Man chooses "elective amputation" for bionic hand, after motorcycle accident

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A 26-year-old man in Austria who lost the use of his right hand in a motorcycle accident ten years ago has decided to undergo "elective amputation," after which he will be fitted with a bionic hand controlled by nerve signals from his own arm. German prosthetics company Otto Bock makes the bionic hands; BBC News reports the prosthetics can "pinch and grasp in response to signals from the brain that are picked up by two sensors placed over the skin above nerves in the forearm."

This will be the second such surgery performed by Professor Oskar Aszmann, of Vienna.

A 24-year-old Austrian man named Patrick was the first patient in the world to choose to have his hand amputated, again by Professor Aszmann, and a bionic replacement fitted. He lost the use of his left hand after being electrocuted at work.
More here, and there's video of the bionic hand in use by Patrick, here.

(Thanks, Marguerite // update: also found on Make today, via Phil Torrone)

US, EU want to delay copyright treaty to help blind people for 3-5 years

Jamie Love sez, "On April 15, 2011, the European Union participated in informal negotiations on the World Intellectual Property Organization treaty for the blind. The meeting was held at the US Embassy in Geneva. The EU proposed a 3 to 5 year delay in even considering a treaty. The US position is reportedly quite similar to the EU. The URL links to the text of the EU proposal, and provides additional context."
The combination of the soft recommendation and the monitoring and delay in action advocated by the European Commission and the USPTO is widely seen as a face saving way for the Obama Administration and the European Commission to kill the treaty, or at least to delay it so long its proponents can no longer maintain their advocacy efforts.

At this point, advocates of the treaty will be looking for help in changing the positions of the European Commission and the US government -- the two groups now blocking action on the treaty.

* Within the US government, the USPTO head David Kappos and the White House have dug in against the treaty.
* In Europe, the European Parliament has held two large public meetings on the treaty, sent several letters and questions to the Commission, and plans a vote on the treaty proposal.
* The US Congress has yet to show any support for the treaty.

15 April European Union proposal: 3 to 5 year delay in negotiations on a copyright treaty for blind persons

Travel guide for American invalids, 1887

1887's Appleton's illustrated hand-book of American winter resorts for tourists and invalids is a whirlwind tour through all the places you can go and die of consumption in the America of yesteryear:
Out west in scenic California the land and times were much, much different than today. Appleton's guide takes visitors on a botanical tour of "cacti of the most curious sort," and it also explains why I saw so many Eucalyptus trees while living there in 2000-2004: "But the people plant a little shoot of the Australian blue-gum (Eucalyptus globulus), and in two years it becomes a shade-tree 15 or 20 feet high." Fashion and comfort were obviously not commodities in the near horizon if Eucalyptus shade-providing trees were the amenities.

Be sure to head north to Santa Barbara and buy a horse for only $20 so you can tour the beaches. Cure your rheumatism at the Hot Sulphur Springs with sulphureted hydrogen, iron, aluminum, and potash. The dry air the guides associated with relief for consumptive illnesses was and is the same dry air responsible for horrendous wildfires that we see in the news every summer.

Appleton's illustrated hand-book of American winter resorts for tourists and invalids (Thanks, ButIfAndThat, via Submitterator!)

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.

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(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?

Read the rest