First it was smartphones, then smart watches. Now the idea of making items smart, intuitive and better is extending to wheelchairs. At Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) a small team is working on a project to create a more intelligent wheelchair that employs new sensor technologies and control systems.
The eventual goal is to design a wheelchair that can be operated and navigated by using a headband with sensors that detect body movements and relay the data to the chair. By making wheelchairs “smarter”, developers are hoping the devices will eventually be as technologically advanced as a car, giving people with disabilities new levels of mobility and freedom.
Another goal of the project is to make the sensor-driven wheelchairs affordable by using electronics that have declined in price and standard wheelchairs that can be retrofitted. With the full equipment set added, a sensor-driven wheelchair would top off at about 220 lbs.
However, like many tech advancements, there are a number of hurdles in getting a prototype from a university lab to the market.
“The pace of development that happens at the university is faster than in the rehab industry,” Don Fredette, an adaptive equipment specialist at a facility that cares of people with disabilities, told the Boston Globe.
There is also the problem of getting investors interested in a product that serves a relatively small market, meaning less return on their investment.
“One thing that makes it a little bit difficult is that, relatively speaking, the market is fairly small,” Maysam Ghovanloo, an associate professor of engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told the Globe. “The progress is slower than the kind of technology that venture capitalists or major technology companies are pushing”.
Still, teams like the one at WPI are determined to see their projects through.
Steve Sailing, a resident of the Leonard Florence Center for Living, an assisted-living facility in Chelsea, told the Globe, “Such a wheelchair will revolutionize mobility for the paralyzed. I often tell people that until medicine proves otherwise, technology is the cure”.Read More
In the wheelchair accessory market you will find everything from carryall bags and cup holders to wheel rims and rain canopies. Now a team from the University of Toronto is using self-monitoring sensors on wheelchairs to help people who suffer from pressure ulcers.
Some wheelchair users have conditions that impair sensation and if so they can’t feel when they’ve been sitting too long in one position.
When you sit in the same position for an extended period of time, the pressure cuts off blood supply to certain areas of the body. Able-bodied people feel the uncomfortable sensation that alerts them to move but people who use wheelchairs and power chairs may not be able to tell when this is happening.
The researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a ½” thick mat of sensors that gets placed under a wheelchair cushion to monitor pressure buildup. The device, called SensiMat, transmits data to a mobile app via Bluetooth, and a proprietary algorithm detects when a user has gone more than 15-30 minutes without shifting.
A web portal allows wheelchair users and therapists to keep track of sitting positions over time to detect patterns and develop rehabilitation techniques that will lessen the chances of pressure ulcers.
The beta version of SensiMat has been developed and validated at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. The team behind its development is seeking $15,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to refine the hardware, software and algorithms.
When a commercial version is ready, estimates put the cost at $545 plus a monthly fee for access to the web portal.Read More
As with most political decisions these days, it’s not something for nothing and as the city prepares to add 7,500 wheelchair-accessible taxi and street-hail livery cabs on the roads by 2020 it also will have to deal with a proposed 30-cent taxi surcharge to help fund these new cabs.
Disabled advocates have been tireless in their effort to make cabs more wheelchair-friendly and while this appears to be a victory, those who will be footing the bill are not too excited. The proposed rate hike for taxi fares will go into effect January 1st of next year and will extend beyond 2020.
Under the previous administration headed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, there were only 631 wheelchair accessible cabs in a fleet of 13,637. Bloomberg had a vision for a “Taxi of Tomorrow” but the design wasn’t accessible for people who use wheelchairs and even the Department of Justice ruled the proposed taxis were discriminatory.
In order to fulfill a legal settlement reached by the Bloomberg administration and advocates last year, de Blasio says he is committed to making 50% of the Manhattan’s taxi fleet accessible to everyone. Before the surcharge goes into effect, it still needs to be approved by the Taxi & Limousine Commission.
One cab driver told the website Gothamist, “You’re gonna charge people that are not using wheelchairs for the people that are using wheelchairs. All cabs should be wheelchair-accessible you might as well have the whole fleet wheelchair-accessible”.
The Taxi & Limousine Commission vote on the proposal will be held on April 30th.Read More
HDS MEDALLION® wishes everyone a Happy Spring!
Visit our site to see the latest designer carryall bags and special offers.Read More
If you are a fan of the HDS MEDALLION® Facebook page then you know every Wednesday we do a feature called “Women we Admire”. This is a chance for us to recognize strong and determined women who have fought long odds to make it to where they are now.
We pay close attention to women and girls with disabilities who refuse to let their struggles deter them from living life to the fullest. From paralympic athletes and surfers to business CEO’s and fashion designers, we put the spotlight on courageous women who refuse to give in or give up.
We welcome all our blog readers to visit our page and check out this inspiring series. We also welcome feedback and suggestions on who think should be featured. Any woman who has had to overcome incredible odds from a disability, be it mental or physical, is a candidate for this series.
Some of the women we have featured include amputee athlete Sarah Reinersten, Dancing with the Stars contestant Amy Purdy, nursing home activist Fern Horton and motivational speaker Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.
Visit our Facebook page every Wednesday to see who we feature next and again, feel free to send us your suggestions for inspirational women who overcome disabilities and continue to thrive in life.Read More
When we prepared for our trip out west to the Abilities Expo in Los Angeles we really had no idea what to expect. It was our first trip to the LA event and it was Oscar’s week so we weren’t sure how everything would play out in the city of angels. While the Expo was fun and we did manage to sell a few bags we had hoped for a larger attendance. Maybe everyone was angling for a spot near the red carpet for the Academy Awards and the three days of solid rain, while helpful to the drought-stricken area, certainly suppressed attendance too.
Despite the lower than expected turnout we met some terrific girls and women and made some very interesting contacts and were also able to debut two brand new bags: the Demi-Leopard and the Premier Denim Bouquet. We also tested a new concept from our designer – pashmina waterfall vests. (More on that later)
The Demi-Leopard is a wild and chic carryall bag that features a beautiful leopard print that mixes black and brown in stunning patterns. A classy and fun bag, this one is lined in black and can be customized by adding a rosette made out of a black and gold zipper.
Like our premier bags, the Demi-Leopard features detachable, adjustable straps that can be configured to work on a wide range of mobility devices.
This designer carryall bag works best on walkers, wheelchairs, power chairs and scooters.
Our other debut was the Premier Denim Bouquet. We all know how popular denim is and now senior women and women and girls with disabilities can flaunt their denim style with our designer carryall bags. Featuring a chic bouquet of Denim and Jeweled Flowers that stretch across a painter’s canvas field of denim color with navy highlights, this wheelchair bag matches the universal appeal of denim with our signature flair.
There is another bouquet inside the bag in a contemporary mixture of denim and navy flowers for the lining. This bag is terrific for the women and girls who love sophisticated denim looks with a flirtatious side.
The Premier Denim Bouquet is best used on manual and electric wheelchairs, power chairs, medical scooters, transport wheelchairs and Segways.
Visit our site now to order your Demi-Leopard or Premier Denim Bouquet today!Read More