Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, March 2 to Friday, March 6

Accessible Living:
New housing concept emerging for those with disabilities (Disability Scoop)
A new housing development in Noah’s Landing, FL, will provide safe, affordable housing for adults with developmental disabilities. The project is expected to alleviate a serious need for community housing options for adults with disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy. Unlike state licensed group homes, Noah’s Landing will operate independently, with oversight provided by staff, volunteers, and parents, along with monitoring from state social workers. A similar project will break ground in Jacksonville.

ASHA applauds proposed bill for Medicare audiology services (The Hearing Review)
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has announced its support of the Medicare Audiology Services Enhancement Act of 2015 (HR1116) that was introduced on February 26th. The proposed legislation is intended to give Medicare beneficiaries access to audiologists for both diagnostic and treatment services similar to those already available from other practitioners. The bill aligns audiologists with the managed-care direction of healthcare, and has a negligible impact on costs to the healthcare system, a feature that ASHA hopes will help the bill to pass.

Physical therapists see growing demand for experts in musculo-skeletal system (Yakima Herald Republic)
Advances in medicine and a changing model of health-care delivery have created a growing demand for physical therapy in recent years. With specialized training in the musculo-skeletal system, physical therapists are ideally suited to be the first point of contact for patients with common problems like a sprained ankle or lower back pain. Patients with musculo-skeletal issues would go directly to a physical therapist instead of waiting for a referral from the primary-care provider, which can delay care and hamper outcomes. The changing demographics of the country are creating greater demand for physical therapists as well, with aging Baby Boomers staying active later in life and requiring care to maintain physical health.

Long-term care may not be best for adults with traumatic brain injury; other housing needed (Newswise)
A new, large-scale Canadian study shows that many adults with traumatic brain injury (TBI) live in a long-term health setting, such as a nursing home, which may not be appropriate for their condition and younger age. The study, which looked at more than 10,000 adults with TBI in non-acute settings, found that persons with TBI were significantly younger than other residents in nursing home settings, and they were also more likely to be male, whereas most of the other residents were female. The study concludes that this is a result of a lack of appropriate housing or health-care setting alternatives for this population. For many individuals with TBI, it is imperative that they are in a setting with TBI rehabilitation to help them thrive.

Brain organoids: A new method for growing human brain cells could unlock the mysteries of dementia, mental illness, and other neurological disorders (MIT Technology Review)
Before it is grown in a lab dish, a brain organoid begins as a single skin cell taken from an adult. With the right biochemical prodding, that cell can be turned into an induced pluripotent stem cell, and then into a neuron. This makes it possible for scientists to see directly how networks of living human brain cells develop and function, and how they are affected by various drug compounds or genetic modifications. And organoids could serve as unprecedentedly accurate models for a wide range of diseases. What goes wrong, for example, in neurons derived directly from someone with Alzheimer’s disease?

Power vest helps caregivers to assist weak patients (Medgadget)
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology in Germany are working on a special “soft robot” vest that can save the back of caregivers helping patients in and out of bed and standing up from a chair, while giving them superhuman strength. The device is powered by the wearer’s own movements, storing power when the carer bends down to help someone and releasing the energy just when needed. The strength of the powered assistance can be easily adjusted depending on the situation.

Portable system for real-time monitoring of Parkinson’s patients undergoes testing (Gizmag)
A European group headed by Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Spain, is trialling a cutting-edge system with the potential to greatly improve the quality of life for patients with Parkinson’s disease. The system, known as REMPARK, utilizes a small waist-worn module and headset controlled by a smartphone that will allow doctors to observe and manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s in real time. The waist module contains accelerometer and gyroscope sensors that detect the patient’s cadence as he or she walks. This allows the device to constantly record ambulatory characteristics such as freezing gait and falls, and conveys the data to the smartphone via Bluetooth.

Prosthetic ankle scans the ground ahead and adjusts accordingly (Gizmag)
Computer-controlled artificial legs have aided in improving amputees’ freedom of movement by mimicking the natural motion of their missing limbs. Now, a new robotic ankle promises to make this motion even more precise by using a camera to scan the ground ahead and dynamically adjusting to the terrain underfoot. A team of engineers at Michigan Technological University produced a system comprising a prosthetic ankle, a low-cost camera, and a separate computer-controlled actuator. As the user walks around, the camera scans the ground and the actuator readies the prosthetic foot to take the next step.

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