Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, April 21 – Friday, April 25

Policy:
UN: People with disabilities free to make own decisions (Disability Scoop)
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has issued new guidelines urging countries to recognize the importance of supported decision-making for people with disabilities. The 18-member panel advises that people with even the most severe disabilities have the right to make their own decisions. In cases where it is not reasonable to know what an individual wants, decisions should be based on the “best interpretation of their will and preference,” as “persons with disabilities enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life.”

Rehabilitation:
Ranking names best states for disability services (Disability Scoop)
An analysis of disability services in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, released by United Cerebral Palsy, ranks Arizona as the top service provider for the third year in a row. The other states included as the 10 best on the list are Michigan, Hawaii, Georgia, New York, South Carolina, Maine, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Missouri. The analysis factors each state’s approach to promoting independence and productivity, ensuring quality and safety, keeping families together, and reaching people in need.

Research:
Once in limbo, promising new muscular dystrophy drug back on track toward approval (The Washington Post)
A new drug designed to slow the progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy is being considered for accelerated approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Eteplirsen, developed by Sarepta Therapeutics, has shown promising results from a trial involving 12 young boys, whose muscular deterioration seemed virtually halted by the drug. Duchenne is caused by a mutation in the gene responsible for producing dystrophin, an essential protein involved in muscle function. Eteplirsen uses an approach called exon skipping, intended to bypass the existing mutation and restore a gene’s ability to produce the protein.

Motor skill deficiencies linked to autism severity, research says (Science Daily)
Researchers at Oregon State University have found a relationship between motor skill deficiencies and the severity of the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in very young children. The research was based on a study of 159 children aged 12 to 33 months, including 110 with an autism diagnosis. According the scientists, the findings indicate that development of fine and gross motor skills should be included in treatment plans for young children with autism.

Brain differences between deaf and hearing people depend on first language learned (Hearing Review)
A study conducted by scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center and Gallaudet University has shown that, in addition to Deafness, early language experience – English versus American Sign Language (ASL) – impacts brain structure. Half of the adult hearing and half of the Deaf participants in the study had learned ASL as children from their Deaf parents, while the other half had grown up using English with their hearing parents. The Deaf and hearing participants, irrespective of language experience, were found to differ in the volume of brain white matter in their auditory cortex. However, differences in left hemisphere language areas specific to native ASL learners were also found.

Increasing consumption of coffee associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, study finds (Science Daily)
A study including about 96,000 women and 27,750 men shows a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes associated with increasing the consumption of coffee. Specifically, increasing coffee consumption by on average one and a half cups per day over a four-year period was shown to reduce the risk of developing the diabetes by 11 percent. The study was conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Technology:
MIT builds voice-controlled robotic wheelchair (Robotics Trends)
Scientists in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have built a robotic wheelchair that understands basic voice commands for navigating around a space. After mapping its surroundings, the wheelchair can understand natural, conversational language that the users feed it through a standard headset and microphone. For example, users will be taken to the kitchen via direct command as well as via more subtle input, such as “I’m hungry.” The inventors are working with a Boston-area care center for people with progressive neurological diseases to see how this technology can benefit its residents.

Man prefers $50 3-D printed hand to $42,000 prosthetic (The Washington Post)
A man born without a hand says his $50 3-D printed hand prosthesis works better than his $42,000 prosthetic. The 3-D printed hand, known as the Cyborg Beast, gives him 10 movable, functional fingers, whereas the more expensive hand, although it looks more lifelike, only allows him to grip things with two fingers and a thumb. A video explains how the Cyborg Beast works.

Mobile app to help children, families affected by severe, non-verbal autism (Medical Xpress)
SPEAKall!! is an iPad application developed at Purdue University that facilitates communication and language development for children and families affected by severe, non-verbal autism. The app helps children communicate by using photos and graphic symbols that represent what the child wishes to say and helps the child construct sentences, which are then “spoken” by the app. SPEAKall!! has been adopted for use at speech and language clinics at San Jose State University in California and the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The article includes a video demonstrating the app.

Michigan man regains some of his sight thanks to ‘bionic eye.’ (New York Daily News)
A 55-year-old man who has been blind since a teenager due to retinitis pigmentosa has regained some of his sight following the implantation of an artificial retina in his left eye. Recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the retina was implanted in a surgical procedure at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. The implant is part of a system that includes a small video camera and transmitter housed in a pair of glasses. The system transmits images from the camera via electrical pulses and stimulates remaining healthy retinal cells to relay the signal to the optic nerve.

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