Bespoke Innovations Puts the “Art” in Artificial Limbs

Pic courtesy of Scope.

After being bummed out by the bad behavior of companies like Frontier Airlines, it’s always nice to find a company doing good things for folks with disabilities. And Bespoke Innovations is doing awesome things. As reported by Scope, the Stanford Med School Blog, Bespoke uses a 3D scanner to take a detailed picture of the client’s surviving limb, should they have one, and creates a mirror image of that limb as a basis for the prosthesis. They then work closely with the patient to design a limb that matches their aesthetic tastes and personality, using fashion-forward materials like wood, metal, cloth, and leather. And at around $4,000, their designs aren’t exactly cheap, but nor are they necessarily prohibitively expensive.

The prostheses sound pretty spectacular:

Some are finished with ballistic nylon or polished nickel. One was covered in quilted leather, like a Chanel handbag. For a military veteran with a love of tribal tattoos, the team scanned a favorite tattoo design from one leg and fabricated the fairing using that theme. A competitive soccer player who lost his leg to cancer chose an aircraft-like honeycomb design that allowed him to play soccer again.

You’re doing good work, Bespoke! I hope I get a chance to check out some of these designs in person sometime.

Posted in Blog |

Frontier Airlines Tosses Man with Quadriplegia from Flight

John Morris, courtesy of Ams Vans.

John Morris became quadriplegic after a snowboarding accident in 2006, and in the years since he’s flown on commercial flights numerous times. So imagine his surprise when a pilot demanded he be removed from a flight from Dallas to Denver on the grounds Morris’ safety couldn’t be guaranteed. This two days after Frontier had flown him from Dallas in the first place. Morris had always used seatbelt extensions to strap himself in, but this pilot insisted that they couldn’t be used for medical conditions.

It seems Morris’ objections really got to the pilot, because someone called three police officers to the plane to remove him. To their credit, the officers refused action because Morris posed a threat to precisely no one, save perhaps the pilot’s already minuscule sense of decency. “I felt horrible. I just felt like I didn’t belong. I haven’t felt that bad since the accident,” Morris said. Frontier defended the actions of their employee:

“The pilot did what he thought was best for the safety of this disabled person and the party, as well as the airplane, there was no wrong done here,” stated Peter Kowalchuk, a spokesman for Frontier. “I don’t believe that his rights were violated. We’re in the process now of conducting an investigation.”

This explanation strikes the hollowest of notes considering Frontier put Morris on the very next flight to Denver, thereby proving there was no reasonable danger to letting him fly. You’d think airlines would’ve learned from the case of Declan Spencer earlier this summer, but I guess not. If human decency isn’t enough to help them see the light, I guess we’ll have to let the public in on their behavior. You can file a complaint with Frontier on their website and fire them a tweet at @FlyFrontier.

Posted in Blog |

NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg Perpetuates Stereotypes, Battles Accessibility

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City.

Michael Bloomberg–the billionaire mayor of my fair city, New York–has recently kept busy spouting ignorant remarks about people with disabilities. In response to a push from the Justice Department and others to increase the fleet of disability-friendly taxis in the city, Bloomberg brushed the aside accessibility concerns because “suspension [of accessible cabs] is much worse, so the average person riding in them finds them really uncomfortable.” Well, Mr. Mayor, as an able-bodied New Yorker, I feel compelled to say that I can’t imagine a suspension system creakier than whatever  outfits your current fleet, but even if you’re right, I’d happily tolerate a little more bumping around if my “un-average” neighbors could have an easier time hitching a ride.

You think that’d be enough offensiveness for one mayor, but Bloomberg isn’t the kind of man who does things half-way. Nope, he also stated his belief that it’s dangerous for people in wheelchairs to hail cabs, and went on a strained tangent about people with disabilities sitting too far from the taxi drivers, which leads them to be stingy tippers or something. The mayor accused the Justice Department of not understanding “how people live in the city and the traffic patterns and that sort of thing.” Disability rights advocates fired back:

“The mayor’s completely out of touch,” said Assemblyman Micah Kellner, a Manhattan Democrat who was born with cerebral palsy. “When was the last time Mayor Bloomberg used a New York City taxi or a wheelchair?”

Added Edith Prentiss of the Taxis For All Campaign: “It’s a sad day for New York City when a mayor works so hard to deny people like me the right to take a taxi. It’s wrong, it’s indefensible,and it won’t stand.”

The contact information for the Mayor’s office can be found here, and you can send a tweet in his direction @MikeBloomberg. Let’s make sure he starts thinking carefully about all of his constituents and reconsiders his offensive comments and ill-considered taxi policies.

Posted in Blog |

New Jersey Teen Doesn’t Need a Left Arm to Play the Line

Pic courtesy of the Daily Record.

At 6′ tall and 260 lbs., Steven Shipley-Sanchez is blessed with a lineman’s build. The fact that he was born without most of his left arm wasn’t going to stop him from fulfilling that potential. Shipley-Sanchez begged his mother to allow him to go out for his football squad at New Jersey’s Jefferson High School. Though initially worried about injuries that had nothing to do with his arm, she relented. And Steven’s coach, Joe Mattesich, is thankful for that. Mattesich tells the Daily Record:

“Not only does he have good size, but he has the right personality and the right mindset. … When you talk to him, he holds nothing back. He’s not about to use the arm as an excuse. He wants to play and he has the ability to get the job done. There are no limits.”

Shipley-Sanchez was set to start on both the offensive and defensive line this season, but suffered a severe ankle sprain in the opening game. While he was back in uniform by the third game, recovering from the injury has been difficult. We have faith in his perseverance, though, and hope to see him starting again soon. Good luck, Steven! We’re all rooting for you!

Posted in Blog |

BlazeSports America featured in CDC Report on Disability and Well-being

For its efforts to reduce obesity in the disability community, BlazeSports is featured in in CDC’s new report Achieving Healthy Weight by Reducing Obesity and Improving Well-being for People with Disabilities Across the Life CourseThis report examines the challenges and barriers to weight management specific to people with disabilities and explores opportunities to enhance research, programs, education, and tools. The report recognizes the need for publicly funded programs to include people with disabilities in both mainstream and targeted health programs and services that help reduce obesity.

The report was developed by the CDC’s Division of Human Development and Disability (DHDD) at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) and is available at CDC’s Disability and Health website at

Additional information and tools are also available:

Achieving Healthy Weight for People with Disabilities, Questions and Answers: Feature Story: Healthy Weight for People with Disabilities:      

Posted in Blog, News |

BlazeSports’ Ann Cody Delivers Keynote Address at 31st Korea National Games for the Disabled

On Monday, BlazeSports’ own Ann Cody delivered the Keynote Address at the 31st Korea National Games for the Disabled. Held at the International University of Korea in Jinju, Cody used the opportunity to discuss the impact that the Paralympic Games has had on the communities that have hosted it, including both Atlanta and Seoul. Following the 1988 Games, KOSAD (the Korean Sports Organization for the Disabled) was founded as a legacy organization in much the same manner that BlazeSports emerged as a legacy of the 1996 Games in Atlanta. As KOSAD hosted the event, this was a good opportunity to strengthen ties between two organizations that share common aims. This is especially true as we look forward to the PyeongChang Games in 2018.

Cody also had the privilege of offering remarks at the event’s opening ceremonies. All said, between 4,000 and 5,000 athletes with disabilities from across South Korea will be participating in the National Games. Our intrepid Director of Policy and Global Outreach reports that she has learned a lot during her time in Korea. It seems that the exchange of ideas has been a fruitful one, and we hope it will continue well into the future.

Posted in Blog |

Miyazaki University Creates Facially-Controlled Wheelchair

The folks at Miyazaki University in Japan are in the process of developing a truly revolutionary technology. The video above shows a prototype of a wheelchair that is controlled exclusively by the expressive muscles in the face. Users blink their left or right eye to turn and clench their teeth to start and stop and chair. This intuitive system would be very useful for persons paralyzed from their neck down. In the commercial version, the development team led by Professor Tamura looks to discard the electrode sensors around the user’s eyes in favor of a wireless, goggle-like system.

Posted in Blog |