Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, April 4 to Friday, April 8

Ad campaign targets Hollywood disability references (Disability Scoop)
With a new advertising campaign, Family Member, a disability advocacy group, is putting Hollywood on notice that it is not acceptable to mock people with disabilities. A quarter-page advertisement running in The Hollywood Reporter is discouraging the use of the word “retard” and other potentially hurtful references to disabilities on screen. As an example, the ad mentions the 2008 film “Tropic Thunder,” which included the lines “You went full retard… Never go full retard.” Other examples pointed out by the president of Family Member include comments about little people and cerebral palsy in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and Larry the Cable Guy performing his “Retarded Street Gang” routine. The first ad appears in this week’s issue of The Hollywood Reporter and four more will run over the course of this month.

Robotic horse to help with autism, arthritis, cerebral palsy, etc. (Medgadget)
Hippotherapy, or equine-assisted therapy, relies on riding horses to improve the symptoms of patients with a variety of physical and psychological conditions, including balance disorders, autism, and arthritis, seemingly because of the gentle motions that pass through the entire body. The increasingly popular therapy is, however, cost-prohibitive for many individuals. Now, a team of student engineers at Rice University has developed a robotic horse that may serve as an option at providing hippotherapy. It can support people up to 250 pounds and can be programmed to run through a regimen of movements designed for specific users and conditions. The article includes a video of the team of engineers describing their robotized therapy horse.

Minimally invasive treatment could freeze out phantom limb pain (Science Daily)
A new technique significantly reduces phantom limb pain, chronic pain emanating from the site of amputated limbs, according to findings from a study conducted at Emory University. The study indicates that interventional radiologists applying cryoablation therapy, a minimally invasive targeted treatment using cold blasts, show promise in improving the quality of life for patients experiencing phantom limb pain. During cryoablation, a probe is precisely placed through the skin in the residual limb, and the temperature is dropped for 25 minutes to create an ablation zone, shutting down nerve signals. Researchers asked the 20 study participants to rate their pain on a scale from 1 to 10 before, seven days after, and 45 days after the intervention. The average score, which was 6.4 before intervention, had dropped to 2.4 by day 45.

Service Animals:
Big love for little monkeys that help people with limited mobility (The New York Times)
Helping Hands is a non-profit organization that trains and places capuchin monkeys to assist people with limited physical mobility. The monkeys are trained for up to five years before they are matched with humans. Capuchin monkeys have dexterous hands and advanced motor skills. They can easily be taught to turn pages, scratch itches, turn light switches on and off, and help adjust people’s limbs, among other tasks. They are light enough to sit on a lap but strong enough to handle most tasks. They have long lives, of 30 to 40 years; they are extremely social and become very loyal to people. Helping Hands places the animals free of charge, relying on individual donations and foundation grants to cover the costs to train and place each monkey.

Social Media:
Say what you see, Facebook (The New Yorker)
When computer engineer Matt King signed up for Facebook in 2009, he had been blind for nearly twenty years. He navigated the Internet using a screen reader, software that reads a web page’s architecture and content aloud. But once he made it to his friends’ Facebook walls, they were mostly silent. The majority of people’s posts consisted of photographs which, without an explanatory caption, were invisible to him. King is now an accessibility specialist at Facebook. He is behind automatic alt text, a new technology that relies on artificial intelligence to generate spoken descriptions of photographs. The feature is available to Facebook users whose iOS screen readers are set to English, and will gradually make its way into other languages and platforms.

Designing glasses that fit individuals with Down Syndrome (Smithsonian.com)
More than half of the 6,000 children born in the US with Down Syndrome each year will need glasses as some point. Some of the physical traits associated with the disorder, including close-set eyes, a low nose bridge, and small ears, mean that glasses tend to slip down individuals’ noses, wing out too wide in the temples, and not stay centered on their ears. An optician who has a daughter with Down Syndrome came up with her own design for frames that would fit her child. The Specs4Us frames have lower nose bridges and longer ear pieces, and they are made of materials that are both light and strong. With the aid of a South Korean frame maker, she developed three models and took them to the 2008 convention of the National Down Syndrome Congress. She sold 28 pairs, and returned with back orders. Now, the Specs4Us company offers 14 models in 23 colors and infant through adult sizing.

VA awards grants for technologies to help increase adapted housing modification options (Rehab Management)
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced the award of close to 800,000 dollars in grants to help increase veterans’ and service members’ ability to live in specially adapted homes. The grants will be used to develop technologies to help increase the options available for veterans and service members to modify their homes to suit their needs. The technologies developed via these grants will be added to the list of home modification options under the VA’s Specially Adapted Housing program as they become available.

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