Smart Insole Can Double As Lifesaving Technology For Diabetic Patients

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Bonbouton SmartInsole Graphene

Stevens Institute of Technology has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Bonbouton, giving the cutting-edge health and technology company the right to use and further develop a graphene sensing system that detects early signs of foot ulcers before they form so people living with diabetes can access preventative healthcare and confidently manage their health.

The smart insole, Bonbouton’s first product, can be inserted into a sneaker or dress shoe to passively monitor the foot health of a person living with diabetes. The data are then sent to a companion app which can be accessed by the patient and shared with their healthcare provider, who can determine if intervention or treatment is needed.

“I was inspired by two things—a desire to help those with diabetes and a desire to commercialize the technology,” said Bonbouton Founder and CEO Linh Le, who developed and patented the core graphene technology while pursuing a doctorate in chemical engineering at Stevens. Le came up with the idea to create an insole that could help prevent diabetic ulcers after several personal incidents lead him to pursue preventative healthcare.

Complications from diabetes can make it difficult for patients to monitor their foot heath. Chronically high levels of blood glucose can impair blood vessels and cause nerve damage. Patients can experience a lot of pain, but can also lose feeling in their feet. Diabetes-related damage to blood vessels and nerves can lead to hard-to-treat infections such as ulcers. Ulcers that don’t heal can cause severe damage to tissues and bone and may require amputation of a toe, foot or part of a leg.

Bonbouton’s smart insoles sense the skin’s temperature, pressure and other foot health-related data, which can alert a patient and his or her healthcare provider when an infection is about to take hold. This simplifies patient self-monitoring and reduces the frequency of doctor visits, which can ultimately lead to a higher quality of life.

Bonbouton, which is based in New York City, is currently partnering with global insurance company MetLife to determine how its smart insoles will be able to reduce healthcare costs for diabetic foot amputations. In 2018, Bonbouton also announced its technical development agreement with Gore, a company well known for revolutionizing the outerwear industry with GORE-TEX® fabric, to explore ways to integrate Bonbouton’s graphene sensors in comfortable, wearable fabric for digital health applications, including disease management, athletic performance and everyday use.

“We are interested in developing smart clothing for preventative health, and embrace the possibilities of how our graphene technology can be used in other industries,” said Le. “I am excited to realize the full potential of Bonbouton, taking a technology that I developed as a graduate student at Stevens and growing it into a product that will bring seamless preventative care to patients and save billions of dollars in healthcare costs.”

Stevens is a shareholder of Bonbouton, legally known as FlexTraPower, and co-owns two of the seven patents filed by the company.

About Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of Technology is a premier, private research university situated in Hoboken, New Jersey overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Since our founding in 1870, technological innovation has always been the hallmark and legacy of Stevens’ education and research. Within the university’s three schools and one college, 6,900 undergraduate and graduate students collaborate closely with faculty in an interdisciplinary, student-centric, entrepreneurial environment. Academic and research programs spanning business, computing, engineering, the arts and other fields actively advance the frontiers of science and leverage technology to confront our most pressing global challenges. The university is consistently ranked among the nation’s elite for return on tuition investment, career services and the mid-career salaries of alumni.

About Bonbouton
Bonbouton is a technology company that ensures people stay healthy and puts the power back into their hands (and feet). The Bonbouton smart insole detects early signs of foot ulcers before they form so people living with diabetes can access preventative healthcare and confidently manage their health. The insoles contain graphene sheets which possess the properties of high mechanical strength and flexibility, making it possible to create very flexible and thin sensors. The insoles are comfortable to wear, simple to use, and can help prevent the approximately 200 diabetes-related amputations that occur in the United States daily, which costs our healthcare system $15B per annum.

Jeanine Cook is the 2020 Winner of the Richard A. Tapia Achievement Award

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Jeanine Cook with her horse

Jeanine Cook, a principal member of technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the Scalable Architectures department at the Computer Science Research Institute, has received the 2020 Richard A. Tapia Achievement Award for Scientific Scholarship, Civic Science and Diversifying Computing.

The award was presented for her many achievements in computer science research in the areas of high-performance computing, performance characterization and modeling, hardware accelerator technologies, edge-computing, large-scale system monitoring and data analytics; her work in diversifying computer science for the disabled; and her teaching and mentorship of students while an associate professor at New Mexico State University. The award was presented by Richard Tapia at the 2020 ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference.

Raised by her parents in Colorado, Cook’s father, a physics PhD., inspired his daughters in their love of computers from an early age. Her mother was a home maker whose own mother came from New Mexico while it was still part of Mexico. Jeanine chose to pursue a BS in Electrical Engineering at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. It was in her second semester at college that her life changed.

Driving home one night she fell asleep at the wheel and drove off an embankment. She broke her back and severely damaged her spinal cord. She soon realized that she had decisions to make on how to live her life. She made a critical decision to choose life, joy and positivity. She was lucky to have many friends who came to see her in the hospital and rehab facility to not only support her but to learn how to enable her to continue on her chosen path. Friends learned how to assist with her self-care, assemble and disassemble her wheelchairs so they could be transported and encouraged her constantly. The incredible outpouring of support and her very close family enabled her to continue her education.

“My friends changed my life. They stood by me and supported me when they really didn’t have to. Because they loved me and encouraged me, I was able to be happy and positive about my future,” said Cook.

Jeanine received her BS and continued with her master’s degree at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She decided to pursue a PhD program. While many of the East Coast Universities had very attractive programs, she realized that many of their campuses were not wheelchair accessible. She attended New Mexico State University and received her PhD in Electrical Engineering. She then joined the university as an associate professor. During her eleven-year tenure, she graduated eight PhD students and twelve Masters theses students. She was extremely successful in securing research funding, and in 2009 received the Presidential Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President George Bush and the Frank Bromilow Excellence In Research Award from the College of Engineering, New Mexico State University.

While teaching she also became involved in a wide array of diversity and inclusion programs focused on people with disabilities. One of her early lessons came from attending a diversity workshop in a hotel in Florida.

The hotel itself was not accessible which she discovered her first morning there. She ended up falling and had to be moved to a hotel down the road. This renewed her resolve to become even more involved to make sure that accessibility was part of diversity and inclusion in computing. She participated in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) as an external subcommittee member and was active in the Development of the CISE Strategic Plan for Broadening Participation. She was a leader in BPC programs focused on getting people with disabilities introduced to computer science at an early age. She developed and delivered workshops all over Pennsylvania, Texas and Colorado—anywhere there were populations of disabled people. These workshops provided information on how to fund college, navigate campuses and pursue their academic careers. She has also been involved in capacity building work with AccessComputing and delivered talks at CAHSI (Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions). Additionally, Cook is a member of the Center for Minorities and People with Disabilities in Informational Technology (CMD-IT) board.

After teaching for 11 years, Cook reached a turning point. She was feeling burnt out from the load of both teaching, raising money for projects and the research. A colleague from Sandia National Laboratory called to ask her to take on an additional project. She simply proposed, “Why don’t you just hire me?” Joining Sandia National Laboratory was a better solution for her physically and allowed her to enjoy her passion for horses and riding.

“My accident gave me a greater appreciation for life at an early age. I learned a lot about myself and other people,” Cook said. “Life is a daily struggle and nothing is easy except rolling downhill. The people in my life that embraced me, stood by and encouraged me when they didn’t have to gave me the ability to make the decision to not let the accident ruin my life or stop me from enjoying life.”

Award-Winning Code Jumper Helps Kids Learn Coding

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yound disabled boy playing with building blocks on coffee table

The Consumer Technology Association has awarded American Printing House (APH) with a highly coveted Best of Innovation award in the Accessibility category for its Code Jumper, an inclusive product that allows children who are blind or visually impaired to learn computer coding alongside their sighted peers.

Originally designed by Microsoft and developed by APH, Code Jumper is an incredible innovation that teaches children ages 7-11, regardless of their level of vision, computer coding skills.

Children not only learn basic programming concepts, such as sequencing, iteration, selection, and variables, but also learn skills like computational thinking and debugging, which can serve them in all areas of life.

“Every child should have equal access to the important jobs being created in the technology field.

Code Jumper gives them that access and opens a path to a meaningful career,” explains APH CEO Craig Meador. “We hope to inspire other companies to design products that are inclusive and ensure the future belongs to everyone.”

Best Friends Given 2% Survival Rate at Birth Beat the Odds, Graduate Together

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Best friends Odin Frost and Jordon Granberry in wheelchairs next to each other on graduation day

Two best friends given a 2% survival rate at birth beat the odds and graduated from their school in Tyler, Texas, last Thursday.

Odin Frost is non-verbal autistic, and his best friend, Jordon Granberry, had brain damage due to complications at birth that led to a lack of oxygen in the brain, Odin’s dad, Tim Frost, said.

Frost shared a post of the two best friends that went viral on Reddit, showing Odin and Jordon on the first day of school and on graduation day.

The father recalled Odin and Jordon playfully bonding from that very first day of their special needs school, which started at age 3.

“Jordon had just bit Odin, and Odin retaliated by pinching him back,” Frost said to NBC 5 via Instagram direct message. “I think that was their way of showing each other what they were capable of, and in a funny way, a bonding moment.”

Frost explained that the two were told they would never walk and live in a vegetative state if they made it past 7 years old.

But Odin was the first to walk, and he would push Jordon’s wheelchair as the two defied the odds and developed a special relationship that endured through 18 years of school.

“Most kids Odin’s age, as well as adults, have not been kind to him,” Frost said. “They look on, stare or even are scared of them … [However], with each other, there never was any thought in the world that there was something different or wrong with them, as it should be.”

And on June 16, Odin and Jordon both graduated in what Frost called a “surreal” moment, holding his son’s hand across the stage and trying to hold back tears.

“We almost didn’t go,” Frost said. “We wanted to keep him safe, same with Jordon’s parents. But something in us said, ‘We can’t let Odin miss out on graduation.’ I never graduated high school or even went to high school, so I didn’t want him to be robbed of this privilege.”

And now Odin and Jordon are officially high school graduates and also internet famous.

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article.

30 Years After ADA: Where are We Now?

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Logo Reading ADA 30 Americans with Disabilities Act. Celebrate the ADA! July 26, 2020

By Shelby Bril

I sustained an incomplete spinal cord injury in 2010, resulting in impaired mobility and the need to use a walker. The idea of navigating life in a new body seemed daunting but I knew it wasn’t impossible. With the right equipment and accessibility of public spaces, I knew I’d be able to continue to work full time, bring my child to the park, pick her up from school, go to the store, and attend events without the worry of being left out due to inaccessibility or discrimination. It never crossed my mind that my rights as a U.S. citizen could be in jeopardy.

Before the ADA

If I would’ve been injured in a different time—a time before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)—my life would have been much different. My freedom, ability to earn a living, raise my child and just live everyday life would have been severely hindered.

Before the ADA, discrimination against people with disabilities was totally legal. Employers could pay people with disabilities less than their non-disabled counterparts, or refuse to hire them all together just because they’re disabled. Wheelchair users couldn’t ride the buses or trains, because they weren’t wheelchair accessible. Restaurants and grocery stores could refuse service to people with disabilities. Even government entities denied rights that we now take for granted, like voting or getting a driver’s license.

Championed by Ted Kennedy, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990. Senator Kennedy fought passionately for the bill, having seen first-hand the challenges faced by his sister who was born with an intellectual disability, and his son who became an amputee after losing a leg to bone cancer.

The ADA prevents discrimination against people with disabilities, with regulations that cover employment, government services, education, public accommodations, telecommunications, and transportation.

Thanks to the ADA, we’ve created a public environment that works for all U.S. citizens, not just the able-bodied. Disability can happen anytime and to anyone, due to accident, chronic disease, illness or just aging. With this in mind, the ADA is a protective measure for non-disabled citizens and an inclusive one for those with disabilities.

Now, thirty years later, we’ve become accustomed to the way of life inspired by the Americans with Disabilities Act. We have better access to education, healthcare, and other services than we did before the ADA was passed. Elevators, curb cut-outs and braille on ATM’s are simply part of the landscape. In fact, we’re surprised if any of those things are missing. So, what more needs to be done at this point?

Better Enforcement of ADA Rules

ADA accessibility is not included in standard building inspections. Right now, accessibility rules are only enforced when a person with a disability has experienced a barrier to access in a public space or building and is willing to sue those who don’t comply. Even if a lawsuit is filed, it’s easy for businesses to claim that the necessary updates to meet ADA standards are too costly or difficult. Currently, the ADA does not impose undue hardships on businesses, which means many are able to treat equality for people with disabilities as an option rather than a requirement. There is no excuse, 30 years after the passing of the ADA, for businesses to be inaccessible. If any other minority group was excluded from a building, the public outcry would be huge. People with disabilities deserve the same respect and consideration as everyone else.

When it comes to ADA standards, the focus needs to shift away from doing the bare minimum to avoid a lawsuit, and instead concentrate on Universal Design. Buildings, public spaces, and products should be accessible to all people, regardless of ability or disability. Universal Design celebrates the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act, in that it aims to increase productivity and enjoyment for everyone in our society.

Employment Opportunities

The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities by employers, and yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 8 percent of people with disabilities were unemployed in 2018, compared to only 3.7 percent of people without a disability.

A college degree improves the chance of finding a job, with 28.5 percent of disabled college graduates finding employment, compared to 15.6 percent of disabled job seekers who only have a high school diploma.

The good news is that with each passing year comes a new batch of people with disabilities who have college degrees, thanks to better access to education.

The disabled community is clearly still experiencing discrimination in the job market, likely due to stigma and ignorance on the part of the employers as a whole and individuals who do the hiring. Employers need to increase efforts to recruit qualified people with disabilities, provide training to management and necessary accommodations to disabled workers.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was a huge step forward for our society. It created positive change in the lives of generations of people with disabilities, their families, friends, and colleagues. For thirty years, the ADA has served as a foundation for people with disabilities to fight for their rights and avoid discrimination.

Although there is still work to be done, there is no doubt that the ADA has shown that it’s ok to celebrate our differences and build an infrastructure that suits us all.

Shelby Smallwood is a writer and blogger on a journey to learn how to be disabled in an able-bodied world. After sustaining an incomplete spinal cord injury in 2010, Shelby gained first-hand experience with the difficulties and indirect discrimination faced by people living with disabilities. In an effort to raise awareness and affect positive change Shelby writes about disability, social psychology, culture, etiquette, parenting and humor on her blog, thatzhowiroll.com.

A Paralyzing Injury Brings New Perspective

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Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, M.D., M.S.

By Lauren Love

Oluwaferanmi Okanlami, M.D., M.S., distinctly understands both sides of a catastrophic medical event. That’s because he has been both a patient and a doctor in that scenario.

In 2013, Okanlami was on his way to becoming an orthopaedic surgeon. The University of Michigan Medical School graduate was in his third year of residency at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

But his dreams were almost derailed after sustaining a spinal cord injury at a Fourth of July pool party with friends and fellow residents.

“I jumped into the pool,” he says. “I didn’t do a backflip or anything like that. There was no diving board, but I hit either the ground or the side of the pool or someone’s leg. I can’t be completely sure, but immediately I was unable to move anything from my chest down.”

Okanlami’s medical instincts kicked in. “In my mind, I was thinking of next steps: Stabilize my spine, get me onto the stretcher and get me to the hospital,” he says. He also credits his colleagues for the expert care he was given from the beginning—quickly springing to action, getting him from the pool to the emergency department and onto the operating room table in record time.

Faith and Progress

Okanlami’s journey after the accident seems like something out of a Hollywood movie. Despite breaking his neck and becoming paralyzed from the neck down, he never doubted he’d be able to live a productive and independent life, still planning to leave his mark on the world.

“I have an interesting intersection of science and faith, such that even if doctors had said I would never walk again, I wasn’t going to let that limit what I hoped for my recovery,” Okanlami says. “I know there is so much we don’t know about spinal cord injury, and I know the Lord can work miracles.”

On Sept. 8, 2013, just two months after the accident, Okanlami moved his leg again.

“It was one of the most amazing days of my life,” he says. “It wasn’t a small flicker of a little muscle. I extended my leg at the knee. It was pretty sweet.”

A Renewed Energy

The accident didn’t end Okanlami’s professional pursuit, but it did send him down a different path. After months of inpatient rehabilitation, he moved home to South Bend, Indiana, to live with his parents—both doctors themselves—to continue extensive outpatient rehabilitation.

While learning to walk again, Okanlami found time for many other achievements.

He earned a master’s degree in engineering, science and technology entrepreneurship from the ESTEEM Program at the University of Notre Dame. He was appointed by the mayor of South Bend to sit on the county’s board of health. He became the coach of the River City Rollers, a wheelchair basketball team.

And as if all of that weren’t enough, he also went back to being a doctor.

“During my rehabilitation period, I was blessed with the opportunity to return to work as a physician in the family medicine residency program at Memorial Hospital in South Bend,” says Okanlami. “I was able to take care of patients from cradle to grave—delivering babies, taking care of patients in nursing homes and everything in between.”

His journey came full circle in early 2018 when he joined the Family Medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation faculty at Michigan Medicine.

Shifting Attitudes and Awareness

Dedicated to the belief that disability does not mean inability, Okanlami is more than just a doctor. He’s also an advocate and mentor for physicians and patients with similar backgrounds.

More than 20 percent of Americans live with a disability, after all, but as few as 2.7 percent of them are practicing physicians. One reason for the gap: Technical standards used for admission at many medical schools require physical aptitude, which can inadvertently exclude applicants with disabilities.

Okanlami found a perfect match at UM Family Medicine. A new social media campaign, #DocsWithDisabilities, based out of the Family Medicine department, is working to raise awareness about doctors with disabilities. Okanlami and his colleagues share a passion for and a focus on disability inclusion in medicine that is fueling their research agenda. Doctors Philip Zazove, Michael McKee, Lisa Meeks and others are researching mechanisms for improving access to medicine for physician, learner and patient populations.

“Increasing physician diversity has a positive impact on patient care and access for other marginalized groups,” says Meeks, a leading researcher in disabilities in medical education and a clinician scholar at U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Okanlami’s vision led to a joint appointment in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as a role in The Office for Health Equity and Inclusion—partnerships he hopes to further his desire to “disabuse disability” and create a health system that is inclusive and accessible to all.

Standing Strong

While he can’t run yet, Okanlami can walk using assistive devices, some of which he has worked with a rehabilitation engineer to design and create. He also has a standing frame wheelchair that has been more versatile than he could have imagined. Despite his love for gadgets, he still tries to make time for regular exercise to stay physically fit for now, but with a goal of leaving the assistive devices behind one day.

Source: Michigan Medicine
Photo Credit: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan

College is Hard, But it’s Doable Too

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Moving out of College Freshman Year

Going to college can be a challenge for everyone. It’s especially hard for someone with a physical disability to find a college that checks off not only academics, affordability and location from their list, but accommodations for their disability as well.

By Lacey Pfalz

My experience as someone with osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bones, has been an interesting one. In high school, I had no idea of where I wanted to go, let alone what I wanted to study in college. My mother was insistent that we start looking for accessible colleges sooner rather than later. I started researching colleges sophomore year, and then we started going on tours. My mom knew the right questions to ask and I tested my wheelchair out on each campus.

We made a list of some of the things we deemed necessary for me to be able to go to college. It had to have a good disabilities coordinator, someone willing to go above and beyond to make college possible for me. Since I’m frequently in and out of a wheelchair, accessible housing and campus in general were musts. It had to be somewhat close to home in case of an emergency and it also had to have a good program for my field of interest.

I found everything I wanted at Wisconsin Lutheran College. It’s small enough so that I can easily walk around campus and get around enough during those periods when I’m in a wheelchair. It has enough elevators and alternate routes to places so I can go anywhere I need to in a wheelchair. It’s got a great Christian atmosphere—very nurturing and loving for all types of people. When I get tired wheeling myself, there’s always someone ready to help me get to class. It’s also right across the street from the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, which just so happens to be where my specialists are. WLC also has a great history and English program, both of which are my majors.

My main takeaway from the college decision process is to know your strengths, but also know your weaknesses. Don’t feel left out just because you use a wheelchair or a walker, or because you need extra time to take tests. College is hard, but it’s doable too. The rewards you receive while at a physical college are too great to pass up. I’ve made incredible friends, most of whom are nursing majors, funny enough. I’m an officer on two different campus organizations and I work as a Spanish tutor—all opportunities I would’ve missed had I not attended WLC.

Lacey pictured on the floor playing with her dog
Lacey and her dog Leo

A real college experience awaits you! Just make sure you take your time and research all of your options first. Meet with a disability coordinator early on in the process—they are there to help you succeed. And if you don’t feel comfortable with a college for whatever reason, don’t go. Keep looking. I promise you, if it is meant to be, the right college will find you and it may be where you weren’t looking. I did not think I wanted to come to WLC, but as soon as I toured it, I knew.

I’ve been lucky to have only one fracture during these last three years at WLC; one that put me in a wheelchair for three weeks during the February of my freshman year. I’m not going to lie to you—that really sucked. It was hard being so independent at first—it was like I could forget about my disease and pretend that I was just a normal young woman having the time of her life—and then had to take a few steps backward again. But I did all right. I had friends help push me through the winter weather to most of my classes, and when I couldn’t find friends, WLC’s amazing disabilities coordinator pushed me to class herself!

I’ve had a very rare opportunity to attend an incredible college, study what I love and grow as an optimistic young woman with a physical disability—all in an environment that is accessible for me. I think everyone deserves that opportunity.

Here are my tips for finding disability-accessible colleges:

  1. Start your search early in high school. This will give you time to think about what is necessary for you to attend a college.
  2. Visit colleges near you. Some people with physical disabilities need to be close to specific hospitals or areas close to where their family lives. Use colleges in your area for your first choices.
  3. Besides researching things like financial aid and academic programs, also research their campus. Is every building ADA accessible? What about the size of the campus? Meet with the college’s disabilities coordinator to talk over living situations and ask questions.
  4. Get in touch with other people with physical disabilities who may have gone to the colleges you’re thinking about. What do they say about accessibility, both on-campus and off-campus?
  5. Finally, go with your gut decision. If you fall in love with a college that has almost everything on your list, and the disabilities coordinator is willing to work with you so you can have a successful experience, then definitely go for it. However, if you don’t feel sure, it’s OK to take a step back and look at other possible alternatives.

Finally, don’t forget to be your own advocate. That’s what college is meant to do—to help you find your own voice. Use it wisely and don’t be afraid to speak out.

Teacher Carries Student With Spina Bifida On His Back So She Won’t Miss Out on Class Field Trip

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Teacher carries disabled student in a specialty made backpack

A Kentucky teacher is being hailed for going above and beyond the call of duty to bring a disabled student along on their field trip.

Ryan Neighbor’s fourth grade class at Tully Elementary School had been preparing to go on a field trip to Falls of the Ohio State Park last week—and she was heartbroken over the prospect of missing out on the fun.

Since the 10-year-old youngster was born with spina bifida, she has relied on a wheelchair her entire life. This is not the first time that Ryan’s disability has prevented her from attending field trips in the past, so her mother Shelly King began “preparing for an ‘alternate field trip day.’”

Thankfully, she didn’t have to. Upon hearing about Ryan’s plight, elementary school teacher Jim Freeman contacted the family “out of the blue” and offered to carry Ryan around on his back for the entire field trip.

True to his word, Freeman used a specialized backpack to carry the 55-pound youngster on his back across the park terrain—and Ryan was thrilled.

Since her mother shared photos of Freeman and Ryan on the field trip, they have been shared thousands of times.

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

A young woman, a wheelchair and the fight to take her place at Stanford

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Sylvia Colt-Lacayo outside in her wheelchair wearing a floral dress

Sylvia Colt-Lacayo is 18, fresh-faced and hopeful, as she beams confidence from her power wheelchair. Her long dark hair is soft and carefully tended, and her wide brown eyes are bright. A degenerative neuromuscular disease, similar to muscular dystrophy, has left her with weak, underdeveloped muscles throughout her body, and her legs are unable to support any weight. Each time she needs to get in or out of her wheelchair — to leave bed in the morning, use the bathroom, take a shower, change clothes — she needs assistance.

Throughout her young life, Sylvia has been told her disability didn’t need to hold her back. And she took those words to heart. She graduated near the top of her high school class in Oakland with a 4.25 GPA. She was co-captain of the mock trial team at school, served on the youth advisory board of the local children’s hospital, interned in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and is a budding filmmaker. In April, Sylvia learned she had been admitted to Stanford University with a full scholarship for tuition, room and board.

To move out of her family home and into a dorm, her doctor determined she would need at least 18 hours of personal assistance each day to help with the daily tasks typically done by her mother. As she began to research options, Sylvia came to a startling conclusion: Despite the scholarship, her family wouldn’t be able to afford the caregiver hours she would need to live on campus. And she would learn in coming months that she was largely on her own to figure it out.

Over the past several decades, medical advances have allowed young people with disabilities to live longer, healthier lives. But when it comes time to leave home, they run up against a patchwork system of government insurance options that often leave them scrambling to piece together the coverage they need to survive.

“On paper, I did everything right,” said Sylvia. “You get into this school, they give you a full ride; but you still can’t go, even though you’ve worked so hard, because you can’t get out of bed in the morning. It’s mind-boggling.”

People with serious disabilities face a frustrating conundrum: Federal and state insurance will pay for them to live in a nursing home, but if they want to live in the community, home-based care is often underfunded.

Over the past several decades, medical advances have allowed young people with disabilities to live longer, healthier lives. But when it comes time to leave home, they run up against a patchwork system of government insurance options that often leave them scrambling to piece together the coverage they need to survive.

Continue to Mercury News to read the complete article.

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies made sensory love notes to support kids with autism

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childs hand holding a special Rice Krispies treat

As the school year gets underway, Rice Krispies is thinking about what notes parents may want to tuck into their kids’ lunch boxes. (Exhausted parents, on the other hand, may be counting down the days until they can foist lunch-making duties back on to the school cafeteria, no judgment.)

Last year, the Kellogg cereal brand teamed up with the National Federation of the Blind to create specialized “Love Notes” with phrases like “You’ve Got This” to “Love You Lots” written in braille for parents to share with children who are blind.

It was a sweet, inclusive message. Now Rice Krispies is continuing its mission with a new kind of love note, this one designed with children living with autism or on the autism spectrum in mind.

Since not every child communicates love through words, the cereal company partnered with Autism Speaks to create touch-and-feel sensory “Love Notes” so children can actually feel love and support as they transition back to school.

The four “lightly reusable” stickers come in a range of supposedly calming colors and different textures, including fleece, faux fur, satin, and velour for sensory-focused kids to feel the love through a tactile experience.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Meet Grace Hopper Celebration 2019’s Honoree Jhillika Kumar

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Jhillika Kumar poses outside smiling wearing a white blouse and smiling

The Student of Vision Abie Award honors young women dedicated to creating a future where the people who imagine and build technology mirror the people and societies for which they build. This year’s winner is Georgia Tech student Jhillika Kumar.

When Jhillika’s parents brought home an iPad for the first time, they could not have predicted how much it would improve their family’s lives. Accessible technology, for the first time ever, allowed her autistic and nonverbal brother to enjoy his passion for music. It distracted his mind from the physical world of disability. She watched her brother instantly swipe and tap swiftly across the interface. The smile that it brought him is the smile she wants to bring to millions of others with disabilities.

Jhillika’s family experience ignited her passion to advocate for disability rights and a career driven by a mission to create an inclusive world. She is a UX/UI designer, aspiring entrepreneur, and a third-year Georgia Tech student with a desire to improve the lives of the differently abled. She advocates to lift the barriers that exist within technology, design, and even policy, and empowers the largest underserved group by bringing attention to the importance of empathy and mutuality in design.

Knowing the impact that UX Design could make on someone who once couldn’t communicate, Jhillika decided to pursue a focus in computer science and interaction design through Georgia Tech’s undergraduate Computational Media program and Digital Media master’s program. Over the summer of her sophomore year of college, she interned at Disney where she created a short film to raise awareness to the product teams on the capacity that their technology had to empower entire communities of untapped potential, purely through improved accessibility. Expanding on this, Jhillika presented a talk at TEDxGeorgiaTech last fall, where she spoke about the importance of accessibility in the industry.

All of Jhillika’s efforts in this space have come together in her current initiative: an on-campus organization she founded called AxisAbility. In order to augment the capabilities of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, AxisAbility is creating a virtual platform to understand family needs and match them with the technology engineered to directly generate physiological changes in the brain to improve cognitive function.

At the School of Interactive Computing, Jhillika currently works in academia, collaborating with Dr. Gregory Abowd and Ivan Riobo to study how non-speaking autistic individuals could use technology-led therapies and assistive technologies to communicate. The study looks at evaluating cognitive competency through eye-gaze tracking software (retinal movement). This could provide vast insight into their cognitive abilities. Jhillika returned to school to her junior year of college engulfed with the spirit of empathy for the differently abled, and was invited as a speaker at World Information Architecture Day and FutureX Live, as well as Women in XR. Her initiatives won her the Alvin M. Ferst Leadership and Entrepreneur Award for 2019 awarded by Georgia Tech.

Continue on to “How Our College Startup’s Autism App Is Flowering Into Fruition – Enlighten Mentors to read Jhillika’s personal story and how you can help her mission.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Verizon

Verizon

Robert Half