Category Archives: amputee

Being a Disabled Gay Man in a Grindr-Led World – an Insight.



This is a fascinating insight into how a disabled man in Toronto interacts with the gay community which is so centred on looks.  How he deals with his experiences is revelatory and worth bringing to our blog.  In a Grindr led gay world of dating the disabled can easily fall through the cracks.

It goes without saying that the gym has become a temple of sorts for many of us in the queer community. I think that if someone wants to take care of their health, and finds the gym to be the place to do it, I think that is really good—for them. But, I don’t think that this is necessarily a fair assessment for everyone, and I’d like to use my experience as a queer cripple to highlight why that is.

As somebody with a significant disability, and a wheelchair user, I have always looked at the gym in a weird way. I understand it’s value and importance to overall bodily health, but I have always had this feeling that they have, in one way or another, been forced on me, as a man with disabilities. It was almost as if I had to go to the gym with some hope of bettering myself, and fixing my disability — eradicating it from me. I remember one exchange I had on Grindr where a guy told me that if I went to the gym with him we could “work off my disability fat.” Another guy suggested that I needed to get out of my chair, and be more fit to be sexy.” These insensitive comments aside, does anybody know what to do with the 300 lbs. of wheelchair that I have attached to me 16 hours of the day?

Let me share with you what my experiences trying to access physical fitness regimes have been like. I enter these spaces in my big, clunky motorized wheelchair, and some conventionally attractive trainer-man, who I am secretly hoping will meet me in the steam room later, works with me. What quickly becomes apparent is that none of the equipment is accessible to my body. I remember one time spending a good twenty minutes with a trainer, falling over an arm bike trying to get one revolution done, but my wheelchair wouldn’t fit. All around me were these “gym-bodied boys” and I couldn’t even use the hand bike? I’m sure I looked real cute that day. All the other equipment wasn’t really usable for me, and as much as I wanted to entice someone to lift me out of my chair, and truly bring my gay gym-gimp fantasy to life, people were concerned about liability. Nobody wants to hurt, break or maim the crippled guy more than he already is, right?

So, if the gym isn’t an option, my next avenue is physical therapy. PT is something that I hated as a child, but something that I have come to accept as an adult. Here is the problem with it that I have had. As a disabled person, where I live in Toronto, you can access physical therapy only four times. This means you are allowed only four meetings with this person, after which you are meant to continue the therapy on your own. Hold up – they know I am disabled, and I can’t even dress myself, right? How am I gonna do this on my own? Add to this, the fact that they want me to lift nothing more than one-pound weights – because anything else might be a “liability issue.”

Ugh. So, what can I do to get fit? Where does one queer crippled guy go to obtain the body that the app-holes are thirsting for? Spaces like the gym, filled to the brim with beautiful bodies and bulging boys, are so often not designed with my disability in mind. The messaging I hear in the gym is loud and clear: I need to be fixed, but there’s nothing we can really do for you here. This is further proof that my queer crippled body has no real value, as it is.

The next time you tell a disabled guy that they just need to work out, think about the privilege that comes with that statement. The next time you tell a guy that you can’t fuck him because he doesn’t look fit enough for you; think about just how unfair that is, about how he may have tried really hard to get in shape in spite of all his needs, and was denied at every turn, because the service providers were unsure of how to assist him. Also, the next time I see a message about my supposed fitness from you, I might just have to reply: “Do you even crip, bro?”

I am sure from that this story will resonate with the LGBT disabled UK community and the highlighted attitudes devalue even more the lack of self-esteem that many disabled people feel.


3D Technology Prints Prosthetic for Violinist.

I find it very exciting when technology comes to the aid of our disabled community.  So I am delighted to bring you news about a young violinist who has benefitted from the wonders of 3D printing technology.

If you are familiar with the incredibly beautiful sounds a violin can produce, from melancholy strains to bright and powerful bravado, then you will agree no one should be denied the right to make their attempt at creating such loveliness, and those of us able to listen should be quite grateful for the experience to do so. While you may take for granted the ease you possess in being able to grab an instrument and begin playing, that’s not always so for everyone, especially in the rare case of Sarah Valentiner, a 12-year-old who was born without her right hand.

While we’ve actually written about a host of extraordinary 3D printed violins from electric to open source, it’s rare that we see a case where a 3D printed prosthetic was created so that one could enjoy playing. And it’s incredibly inspiring all around, as the maker of the prosthetic is an engineering student who was engaged in the learning process of not only creating something via 3D technology, but also in seeing how it can apply to a very real world situation. As many of us are aware, both playing and listening to music are very fulfilling and the experience is definitely something that to appeals to the emotional and spiritual side. To see someone being aided further in that endeavor is extremely uplifting, and it would seem that all involved in the project at hand were duly inspired.

[Photo: NIU]While young Valentiner has the talent for playing the violin, it was Oleseun Taiwo, a 20-year-old engineering student at Northern Illinois University, who took on the challenge of creating a new prosthetic so that Valentiner would be able to handle her stringed instrument more easily and with greater proficiency. The eighth grader had previously been using a prosthetic given to her by the Shriners Club. It had served as a much needed utilitarian tool, but obviously for something like playing the violin fluidly (and performing other tasks as well) it was limiting her.

As they wanted to see their daughter to continue growing, and especially in her music, Valentiner’s parents, David Valentiner and Nina Mount (both psychology professors at NIU) began exploring e-NABLE, a network of designers and volunteers we have the deep pleasure of following as they continually offer innovative 3D printed prosthetics to kids around the world, whether it’s the first parametric design that adjusts as children grow or a Spiderman design being presented to a four-year-old in a developing country.

As Valenriner’s parents began exploring e-NABLE together, they found that people all around the world not only design 3D printed hands and arms, but also freely share them. With this in mind, they began speaking with NIU’s College of Engineering and Engineering Technology to if just perhaps someone might help with 3D printing an e-NABLE prosthetic for their daughter. Soon, they were in contact with Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Federico Sciammarella, who not only helped Valentiner’s parents in their mission, but handed an extremely valuable learning experience to one of his students. Sciammarella himself is known around the world for his expertise in 3D printing, and in handing down his knowledge, he chose a student who was a self-starter.

“I gave Oleseun the opportunity and the guidance, but this is his design,” said Sciammarella. “I wanted him to be the owner of this project … that’s the only way they learn.”

The student engineer went into great detail as he explored what would be the best fit and material for Valentiner, especially in consideration to her passion for violin.

“I wanted to go deeper and be able to use design to solve major problems that would have a quick impact,” said Taiwo in a recent interview.

This went from a university project to a very strong interest in the use of 3D technology for both Taiwo and Valentiner. Taiwo met with Valentiner many times as they worked on not only the fit, but also how she would need to move her hand, along with numerous other details. The goal was to make her the perfect hand. This took six different versions, with the last being made of a lightweight nylon/plastic material.

As they worked on creating the prosthetic, all of the benefits of 3D printing began to emerge. Customization, while perhaps not easy, was a huge factor in the success of the prosthetic, along with being able to make continual changes as needed. The e-NABLE designs are also considerably more affordable, weigh much less than traditional prosthetics, and can be produced and assembled quickly. With this new design, it made a big difference in playing violin as well because Valentiner does not have to dismantle the bow.

“It just made sense,” said Taiwo. “Taking the bow apart, and reassembling it with one hand, is no easy task.”

And even better, as Valentiner continues on with her violin, Taiwo will be sharing what he has learned so that others have the potential to benefit as well. They are sharing the story with e-NABLE, and it would seem that perhaps Taiwo has found a direction he would like to pursue as he completes his engineering degree.

“When I started in engineering I figured I’d just get my degree and get a job,” said the Naperville student, whose father Temitope Taiwo is deputy director of nuclear engineering at Argonne National Laboratory.

And even though he’s still all about finding solutions, he insisted, the project with Valentiner changed him.

Sarah Valentiner plays the violin using the prosthetic designed by Oleseun Taiwo. [Image: Denise Crosby]The young future engineer not only has the bug to continue in 3D printing, but to help people in doing so. Both he and Valentiner were able to employ their independent spirits in reaching their goal with the 3D printed prosthetic, a point that Valentiner’s psychologist parents point out as being very important especially for children with disabilities, as they are able to actively ‘shape their destinies’ as well as seeing what’s possible. Now Valentiner, along with her proclivity for violin, has taken to the idea of being an engineer, too. She also gave us some insight as to what motivated her to also work so hard in seeing the prosthetic to fruition:


Claire Shows the Power of Bionics on Great North Run.

One of the most amazing things I saw at NAIDEX this year was the bionic suit created by ReWalk which provides an exoskeleton for amputees and quadriplegics.  Claire  Lomas is a shining example of how robotics and determination can work together to achieve greatness.

Claire Lomas, from Leicestershire, was paralysed from the chest down in a riding accident in 2007.

She began the half marathon, which runs from Newcastle to South Shields, on Wednesday and crossed the finish line at about 10:00 BST.

The 36-year-old, who is 16 weeks pregnant, said she was “over the moon” to finish the run.

She broke her neck, back and ribs and punctured a lung when her horse threw her off as she took part in the Osberton Horse Trials in Nottinghamshire.

Mrs Lomas has no feeling below her chest and used a ReWalk robotic exoskeleton, which relies on motion sensors to help her move and lift her legs to walk the route.

“It doesn’t just walk for me. I have to use the parts that aren’t paralysed to make it walk.”

She walked about three miles a day with the help of her husband Dan and was met at the finish line by her five-year-old daughter Maisie.

She said she had struggled to train because of morning sickness which meant there were times when she did not think she would make it to the start.

“I had quite a lot of morning sickness. I didn’t have the lead up I wanted, but I really did not want to lose this opportunity,” she said.

In 2012, Mrs Lomas completed the London Marathon in last place, inspiring many people with her courage and determination.



Latest Prosthetics Enhance Lives of Amputees.

When you consider just how many people lose limbs every year from road accidents trough to diabetes any advances in prosthetics are to be welcomed.  One of the pioneers in the field of amputee rehabilitation is Dr. Esquenazi  at Moss Rehab in Philadelphia.

It’s sophisticated computer technology that allows specialists at Moss-Rehab to analyze movement. “Here are the muscles you see during running,” Dr. Alberto Esquenazi explains as he points to a graph on the computer screen.

Dr. Esquenazi is the Chief Medical Officer at Moss-Rehab, and he says this gait and motion analysis lets him monitor how patients are progressing though rehabilitation. “That allows us to figure out if the muscles are working correctly,” he explained further.

He is a pioneer in the world of amputee rehab and prosthetics, “so the little tips in my hooks give me a lot of precision. I could take one single hair and pull that out,” he said as he demonstrated with his own prosthetic hand. Dr. Esquenazi has a unique prospective. He is an amputee himself. He lost his hand to a burn that happened in medical school when chemicals had been mislabled. “At that point, I thought I was not going to continue in medicine,” He revealed. But he did and is now helping others who have lost limbs, with refined new prosthetics.

“Patients can now do many more things that they really were not able to do before.” He said as he displayed another more advanced prosthetic hand, “this gripper for example has about 6 times more strength than what I am wearing, so I could actually grab an object and crush it.”

From strength to aesthetics, real looking hands can be attached to the prosthetics, and the movements are controlled by muscles in your forearm. Back in the lab, once patients are fitted with either arms or legs, Dr. Esquenazi can help refine the movements so that patients can start feeling normal again. “They can really get the emotional support of now having a device that will help them do more things,” he said.

Dr. Esquenazi is also working with the re-walk technology at Moss-Rehab, which is allowing paralyzed patients to walk again.



Neuroscience Helps Paralysed Man Move His Hand & Wrist

An extraordinary development in neuroscience technology that has been developed between researchers  in New York and Newcastle have allowed Ian Burkhart from Ohio – a quadriplegic – to move his hand and wrist.  WE are so excited with the way in which technology is moving forward in the field of disability  that we bring you part of an article published in ‘Nature’ magazine.

A quadriplegic man who has become the first person to be implanted with technology that sends signals from the brain to muscles — allowing him to regain some movement in his right arm hand and wrist — is providing novel insights about how the brain reacts to injury.

Two years ago, 24-year-old Ian Burkhart from Dublin, Ohio, had a microchip implanted in his brain, which facilitates the ‘reanimation’ of his right hand, wrist and fingers when he is wired up to equipment in the laboratory. Researchers led by Chad Bouton, currently at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, New York, have been studying Burkhart ever since, and publish their results on 13 April in Nature1.

Previous studies have suggested that after spinal-cord injuries, the brain undergoes ‘reorganization’ — a rewiring of its connections. But this new work suggests that the degree of reorganization occurring after such injuries may be less than previously assumed. “It gives us a lot of hope that there are perhaps not as many neural changes in the brain as we might have imagined after an injury like this, and we can bypass damaged areas of the spinal cord to regain movement,” says Bouton. Previously, such a ‘neural bypass’ had been done in monkeys, and brain signals had been decoded in people and used to animate a robotic prosthetic arm, but this is the first time a person has had their own body part reanimated.

Burkhart — who is paralysed from the shoulders down but can move his shoulders and, to a small extent, his elbow — broke his neck after diving into waves during a beach holiday when he was 19. He later discovered that 25 minutes away from his home, researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus were developing the reanimation technology and decided to volunteer to have the microchip implanted.

Bouton and his colleagues took fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans of Burkhart’s brain while he tried to mirror videos of hand movements. This identified a precise area of the motor cortex — the area of the brain that controls movement — linked to these movements. Surgery was then performed to implant a flexible chip that detects the pattern of electrical activity arising when Burkhart thinks about moving his hand, and relays it through a cable to a computer. Machine-learning algorithms then translate the signal into electrical messages, which are transmitted to a flexible sleeve that wraps around Burkhart’s right forearm and stimulates his muscles. “The first day we hooked it up I was able to get movement, and open and close my hand,” he says (see ‘Ian talks about his new-found movement’)

The study provides insights into the brain’s ability to adapt to and exploit new situations. “It is interesting that, even some years after injury, when these circuits have presumably been sitting there not able to do much, that they still seem to be related to hand movements and haven’t been co-opted by something else,” says Andrew Jackson at Newcastle University, UK, who is separately developing a neural prosthesis to overcome spinal-cord injury.

Burkhart’s brain has also learned to coordinate the activity of his reanimated hand with muscles that he already has some control over. His ability to maintain grip while moving objects has gradually improved, and this has been associated with significant changes in his brain activity. The algorithms developed by Bouton’s team register and adapt to such changes in brain activity — effectively learning with the patient and fine-tuning his movements.

It’s not yet clear whether a neural bypass would work in people who don’t have the type of residual elbow and shoulder movement that Burkhart does, or in people whose muscles are always contracted, a relatively common problem. “Being able to combine the recording of brain signals and produce the muscle contractions to make the hand do the correct things is a big step, but we’re still at a point where we’re talking about something that would benefit a small number of people,” says Elizabeth Tyler-Kabara, who directs the Neural Enhancement Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh.


Stylish Fetish Video Released

Within the disabled community there has always been an interest in the ‘bizarre’ sex-wise as anyone who has ever attended the ‘Night of the senses’ or the ‘Sex Maniacs Ball’ as it used to be that is run by the Outsiders charity.   Truly I have never seen so many interesting deviations from the so-called sexual norm in my life.   So I was delighted when a really cool ‘grunge-style’ video crossed my inbox produced by a fetish dating site  – – which is graphically striking and has a compelling musical soundtrack.

I love the outfits and the whole spirit of the video.  I have been talking recently with our Sexpert Robin on our podcast to discuss more about disability and fetish since we had excellent feedback when she talked about amputee pretenders in a recent podcast episode.   I must ask her to do more on the subject.

Amazing Innovations in Amputee Prosthetics.

I am fascinated by the amazing advances we are seeing in 3d printing technology and how it can help provide prosthetic limbs at a reasonable price and at great speed.  Open Bionics a Bristol-based company is a UK leader in this field.

Open Bionics has teamed up with a researcher at the University of Bristol to create a dual material, custom, 3D printed splint for people with broken wrists.

Abby Taylor and Open Bionics’ mechanical engineer Jonathan Raines created an innovative 3D printed medical splint by combining PLA and Ninja Flex (a thermoplastic elastomer) with two extruders on a desktop 3D printer.

The researcher asked Open Bionics to help her bring her idea to life by using their 3D scanning and 3D printing methods.

Open Bionics did so by 3D scanning Abby’s wrist before applying a Voronoi pattern to the model and then 3D printed a custom-fitted, dual material splint.

The design combines the strength of PLA with the flexibility and softness of the filament printed on the inside. The flexible material also acts as a living hinge, meaning patients can get in and out of the splint with ease.

Abby said: “We hope to create an alternative to conventional casting that is often heavy and impractical. We want to improve the wearer’s experience.”

This first print which fit comfortably, is a sign that 3D printing could enable patients to have an improved splint that’s ‘way more integrative’ with the daily life of the patient.

Open Bionics estimated that the material costs for the splint, which prints in one part, is just £2.

The innovative startup will be supporting Abby’s research into alternative medical casting for broken or injured wrists for the next year while continuing to develop their low-cost bionic hands.


3rd Episode of disabilitymatch Podcast

Very happy that we have released our 3rd podcast episode!  I am getting into the flow of things now, also we are getting great guests agreeing to be interviwed because they like our style.  We are upbeat and communicative.  Anyway you judge for yourselves


We have almost 100 downloads on our first day and we have high hopes of reaching 300 downloads by the end of the week.  We have great guests on the show and our twitter following is amazingly supportive.  We depend on you to share our podcast links and help get it widely known on all social media.  Disabilitymatch is a vibrant community and we are thrilled to be able to help you get the most from it.



Rebranding the Term ‘Carer’

I was reading a great article by Melanie Reid in today’s times newspaper.   She is an insprational columnist and worth following.  She is in a wheelchair following an accident and comes at the problems of spinal injusry from an interesting angle.  Her article on rebranding the term ‘carer’ is a case oin point.  I quote:


We need a new name for these people. A strong, proud word that will demand respect.

A rebranding. They need to be able to declare themselves minders, guardians, protectors, special forces. Not unsung heroes, because that’s sentimental, which is the last thing the job is, nor are they champions or buddies. Attendant is too close to lavatory, and personal assistant makes their caree sound like an aspiring CEO.

Care worker is diligent but dull, like sex worker, and while caregiver is popular in the States, I think I’d prefer a caretaker. In brown overalls with a spanner. How about floor manager? Concierge? Gofer? We could hijack the word caddy from golf, and start paying carers 5-10 per cent of our income.

Or get sponsorship for the profession from Apple or YouTube: create an iNeed or an iHelp; a YouMind or a YouVital.

Or how about a Selfish Pig? A few years ago Hugh Marriott wrote a magnificently mordant book called The Selfish Pig’s Guide to Caring, in which he blew apart the myth that carers are saintly, compassionate people and declared that it was perfectly normal to get guilty, angry and frustrated, and understandable to have murderous thoughts about the person you look after. Especially if you are one of the six million who do it unpaid, for a loved one, friend or neighbour, but even if you’re one of the one million-plus who toil in the adult care sector employed on the minimum wage.

I think this sets the case very clearly and I would welcome any suggestions from my blog readers on other terms to describe someone who finds themselves in this role – not through choice as a ‘devotee’ but through circumstance.

Have a great day