Wednesday, September 30, 2009

RediAuto Sport System: For Those Who Want To Drive Stick

One of the major limitations of hand controls these days is the lack of the availability to adapt controls for vehicles equipped with manual transmissions. While most people are satisfied with driving a car with an automatic, those who have the desire to drive a sports car (such as a Ferrari) were simply out of luck. At least they were out of luck until RediAuto Sport began distributing a series of customized controls that allow users with limited or no leg function the ability to operate any vehicle, even manual transmission equipped vehicles. The system consists of an accelerator ring that is fitted inside the rim of the conventional steering wheel with another lever to control the brake. The shifter operates normally with the clutch controlled automatically through electronic systems. For those that question the effectiveness of this setup, this exact configuration was developed for Alex Zanardi, a former Indy car driver who tragically lost his legs in an accident. A few years after his accident and coupled with this system, he has returned to racing Touring cars in Europe where he has become quite successful. For more information on this hand control system, check out this site.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chris Waddell Takes On Mt. Kilimanjaro

Chris Waddell, the most dedicated paralympic male skier in history, is attempting another feat that no one has attempted before: he is working to become the first paraplegic to reach the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro under his own power. What many people do not realize about one of the tallest mountains in the world (at 19,000 feet) is that it is a walkable mountain, so it is possible for one using a wheelchair to successfully reach the summit with a wheelchair. He had previously done a scouting trip of the mountain in 2008, where he made it to 16,500 feet and realized that he was facing the most difficult thing he has ever done. Besides the obvious danger of fatigue, he will be encountering five different climate zones—savannah, mountain rain forest, heather, alpine desert, and glacial plateau—not to mention decreasing oxygen levels (just 48 percent at the peak), and travel a rough, soft sand and rock, rutted trail that necessitated a redesign of his hand cycle. With a grant from the Easton Foundation, a team built a new one-of-a-kind bike known as the Bomba, incorporating the changes Waddell found necessary: a narrower, shorter wheel base, traditional bike gearing, and significantly lighter weight—48 pounds rather than 83. The new design provides better traction and enables Waddell to maneuver over foot-tall obstacles and climb in and out of the deep trenches built into the trail every few yards to prevent erosion from rain. The changes also enable Waddell to go twice as fast, 1 mph to 2 mph, which will significantly cut his time. Why is he doing this? Waddell has dedicated his life to defying the conventional wisdom of what a paraplegic can and cannot do. Through his work with the Paralympics, Waddell has proven that being a "para" does not mean living a disabled life. Waddell's athletic abilities garnered international attention and have helped to change the way disabled individuals are viewed. His decision to summit Kilimanjaro is intended to "shine the light back on the disabled — to show that if you take the time to look, you might be surprised." Waddell hopes that his incredible climb will provide a counterpoint to people's preconceived notions. "I hope my climb will make us see some of the 21+ million disabled people in the world in a whole new way," says Waddell.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Car Companies Using Disabled Tech To Make Segway-like Devices

Honda has created a Segway-like vehicle that is intended for use within the house, office, or sidewalks by people who need assistance with mobility (or by people who wanna show how geeky they are). This unicycle is controlled by an electric motor that allows movement in all directions by simply shifting body weight, which is dubbed the "Honda Omni Traction Drive" system by the carmaker. This system is similar in principle to the systems used on the iBot wheelchair. Here is the press release about it from Honda:

Honda has developed a new personal mobility technology, U3-X. It is a compact experimental device that fits comfortably between the rider's legs, to provide free movement in all directions just as in human walking – forward, backward, side-to-side, and diagonally. Honda will continue research and development of the device including experiments in a real-world environment to verify the practicality of the device.

This new personal mobility device makes it possible to adjust speed and move, turn and stop in all directions when the rider leans the upper body to shift body weight. This was achieved through application of advanced technologies including Honda's balance control technology, which was developed through the robotics research of ASIMO, Honda's bipedal humanoid robot, and the world's first* omni-directional driving wheel system (Honda Omni Traction Drive System, or HOT Drive System), which enables movement in all directions, including not only forward and backward, but also directly to the right and left and diagonally. In addition, this compact size and one-wheel-drive personal mobility device was designed to be friendly to the user and people around it by making it easier for the rider to reach the ground from the footrest and placing the rider on roughly the same eye level as other people or pedestrians.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

World's Longest Wheelchair Wheelie

Michael Miller, from Wisconsin, set the world record last month for the longest wheelchair wheelie that has even been recorded. Performing wheelies since getting his first wheelchair at 4, it took this 19 year old nearly 4 hours to accomplish the feat on a high school track near his hometown. Circling the track 40 times, Miller went approximately 10 miles on only his two rear wheels. shattering the previous record of 8 miles set by Englishman Paul Stares in 2005. Watch the clip as you can see the very end of Michael Miller's successful world record attempt.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Andrew Shelley's Journey Around The World And Beyond The Chair

Andrew Shelley is the main character in a documentary called "Beyond The Chair" which chronicles his journey around the world... all on his Frontier X5 powerchair. Affected by Emery Dreifuss Muscular Dystrophy, Andrew did not let this condition stop him from quitting his desk job in 2007 to pursue his trip around the world. Teaming up with his college roommate and a small film crew, the group set out to travel and document Shelley's backpacking journey. Andrew had instructed the film crew to not assist him in any way which forced him to rely solely on himself and the natives for any kind of assistance. With his trip taking him through New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, India, and the United Arab Emirates, his trip was daunting since it avoids most of the developed nations where access is somewhat structured. Traveling from country to country, Shelley encountered many cultures, inquisitive people, and a lack of medical technology such as other power wheelchairs. Instead he found disabled people being pushed in make shift hand carts, non accessible buildings and an incredible amount of human compassion. People though puzzled by his power wheelchair were willing to help and carry him, or his chair, when necessary. The documentary of his trip is still being edited but you can find out more about Andrew Shelley and his trip on his website.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wheelchair Body Builder Colt Wynn

This clip is an interview of Colt Wynn, a wheelchair bodybuilder from Ohio. Paralyzed from the waist down from a fall when he was 14, Colt turned to the gym as a means to rehabilitate and get out of the hospital more quickly. Eventually, he was shown a magazine of other wheelchair bodybuilders which inspired him to pursue the sport himself. You can see from the clip that he has become pretty successful in developing his physique to become a winning wheelchair bodybuilder. All I can say is that transfers must seem pretty easy for him... and that I need to work out to get rid of the keg that I have so I can get the six-pack that Colt has! Enjoy the clip :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Proof You Can Pimp An Adapted Vehicle

Check out this clip of John "J2" Mryczko's ride, a 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan that has been adapted with electronic hand controls. While the conversion alone is unique enough to not be confused for anyone else's car, J2 has taken it upon himself to create a vehicle that exudes his personality. New wheels, a crazy sound system, and a number of other modifications definitely set his vehicle apart from anyone else. Now J2 is not the first person to do this kind of thing to an adapted minivan: there are others all over the country that have (such as myself) and are doing it as we speak. It is a small but growing group of people that see our vehicles as more than just a simple means of transportation but as a means of expressing our personality. While it is hard to find parts for minivans and there are many car enthusiasts who think people like us are crazy (or do not see the point), when someone in our position manages to (tastefully) transform their vehicle into something unique, you will be surprised with the amount of respect you get from everybody, especially car enthusiasts. The same people who were skeptical that a minivan could be tastefully dressed up and tuned are floored when they see the end result. The same minivan that is widely regarded as a "soccer-mom-mobile" is now something that very few people can wrap their heads around: it is something respected. It is people like J2 who are proof that you can pimp an adapted vehicle.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Another Wheelchair Etiquette Post

Thanks to some of my facebook friends (Thanks Luke!), I have stumbled upon a facebook group that is dedicated to wheelchair etiquette. There have been posts on this blog about this topic before (see the posts here and here) but this one takes a humorous yet kind of true take on the matter. Some of the rules that have been expressed are "Gimp" or "crip" are totally unacceptable for walking people to say... but it is perfectly okay for a [disabled person] to call themselves and each other that to Don't ever pat a person in a wheelchair on the head and say, "You are doing a super job of dealing with this!" You might end up getting your very own handicapped parking placard and even When you are blocking their way in a restaurant, try to get out of the way calmly and not mutter "I'm sorry; I'm so sorry; I'm so very very sorry," as if you've just stepped on the neck of someone's kitten. Funny yet true. Check out their group if you happen to be on facebook and add whatever you think should be a rule... or is just a funny point.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Adaptive All-Terrain Vehicle: Fun With Dirt

For those that feel like tackling a dirt course along with your motocross friends, this clip shows you a vehicle that can allow you to join in on the fun. It is an ATV that can be specially adapted to allow fitment for hand controls similar to those used on adapted cars. In this particular clip, this ATV is fitted with a joystick configuration which is not all that different from driving a powerchair. The only major things to get used to are the racing seat, five-point harness, gas engine, and the ability to drive over pretty much anything :) Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

John "J2" Mryczko: Extreme Chairer

This is a compilation of wheelchair stunts performed by John "J2" Mryczko. J2 founded a group that was mentioned in a previous post about the group Extreme Chairing. I will not tell you what he does in the clip but after you watch it, I think you will be surprised by what this guy can do. J2 is definitely somebody who redefines what can be done with a powerchair. Check out his site if you want to learn more about this crazy wheelchair driver :)