It all began on August 26 and 27. The Breaking Boundaries: Collaboration Challenge launched the 2021 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Innovation Experience (iEX) Virtual Series with amazing success. Over 425 participants tuned in over the two days to see 19 external health care innovators, entrepreneurs and start-ups pitch their early-stage solutions for the chance to collaborate with VA, present at the 2021 iEX Marquee Event in October, and most importantly, impact Veteran lives by forging a healthier future.
The competition resulted in 10 companies being selected to join with VHA Innovators Network (iNET) sites to further the design and develop their innovative solutions.
The event, co-hosted by the Founder Institute and VHA Innovation Ecosystem, also included an exciting keynote speaker and energizing fireside chat and panel.
Torrey Smith, CEO, Endiatx, gave an engaging look at how companies can collaborate to move their innovation forward and demonstrated his incredible technology – a camera in a pill that allows doctors to remotely explore a patient’s stomach. Dr. Ryan Vega, chief officer, Office of Healthcare Innovation and Learning, spoke candidly with Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VHA deputy under secretary for health for the Office of Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks, about how innovation and collaboration are at the core of everything VA does.
“VA has been breaking boundaries for decades,” said Dr. Clancy. “That includes our 95-year-old research program… to the Innovation Ecosystem. In the past year, this has served us well. VA was way ahead of the curve with telehealth. Breaking boundaries is clearly part of our fabric.”
Allison Amrhein, director of Operations, iNET, followed this up by leading an in-depth panel on how the VHA Innovation Ecosystem is helping VA and outside organizations co-design innovative health care solutions for tomorrow. The panel featured multiple experts, including Ryan Micheletti of Founder Institute, Gina Adams from Wareologie, Dr. Sergio Garcia Vergara of RIF Robotics, and Kathryn Beckner, innovation specialist from the Central Virginia VA Health Care System.
“Collaboration is so important to VA, because just like no patient is the same, no concept is the same. No idea would be fully formed, and no solution fully thought-out without diverse perspectives and collaboration,” said Beckner. “That leads to the best solution for the health care environment and also for the Veteran.”
Braze Mobility Inc. is developing a terrain analysis system to help wheelchair users navigate outdoor environments more safely and independently using their proprietary machine learning algorithms that identify hazards.
Lead Site: VA Palo Alto Health Care System.
Other Sites: Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital, Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, VA Western Colorado Health Care System, and Milwaukee VA Medical Center.
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AGE-WELL nurtures startups through funding, competitions, mentorship, access to expert services and other supports, helping companies commercialize and bring their products to markets around the world.
Dr. Pooja Viswanathan, co-founder and CEO of Braze Mobility, says that as a first-time entrepreneur, it can be challenging to become established and get the word out.
“AGE-WELL was really critical in not only providing financial support but also in offering mentorship and connections, as well as visibility through their events and workshops,” she says. “Through all of these different resources, we were able to be very cost-efficient early on and actually get to market much faster than we otherwise would have.”
Dr. Viswanathan will share her experiences with growing a startup as one of more than 50 speakers at AgeTech Innovation Week, a free virtual event hosted by AGE-WELL from October 4 to 8, 2021.
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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.Read More
The Innovation Challenges are designed to showcase startups at the forefront of AgeTech, with solutions that empower people to choose how they live as they age. The Challenges have included digital learning for older adults, fraud and personal security, and entertainment, among others. See below for a complete list of Challenges and descriptions.
We’re embarking on a global search for solutions that help people age in place more effectively and safely.
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Recently, I took a power wheelchair for a test drive through downtown Toronto, Ontario. Within a two hour period, I had hit at least 2 doorways, and narrowly missed the ankles of more than one person with my footrests (thankfully being Canadian they jumped out of the way of my rampaging chair with a cheerful “sorry”). This experience made it very clear the challenges associated with driving a power wheelchair- especially in a tight space. The following blog series will focus on the danger associated with operating power mobility devices, and how we can reduce that danger and improve access to power wheelchairs.
It is important to understand the risks associated with power wheelchair use in order to find ways to minimise risks while maximising the independence of users. It is, however, difficult to measure the prevalence of collisions incurred by power wheelchair users. Statistics are difficult to obtain, as there is no central reporting centre for power wheelchair accidents. There are some research studies that have been done to evaluate the incidence of collisions for power wheelchair users.
Many of these studies are focused on the use of power mobility devices in an institutional setting. Here is a brief summary of the results of some of these studies:
- Frank et al. (2000) found that within 4 months of receiving a power mobility device, 13% (15 out of 113) of people surveyed reported at least one accident, including tipping from chairs and falls during transfers.
- Mortenson et al. (2005) report that The Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) residential facility which has 82 residents using power wheelchairs, reported 16 incidents of property damage in one year from power wheelchair use. This is a conservative estimate, as the author notes that only serious accidents were reported. There were likely far more minor incidents that were not reported.
- Reed, Yochum and Schloss (1993) reported that 30% of long-term care residents surveyed felt that other drivers within the facility drove unsafely.
Clearly, within an institutional setting, many power wheelchair users have difficulty safely navigating their environment. In such institutions, there is a very high density of power wheelchair users, along with narrow corridors and many obstructions in hallways which present challenges to drivers. One major factor identified as contributing to decreased safety in high density areas is a lack of conformity between drivers. Mortenson et al. (2005) write that a lack of driving rules for wheelchair drivers in an institution can result in animosity between and towards power wheelchair drivers. For example, not designating a regulated side of the hallway to drive on increases the likelihood of collision and creates an atmosphere of blame and animosity towards power wheelchair drivers (Mortenson et al., 2005).
Measuring statistics only in institutions provides an incomplete view of the magnitude of the prevalence of collisions among power mobility device users. Many wheelchair users that live in the community also suffer accidents, and when navigating through traffic the consequences can be catastrophic. Mortenson et al. (2005) found that six out of ten interviewed power wheelchair drivers report that driving in the community is more difficult than diving in an institution. A survey of wheelchair users by Arthanat et al. (2009) found that the usability of power wheelchairs in the community is low. 40-50% of those surveyed reporting that usability was moderate to very low in the community. The difficulty in navigating in the community with a power wheelchair has been observed by multiple surveys.
- Navigating a wheelchair in traffic is a large hazard of navigating within the community. LaBan & Nabity (2010) found that sixty fatal accidents occurred between a motorized vehicle and a wheelchair in one year. Of these accidents, 94% involved a power wheelchair.
- Chen et al. (2011) surveyed 95 active community wheelchair users about the number of collisions experienced. 52 (54.7%) of wheelchair users reported experiencing at least one collision, and 16 (16.8%) reported experiencing 2 or more collisions within a three year period.
- A report from Edwards and McClusky (2010) of Australian power mobility device users found that one-fifth of respondents (21%) reported having an accident in the previous year when using their device. The most commonly reported accidents were caused by running into doors and walls, the device tipping over, being hit by a car or knocking into/over objects such as shop displays.
- Arthanat et al. (2009) found that 52.8% of wheelchair users surveyed had experienced at least one accident (collision or fall) that resulted in injury.
Clearly, the issue of accidents in power wheelchair driving is prevalent. It is important to start a conversation regarding the risks and rewards of power wheelchair use! If you have experienced a collision in your power wheelchair, or know someone who has, leave a comment!
Want to learn more about what Smart Wheelchairs can do to prevent wheelchair collisions? Download our FREE E-Book on Smart Wheelchair Technology!
Arthanat, S., Nochajski, S. M., Lenker, J. A., Bauer, S. M., & Wu, Y. W. B. (2009). Measuring usability of assistive technology from a multicontextual perspective: the case of power wheelchairs. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63(6), 751.
Chen, W. Y., Jang, Y., Wang, J. D., Huang, W. N., Chang, C. C., Mao, H. F., & Wang, Y. H. (2011). Wheelchair-related accidents: relationship with wheelchair-using behavior in active community wheelchair users. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 92(6), 892-898.
Edwards, K., & McCluskey, A. (2010). A survey of adult power wheelchair and scooter users. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 5(6), 411-419.
Frank AO, Ward J, Orwell NJ, McCullagh C, Belcher M. Introduction of a new NHS electric powered indoor/outdoor chair (EPIOC) service: benefits, risks and implications for prescribers. Clinical Rehabilitation. 2000;14:665–673. [PubMed]
Mortenson, W. B., Miller, W. C., Boily, J., Steele, B., Odell, L., Crawford, E. M., & Desharnais, G. (2005). Perceptions of power mobility use and safety within residential facilities. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(3), 142-152.Read More