How Interior Design Can Be A Tool In Managing Life With Autism

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Jess Faerman at home in her apartment with her dog

Justin Moehn’s vast amiibo collection, comfortable gaming chairs and a large screen set up in a very specific way in his Richmond bedroom are evidence of his highly focused affection for video games. Jess Faerman’s small apartment in Houston has a single chair she’s willing to sit on and a circular path for her compulsive need for pacing.

For Hannah Warren, who lives in Southeast Houston, a velvety soft covering on an air mattress and drops of lavender oil are her keys to a good night’s sleep, for now, anyway.

All three have autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, a developmental disability whose cause is still a mystery to researchers. As they, educators and parents all look for ways to cope in the classroom and at home, one thing they know for certain is that the right interior design can help children and adults manage the anxiety and behaviors that typically accompany autism, improving life for them and other members of their families.

Important elements include color, texture, lighting and the durability of furnishings, say parents and experts.

Don Lawrence, who works in health care facility planning at CannonDesign, comes to the topic with two points of view: one as a trained design planner and the other as a father of a 29-year-old son who has autism.

“Research has taken off in the last five years,” Lawrence said of both searching for information about cause, treatment and daily coping skills.

Lawrence, who lives in Sugar Land, had a background in health care when he returned to the University of Texas to study architecture years ago. Now he works exclusively in health care design planning, and recently finished work on an autism clinic at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in California.

“We did research on current thinking about interventions, primarily looking for ways to create a calming and relaxing environment. There’s a lot of research on color and sound and transitions from space to space,” Lawrence said, noting that design elements that work in a clinical setting work in homes and schools, too.

Color and light — both natural and artificial — are two important elements of home design, and they’re big factors in homes that have a child or adult with autism.

Lawrence explained that the slight flicker of a fluorescent light bulb, which are still used extensively in offices, stores and schools, can seem to a person with autism as the rest of us might see a strobe light. Imagine all of the homes built in the 1980s and 1990s with light boxes for fluorescent tubes over their kitchen islands — every one of them is a problem if someone in the household has autism.

Lawrence and special education consultant Robin Rettie of Lighthouse Learning & Resource both said that soothing colors are essential. In a bedroom, pale greens and blues with gray undertones are often talked about as calming colors — the same holds true for people with autism. Muted shades of lavender or purple also help calm people with ASD. Bright colors such as red, orange or yellow — colors you see often see in classrooms and toys for young children — appear so harsh that they can cause outbursts.

Nearly everyone with autism avoids bright lights. In Moehn’s bedroom — where he spends a good deal of his time — he has just a single bulb in the three-light ceiling-mounted light fixture and usually keeps the plantation shutters on his only window closed.

Rettie and Lawrence both said dimmable lights and bulbs with a warmer glow are best, so they can be adjusted.

Texture is a huge factor — people with autism generally prefer soft, silky fabrics over anything rough or scratchy — so bedding and upholstery have to be chosen carefully. You don’t have to use them everywhere in your home, just in the bedroom of the person with autism — it’s advisable they have their own room — and in a place they like to sit when they’re with others.

Moehn, 37, who lives with his parents, treats his room as his own retreat, with satin sheets on his bed to help him sleep. Faerman, 33, who has her own apartment, puts a soft blanket on the only chair she will sit on in her apartment. The softness of the plush toys on her bed helps soothe her.

Janice Warren has struggled to help her daughter, 12-year-old Hannah, whose challenges change as she ages. She slept on a twin bed but wore it out — jumping on furniture can be an issue, so it needs to be more durable. While she looked for a new bed, she let Hannah sleep on an air mattress that had a soft, velvety cover. Her daughter was getting the best sleep she’d ever had, so she halted the new-bed search.

Warren has also incorporated aromatherapy, using plant-based lavender oil that helps calm her daughter, who is mainstreamed in school but not highly functional and has poor verbal skills. She adds the oil to shampoo and lotion and occasionally puts a couple of drops on her pillow and in dresser drawers, which, by the way, have labels for individual items that go in them.

Structure is vital for people with autism, so organizing systems help them cope. Knowing which shelf in a pantry, drawer in a refrigerator or container in a closet has their things fosters independence via daily living skills and is comforting. When things are out of place, though, it can be overwhelming, and the person may shut down or act out.

PHOTO: Jess Faerman / Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer

Continue on to The Houston Chronicle to read the complete article.

Why TV Writer Katherine Beattie Stopped Hiding Her Disability: ‘We Need Disabled People In All Levels’

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Katherine Beattie sitting is a wheelchair wearing leather jacket and jeans

By Allison Norlian for Forbes.

These days, work looks a lot different for Katherine Beattie. A producer on CBS’s hit procedural drama NCIS: New Orleans, Beattie and the rest of her colleagues had to adjust their storytelling to fit Covid-19 protocols.

They now meet remotely to produce each episode of season 7 versus being on set. They are also shooting in fewer locations, with fewer action scenes, and mask-wearing is mandatory. The most significant change for Beattie, who has worked on the show since its inception in 2014, is not traveling to New Orleans to shoot.

Adjusting has been an arduous task for almost everyone involved – but not necessarily for Beattie, who has spent her entire life adapting to a world not built for her.

Beattie was born with cerebral palsy, a group of movement disorders impacting muscle tone and posture. CP happens as the brain is developing before birth and affects how a person’s brain communicates with their muscles. CP affects everyone diagnosed differently. For Beattie, having CP means tight muscles and getting tired quickly. She didn’t need mobility aids for much of her upbringing, but she has used a wheelchair full-time for almost eight years in her personal life. In her professional life, though, she’s only used a wheelchair for four years.

That’s because, for a while, she hid her disability.

Beattie, 34, grew up in Los Angeles County and was tangentially involved in the entertainment industry. Her

(Image Credit – Forbes)

father, who worked in politics, would often take political candidates to screenings of The Tonight Show, and sometimes Beattie and her twin sister would tag along.

Beattie loved being backstage and meeting the celebrities. At this point, she knew she wanted to work in television in some capacity, but it would take years before she realized she wanted to be a screenwriter. She eventually decided to attend Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, and majored in their Radio, Television, and Film program.

Through a contact at The Tonight Show, Beattie landed an internship at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. After graduation, in 2008, Beattie was offered a job at the show in their human-interest department. She assisted the producer with all non-celebrity segments. Beattie loved her coworkers and working for the show, she says, but she quickly found herself dissatisfied.

Read the full article at Forbes.

Meet Amanda Gorman, who made history as youngest inaugural poet

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Amanda Gorman stands behind podium smiling with two fingers pointing up while reading her poem

By Tamar Lapin

Originally posted on the New York Post.

Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old Harvard graduate from California, made US history on Wednesday as the youngest person ever chosen to write a poem for a presidential inauguration.

The Los Angeles native captivated viewers during President Biden’s swearing-in ceremony with her moving rendition of “The Hill We Climb,” a work about unity, healing and perseverance.

“When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?” Gorman began her inaugural poem.

She continued: “And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow we do it. Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished.”

Mindful of the past, Gorman honored previous inaugural poet Maya Angelou by wearing a ring with a caged bird — a tribute to the writer’s classic memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — gifted to her by Oprah Winfrey.

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” tweeted Winfrey, a close friend of the late writer.

Gorman replied: “Thank you! I would be nowhere without the women whose footsteps I dance in.”

“Here’s to the women who have climbed my hills before.”

So how did Gorman get here? At just 16, she was named Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles and her first poetry book, “The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough,” was released a year later in 2015.

In 2017, she became the country’s first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate.

Gorman, who graduated in May from Harvard University with a degree in sociology, has read for official occasions before.

Having seen perform at the Library of Congress, First Lady Jill Biden asked Gorman late last month to write something to recite on Wednesday.

Gorman had completed a little more than half the work on Jan. 6, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol in an effort to stop Biden’s win from being certified.

“That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem,” Gorman told The Associated Press last week.

She referenced the deadly riot in her work, saying: “We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.”

“And this effort very nearly succeeded. But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.”

Gorman also found commonality with Joe Biden, as both her and the president battled speech impediments.

“Writing my poems on the page wasn’t enough for me,” she told “CBS This Morning.”

“I had to give them breath, and life, I had to perform them as I am. That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

Read the full article on the New York Post

People with disabilities desperately need the vaccine. But states disagree on when they’ll get it.

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By The Washington Post

For weeks, Wendy Lincicome has been asking the same question. She asks it on the phone. She asks it in emails to state officials. She cares for an epileptic blind man with cerebral palsy 24 hours a day, and when he is asleep, she types her question into Google.

“When will people with disabilities get the coronavirus vaccine?” Tens of thousands of Americans with intellectual and developmental disabilities — who are two to three times as likely to die of covid-19 — are waiting for an answer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said health-care personnel and residents of long-term-care facilities should be first in line, in phase “1a.” Disability advocates say guidance should be interpreted to include all people with disabilities who receive long-term care, whether in large institutions, smaller group homes or in settings like Lincicome’s, who is paid to live with a North Carolina man who has round-the-clock needs.

But as guidance from the federal government has been translated into vaccine distribution plans made by states, those with disabilities have been downgraded to lower priority status.

D.C. as well as MarylandAlabama and many other states are leaving people with disabilities who live in large institutions and group homes out of their Phase 1a plans, instead moving them to 1b or 1c. In Indiana and Rhode Island, group homes have been pushed to Phase 2, with the likelihood that vaccinations are months away.

Most states make no mention of disabilities in their vaccine plans, leaving people like Lincicome panicking and confused about how long they and those for whom they care will have to wait.

She is terrified that the man who relies on her, 33-year-old Sloan Meek, could end up as another case of a disabled person being allegedly discriminated against in a hospital after falling ill with covid-19. Without her help, or the help of a computer, Meek is extremely limited in what he can communicate to medical professionals.

“They don’t look at Sloan and see what I see,” Lincicome said. “They don’t see the guy who just recorded an album or has an annual Christmas carol concert. They see a wheelchair, and somebody who is laying in their bed all day.”

By North Carolina guidelines, Meek may not qualify for the vaccine until Phase 2, because he doesn’t live in a home with other individuals with disabilities. If Meek lived in Tennessee, according to its state plan, he’d be a part of the very first wave of vaccinations because of the level of care he receives. Though some state plans would count Lincicome — a caregiver known as a “direct support professional” — as a health-care provider to be provided for in Phase 1a, most have no public plans for caregivers in her role.

The lack of consistency is the result of a lack of guidance from the CDC. Other than acknowledging those with Down syndrome should be prioritized along with people with high-risk medical conditions, federal recommendations for vaccine rollout make no explicit mention of any other disabilities.

A CDC spokesman said states could request that intermediate-care facilities, the large, often government-run institutions for the disabled, receive vaccinations through the same pharmacy partnership program as nursing homes. Decades of reform efforts have closed many of those institutions, moving people with disabilities into small group homes or other living situations integrated into their communities.

But despite an estimated 70,000 people living in group homes, the CDC recommendations do not include them, leaving states to decide where inline those residents, and their caregivers, should fall.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration complicated those choices even more by instructing states to begin vaccinating people with high-risk medical conditions and adults 65 and older.

Read the full article at The Washington Post.

Why Disability Issues Should Be A Higher Priority, Even Now

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By Forbes

Disability issues in particular risk being sidelined even more than they usually are. Despite some notable recent success in bringing disability policy to the attention of politicians, disability is still widely regarded as a niche concern.

The phrase “Everything that’s going on” has rarely been so potent. Presidential Election results have been openly challenged in Congress. The Capitol building itself has been physically attacked by a wild but disturbingly directed mob. The Covid-19 pandemic seems to be escalating everywhere.

So it may be tempting for elected officials and political strategists to set seemingly specialized concerns aside in 2021 and focus just on a few of the perceived “fundamentals” that are understood to affect “everyone,” rather than narrower “special interests.” Conventional wisdom might suggest that with American democracy literally teetering on the brink, matters like Social Security rules, disability rights laws, and even health care eligibility should be put not just on the back burner, but in the deep freeze for the foreseeable future.

This would be a mistake – morally, practically, and politically. Disability issues are far more important and relevant than most people realize. They also offer ground for some tentative returns to a semblance of political bipartisanship, and restoration of faith in society’s ability to do things better. Here are five reasons why disability issues shouldn’t be set aside right now.

The disability community is a large constituency, not a tiny special interest.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 61 million adults in the U.S. have some kind of disability – that’s 26% of the adult population, or 1 in 4 adults. 13.7% of adults have a mobility disability. 10.8% have cognitive or intellectual disabilities. 5.9% of adults have hearing impairments. And 4.6% have vision impairments. These are all minorities in the numerical sense, compared with the whole U.S. population. But they are all substantial minorities.

We should also count families and friends of disabled people too, as part of a more broadly-defined disability community or constituency. It’s a common mistake to assume that non-disabled spouses, siblings, adult children, and work and school buddies always have the same views and priorities as actual disabled people. But they are at least potential and often genuine allies on disability issues.

Read the full article at Forbes.

Amazon Billionaire Gives ‘Transformational’ Gifts To Disability Nonprofits

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MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Scott said she gifted more than $4.1 billion to nonprofits in just four months.

Multiple nonprofits serving people with disabilities are receiving an unprecedented and unexpected influx of cash as part of a massive wave of donations from the billionaire ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Easterseals and 22 of its affiliates across the nation said it received $162 million from MacKenzie Scott. Meanwhile, Goodwill Industries International said it received $20 million and additional funds were given to 46 of its affiliates.

The contributions represent the largest either of the groups have ever received. Both of the nonprofits are over 100

(Image Credit – Disability Scoop)

years old.

The money is part of a blitz of donations from Scott who announced in December that she gave over $4.1 billion to 384 organizations across the nation in the preceding four months.

Scott signed the Giving Pledge in 2019, a commitment to give the majority of her wealth to charity.

In a posting on Medium, the philanthropist cited the pandemic, which she described as a “wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling,” and said that she “asked a team of advisors to help me accelerate my 2020 giving through immediate support to people suffering the economic effects of the crisis.”

Read the full article at Disability Scoop.

World Braille Day Is Monday – Check Out How Westchester Independent Living Center is Celebrating

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Two hands reading a book in braille

This Monday, January 4th is World Braille Day, an international day of recognition for the tactile alphabetic and numerical representation system that has changed the world in so many ways.

It was created in commemoration of Louis Braille’s birthday, the inventor of the system who became blind after a childhood accident in the 19th century. Decades later, this system still provides exponential value to those individuals that are blind and visually impaired.

On World Braille Day organizations like Westchester Independent Living Center (WILC) are working to bring awareness to the importance of accessibility and independence for people living with visual impairments. Since first opening their doors in 1981, WILC has maintained a steady presence in their surrounding community securing its place as one of the premiere living centers for people living with disabilities in Westchester County.

“Everyone deserves and is legally entitled to the same accommodations and services, regardless of their physical capabilities,” said Joe Bravo, Executive Director at WILC. “Join us as we celebrate World Braille Day on Monday continuing to do our part for the community by making living facilities more accessible for everyone.”

Drug Reverses Age-Related Mental Decline Within Days, Suggesting Lost Cognitive Ability is Not Permanent

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Just a few doses of an experimental drug that reboots protein production in cells can reverse age-related declines in memory and mental flexibility in mice, according to a new study by UC San Francisco scientists.

The drug, called ISRIB, has already been shown in laboratory studies to restore memory function months after traumatic brain injury (TBI), reverse cognitive impairments in Down Syndrome, prevent noise-related hearing loss, fight certain types of prostate cancer, and even enhance cognition in healthy animals.

In the new study, published Dec. 1 in the open-access journal eLife, researchers showed rapid restoration of youthful cognitive abilities in aged mice, accompanied by a rejuvenation of brain and immune cells that could help explain improvements in brain function—and with no side effects observed.

“ISRIB’s extremely rapid effects show for the first time that a significant component of age-related cognitive losses may be caused by a kind of reversible physiological “blockage” rather than more permanent degradation,” said Susanna Rosi, PhD, Lewis and Ruth Cozen Chair II and professor in the departments of Neurological Surgery and of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science.

“The data suggest that the aged brain has not permanently lost essential cognitive capacities, as was commonly assumed, but rather that these cognitive resources are still there but have been somehow blocked, trapped by a vicious cycle of cellular stress,” added Peter Walter, PhD, a professor in the UCSF Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “Our work with ISRIB demonstrates a way to break that cycle and restore cognitive abilities that had become walled off over time.”

Rebooting cellular protein production holds key to aging

Walter has won numerous scientific awards, including the Breakthrough, Lasker and Shaw prizes, for his decades-long studies of cellular stress responses. ISRIB, discovered in 2013 in Walter’s lab, works by rebooting cells’ protein production machinery after it gets throttled by one of these stress responses – a cellular quality control mechanism called the integrated stress response (ISR; ISRIB stands for ISR InhiBitor).

RELATED: Breakthrough For Spinal Cord Injuries and Dementia as Protein Builds ‘Striking’ Repairs

The ISR normally detects problems with protein production in a cell—a potential sign of viral infection or cancer-promoting gene mutations—and responds by putting the brakes on cell’s protein-synthesis machinery. This safety mechanism is critical for weeding out misbehaving cells, but if stuck in the ‘on’ position in a tissue like the brain, it can lead to serious problems, as cells lose the ability to perform their normal activities, according to Walter and colleagues.

In particular, their recent animal studies have implicated chronic ISR activation in the persistent cognitive and behavioral deficits seen in patients after TBI, by showing that, in mice, brief ISRIB treatment can reboot the ISR and restore normal brain function almost overnight.

The cognitive deficits in TBI patients are often likened to premature aging, which led Rosi and Walter to wonder if the ISR could also underlie purely age-related cognitive decline. Aging is well known to compromise cellular protein production across the body, as life’s many insults pile up and stressors like chronic inflammation wear away at cells, potentially leading to widespread activation of the ISR.

“We’ve seen how ISRIB restores cognition in animals with traumatic brain injury, which in many ways is like a sped-up version of age-related cognitive decline,” said Rosi, who is director of neurocognitive research in the UCSF Brain and Spinal Injury Center and a member of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. “It may seem like a crazy idea, but asking whether the drug could reverse symptoms of aging itself was just a logical next step.”

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Signature effects of aging disappeared literally overnight

In the new study, researchers led by Rosi lab postdoc Karen Krukowski, PhD, trained aged animals to escape from a watery maze by finding a hidden platform, a task that is typically hard for older animals to learn. But animals who received small daily doses of ISRIB during the three-day training process were able to accomplish the task as well as youthful mice—and much better than animals of the same age who didn’t receive the drug.

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

Disability Advocates Urge People To Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19

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As the first COVID-19 vaccines become available, advocates say that people with developmental disabilities should get vaccinated and they are pushing for this population to be eligible as soon as possible.

In a statement, 20 advocacy groups are calling on people in the disability community to be immunized.

“We encourage our stakeholders to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” reads the statement spearheaded by the Autism Society of America and signed by Autism Speaks, Easterseals, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services and the National Down Syndrome Society, among others.

As the first COVID-19 vaccines become available, advocates say that people with developmental disabilities should get vaccinated and they are pushing for this population to be eligible as soon as possible.

In a statement, 20 advocacy groups are calling on people in the disability community to be immunized.

“We encourage our stakeholders to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” reads the statement spearheaded by the Autism Society of America and signed by Autism Speaks, Easterseals, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services and the National Down Syndrome Society, among others.

The groups said that getting vaccinated will “make it significantly less likely you’ll get COVID-19” and it “may keep you from getting severely ill if you were to contract COVID-19.” In addition, doing so “will help protect vulnerable people around you.”

For those with disabilities, the advocates said that widespread vaccination could lead to an end to remote learning, resumption of regular therapy, support and respite care services, improved employment opportunities and it may allow individuals living in group homes and other congregate settings to see their families and friends again.

“Mass COVID-19 vaccination would allow our global community to recover and help stop the pandemic,” the statement says, while noting that like other medical decisions, people should discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with their physicians.

The benefits of vaccination could be greatest for those with more significant challenges, said Angela Geiger, president and CEO of Autism Speaks.

“For someone with autism and limited communication skills or behavior challenges common in autism, protection afforded by the vaccine can have an immeasurable impact. It can enable renewed participation in community life, access to vital services and supports and an opportunity to begin the recovery from the disruptions in care that have taken place this year,” she said. “This can also be a crucial step for family members and caregivers of people with autism who have more significant needs.”

The push from disability advocacy groups comes as the first COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech started to be administered in the U.S. this week. With limited supply, the initial shots are going to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Advocates have been speaking out for months about the need for people with developmental disabilities to be prioritized in the distribution of any COVID-19 vaccines given the high risks they face. Research shows that people within this population who contract the virus face a two to 10 times greater risk of dying as compared to others.

Continue on to Disability Scoop to read the complete article.

LUCI Reimagines Modern Mobility through Wheelchair Smart Technology

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woman dressed in all yellow seated in a LUCI wheelchair

LUCI, a company that is reimagining modern mobility, today announced the release of its premier product also named LUCI.
It’s a first-of-its-kind hardware and software platform that uses sensor-fusion technologies to allow a power wheelchair to “see” its environment, giving riders unprecedented stability, security and cloud connectivity.
LUCI mounts onto a power wheelchair between the power base and the seat, to help users avoid collisions and dangerous drop-offs while maintaining personalized driving control.

Through cloud-based capabilities, LUCI can also monitor and alert users and caregivers of low battery, possible tipping scenarios, and other important updates regarding the chair and the user.

Tipping over in a wheelchair is a common, treacherous reality, which often leads to trips to the hospital and expensive healthcare bills. In fact, 87 percent of wheelchair users reported at least one tip or fall in the past three years. Wheelchair accidents were the cause of more than 175,000 ER visits in 2010 — the last year the data was tracked — and 30,000 of those were significant enough for admission into the hospital.

“Wheelchair users were left behind when it comes to most innovative technology,” said Barry Dean, CEO and founder of LUCI, a Grammy-nominated songwriter, whose daughter Katherine, 19, has cerebral palsy and has used a wheelchair her whole life. “We realized no one else was working on this problem in a meaningful way so my brother Jered (Dean, CTO of LUCI) and I set out to create a solution for Katherine. What started as a labor of love among family members has ultimately created a safer, more stable way for people with disabilities to navigate their world and stay connected to loved ones. Today, we’re excited to launch LUCI and continue collaborating with researchers, universities and other companies using our open platform to move the industry forward together.”

The LUCI team spent the past two and half years collaborating with clinical professionals and logging over 25,000 hours of user testing to develop an invention to help people with physical disabilities drive safely, precisely and independently. LUCI’s R&D efforts have already resulted in a total of 16 patents (eight pending).

“When we started tinkering with my niece Katherine’s chair, we had no idea where this journey would lead,” said Jered Dean, CTO, who has spent two decades in design and systems engineering, most recently serving as director of the Colorado School of Mines’s Capstone Design@Mines program. “From developing advancements in millimeter-wave radar technology to collaborating with engineering leaders from Intel® RealSense™ Technology group to maximize the application of some of the world’s smartest cameras, I’m incredibly proud of the unprecedented work our team has accomplished to solve the challenges our customers face.”

LUCI’s technology combines stereovision, infrared, ultrasonic and radar sensors to offer users these critical features:
● Collision avoidance: LUCI is designed to prevent wheelchair users from running into objects (walls, people, pets, furniture, etc.) as they navigate their daily lives. It does this by smoothly helping to navigate the chair in coordination with user steering inputs based on obstacle detection in the driver’s surroundings.
● Drop-off protection: It doesn’t take a large drop-off to tip a wheelchair (less than three inches in some cases). LUCI helps users avoid tipping by recognizing steps or drop-offs and smoothly helping the chair continue on a safer path.
● Anti-tipping alert system: LUCI monitors the steepness of a ramp or the ground users are driving on and provides an audible alert if it becomes a tipping danger. In the event that a chair tips over, LUCI sounds an alarm and can be configured to quickly alert other individuals, such as a caregiver or loved one, of the exact location of the rider and the tipped chair.
● Cloud-based communications and alerts: The MyLUCI portal allows users to view their data and share it with loved ones or clinicians. LUCI can be set up to alert others of specific events, such as the user’s location if their battery gets dangerously low. LUCI also now works with Hey Google and Amazon Alexa so users can interact with MyLUCI using their voice. MyLUCI portal is available as mobile apps for both iOS and Android™ phones, as well as for desktop with the Web Portal.
● Secure health monitoring: LUCI users can choose to share their heart rate data with their team using either Google Fit* or Apple Health- Kit from day one. Based in Nashville, with R&D headquarters in Denver, Colo., LUCI was founded by Barry and Jered Dean—two brothers who were driven to innovate from personal experience and committed to create change for people living with disabilities.

For more info, visit luci.com.

“What started as a labor of love among family members has ultimately created a safer, more stable way for people with disabilities to navigate their world and stay connected to loved ones.”
— Barry Dean, CEO and founder of LUCI.

Grant to make STEM education more accessible to students with disabilities

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FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington has received a National Science Foundation grant of $96,377 to engage rural students with disabilities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning through accessible makerspaces.

The innovative UMF incubator makerspace, Maine-Makerspaces for Abilities Driving Entrepreneurship (ME-MADE), is in the Mantor Library Learning Commons. It is available to the university community, with plans to be open to members of the public of all abilities and disabilities.

                                                               (Photo credit – Courtesy UMF)

A makerspace is an area that contains materials and tools for people to work together to learn, collaborate, create and share. They provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent as they engage in STEM.

Over a 16-month period of the NSF planning grant, UMF and its partners, the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and the Mt. Blue Middle School, will focus on creating a shared vision that will be supported by a range of activities, including, outreach to grades kindergarten to 12 schools throughout the state.

The NSF grant will build on the progress of a three-year, $300,000 grant received from the University of Maine System’s Maine Economic Improvement Fund in spring 2020. The MEIF is the state’s investment in University of Maine System research and development that benefits the people of Maine. The UMF project was recognized as having the potential to provide a positive economic impact for Maine by fostering entrepreneurship in the region.

Read the full article at Sun Journal.

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