troupe of disabled male strippers. Ok, I am not sure I want to watch a program about male strippers, either disabled or able bodied. But since the typical television show featuring people with disabilities are usually the "inspirational" type showing a person with a disability struggling to go on with life post disability, Crippendales promises to be a breath of fresh air.

Considering that there are over 30 million people with disabilities in the USA and people with disabilities are the third largest minority group in the USA, why are the majar US broadcasters almost completely ignoring the disability community? Why is it so rare to even see an actor with a disability on mainstream US TV? Hopefully, broadcasters from around the world will be paying attention to what Channel 4 is doing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The First Factory Built Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle

Such an exciting new concept! A vehicle designed and built by manufacturers to be wheelchair accessible. Not a vehicle which is converted for use by wheelchair users, but rather designed from the start for the 3 million wheelchair users across the USA. I wrote to the Miami, Florida based Vehicle Production Group LLC (VPG) and asked the co-founder and executive VP of Business Development, Marc Klein some questions about the new MV-1 (a clever name which stands for "First Mobility Vehicle") wheelchair accessible vehicle and learned much more. But first, have a look at this introductory video about the MV-1 wheelchair accessible vehicle:

The video above implies that unlike the MV-1 the conversion process that a typical mini-van goes through to become wheelchair accessible may compromise safety, comfort, durability and performance. So I asked Klein how the MV-1 is better than a conversion in those regards.

Klein said, "If you take a shoe that was designed for a particular purpose, like a hiking boot, and compare it to shoe that was not designed for the rigors of hiking, I think you will agree that you have two very different products. If you then dismantle the second shoe and attempt to make it into a hiking boot, in my opinion the second shoe will generally be less safe, comfortable, and durable than the first shoe when used in hiking activity." Klein also pointed to the MV-1's "body-on-frame vehicle architecture". That meant nothing to me, so I asked for more details.

Klein said "The Ford Crown Victoria and Lincoln Town Car utilize body-on-frame design and both are prevalent across the United States in fleet usage and are know for their durability. A minivan commonly has a "unibody" frame which is generally considered to be less durable than a body-on-frame design." Klein also directed me to a wikipedia article which outlines advatanges and disadvantages of body-on-frame design compared to the more common unibody design.

When I asked about costs and gas milage Klein responded "Estimated MSRP is approximately $40,000 USD. Estimated MPG is approximately 15 MPG. We are still in the engine calibration process, so final numbers are not yet available."

Do not make the mistake that I did to assume that wheelchair accessible means that this vehicle is adapted. This is a vehicle which will give wheelchair easy access and a comfortable ride, but only as passengers. If a wheelchair user wants to drive this vehicle, further modifications will be necessary. Klein confirmed this by saying "VPG will not be installing hand controls in the MV-1. Hand controls can be added after purchase like any other vehicle since the MV-1 utilizes common steering mechanisms that are readily available in the marketplace."

Perhaps someday an innovative manufacturer will design an adapted vehicle that a wheelchair user can drive without after-market modifications. But until that time comes, the MV-1 is an exciting first step.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Where Can I Donate A Used Wheelchair?

Do you have a used wheelchair? Not sure what to do with it? Why not donate your used wheelchair to a charity. Why? Many charities repair used wheelchairs and offer them to people with disabilities who can not afford a new wheelchair. Second, many charities will offer you a receipt for your donation and you may be able to deduct the donation of your used wheelchair from your taxes.

Sometimes it can be challenging to find an organization which will accept a donation of a used wheelchair. So, we have created a directory of charities by state which will accept used wheelchair donations.

If you would like to donate a used wheelchair, contact one of these used wheelchair charities. If you know of a charity which accepts used wheelchairs and is not listed in this directory, write to us at RehaDesign "AT"

Friday, August 6, 2010

Two Weeks, Two Wheelchair Users Killed In Ocala, Florida

Why is wheelchair safety not being taken seriously? Probably because wheelchair users, car drivers and politicans do not perceive wheelchair safety to be an issue. But in the city of Ocala Florida, two wheelchair users were struck and killed by cars in less than two weeks.

On the evening of 29 July, 2010 Bryan Sacks of Summerfield, Florida was trying to cross a busy street in his manual wheelchair and was struck and killed. Only ten days earlier on July 19, 2010 Doyle McClendon of nearby Ocala, Florida was struck and killed in his wheelchair.

More often than not accidents involving cars and wheelchairs happen in the evening when it is dark. Who is to blame? Drivers for not paying attention to wheelchair users? Wheelchair users for not having proper visibility equipment? Politicians for not taking wheelchair safety seriously enough and coming up with some safety requirements for drivers as well as wheelchair users?

If you are a wheelchair user, take wheelchair safety seriously. Understand that in a wheelchair you are lower to the ground than anything else on the road. Drivers do not see you well. Get wheelchair safety equipment. If you are a car driver, slow down when you see a wheelchair user. Wheelchairs can move alot faster than you think.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

London's Wheelchair Accessible Festival Celebrating Deaf and Disabled People

I was contacted recently by an organizer of the Liberty Festival in London and asked to help to get the word out about their annual event which has taken place every year since 2003. I have been contacted for help by businesses and by people with disabilities, but never by a festival. Usually, if I can support the idea, I try to help. So, I asked some questions about the Liberty Festival and the more I learned the more I wanted to help out. Why?

The Liberty Festival celebrates the contribution of Deaf and disabled people to London's culture. That sounds like a good start right there!

There will be lots of cool performances including aerial and circus performers, puppet shows, dancers, cabaret, music, etc, etc. The performers in the main are deaf or disabled, some companies are integrated groups which include disabled people. Sounds like fun!

The Liberty Festival is organized to be accessible and inclusive. There will be many services available for people with disabilities including wheelchair users, such as sign language interpreters, a wheelchair loan service, a charging point for electric wheelchairs, a free dial a ride shuttle bus, etc, etc. Cool!

I could not help to think about the costs of putting on such a well organized and accessible event. So of course I had to ask. Answer: "It is an expensive event to produce, including expenditure on creating very accessible environment in a high profile London environment, and in creating /commissioning new work by deaf and disabled artists. Has been supported by Arts Council England since 2006. Total production and progamme costs in excess of £150'000". (For non-Brits that is approximately euro 180,000 or $240,000 at today's exchange rates). Wow!

Did I mention that the Liberty Festival is FREE to attend?

I am very impressed that there is such an even in London. If I were in London, I would definitely get out to see it and support it. The Liberty Festival will take place on 4 September from 1-5pm at Trafalger Square. A lift will be operating between the upper and lower terraces.

Read more about the Liberty Festival

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wheelchair For People With No Motor Control

People who are severely disabled and have zero motor control often can not move independently. Most wheelchair technology requires some kind of physical movement in order to be able to steer it. For example, if a wheelchair user can only move their heads, an device can be strapped to their heads so which will allow the wheelchair to be steered by head movement. Or if a wheelchair user can only use their mouths, a device can be strapped to the mouth. What about wheelchair users who have no motor control at all? For example, people with locked in syndrome who are essentially "locked-in" to their bodies, completely paralyzed with no ability to communicate or move?

Devices are under development for people with sever disabilities and have no motor control. One is a device which allows wheelchair users to control their wheelchair by "sniffing" and another by eye movement. Most people with locked in syndrome or other types of sever paralysis can move their eyes and can sniff. There are two types of wheelchair technologies under development for these severly disabled people.

Several groups are working on eye controlled wheelchairs. For example, the Eye Com corporation is developing the The Eye-Com EC7T™ eye tracking system which uses frame-mounted microcameras to record eyelid and pupil activity and convert that movement to wheelchair steering.

Here is a video from two final year engineering students (Robotics and Biomedical) from Swinburne University (Melbourne, Australia) using eye controlled technology:

The sniffing technology appears to be equally promising.

Developed by Prof. Noam Sobel, electronics engineers Dr. Anton Plotkin and Aharon Weissbrod and research student Lee Sela in the Weizmann Institute’s Neurobiology Department, the new system identifies changes in air pressure inside the nostrils and translates these into electrical signals. The device was tested on healthy volunteers as well as quadriplegics, and the results showed that the method is easily mastered. Users were able to navigate a wheelchair around a complex path or play a computer game with nearly the speed and accuracy of a mouse or joystick.

Watch this video of the wheelchair controlled by sniff technology.

Ed Roberts, UC Berkeley Alum and Wheelchair Activist Honored

January 23 has been declared "Ed Roberts Day". Who is Ed Roberts and why does he deserve a state day?

Ed Roberts graduated from my University, UC Berkeley. But that was alot easier for me than it was for him. You see, Ed Roberts needed an iron lung as well as a wheelchair and that made getting housing difficult. At the time, institutions could simply refuse to accomodate people with special needs and Ed refused to accept the word "NO".

Ed was finally accomodated in an empty wing of the Berkeley Student Health Center and slowly other students with disabilities followed.

According to the UC Berkeley Media Release:

They called themselves "The Rolling Quads," and Roberts was their leader. They pressured the campus to become more accessible and to fund support services so that they could attend classes while living independently.

"Ed pushed and prodded and argued and convinced people it was wrong" to discriminate against people with disabilities, says Hippolitus. And, he added, Roberts helped disabled people shift their perspective "from being an object of pity and charity — which was forced upon them but they passively accepted — to saying, 'No, that's wrong.' "

Roberts' persistence paid off. The Rolling Quads' advocacy helped launch the Physically Disabled Students Program, the first such student-led campus organization in the country. That program gave rise to Berkeley's Center for Independent Living, which became a national model for disability advocacy

Ed Roberts taught in Berkeley's political science department and later went on to lead the Center for Independent Living until he was appointed Roberts director of the Department of Rehabilitation. In he co-founded the World Institute on Disability. Ed died in 1995.

The date of 23 January was selected as Ed Roberts day, because it is his birthday. Ed was born on January 23, 1939 and he died March 14, 1995.

In his 56 years of life, Ed left the world a much better place than he found it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pimp My Wheelchair With UnderGlow

Pimp My Wheelchair

We have blogged before about how to pimp your wheelchair with wUnderGlow Wheelchair Light, the wheelchair light that can also be used to give your wheelchair a cool UnderGlow Effect. Now check out the underglow on this wheelchair with not one, but two wUnderGlow wheelchair lights flashing simultaneously. This is a very pimped wheelchair:

With two wUnderGlow wheelchair lights under your wheelchair, your wheelchairchair is going to get some serious attention. If you hear someone say: "Pimp My Wheelchair", send them a link to that video.