Thursday, August 29, 2013

Braille Graffiti – More Tactual Art!

Braille graffiti is an interesting concept that is catching on all over. Raised Braille dots combined with other tactual and visual effects make for very unique art which can be displayed and created almost anywhere.  Daniele Bursich has shared some pictures of Braille wall art as well. When we redesign, build or update public spaces, art is always considered as a part of this. As part of this process, we must consider the accessibly of such art to the general population, including those with disabilities. Tactual art allows all people to experience the aesthetic value in a multisensory way. Art involves more than just seeing through our eyes. The world is still designed for the able bodies sighted person. Thinking about everything from a more universal access perspective opens the world up to everyone so much more.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Proposed Changes to Medicare & Medicaid Impact AAC & Power Wheelchair Access

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)  have proposed changes to the coverage of Augmentative & Alternative Communication Devices which include altering how power wheelchairs are accessed and paid for. For AAC devices, the proposals move them to the capped rental category. Access to language and communication as well as independent or semi-independent mobility is an essential life activity. These changes will push back all of the progress which has been made in this area to improve coverage. All of these changes put significant barriers up for the acquisition of equipment which allows for increased participation across all life activities many people take for granted. These changes target some of the most vulnerable people around us.  

The ALS Foundation points out the following:

"Currently, most all SGD's and wheelchair accessories used by people with ALS are purchased by patients, with Medicare covering 80% of the costs.  Under a capped rental system, patients are required to rent these items over a 13 month period, after which time the patient owns the equipment. Medicare pays 80% of the rental fee each month.  If the patient passes away or no longer needs the equipment at any time during the rental period, the equipment is returned to the supplier.   The ALS Association's concerns include:

  • Access:  If a patient is institutionalized (extended hospital stay, hospice, nursing home) during the 13 month rental period, Medicare coverage for this equipment will cease.  Potentially, this means that a supplier of an SGD or wheelchair accessory can require that the equipment be returned, leaving patients without access to needed equipment.  By contrast, under the current system patients may keep this equipment when they are institutionalized as long as they own the equipment.

  • Cost: If a patient rents an SGD or wheelchair accessory for the full 13 month period, they will pay 5% more out of pocket than if they purchased the equipment up front. 

Quality:  Both SGDs and power wheelchairs are highly customized in order to meet the specific medical needs of individual people with ALS. When they are returned to a supplier, they cannot simply be supplied to the next patient.  They must be readjusted and customized to fit the needs of the next patient.  Therefore, under capped rental, suppliers do not have the same incentives to work with people with ALS or to fully customize these devices knowing that they may be returned to them."

Please take the time to comment and advocate, to prevent these changes from taking place. The comment period ends on August 30th. Here is a link to the commenting form: Regulation Changes .

You can also mail your comments to: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-1526-P, P.O. Box 8010, Baltimore, MD 21244-8010.



Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Audio Description App for the Blind

GoTheatrical-AD™ by Captioning Studios allows people who are blind and visually impaired to access theatrical events including describing what is happening when there is no dialogue. The app provides greater access to a variety of events including just simple television for those who may not have traditionally been able to receive the quality and quantity of distance information a sighted person may have had access to. This company also works at making theater much more accessible for the hearing impaired as well. Captioning is a form of universal design that can often be overlooked. Such wonderful innovations to open up the world a little more each day. The app is also available on i-devices (iTunes) as well as Google play!


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Eye-Control Access for People Who Use Power Wheelchairs

Boston mechanical engineer Steve McHugh, entered a Google context and prosed a design for an app which would allow people who use power wheelchairs to use Google Glass to operate them. This alternative access method allows those with more limited and less consistent physical movements to become much more independent. Here is a link to some great Google Glass videos and demos. Google touts Glass as an accessibility tool in new YouTube video starring wheelchair-bound Glass wearer - Yahoo! News .

Thursday, August 8, 2013

STEM: Innovations for People with Visual Impairment & Blindness

There have been many new innovations in access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) content for individuals with visual impairment and blindness.  This not only opens up greater opportunities to participate in advanced classes at both the k12 and post-secondary level but long term career choices.  Many times teachers and other professionals underestimate the abilities of students with visual impairment and blindness as they relate to the areas of STEM. With the innovations in technology continuing to grow, it is imperative that everyone is aware of the supports available so that each person can have access to a high quality education with potential career opportunities that may not have been pursued as aggressively previously. Planning to have the right software and equipment must occur early on along with specialized training so that the materials will be implemented to their fullest capacity. Here are some great resources to take a look at:

Talking LabQuest   (Also comes in several different languages)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Break Barriers, Open Doors

On September 23rd the United Nations will be holding a meeting covering a variety of topics related to disability. The website offers a number of documents reviewing the current status and the agenda for this event. Please take some time to look at the agenda for the meeting. This is a conversation to have with all. Both new and old voices are needed to advocate for the present and the future. Being aware of the conversation, participating in a manner in which we can be consistent and sharing the discussion with all is a role we can all assume.

Inclusive Health Care

Inclusive health care has improved over the past 25 years. There is more widespread understanding of how to support people of all ages with disabilities in a respectful and responsive manner. The Department of Developmental Services in Massachusetts uses Inclusive Health Care to provide training to area hospitals. The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to work diligently at formulating an action plan to support more consistent and better quality health care for people with disabilities across the world. USAID also supports a number of projects in this area along with many others. We have to continue to be diligent in this area. I can remember not so long ago when I had just started out in my career, people with more significant disabilities who were not mobile did not even have their broken bones set all of the time. We were told to only use certain elevators so that other people would not have to see these individuals. There are many unpleasant memories which come to mind. Although things have improved enormously, there is still much to do. It comes down to value and respect for all.