Hot stuff: a daring fire escape

It should be no surprise that there is great concern over evacuation plans for people with disabilities.

Have you ever seen an evacuation plan that includes disability-specific details? Even more alarming, everyone has the right to live in an apartment on the third floor, but not everyone gets to have access to the fire escape. If the fire alarm is going off, who will let the deaf know?

Clearly enough is not being done, but not for lack of trying on part of these researchers in Japan…

Introducing, the Wasabi Fire Alarm

Wasabi Fire Alarm for deaf

Inside the smoke detector are spray cans of Wasabi Extract–you know the seemingly benign but deceptively potent horseradish paste served with sushi? Seems like an appropriate way to be alerted to a fire.

13 of 14 deaf sleepers, in a study, woke up within 2 minutes of the alarm going off. Participants helped determine the best concentration of wasabi in the spray to wake up subjects without effecting their eyes. I wonder if they gave participants complimentary ginger.

The Wasabi Fire Alarm has been in on the market since 2009 (recommended for hotels, homes, and hospitals alike!) and won the Ig Nobel Prize in 2011.

Okay, who’s craving sushi now? Seems like the just the way to celebrate their achievement!

Theory of relativity

When you go out in the world, you can find some pretty awful people, and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. To one extreme, there are all sorts of criminals who coldly hurt others in as many ways as there are laws. To another, children are pretty mean; they will shamelessly tell you the most cruel truths, without tact or compassion to soften the blow.

But, in my experience, every single conversation I’ve had with a person with disabilities has only ever been delightful. It’s as if in the game of life, the dealer said I’m sorry, you are going to have this disability, and… an incredible personality! (the guy who pulls the strings up there sounds a lot like the guy from “Price is Right”).

It makes the saying “it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person” feel almost like a cruel joke.

But the fact of the matter is that disability teaches compassion. The way we glorify “humanity” would make it seem that compassion is part of the human condition. But I don’t believe this is true; I don’t believe human beings are inherently compassionate. I believe that compassion is learned (–that’s why children don’t have it down very well).  It is learned from personal pain and suffering. You can’t teach pain, you can only experience it. So, those who experience the most pain become the pinnacle of the “human condition”. Isn’t it kind of funny that injury or illness can help you realize your “humanity” more fully than if you were healthy?

But it turns out it’s way more true than I ever believed before! And I have proof:

  • People who are hard of hearing learn to read lips. That is not to say any other seeing human being aren’t capable of doing this. Instead, lip readers realize a greater potential for themselves.
    This calls into question, for me, which person is disabled. Hearing isn’t a choice, but lip reading is. Put those two people in a loud room: one can communicate easily and the other has to yell and scream over the noise before communicating something vaguely related to the message they wanted to relay. 
  • Some blind people have learned a sort of echo-location skill. By making a clicking noise, they are able to accurately identify obstacles and can even be able to walk unescorted.
    This skill is not unique to the blind; again, this is a skill any hearing person can learn. Yet, only a few of the blind do. Now, in some dire circumstances — blackouts for example — the non-echolocating people become disabled and the echolocating become abled.

I think this all goes to show that disability is all relative. Being disabled is about what you CAN do as much as it is about what you can’t. Even more. Disability might just be a reason to more fully realize your potential.

Finally, to start your Monday morning off right, I will leave you with this video. It’s super funny and shows just how hard lip reading is! If you like it, there’s more where that came from. Check out the YouTube channel dedicated to bad lip reading.

Related Article:

There’s an App for that!

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but I’m surrounded by people glued to their smart phones. They have pages and pages of apps to do anything they could possibly desire. But odds are they use those apps, like Google Translate, to make their phones say bad words in foreign languages. Thoroughly amusing, but surely there are apps that can be of greater use to you.

appsMy doctor is trying to get me to get an app to help manage my illness. There are apps to monitor blood sugar for diabetics, apps to make sure you take your pills on time, and so many more apps that are good for you…but they will forever remain with the little “New” ribbon displayed across the top. Why? They aren’t fun; you have a reputation to uphold; you are perfectly capable of taking care of yourself without this silly app; because they are just another way to remind you of your disability.

For the people out there who do use those apps: kudos! Keep up the good work, my friend. You are a better person than I.

For those who don’t take kindly to apps who try to tell you how to live your life…well, maybe you should check these ones out. They are the most interesting apps I’ve come across that I think can really help people with disabilities while still supporting your rep for being awesome.



  • Marlee Signs – Learn American Sign Language. 4.5 Stars. (The app and the first lesson is free. Additions lessons are $2)
  • Bio Aid – Processes sound and plays back over headphones for hearing impaired; processing is customized by user  and can cancel out background noise. Not Rated.
  • SoundHound/Tunewiki Lyrics – These two apps will listen to whatever song is playing, tell you what song it is and give you lyrics. Both recieved 4.5 stars but SoundHound has been around since 2010 and Tunewiki started only about 6 months ago.


  • Type Braille Lite – Learn Braille. Not rated. (There are other learning braille apps but this one made the list solely because it was free. I’m having trouble with it–maybe I’m bad at braille or maybe there’s a glitch. Anyone else struggling with “space”?)


  • Hailo – Taxi dispatched to your location, can request accessible cab. 4 stars. Currently services Chicago, Boston, London, Dublin, and Toronto. Learn more here.
  • Wheels on Wheels – Almost a year after Hailo launched, New York launched this “Accessible Dispatch”. No rating. But sounds promising.
  • Parking Mobility – locates handicap parking. 1.5 stars. Received great reviews since it launched in 2009, but appears to be abandoned after its last update in 2011. I tried it out to see for myself–great idea but clearly abandoned. I’m mentioning it so hopefully one of you brilliant programmers reading this will do something about it.


  • SitOrSquat – Finds Public Restrooms near you; you can filter results for handicap accessibility! 2.5 Stars. Many complain you have to connect to Facebook. But if you agree to their terms and agree to connect with Facebook, you have an option to “continue without logging in”. So be careful when you download it; your friends don’t need to know when nature calls.
  • WheelMate – also finds handicap bathrooms but is not rated.
  • Other countries can utilize similar apps like Find a Toilet (UK) and National Public Toilet Map (Australia)


  • TripIt – A brainless travel planner: when you receive a confirmation email, forward it to a designated address, and TripIt will compile all that info in one place for a clean/no hassle itinerary. Brilliant! 4 stars. (This doesn’t have a special disability function that I know about, but this is a travel blog after all…)

Researching these apps, the disability niche on the App Store has been picking up, as you can tell by all the above apps that are so new they aren’t even rated yet! So this is what needs to happen.

  1. Try these apps! I have tried out many of these apps myself, so I’m not passing off lame apps to you. If you’re intrigued…download it! Try it out–it’s free!
  2. Rate these apps! It’s a shame that such a well thought out app like Parking Mobility no longer exists. It is probably because so few people used the app that they weren’t able to sustain it. So share and rate the apps you like.
  3. Make new apps happen! If you wish there were an app that could help you and others in your situation, do something to make sure that app comes into existence! If you’re a developer–create it. If you just have a great idea, tell others and rate similar apps and explain what you need.

I think the disabled market it under represented in the App Store and that might just be because disabled users don’t make their presence known as well as other users. So go ahead; make a fuss!

Have you tried any of these apps? Is there an app you’d love to see? Leave a comment!

Abled TV

According to the 2012 Census, about 19% of Americans are disabled. This classification includes people with dyslexia, ADHD, speech impediments, etc. So lets take a look at the percentage of Americans with severe disabilities: almost 13%.

Now lets take a look at American television. With the rise of reality TV, stars discovered on YouTube, and the changing environment where celebrities are able to open up about their disabilities… we should be able to find a good amount of characters/actors on TV today that have disabilities.

Lets give it a go. In no particular order
(Disclaimer: I am not a TV aficionado so, after doing some research, here’s the most thorough list I could come up with)

Get Down Syndrome

  1. Artie, Becky and Betty on Glee – Artie is played by an able bodied actor, but Ali Stroker (Betty, paraplegic) and Lauren Potter (Becky, Downs) share their characters’ disabilities.
  2. Jason Street on Friday Night Lights – this character was paralyzed in the pilot episode and is portrayed by able bodied Scott Porter
  3. Walter Jr on Breaking Bad – has cerebral palsy and is played bRJ” Mitte III, who has a much milder case of cerebral palsy than his character.
  4. Venom on The Guild (web series) – Played by Teal Shere, a real-life paraplegic.
  5. Tyrion Lannister on Game of Thrones – played by Peter Dinklage, a dwarf.
  6. Daphne & Emmett on Switched at Birth – Katie LeClerc and Sean Berdy are hard of hearing and deaf, respectively. (There are a few other deaf characters too)
  7. Joe Swanson on Family Guy – probably the most well known paraplegic on TV. He’s a cartoon, but you’ve gotta give him props for how he got injured – stopping the Grinch from stealing Christmas from an orphanage. 

When I look at this list, I think Wow! We are doing a great job showing a variety of empowering disabled characters! Good job us! But then I’m reminded of that staggering statistic. 13% of the population.

The average American watches 34 hours of live television a week (an another 3-6 watching taped programs), according to this report. That’s almost 12,500 hours a year (plus another 1 to 2 thousand hours). So you tell me. Is 7 shows featuring a disabled character enough?

Let’s put it another way. 67% of pragramming watched, is reality TV. So lets think of disabled reality stars…

I can only think of a 2reality shows featuring disabled participants in this last year. In the last year (or 12,500+ hours of TV you’ve watched) there have only been TWO!!

  1. The Glee Project (Ali Stroker, paraplegic)
  2. American Idol (Lazaro Arbos, stutter)

To be fair, in recent history, 2 other shows have featured disabled contestants: Dancing with the stars (Marlee Matlin, deaf, & RJ Martinez, injured veteran) and America’s Next Top Model (Amanda Swafford, blind, & Heather Kuzmich, Asperger’s syndrome)

A couple months ago, I’d probably be proud of the fact that the US has so many disabled characters/celebrities on TV. Now I’m inclined to think it’s a gross under-representation, don’t you think?

Reminder: today is Controvery Humpday. Now’s the time to get opinionated and share those opinions!!! whether you agree with this post or not.
Let me just say, I’m not done with this topic. *wink, wink* So if you aren’t sold, I may convince you yet.