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

Human Interest:
‘Extraordinary’ little boy finishes triathlon with his disabled brother (NBC Today)
An 8-year-old boy did not want his 6-year-old sibling who uses a wheelchair to miss out on a triathlon, so he pulled and pushed his little brother the whole way as he swam, biked, and ran. He swam 200 meters with a tether around his chest and attached to an inflatable raft that held his brother. Then he biked for three miles while pulling the brother in a bike trailer. Finally, he ran one mile while pushing his sibling in a special buggy.

UN disability treaty clears Senate subcommittee (Disability Scoop)
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by a 12 to 6 vote. The treaty, which establishes an international standard for disability rights similar to what is already in place domestically through the Americans with Disabilities Act, is now headed to the full Senate, where it would need a two-thirds majority vote to be ratified. The US signed the UN Convention in 2009, but Senate approval is needed in order to make participation official. At present, 146 countries around the world and the European Union have ratified the treaty.

Congress weighing tax-free disability savings accounts (Disability Scoop)
Legislation known as the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act would allow people with disabilities to create special accounts where they could save up to 100,000 dollars without risking eligibility for Social Security benefits or losing Medicare coverage. A recent US Senate hearing marked the first step in Congress for the bill, which has been under consideration since 2006.

Deaf advocacy groups to Verizon: Don’t kill net neutrality on our behalf (Ars Technica)
Advocacy groups for Deaf people have responded to Verizon’s lobbying against network neutrality. Verizon argues that “fast lanes” Web services, including those designed for blind and Deaf users and those with disabilities, could be prioritized in exchange for payment. The advocacy groups have filed comments with the FCC saying they do not agree with Verizon’s position, saying that making Internet-based services and applications accessible is possible on an open network.

Extra exercise helps depressed smokers kick the habit faster (Science Daily)
According to a study recently published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, smokers diagnosed with depression need to step out for a cigarette twice as often as those without a mood disorder. And while nearly one in five North American adults are regular smokers, about 40 percent of depressed people are in need of a cigarette regularly. Yet, according to the 18-month study, quitting smoking was found to be easier for those engaging in a bit more exercise, as withdrawal symptoms were reduced in the aftermath of regular walks.

Fly-inspired tech could find use in better hearing aids (gizmag)
The ormia ochracea fly has a unique hearing mechanism that allows it to precisely determine the location of a cricket based on its chirps. (The fly uses the cricket as a host for its larvae.) Scientists at the University of Texas Austin have now duplicated this mechanism, which will be used to inform the design of next-generation hearing aids. The scientists hope that the technology can be used in compact low-power hearing aids that are better able to discern conversations from background noise.

Getting a grip on robotic grasp: New wrist-mounted device augments the human hand with two robotic fingers (Science Daily)
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a robot that enhances the grasping motion of the human hand. Worn around the wrist, the device works like two extra fingers adjacent to the pinky and thumb. A novel control algorithm enables it to move in sync with the wearer’s fingers to grasp objects of various shapes and sizes. The researchers hope that the two-fingered robot may assist people with limited dexterity in performing routine tasks such as opening jars and lifting heavy objects.

Talk breathes new life into the alternative communication device market (gizmag)
Talk, an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device for people with speech disabilities, allows users to spell out words using different lengths of breath. Developed by a 16-year-old student and a finalist in the Google Science Fair, Talk uses a pressure sensor to monitor variations in breath and generate two distinguishable signals. These signals are further processed as a binary language and synthesized into speech accordingly. An algorithm is used to distinguish between short and long exhales and a computing engine is used to synthesize the inputted words into speech.

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