Thursday, April 30, 2009

Skid Lids Helmets

It's helmet time again. I was behind a motorcyclist the other day and noticed a small sticker saying Skid Lid. Though I'd prefer to see a helmet with a bit more coverage, I love the term. And, at least he was wearing one. I continue to be amazed at the number of motorcyclists I see without helmets. A trip to a brain injury unit should be mandatory for those taking the licensure course.

On another twist, Danish police are giving hugs and helmets to bicyclists without. See the video below.

Via Boing Boing

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Accessibility Fail

Sign to Accessible Toilets pointing down a set of stairs

Fail blog is a great way to waste some time. Occasionally you find a gem. Amazing.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Braille Literacy less than 10%

Close up of Braille letters on metal surface
USA Today reports that less than 10% of individuals who are blind are able to read Braille (while Disability Scoop takes a more inflamatory approach with "Vast Majority of Blind are Illiterate".

"Fewer than 10% of the 1.3 million legally blind people in the United States read Braille, and just 10% of blind children are learning it, according to a report to be released Thursday by the National Federation of the Blind...Instead, teachers ask students to rely on audio texts, voice-recognition software or other technology. And teachers who know Braille often must shuttle between schools, resulting in haphazard instruction, the report says. Using technology as a substitute for Braille leaves blind people illiterate, the federation said, citing studies that show blind people who know Braille are more likely to earn advanced degrees, find good jobs and live independently...One study found that 44% of participants who grew up reading Braille were unemployed, compared with 77% for those who relied on print. Overall, blind adults face 70% unemployment."- USA Today

Strong words and strong stats, but I'm not convinced. I have concerns calling individuals who can't read Braille "illiterate". Though I suppose technically accurate to some degree, it doesn't tell the story of individuals who may be "illiterate" but who have completed college degrees through the use of assistive technologies such as text to speech (and possibly speech to text). These individuals could receive their texts and materials in electronic format (or have it converted), and have it read by computer to them.
I'd be curious how the stats look if you controlled for age, income, co-curring disorders and a few other factors. I would guess that younger blind individuals who are not otherwise impaired are more likely to be employed and better educated. I would suspect that Braille is not the litmus test for these individuals and that they are greater users of assistive technologies such as text to speech programs like JAWS from Freedom Scientific. The beauty of modern technology is that much of it is electronic via the internet, and much of that is accessible.

Photo courtesy of Lisalou66

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Killer Keyboards

Great article on different computer keyboards, included are an ergo keyboards, one handed keyboard and some high tech and concept boards. Originally published in PC World, but the CIO link has a better looking slide show.

The keyboard above is described as "Billed as the "World's Best-Selling Vertical Keyboard," the $295 SafeType evidently towers above its competition. My own research corroborates the manufacturer's market-share claim: I couldn't find any other vertical keyboards."

PC World

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Aimee Mullins and her 12 Pairs of Legs

I've written about Aimee Mullins before, here's another great video from TED about her, and her "bag of legs".
I love the discussion about her prosthetics as art (and some great examples), as well as the conversation moving from overcoming impairment, it's about augmentation or enhancement.

Alexander McQueen's hand carved legs legs

Aimee's homepage with articles, pictures and contact information.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Jenny McCarthy on Autism and Vaccines

Time has an interesting interview with Jenny McCarthy about her position on Autism and Vaccines. She is an author of a number of books chronicling her experience with her son who Evan who has been diagnosed with autism.

The interview is conducted by Time Science Editor Jeffrey Kluger. Two of the most interesting questions asked are:

  • Q:"Your book points out that autism rates between 1983 and 2008 have climbed in lockstep with vaccination rates, yet childhood obesity, diabetes and even cell-phone use have soared since then, too. Why do you find causation in one and not the others?"
  • A:"I'm not saying it's only the vaccines. But children are given so many shots from the moment they're born. They get multiple injections all at once, and if they fall behind, doctors put them on a catch-up schedule. Babies get the hepatitis B vaccine immediately after they're born and the only way for a newborn to contract that disease is if the mother is a carrier. Why not just screen the mother? Evan was handed to me pre-vaccinated with a Band-Aid on his foot."

  • Q: "Many scientists believe we're simply diagnosing autism differently now — both overdiagnosing it in kids who don't have it and spotting it better in kids who do. That makes it look like the condition is on the rise when it's not."
  • A:"All you have to do is find a schoolteacher or principal and ask them that question. They would say they've never seen so much ADHD, autism, OCD as in the past. I think we're overdiagnosing it by maybe 1%. Now you look around and there are five shadows — kids with disabilities — in every class."
I love the question about why vaccines are blamed and other causes are not, its a question not only for her but other scientists and activists alike. As for the second question, I find it interesting because alot is made of the growth (or explosion) of autism nationally. I've wondered whether it's because it is because of the expansion of the diagnostic criteria, better identification and misidentification. I would say it's likely a combination of the three.

The most disturbing piece of the article, she refers to kids with disabilities as "Shadows". I can understand how she might say they feel or are treated as shadows, but labeling them as such changes the tone.

Overall, not the depth of interview I would have liked to see, but interesting.

Jenny McCarthy on Autism and Vaccines

Time "Secrets of Autism"

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