Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, December 1 –Friday, December 5

Human Interest:
Navigating the stage with a disability (The Wall Street Journal)
At a New York Festival of Song concert in November, the organization’s co-founder, pianist Steven Blier, zoomed onto the stage in his battery-operated wheelchair. “This takes a minute, so study your program notes,” Mr. Blier said to the audience, as co-founder Michael Barrett held a piano chair for him to slide into, and then tucked the wheelchair away. The pianist then launched into a program he dubbed “Art Song on the Couch,” connecting German songs with the ideas of Sigmund Freud. Mr. Blier is one of three New York-based classical musicians with coming concerts who have navigated substantial careers despite significant health challenges. The other two are violinist Itzhak Perlman and cellist Alisa Weilerstein.

Policy:
Supreme Court to weigh police obligations under ADA (Disability Scoop)
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear San Francisco’s appeal of a ruling allowing a mentally ill, knife-wielding woman to sue police for shooting her, a case that could set standards for police treatment of people with disabilities. The nation’s high court will schedule a hearing for a ruling due by the end of June. The central issue is how the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires government agencies to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities, applies to police conduct toward a person with mental illness who may be violent.

Rehabilitation:
Patients do better after surgery if they do ‘prehab’ first (North Country Public Radio)
People are often told to follow a rehabilitation program post surgery to speed recovery. But undergoing so-called “prehabilitation” to prepare for surgery might help patients regain function even faster. Researchers from McGill University in Montreal studied 77 patients scheduled for colorectal cancer surgery, half of whom were told to start a program including aerobic exercises, strength training, and a nutritional regimen before surgery and continue it following the procedure, while the other half were instructed to start the program right after the surgery. Two months after surgery, the prehabilitation group were able to walk significantly farther than the rehab-only patients.

Research:
Putting more load on injured side of post-stroke brains may aid recovery (Rehab Management)
Dialing back activity on the healthy side of a brain post-stroke could force the injured side of the brain to work harder as a way to recover motor control and other functions. Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are exploring this concept using Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) with a study aimed at improving arm movement among individuals who have had a stroke. In particular, researchers are looking at people who are three to 12 months poststroke and who have not completely recovered.

Brain injury researchers find retrieval practice improves memory in youth with TBI (Science Daily)
Difficulties with memory and learning are common after traumatic brain injury (TBI) in childhood. A study funded by the Kessler Foundation and Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Jersey has identified retrieval practice as a useful strategy for improving memory among children and adolescents with (TBI). Researchers studied 15 patients with TBI and impaired memory, aged 8 to 16 years, comparing results of three memory strategies: massed restudy (cramming), spaced restudy (restudy of material at timed intervals), and retrieval practice (quizzing during the learning stage). Retrieval practice was found to result in better recall.

Engineer applies robot control theory to improve prosthetic legs (Science Daily)
A University of Texas at Dallas professor has applied robot control theory to enable powered prosthetics to respond dynamically to the wearer’s environment and help amputees walk. The approach was tested on computer models and then with three above-knee amputee participants. The algorithms were implemented with sensors measuring the center of pressure on a powered prosthesis. Inputted with only the user’s height, weight, and dimension of the residual thigh into the algorithm, the prosthesis was configured for each participant in about 15 minutes. With the prosthesis, the participants were able to walk on a moving treadmill almost as fast as an able-bodied person.

Technology:
Google’s new spoon makes eating easier for those with tremors (Huffington Post)
Google is throwing its money, brain power, and technology at the humble spoon. But the Liftware spoon is more than your basic utensil: using hundreds of algorithms, it allows people with essential tremors and Parkinson’s disease to eat without spilling. The technology senses how a hand is shaking and makes instant adjustments to stay balanced. In clinical trials, the Liftware spoon reduced shaking of the spoon bowl by an average of 76 percent.

“Text neck” emerging as a hazard to musculoskeletal health (Rehab Management)
Staring at a handheld electronic device can exert the equivalent of 60 pounds of weight pressing onto the spine. This phenomenon is discussed in a new study that reviews the negative health effects associated with individuals who spend from two to four hours each day peering into a handheld mobile device such as a smartphone. Results of the study note that weight seen by the spine dramatically increases when flexing the head forward at varying degrees.

With eye on disabilities, TV gaining new features (Disability Scoop)
Comcast is adding features to its Xfinity X1 cable box to make it accessible to its blind and visually impaired customers. The X1 Talking Guide, described as “the industry’s first voice-enabled television user interface,” features a female voice that reads aloud crucial TV-viewing information, such as show titles and network names, show descriptions, the time remaining on a show, and the price of a film rental. X1 users will be able to activate the Talking Guide by tapping the remote’s “A” button twice, or via the accessibility controls in the main settings menu.

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