Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, April 28 – Friday, May 2

Human Interest:
Soldier who lost leg in Afghanistan vowed ‘I will return.’ This is what it took to get back. (The Washington Post)
Following a leg injury sustained by a roadside bomb that resulted in amputation, a US Army soldier returns to active duty in Afghanistan as a paratrooper. Wearing a prosthetic leg, the lieutenant is going on missions with an M-4 assault rifle and 50 pounds of body armor and gear strapped to his body. He is part of a tiny minority of 57, out of 1,564 amputee servicemen and women, who have returned to war zones.

Policy:
Jobs report suggests people with disabilities left behind in April surge (Research on Disability)
Americans with disabilities are being left behind as the economy begins to surge, according to the May 2nd National Trends in Disability Employment – Monthly Update (nTIDE), issued by the Kessler Foundation and the University of Hampshire Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD). Based on the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Report, the employment-to-population ratio decreased by 2 percentage points in April for working-age people with disabilities, compared to the ratio of April 2013. For people without disabilities, the ratio increased by 0.8 percentage points. However, numerous efforts are reportedly underway in the private and public sectors to narrow the employment gap between people with and without disabilities.

FDA may ban shock devices used on those with special needs (Disability Scoop)
The Food and Drug Administration is considering a ban on devices used to administer shocks to children and adults with developmental disabilities in an effort to modify their behavior. The ban would primarily affect the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Massachusetts, believed to be the only entity in the nation currently using the devices. According to an FDA report, as of February last year, 86 students at the school were eligible to receive skin shocks for exhibiting undesired behaviors. Officials at the Center contend that the approach is a last resort for individuals with life-threatening behavior disorders for whom other treatments have been unsuccessful.

Caregivers for disabled lament Medicaid cuts (Modern Healthcare)
Stagnant wages in combination with cuts in Medicaid funding are causing caregivers at facilities for seniors and people with disabilities in Indiana to consider alternative means of employment. Staff turnover at these facilities can range from 15 to 300 percent a year. Every year since 2009, the share of Medicaid dollars Indiana has allocated to care providers for group homes and supported living has decreased, 3 percent per year for group homes and 7 percent for supported living.

Proposal would allow service animals in national parks (Disability Scoop)
According to a National Park Service proposal, miniature horses, along with service dogs, would be allowed entrance to national parks. New regulations would define a service animal as a dog or miniature horse trained to perform tasks directly related to a person’s disability. Miniature horses are an alternative for some people, such as those with allergies. Under the new regulations, other species would not be considered service animals; neither would a dog used solely for emotional support.

Rehabilitation:
Almost half of homeless men had traumatic brain injury in their lifetime (Science Daily)
Almost half of all homeless men taking part in a study by St. Michael’s hospital in Toronto, Canada, had suffered at least one traumatic brain injury (TBI) in their life, mostly prior to losing their homes. While assaults were a major cause of these injuries, many were caused by non-violent mechanisms such as sports, vehicle collisions, and falls. According to the lead author, the study points to the importance for health-care providers and others who work with homeless people to be aware of any history of TBI because of the links between such injuries and mental health issues, substance abuse, and general poorer physical health.

Light activity every day keeps disability at bay (Science Daily)
A Northwestern University study has shown that light physical activity performed daily can help people with, or at risk for, knee arthritis avoid developing disabilities as they age. The study included a group of almost 1,700 adults, ages 45 to 79, from the Osteoarthritis Initiative study who had knee osteoarthritis or other risk factors for its development, such as obesity. Two years after collecting activity data using accelerometers, researchers found that participants who spent more than four hours per day doing light physical activity had more than 30 percent reduction in the risk for developing disability compared to those spending only three hours a day in light activity.

Research:
Improve your memory – laugh! (Trove)
A study conducted at Loma Linda University found that laughter helped improve memory in elderly individuals. Three groups of seniors were involved in the study: a healthy group, a diabetic group, and a control group. The healthy and diabetic individuals watched a 20-minute funny video while the control group sat calmly for the same period. Results of a memory test administered at the beginning and end of the study revealed that in the groups that watched the funny video, learning ability, delayed recall, and visual recognition markedly improved, while far less improvement was shown in the control group.

Technology:
Cochlear implant also uses gene therapy to improve hearing (MIT Technology Review)
Researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia have demonstrated a new way to restore lost hearing with a cochlear implant that helps the auditory nerve regenerate by delivering gene therapy. Peptides called neurotrophins can encourage regeneration of the neurons in the auditory nerve. The researchers used a process called electroporation to cause pores to open up cells, allowing DNA to get inside. This usually requires high voltages, but the scientists found that the small, distributed electrodes of the cochlear implant can be used to achieve the effect. Initially demonstrated using deafened guinea pigs, the scientists are working with a major maker of cochlear implants to test the electrode and gene-therapy combination in a clinical trial.

Parents build long-term house for disabled sons (The Washington Post)
A newly completed home built by the parents of two boys with physical and intellectual disabilities features cutting-edge technology that makes the house accessible to their sons. The boys will be able to use their iPads to summons a parent, raise window blinds, or access an entertainment center. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets can be raised and lowered electronically, and touchless faucets will compensate for dexterity issues. A security system alerts the parents if one of the boys gets up during the night and doesn’t return to bed. Even a warm-water dog wash for the anticipated service dog is at wheelchair level.

Motivo Tour reimagines boring old walkers with new features (Medgadget)
The Motivo Tour walker is designed to wrap around the user instead of being in front, thus offering proper vertical support. It also allows getting closer to everyday items in front of the walker, such as a sink, countertops, or grocery shelves. Additionally, the device has a storage space for a purse or other items, as well as a small foldout table upfront. The Motivo Tour’s designers are seeking funding to commercialize the walker through Indiegogo crowdfunding. The article includes a video demonstrating the walker.

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