Category Archives: Mobility

My Driverless Car!


By MATP Staff Member M. Catherine McAdam

Driverless care with doors open and 2 people sitting insideYes, I want one,  a Self-driving car, and have been asking family and friends if they will take a ride with me, (a driver who is totally blind)!  Many have said yes, and some hesitate wondering as many do just how safe these autonomous-vehicles will be.

My initial excitement has been a bit dampened by the reality of licenses needed and the current demand for a steering wheel and breaks and in most cases a backup driver. (See The conversation about driverless cars.)  However I still feel for many of my low vision friends and others with disabilities that there is tremendous potential for driving, and adding to public transit options this the driverless taxi.

I did read one comment (buried within the references/inks listed)  where a wheelchair user expressed concern for maintaining his current adaptive equipment, and this of course is a valid concern. How many times do people make assumptions that something we love, use, and even need, is no longer a valid approach, and then removed from the market? (For example, simple, basic cell phones.)  For many others the increased support of warnings for backing up or changing lanes, and assistance for parallel parking may already be a welcome support. I choose to believe that somewhere on this winding trail there will be many benefits for those of us across the disability spectrum. Some with low vision now drive with the help of optical lenses, and surely will appreciate some of the progressive changes already in motion. Many who have difficulty concentrating, or processing information under stress will also silently benefit as safety features increase.

Google seems convinced that a true driverless car without a steering wheel is possible. (See lifeline for the disabled.) Some propose that the software is “the driver” leaving room for revising licensing: legal and ethical considerations.

One of the things I found when researching this was very exciting.  4 people sitting facing each other inside car, table in between and screen on one sideThe inventor of cruise control was an engineer who was blind. Fears of his invention parallel some of the concerns that drivers will day dream, not pay attention to their surroundings and lose control.

(Maybe you were pulled into the hoax of a Stella award given to a woman/man who left cruise control on to go make a sandwich in the back of their Winnebago: Incredible-lawsuit-tales.)

So I imagine we’ll hear many exaggerated stories about this awesome technology being developed for my driverless car. The more we include people with disabilities in the development, testing and real discussions about this technology the better the outcome! I’ll still be waiting to drive my real friends even if it takes 20 more years!

woman standing next to google driverless car, holding a white caneWill you come for a ride with me?




Hey Santa, how about one of these?


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff

I’m not so sure I was on my A-game of gift wishing last week (my husband reminded me I have a yogurt maker but I loaned it to a friend, though the aromatherapy device still appeals)—so I’m stepping it up a bit this week. After finishing up the Hanukkah shopping and gifting for others, I think I have some better ideas for AT that’s on my Christmas list this year. Good thing my family celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas!

First up, Santa, could I have the Peeramid Bookrest with the cute owl cover? I am an avid reader, but my arms fall asleep and my chronic upper back pain can be triggered by holding books for a long time. I often just use a pillow to prop the books on my stomach, but why not have the added benefit of a specifically designed pillow with a built in tray, pocket, and bookmark? I saw these while browsing my local book shop this weekend. If Santa is on a budget, there are navy Peeramid bookrests too for $10 less.

a pyramid shaped firm pillow with a long tassel coming out of the top to use as a bookmark and a lip around all four sides to hold the book

And look at this Santa, I’m still thinking of others, while looking at the bookrest options, I also saw this item for my friends that are iPad lovers—I have an iPad and enjoy it but don’t use it for reading as the backlight hurts my eyes. So—as a service for you iPad/tablet users out there—you may want to ask Santa for this IPEVO PadPillow Pillow Stand. I like that it folds up for tabletop or closer use and unfolds to put the tablet at a distance that might be more comfortable ergonomically or for your eyes.

the IPEVO folded up as a stand with a tablet on it. the prism is folded closer to the pillow base and theres a plastic guard to hold the iPad in place--a small piece like a tab in front of the screen

a woman reclining on a couch with the IPEVO in extended mode--the the prism-shaped bolster is near her knees with her iPad on it and the pillow pad is unfolded and extends toward her chest








Next up—a great stocking stuffer idea Santa—the reCAP, it’s only $7.99. OK, yes, I already have some of these but they are in boring silver. I use them everyday and could use a backup in a pleasant color. I have been on a long quest for the best, safest, most watertight, economical, environmentally friendly water bottle for quite some time. For now, the reCAP is the winner. The reCAP takes any mason jar and makes it into a water bottle. It has a gasket (unlike some other jar transformer systems) and a larger opening to drink out of. I am on several meds that result in dry mouth and feel better overall when I’m well hydrated. The mason jar conversion means there’s no BP of any sort—A, B, or otherwise, and the mason jars are affordable and very easy to clean. I use the wide mouth 24 and 32 oz. versions as they are even easier to clean. My only beef with the recap system, now that I have a car with larger cupholders, is that Mason jars aren’t insulated so they sweat, so if Santa wants to bring me some coasters to keep around the house and office, that would be great too–hint, hint, I like rainbows.

two mason jars one with a smoothie in it and the other filled with blueberries with recaps on the top

the recap in its packaging, basically a lid with a spout with a hinged cover for the spout









Finally, how about a Tile? I first heard of these from Carrie Baugher, a colleague at The Disability Network in Flint. These are small tiles that you can attach to things you frequently lose, then use your iPhone to find them—having the tile ring to find your attached item, or using the map function of the app that goes with tile to figure out the last location and time seen of the item. This all sounded good to me at the time, but the item my husband Joe and I most often lose is our iPhones. So, I thought, “Well great if I can find my iPhone I can find my keys, but what about when I can’t find my phone?” If one or the other of us has our phone we call each other’s phone to help find it—assuming the phones aren’t on silent, then we are in real trouble. Enter second generation Tile to the rescue! With the second generation, you just find an item of yours that has a tile, and use it to ring your iPhone, even if the phone is on silent. Hooray! Problem solved. So, Santa, in hopes of increasing the odds of finding either our phones or a device with the tile attached, Joe and I would like to share a 4-pack of tiles. I’m not sure I can claim this “losing devices” thing as a part of any of my disabilities, but the resulting anxiety definitely exacerbates my real, underlying anxiety disability, so I guess this is a preventive device.

the tile next to a cell phone the tile is 1.3 inches square and has a hole in the top corner to feed onto a key ring

There—a much better wishlist for Santa of AT that will help me every day. And really Santa, I know you know after the year Joe and I’ve had, what I really want, and its not technically something that can be bought, so for now, I’ll just send out positive energy and hope for good things for the New Year, and wish for these things to have a little fun.

Thanks Santa!

Wishing you and yours peace, joy, and love this holiday season and always,



Accessories are Necessities – Action Alert


I am passing along the following action alert from the Dana and Christpher Reeve Foundation. This is an important issue which could impact people who use Medicare to fund wheelchairs. Accessories to wheelchairs aren’t “extras”, they are vital. Limiting access to appropriate equipment creates health issues, limits freedom, and in the end, costs more money.

Action Alert: A Message from the Dana & Christopher Reeve Foundation – Help Protect Access to Complex Rehabilitation Technology!

Background: Complex Rehabilitation Technology (CRT) includes the complex and individually configured wheelchairs and equipment used by people with paralysis and other mobility impairments. Unfortunately, CRT is provided under the Durable Medical Equipment benefit in Medicare. This has historically created problems, including rules that the equipment could only be useful “in the home,” and that CRT is not available to people transitioning from nursing facilities back home.

This problem got worse with the creation of the competitive bidding program. While Congress exempted CRT power chairs from the program, they did not exempt CRT manual chairs. The federal Medicare office has also expanded the program several times. Implementation of competitive bidding has already caused problems across the nation with access to CRT and appropriate chairs.back of person's head supported by wheelchair headrest

Most recently, Medicare announced that they would include in competitive bidding all “accessories” of manual and power chairs. This includes seating systems, head rests, tilt and lift, and more. This will take effect January 1, 2016. This change will exacerbate existing problems and further limit access to appropriate equipment.

Current Action: Disability advocates – including the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, working closely with NCIL, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, United Spinal Association, and the CRT providers in the National Coalition for Assistive Rehab Technology (NCART) – are working to address this problem with a two-pronged approach.

The Ensuring Access to Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act (H.R. 1516 / S. 1013) was introduced by Representatives Crowley (D-NY) and Sensenbrenner (R-WY) in the House and Senators Cochran (R-MS) and Schumer (D-NY) in the Senate. It would not only end competitive bidding for CRT, but would remove CRT from durable medical equipment entirely and end the “in the home” restriction. It would create a new benefit in Medicare for CRT with quality controls and a new, independent pricing system based on ensuring access.

H.R. 3229 – is a much smaller bill introduced by Representative Zeldin (R-NY) that would only solve the competitive bidding program. We are hoping to pass H.R. 3229 by January 1 to keep the problem from getting worse, then work on passing the larger bill.

Advocacy Campaign: We are launching an advocacy campaign to get more members of Congress to commit to supporting this bill. We worked with a company called Postcard that create a platform to where advocates can upload pictures, write messages, and create physical postcards to share the importance of CRT with Congress. Make your own postcard showing the importance of your chair, especially the “accessories” that are really necessities!


Costumes, Candy and Assistive Technology


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

I’ve been looking forward to this blog for weeks.  It’s becoming a bit of an annual event for the Michigan Assistive Technology Program, as we celebrate children (and the ingenius adults) who let their AT pride shine and incorporate their mobility equipment into their halloween costumes.  Check out last year’s blog “Trick or Treat and AT Fun!”  It seems as though every year the costumes get better, and more people are picking up on the idea.

Two young boys in dragon costumes that surround their wheelchairsIn fact, one family even started a non-profit, Magic Wheelchair , to provide memorable Halloween costumes for kids with disabilities.  With the help of volunteers and creative artists, they create dream costumes like Toothless from the DreamWorks film “How to Train Your Dragon”.

Some other favorite finds this year include: the flower garden, the bulldozer, and the the magic carpet ride.

a girl dressed as a princess lays upright in a bed of blue skies and clouds on a platform attached to her wheelchair resembling a magic carpet ride

Smiling girl in a wheelchair at the center of a square flower garden that surrounds her bodyA bulldozer with different attachments on a boy's wheelchair, he sits in the wheelchair with a hardhat and pumpkin bucket





We’ve come a long way from my childhood days when I covered myself and my wheelchair in a sheet and dressed as a ghost.

Remember, their are other ways to make Halloween fun and inclusive for everyone. If going door to door is a problem, check for events in your community that provide actvities and trick-or treating all in one place (and sometimes indoors).  For example, in Lansing, the Capital Area Center for Independent Living is holding their “Creepy, Crawly Haunted Hallways” event on October 29 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm (call 517-999-2760 for more details).

We wish you a safe, (hopefully) warm, and AT-filled Halloween!