Off to College

This week, students across the US will be heading to college. First year students will be moving into dorm rooms and meeting new roommates. Returning students will be reconnecting with friends and professors. Across campus, students with disabilities may be navigating additional services and supports to help them with orientation, scheduling, transportation, technology, and more. Here are a few resources from the NIDILRR community and elsewhere which may help!

Mental health/psychiatric disabilities

The NIDILRR-funded Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities has two guides to help college students with mental health conditions: Your College Community: How students with psychiatric disabilities can make the most of their college experience (PDF) and The Practical Guide for People with Disabilities Who Want to Go to College (PDF).

The NIDILRR-funded RRTC on Living and Working During the Transition to Adulthood also has several tip sheets written for and screened by young people with mental health conditions: My Mental Health Rights on Campus, Making My Transition Services Work for Me, and Getting Accommodations at College (all PDFs).

Physical/mobility disabilities

The NIDILRR-funded Moss Traumatic Brain Injury Model System Center helped to produce TBI: What College Disability Specialists and Educators Should Know about Executive Functions

The Shepherd Center, along with Ramp Less Traveled and Craig Hospital, produced this short video on University Accessibility After Spinal Cord Injury featuring the personal experiences and shared wisdom of college students with SCI.

The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth offers the Making the Move to Managing Your Own Personal Assistance Services: A Toolkit for Youth with Disabilities Transitioning to Adulthood with resources to help you manage this aspect of campus life.

Intellectual/developmental disabilities

ThinkCollege.net is a federally-funded resource center for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are planning to go to college or are already enrolled in college programs. Think College maintains the only comprehensive database of college programs geared toward these students in the US. Check out their documentary on Rethinking College

Sensory disabilities

The NIDILRR-funded National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision offers From School to College: A Transition Activity Calendar for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired, which starts the calendar as early as Middle School for a successful transition.

See how Hinds Community College (MS) developed Services for the Deaf and Hard-of Hearing to assist students with sensory disabilities in this NIDILRR-funded report.

All disabilities

Access to Success, developed under a NIDILRR-funded center at the University of Kansas is a free online course that teaches students with disabilities how to advocate for assistive devices and services.

These are just a few examples of resources available to new and returning college students with disabilities. You may also want to visit our friends at AbleData to look for assistive technology solutions to help with reading, studying, writing, even pursuing campus sports and the arts!

Getting involved in your campus community may help make it a more inclusive place. Check out NIDILRR Switzer Fellow Dot Nary, who focuses on “visitability” in her research. She helped the University of Kansas make their campus-wide fitness program more inclusive by integrating accessible routes in the campus activity routes.

Lastly, remember that just about anyone on campus could experience disability, either permanent or temporary, due to injury or illness. If you’re trying to figure out how to be a college student and manage a new disability, please reach out to your campus’ Disability Services Office for help.

Curious about research in postsecondary education and disability? See what’s in our REHABDATA database from the NIDILRR community and elsewhere (including international research)!

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Ain’t It Cool?

It may be 90 degrees outside but in here we’re thinking cool: Cool technology from the NIDILRR community? We’re fortunate to be a pert of a community that works on some of the latest technology supporting the independence and participation of people with disabilities. NIDILRR projects conduct research and development in rehabilitation engineering, assistive technology, application development, and integrating technology into home, school, and work. Here are just a few examples of cool tech from the NIDILRR community:

Robotics

Robots! What’s not cool about robots! Several projects work on robotic technology, from exoskeletons to prosthetics to therapy tools:

Machines Assisting Recovery from Stroke and Spinal Cord Injury for Reintegration into Society (MARS3) has an objective to broaden the use of robotic devices for therapy and assistance. Specifically, the center explores new approaches that improve functional outcomes during reach-and-grasp and full body locomotion activities such as: robotic activity mobility center in a fitness center, multi-user training environments for in-home therapy, exoskeletons for walking after spinal cord injury (click to see a video of an exoskeleton in action), wheelchair-based robotic upper extremity exercise and power assisted propulsion, and wearable robots for fall prevention. Learn more about the MARS3 project and the work completed under two previous cycles.

The Timing Investigation Dosage Implementation (TIDI) Rehab Engineering Research Center (RERC) is trying two answer two questions to help clinicians integrate robotics into therapy: How do we distribute the therapy episodes provided by robotic systems over time? How do therapists interact with robotics devices when these devices are delivering the therapy often with minimal hands-on treatment coming from the clinician? Therapists and clinicians who are integrating robotics into their stroke rehabilitation practice need to know how to utilize this technology to support the best recovery for stroke survivors. Learn more about the TIDI project and its activities.

Technologies to Evaluate and Advance Manipulation and Mobility RERC focuses on technology for holding, grasping, and mobility. This includes exoskeletons for stroke recovery and body-powered prosthetics. See the range of technology from the TEAMM RERC.

The Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training in Pediatric Mobility for Physicians and Engineers project is training up the next generation of therapists and engineers. Learn more about the fellowships.

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Wearable Robots for Independent Living is so new, it doesn’t even have a website yet! Researchers from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Kessler Foundation will work with commercially-available lower extremity exoskeletons to support rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injury and stroke, as well as home-based robotic rehabilitation for people with upper-extremity limitations after stroke. We’re really excited to see what these folks are doing!

Cloud computing

Everything’s moving to the cloud, but what if you can’t access it? Several projects are working on cloud computing and ubiquitous web technology, and making sure these technologies are accessible to all:

The project on Inclusive Cloud and Web Computing conducts research and develops methods to enable software providers to easily and rapidly implement inclusive user experiences so consumers are empowered to fully participate in cloud and web systems. Learn more about what the inclusive cloud project is researching and read abstracts of their research.

The RERC on Universal Interface and Information Technology Access is working on a global public inclusive infrastructure (GPII) designed to make assistive technologies  and other access solutions available for many more users, more efficiently, and more cost-effectively. See demos of this technology in action!

CaptiNarrator, developed under several NIDILRR Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, is an any-where, any-time browser that will read aloud just about any electronic document. Newspaper, book, magazine, report, you name it. You can use it across multiple devices (phone, tablet, computer) and platforms. It’s great for people with print disabilities (blindness, low vision, dyslexia) but also great for people on the go! Capti recently partnered with Project Gutenberg to bring tens of thousands of classic books to readers everywhere. Sign up for Capti!

Telerehabilitation

What if you could have a physical or occupational therapy session without leaving home? What if your local, small town clinic could “loop in” a world-class neurorehab specialist from the big city? This is promise of telerehabilitation: Bringing rehabilitation and recovery to more people in more places.

The RERC on Telerehabilitation focused on methods, systems, and technologies to support consultative, preventative, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions to improve and promote telerehabilitation for individuals who have limited access to comprehensive medical and rehabilitation outpatient services. The project held a State of the Science conference and publishes an International Journal of Telerehabilitation. See the resources from this recently-completed RERC.

The Mayo Clinic’s Traumatic Brain Injury Model System Center is addressing the need for specialist TBI care using communication technology in the CONNECT trial. Learn about CONNECT and the promise of telemedicine for TBI.

These are just a few examples of the cool research and development activities taking place at NIDILRR-funded centers and projects across the country. To learn more about current and previously funded projects, please visit the NIDILRR Program Database (hint: browse through the Technology for Access and Function priority).

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This is all new to me (part II)!

Yesterday we introduced you to a library full of excellent resources from the NIDILRR community aimed at helping people new to disability or entering new phases in life with a disability. Today, we continue with organizations, agencies, and resources from the greater disability and rehabilitation community.

First, let us point you to our Librarian’s Picks, brochures that list agencies, organizations, and websites targeting specific topics: Advocacy, Aging, Assistive Technology, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Caregiving and Caregivers, Children with Special Needs, Education, Employment, Finding Rehabilitation Services, General Spanish Language Resources, Independent Living, Mental Health, Sensory Disability, Spinal Cord Injury, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Universal Design. Some of the resources we’ll cover here appear in these brochures as well. These are also available in Spanish.

Finding basic information about a disability, treatment, or drug

Many people will turn to their favorite search engine and enter a few key words. What comes back may be a mountain of information, not all of it helpful. Probably the best and most reputable resource we can recommend to find out about a specific condition, treatment, or drug is Medline Plus, maintained by the National Library of Medicine. Every article is reviewed by a health professional. You’ll find basic definitions, causes and treatments, and recommendations for related resources. Many articles also link to videos, clinical trials, and even peer-reviewed journal articles. If you want to dive deeper, search PubMed at NLM for abstracts of journal articles, books, and reports (more than 10 million volumes!).

If you do turn to your favorite search engine, please take a few minutes and read through these resources from NLM on evaluating health information: https://medlineplus.gov/evaluatinghealthinformation.html

Find a resource center

The Administration for Community Living has several resource centers that connect people to information and support resources

Find a disability-specific organization

Often, the best source of information and support is someone who’s “been there, done that.” Disability-specific organizations are run by people with personal and professional experience in a disability, such as stroke (National Stroke Association), mental health (National Alliance for Mental Illness), or vision loss (National Federation of the Blind). Visit our Disability Resources pages or search our Knowledgebase to find an organization that meets your needs.

Find a professional organization

Many professions have national organizations that provide certifications, educational programs, and other supports for their members. They may also have “Find a Professional” or other resources to connect the general public to their members or professionals in their field. You’ll find several in our Finding Rehabilitation Services brochure.

Find local help

Have you called 211? 211 is community-level information and referral. Just dial those three numbers (2-1-1) and a real, live person will answer, ask you some questions, and point you to resources in your community to help with support, treatment, benefits, financial assistance, and much more. You can also look up your 211’s website and search their resource databases. Many of these centers offer information services in languages other than English.

Find your nearest public library

When was the last time you visited your public library? We routinely recommend that our patrons visit or call their local library for assistance. Ask to speak with a reference librarian, tell them the topic you’re interested in, and we guarantee you’ll walk out with a stack of books and a ream of printouts from good-quality online sources. Find your library at http://www.publiclibraries.com/ or call 211.

Please note that these resources primarily support people with disabilities and their families in the US. If you are outside the US, please contact us and we’ll do our best to identify an appropriate resource in your home country.

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This is all new to me!

You’ve just finished meeting with the doctor. He or she shared information about a new diagnosis or condition. Maybe you’re the one now facing life with a disability (either permanent or temporary) or maybe you will be supporting a family member with a new condition. Either way, you probably have a lot of questions about managing health, returning to work or finding a new job, or changing your living situation. How will this disability affect my marriage? My finances? My ability to work? The good news is there are many resources available to help you answer these questions. In this post and the next, we’ll share items from the NIDILRR community and elsewhere to help you get started on this new path. First up, resources from the NIDILRR community:

Finding Treatment:

You or your family member are ready to move out of the hospital and into a rehabilitation setting. What does that mean? What is the difference between acute rehab and subacute rehab? How do I know if I’ve picked a good rehab center? Download the Consumers Guide to Choosing a High Quality Medical Rehabilitation Program, originally developed under a NIDILRR grant by Boston University and National Rehabilitation Hospital (Now MedStar). It has checklists, questions to ask at a facility, and a great glossary of terms.

Finding Technology

Whether you need to add a ramp to your home, find a modified van, get a screen enlarger, or find a new carry-all bag for a walker, you’ll find these kinds of assistive technology and much, much, MUCH more at our sister project AbleData. Browse by category or search for specific products or activities (like cooking or reading). Take the time to browse through the factsheets and articles while you’re there!

Newly Injured or Diagnosed:

  • New to spinal cord injury (SCI)
  • New to traumatic brain injury (TBI)
    • InfoComics use a graphic-novel format to tackle some of the challenges families face when a loved one has a TBI, originally developed by the University of Washington TBI Model System Center http://www.msktc.org/tbi/infocomics
    • Family Support After TBI, developed under a NIDILRR grant, is a training program to help families manage the cognitive, behavioral, and social changes that can happen after TBI http://cbirt.org/family_support/
  • Hot Topic Modules from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center present factsheets and videos on issues you and your family may be facing:

New to a Secondary Condition/Aging with Disability

You may not be new to your disability, but you may be experiencing age-related disabilities or secondary/co-occurring disabilities:

  • People with psychiatric disabilities often face issus with obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. The RRTC on Psychiatric Disabilities and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions has a diabetes toolkit to meet their needs:  http://www.cmhsrp.uic.edu/health/diabetes-library-home.asp
  • People with physical disabilities are living longer and experiencing age-related disabilities on top of their existing conditions. The Aging RRTC offers factsheets and plain language articles to help http://agerrtc.washington.edu/info

New to Caregiving or Working with a Caregiver

People new to disability may also be new to relying on and working with a caregiver. On the other side of the coin, family members may be new to providing care for a loved one.

New to Work with a Disability

You’re ready to return to work or find a new job. What can  you expect in the workplace? How can technology help me? How do I talk to my employer about my disability?

New to Self-Advocacy

You may find yourself in the position of being your own best advocate, whether it’s for healthcare, legal rights, access to your community, or even bigger policy issues.

New to Parenthood/Grandparenthood with a Disability

Life changes and new family members arrive! Learn about your rights as a parent, and tools to help you take care of someone new.

New to Meeting/Working with/Serving People with Disabilities

Maybe you have a new co-worker with a disability. Perhaps you have customers with disabilities. Or it could be your son’s playmate’s mom is a person with a disability. You may not have a lot of experience in talking with, working with, or serving people with disabilities. These resources may help:

Next: Resources from the greater disability and rehabilitation community

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Exploring ADA Research

The NIDILRR community  has conducted research and development activities on the ADA and its impact almost since the law was signed 26 years ago. As NIDILRR’s library, we’ve collected nearly 600 articles, books, reports, guides, curricula, factsheets, and more, produced by NIDILRR grantees. Take a look!

All 559 abstracts (whew!)

Slightly smaller bites:

ADA and Employment (359)

ADA and Architecture (88)

ADA and Education (79)

ADA and Housing (31)

ADA and the Internet (81)

ADA Checklists (15)

ADA and Transportation (64)

ADA and the Arts (7)

ADA and Hospitality/Customer Service (15)

ADA and Recreation/Sports (33)

Learn more about the ADA National Network and the research from the individual regional centers at http://adata.org/research!

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ADA: Celebrate 26 Years on the 26th! (Part 2)

July 26th marks the 26th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the historic civil rights law that prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.  In our previous blog post we highlighted research from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) related to Title I under the ADA—Employment.  In Part 2 of celebrating 26 years of the ADA we focus on research related to Title III—Public Accommodations.

Title III of the ADA covers on access to public and private facilities, including transportation and, most recently, the virtual world. Research and development in this area can focus on universal design in architecture, public and private transportation systems, and visitability in the physical and most recently the virtual world.  Universal design (UD), also referred to as inclusive design, was first coined by Ronald L. Mace and describes the concept of designing all products and built environments to be aesthetic, as well as usable and accessible to all individuals regardless of their age and/or ability.  A brief history of UD and its foundations in early civil and disability rights legislation is available through the RL Mace Universal Design Institute.

For over 30 years, NIDILRR has funded over 300 projects related to UD and accessibility.  There are currently 38 NIDILRR-funded projects related to UD and accessibility. Here’s a small sample of these projects and the wealth of resources they produce:

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Universal Design and the Built Environment through the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA) at The State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo has been working to make safer, accessible environments for people with disabilities since its creation in 2005.  In its current incarnation, the RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment uses a knowledge-to-action model to advance accessibility and UD in the four domains of the built environment:  Housing, commercial and public buildings, community infrastructure, and transportation.  There are currently 24 documents available in our collection, 11 are available in full-text.  The RERC on Universal Design and the Built Environment in partnership with IDeA maintains UniversalDesign.com, serving as a central portal for all things UD and including information and resources on training, organizations, and events related to UD.  The IDeA Center provides resources and technical expertise from ADA consulting to continuing education with online courses in UD.

The RERC on Physical Access and Transportation (RERC-APT) at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute provides information and resources that empower consumers, manufacturers, and service providers in the area of design and evaluation of accessible transportation, equipment, information services, and physical environments.  Under its previous incarnation, RERC-APT produced a wealth of articles, factsheets, and papers, 27 of which are available in full-text through NARIC.  Under its current grant cycle, there are six documents available of which four are available in full-text.  Additionally, RERC-APT developed and produced a crowd-powered smartphone application, Tiramisu that allows transit riders’ access to crowd-sharing information in real-time on local bus schedules, availability of seating/accessibility, and reported transit issues.  The RERC-APT is a partnership between the Robotics Institute and the IDeA Center SUNY at Buffalo.

There are currently three NIDILRR-funded projects taking universal design and accessibility to the next level within the areas of cloud and web systems, universal interfaces and technology access, and wireless technologies.  The Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project on Inclusive Cloud and Web Computing researches and develops methods to enable software providers to easily and rapidly implement inclusive user experiences so that consumers are empowered and may participate fully in cloud and web systems.  There are currently 10 documents related to this project available for document delivery in our collection.  The RERC on Universal Interface and Information Technology (IT) Access through the Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in collaboration with Raising the Floor consortium, is developing a Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure (GPII) to ensure individuals who face accessibility barriers due to disability, literacy, digital literacy, or age—regardless of economic resources—can access the Internet and all its information, communities, and services for education, employment, daily living, civic participation, health, and safety.  There are currently 13 documents available in our collection related to this project and available for document delivery.  Finally, funded since 2001, the RERC for Wireless Technologies (Wireless RERC) has been a leading source for information on and solutions for accessibility and usability of mobile wireless products and services for people with disabilities. There are currently 61 documents available in our collection, 40 are available in full-text.  The Wireless RERC produces two newsletters one for industry and consumer stakeholders, and the other that highlights technology and disability policy.  The Wireless RERC website houses their papers, policy filings, presentations, and reports; and provides the latest news on their legislative and project activities.

These projects, among others, offer a wide array of resources for both consumers, researchers, web developers, designers (physical and virtual), and policy makers. Explore the NIDILRR Program Database to learn more about the grantee community.

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ADA: Celebrate 26 Years on the 26th! (Part 1)

July 26th marks the 26th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the historic civil rights law that prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation.  Based upon other civil rights legislation, the ADA provides protections to individuals with disabilities regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion to ensure that they have the same opportunities to participate fully in public life.  In previous blog posts, we have discussed what the ADA is and the various titles under the ADA and taken a look of the ADA over the past 25 years and into the futureThe National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) has been at the forefront of research related to two important areas of the ADA—Employment and Public Accommodations (i.e., universal design).

Over 30 years, NIDILRR has funded nearly 500 projects related to employment.  There are currently 73 NIDILRR-funded projects related to employment. Here’s a small sample of these projects and the wealth of resources they produce:

These projects, among others, offer a wealth of resources for both job seekers, hiring managers, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and policy makers. Explore the NIDILRR Program Database to learn more about the grantee community.

Up next…Part 2: accessibility and universal design!

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Right Resources, Right Now (tomorrow)!

On Wednesday, July 20th, we’ll join the National Association of States United for Aging and Disability (NASUAD) for their free National Information & Referral Support Center webinar! We’ll be presenting Right Resources, Right Now, showcasing some of the great tools, guides, videos, and other resources developed by the NIDILRR grantee community. If you’re free at 3pm ET, grab a cool beverage and join us online! Registration is free but required.

The session will be archived and we’ll post the slides here once we’re done. Meanwhile, check out our Right Resources, Right Now blog posts to get a preview of some of the cool stuff on tap!

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Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, June 20 to Friday, June 24

Advocacy:
Briana Scurry embraces new role as women’s brain health advocate (The Washington Post)
In April 2010, Washington Freedom goalkeeper Briana Scurry sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during a Women’s Professional Soccer match. Three and a half years later, she had bilateral occipital nerve surgery to alleviate persistent symptoms from the injury. Recently, Scurry went to Congress. She spoke before the congressional brain injury task force, sharing her story from pre-concussion to present day. Almost three years after her surgery and two years after she finished therapy, Scurry sees herself as an advocate for women’s health, especially in relation to concussions and TBI.

Education:
To manage the stress of trauma, schools are teaching students how to relax (The Washington Post)
One morning before math, the fourth-graders at Houston Elementary in Northeast Washington took a little vacation. To soft music, they walked through woods, climbed a mountain, and lifted off with imaginary wings, flying over an ocean, a gentle breeze on their faces. Then, with the sound of a chime, they were back in a classroom overlooking a blighted neighborhood that has been beset by violence this spring, including two separate slayings of teenage boys at a nearby Metro station. Like a growing number of schools nationwide, Houston Elementary is using mindfulness and other therapies to help children manage the stress they encounter in their daily lives.

Employment:
Cerebral palsy no barrier for ESPN sportscaster (Disability Scoop)
Jason Benetti, who was born with cerebral palsy, called a nationally televised Major League Baseball game pitting the Washington Nationals against the Los Angeles Dodgers this week. Benetti was hired earlier this year by the Chicago White Sox as a television play-by-play commentator for Comcast SportsNet Chicago and WGN Sports. Since 2011, the sportscaster has also done play-by-play for ESPN calling basketball, football, baseball, and lacrosse.

Public Health:
Food banks take on a contributor to diabetes: themselves (The New York Times)
Not long ago, the mission of food banks was to relieve hunger with whatever was at hand, including salty canned goods or even potato chips. Many who depend on food pantries are, however, obese and diabetic rather than underfed. In 2014, one third of the 15.5 million households served by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, reported that a household member had diabetes. Now researchers have begun pursuing innovative methods to address Type 2 diabetes among people who rely on food banks.

Research:
New study helps determine which older adults might need help taking medications (Science Daily)
As age increases, older adults can develop problems taking their medications. In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers investigated this issue using data from the 10-year Duke University Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly (EPESE) study. They examined data from 4,106 African American and Caucasian older adults living in five counties in North Carolina. The study found that people aged 80 and older were 1.5 to 3 times as likely to need help with their medications as were people aged 65 to 69. Men were 1.5 to 2 times as likely as women to need help. The odds of needing help were 3 to 5 times greater among people with memory challenges.

Technology:
Novel controller allows video gamer who lacks hands to compete with his feet (Science Daily)
Engineering graduate students at Johns Hopkins University, one of whom lost his hands to meningitis, have designed and built a foot-activated video game controller. The sandal-like controller allows a player to control on-screen action with his or her feet. Beneath each shoe’s padding are three sensors that can pick up various foot movements, such as tilting or raising the front or heel of each foot. In its most basic setup, two of the high-tech shoes can control eight different game buttons. However, the inventors say that with practice, this number could increase to as many as 20 buttons.

Hug machine puts the squeeze on autism (Gizmag)
Professor Mary Temple Grandin, who has autism and is an outspoken advocate for people with autism spectrum disorders, invented what is known as a “hug machine” designed to calm hypersensitive people by gently exerting even pressure along their bodies. Denmark’s Gloria Mundi Care is now offering a commercial version, called the OrbisBox. The idea behind the device is simple: Users start by lying down on their back or on either side. Fabric-covered polyurethane foam side panels then slowly move in and press against them from the sides. The amount of pressure can be adjusted in 5-kilogram increments from levels of 20 to 30 kilograms (22 to 66 lbs), with users able to get out at any point they want. Users can also activate colored LED lighting and soothing music played through Bose speakers. The article includes a video demonstrating the technology.

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Remembering Olmstead: 17 Years of Community Participation and Independence for People with Disabilities

Seventeen years ago, on June 22nd, 1999, the US Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C. that the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  What is now known as the Olmstead decision began with two women, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, with psychiatric and development disabilities living in a state-run hospital in the state of Georgia.

Ms. Curtis and Ms. Wilson’s medical team believed that both women were capable of and would benefit from living in the community with the appropriate supports; unfortunately, the services and supports that the women needed were unavailable in the community and it would take years for such community-based supports to be set up.  Both women remained institutionalized for several years after initial psychiatric treatment concluded and ultimately filed a suit under the ADA to be released from the hospital.

While the Olmstead decision was based on persons with psychiatric and intellectual disabilities and involved only one type of institution, a psychiatric hospital, the ruling expanded to state- and Medicaid-funded institutions, as well as nursing facilities.  The ruling offered persons with other disabilities, such as brain injury and spinal cord injury, an opportunity for full participation with services provided in a community setting. Previously, persons who had suffered a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury were often placed in nursing homes and general hospital facilities because there were no specialty and/or community options available to them.

Additionally, the Olmstead decision was influential for the community/consumer-based services movement.  Community-based services enforce the idea of consumer choice. The consumer must want community-based services, and the treatment team must deem what services are appropriate based on the person’s disability and personal preferences.  Personal choice and equal opportunity are extremely important parts of community-based services.  Independent living centers and personal assistance services to assist persons with disabilities were created with the goal to provide persons with all types of disabilities the opportunity for community integration.

The Olmstead decision is at the core of the Administration for Community Living (ACL) mission to maximize the independence, well-being, and health of older adults and people with disabilities across the lifespan.  To celebrate 17 years of Olmstead in action, ACL is asking individuals and stakeholders to share stories of transition into the community, and/or how organizations promote independent and community living for older adults and people with disabilities through social media by using #OlmsteadAction.

Read more about the Olmstead decision at ADA.gov and at OlmsteadRights.org.

Check our previous issue of reSearch on Olmstead and Community-Based Services for Persons with Psychiatric and Intellectual Disabilities!  See what we have in our collection on Olmstead, independent living, and community integration; and search for NIDILRR-funded research related to Olmstead, independent living, community integration, psychiatric disabilities, and much more!

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