Archive for the ‘Disability Technology’ Category


One of the many great things about the DSS program at GCCC/GCSC is that our interpreters for our deaf and hard of hearing students do their best to be present for the students needs in all facets of their college life here on campus. Our interpreters can be seen interpreting for our students not only in class but also during club and social meetings or outtings as well as during private meetings between the students and their professors, tutors, or other members of staff on campus. The program has worked so hard to make having an interpreter a staple in the college life of a deaf or hard of hearing student, that many people don’t know that there are other methods for which we can provide communication between an individual and one of our deaf or hard of hearing students. One such method is through the use of a piece of equipment called the UbiDuo.

The UbiDuo combines the ease of instant or text messaging with the speed of real time chat and the benefit of face-to-face communication.

Below is a great video that explores both the concerns deaf/hard of hearing and hearing persons have when communicating with one another as well as the barriers that are removed when using the UbiDuo.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

1st collector for Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Hearing – Communiphobia
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Visit for more information on the UbiDuo. For our students, faculty or staff who wish to know more on the UbiDuo, see it in action, or give it a try for themselves, feel free to contact any member of our department.

ReWalk with Glee

This, the second season, of Fox’s hit show Glee has seen Artie become a football player (he and his teammates cleverly deciding to use Artie and his wheelchair as a battering ram on the field), and last week we saw him stand thanks to a wish to Santa from Brittany (who still believes ^_^), and the use of an ingenious robotic system called the ReWalk.


Kevin McHale as Artie from the hit Fox show Glee. Image via Google search.

Since first airing, the show’s Artie character has been a large source of praise and debate, being both praised for the show’s topical content on some very big social issues regarding disability to ctiticisms for not choosing an actor who is in real life a paraplegic.

Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, last week’s episode, A Very Glee Christmas (here’s a temporary link to watch the full episode), featured a unique device called the ReWalk from ARGO Medical Technologies Ltd. Founded in 2001 and located in Haifa’s MATAM hi-tech industrial park, Argo operated, until end of 2007, under the auspices of the TechnionSeed (formerly the Technion Incubator), part of the Technion – Israel’s renowned Institute of Technology. The ReWalk is the company’s flagship of innovative development of walk restoration devices for people with lower limb disabilities. The product offers an ambulation alternative to wheelchair users, enabling paralyzed people to stand, walk, and even climb stairs. Click here to read more on the ReWalk and how it works.


The ReWalk from ARGO Medical Technologies Ltd. Image via ARGO.

The ReWalk is a wearable, motorized quasi robotic suit that provides user-initiated mobility. Through leveraging advanced motion sensors, some sophisticated robotic control algorithms, on-board computers, real-time software, actuation motors, some composite materials, and good ole’ fashion rechargeable batteries, the ReWalk creates movement through sublte changes in the user’s center of gravity and upper-body movements.

Some of the benefits to this ultra-nifty device:

this user participation in mobility brings tangible health and emotional benefits. ReWalk™ is not just a vertical wheelchair – ReWalk™ restores the element of control over mobility so lacking for wheelchair users.

As any sedentary wheelchair user can attest, life in a wheelchair carries a hefty healthcare price tag. Serious problems with the urinary, respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive systems are common, as well as osteoporosis, pressure sores and other afflictions.

By maintaining users upright on a daily basis, and exercising even paralyzed limbs in the course of movement, ReWalk™ alleviates many of the health-related problems associated with long-term wheelchair use. In addition to relieving suffering, this has a real impact on healthcare costs – cutting yearly expenses almost in half, and enabling both insurers and individuals to redirect funds to other avenues.

Read more on the ReWalk here.


The ReWalk from ARGO Medical Technologies Ltd. Image courtesy ARGO.

The ReWalk not only has possibilities for personal mobility, its use would also drastically cut the need and cost of owning standing devices, stair lifts, bed lifts, and other mobility assistance apparatus or even the need of owning expensive powered wheelchairs. For theraputic institutions, the ReWalk has potential as a theraputic or physical training device, used for intensive functional locomotion therapy, and could replace the use of expensive mechanized gait trainers.

The ReWalk is designed for all day usage and requires the user to have the ability to use hands and shoulders and have a healthy cardiovascular system and bone density.

Videos of the ReWalk in action (other than its appearance in Glee ^_^), as well as some videos of its media coverage, are available on ARGO’s website.

Augie Nieto, the CEO of ALS Research

Augie Nieto

Augie Nieto laughs after his labrador, Hazel, jumps up on to his lap.
All images in this post courtesy The Orange County Register; ph. Leonard Ortiz

The September/October 2010 issue of Neurology Now has an awesome article on Augie Nieto, proclaimed the CEO of ALS Research. Co-founder of Life Fitness, a successful exercise equipment company, Nieto was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 2004 at the age of 47.

The article is fantastic and delves into the details of the disease, Augie’s approach to marketing research on the disease and his use of his business acumen to help raise awareness and research funds (dubbed Augie’s Quest), and what research has found out about this disease, the new model organizations and labs are using to research the disease and Augie’s goals for ALS for the future.

Read the full article here at, or download the printable PDF version.

Aside from all the good information in the article, what caught our eye was, of course, the technology Augie utilizes to communicate, and even used to write a book.

Augie Nieto foot control

Augie controls his wheel chair mounted computer by using his toes and feet. The button on the left is used for a left-click and the right scroll wheel controls the cursor. The nautical themed board was made especially for Augie by the man that refinished his boat.

Augie Nieto foot control

With his feet in toe socks Augie selects letters on his computer screen to construct sentences which allows Augie to "speak" with a voice synthesizer. Augie wrote his latest book, "Reciprocity Incorporated", by using his toes to type out the words.

Augie and Lynn Nieto

Augie and Lynne Nieto chat in their Corona del Mar home. Augie has just finished his latest book, "Reciprocity Incorporated."

Augie Nieto

Using only his toes and feet Augie Nieto types out a sentence on the forward facing screen on his wheel chair mounted computer.
Ph. Leonard Ortiz for The Orange County Register

To see more images from the same article as the ones shown here and to read the related article, “Augie just wrote a book with his toes,” visit The Orange County Register or click here.

Augie is also the mastermind the technology seen above. Knowing that most people with ALS lose motor neurons in their peripheral nerves, Augie was also aware that certain types of ALS cause people with the disease to lose the ability to talk. With this knowledge, Augie was ahead of the curve, already thinking of ways to improve day-to-day living when his own voice began to falter. Finding out that his contractor, who was contracted to re-built Augie’s house for wheelchair accessibility, was a bit of a computer wiz, the two began developing TypeRight software, which allows people with ALS to type with their feet. Augie can type 40 words a minute using TypeRight.

Read the Neurology Now article, “The CEO of ALS Research,” to also read about a new device Nieto is currently testing that reads brain waves and translates them into data that can be read by a computer and translated into voice using voice-activated software.

Who doesn’t love a new home ^_^

Permobil moving

In order to serve your mobility needs, we are moving to our expanded state-of-the-art North American Headquarters on Thursday and Friday. We will re-open on Monday, November 8.

In case of emergency, please contact your local Sales Representative.

Physical Therapy Assistant students learn wheelchairs firsthand

Today two of our staff members got to sit in on a demonstration and lecture given to our Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) students by James, a local Rehabilitation Engineer for BarnesHealthcare.

James showed off some of the newest models of lightweight Rigid Wheelchairs from Quickie, the different options in wheels and armrests, and discussed some of the details and considerations that go into choosing the best wheelchair and accessories options for patients in physical therapy. He also demonstrated a model of fully reclining chair often used for cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and newly injured spinal cord injury patients in hospital/hospice care.

BarnesHealthcare Demo PTA Lab

BarnesHealthcare Rehab Engineer, James, gives lecture and demo to Physical Therapy Assistant students at GCCC. Photo courtesy Tamara Nguyen.

The image above was taken while James demonstrated the use of a machine which Rehab Engineers use for rapid prototyping of custom contoured cushions. He explained the necessity to create a chair that “touches” as much of the patient’s body as possible, important for both comfort, prevention of injury, and aid in the prevention of pressure sores. No patients were harmed in the demonstration, though the willing PTA student did get a thumbs up from one of her classmates for creating a well formed contour mold.

James also brought with him Sam, the local representative for Permobil, one of the industry’s most internationally recognized and used wheelchair, powerchair, and assistive devices manufacturer and distributors.

Guest lectures and demonstrations like this are just one of the many ways that Gulf Coast Community College sets themselves apart from other colleges in their endeavors to provide the most academically challenging and diverse education possible.

A Touch of Color

Earlier this spring (May) we wrote about blind artist John Bramblitt after he appeared in a CBS Dallas news special featuring his remarkable, textural paintings (read the post here).

Now meet this neat concept gadget, the Touch Color. From designers Yun Li, Guopeng Liang, and Ke Zhao, the Touch Color is the combination of a thermal digital tablet and a rainbow color picking ring which allows a blind person to paint colorful pictures with their finger across the tablet.

Touch Color

Touch Color concept gadget. Image via Yanko Design.

The 24 colors on the rings are differentiated by Braille, for the user, and varied temperature generated by the embedded LED bulbs. The user can then paint on the thermal art tablet by using their fingers, and the thermal-color display technology keeps track of the lines and colors the artist is using. Below are more images of the concept gadget and its features:

Touch Color Picker

The Touch Color color picker. 24 color sectors are located on the scroll wheel according to their hues. They are marked by abbreviated Braille dots and further differentiated by varied temperature, generated by various micro-voltages.

Touch Color color picker function

Capture a scene and get the color. Spin the wheel and choose a heartful color. Coloe is transmitted to the tablet. Draw with the color. Colors emerge on the tablet with thermal technology. Feel the contrast in thermal and show others your heartful creation. Some colors are regarded as cold, while others warm, according to physical wavelength, the characteristics of the perceiving eye and brain. Also, the concept of colors can be affected by individual's experience and its association.

Touch Color Tablet

Touch Color thermal technology tablet.

Touch Color Thermal Art Board

Touch Color Thermal Art Board. User can paint on the board with fingers, and keep track of outline and color filling by thermal-color display technology. User can also save, delete, transfer the picture and switch between learning mode and drawing mode through a set of buttons with audio aid. Above images all via Yanko Design.

Braille Polaroid Camera

One of the members of our DSS staff is a huge photo journaling junkie. In fact, the journaling junkie happens to be the one who writes these posts. In any case, photos are a huge part of this junkie’s life and imagines that to some degree its a large part of everyone’s life. Even if you’re the “only on holiday’s” convert or the “I will photograph every minunte of my entire day’s life, of every day, for every day of my existence” fanatic (you know who you are and now thanks to Facebook so does everybody else), photos convey the moments of our life in visual representations. How we then catalog, archive, and view those moments is creatively individual.

Braille Polaroid Camera

Braille Polaroid Camera. Image via red-dot design.

But what do the blind do for photographs? Is the art of scrapbooking lost to them? Do they take photographs and let others around them recount each one in detail to them? Do they make descriptive pop-up bubbles brought to textual life with braille instead of handwriting? And lets say with all that solved, is the art and beauty of the photograph still unattainable if you can’t actually see the image?

Now, what if that photograph could be seen…only…in braille.

Braille Polaroid Camera

Braille Polaroid Camera.

The Braille Polaroid Camera, by designers Son Seunghee, Lee Sukyung, and Kim Hyunsoo, has a built-in braille printer, and is designed for the visually impaired to record and print the world around them in braille!

The camera itself has been designed to resemble most other cameras, only the built-in printer immediately prints the image after the shot in braille. The images then recorded can be felt by the visually impaired individual, allowing them to “see” the world around them and the moments they have captured. It is also safe to collect the braille photographs in albums.

Currently the Braille Polaroid Camera is a concept design and was the 2008 winner for the reddot design award.

Sign Voice Language Translator

So a blind man and a deaf guy walk into a bar…

Sound like a bad joke? It probably was. But designers Han-na Lee and Sang Hyeon saw it as an opportunity.

Their brilliant idea turned into a developing concept for a communication device that helps both the hearing impaired and the visually impaired to communicate with one another. Dubbed the Sign Voice Language Translator (SVLT), the device helps a blind and deaf persons interact by acting as a translator that converts gestures to voice and audio signals/voice into written text.

Sign Voice Language Translator

Sign Voice Language Translator. Images via Yanko Design

The concept gadget is a portable device that incorporates a camera to record the sign language gestures and an LCD touch screen that displays text to the hearing impaired, and speakers in the other device that delivers in audio the converted version of sign language gestures to the visually impaired. The gadget, which is actually two gadets (one for each user) work together as a system, each connected to the other via Bluetooth.

The images below are more product model images displaying the gadgets and demonstrating how they work:

Sign Voice Language Translator

Sign Voice Language Translator. A small camera records the sign language gestures and converts them into written text on an LCD touch screen.

Sign Voice Language Translator

Sign Voice Language Translator

They can be aware of each other and receive language sign by using Bluetooth.

Sign Voice Language Translator

When the hearing impaired communicate with the visually impaired.

Sign Voice Language Translator

When the hearing impaired interact with the hearing. All images used in this post via Yanko Design.

Disability Mentoring Day

Disability Mentoring Day logoEarlier in the month we wrote about President Obama signing into law the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. In his presidential adress, President Obama declared his beliefe that this legislation will “greatly increase access to technology, with advances in areas such as closed captioning, delivery of emergency information, video description, and other advanced communications,” all things for which he believed were “essential tools for learning and working in today’s technological society.” [Source]

Along with the efforts of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (in October), the technology act is designed not only to afford equal access for individuals with disabilities, it is also designed to create fair access to employment by individuals with disabilites with the same technology that has changed the way we work and live.

With an administration that has proclaimed a commitment to ensuring people living with disabilities have fair access, Obama has openly declaired that his driving goal is provide the means necessary to allow individuals with disabilities the opportunity to contribute to our economy and realize their dreams through career employment. Americans with disabilities continue to be employed at a rate far below Americans without disabilities, and they are underrepresented in our Federal workforce.

The effort to correct this imbalance in employment is not a new endeavor, but its nice to see the President is so committed to the cause. Beginning in 1999, Disability Mentoring Day is a national effort to promote career development for students with disabilities through hands-on career exploration. Students with disabilities (mentees) are matched with workplace mentors according to expressed career interests. Mentees then experience a typical day on the job and learn how to prepare to enter the world of work. Employers gain an increased awareness that people with disabilities represent an overlooked talent pool.

With its humble beginnings of fewer than three-dozen student participants in 1999, in 2005 some 9,000 youths with disabilities participated nationally and in 20 international locations. More then 2,000 provate, non-profit, governmental, and educational organizations participated as mentors.

This year’s Disability Mentoring Day (October 18th) saw the participation of several of our own local businesses, including Home Depot, Red Lobster, Sam’s Club, and Bill Cramer Chevrolet. We commend these mentors for their participation in the furthering of equal access employment for individuals with disabilities.

For more information on Disability Mentoring Day, visit the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Abilities Expo

Abilities Expo

Abilities Expo 2010

For the last 30 years, the Abilities Expo has dedicated itsefl to educating and improving the lives of American’s with disabilities, senior citizens, families, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and professional therapists. It is the nation’s foremost event for companies to demonstrate thier products and services to the largest community of end-users and industry professionals.

This year, the trade show has added new features–a career fair, a professional focus group, new geographic markets and conference programs which appeal to a wider audience. Along with these additions, veterans of the trade show will also note a significant number of new faces, from professionals to products to attendees. And thanks to their new Ambassador program, the Abilities Expo has enlisted the aid of members of the local community of people with disabilities, or Ambassadors, to lead community outreach efforts.

And despite its age, the Expo still holds to the principles and values established by its creator, Richard Wooten, to make the lives of the disabled just a little less challenging.

If you’re interested in attending the Expo’s next trade show, it will be held in the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, Ga., this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 15-17. For more information on this weekends trade show, visit There you can also get information on next years various Expos as well.

Best part, the Expo is FREE!!!

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