ATU456 – Adventchair with Geoff Babb

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Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Find more about Advenchair at: www.advenchair.com
ASL App Story: http://bit.ly/2Rx3TP4
Alexa for Well Being Story: http://bit.ly/3bPWemU
VR Empathy Story: http://bit.ly/37yYmgh
NuMotion Story: http://bit.ly/2P3L8kE
Adaptive Skiing Story: http://bit.ly/3aLN8r3
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Geoff Babb:
Hi, this is Geoff Babb, and I’m the AdvenChairman of the Onward Project. And this is your Assistive Technology Update.

Josh Anderson:
Hello, and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson, with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 456 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on February 21st, 2020. On today’s show, we’re very excited to have Geoff Babb on to talk about the AdvenChair. We also have a handful of other stories today, so let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
We’ve talked a lot. We’ve had a lot of guests on. We’ve discussed smart home assistance, Alexa, and all these things quite a bit. I found a fun story over at The Daily of the University of Washington, and that’s the dailyuw.com. It’s by Ann [inaudible 00:01:11], and this story is called Accessible Voice Interface for Social Well-being. This talks about a doctor’s study, Dr. Robin Brewer, and how they used voice technology to help older adults feel a little less lonely. So, I think we may have talked about this a little bit before. I know I’ve even done a presentation a little bit on how robots and these personal home assistants can just help individuals, especially who maybe live by themselves, feel a little bit less like they’re by themselves, actually feel like they have someone that they’re actually talking to.

Josh Anderson:
What I like in here is it talks a little bit about something I see a whole lot. It talks about adults that maybe get a visual impairment later on in life, find themselves really overwhelmed by trying to use a screen reader or trying to navigate a screen with a mouse with a motor impairment or other kinds of disability. Whereas, these things like Alexa, like Google Home, they’re pretty intuitive. You just ask it a question or tell it what to do. So, fun story. It’s just got some cool things in there, stuff that’s probably not new to listeners of this show, who’ve maybe listened to some of the different folks that we’ve had on to talk about these kinds of devices and how they can help individuals with disabilities in our aging population, but still pretty fun little read, and we’ll put a link to that over in our show notes.

Josh Anderson:
Our first story comes to us from goodnewsnetwork.org, and it is titled This App Delivers Instant Sign Language Interpreters For Those Tricky Moments That Need More Than Pen and Paper. It’s by Andy Corbley, and it talks about an app called Jenie, J-E-N-I-E. And it says that Jenie is an on-demand, 24/7-availability, live interpreter app. So, there are different kinds of interpreter apps, of course, and VRS, and some other things like that. It talks about how some VRS, or video relay services, are available for free in the US, but they’re not available in Canada.

Josh Anderson:
This story actually does come from our brothers and sisters up to the north. And it said that companies do provide in-person interpreters, but they’re usually about $90 to $125 an hour. It says Jenie charges $1 per minute, but they have packages that then take that fee down even further. So, if you buy so many minutes per month, then you’ll pay a little bit less per minute. So, this is for those times when you really need an interpreter and just writing it down just isn’t going to work. There really aren’t many of these available, so it’s really great that they’re doing this.

Josh Anderson:
It says usually within one minute of placing your request, you’ll be connected to an interpreter at any hour of the day. It says they have over 100 operators on call at any given time, so really great for individuals who use ASL to communicate. A lot of people just think, “Hey, let’s just use pen and paper,” but that doesn’t always cut it depending on what kind of conversation you might need to have. We’ll put a link to this over in our show notes, so you can go check it out for yourself.

Josh Anderson:
Back in September on episode 434 of this show, we were lucky enough to have folks on from Floreo to talk about that technology. Just to remind you, that was a company that were using virtual reality headsets with individuals with autism to teach them different things, and that can be anything from emotions to other stuff. But one thing that I found really impressive was they were teaching them interactions with folks, and that’s everything from how to interact with somebody in the hallway at school or perhaps in the cafeteria. But what I really liked was they were teaching them how to interact with police officers. Any of us could be a little scared if we saw a police officer come up to us. I mean, they have a gun. There’s loud noises. There’s a lot of things going on. And especially with individuals with autism, that can become really difficult.

Josh Anderson:
Well, I found a great story over at KTAR News, that’s K-T-A-R News, and it’s Phoenix Police to Use Virtual Reality Headsets For Empathy Training. So, what this is is the other side of what Floreo is doing. This is made by Axon, and Axon’s a company it says here that is based in Scottsdale, Arizona. And what Axon usually does is they do a lot with tasers, with body cameras, and with other things to help police officers. But what they’re doing now is a training using virtual reality headsets to teach empathy to police officers to help them deal with individuals with autism or with a mental health crisis, such as schizophrenia and even suicide.

Josh Anderson:
The immersive training actually takes the officer and, first, it puts them in the shoes of the individual with autism, with schizophrenia, with contemplating suicide. So, if they’re in the shoes of the individual with autism, then the loud noises, the people getting close to them, the other things like that, all these will affect their perception of what they see through that headset. If they’re the individual with schizophrenia, they may have shadows moving, they might hear voices, and have some other things like that. And then, it moves and puts them in the shoes of the officer responding to the same situation just from the other side, and then gives them choices of, “How would you handle this situation?” And it really can help with that deescalation part. That’s really where bad things can come from.

Josh Anderson:
And I mean, you have to realize that sometimes these poor officers walk in not really knowing much. They might hear something on the radio that just says, possible shoplifter, irate, maybe even they pushed someone away from them that was getting too close. So, they might hear something like assault or something of that sort and think they’re coming in contact with a dangerous individual, when really maybe they’re coming close to someone who’s either in some sort of mental health crisis or, just due to their disability, maybe isn’t handling the situation the way that the officer thinks they should.

Josh Anderson:
So, this can be extremely helpful for really helping these officers in dealing with individuals who have different kinds of abilities and who handle different commands differently and who maybe work a little bit better with the bright lights and the sirens turned off, a calming voice, maybe not being surrounded, not being too close to the individuals, but really can just really help out. And like I said, I think it would do really just about anyone some good to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, almost literally, and in this kind of thing. So, very cool thing that they’re doing there. We’ll put a link to that over in our show notes so that you can definitely check it out for yourself. But again, that’s a very cool thing that Axon’s doing with the Phoenix Police Department in order to use virtual reality to teach them how to deal with individuals with different abilities.

Josh Anderson:
Since our guest later is going to be talking about a new kind of adaptive wheelchair, I thought it was fitting to talk about this news story over at homecaremag.com, and it’s titled Numotion Announces Strategic Partnership with NOW Technologies. Now, Numotion is America’s largest provider of complex rehab technology. It says here in the story that they formed a partnership with NOW Technologies to become the first US distributor for this company’s full line of next generation power wheelchair control systems. It says with this both companies will actually share knowledge and be able to help each other out with future product design, but really, Numotion was doing this because they really said that, over the course of about the last decade, nothing’s really changed that much in wheelchair controls. Whereas, NOW Technologies, they’ve received numerous awards for innovation in social impact over in Europe and currently have different kinds of products that utilize Bluetooth, gyroscopes, and other technology to create really smooth, intuitive head control movement for different kinds of wheelchairs.

Josh Anderson:
They have a couple of products called the GyroSet Glory and the GyroSet Vigo, which offer power wheelchair users a 21st century alternative to outdated switch-based control head arrays. It’ll definitely be interesting to see where these two go together. And as you get down a little bit farther down in the story, it also says this follows closely on Numotion’s introduction of the Independence Drive, and this is a collaboration with Evergreen Circuits and Team Gleason to utilize eye tracking technology to control a power wheelchair. So, very cool new ways to control power wheelchairs out there, and we’ll have to keep monitoring this to see what kind of new things Numotion and their new partners come up with.

Josh Anderson:
Since our interview today has to do with being outdoors and being in the wilderness and just how important that is, I really had to do this story from KWWL.com out of Dubuque, Iowa, and it’s called Kids of All Abilities Get Moving Down the Slopes at an Adaptive Ski Clinic. It’s by Ashley Neighbor. So, this story is about a group called Ark Advocates, which is a nonprofit that supports families of those with disabilities, and what they do is they set up an Adaptive Ski Clinic.

Josh Anderson:
And they did a bunch of different things with this. I’ll put a link to the story over in our show notes because it does have a video with it that can show you some of the different things that they had. But they had some different things to help individuals with vision impairment, so a guide that could help them get down tethered to them to help them get down the slope and be able to ski just like anyone else. They also had some adaptive skis, so if you think of a seat on skis that you can lean a little bit and get your turning in just like you would if you were wearing the normal skis. So, those can help individuals with cerebral palsy or really all different kinds of mobility challenges.

Josh Anderson:
It goes on to talk about, they also help individuals with autism learn to ski and just be able to get out on the snow and out with everyone else, with their peers, with their families, and just be able to enjoy a day out on the slopes. As we’re sitting here in the middle of winter in Indiana, I got to admit that the slopes don’t sound good, whereas a beach might sound really great, but it looks like a ton of fun. And it says, of course, lessons in adaptive equipment can often be very expensive, so this program really helps offset some of the costs for families so that folks can actually go and ski on Sundown Mountain. Really great story, looks like a heck of a lot of fun, and I really thought that this really fits in with our interview today.

Josh Anderson:
So, the words hiking and wheelchairs rarely get used in the same sentence. Well, our guest today is out to change that. Geoff Babb is the AdvenChairman of the Onward Project and the visionary behind the AdvenChair, and he’s here to tell us all about it. Geoff, welcome to the show.

Geoff Babb:
Thanks for having me, Josh.

Josh Anderson:
Geoff, I think it’s really important that before we get into talking about the AdvenChair, to learn a little bit about you and your background. Could you tell our listeners a little about yourself?

Geoff Babb:
Yes. I’ve been a lifetime outdoorsman. I grew up in the [inaudible 00:12:06] in Washington, and climbed Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. Areas to plan, I made a career in the fire management field, a firefighter and fire ecologist. So, my whole life has been spent outside. When I was 48, I survived my first brainstem stroke and realized that I would be in a wheelchair from then on, and we needed to figure out a way to get me back outside effectively, to hike, and do the activities we used to do including work. So, over the course of the years, we developed the AdvenChair.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. Geoff, tell us, what is the AdvenChair?

Geoff Babb:
The AdvenChair is a [inaudible 00:13:01] unique, all-terrain adventure wheelchair. It was made to be pushed and pulled by a team of people. It allows the chair to go on rough terrain or [inaudible 00:13:16] terrain where other chairs will not climb [inaudible 00:13:19]. So, it’s made to be pushed and pulled, and it has larger mountain-bike tires. More importantly, it can convert from a three wheeled operated chair into a standard wheelchair to go inside of buildings

Josh Anderson:
Oh, very good. So, it can be used both ways. Geoff, where did the idea for the AdvenChair come from?

Geoff Babb:
Well, yeah, we needed a chair that will allow us to be outside on trails. My wife and I do a lot of hiking, a lot of [inaudible 00:13:56], so we wanted something that was adequate for her to push. But at the same time, as we got into more challenging terrain [inaudible 00:14:06] people to effectively be able to push and pull, but we wanted the chair also [inaudible 00:14:13] versatile, will allow us to [inaudible 00:14:17] as well as go into buildings to shop or use the restroom or go into a house. So, it had to be convertible and be versatile.

Josh Anderson:
Very good. And I know you didn’t work on this alone. Can you tell me a little bit about the team?

Geoff Babb:
Yeah. I’ve been very lucky to have a great group of people working with me. Initially, as I started to modify an existing chair I have, [inaudible 00:14:50] mechanic [inaudible 00:14:51] really had a precise way of looking at things. It really helped me. But the more thing was he had developed a [inaudible 00:15:03] working on helicopters. So, he brought design engineer to do project, and with that came there years of pros having experience and then the quality control. And Jack has been instrumental in the development of this chair. In addition that, we had a number of mountain bikers who have a certain perspective on the trail, as well as people from the adapted recreation field, and importantly, the wheelchair scene specialist. So, we covered a lot of ground in terms of we use on the trail and design features.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. Sounds like you’ve got a really, really good team working on everything. Geoff, when was the first AdvenChair created?

Geoff Babb:
I would say the first AdvenChair probably was in 2008 when I got a chair that was meant to be off road, had bigger tires. But it proved to be much more than I could push on my own, and it was also difficult for other people to push. So, from that [inaudible 00:16:31] frame, we started fiddling with it and add mountain bike handlebars and a front wheel, a nice device called a free wheel, clamps onto the front. And then, we [inaudible 00:16:48] this breaks that were made for wheelchairs, so that really got us locked in to where we wanted the chair to go.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, definitely. I know there’s a lot of trial and error on these kinds of things, just figuring out what can work and get it out, and then, like you said, trying to find something that can even get on harder terrain and be able to get you anywhere that you might need to go. So, Geoff, when are you hoping to have this available to the public?

Geoff Babb:
We hope to have it available in the late spring or early summer of this year. We kind of pushed that out there the same time we have some design features we’re still finalizing the testing on, but yeah, it should be available in late spring, summer this year.

Josh Anderson:
That’ll be excellent. I know it’s a little early to ask this kind of question, but where would you like to see AdvenChair go in the future?

Geoff Babb:
I would love to see it used internationally, everywhere from adventure travel groups down to local family situations. About a number of people contact me about the chair because they have a child, for instance, with cerebral palsy or [inaudible 00:18:14], Parkinson’s disease, and they would like to get their family members out onto the trail. But I can help bring some [inaudible 00:18:28] to those families by helping them get on the trail, then we’ll be successful. As well as veterans, we’d like to help veterans get out in the wilderness.

Josh Anderson:
People don’t really know how important it is to get out there in the woods. I know it’s always been one of my favorite things. Geoff, you said that it’s available to be able to be pushed and pulled to get around some kind of rocky and kind of wild terrain. How many people does it usually take to help and be able to get it really anywhere that it might need to go?

Geoff Babb:
Well, yeah, again, it depends on the trail itself, and well certainly flat rail one person can push it, or we can have a pusher and one puller in front. But we’ve had a number of trips where we’d had up to five people pulling the chair this year, and mostly what they’re doing is helping to lift over rocks in the woods and rocks [inaudible 00:19:31]. And the design of the chair really was intended for that, to have a wrap around frame that allows places for people to lift it. There are actually at least 16 different places on the chair for somebody to push, pull, or lift the chair, but [inaudible 00:19:56].

Josh Anderson:
Oh, nice. And I could see how that could even be helpful, maybe not just in the wilderness, but in just areas that aren’t very accessible. Especially when you talk worldwide, I know a lot of countries really don’t make anything beyond maybe their main city very accessible, so I could see how that could be really helpful and maybe open up some experiences for folks all over the world, not just in the wilderness.

Geoff Babb:
Yeah. That’s truly our goal is to help people get around, whether it’s over curbs, on sidewalks, or [inaudible 00:20:33] travel somewhere in the woods.

Josh Anderson:
Well, I’m sure out there in Oregon, you probably need five people quite a few times to get around some of the terrain. Out here in Indiana, we call our hills mountains because that’s about all we really have.

Geoff Babb:
Yeah, right.

Josh Anderson:
Geoff, if our listeners would want to find out more about you or about AdvenChair, how would they do that?

Geoff Babb:
They can go to our website, AdvenChair.com, A-D-V-E-N-C-H-A-I-R, AdvenChair.com. If they go to the website, they will be asked if they’re interested in buying and can get on the mailing list and answer some questions that’ll help us with our marketing. So, we encourage people to go to the website and join our newsletter.

Josh Anderson:
Geoff, why do you think the AdvenChair is an important invention?

Geoff Babb:
The AdvenChair [inaudible 00:21:35] open up opportunities for people to be outside and more in the healing aspect of nature, so it’s really important to allow people to do that. The chair also is really unique with its ability for a team to push and pull. And it’s just so important for families and groups of people to be out on the trail, working cooperatively to not only help that person in the chair but themselves, to be working as a team, just as a mountaineering team or a rafting team would work together to solve problems and [inaudible 00:22:27] routes. We want the chair also to be available to camps and outdoor schools where kids can be part of the whole outdoor experience where, quite often, they’re left behind, they didn’t get to go to camp, or they’re more restricted to the pavement. And this chair will allow kids to be out on the trail but also to take the wheel off and go inside buildings [inaudible 00:00:23:04]. So, we see a lot of opportunity with this design to help people be outside.

Josh Anderson:
You mentioned camps, but it makes me think of a field trips, too. When a school goes on a field trip, sometimes the individual in a wheelchair doesn’t get to go or can’t really participate. But with this, they could easily participate with everyone else and, like you said, be able to be part of a team and all work together.

Geoff Babb:
Exactly. We hope, too, things like education services [inaudible 00:23:41] school districts, that they will be able to buy a chair that would be available for the schools in their district and not have to buy one. We’d like also to eventually have chairs available for rental and have people contact me [inaudible 00:24:02] do that or family members coming down that weekend, we’d like to take them get them hiking. So, we’ve been able to do that a couple of times, but we’d like to really look into the rental market down the road, as well.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, I think that would be really great, because like you said, it might not be needed all the time, but I do like the way that you did think to make it not just accessible for the trails but where you can easily change it so that you can still get into the rest area or the Ranger’s lodge or somewhere else that you might need to access, also, instead of having to actually completely shift chairs.

Geoff Babb:
Yeah. Or just simply getting out of a vehicle. You can roll the AdvenChair up to the door, transfer right into it without having to [inaudible 00:24:53] transfer [inaudible 00:24:54] from a wheelchair into the [inaudible 00:24:57] chair. We’re also, going back to the cooperative nature of it, we see it as a good opportunity for kids with their school groups to really get involved to helping to move their friend around and be part of the process and learn some problem solving skills along the way. Obviously, it would depend on the age and the trail, et cetera, on what they’re able to do, but I think there’s a whole lot of cooperative and problem solving skills that can come from using the AdvenChair.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, definitely. And I know that’s one of the problems schools always seem to have is how do we teach kids to be able to work together? How do we do team building and stuff like that, but yet still make it fun and interesting and where you’re actually accomplishing a goal.

Geoff Babb:
That’s right.

Josh Anderson:
Well, Geoff, thank you so much for coming on the show today and telling us all about the AdvenChair and the great things that it can do. We can’t wait to see it come out and have it available for folks.

Geoff Babb:
That’s great. Thank you so much for inviting me to be on the show, and I look forward to helping people.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on assistive technology update? If you do, call our listener line at 317-721-7124. Shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAproject, or check us out on Facebook. Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website at www.eastersealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more, head over to accessibilitychannel.com. The views expressed by our guests are not necessarily that of this host or the INDATA Project. This has been your assistive technology update, I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thank you so much for listening, and we’ll see you next time.

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