Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, April 14 – Friday, April 18

Human Interest:
Amy Purdy’s bionic grace on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ (The Washington Post)
A dancer who is a double amputee wears her prosthetic limbs to get through four weeks of competition on ABC television’s Dancing With the Stars. The contestant survived bacterial meningitis, which robbed her of her legs, kidney function, the hearing in one ear, and very nearly her life. Seven months after receiving her prosthetics, she was back on her snowboard, regaining the moment-to-moment responsiveness, core strength, and sense of balance that make her a sensation on the dance floor. She and her partner have been scoring just below favorites such as Olympic gold-medalist ice dancer Meryl Davis. The article includes a video.

Policy:
Groups want Federal autism dollars reallocated (Disability Scoop)
With the nation’s primary autism legislation set to expire, some disability advocates are pressing for major changes in the Federal government’s approach to the disorder. In a letter to key members of Congress, 18 national organizations are asking for a greater emphasis on services and the needs of adults with autism when lawmakers reauthorize the Combating Autism Act. At present, a significant portion of the funding goes toward underwriting research through the National Institutes of Health. The groups would also like the law renamed to remove the negative connotation they see in the word “combating.”

Research:
Social skills a casualty of childhood head injury, study suggests (HealthDay)
A study conducted at Brigham Young University indicates that serious head injuries may be linked to children’s lack of ability to interact with others. For the study, researchers looked at a group of children who had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) three years prior to the investigation. Those with lingering damage in the brain’s frontal lobes had lower-quality social lives. The researchers found that the problem may be with something called cognitive proficiency, a combination of short-term memory and brain-processing speed. The children with TBI had a harder time remembering things and staying focused, which would affect the way they would interact with other people.

Stem-cell treatment for blindness moving through patient testing (MIT Technology Review)
A new treatment for macular degeneration is close to the next stage of human testing. The treatment is based on retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells that have been grown from embryonic stem cells. The cells are injected under a patient’s retina, which is temporarily detached for the procedure. RPE cells support the retina’s photoreceptors, the cells that detect incoming light and pass the information on to the brain. The company that developed the treatment, Advanced Cell Technology, has already reported impressive therapy results with one patient, who recovered vision after being deemed legally blind.

Technology:
Intelligent prosthetic liners could ease pain for lower limb amputees (Science Daily)
Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK are developing the first prosthetic “intelligent” liner with integrated pressure sensors. The sensors measure the pressure and pulling forces at the interface between the patient’s stump and socket of their prosthesis. In excess, these pressures can cause tissue damage, leading to painful sores. Researchers hope that the intelligent liner will be the first step leading to the “holy grail” in prosthetics: a fully automatic, self-adjusting smart socket interface for amputees.

World Cup mind-control demo faces deadlines, critics (MIT Technology Review)
Moving toward a deadline set by the opening day of the 2014 soccer World Cup in Sao Paolo, Brazil, a Duke University neuroscientist is working on a mind-controlled exoskeleton that he says a paralyzed Brazilian volunteer will don and use to make the ceremonial opening kick of the tournament on June 12. The project is called Walk Again. If the kick goes as planned, it will be a highly public display of research into brain-machine interfaces, a technology that aims to help paralyzed people control machines with their thoughts and restore their ability to get around. But the Walk Again project is drawing doubters, who say the demonstration is as much publicity stunt as science.

Panasonic’s robotic bed/wheelchair first to earn global safety certification (gizmag)
Panasonic’s Resyone robotic bed recently became the first of its kind to be certified ISO13482 compliant, the new global safety standard for service robots. The bed-wheelchair combo features a mattress that is split in half, with one side remaining firmly in place when the other half is separated to form the body of the chair. A patient simply needs to move over a few inches to one side and, with a few adjustments, will be sitting upright in a powered wheelchair. A single caregiver assists during the transformation process, significantly reducing the burden on staff.

Winners of Stanford Center on Longevity’s design challenge announced (Medgadget)
The Stanford Center on Longevity in California announced three winners of its challenge to design products that can improve and help extend the lives of the elderly. The grand prize was awarded for a set of EatWell tableware, featuring bowls colored blue to add a visual contrast with the food within, bottom-heavy cups to prevent spillage, and utensils with wide, angled handles. The second-place prize went to Taste+, a spoon that electrically stimulates the taste buds of seniors with diminished taste sensation. The third-place award was given for Memory Maps, a system that allows the recording of memories attached to real-world locations.

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