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Braze Mobility image with symbols from mechanical cogs, joystick, power, lighting, and addition.

Things to Consider When Ordering a Power Wheelchair

07/23/2020

If you have recently been prescribed a power wheelchair, there are quite a few things to consider. There are many different options to choose between, and ensuring that you are provided with a chair that is right for you is important. The following blog post offers some ideas about options that you have when choosing a wheelchair. Speak to your Occupational or Physical Therapist and your wheelchair vendor if you have any questions regarding your wheelchair order. The following post contains some ideas of things to consider, but is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all options available.

Location of the drive wheels

The optimal location for the drive wheels on your chair will depend on a few things. Often, once someone gets used to a certain location of drive wheels, any other location might feel weird. Each type of chair has different pros and cons, so there is no one best location. Check out this website for a full comparison of the wheelchair drive trains.

Rear wheel drive

Pros: These chairs usually have the highest top speeds, and are very stable navigating rugged terrain.

Cons: The turning radius is higher in rear-wheel drive chairs, making navigation in tight spaces more difficult. Additionally, the concentration of mass at the back of the chair makes tipping on uphills more likely.

Front Wheel Drive

Pros: You will be able to turn your front end very quickly, making rounding tight corners easier! These chairs are also very stable, because they distribute the overall mass of the chair the most evenly. Additionally, you will be able to get close to workspaces or tables easily.

Cons: going uphill these chairs have a higher chance of losing traction, as if the mass is concentrated on the rear of the chair the front wheels will have less ability to grip. When turning corners in a front wheel drive chair it may be difficult to maintain awareness of the rear of the chair. This could result in hitting more things with the back of the chair if you aren’t careful! At top speeds, these chairs have also been known to be difficult to maintain control.

Mid Wheel Drive

Pros: These chairs are the most maneuverable of any chairs! You do not require any extra space to turn than that which you already have. They are also the most stable on a slope, because the mass is centered in the middle! Often, people find mid wheel drive chairs the easiest to drive.

Cons: They can get stuck in uneven terrain if the front and rear castors suspend the middle wheels.

Joystick Control Options

You can operate your chair using a few different methods depending on your abilities and preferences. These are some of the most common control types:

  • The most common control used is a hand-held joystick controller. These are controlled by using your hand to move the control arm in the direction you wish to go. Operation of these requires motor control of your hand and arm.
  • Chin control uses a chin instead of a hand to control the joystick. The controller will be mounted near your face, and you will use your chin to move the control arm.
  • A head array is a control that you can trigger with your head. Pushing your head towards the sensors on either side will turn the chair, and pushing your head backwards will make it move forwards. To reverse, a switch is activated and then you can push your head back on the head array.
  • Sip and puff users control their wheelchairs via air blown into or sucked out of a straw-like controller. For example a hard puff may mean forwards, and a hard sip backwards. Soft sip and soft puff may correlate to a left or right turn. This control method requires practice to drive smoothly, as the output is not intuitive.
  • Touchpads do not require much force, but do require steady control of the hand and arm. Sliding your hand along a controller panel will move the chair in that direction.
Lighting Options

Lights can be added to wheelchairs when ordering, however this option is typically quite expensive and often not covered by public insurance. Lights are important to ensure safety when driving, especially in traffic. This blog post discusses the importance of visibility in a wheelchair to prevent injury. If you do not want to spend hundreds of dollars on lights from the wheelchair manufacturer, many people create DIY solutions, including attaching battery powered lights to the chair. If you aren’t able to create a solution yourself, organisations like the Tetra Society may be able to help you make a custom light solution.

Power tilt, lift and elevation

Many power wheelchairs are able to tilt, recline, and seat elevate electronically. These features can be especially useful for people who are unable to adjust themselves in their seats. Being able to tilt back is an easy way for care attendants to help someone adjust back in their seat. Being able to recline is important if you are going to spend a lot of time in your chair as it will allow you to stretch your back out. Elevation will allow you to rise up to eye level with people who are standing, and is useful to reach high cabinets, and to reach counters at cashiers and coffee shops etc. These features may be funded depending on the need for them. Without funding, electric tilt, recline and elevate can cost thousands of dollars. Speak to your therapist about whether or not these features are right for you.

Options for Power Wheelchair Add-Ons

There are many different things that you can buy to add on to your wheelchair. Many of our blog posts discuss add-ons, including those that increase safety, increase rear visibility and are just cool features. One feature that you can add on that fits into all three of these categories is the Braze Sentina, which is a blind spot sensor system designed for use with wheelchairs. Learn more about the Braze Sentina here!

When you first bring your wheelchair home, you may find it difficult to know what the footprint of the chair is, and as a result there is a high chance that you will bump some walls and doorways in your home. This can be avoided using various visual aids, such as blind spot sensors to monitor the environment behind your wheelchair. Braze Mobility Inc. makes blind spot sensors that can be added to any wheelchair, and provide the user with 180 degrees of rear view blind spot coverage. More information about these systems can be found here

I hope this blog post has given you an idea of some of the options available to you in selecting your new wheelchair. Your OT and/or PT and wheelchair vendor are there to answer all of your questions and support you in your selection. Make sure that you advocate for yourself, and know your options in order to ensure that the chair you get is right for you. Please comment below if there are any other features you think should be included!

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Bethel University Students, Toronto Entrepreneurs take home top honors at Destination Medical Center’s Assistive Tech Challenge Virtual Pitch Competition

06/05/2020

Braze Mobility from Toronto placed First in the Professional Division for its patent-pending blind spot sensor system that can transform a wheelchair into a ‘smart’ wheelchair that automatically detects obstacles and provides multi-modal alerts to the driver. Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, co-founder and CEO pitched the product. Other team members include Namit Sharma, Dr. Alex Mihailidis and Madeleine Rawling.

“The DMC Assistive Tech Challenge was a great virtual experience,” said Viswanathan. “It was incredible to see so many companies working on assistive technologies that will impact millions of lives. Braze Mobility will be using the prize money to help accelerate development of sensor technology that will enable safe and independent wheelchair navigation.”

Read the full article here: https://dmc.mn/bethel-university-students-toronto-entrepreneurs-take-home-top-honors-at-destination-medical-centers-assistive-tech-challenge-virtual-pitch-competition/

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Image with a white old dial television and an orange accessibility symbol on the screen

5 Movies About People with Disabilities

05/29/2020

The world is starting to open back up after COVID-19, however we can all do our part to reduce the spread by staying home during this long weekend. No better way to motivate yourself to stay home than a Netflix-marathon! Here are some ideas for shows that have people with disabilities in them! What are you binging?

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

This movie is an incredible story about the plight of those on the forefront of the disability rights movement in the United States. From it’s beginnings at a hippy-run summer camp, to sit-ins and protests and the community and friendship that sustained the movement all along the way, this movie is both incredibly powerful, moving, inspiring, humorous and overall a must-watch. 

The trailer can be found here: Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

The Fundamentals of Caring

This movie is a fun and witty watch! It is about a man named Ben who suffers a personal tragedy, and quits his job to become a caregiver for Trevor, a teen with Muscular Dystrophy. The two embark on a road trip and chaos ensues. While the story centers around the client-caregiver relationship, it emphasises the human-ness in the relationship and does not leverage Trevor’s disability for cheap tear-jerking in the way Hollywood typically does. 

The trailer can be found here: The Fundamentals of Caring

Raising Dion

In this super-hero show, Sammi Haney, a 9 years old who uses a wheelchair, plays the main character (Dion)’s friend Esperanza. She is his wise friend, who helps keep Dion out of trouble (as much as she can!). This show is fun for the whole family and definitely worth a watch!

The trailer can be found here: Raising Dion

Switched at Birth

Looking to brush up on your ASL? Look no further than Switched at Birth! This show is about girls who find out they were switched at birth. One character is hard of hearing, and played by an actress who is deaf. Much of the show is signed in ASL, and gives viewers a deeper understanding of the deaf community. 

The trailer can be found here: Switched at Birth

Breathe

The story of a man who is unable to breathe independently, but refuses to live in the confines of a hospital for his life. Him and his wife embrace the technological innovations available to them to be able to leave the hospital, and embrace life together. This movie shows the importance of technology to destroy the barriers facing people with disabilities from living independently. It shows how far adaptive technology has come. To learn more about adaptive technology and the importance of it to support independence, check out Braze Mobility Blind Spot Sensors for Wheelchairs

The trailer can be found here: Breathe

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Finalists announced in startup competition that will showcase technology-based solutions for seniors and caregivers

05/28/2020

Fifteen Canadian startups have been chosen to compete in this year’s AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge, it was announced today.

Finalists will be challenged to explain how their technology-based solution can positively impact older Canadians or their caregivers.

Five finalists will compete in each of three virtual events reflecting the broad spectrum of innovation that exists in Canada’s AgeTech sector. The winner at each event will receive $20,000 in cash, plus in-kind prizes.

Finalists in Competition #1 (June 18 livestream):

  • eNable Analytics
  • HomeEXCEPT
  • Novalte
  • ServUs Health
  • Sparrow Acoustics

Finalists in Competition #2 (July 9 livestream):

  • Able Innovations
  • Braze Mobility
  • Neurofit
  • Stabilo Medical
  • VitalTracer

Finalists in Competition #3 (Sept 29 livestream, in conjunction with the BC Seniors Living Association annual conference):

  • GTCare
  • MatchWork
  • Seven Movements
  • Tochtech Technologies
  • Virtual Gym

Read about the finalists here.

To register to watch the first two pitch events via livestream, please visit the competition main page. Registered audience members will have a chance to win a Kobo eReader.

Each event also includes a lively panel discussion on the future of AgeTech and its impact on areas such as brain health.

“The need for technologies and services that benefit older Canadians and caregivers is more apparent than ever in these challenging times,” said Dr. Alex Mihailidis, Scientific Co-Director and CEO of the AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence. “This competition will spotlight top Canadian startups whose innovations can support the health and quality of life of seniors and those who care for them.”

The competition will also support entrepreneurship in Canada’s AgeTech sector, and advance our country’s leadership in technology-based solutions that benefit people everywhere, Dr. Mihailidis said.

AGE-WELL, Canada’s Technology and Aging Network, brings together researchers, older adults, caregivers, partner organizations and future leaders to accelerate the delivery of technology-based solutions that make a meaningful difference in the lives of Canadians.

AGE-WELL thanks all startups and entrepreneurs who submitted applications to the AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge, and congratulates the finalists. Each finalist will deliver a 5-minute pitch, followed by a 5-minute Q&A with a panel of expert judges.

Thank you to the sponsors of this competition: Aging2.0 Local I Halifax Chapter, BC Seniors Living Association, Bereskin & Parr LLP, CARP, IBM Canada Ltd., Impact Centre, Innovacorp, Innovation PEI, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Ontario Brain Institute, Spectrum Health Care, and YouAreUNLTD.

newswire.ca/news-releases/finalists-announced-in-startup-competition-that-will-showcase-technology-based-solutions-for-seniors-and-caregivers-814690251.html

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Preparing for Emergencies When Using a Wheelchair: Healthcare

05/24/2020

s the world faces the COVID-19 crisis, it is time to evaluate what emergency preparedness means for the disability community and wheelchair-users in particular. The focus of this article is the development of the health care accessibility standard for people with disabilities. This advice is written by Terri-Lynn Langdon who is a resident of Ontario, Canada and uses a wheelchair. The opinions expressed are Terri-Lynns, and should not replace medical advice. 

The healthcare concerns of the wheelchair-using community demands attention every-day in order to continue to make healthcare services and options increasingly accessible to all of us, and no time for this is more crucial than during the Covid19 crisis. Here are 5 things to consider when advocating for yourself in the healthcare system to ensure you are ready for whatever the happens.

  1. If you do not have a family doctor, reach out to your local health care network and inform them of your situation, and ask to be advised on next steps. In Ontario, contact Health Care Connect http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/ms/healthcareconnect/pro/
  2. If there are non-essential medical needs during this time, speak to your healthcare provider about accessing your appointment remotely through tele-health or delaying it until after COVID-19 concerns are controlled.
  3. For essential care needs try to access a familiar clinic and use the same service as often as possible to help ensure continuity of healthcare and communications related to your healthcare visits. Make sure you let your healthcare team know what you need in order to make your healthcare experiences as accessible as possible, this includes transportation to medical appointments.
  4. In a medical emergency, you cannot control which hospital or medical team you receive care from. For this reason, keep a summary of your medical conditions, emergency contacts and medications in your wallet.
  5. Make sure that your medications are up to date and that you have access to them. Call your local pharmacy and see whether they will deliver your medications. Call ahead to pre-book delivery to ensure you are able to receive your medications on time. 

Thank you for joining us! Come back next week for the second part of the Emergency Preparedness for People Who Use Wheelchairs series. 

Sources Consulted:

Health Care Connect Ontario. Accessed Online:  http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/ms/healthcareconnect/pro/ 

Lapofsky, D. (2019). Achieving a barrier-Free healthcare system. Osgood Hall Law School. Accessed on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2yuFz_z9V0

Medic Alert Canada (2020). Accessed Online: https://www.medicalert.ca/programs

Revoler (2020). Accessed Online: https://revolar.com/ Thompson, G. (2020). What Must Be Done to Make Ontario’s Health Care System Fully Accessible to Patients with Disabilities? Check Out the AODA Alliance’s Finalized Framework for the Promised Health Care Accessibility Standard. Accessed Online: https://www.aoda.ca/what-must-be-done-to-make-ontarios-health-care-system-fully-accessible-to-patients-with-disabilities-check-out-the-aoda-alliances-finalized-framework-for-the-promised-health-care-accessibility-st/

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Image with flowers on each side and two people in the middle in a heart with one person on the left in a wheelchair

An Open Letter to Mothers with a Disability

05/10/2020

On this day of celebrating the triumphs and joy of motherhood, we want to wish all parents and mothers a wonderful day, and thank them for all of the work that they do. This blog was written by Terri-Lynn who is the mother of an 18-month old daughter, and uses a wheelchair. In this open letter, Terri-Lynn shares her experience, including the challenges and guilt that can arise as a result of societal pressures and opinions toward parents with disabilities. 

To all of the disabled mothers and parents on this day, I want to let you all know that in my mind and in my heart you are loved, you are loved, you are loved.

In a world where disabled parents are constantly questioned by ignorant others who ask, “is that child yours?” I feel the heartache of that….

In a world where disabled people are told that their genes are dangerous or unwanted, I am sending love.

In a world where you are told that your role as parents is unwanted, undesirable, unlivable, inconceivable, irresponsible, and selfish, I am sending love….

In a world where you may be told that you are a burden to society and to your own children, I am sending love….

In a world where disabled parents are often subjected to violence in the form of cutting words and myths, I am sending love.

In a world where your parenting role is validated, praised, and valued I am sending love and hope that others in the world can get to that place as well.

To all parents with a disability: I hear you, I see you, and I am holding a space of love and hope for a world that honors disabled parents and disabled women on Mother’s Day. 

I am a single-choice mom and a wheelchair-user of a 19 month old little girl. I love my daughter deeply, and we have conquered many challenges together. On February 1st of this year I sent out an SOS on Facebook for help. In hindsight, I’m unsure why I sent this particular SOS because I was offered help but ironically, I did not have time to respond. However, I do know it made me feel as if I was doing something to maybe change the course of a very bad day. 

My day went as follows: our nurturing assistant did show up but she had to leave early. All was well but Jaycie didn’t nap at all that day and by 2:30pm all of the contents of my daughters’ lunch of chicken pasta in tomato sauce and rice pudding were on the floor. I left her momentarily with some crayons and a coloring book to go pee and in that minutes long period of time the tomato sauce and rice pudding were all over the floor and the wall mixed in with toilet paper in a fantastic piece of 15 month old paper mache art. My efforts to clean this all up were met with more mess in the kitchen by my 15-month-old artist. I was about to lose my mommy-mind so, after I cleaned up my little girl, I told Jaycie we would put on her shoes and go for a walk in the halls and in the lobby. She agreed, as she is a talented runner. All was well. The day was getting better I thought, but then….

My little girl got stuck in an elevator by herself because it got jammed and refused to open. I could hear her in the elevator, but the door would not open. I yelled out to my neighbours when it appeared that the elevator went to the parking garage. The security guard was nowhere in sight. One neighbour went downstairs to the parking garage by foot; the other one called 911 to say my kiddo was stuck, alone, in the elevator. A third neighbour who was just coming in from the parking garage picked up Jaycie and brought her to the lobby. When she saw me she was laughing and was all smiles. My heart had to be revived.

In this story, on this day, all was well. But there are deep moments of guilt within that story as a wheelchair-using momma. Starting with… well if my legs worked I could have run down to the parking garage myself. If my legs worked, and if only I had enough depth-perception to drive, I might know where the parking garage is (I’ve actually never been there!). If I had more balance I could and should mop up the tomato-sauce rice pudding toilet paper-mache mess off of the floor. But, in the absence of that, most of that mess will be there in some form until tomorrow when an able-bodied person using able-bodied tools will, and can do it. None of this would have happened if we could just take the stairs!

And the very worse thought of all….yes the elevator obviously malfunctioned, that could have happened to any parent regardless of ability, but what if Jaycie went into the parking garage and because she is so small and so unexpected in that in that environment…what if she had been hit by a car!?

This is my experience of deep guilt as a disabled mother. It’s actually hard to write about.

Since the state of emergency in Toronto my extremely happy, and engaged child has become distressed some of the time because the loss of daycare and going out to play spaces and seeing friends is not possible. For the first time, I am seeing my child struggle with boredom.

And I…. love the privilege of being her mom and at the same time I’m an exhausted woman. Due to a spinal condition I am not supposed to lift anything over 20 lbs. Jaycie is well over 20 lbs and I lift her all of the time, and now many more times a day, due to a lack of her wonderful daycare. As a wheelchair- user you can’t lift anything with your legs to offset the weight as is the ‘safe-lifting procedure’ for folks with more mobility. 

And without writing a very long essay. I need to say to disabled parents and to anyone who might listen and might care that the disability community and disabled parents have been largely overlooked and forgotten in this pandemic and that is a weighty truth.

A few days ago, Jaycie was very direct in reporting “I not bebe.” She also absolutely burst into tears in the lobby a few days ago when no one would hug her or pick her up. This was a regular highlight for her and for me before the pandemic hit.

In an effort to be ‘a good mother’ I am not imposing any kind of additional changes in my young child’s life at the moment. For example, a pediatrician recommended that we give up bottles just before  the pandemic and I’ve chosen not to do that because it might represent  another loss for my child. Additionally, My child has some toys that she has grown out of including a push-cart that she doesn’t need because she runs and has great balance all on her own. But because she loves her push-cart, I’ve not rehomed it yet.

Terri-Lynn’s daughter wearing sunglasses

What I have learned in this time is that I am incredibly strong. My child just had her 18 month doctors appointment and from the point of view of that visit, Jaycie is doing great. My child is strong and resilient, and wildly intelligent and funny. I am always-already reminded of how deeply human we all are from the late night feedings, and deep mother-guilt. Occasionally my child wakes up at 3:00am just to attempt to tell me a story or sing Old Macdonald and that is to be cherished. There are also my own wild nightmares, body pain, the limits of my body faced with the limits of the pandemic and the limits of a toddler’s body-mind. There is my own mind and my own wild nightmares. And in being human- at the end of the day- there is hope.  

I have also learned that I should never have quit drinking coffee.

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Professional Communication with Attendants & Nurturing Assistance during COVID-19

03/30/2020

Blog by: Terri-Lynn Langdon

With the City of Toronto in a state of emergency due to the global COVID-19 crisis, these are especially challenging times for wheelchair users. As a wheelchair user and a sole-parent to an 18-month-old, my daughter and I both rely on Direct Funding for nurturing assistance and attendant care. As the situation worsened in Toronto, one of my attendants was worried about taking the the public transit. Another attendant had been traveling extensively and was required to self-isolate upon returning home. Since I have a limited amount of funding and hours support, and folks to support us, this predicament left my daughter and I in a tough spot. Having said that, I was able to plan to cover the shifts for the attendant in self-isolation, but not for the attendant who felt that taking public transit was not an option.

Recent conversations with my friends and colleagues on social media revealed that we were not alone in this issue. As a result, I sent out a short note to our support team. Hopefully sharing this communication can help others plan how to handle attendant care disruption during this time. My email stated the following points:

  • Attendant care is an essential service and we rely on attendants/nurturing assistance for daily living needs. As such, coming to work is an essential expectation of the role. I shared that attendant care agencies across the province are in full swing.
  • Individual homes and any work-related tasks under direct funding have Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage for all staff, starting on their first day of work. The safety of the work environment is the responsibility of self-managers and this is an important worker protection. I assured all staff that I was doing more spot-cleaning and surface cleaning in our home. I also reminded everyone that we always have soap, hand sanitizer and gloves on hand.
  • If people using attendants can’t do surface cleaning on their own or if there are some areas of your home that are challenging, let your staff know how you plan to address that (if that is a concern for anyone).
  • I informed staff that as a self-manager in receipt of Direct Funding, we are not eligible for any other service as a result of qualifying under this program which is funded by the Ministry of Health.
  • I also shared that as a self-manager, I could not personally address the challenges occurring with transit during a city-wide lockdown, however I would be open to helping folks access a taxi service in the city if needed.
  • I opened up communication with our team inviting them to reach out if they had concerns.

Considering these multi-layered concerns and how they impact wheelchair users, it is important for those of us who use these essential supports to become advocates for the attendant care and nurturing assistant professions. As a group, wheelchair users can advocate for:

  • Attendants to have job protection and benefits at work.
  • A living wage for this profession.
  • More visibility for the profession especially during states of emergency.
  • Addressing gaps in services and existing policies for individuals with mobility impairment during a time such as this one.

In much of the communication I have seen so far, the disability community has been more broadly referred to as a ‘vulnerable group’ and the direction in these communications is that friends, family and professionals need to check-up on individuals with disability. However, this tone of communication is non-committal and often lacks references to specific resources. Unfortunately, it also does not speak to the specific actions or support that individuals with disability require during emergency situations.

Simply acknowledging attendants and nurturing assistance as an essential service may help for emergency measures communications. This recognition is crucial given the importance of the role that attendant care professionals play in the lives of those with disabilities. The state of emergency is challenging for everyone; however, if attendants don’t show up because of restrictions in emergency situations, the disability community will be in a persistent state of disadvantage. Such consequences are unacceptable in a community where assistance is required for basic and essential tasks of living and being.

*Some organizations have indeed provided specific resources which will be identified in a subsequent blog post.

Terri-Lynn Langdon is a feminist, disability studies and health equity scholar/ activist in Social Justice Education at The Ontario Institute for Studies In Education. She has over 11 years of experience in the Social Work field. Terri-Lynn is passionate about helping people to achieve the best possible health and a meaning-making life. She can assist service-users to figure out how best to address their own challenges and be their authentic selves.   

References:

Direct Funding Ontario (2020). Accessed Online: https://www.dfontario.ca/

Self-Managers: https://www.dfontario.ca/

Direct Funding (2017). Program Promoting Independence Grows Again. Accessed Online: https://www.dfontario.ca/info/announcements.html

Email communications from Councillor Krystin Wong-Tam and Councillor Paul Anslie, March 22, 2020

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (2020). Accessed online: https://www.wsib.ca/en/businesses/registration-and-coverage/do-you-need-register-us

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HELLO, TOMORROW!

03/01/2020

Robotics have the potential to impact CRT in a big way. How are startups and researchers tackling the complicated landscape?

When Dan Ding first started as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh in 2001, she had never heard the term “rehabilitation robotics.” She attended robotics conferences while earning her Ph.D. in Hong Kong, but rarely saw sessions on healthcare applications, much less the type of work that would soon change the complex rehab technology (CRT) industry.

“I don’t think at the time the term was coined,” Ding, now an associate professor in the university’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, told Mobility Management. “I definitely witnessed the whole growth of this technology’s involvement in rehabilitation and assistive technology, so I feel very fortunate that, before that happened, I was able to get into this field.”

Ding’s early experiences are a far cry from the landscape of robotics in complex rehab today, where new startups have introduced technology ranging from eye-gaze wheelchair controls to blind-spot sensors that can be mounted on several parts of a power chair. Large manufacturers are following suit by integrating new developments, such as patient monitoring technology, into their seat cushions and chairs.

While there is a sense of unlimited possibilities for the applications of robotic technology, experts in the field say there are also immense challenges facing the industry, particularly in terms of the high costs for patients seeking the latest equipment and the regulatory hurdles for CRT companies trying to bring innovative products to market.

Braze Mobility Sensor System

Braze Mobility’s sensor system

For Pooja Viswanathan, the CEO and founder of the Toronto-based blind-spot sensor manufacturer Braze Mobility, the CRT industry is just “skimming the surface” of what’s possible in terms of finding solutions for patients.

“I think there’s tremendous opportunity for growth as long as it’s customer-centric,” Viswanathan said in an interview. “The challenge in robotics is that it often ends up being a technology push. As long as the focus stays on the problems rather than the solutions and on the customer rather than the developer, there is tremendous opportunity.”

A WINDING ROAD FOR IBOT & TOYOTA

The path for robotics in complex rehab has been long and winding over the past two decades, including the widely publicized production (and later discontinuation) of the iBOT stair-climbing wheelchair system.

In 2003, Independence Technology — a division of healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson — introduced the iBOT to rave reviews from mainstream media, who hailed the wheelchair as a revolutionary device that “will force [wheelchair users] to reconsider virtually all the presumed boundaries in the world,” according to one Dateline NBC reporter.

But as Mobility Management reported at the time, Independence Technology hit several snags in its quest to sell the iBOT directly to consumers via clinician assessment and cut CRT providers from the distribution chain. The chair cost $26,000 at the time the company ceased production in 2009, and Medicare declined to classify its seat elevation or stairclimbing abilities as “medically necessary.” While popular with veterans and some clinicians, the iBOT also did not offer typical rehab functions, such as tilt, recline or elevating legrests. In addition, users needed the ability to use a traditional joystick.
Mobius Mobility iBOT

Mobius Mobility’s iBOT

In turn, Independence Technology struggled to sell the chair, citing low demand before dissolving in 2009. The iBOT has continued to be revived by other companies, including Toyota North America and most recently by Mobius Mobility, which began promoting the chair last year with some added rehab functions.

Toyota is no longer involved with the iBOT nearly four years after signing an agreement with inventor Dean Kamen to develop the “next generation” of iBOT, according to Doug Moore, GM, Technology for Human Support at Toyota North America. Instead, Toyota has been at work on several mobility-related projects, demonstrating the Japanese mega-corporation’s commitment to becoming a “mobility company” rather than an automotive company, Moore said.

“We have been spending a ton of time, especially in this complex rehab area, making sure that we understand the real needs,” Moore told Mobility Management in an interview. “We’ve been looking at the end customers, whether it’s direct users, caregivers, care receivers or ATPs, PTs, DMEs, all these individuals. We’ve been having conversations across the whole world to understand what are the real challenges and what are the real needs that are out there.”

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020 in January, Toyota’s display featured examples of mobility products that would be included in the company’s ideal “Woven City.” Those products included the Human Support Robot (HSR), an AI robot with voice-control capability, and a wheelchair-link battery electric vehicle (BEV) designed for “those who have difficulty walking and those in wheelchairs,” according to a press release.

Moore, who has risen to the top of the robotics team since joining Toyota in 2011, stopped short of committing to any mobility product releases from the company. He noted his experience working on Project BLAID, a wearable device for blind and visually impaired people that the company first publicized in 2016. While that and other mobility products have not been released yet, showcasing that Toyota is focused on developing inclusive products is important, Moore said.

“I’ve intentionally tried to make sure we don’t over-promise and under-deliver, because there’s still a lot of thinking that has to go into these platforms to make sure we can execute it right,” Moore said. “We want to show people that we are thinking and considering the true needs and the true value of what it means to bring solutions to the whole broad community, but at the same time we have to be careful and cautious about what we put out there.”

ROBOTICS PRODUCTS COME TO COMPLEX REHAB

Robotics engineers in the CRT and mobility world have one trait in common: a desire to see their algorithms and technical work turn into an application that changes people’s lives.

For Jay Beavers, a co-founder and managing member of Seattle-based Evergreen Circuits, the inspiration came from Steve Gleason, the former NFL player turned ALS activist. When Gleason challenged a group of Microsoft employees to create a system allowing him to drive his wheelchair with his eyes, they answered the call.

After Microsoft decided not to proceed into the medical device sector, Beavers and his partners created their own company and began to sell the Independence Drive system, which combines a power wheelchair, tablet computer and eye-tracking camera, in 2018.

“The thing that I think robotics will do that will really impact this industry is provide for more independent living and reduce the need for 24-hour caregivers,” Beavers said in an interview. “Japan is kind of on the cusp of this because they’re ahead of us in terms of having an aging population and not having enough caregivers. We in the U.S. are going to need to address the same issue in the next 20 to 30 years. That’s the biggest opportunity.”

Read the full article here: https://mobilitymgmt.com/Articles/2020/03/01/Robotics.aspx

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Image with the accessibility symbol and the words Accessible Design

All About Accessible Design

02/04/2020

When I joined Braze Mobility, I found all discussion of the design process fascinating, and the iterations undertaken by the design team are a great study in accessible design. The following blog series will discuss Universal Design and Accessible Design, and will profile some great design concepts that inspire and help.

There is no such thing as disability, only poor design*. Of course, some people have a harder time navigating the built environment than others, and there are people who have physical and cognitive abilities that change the way in which they interact with the world. But, when a person is unable to go into a restaurant because someone built stairs instead of a ramp, is it their disability holding them back, or the short-sightedness of the architect who failed to realize not everyone gets around using two legs? Likewise, if someone who is on the Autism spectrum has difficulty visiting a shopping mall at during the holiday times, the poor overstimulating design is to blame for their inability to interact with the environment.

The world is beginning to become more accessible. Governments are producing legislation that forces businesses to ensure their premises are as accessible as possible, such as the AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). Ensuring that spaces and products are able to be used specifically by people with disabilities is important. People regardless of ability and mobility should have the same opportunities to succeed and interact with their environment, no question. Ensuring that a business is accessible also benefits the business itself. By being inaccessible, not only are you losing the business of the person who can’t get into the store, but also everyone who is with them. Accessible design benefits everyone.

But, design for people with disabilities has an added benefit- spaces and products designed to be used by people with disabilities also tend to be easier to use for people without disabilities as well. Take the example of the curb cut, for instance. (If you haven’t heard the story of the Rolling Quads at Berkeley in the 1970’s, there is a great 99% invisible podcast that outlines the story.)

The positive impact of curb cuts benefits everyone, not just those with disabilities. Whether a person using a wheelchair, a parent pushing a stroller, an elderly person wheeling their groceries or just someone crossing the road who doesn’t want to take a step up, curb cuts help make travelling on sidewalks easier. Studies have shown that 90% of people will alter their course to use a curb cut instead of stepping up onto a curb, regardless of physical ability.

This phenomenon is known as the “curb cut effect”, and is a widespread aspect of design.

So, how can we design things to be universally accessible, and therefore a better design for everyone? Follow this blog series to follow our accessible design process! I would love to hear from you if you have any thoughts about accessible design. You can reach me at madeleine.r@brazemobility.com!

*This statement is intended to demonstrate the necessity of considering all abilities in design, and how good design can enable all people to interact with their environment. It is not intended to minimize the impact a disability has on someone’s life.

Further reading: https://ssir.org/articles/entry/the_curb_cut_effect

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Image of the wing of an airplane and the words accessible travel

Accessible Travel Ideas

01/28/2020

Everyone needs to get away and escape real life at some point, and no time is better than mid-winter to jet-set away! Travelling as a person with a disability can be difficult- the need to bring extra equipment and airlines who just can’t seem to figure out how to transport wheelchairs without breaking or losing them. The knowledge that your destination will not only be accessible, but fully inclusive makes it all worth it. We put together a list of accessible vacation spots that are fun for the whole family! All of these locations were designed specifically to meet the needs of people with various disabilities and fully include people of all abilities in the activities and fun!

Accessible Travel In North America
Accessible Travel In The United States

The Magical Bridge is an organization that builds accessible parks designed to match the needs of people of all abilities, where everyone has the chance to play and explore! The playgrounds are completely FREE to visit and are located in multiple cities in California, USA. They are rapidly expanding, so keep an eye open for a Magic Bridge opening near you!

In San Antonio TX, there is a fully inclusive theme park and water park called Morgan’s Wonderland and Morgan’s Inspiration Island. You can take a spin on the giant Ferris Wheel in your wheelchair, or splash around in a fully accessible pirate ship. The organization also offers discounts for nearby hotels with accessible rooms, so you can plan your trip stress-free! 

Accessible Travel in Canad

There are many options for summer camps in Canada that are fully accessible for people with disabilities! I have a special place in my heart for Easter Seals Camps, which have both individual sessions for campers aged 8-26, and family camps where the whole family can enjoy camp fun! Check out Easter Seals Camp Woodeden in London- you can climb the largest fully accessible high ropes course in North America, take a dip in the pool, make pottery, bake treats and have a camp out in the fully accessible yurts! 

There are Easter Seals Camps all over Canada- check out your local Easter Seals to learn more!

Alberta- Camp Horizon

BC- Camp Squamish

     – Camp Winfield

     – Camp Shawnigan

Nova Scotia- Camp Tidnish

Ontario – Camp Woodeden

             – Camp Merrywood

Newfoundland and Labrador – Camp Bumbleberry

Saskatchewan- Camp Easter Seal

At the Cold Water Ranch the Abilitas foundation offers a fully accessible vacation home for people with disabilities and their families to go to get a break from real life and have time to bond as a family! Set in the mountains of BC, 30 minutes west of Merritt you can experience the tranquility of a working ranch in a fully accessible lodge. You can stay for up to 4 days, with just a modest fee for booking and cleaning. 

Accessible Travel In Oceania
Accessible Travel in Australia

Sargood on Collaroy is a purpose built resort for people with a spinal cord injury. Located on the sunny shores of Sydney Australia, Sargood on Collaroy is a great place to escape everyday life, and try out all sorts of new things- surfing, sailing, snorkeling, golf, ceramics, fishing, gardening, kite flying- you name it! All of the activities are run by therapists who specialise in assisting people with spinal cord injury, and adaptive equipment is included! Sargood on Collaroy is a fully accessible location, and they supply most of the equipment you will need, so you can travel light. There are also attendants on site, who can assist you or you are welcome to bring your own carer! Some funding is available for a stay, although pricing is not available on their site.

Accessible Travel in Europe
Accessible Travel In Sweden

Sweden has made it a goal to be the most accessible place to travel. Check out their accessible travel website which includes a database of accessible locations. Some planning is required, however travelling Sweden with accessibility needs is made much more possible by the huge steps taken by the government and other organizations to improve accessibility and to clearly mark accessible locations. The database shows detailed pictures and descriptions of accessibility features and barriers, and could help plan a great vacation!

The Musholm Centre is a new fully accessible sports resort designed for people with disabilities, located 2 hours from Stockholm. The centre provides accessible activities for the whole family including power wheelchair hockey, rock climbing and many other sports and activities. They also provide equipment needed during your trip if you arrange ahead of time so you can pack light! You could tag a stay at the Musholm center onto a tour of Scandinavia, one of the most accessible areas of the world.

Accessible Travel In Asia
Accessible Travel in Japan

Japan has made big investments in increasing accessibility. Their Accessible Tourism Center provides resources and recommendations for planning a trip. They make recommendations for areas you can visit, including the accessibility requirements for businesses. 

Want to be safer while you travel? The Braze Mobility blind spot sensor systems provide many benefits to travellers who use wheelchairs! Sensors can alert you to pickpockets looking to get into the backpack on the back of your chair, and to navigate unfamiliar spaces! Check out the new Braze Sentina here!

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