Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, September 22 – Friday, September 26

Human Interest:
An American sculptor’s masks restored French soldiers disfigured in World War I (The Washington Post)
Anna Coleman Ladd was an American sculptor who made exquisite metal masks for disfigured French World War I veterans. She traveled to France in December 1917 and founded the American Red Cross Studio of Portrait Masks in Paris. A mask would begin with a plaster cast of the soldier’s face. Then, using pre-injury photographs or just “psychological insight,” Ladd would model on the cast the patient’s original appearance. From the improved cast, a thin copper mask was fashioned to cover the damaged part of the face. The masks were held in place by wires, ribbons, or eyeglasses. The article includes a four-minute movie showing the sculptor and her staff at work.

Policy:
Deal reached on tax-free disability savings accounts (Disability Scoop)
Members of the US Senate say they have reached an agreement that will allow the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act to proceed. Under the measure, people with disabilities would be able to create special accounts at any financial institution where they could deposit up to $14,000 annually. The ABLE accounts could accrue up to $100,000 in savings without risking an individual’s eligibility for government benefits such as Social Security. In addition, Medicaid coverage could be retained regardless of the amounts deposited in the accounts. Lawmakers expect the legislation to be considered when Congress returns to Washington in November.

Feds look to boost disability employment (Disability Scoop)
A new advisory committee is being formed that will be tasked with helping government officials improve job prospects for people with developmental disabilities across the country. The US Department of Labor is soliciting nominations through October 14th for individuals to serve on the panel, known as the National Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities. The group will focus on ways to enhance competitive, integrated employment opportunities and will also weigh in on oversight and implementation of an existing program that allows employers granted special Labor Department certificates to pay workers less than minimum wage.

Research:
Think you have Alzheimer’s? You just might be right, study says (Science Daily)
A study conducted at the University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging suggests that people who notice their memory is slipping may be on to something. In the study, 531 participants with an average age of 73 and free of dementia were asked if they had noticed any changes in their memory in the prior year. Participants were also given annual memory tests for an average of 10 years. Those who reported changes in their memory were found to be nearly three times more likely to develop memory and thinking problems. About one in six participants developed dementia during the study, and 80 percent of those first reported memory changes.

Technology:
Mechanized human hands: System designed to improve hand function lost to nerve damage (Science Daily)
Engineers at Oregon State University have developed and successfully demonstrated the value of a simple pulley mechanism to improve hand function after surgery. Technology such as this, which merges artificial mechanisms with biological hand function, may offer new options to people who have lost the use of their hands due to nerve trauma, and ultimately be expanded to improve function of a wide range of damaged joints in the human body.

This phone app knows if you’re depressed (MIT Technology Review)
A new smartphone app developed by researchers at Dartmouth College suggests that the phone’s sensors can be used to gauge mental health. When 48 students let the app collect information from their phones for a 10-week term, patterns in the data matched up with changes in stress, depression, and loneliness that emerged when they took the kind of surveys doctors use to assess their patients’ mood and mental health. Trends in the phone data also correlated with students’ grades. Results suggest that smartphone apps could offer new ways to manage mental well-being.

Face-based disposable EEG mask to help quickly diagnose brain damage (MedGadget)
To enable evaluation of brain function using electroencephalography (EEG) in emergency medicine, researchers from the University of Eastern Finland have developed an EEG electrode face mask. The mask is easy to put on and can provide fast charting of brain activity. It consists of a flexible polyester film onto which silver ink was applied through screen printing. The hydrogel-coated electrodes make direct contact with the hair-free parts of the face. The face mask is disposable and can be used in emergency rooms and maybe even on football field sidelines.

New smartphone app gives sight to the blind (Reuters)
A new app allows blind people to listen to an audio read-back of printed text. Users say the KNFB Reader app will enable a new level of engagement in everyday life, from reading menus in restaurants to browsing handouts in the classroom. The $99 app is the result of a four decades long relationship between the National Federation of the Blind and artificial-intelligence scientist Ray Kurzweil. When demonstrating the app at the NFB’s annual convention in June, Kurzweil said it can replace a “sighted adviser.”

Transportation:
Chicago developing plan to increase its wheelchair accessible taxis (The Chicago Defender)
The city of Chicago is developing a plan to more than double the number of wheelchair-accessible taxis by the end of 2018. Chicago has 6,000 taxis, but only 163 are designed to accommodate people with a disability, according to the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. By comparison, New York City will have half of its fleet accessible by 2020. Chicago’s Transportation Network Provider Ordinance now requires taxi licensees who have at least 10 medallions, or vehicles, to have 10 percent of their vehicles wheelchair accessible by the end of 2018. This will add at least 204 more accessible taxis to the Chicago fleet.

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