Sunday, March 19, 2000

New phone, drug to help disabled




BY DEBORAH KENDRICK
Enquirer contributor

        When cellular phones first came on the market, many people with disabilities were among the first customers. People who use wheelchairs recognized the safety of having a phone handy. Blind people latched onto the convenience of being able to phone for a taxi without wandering through an unfamiliar maze to find the pay phone.

        But digital phones have left those who are hearing or speech impaired out of the mobile phone loop. Until now.

        Many deaf, hearing-impaired, and speech-impaired people conduct phone conversations with the use of a TTY (text-telephone device) which sends printed text transmission to a screen rather than the sound of a voice. Lucent Technologies has developed technology that will enable digital phones to transmit TTY signals.

        Mobile phone manufacturers are beginning to produce new TTY-friendly phones and TTY vendors are beginning to manufacture equipment that can be used with digital phones. Both products should be available from a variety of companies by the middle of 2001.

Paralysis drug
        Acorda Therapeutics has conducted the first two clinical trials of a drug called Fampridine-SR (commonly known as 4-AP), which would return some function and sensation for individuals with certain types of spinal cord injuries or multiple sclerosis. Being hailed by some as a wonder drug, additional trials are now being scheduled in Denver, Miami, Seattle, Birmingham and several other cities. Candidates with spinal cord injuries occurring prior to August 1998 from the C4 to T10 levels, ages 18 to 70, are invited to participate. (No, this does not include Christopher Reeve, whose injury was higher on the neck.)

        Additional trials involving individuals with MS will be conducted later this year. For further information, visit the Acorda web site at www.acorda.com.

Voter exit polls
        Jim Dickson of the Washington DC-based National Organization on Disability's Vote 2000 Campaign, reports that disability is not among the information gathered when polling voters. The exit polls conducted by Voter News Service ask voters a number of questions regarding gender, age, race, and political affiliation. Voters are asked whether they watch presidential debates, belong to a union, went to college, and how much money they make. They are not asked if they have a disability.

        Why, Mr. Dickson wants to know, are Americans with disabilities left out as a voting block when 35 million citizens of voting age have disabilities. Their issues would be more likely to be addressed by candidates if the group were identified as such, he says.

        For more information or to see how you can promote the inclusion of voters with disabilities, contact Mr. Dickson at the NOD Vote 2000 Campaign at (202) 298-5960 or go to www.nod.org

        Cincinnati writer Deborah Kendrick is a nationally recognized advocate for people with disabilities. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, Tempo, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202. E-mail: dkendrick@enquirer.com.

       



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