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
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!
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.phpRead More
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