Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, August 25 – Friday, August 29

Funding:
How ALS could benefit from a flood of new funding (MIT Technology Review)
As of August 22nd, the ALS Association had received $53.3 million since July 29th, compared to $2.2 million by that time last year, resulting from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the social-media campaign gone viral. The article discusses some of the key problems ALS researchers are investigating, areas that could benefit from extra funding: who gets ALS, what causes the damage that characterizes the disease, why are the effects of ALS so variable, and what are the challenges involved in developing ALS treatments?

Policy:
Medicare star ratings allow nursing homes to game the system (The New York Times)
An examination of the Medicare nursing-home rating system by The New York Times has found that many top-ranked (five-star) nursing homes have been given a seal of approval that is based on incomplete information and can seriously mislead consumers, investors, and others about conditions at the homes. The ratings are based in large part on self-reported data by the nursing homes that the government does not verify.

Report finds fewer federal workers with disabilities (Disability Scoop)
According to a new report from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the number of federal employees with targeted disabilities declined between 2002 and 2011, despite a push to increase hiring of such individuals. Targeted disabilities include intellectual disabilities, mental illness, deafness, blindness, and other conditions considered to be “most severe impairments.” A federal goal calls for such workers to make up at least 2 percent of the government’s workforce. However, only nine agencies have achieved that threshold, according to the EEOC.

Rehabilitation:
Sit & Stand walking assistant may replace boring old crutches (Medgadget)
The Sit & Stand is a crutch that employs the user’s buttocks and thigh as the support, rather than the armpit or forearm. The lower leg is attached to the vertical pole of the crutch, the pole essentially becoming a new leg for the user to stand on. Moving the upper leg back and forth allows a somewhat natural gait, as opposed to the skip and jump the user has to learn with traditional crutches. The Sit & Stand can be used while sitting, too, the hinge adjusting as necessary.

Research:
People with Down syndrome are pioneers in Alzheimer’s research (NPR)
When researchers at the University of California, San Diego wanted to study an experimental Alzheimer’s drug last year, they sought participants with Down syndrome. People with the genetic disorder represent the world’s largest population of individuals predisposed to getting Alzheimer’s. Down syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21. And one of the genes on chromosome 21 controls the production of amyloid, the substance that forms the sticky plaques associated with Alzheimer’s.

Technology:
Laser device detects blood glucose levels without the finger-prick (gizmag)
Researchers at Princeton University have developed a non-invasive way to test blood glucose levels using a laser. The new approach detects the level of blood sugar by directing a specialized laser at a person’s palm and measuring the amount of absorption by the sugar molecules in the person’s body. Rather than the person’s blood, the laser targets dermal interstitial fluid, which has a strong correlation with blood sugar.

Eye pressure-monitoring implant could save glaucoma patients from blindness (gizmag)
A new implant could make it possible for patients with glaucoma to check their own internal optic pressure (IOP), the pressure within their eye, using their smartphone. The implant incorporates a small transparent tube which is open at one end and capped with a gas-filled bulb at the other. As the patient’s IOP rises, intraocular fluid is pushed into the tube. However, the gas pushes back against the fluid, creating a gas/fluid barrier within the tube that can be seen from the outside. Using a smartphone camera and an app, the IOP level could be determined based on where within the tube the barrier is located. Tests of the implant have shown that it does not obstruct the user’s vision.

Philips Lifeline app can help you when you’ve fallen and can’t get up (Medgadget)
Custom devices have long been sold for use at home that can call emergency operators that would summon help when a person has fallen and is unable to get up. Now, with the increased use of smartphones, Philips has released Lifeline, an app that works almost identical to the old method, but anywhere where there is a cell signal. Simply launching the app and pressing the connect button puts users in touch with an operator that can connect them to family members or neighbors, or call emergency services. The article includes a video presenting the Lifeline app.

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