Hans Smith

January 30, 2011

Kotaku reports on Hans Smith, the virtual athlete who is responsible for the Disabled Virtual Athlete Mode in MLB 11 The Show.

Hans Smith

Hans Smith, virtual athlete


Aimee Mullins at TEDMED

March 12, 2010

I just can’t get enough Aimee Mullins, it seems.

Here she is at TEDMED along with an interview with CNN.

Aimee Mullins

Who needs legs when you look like this?

And some other entries I’ve blogged about her:



the Oscar goes to…

March 8, 2010

Music by Prudence


Oscar for best short-subject documentary.


This got a little more attention at the Oscars since one of the producers “pulled a Kanye” on the director as he was giving his acceptance speech. (Also, how funny is it that Kanye is now part of the lexicon for someone who upstages someone accepting an award?)

I’ll come back and edit if I find out when this documentary will be shown on TV in the U.S.

Mobility for Toddlers

October 2, 2009

It has always astonished me how long it takes kids to get powered mobility. Not being able to move around has profound effects on cognitive and language development. Check out these robots:

(However, please don’t read the YouTube comments. YouTube comments are probably the most cognitively impaired language output on the planet. )

Reuters reports the following story:

No thumbprint, no money, bank tells armless man

MIAMI (Reuters) – A bank in Florida refused to cash a check for an armless man because he could not provide a thumbprint.

“They looked at my prosthetic hands and the teller said, ‘Well, obviously you can’t give us a thumbprint’,” Steve Valdez told CNN on Wednesday.

But he said the Bank of America Corp branch in downtown Tampa, Florida, still insisted on a thumbprint identification for him to cash a check drawn on his wife’s account at the bank, even though he showed them two photo IDs.

In the incident last week, a bank supervisor told Valdez he could only cash the check without a thumbprint if he brought his wife in with him or he opened an account with them.

“I told them I neither wanted an account with them and couldn’t bring my wife in because she was nowhere close by,” Valdez told CNN.

Bank of America said in a statement cited by CNN: “While the thumbprint is a requirement for those who don’t have accounts, the bank should have made accommodations.”

Valdez said his treatment by the bank violated the U.S. Americans with Disability Act requiring institutions to provide reasonable accommodation to disabled persons.

(Writing by Pascal Fletcher; editing by Todd Eastham)

It would be funny it it weren’t so disturbingly stupid.

This is not a political blog. This is a blog about how the design of things intersects with our social structures to enhance or obstruct the participation of people with disabilities in society.

I suppose the fact that I think that social structures are things that can themselves be designed and engineered is a political bias that cannot be separated from my blogging, but this place isn’t meant to be about politics ostensibly.

With that, let me talk about the late Senator Edward Kennedy.

Here is a partial list of legislation that Sen Kennedy fought for (from the blog of Robert Rummel-Hudson):

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Parallel Play

June 28, 2009

Parallel play

Parallel play

Parallel play is when two children are playing the same play frame, but not collaborating with one another or influencing one another’s play directly.

Rather than through negotiation, the two children’s play frames are synchronized and coordinated by imitation. You often see one child repeating the same action that another child does. (Classic Vygotsky: the play frame is in their ZPD and they are learning how to act in it from one another).

This poses problems for kids with disabilities: #1: their motor and linguistic capacity to imitate.

Can our kid actually perform the physical actions of driving the car up the ramp or putting a dress on Barbie? This is a problem (but is a little out of my universe as an SLP. I’ll let the OT and Rec Therapists work on this one).

Can a child using AAC imitate something that another child says that sounds interesting?


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“That’s not fair”

March 15, 2009

I don’t know how to embed TED talks in WordPress, so click on this link and watch the video. Then come back here.

The key to using technology to overcome disabilities is to not try to duplicate the functioning of a “normal” person, but to give people capacities that they wouldn’t ordinarily have had.

AAC devices are not, and will never be, a “prosthetic voice” no matter how hard we work on designing them. We’re artificially limiting ourselves by trying. We can do better. We can make AAC a more powerful communication method.

Update: YouTube saves the day

Voting 2

November 7, 2008

The majority of Americans with disabilities are not registered to vote. I was trying to find some statistics to post here, but there is not a lot of research on the topic, either.

Early VotingWhen I was in New Hampshire, the entrance to the polling place I voted at had stairs and no ramp into the building. The exit, however, had a concrete ramp. So in order for a person who could not climb stairs to vote (and I did witness this with one senior citizen who used a walker) that person would have to go in the out door, which left him or her on the wrong side of all the registration tables. The traffic flow was only suitable for one-way traffic.

A better-designed layout would have had a traffic flow that had people going in the ramp door and out down the stairs. This still means that a person not using the stairs would have to go against the flow of traffic to leave.

The reason this is preferable is to accommodate people who might have cognitive or communication impairments in addition to a physical disability. The flow of the room should make it easy to determine what to do without having to ask. If nothing else, one could imitate the person ahead of you in line, something I do as a nondisabled person put in a new or unfamiliar situation all the time.

In the place I voted in PA, there was only one door so everyone had to go against the flow of traffic to leave. It wouldn’t have been any more awkward for someone in a wheelchair, scooter or with a walker than for anyone else. (If I were running that polling place, I would have still turned the check-in tables ninety degrees do direct flow better, but it was functional the way it was).
Some technology after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

What is this blog anyway?

October 23, 2008

I keep attaching the word “design” to things, but so far, there hasn’t been a whole lot of blogging here focused on it. What is this blog about, anyway? Here, have a seat and I’ll explain where I’m coming from. (This entry is an example of metacommunication.)

Pull up a Danish postmodern chair

Pull up a Danish postmodern chair

First of all, I am exhilerated by the amount of technology that is avalable today that can allow people to participate in society who might never have been able to do so in years past. Stephen Hawking was Time Magazine’s Man of the Millennium with good reason. Nothing about the man or his work would have been familiar to someone centuries ago.

This isn’t to suggest that all our problems are solved. While we have the technology, application and design for its use still sucks.

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