Abilities Expo Houston 2011 Highlights

Houston Abilities Expo 2011

Abilities Expo Logo

Houston Abilities Expo 2011

For those of you who came out to the Abilities Expo for our presentation – “Simple Home Modifications for Everyone” – THANK YOU!  We had a great turn out, and a great response to the information we presented.  If you would like a copy of the presentation, click here.

The Abilities Expo is a great showcase for all sorts of resources/products for people with disabilities.  I have been to many of these shows, and there were are all the usual suspects – Modified Vehicles, Wheelchair Companies, and Nonprofits that help people with disabilities.  But, I wanted to take this opportunity to showcase some of the products that I thought were new/remarkable.  If you saw something at the show that you thought was interesting – go to the comments section for this post and let us know.

One topic that I always discuss with any client I meet with is emergency preparedness.  It is not something we want to think about, but for people with disabilities, it is especially important to make sure that you have an emergency plan.  Also, everyone, including those with disabilities, should always have a method to call 911 in an emergency.  The Houston Center for Independent Living was handing out some really neat Emergency Readiness and National Security Wheel.
Picture of Emergency Wheel for Special Needs
You can purchase your own wheel by clicking the picture above, or call your local center of independent living to see what resources they have available.

Invotek is an organization that was showing three innovative products:

Picture of Accupoint Head Mouse
This system is a head tracker mouse.  As opposed to other head mouse systems that are “relative” this system is an “absolute” tracking system.  What this means is that the tracker is aligned with the screen and will not required the “bouncing off the edge” motion that other head trackers require.  This could be helpful for those with limited head movement.

Supplemental Speech Recognition
Picture of Supplemental Speech Recognition
This product provides speech recognition to those with dysarthric speech.  This is the only product that I am aware of that would provide speech recognition to this population.  The user is required to train the system initially by speaking an extensive list of words.  Then, when using the product, the user types the first letter of the word, speaks the word, and the system types the rest.  If the system does not know what word the user is speaking, there is word prediction to help the user type the word quickly.  This is word-by-word speech recognition, but it can dramatically speed up typing speeds for those with poor speech and poor motor coordination.

Safe Laser
Picture of the Safe Laser Communication Board
This is a innovative product that I feel fits a specific niche.  This product consists of a board that can be customized with any array of layouts.  The user utilizes a laser pointer to select the item on the board.  As items are selected, they are typed on the top of the screen.  This device also has environmental control capabilities.  This is the first of this kind of “mid tech” communication device that I have seen that includes environmental controls.  So, with a relatively simple, straight forward device, a person can communicate as well as control a TV and/or lights in their room – pretty cool!

Invotek also has a program where you can pay per month for the use of their devices.  This would be good for long term trial purposes, or for those who do not want to worry about repairs.

The Vehicle Production Group
This company is making the first available accessible vehicle that is NOT a conversion.  The MV-1 is an accessible vehicle that was built that way!
Picture of the MV-1
This is a brand new vehicle on the market, so I am not endorsing or saying that this vehicle is more or less reliable than other options.  But, what most people may not know is that all other accessible vans and minivans are conversions.  This means that a car is taken off of the regular assembly line, and then it is sent to a company that specializes in conversions.  The vehicle is then chopped up and put back together in an accessible form.  The MV-1 is the first of what I hope to be a new trend of creating an accessible vehicle from the ground up.

My final product highlight is two products from Assistive Innovations.

Picture of the iArm attached to a wheelchair
This is a robotic arm that can help people with severe disabilities reach for items in their environment.  In the picture above, the product looks very overwhelming, but in person it is surprisingly unobtrusive.

DAS (Dynamic Arm Support)
Picture of the Dynamic Arm Support

You may be familiar with mobile arm supports.  This product is different because the user can dynamically change the amount of resistance in the system, allowing a much larger range of motion.

This listing is only a SMALL sample of the cool products that were are the Abilities Expo and do not imply any sort of endorsement.

If you saw something at the Abilities Expo that you thought was cool – tell us in the comments for this post below!