The Braze Mobility Blog

 

News and information about mobility and blind spot sensors. Subscribe to our RSS and never miss a story.

Seasoned CRT executive joins Braze Mobility as Vice President of Business Development to grow sales and partnerships

03/31/2021

TORONTO, ON – March 31, 2021 – The team at Braze Mobility, a company that’s created the world’s first blind spot sensors that can be added to any wheelchair transforming it into a ‘smart wheelchair’, is excited to announce that Allan Boyd, a seasoned Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) industry leader, is joining as Vice President of Business Development. Boyd will leverage his established relationships and experience within the industry to lead Braze Mobility’s business development strategy and support their mission of helping millions of wheelchair users around the world navigate boldly, independently, and safely.

Boyd brings with him over 25 years of experience in CRT. He served as the General Manager at Permobil Canada from 2010 to 2020, where he built and established the company’s presence throughout the country. Prior to Permobil, he managed Invacare Corporation’s seating division. He also worked as Director of Operations at Special Health Systems and was a partner at Motion Concepts, both of which were acquired by Invacare.

“I am thrilled to have Allan on our team,” said Pooja Viswanathan, CEO, and co-founder of Braze Mobility. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for not only his experiences and what he has accomplished in the industry, but also for his hunger to keep learning and staying abreast of the latest innovations. In fact, I met Allan because of a research-industry partnership while I was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and he was managing Permobil Canada. The timing of Allan’s onboarding could not be better as we at Braze Mobility prepare to accelerate our growth in North America and overseas.”

Since launching in 2016, Braze Mobility’s blind spot sensor systems have been transforming the lives of wheelchair users. The system mounts on any powered or manual wheelchair, automatically detecting obstacles and providing feedback to the user through intuitive lights, sounds, and vibrations. By providing alerts and leaving the user fully in control, the system maximizes user independence and freedom, while improving safety.

“I met Pooja in 2014, and have watched her create Braze Mobility from years of clinical research, and evidence,” Boyd said. “Sharing the same client-focused core values, I’m excited to be part of a team bringing this innovative technology that the majority of us take for granted in the vehicles we drive every day, to wheelchairs. I’m equally excited in what lies ahead, as Braze Mobility has many more technical innovations in development.”

Braze Mobility blind spot sensor systems are available for purchase globally starting at $1,655 US MSRP. For more information visit: www.brazemobility.com

About Braze Mobility: Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the company was founded by Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, who has incorporated over a decade of smart wheelchair research into state-of-the-art technology that improves accessibility and independence for people with physical disabilities.

Braze Mobility is dedicated to increasing independence, safety, and overall quality of life for people living with mobility challenges. We engage with end-users throughout the design process to create accessible and innovative technologies that are affordable and easy to use.

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Digital healthcare start-ups building solutions for aging adults to watch for 2021

03/08/2021

Read the full story on Hospital News:

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Meet the Finalists of CABHI’s MC² Market Readiness Program

01/12/2021

In August 2020, the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) launched a Call for Innovations for its Mentorship, Capital and Continuation (MC2) program, presented in partnership with National Bank. MCMarket Readiness sought early-stage companies creating solutions for aging adults in the healthtech space. The program addresses critical innovation gaps, not only by providing early-stage companies with direct access to two leading global accelerators, CABHI and Berkeley SkyDeck, but also by helping companies unlock funding to achieve their specific business milestones.

More than 50 companies applied, which indicates a thriving Ontario healthtech sector invested in building solutions for aging adults. Given that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on older adults’ lives, it is encouraging to see the scope of companies tackling these needs in-depth.

Semi-finalists were invited to pitch last autumn, and now CABHI is proud to announce the program’s six winning companies. They are currently (and virtually) participating in Berkeley SkyDeck, which offers access to the Silicon Valley ecosystem and a Pitch Showcase event, at which CABHI’s innovators may have the opportunity to pitch their solution to world-leading investors, buyers, industry leaders, and advisors. Typically, two out of every three companies that participate in this Pitch Showcase receive venture funding to scale and grow.

Read the entire article here https://www.cabhi.com/blog/meet-the-finalists-of-cabhis-2020-mc%C2%B2-market-readiness-program/

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Our Top 5 Accessibility-Themed Holiday Gifts

Accessible Holiday Gifts for 2020!

12/08/2020

As the snow begins to fly, and holiday music is playing on every radio station, there is no avoiding that the holidays are here! We have made a holiday gift guide with the perfect gifts for your friends & family who use a wheelchair. Keep them safe and happy this holiday season with Braze Mobility’s accessible holiday gifting guide! 

We have not tested these products for their usability, and advise that you do due diligence before purchase. 

  1. Access Masks ($21 CAD)

These face masks made by the Como foundation, make communication accessible to all through the use of a window in the face shield. This allows for easy lip reading for the hard of hearing, and can help people with speech difficulties communicate all while staying safe behind a mask. The fun colours and designs mean you can choose the perfect mask for your friend or loved one, and maybe for yourself as well to make the world a little more accessible! 

  1. Fun seat covers ($48 USD)

This website offers lots of wheelchair cushion covers in fun designs- with over 20 fabrics to choose from you can find the perfect one for a gift! The website custom makes them to fit any wheelchair, or if you are feeling crafty you could visit your local fabric store and make your own!

  1. Light up wheels ($39 USD)

These castor wheels are self-powered (meaning no need for battery replacements!) and will make a disco-party wherever you and your friend go! They come in a variety of sizes on the website. 

  1. The Braze Sentina
A photo of the Braze Mobility Sentina sensor

The Braze Sentina is a blind spot sensor system that can turn any wheelchair into a “smart” wheelchair. These add-on devices easily attach to any wheelchair and offer visual, audio, and vibrational feedback to wheelchair users regarding the location and proximity of obstacles. They provide the freedom of improved maneuverability, increased spatial awareness, and increased safety.

More information about the Braze Sentina can be found here!

  1. Umbrella holder ($17 CAD)

Depending on where you live, it’s hard to escape the rain. Even harder is having enough hands to steer/propel a wheelchair and hold an umbrella! With the gift of this umbrella holder, every time your friend or relative stays dry in the rain, they will think of you and your awesome gifting skills! 

Do you have any other accessibility gift ideas that you think would make someone’s holiday? Let us know in the comments!

From all of us at Braze Mobility, have a very safe and happy holiday season!

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BMO Announces 10 Recipients of $100,000 Grant Program for Women-Owned Businesses

11/19/2020

To mark Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, BMO Financial Group today announced the ten recipients of its $100,000 grant program. As part of its longstanding commitment to helping the advancement of women, the new grant program celebrates Canadian women business owners’ innovation and resilience during the pandemic.

To assist with the grant recipient selection process, BMO collaborated with key strategic partners to establish an advisory committee and judging panel consisting of leaders from GroYourBiz, Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), Women Get On Board, Women Business Enterprises Canada Council (WBE Canada), Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, and Deloitte.

Each business will receive $10,000 and have the opportunity to receive ongoing support through one of the bank’s partners, including a one-year membership with a peer advisory group for women business owners and a one-year certification with Women Business Enterprise Canada.

The BMO Celebrating Women 2020 Grant Recipients are:

  • Ayanna Lee Rivears, Socacize Fitness: Socacize Fitness is a creative blend of Caribbean and African dance techniques, with effective fitness movements.
  • Dr. Irit Van-Ham and Dr. Monika Yazdanian, ToeFX Inc.: Founded by two scientists, ToeFX is driven by innovation with a vision to create the world’s most effective foot care treatments.
  • Kim Knight and Shanelle McKenzie, The Villij: The Villij creates an inclusive, accessible, and nurturing community for women of colour to connect, heal and expand. It provides health and wellness services, including yoga, meditation, walking clubs, conversations, and workshops.
  • Meghan Peters and Kristin Verbeek, Lathered Cleaning Company Inc.: Established in 2013, Lathered Cleaning uses only natural cleaning products and is dedicated to giving time back safely and effectively to other busy people.
  • Pam Fanjoy, Fan/Joy: Chef Pam’s culinary passion has led her to create a line of Gourmet To Go prepared meals, the junior chef culinary and life skills programs and the youth-run café and marketplace to help improve the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of local youths and families.
  • Pooja Rao, got BALLZ Inc.: With a goal to produce high quality products, made with the utmost care from locally sourced ingredients, got BALLZ re-invents snacks and foods we love with a healthy twist.
  • Pooja Viswanathan, Braze Mobility Inc.: Braze Mobility has developed the world’s first blind-spot sensor system for wheelchairs, which automatically detects obstacles and provides multi-modal alerts (visual, vibration, and/or audio feedback) to the driver.
  • Rebecca Taylor, Ready to go Foods Inc.: With a passion for cooking and Caribbean flavours, Ready to go Foods allows those with busy lifestyles to enjoy healthy, Caribbean flavoured meals in their own kitchen.
  • Robyn Ledoux, A Touch of Health: Launched in 2009, A Touch of Health began as a simple one-woman massage therapy clinic. Since then, the business has grown to employ 10 people and has diversified to include a health food café, A Taste of Health.
  • Shehreen Zaman, Math Project: Math Project offers students the opportunity to strengthen their math skills through on-site and online interactive sessions with a qualified team of tutors.

“A large part of supporting the advancement of women is celebrating the contributions made by women leaders, entrepreneurs and mentors in local communities,” said Erminia (Ernie) Johannson, Group Head, North American Personal and Business Banking, BMO Financial Group. “We’re proud to recognize these women and their ability to innovate in their businesses and persevere during this difficult time. Congratulations to this year’s honourees on all their achievements.”

Since its inception in 2012, BMO Celebrating Women has honoured more than 180 women in communities across Canada and the United States. In addition to the new grant program, BMO has developed programs and invested in solutions to support women entrepreneurs. The bank committed to making $3 billion in capital available to women-owned businesses across Canada over three years, has embedded diversity-focused procurement programs, and has created a new women’s business directory.

“These women – who have clearly demonstrated unrelenting drive and resilience throughout this last year – are essential not only to our economy, but to the future of Canada; their achievements cannot be overstated,” said Linda Blair, Managing Partner, Ontario, Deloitte Canada. “Deloitte is proud to assist BMO in recognizing the value of these entrepreneurs, to elevate their success, and to help them thrive at every step along the way.”

To learn more about the grant recipients and BMO Celebrating Women, visit bmoforwomen.com and join the social conversation using #BMOforWomen.

https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/bmo-announces-10-recipients-of-100-000-grant-program-for-women-owned-businesses-880466698.html

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TTC Bus with the Braze Mobility branding on it

Accessible Transit: the What, Where & How of Wheel-Trans!

09/03/2020

I took my first Wheel-Trans trip this past weekend, and had the chance to discuss the pros and cons of the system with someone who has much more experience with it than I do. I will share some of those thoughts with you, and hope to hear your opinion as well! Have you used Wheel-Trans or a similar service? Leave a comment below about your experience and let’s start a conversation about what is working well and how we can improve accessible transit.

Check out our blog post on accessible subway transit!

What?

Wheel-Trans provides door-to-door transit service in Toronto for people who have a disability that prevents them from using the wider TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) transit system. This includes both temporary and permanent disabilities. If you are unable to use any conventional TTC transit, or are unable to access certain services offered by the TTC you may be eligible for Wheel-Trans services. For example, if you are able to use the subway but the location you need to go is close to an inaccessible subway station, you may be eligible for Wheel-Trans for all or part of that trip. To apply for Wheel-trans, click here.

The service is available 24h a day, 7 days a week and costs the same as a standard TTC fare.

Where?

Anywhere the TTC goes, Wheel-Trans offers a door-to-door service.

How?

In order to book Wheel-Trans service, you can either call (416-393-4222), book online, or use their automated phone booking service (416-397-8000). Bookings can be made 7 days in advance, but must be made at least 4 hours prior to departure (between 5AM and 11PM). The driver will pick you up from your home, and will drop you off at the designated location. The driver will help you to enter and exit the vehicle and safely strap your mobility device in. If you require additional support during your trip, bring a support person free of charge with a Support Person Assistance Card.

What TTC is killin’ it on!

  • Wheel-Trans is growing! The government just announced a $41 million investment in the service. This will provide 120 new accessible busses, create 18 new access hubs, as well as improving the digital presence of Wheel-Trans, and making booking easier!
  • Wheel-Trans provided 4.1 Million rides in 2017
  • You might be traveling on a Wheel-Trans bus, or a contracted accessible taxi- all for the price of a standard TTC fare! Typically the system is fairly direct from origin to destination. 
  • Travel between Toronto and other transit regions is made easier by agreements made with Durham, York and Peel Region

Areas that can be improved:

  • Booking can be difficult over the phone. This is recognized as an issue by TTC, and they have begun to offer alternative services, such as an automated booking line and online booking. Phone services could still be improved though. 
  • The booking system is not good at determining optimized routes for the busses. Often, people traveling from the same location get sent separate busses, which adds unnecessary strain on wheel trans resources.
  • When busses are running late, and or trips have been cancelled, the Wheel-Trans staff often call last minute, causing stress for the person relying on the ride.

Contact Wheel-Trans:

Booking: 416-393-4222
Priority line: 416-393-4111
TTC customer service: 416-393-3030
Eligability: WTEligibility@ttc.ca
Customer Service:  wtcs@ttc.ca 
More information:
http://www.ttc.ca/PDF/Wheel-Trans/Wheel-Trans_services_summary.pdf

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Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures and Techstars unveil cohort for ‘Future of Longevity’ Accelerator

09/02/2020

A group of ten startups will spend the next 13 weeks coming up with innovative caregiving solutions for aging adults.

Melinda Gates’ Pivotal Ventures and Techstars unveiled the first cohort for the new Future of Longevity Accelerator, a program that supports startups building products and services for caregivers.

Companies range from device makers to software platforms. Seven of the 10 CEOs are women, and nearly half of the founders are Black or Latinx. See the full list of companies below, with descriptions from the program.

  • Braze Mobility: Braze Mobility has developed the world’s first blind spot sensor system that can be attached to any motorized wheelchair, transforming it into a “smart” wheelchair. With Braze Mobility, users can more easily spot obstacles, helping to reduce the risks of injury and wheelchair damage and help users maintain their dignity and independence.
  • Candoo Tech: Candoo Tech provides on-demand tech support and training specifically designed to help older adults stay safe, independent, and connected. The company provides one-off sessions, device setup, and ongoing support for members looking to use technology to connect with family members, attend telehealth appointments, and go online.
  • Naborforce: Naborforce connects a network of community members, “Nabors,” to older adults for assistance with basic tasks and social engagement. These “backup” sons and daughters address the caregiver shortage while also helping combat loneliness.
  • UpsideHōm: UpsideHōm offers the only fully managed, shared living option for older adults to address the problems of loneliness and cost of housing.
  • ConnectCareHero: ConnectCareHero is an activities management platform that enables the teams supporting senior citizens to streamline state-required documentation, keep families easily connected, and provide a place where they can plan curated activities.
  • MemoryWell: MemoryWell is a digital platform that uses storytelling to improve the care of older people. Using its network of professional writers, MemoryWell works with families, senior living communities, and home- and community-based providers to replace intake questionnaires with brief, intimate stories designed to build empathy and be poignant keepsakes for families.
  • Rezilient Health: Rezilient’s robotic telehealth platform allows physicians to not only provide standard video visits, but also remotely control the positioning of medical devices that are located with the patient at another physician’s office, pharmacy, or nursing home, among other locations.
  • Rubitection: Rubitection’s skin health and care management tool improves the detection, risk assessment, and care management of dermatological and vascular conditions with an initial application to bedsores and diabetic foot ulcers for seniors at home, in nursing homes, or in hospitals.
  • Authored: Authored creates apparel that is thoughtfully engineered with discreet openings that adapt to body needs and limitations. The startup’s clothing promotes and prolongs independence, enables safer dressing, and reduces stigma and injuries.
  • Wysefit: Wysefit is a fitness app created specifically for older people. Taught by certified instructors and health professionals, the app’s programs address the needs of people as they age—from stretches to help with arthritis to exercises to build muscle and reduce lower back pain.

https://www.geekwire.com/2020/melinda-gates-pivotal-ventures-techstars-unveil-cohort-future-longevity-accelerator/

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Image with two people reaching out over the world shaped as a heart

5 Social Distancing Tips for People Who Use Wheelchairs

08/26/2020

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a wealth of changes, challenges, and anxiety for everyone. While it may feel like we are all helpless in slowing and stopping the spread of the deadly disease, social distancing has been effective in “flattening the curve” of infection, and relieving the pressure on the already strained health care system. In these times, it feels good to know the simple act of maintaining 6 feet of distance from others and staying home is helping those we care about, and those fighting the disease at the front lines. 

For those who have a disability or have challenges with mobility, staying 6 feet away from others is difficult, if not impossible to follow. Personal care requires contact with other people, and the use of mobility devices in crowded areas is already often a challenge to navigate safely without the added challenge of maintaining distance from others. The following list contains some ideas for social distancing while using a wheelchair, but we would love to hear how you are keeping safe during this pandemic. Leave a comment below!

1. Have help to monitor distance from others in your blind spots.

Trying to navigate in tight spaces like hallways and stores is difficult enough, let alone when people aren’t respectful of the space you need to keep yourself and others healthy. One way to let people know they are getting too close is to use the Braze Mobility Blind Spot Sensor system. Braze systems can be set to customized distances, and auditory feedback can be activated at the flip of a switch. Before leaving the house, simply set your Braze System to a 6’ threshold, turn the audio on, and make sure people know when they are getting too close to your wheelchair, without having to turn around! 

2. Avoid going out with your mobility device by staying in. 

Where possible, use this time as an opportunity to leverage your community and stay home! Avoid the lines, fist-fights over toilet paper and general mayhem that is happening at the grocery stores. Ask friends to pick up the things you need and drop them at your doorstep. This also gives the added bonus of having a socially-distanced visit with your friends while they drop the items off! There are also lots of delivery services that can get you the things you need from the comfort of your own home. Just be sure to properly clean anything that gets delivered. If you are unable to clean things yourself, consider leaving a container of disinfecting wipes and clean gloves out for your delivery-folks to wipe them down with (and maybe an extra tip for them!)

3. Plan your trips out.

Grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential stores often have times for people who have special considerations to shop at a quieter time. This is often in the mornings so if you are feeling like an early-bird give your local stores a call or an email and ask about what kind of considerations they have in place for shoppers that need some extra space or some assistance to maintain their social distance. 

4. Foster a virtual social network.

One of the best parts of this time is that it has given me the chance to reconnect with friends that live far away. Apps like Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger and HouseParty are great for making the social-distancing time feel like a remote-socialising time! Reach out to some old friends, maybe someone who moved away a while ago, and reconnect- you might just find a silver lining in the COVID-19 stormcloud!

5. Encourage anyone you are unable to socially distance from to follow all regulations.

We all have to work together during this time, and wherever you are not able to socially distance, you must rely on the people you interact with to keep themselves healthy. Having those who you do interact with follow guidelines is an important step in keeping yourself and them safe. Be sure to remind people who enter your home to follow the WHO and local health department guidelines for limiting the spread of the disease, such as wearing the proper personal protective equipment, following hand washing guidelines, and keeping a distance from others. Keeping yourself up to date with the recommendation from the WHO and other health departments is a great way to ensure that you are passing on the correct information to those around you!

All of us at Braze Mobility wish you all the best during this difficult time. Stay safe and healthy! 

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Image with four people wearing masks

Face Masks & Disabilities

08/23/2020

All advice in this blog should not replace medical advice. Be sure to follow updates from the WHO and CDC/Health Canada for the most updated advice on COVID-19 management. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the ability to go to stores, restaurants and other public places has been a welcome relief to many after months of isolation. Here in Ontario Canada, the opening of businesses has come with the requirement of all customers to wear a face mask or covering while inside the business (unless seated and eating). These laws are designed to keep everyone safe, while allowing a return to the lives that we have all been missing. 

But, how do people with disabilities fit into these laws? The use of facemasks may be a challenge for many people. According to the ADA, the people who may be limited in their ability to use a face mask includes: 

  • Someone who has low fine motor skills or spasticity in their upper body may find putting on or taking a mask off difficult
  • Someone who relies on lip reading for communication may find it difficult to understand others while they are wearing a mask.
  • Someone who uses a mouth-control for their wheelchair such as a sip-and-puff alternative joystick control would not be able to wear a mask while operating their chair. 
  • Someone who has speech impairment may not be understood while wearing a mask.
  • Someone with autism may experience sensory overload when having a mask covering their face
  • Someone with PTSD or claustrophobia may experience severe fear when wearing a mask
  • Someone with COPD or other breathing difficulty

For all of these reasons and many more, people with disabilities may not be able to wear facemasks in public. There is a requirement by the ADA to modify the rules around mask wearing to accommodate people with a disability. Some suggestions include: 

  • Allowing prompt curbside pickup from a safe social distance, using both telephone and internet orders
  • Allowing loose-fitting face coverings when entering buildings, including face shields
  • Allowing people to wait in vehicles for appointments, and calling them in when ready
  • Providing phone or video appointments as an option

All of these options are useful, however many of them do not reduce the isolation, or help return life to normal. People with disabilities have been greatly impacted by social isolation, and enabling a return to normal everyday life should be a priority. Some ideas for helping people with disabilities overcome the challenges of wearing masks include: 

  • Facemasks with transparent windows have been made by accessibility-focused groups  such as the Como Foundation to help those who are hard of hearing access masks that enable communication through lip-reading
  • Face Shields are another more loose-fitting option. Although the CDC does not currently recommend using face shields in place of a mask, they recommend that a mask that wraps around the face, and descends past the chin may be used when a mask is not a viable option. 
  • Help educate others about the importance of wearing a mask. If you are unable to wear a mask, help others protect you by encouraging proper mask wearing and hand cleaning & surface sanitizing. 

We would love to hear your ideas for staying healthy and returning to activities of daily living in the face of COVID-19. Leave a comment below! 

Sources:

COVID-19: Considerations for Wearing Masks. (2020, August 7). Retrieved August 08, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html Williamson, P. R., Morder, M. J., & Whaley, B. A. (2020) The ADA and Face Mask Policies [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from https://www.adasoutheast.org/ada/publications/legal/ada-and-face-mask-policies.php

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AMI This Week: Shortcut with Alex Smyth

08/10/2020

Alex Smyth learns about Braze Mobility, a company making blind spot detectors for wheelchair users, and chats with the CEO, Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, and a client to discover more.

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