Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Man In Wheelchair Holds Three Hostage

Who says people in wheelchairs are not troublemakers? The following is taken from a newspaper article about an incident in Virginia:

"An armed man in a wheelchair held three people hostage at a post office in the US state of Virginia yesterday, forcing officials to cordon off three blocks of the small town which was filled with holiday shoppers.

There were no reports of injuries, however shots were fired during the eight-hour long stand-off in which the man, believed to be carrying explosives, made no demands other than to ask for a pizza.

A SWAT team and bomb technician were sent into the post office, in the rural mountain town of Wytheville, and police at the scene said that the man had five pounds of a common plastic explosive strapped to his chest.

Susan Holman, the manager of a store across the street, said officers had told employees to leave the building because there was a man with explosives in the post office

“The officer told us the man had enough explosives to take out the whole block,” Ms Holman told a local newspaper.

After several hours authorities ordered the suspect to let the hostages go and come out with his hands up. Soon afterwards, four people left the building, including a man in a wheelchair who surrendered to a police robot.

Police later said Warren Taylor of Tennessee is being questioned and authorities do not yet have a motive. It was believed the hostages who were kept inside the building were employees and customers of the post office.

Carlton Austin said his daughter, postal worker Margie Austin, was among the hostages. She managed to call a family friend and said she was fine. Her father said family members were still waiting to hear more. “That is all we can do,” Mr Austin said. Postal worker Walt Korndoerfer said he was in the building when he heard shots and a co-worker ran past. He called police and then ran to safety.

His wife, Christine Korndoerfer, said he had called to let her know he had safely escaped the building. “My husband is not one to get upset,” Mrs Korndoerfer said. “When he called, I do not think I have ever heard him so upset.”

Wytheville town manager Wayne Sutherland, speaking from his office four blocks from the scene, said dozens of officers had circled the freestanding, brick post office.
“It is completely surrounded by police in every direction,” Mr Sutherland said.

Pete Rendina, a spokesman for the US Postal Inspection Service, said the man was in a wheelchair and missing part of his leg, but he had no other information.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Adaptive Skiing 101: Types & Gear

With the increase in adaptive ski programs throughout the country and the advances in adaptive equipment, adaptive skiing is fast becoming one of the most popular sports. Who can blame people for wanting to try it? The blue skies, the views from the top, and the feel of your edges slicing through the fresh snow: that’s hard to beat.
Adaptive skiing provides people with disabilities the opportunity to ski using specialty equipment (sit-skis, outriggers, etc.) Skiing is one of the few truly inclusive sports. Many of the same skiing concepts carry over to the sit ski. Also, it is an individual sport, so you don’t need other wheelchair users to participate. It is a great activity to do with family and friends. So, whether you were previously a stand-up skier or have never tried the sport before, adaptive skiing has a lot to offer.
Before you get started, there are a few things you should consider before hitting the slopes. You want to first understand the types of skis and which one is best suited for you. Then, you will learn the gear to keep you warm and looking good (of course).
Types of Ski Adaptations
Mono-ski: The skier sits in a molded bucket-style seat that is mounted to a frame attached to a single ski. A shock absorber between the bucket and the ski cushions your ride. Since good upper-body strength and balance are needed, good candidates for the mono ski are typically lower extremity double amputee, spina bifida, spinal cord injury levels T6 and below (although exceptions occur).
Bi-ski: The skier sits in a rigid shell that is attached on top of two wide specialty skis. The two skis allow for a wider base ensuring more stability for the skier. The bi ski does not have a suspension system. Good candidates for the bi ski include beginner skiers, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and higher-level spinal cord injury.
Dual-ski: The dual ski is a system designed to bridge the gap between the mono ski and bi ski. It sits like the mono ski, but it is attached to two skis. Those who have advanced past the bi ski but are not yet ready for the mono ski are most appropriate for the dual ski.
3-Track: These skiers require one regular ski and two hand-held outriggers, hence the three points of contact to the snow. Good candidates would be amputees, post polio, hemiplegic, those who ambulate with or without assistive device, do not have full use of one leg, but have one strong non-impaired leg.
4-Track: Skiers use two skis and two hand-held outriggers or an attached walker. A skin bra can be used to help ensure the ski tips do not cross. It is simply a tube that slips across the ski tips. Individuals with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, or anyone who uses crutches or a cane would benefit from trying the 4-track system.
Outriggers: These are forearm crutches with a smaller ski tip on one end and a jagged blade on the other. Outriggers help with stability and turning. Hand-held outriggers are most common, but sometimes fixed outriggers can be attached to the bi ski.
Blind Skiing: The instructor uses various auditory cues and aides from behind or in front of the skier. The skier uses regular size skis and poles, but will not hit the slopes until he/she is comfortable with all maneuvering skills and cues.
Other adaptations: A tether strap is used as a training and safety device by instructors to tether to the skier. Grasping cuffs allow those with limited grip the ability to grip the outriggers using a Velcro strap. Chest straps/shoulder harnesses are available for individuals who need extra assistance for trunk stability.
The Dress Code
Staying warm and dry is the most important lesson to learn. With all the new outdoor gear there is out there, it will be easy to stay comfortable and look suave. When dressing for the mountain, there are three basic layers to follow.
Your first layer is your base layer. This should be moisture-wicking to keep your skin dry since it is the first layer that touches your skin. Stay away from blue jeans and anything cotton. The next layer can be of various thicknesses and you can have as many layers as your want. The fabric should be weather depending. Your outer layer should be waterproof. Think of this layer as the barrier between you and the outside elements (rain, sleet, or snow). It’s not a fun day on the mountain when you’re wet.

Other essentials include a hard shell helmet to protect your noggin, goggles are needed to protect your eyes and maximize visibility, and water resistant or waterproof gloves to keep those fingers warm.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Nuance Releases Dragon iPhone Apps

Nuance, the creators of the Dragon Naturally Speaking program, have released two apps for the iPhone. For those who are not familiar with Dragon, it is a speech to text program that is used by many disabled users who have difficulty typing... or doctors and professionals who require dictation... or, if you have seen the commercials, people who simply cannot be hassled with the idea of using a keyboard to type. The apps, which are currently free, are split into two parts. Dragon Dictation is pretty much exactly what the name implies: it is for dictation so that the text that is spoken can be cut and pasted into an email, text message, or any other application where you will need to paste a lot of text. The other program, Dragon Search, allows you to simply say what you wish to search and it will search for any pertinent results from your default search engine, Youtube, Twitter, iTunes, and Wikipedia. How easy is it to use? If you use Dragon Speak on your computer, then you already know how to use these apps: they use all the same commands. Nice :)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Is A Segway An Assistive Device??

The main intention of Segway has been to revolutionize the way people move about. The idea was to provide a means of short range transportation for an individual for errands that did not require a car. One use for the device is something that is generally overlooked by many people: use of the Segway as an assistive device. People with mobility issues who can still stand but need assistance in walking long distances can use a Segway quite effectively in many situations. Currently the Americans with Disabilities Act does not classify the Segway as an assistive device; so public places do have the right to prohibit them. One popular place that is well-known that does not allow Segways is Disney, who have banned the device at all of their theme parks. While it is not considered an assistive device under the ADA, the Department of Transportation does consider it an assistive device, so under the recently revised Air Carrier Access Act, airlines must treat Segways just like wheelchairs when operated by a passengers with disabilities. Rail travel (such as Amtrak) will accommodate Segways; however, it will have to be checked in as luggage. Cruise ships will accept Segways provided that it is arranged with the special needs department so that they can ensure that it will be able to navigate the doorways and cabins of the ship. If you happen to have a Segway and would like to travel with it, it is best to ask Segway owners for advice. Check out their message board here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Latest Video of Aaron Fotheringham: Just When Sitting Was Safe

Here is the latest and greatest clip for the Hardcore Sitter Master, Aaron Fotheringham, and his escapades around the skatepark. The video was edited by Aaron himself and shows him attempting some crazy tricks, some of which were not entirely successful. It also shows his exploits driving around in his modified truck, although modified in not just the adapted way. It seems that his wheelchair is not the only four-wheeled toy that he likes to play with. Watch the clip and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sam Worthington as Jake Sully In Avatar

If you are interested in seeing any movies that are out, check out the movie Avatar. Actor Sam Worthington plays Jake Sully, a former Marine that was paralyzed in combat, forcing him to use a wheelchair. To regain a sense or normalcy, he travels to Pandora to participate in a program where his mind will control an alien body, called an Avatar (hence the title of the movie). As an alien, Jake has full function of his body. He even manages to fall in love with one of the aliens on Pandora. While it is a little weird that paralysis is still an issue during the time period of this movie (well into the 22nd century), it is nice to see that relationships can be formed not by appearance but by personality. That aspect alone is something that is difficult to come by today. Check out the trailer here.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wheelchair + Tank Treads = Tankchair

This creation is quite possibly one of the most intimidating wheelchairs in existence at the moment. Brad Soden, the inventor of this wonderful contraption, built this chair for his wife when a car accident left her paralyzed. A failed attempt to get close to a herd of elk during a camping trip was the motivation for Brad to build something that would remove as many barriers as possible. The result of this effort was a chair that can tackle snow, gravel, sand, shallow streams, logs, and even stairs less than 45 degrees. With 4 batteries and a powerful 1hp electric motor, there are very few obstacles that can stop this beast of a whcclchair. Want one? Check out their site.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wheelchair-Fu Classes At The Neuro Core Physiotherapy & Pilates Centre

Several months ago, there was a post on wheelchair self-defense (aka Wheelchair-fu). The clip in this post is of a wheelchair self-defense class that is being held at the Neuro Core Physiotherapy & Pilates Centre in Toronto. Developed by Grant Murray and Rich VanderWal, they have taught a number of wheelchair users how to block, punch, grasp, and joint-lock. While the goal for this class may be to learn how to defend against an attacker, the other main goals for the wheelchair user is to learn how to be comfortable with one's wheelchair-bound body, to get comfortable in the chair and to build up one's sense of confidence. While defensive moves are taught, strengthening, balance, and appropriate wheelchair positioning are also taught in this class. The idea that Murray and VanderWal would like to convey to their students is that a wheelchair can be seen as a weapon and not a hinderance.

Unable to make it to this class? One thing to remember is that when attacked, the attacker will be forced to lean over to grab you, instantly throwing the attacker off-balance. Using this idea to your advantage, you can escape from the attacker or even be able to scare them off. Check out the article of this class at this link.