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Wheelchair for the developing world: cheap, rugged and easy to maintain


Core77's case-study of the MIT Mobility Lab's "Leveraged Freedom Chair" is a fascinating look at the difficulties presented by designing a sustainable wheelchair for use by disabled people in the developing world. The final product can be sold for $100 -- a 90 percent reduction off traditional wheelchairs -- and uses a lever-driven propulsion system that works better over rough terrain. It uses bicycle parts to keep costs down and simplify maintenance.

Case Study: Leveraged Freedom Chair, by Amos Winter and Jake Childs

Maine to legalize switchblades for one-armed people

A Maine legislator has introduced a bill to make it legal for people with one arm to own and carry a switchblade (because you need two hands to operate a regular clasp knife). I actually quite like this idea, but think it's too narrow, I'd have worded it more like "lawful for people who, due to infirmity, disability or amputation find it difficult to operate a clasp-knife..." so people with arthritis, one-side paralysis, etc, could have and use that most useful of tools: a knife.
The Lewiston Sun-Journal reports that Rep. Sheryl Briggs has introduced LD 126, entitled "An Act to Allow a Person With One Arm to Possess Certain Kinds of Prohibited Knives." The bill would provide that Maine's "dangerous knives" law, which restricts switchblades, would not apply to the "possession or transportation of a knife . . . by an individual who has only one arm." This exception would allow single-armed Americans (male or female, of course, but probably male) the same access to folding knives that is enjoyed by the fully limbed.

According to the report, Briggs was asked to propose the legislation by a one-armed lawyer in her district, who pointed out that current law "utterly fails to accommodate" people who cannot use two hands to open a folding knife and who, I guess, have a need for that kind of knife rather than a regular one with a sheath or something for safety reasons. He also pointed out that a similar exception is already part of federal law.

Maine Bill Would Allow One-Armed Men to Use Switchblades

(Image: IMGA0174_tijuana, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from gregor_y's photostream)

Where's Molly: heartbreaking reunion with developmentally disabled sister institutionalized 47 years ago

Jeff Daly's sister Molly was sent away when he was six and she was three; all though his childhood, Jeff pestered his parents with the question, "Where's Molly?" He only got non-answers like "She's not here anymore" in response. 47 years later, after his parents' death, he tracked down Molly -- who was developmentally disabled and institutionalized in accordance with the common medical advice of the day -- and discovered his parents' secret heartbreak.
And at first, Molly's father visited often, until Fairview's staff advised him to stop, because Molly would become inconsolable after he left.

But Jack Daly found an ingenious way to continue seeing his daughter . . .

"He did go back," said Jeff. "It was only a way that I suppose my dad could have figured out. He went back as a clown."

Jeff's father - an executive at the Bumblbee Seafood Company - founded a troupe called the Astoria Clowns in 1957, the very year Molly was sent away. The troupe traveled around Oregon, marching in parades and entertaining children wherever they went.

And they visited Fairview.

"He was able to have this relationship with Molly in disguise: Painted face, an orange wig, wearing the clown outfit," said Jeff. "But he was able to still get back there and see his daughter."

By profession, Jeff was a freelance cameraman who sometimes worked for CBS News. Now, he's made a film called "Where's Molly" about the search for his sister. He hopes his story encourages others to reunite with siblings lost because of the wisdom of earlier times.

Where's Molly? (Thanks, Steve, via Submitterator!)

Raising money for paralyzed graffiti artist and open eye-tracker pioneer TEMPT1

Here's a Kickstarter project from the EyeWriter team -- EyeWriter being a set of free/open libraries and hardware for doing eye-tracking for input and robotic control. EyeWriter has its inception with TEMPT1, a famous Los Angeles graffiti artist who was paralyzed by ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) but who has been able to go on working thanks to the EyeWriter tools.

Now TEMPT1 and the EyeWriter folks are raising $15,000 to "create a new collection of original TEMPT1 artwork and merchandise using the EyeWriter 2.0 software, robotic technology, traditional print-making techniques, as well as his community of friends, fans and peers. Supporting this campaign will not only allow TEMPT1 to continue to make art and express his ideas, but it will give him a chance to again become a professional artist, independently support himself and his family, pay for his medical bills, and make a contribution to the contemporary art world."

TEMPT1 & EyeWriter = Art by Eyes (Thanks, Henrik!)

Michael Franti's "The Sound of Sunshine" in sign language

Video link. There's a whole genre of ASL (American Sign Language) music videos, exemplified perfectly by smokin' hot hottie-hot Jennie Batchelder in her fantastic interpretation of Michael Franti's "The Sound of Sunshine." Michael's had ASL interpreters at his shows for 11 years, so come check out more at the Power to the Peaceful Festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on September 10-12, 2010.

How do blind architects rethink buildings?

"We were exploring how we could sense it with a cane, sense it with our fingers, sense it with our feet... There is this great palette of textures...All of a sudden, it starts to engage your brain in a different way."—Christopher Downey, an architect who lost his sight in 2007.

An interview with Sarah May Scott

Susannah Breslin is a guestblogger on Boing Boing. She is a freelance journalist who blogs at Reverse Cowgirl and is at work on a novel set in the adult movie industry.

SarahMayScottScar.jpg

(Self-portrait by Sarah May Scott)

At Mayday Productions, blogger Sarah Scott writes about life with a spinal cord injury. Her writing is searingly honest, brutally revealing, and wickedly self-aware.

The after is where it really gets grand, gets epic, gets to where one memoir could never be enough. Truly epic shit doesn't start to go down until the very moment you decide to start living again, to start crawling your way back into the light and out of the darkness. I know enough to know now I'll never fully leave the darkness completely, but the reprieves at this point seem to be enough to keep me going for now. sometimes. But no one wants to hear about the after, because it doesn't arc as much as it shakes and shudders in fits and spurts until eventually you recognize an ersatz normalcy has filled the void you left somewhere in all the fallout.

I interviewed her for Boing Boing about life in a wheelchair, if she considers herself a cyborg, and her plans on becoming a female Hardiman.

SB: Tell me your story.

SS: The story that everyone wants to know from the start is why I use a wheelchair. I was 29, one minute racing my road bike, and the next "tits up in a ditch" and a paraplegic. That was nearly four years ago. Prior to that, I was your basic hot mess, but that's a longer story than there is room for here. I will say that PTSD has figured in for a longer time than I ever realized until I was injured. For once in my life, and this always sounds crazy, but after everything I've been through I actually like who I am for the first time in my life, chair and all.

I am a small-town girl from State College, PA, though I spent some time in NYC and Philadelphia before returning after my accident. These days I live in a very rural area with my crazy mutts.

SB: Are you a cyborg?

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