Thursday, July 31, 2008

Why are some disabled people so mean?

In the regular email announcement I get from
an interesting topic for discussion and perspective taking was the lead, featured article.

In her blog post,
Discusses the subject, “Why are some disabled people so mean?”

Don’t get the wrong idea. This was not a topic Vicki chose at random. This was something she found on
Yahoo Answers
While browsing through questions. Actually, I think Vicki was surprised that there Was a question posted that actually had the title
Why are some disabled people so mean?

The original question on Yahoo Answers read:

today I saw this older disable woman having a really hard time opening a door so I went over and opened the door for her. She gave me a dirty look and didn't even thank me. Once inside the store she started holding her purse like I was going to steal it.

This isn't the only disabled people who's been mean towards me. So I made a promise to myself today not to help another disabled person.

I’m not trying to steal Vicki’s idea here. I think there is room for much discussion on this subject. That’s why I’m writing this.

There are mean people in any segment of the population, no matter which segments one might compare. You can break it down by gender, race, culture, or whatever, and there will be mean people in any given segment. Sure, there are mean disabled people, but there are a lot of nice ones as well. Perhaps the nice ones don’t leave as strong of a lasting impression.

I’m sorry that this poster had a bad experience with that one woman, but perhaps he needs to see how he came across. I’m not a hater of people helping me out, but I’m not necessarily helpless just because I’m blind either. I also believe that people want to help, but don’t always know how to offer their assistance. Some fumble the ball and force their unsolicited help on the disabled person.

To give a prime example from real life, On more than one occasion, I’ve been at a street crossing, waiting for a light to change so I could cross safely and had somebody actually take my arm to lead me across. They didn’t ever ask, but just grabbed my arm and said, “Here, let me help you,” and tried to pull me along like a human tow truck. Perhaps these people didn’t notice my ability to get to that corner on my own, through other intersections safely and independenly with my guide dog. I tried to be polite in those situations when I pulled my arm back and said, “No thank you, I’m fine.”

And, polite society seems to indicate that as somebody who sometimes needs assistance I should be nice and cordial in all situations where somebody offers help, whether I asked for it or not. I can’t promise that. It gets old when it happens more than once every now and again.

However, I can promise that I am grown up and mature enough that I don’t leave that encounter thinking, “Why are some non-disabled people mean?” Come to think about it, if I posted a question to Yahoo answers with that very thought, I don’t think anyone would take it as more than some pitiful rambling from a poor, whining blind guy.

All is not lost, though. At a recent speaking engagement, the manager of a hotel and conference center asked me what is the best way to help somebody who has a noticeable disability. He wanted to hear my perspective so that he could share it with his staff. My reply was for the staff member to introduce him or herself and ask if there is anything that they might be able to provide assistance with. This leaves it up to the person with the disability to indicate the type of help that might be most useful. Just because there is a visible disability, there may be a greater need than what is obvious. By asking how they can be of assistance, well-meaning people leave the invitation offer up to the person with disability, empowering them to be able to decide what is best for them.

I a Mr. Positive nearly every day and present an upbeat approach to almost every situation I face. Once in a while, though, I do encounter somebody who strikes me wrong. If I offend somebody, I expect them to let me know. Likewise, if somebody offends me, I’ll let them know that they did. And, I promise I can do it nicely most of the time. However, every once in a while, my reaction might sting a bit. So, don’t hate me and I promise that I won’t hate you either.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Diabetic Days: a good tool for managing lifestyle through technology

Thanks to
Fred’s Head Companion
For tipping me to the following information.

If you or somebody you know is a diabetic, here is a web site you might find very useful.

Diabetic Days
Is much more than just an online community of diabetics. However, that communal link is definitely one of the strengths Diabetic Days offers its members.

Diabetic Days is a new FREE website that allows anyone, anywhere to easily keep a track of their Diabetic life.

• Submit your records via the web, email, or mobile phone (sms).
• Never carry an insulin diary or record book ever again.
• Export & share results with your specialists & doctors.
• Participate in a community of thousands with Diabetics from across the world.

The ability to use online reporting and exporting/sharing of insulin diaries and the like is a great step in involving today's ubiquitous technologies such as cell phones and SMS messaging to manage one’s health. Some very cool innovation, indeed.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More news about Springfield MO woman with monkey: Therapy or service animal status is main point in question

I’ve previously written here about
Debby Rose,
The Springfield, Missouri woman with a real monkey of a problem.

Rose has agoraphobia and a panic disorder and travels with a monkey at her side, which she claims is a service animal. She made national news headlines last year when the local health department sent 1,000 letters to local businesses, instructing them that her monkey is considered a therapy animal, and not a service animal as Rose has contended, under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Director of Health said that by that definition, businesses and establishments governed by the ADA do not have to admit Rose with her monkey named Richard. He stated that the monkey’s presence would violate food and health codes. Rose argued that point in a well-publicized effort, but I’d not heard any more on this matter until recently.

There’s been some news lately on Rose’s on-going battle with the Springfield-Grene County Health Department.

She is challenging the health department’s assertion in court. Just this week,
Rose filed a civil suit
against not only the health department, but also Wal-Mart and Cox Health, where she attempted to attend nursing school

She contends that the letters sent out by the health department stopped her from going to public places, but also denied her from getting an education.

Many businesses quit letting Rose and Richard in after the health department sent out the letters to ban the monkey because of food and health codes.

Rose says she was stopped before she could go into the Wal-Mart on Kansas Expressway.

Rose says, “A manager walked in with the letter in his hand laughing saying you’re not getting in here.”

Rose says she and Richard can’t go anywhere that serves food including her daughter’s soccer game, Wal-Mart and even nursing school at Cox Health.

One of the biggest sticking points that the health department cites is the lack of training for the monkey. Even though Rose asserts that Richard is registered as an assistance animal with three different organizations, and is even a required restriction for her driver’s license, she has not convinced the health director of any formal training process that her animal assistant has undergone.

I’m just wondering about that little matter of that driver’s license restriction, wherein Rose says she was told by the state licensing agency that she could not drive without her “service animal due to her disability.” If that is found as a credible and valid point, will that validate Rose’s case?

This matter again brings to light the important legal difference between a therapy animal and assistance animal under the ADA. It also illustrates the reason why colleges and universities need to be proactive in developing a service animal policy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

July is Disability Pride Month

Did you know that July is Disability Pride Month? I guess I’m slow on the uptake, because I didn’t know it, but am sure glad I found out.

I had just read about this and decided to Google the terms “July Disabled Pride Month.” The results brought back more than
1.3 million returns,
which was both surprising and encouraging.

It was surprising to me that there were so many returns, because I had expected a few hundred, or maybe a thousand or so returns. Granted, I didn’t spend the two months of non-stop 24-hour reading it would have taken to examine all the returns, but to have that many returns is great. And yes, I am fully aware that there are probably a good number of those returns that are not going to be disability related, but I expected that as well among the hundreds or thousands of returns I had figured on getting. Still, it is heartily encouraging to find this much published work on the subject of Disability Pride on the web.

Some of my findings included the following:

First, I initially read about the denoting of July as Disability Pride Month in
This Disability Pride, something to be happy about,
An op-ed piece byKathi Wolfe in the online edition of
The Progressive.

The disability and business communities support the bill. “This is a good change for America, and we urge Congress to pass this legislation,” said U.S. Chamber of Congress President and CEO Tom Donohue. “People … with chronic disabilities need to manage their disease and not be discriminated against for it,” said American Diabetes Association CEO Larry Hausner.

People with disabilities don’t want special rights. We want equal rights. And we want to be given a chance to work if we can do the job.

That should not be too much to ask.

(Kathi Wolfe is a poet and author. Her publications include “Helen Takes the Stage: The Helen Keller Poems,” by PuddingHouse Press.)

Secondly, for a good overview of Disability Pride, you might want to check out the extensive work on the
Disabled and Proud site.
Sarah Triano, the site’s producer has done some great work at putting together a good and solid presentation, encouraging leadership from within the community of people with disabilities. While the home page is a good starting point, you will do yourself a favor to click on the “Pride” link for a good discussion of Disability Pride.

And, finally, check out
Disability Rights Washington
For some further reading about Disability Pride.

So, those are your instructions: Go forth this month and be proud.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New and improved Disability 411; Review of The Short Bus by Jonathan Mooney

Okay, it is new and improved. It features a re-designed web page. And, the latest episode is out.

The “it” in this case, is the
Disability 411 podcast,
On whose latest episode your humble blogger makes his debut as a regular contributor. In this episode, D411 host Beth Case also announces some other guest contributors, putting me in some good company.

The other contributers are Day Al-Mohamed, of the
Day in Washington podcast,
Jacquie Brennan, from the
Disability Law Lowdown podcast,
And Chris Wright, a web designer, musician, and all-around idea generator for Beth.

Chris is also offering to do screen reader accessibility evaluations of web sites at no charge to D411 listeners (or readers, for those who choose to read the transcript instead of listening to the podcast). To contact him, send an email to
and put “web site evaluation” in the subject line. Also, make sure you mention that you’re a fan of D411.

Do check out the D411 site's new logo and web page. It also includes disability news headlines, as well as some of Beth's favorite resource links.

For my beginning D411 contribution, I offer a review of
The Short Bus, A Journey beyond normal
Jonathan Mooney.

I first heard about this book a few months ago when the author emailed me through this blogsite and offered to send me a review copy. I replied to Mr. Mooney and asked if he had a review copy that was accessible to a computer screen reader and explained some formats that would work. Unfortunately, I never heard back from Mr. Mooney. I had checked out his web site and read a part of the introduction. I was really eager to read more, but that didn’t happen for a while.

I didn’t have access to check for the book’s availability through the
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Disabled (NLS),
because more than five years ago, I had quit listening to those modified talking books on 4-track cassettes. I had grown tired of listening to books in that format due to what I felt was excessive space needs and effort to listen to books in what I felt was an antiquedated media format in a digital age.

The good news is that since getting my Victor Reader Stream, and its ability to play the protected digital files from the
NLS Downloadable Book and Magazine Service,
I’ve re-established my membership with the library. And, yes, The Short Bus was available as a download. It was actually the first NLS book that I downloaded and listened to on this accessible media player.

Jonathan Mooney is an author and speaker who has captured the essence of his own experience as a child with a learning disability, and turned it into a quest to explore how others with differing disabilities live their lives. Mooney was a boy who was dyslexic and didn’t learn to read until he was 12 years old. Along his way through the public school system, he heard many things, most notable of which was that he would do well to graduate high school and that college was all but out of the question. Like so many other people with disabilities, Mooney tapped into his strengths and survived, surpassing those glum predictions of his academic future. Not only was he able to parlay his atheletic skills into a scholarship to Loyola Marimount, but he later went on to graduate with honors from Brown University.

In the introduction, Mooney talks about how he began one presentation with an empathetic statement of, “Normal people suck.” In those three words, Mooney gives an indication of his approach to change his presentation to fit the situation and effectively reach out and connect with particular members of his audience.

The book’s title states exactly what the book is about. Mooney draws upon his childhood memories of when he rode that iconic symbol for kids in special education to school. However, what he has done now is make it a familiar means of recognition, and a very bold statement maker it is, as his means of transportation in this coast-to-coast journey exploring how people of different ages across the country manage their various disabilities. All the while he illustrates the defining personality of each person he visits, allowing us to see them for their abilities and not just their disabilities.

That takes care of explaining the title, for the most part, but that word “Normal” is there for a very specific reason. Children with disabilities are classified and treated as being outside the norm and Mooney examines the educational and social constructs for this. He also offers a brief history about many of the discussed disabilities and, peppered throughout the text, offers a good representation of the disability rights movement here in the United States.

More than just examining the definition of what it means to be classified outside the boundaries of “normal,” what each person he presents does, is present their own method of challenging what it is to be normal. Each of these people are presented, despite any limitations their disabilities impose, as normal people. They interact with their family, their community, and pursue life with zeal. That pursuit can be seen in the way the 8-year old deaf-blind girl understand so much more than what many perceive, or maybe how she plays a trick on her brother. Or it might be found in the older, transgender man named Cookie who has a deep understanding of art and paints a mural on the inside of Mooney’s bus, even though one of his darkest recollections was when he was six and his teacher called him stupid. Or, maybe it is in the heart of the boy who uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, but has an undying love for roller coasters. It can be found in any of the variety of people Mooney meets up with. Pick any one of them and you’ll find out a new definition of what normal is.

The book is written in a style that is easy and comfortable to read, like sitting down with an old friend. While the language is direct and sometimes coarse, it usually fits the context. For anybody who works in the disability service field, The Short Bus should make a stop on your reading list. It is a good read covering a range of disabilities and profiles some strong people with attitudes that allow them to pursue life. While I had to wait a few months to get a copy I could read, it was definitely worth the wait.

There is a lot more than just my review of that book on D411. Go to the D411 home page and check out its new design and grab the latest episode.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Florida State University survey seeking visually impaired adults

Here’s another survey opportunity, this one seeking participants who are at least 18 years of age and have a diagnosed visual impairment.

The following information is from the survey’s informed consent page.

We are assistant professors in the Department of Childhood Education, Reading, and Disability Services, at Florida State University. We are conducting a research study to investigate the relationship between the amount and type of internet use and social support and well-being in individuals with visual impairments. You are eligible to participate in this study if you a) are 18 years of age or older and b) have a diagnosed visual impairment.

Your participation will involve completing an online survey that will take approximately 30 minutes. You will be asked a series of questions regarding your demographic characteristics, internet use, social support, and well-being. Your participation in this study is voluntary. If you choose not to participate or to withdraw from the study at any time, there will be no penalty. The results of the research study may be published, but you will not be identified in any way.

There are no foreseeable risks or discomforts if you agree to participate in this study. If you choose to participate in the study, your confidentiality will be maintained to the fullest extent allowed by law. No personally identifying demographic information or information about your computer network or IP address will be collected.

Although there may be no direct benefit to you, the possible benefit of your participation is furthering knowledge related to factors that contribute to quality of life in individuals with visual impairments and any programmatic developments or improvements that may be made as a result of this study.

If you meet the eligibility criteria and are interested in participating, then go to
the survey site
to begin.

Survey seeking people with disabilities for input

Please forgive any formatting errors as I have copied the below text from an email. I tried to clean it up, but I am not certain how well the results came out in the visual presentation.

The participant qualifications for this survey seem to be open, but as a professional in the Disability Support Service field, you offer a very informed knowledge base. Also, please share this information with people with disabilities whom you know, as they will also have an informed opinion on the subject.

The due date on this is coming up soon, asking for responses by July 22, 2008, so if you're going to participate, jump on it quickly.

From: National Council on Disability
Public Consultation
June 16, 2008

Emerging Trends and People with Disabilities: Public Consultation

The National Council on Disability (NCD) is gathering public input for a study of emerging issues and trends affecting the lives of people with disabilities. Information gathered will be used in the development of NCD's next annual progress report to the President and Congress, "National Disability Policy: A Progress Report," which is required by Section 401(b) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

The purpose of this public consultation is to gather input to inform NCD's assessment of the status of the nation in achieving policies that guarantee equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities, and empower individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society.

We are seeking input on disability issues such as health, housing, employment, insurance, transportation, assistive technology, recreation, emergency preparedness, training, prevention, early intervention and education. Your input will be used in the development of recommendations including, but not limited to, recommendations for changes in legislation, regulations, policies, or programs, as appropriate. NCD seeks input from individuals with disabilities, organizations representing a broad range of individuals with disabilities, and agencies interested in or serving individuals with disabilities.

How can you participate in our public consultation process? We will briefly outline the purpose, key issues and key policy topics of interest.

If you are interested in participating in this public consultation, you may want to respond or react to any of the policy topics of interest. If you do want to react or respond, please follow these basic guidelines:

* Be brief: Use one short sentence to explain each point you want to make, as this will help us understand your issue or opinion. You can add more detail afterwards if you wish.

* Focus on what is important to you: Write about the policy topic(s) you care most about first. If you want to make more detailed comments, put them in an appendix to your response or in a separate document.

* Provide evidence: Your comments will be more convincing if they are supported by evidence or information. If you are responding by regular mail or email, send in copies of supporting documents rather than information about where to find them.

* Submit your response as soon as possible: The earlier you send in your views, the longer we have to consider them. This is particularly important if you are providing new information or evidence.

* Tell us who you are: Say whether you are commenting as a private citizen, representing other people, or on behalf of an organization.

* Let us know if you want your response to be kept confidential: NCD may publish your views as part of the results of the consultation. If you do not want us to do so, state this clearly in your response.

* If possible, please react or respond by email: You can even insert your comment(s) or reaction(s) into this document following the questions you wish to answer or the subjects you want to discuss from the list below. If you are not able to respond by email, please share your written comments with us in a format that you choose, but please identify the "policy topic" you are addressing at the beginning of your response.

Now we want to hear from you. Please provide comments and specific examples about any or all of the following:

1. Describe the most current and/or emerging issues facing people with disabilities.
* Identify what you believe are the personal challenges of living with a disability and individual barriers to full participation - e.g., finding and keeping a job, lack of accessible housing, transportation or access to the technologies that assist people with disabilities in independent living and access to the workplace.
* Address how opportunities for people with disabilities are affected by the attitudinal challenges that still exist among people who do not see the value of potential contributions of people with disabilities to society.

2. Provide your assessment of how well existing government programs address the emerging issues and needs of people with disabilities.
* Address systemic challenges that exist in areas such as employment, education, housing, transportation, health care, etc.;
* Explain how the Federal government and its partners should distribute funding resources to better meet the future needs of people with disabilities, including describing programs and services that will be needed to address the short- and long-term needs of people with disabilities.

Your comments will help NCD provide a guide for America's programs and services to be modernized to reflect the changed and changing needs of people with disabilities in our communities.

Please send your information to NCD by July 22, 2008, in one of two ways:

Email to:
Type "Emerging Trends" in the subject line

Or by U.S. mail to:
National Council on Disability
ATTN: Emerging Trends Committee
1331 F Street NW, Suite 850
Washington, DC 20004

Blind Climber "Sees" With His Tongue

I just read an article that is personally fascinating to me for a couple of reasons.

First, the article,
The Blind Climber Who “Sees” With His Tongue,
Which Appears online in

Discover Magazine,

Is about Erik Weihenmayer, a personal hero of mine. For those who do not recognize the name, Weihenmayer is the blind mountain climber who reached the summit of Mount Everest in 2001.

Secondly, the article, discusses the latest advancements made with the BrainPort,an assistive technology device that allows blind people to see using their tongues, rather than their eyes. In the early years of adjusting to the adventitious blindness in my life, I was seeking a miracle that would reverse the severed optic nerves and, for a time, put my life on hold waiting for this to occur. Accepting the reality of my situation, I let myself move forward with life, but I still long to hear of news such as the Brainport device. When I came to the point of accepting the blindness, I realized that the technological and medical advances that were to come during my lifetime were most likely going to allow me to see in some form again at some point. One thing I never dreamed about, though, was that this might mean using my tongue to see.

From the article:

In normal vision, light hitting the retina provokes electrical impulses that the brain translates into images. What the tool, called the BrainPort, does is convert light into electrical impulses that stimulate the tongue instead of the retina. With more tactile nerve endings than any other part of the body except the lips, the tongue can discriminate two points spaced less than a millimeter apart. That degree of resolution is far beyond what the current BrainPort array, with only 611 electrodes, provides. But tests have shown the BrainPort delivers enough information for users like Erik to navigate with.

“Climbing!” Erik calls out to his partner. He places the device in his mouth, raises his head, and “surveys” the wall before him. Electrical impulses from the BrainPort become to him “a tactile image that I’m interpreting in space.” Erik reaches for a handheld slider that controls the zoom level and field of view of the BrainPort so that he can “see” one or two rock climbing holds on the wall some 2 or 3 feet above him. Then he slowly and deliberately raises his right hand, reaches up, grabs hold, and begins to pull himself up the wall. His feet secure, he hangs for a moment, adjusts the zoom again, then tentatively puts his hand out and above him again, this time missing the hold by half a foot. Judging the distance of an object in space is particularly difficult even with the device, Erik says. To help him figure out how far away something is, he sometimes waves his hand—an object of known size and distance—in front of himself first to get a sense of scale via the BrainPort array. The feedback helps him assess the distance of his next rock climbing hold.

Testing the BrainPort, Erik says, involves “learning to climb in a new, different way. I’m learning another language in the same way someone would be learning Braille or French for the first time. I’m figuring out how to map it spatially.” The challenges are significant. The BrainPort provides information in two dimensions, like a line drawing on a piece of paper, but the user’s brain must learn to translate this information into things like perspective, dimension, and location in space. When Erik first used the BrainPort, the images in his brain appeared as unidentifiable shapes and lines, but over time, through practice, his brain adapted, eventually translating the tactile sensations into recognizable patterns and symbols.

Thanks to the assistive technology news site,,
For this encouraging and interesting news update.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Updated: Serotek makes System Access Mobile free to K-12 students

The folks at
Have done it again! They are offering another piece of their powerful System Access Network at no cost to a slice of the population that might otherwise not have access to it.

With their new
Keys for K-12
Program, Serotek is allowing blind students in grades K-12 to have at no cost, a license for using the company’s System Access Mobile that is carried on a thumb drive. Serotek is supplying everything but the thumb drives, which are available at a low cost from most retailers of electronics.

It is very benevelant of Serotek to do this, especially in light of the company previously donating the license costs that allows any blind person to use their
System Access To Go
screen reader at no cost via the
Accessibility Is A Right

From the official KK12 web site:

“For children in the 21st century, using a computer is as basic as learning to read or riding a bike. Serotek Corporation is introducing a program today that will put blind children on the same page with their sighted peers -- giving them the ability to use a computer anytime, anywhere, with help from Keys for K-12 (kk12.)”

“Keys for K-12 is a free license to carry the System Access Mobile capabilities on a portable thumb drive. With the SA Mobile Software, your student can plug his or her flash drive into any computer, anywhere, and have instant access -- through text-to-speech and/or magnification -- to all Windows-based applications already there.”

“At school, the library, Grandma's house or a sleepover, a blind child can access the same information on the computer as any sighted student who can see the screen.”

“A licensed copy of System Access Mobile sells for $499.00, and now students K-12 can have it for free!”

For more information, including student application procedures, go the the official KK12 site linked above.

Update: 07/11/08

One might ask, “Why does Serotek do this?” For a good understanding of the reasons why this innovative assistive technology company operates in this giving and compassionate manner, read company president and founder
Mike Calvo’s recent blog post.

I have followed Mike’s ascent in the assistive technology field for some time now, to see him rise to his current point of prominence , and continue to be impressed by this intelligent and caring man. His star continues to rise and I predict that it will do so for some time to come. Read that post and you'll also understand why I say that .

Back from absence; Announcing affilliation with Wellsphere

I’m back after a prolonged absence. Please pardon me for that, but there was a much needed family trip and a longer than expected period necessary to set up my new smart phone with a screen reader.

I’ll be back soon with more news.

However, before I close this post, I’ve got a new affiliation to announce here. Access Ability is now an official part of the

I have been invited to become part of the Wellsphere network, as a featured blogger in the Disability Support Service community. That means that posts from Access Ability will be available to Wellsphere community members from within the site.

If you’ve not heard of Wellsphere, the information I was provided in the invitation read:
“Wellsphere is a fast growing, next-generation online platform that is revolutionizing the way people find and share health and healthy living information and services. Our platform connects millions of users with the valuable insights and knowledge from health leaders and knowledgeable writers.”

And, if that isn’t enough, the following text is from the Wellsphere “About” page:

Wellsphere builds online healthy living communities that help people ‘Get active, Eat better and Unwind’. Wellsphere’s groundbreaking platform works by connecting each member with local health and wellness resources, classes and activities that match their unique interests and goals, and with the personalized advice and social support they need to sustain healthy habits. The company hosts a public website for consumers at and creates proprietary communities (such as BeWell@Stanford ) for large organizations seeking to improve the health and well being of their members and reduce their healthcare costs. Wellsphere is headquartered in San Mateo, California.

Founders Ron Gutman and Dave Kashen started the company based on a vision for helping to solve the country’s health crisis and a passion for helping people improve their well-being. From the obesity epidemic to the rise of inactivity to the high levels of stress found across America, our country is not exactly in good shape. Most of us know at least a few things we could do to improve our well-being, but haven’t quite gotten around to doing them yet. Both Ron and Dave know from personal experience the incredible impact that becoming more active and eating better can have on people’s lives (yea, they’re still working on the relaxation part, but 2 out of 3 is a good start). Turns out making changes is HARD. So, they gathered a group of some of the brightest minds across Stanford’s graduate schools and asked one simple question: “How do we help people improve their own lives?” Hundreds of interviews, research papers and concept tests later, they uncovered two big ideas that have formed the core of Wellsphere:

• Personalization. There is a TON of generic information in print and on the web about how much cardio you should do, how many calories you shouldn’t eat, etc. etc. Unfortunately, most of us actually have a lot going on in our lives beyond reading books to figure out what a cardio is and how many calories are in our raspberry vinaigrette dressing. So, we need solutions that are simple, relevant, easy to understand, and (drum roll please) actually work for real people. And, who best to uncover these mystifying solutions? You! And you, and you, and you. The ‘right’ solution is the one that works for you, and the best way to know what that will be is to find people like you and see what worked for them. No more reading articles from unknown scientists in hidden laboratories. Find out what really works from people just like you, and once you do, tell a few more people (and they’ll tell 2 friends, and they’ll tell 2 friends) and before we know it, we’ll all be a bit happier, a bit healthier and having a LOT more fun in the world.

• Social support & community. We heard the proverb that ‘It takes a village.’ Improving your life (now matter how much you want to do it) is a hard thing to do. In our research, we found nothing more helpful than having the support and motivation of friends in enabling people to make whatever changes they want in our lives, and keeping them accountable for sticking with it. Of course, not everyone wants to make changes, some people just want to have more fun, get outside and play more. Well, it turns out community is great for that too!

• Incentives. Of course the best reward for making healthier choices is how great it makes you feel, but sometimes it takes a little while before you really notice. Getting rewarded for making even small changes can give you that little extra push you need to stay motivated.

With this in mind, we created Wellsphere, and have had a great experience testing out some of the concepts from our research. We heard firsthand from community members what they thought would be helpful.

For more information, check out: