Disability News Weekly Roundup – Monday, May 30 to Friday, June 3

Employment:
Ford eyes workers with autism (Disability Scoop)
Ford Motor Company is launching a pilot program this week designed to improve recruitment and retention of employees with autism. Through an initiative called FordInclusiveWorks, the company intends to establish five new positions in product development that were “created to suit the skills and capabilities of people with autism.” All of the positions will be based at Ford’s Dearborn, MI headquarters and will last between 30 and 90 days. According to the company, if successful, participants in the pilot program will ultimately enter Ford’s standard recruiting process. Ford will work with the nonprofit Autism Alliance of Michigan to facilitate the pilot program.

Health Care:
Computer vision syndrome affects millions (The New York Times)
A condition known as computer vision syndrome can affect anyone who spends three or more hours a day in front of computer monitors. Worldwide, up to 70 million workers are at risk for computer vision syndrome, and those numbers are only likely to grow. The effects of prolonged computer use are not just vision-related. Complaints include neurological symptoms like chronic headaches and musculoskeletal problems like neck and back pain. Still, the most common computer-related complaint involves the eyes, which can develop blurred or double vision as well as burning, itching, dryness, and redness, all of which can interfere with work performance.

Policy:
ABLE accounts make debut (Disability Scoop)
For the first time, people with disabilities can open special accounts where they can save money without jeopardizing their government benefits. The accounts are made possible through the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. With ABLE accounts, people with disabilities can save up to $100,000 without risking eligibility for Social Security and other government benefits. Medicaid can be retained no matter how much money is in the accounts. The ABLE Act was an idea that started around the kitchen table in Northern Virginia by five dedicated parents from the Down syndrome community.

Research:
Implanted neuroprosthesis improves walking ability in stroke patient (Science Daily)
A surgically implanted neuroprosthesis programmed to stimulate coordinated activity of hip, knee, and ankle muscles has led to substantial improvement in walking speed and distance in a patient with limited mobility after a stroke, according to a single-patient study. The patient underwent surgery to place an implanted pulse generator and intramuscular stimulating electrodes in seven muscles of the hip, knee, and ankle. A customized electrical stimulation program was created to activate the muscles, with the goal of restoring a more natural gait pattern. In a before-and-after study design, the patient, following several months of extensive training, showed significant gains in walking speed and distance. Even though the patient was not walking with stimulation outside the laboratory, his walking ability in daily life also improved significantly: He went from “household-only” ambulation to increased walking outside in the neighborhood.

Americans need easier access, more affordable options for hearing health care (Science Daily)
According to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, hearing loss is a significant public health concern, and efforts should be made to provide adults with easier access to and more affordable options for hearing health care. The committee that carried out the study and wrote the report called for greater transparency and changes in the cost of hearing health care and expanded treatment options, given the number of Americans who have hearing loss and the high cost of hearing health care. It recommended that the US Food and Drug Administration remove the regulation requiring adults to have a medical evaluation or sign an evaluation waiver to purchase a hearing aid, as well as establish a new category of over-the-counter, wearable hearing devices – separate from hearing aids – that could assist adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.

Technology:
New therapy helping paralyzed kindergartner regain muscles and movement (TODAY, NBC)
During practice of a gymnastic bridge exercise, 6-year-old Eden collapsed and then was unable to move her legs. After being rushed to Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, she was diagnosed with stroke as a result of hyper-extending her spine, which resulted in the artery going around her spinal cord being cut off. Months of subsequent treatment at facilities including Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD followed, including neurorecovery physical therapy and pediatric locomotor training involving harness-supported treadmill walking. Five months later, Eden has developed strong muscles, is experiencing goosebumps and sweating in her formerly numb legs, and feels confident that she will make a full recovery.

Cognitive assessment in the palm of your hand (Gizmag)
Savonix has developed what it says is the first mobile and clinically-valid cognitive and brain health assessment tool. The tool is a mobile app available for either iOS or Android devices. It was developed by a team of Stanford University healthcare professionals, using published data gleaned from past clinical research results involving cognitive assessments. Users of the app spend 30 to 45 minutes completing a variety of tasks that assess such areas as verbal memory, impulse control, emotionality, and information processing speed. The app generates the results immediately upon completion of the tasks, and performance in each measured area is indicated on a scale of low to high. Users can share their results with a medical professional for additional evaluation or diagnosis.

Multi-parameter sensor system aims to predict, prevent asthma attacks (MedGadget)
At North Carolina State University, researchers are working on a wearable system that may predict the onset of asthma attacks, letting patients avoid risky places and situations. The so-called Health and Environmental Tracker (HET) consists of a wrist-worn tracking device, an adhesive chest patch, and a spirometer. Together, the components collect data which are then crunched by custom software to provide evaluation and guidance to the patient throughout the day. Following lab-based testing with a few individuals, plans are underway to conduct a considerably more involved trial of the system.

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