Architect Michael Graves

Health Care Design Leader

Michael Graves, the prominent American architect who was one of the fathers of postmodern design, died on March 14 at the age of 80. Although he designed more than 350 buildings around the world and a host of elegant everyday household items, he is less well known for his commitment to mobility equipment and health care design.

In 2003, Graves was paralyzed from the waist down as the result of a spinal cord infection. During his rehab, he was surprised to discover that he could not turn on a faucet, open the medicine cabinet or reach the electrical outlet to plug in his electric shaver.

His response was to dedicate himself to the design of hospitals, rehab centers, hospital furnishings and housing for disabled people, including wounded veterans.

Graves required the members of his design team to spend a week in a wheelchair so they could see the world from that vantage point, and design from a patient’s perspective. Among the results of their work is a Michael Graves hospital suite with an ingenious over-bed table, bedside stand and a patient chair with curved arms that makes it easier to stand up or sit down.

Graves also designed a bath seat with a broader back and telescoping legs to make it more stable; his design team created a collapsible cane that folds into a purse-sized bag.  Other designs include illuminated bed rails and a shower-head that can be adjusted without gripping the handle.

Summing up his attitude, Graves once said: “I believe well-designed places and objects can actually improve healing — while poor design can inhibit it.”

See more about Graves’ story during his TEDTalk from 2014

Understanding Spinal Cord Injury

What do the Experts Say?

A new, two-part series intended to be a starting point for a basic understanding of the Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.54.13 AM normal functions of the spinal cord and how they might change after an injury, has just been released. It’s a publication of the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC), which has collaborated with 14 of the best SCI research hospitals across the nation, to put the information into plain language that everyone can easily understand and apply in their everyday life.

While it is not possible to cover everything in a single handout, these two factsheets are a fast way to get some of the most important information on the basics of SCI.

Here is a brief summary of each factsheet:

Part 1 – The Body Before and After Injury

A clear, easy to follow diagram shows the five sections of the spine: Cervical (at the top), Thoracic, Lumbar, Sacral and Coccygeal ( at the bottom). The bony spine protects the spinal cord, which is the nerve pathway that allows the body and brain to communicate. The factsheet explains how the nervous system operates through motor function (muscle movement), sensory function (ability to feel things) and autonomic function (reflex functions such as blood pressure).

There are also plain-English answers to such questions as:, “What does the spinal cord do? What are common causes of spinal cord injury? What is level of injury? What is the difference between complete and incomplete injury? What is paralysis? What is tetraplegia and paraplegia?”

Part 2 – Recovery and Rehabilitation

This factsheet covers the most basic information about recovery and rehabilitation. It supplies straightforward answers to such questions as, “Can paralysis caused by SCI be reversed? How much improvement will I gain? What is my role in rehab? What advice can be offered from other people with SCI about rehab?” (this sections includes a link to

“What are my functional goals?” is a question that introduces a very helpful chart that details the daily activities that most people with SCI can expect to manage, depending on the level of their injury, and the equipment they will need to accomplish those tasks.

Here’s a preview of part of the chart:

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Keep in Mind…

The impact of a spinal cord injury is different for everyone, so it is impossible to answer questions in a way that applies to all individuals. These fact sheets give clear answers some of the most common questions.

Here are links to both the “Understanding Spinal Cord Injury” fact sheets.

Part 1: The Body Before and After Injury

Part 2: Recovery and Rehabilitation

Here’s a link to all the MSKTC “Spinal Cord Injury Fact Sheets”. They offer solidly researched, expert information you can trust.

Sex, Women and SCI

Our article appears in New Mobility Magazine

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 2.16.14 PMMost SCI/sex information after an injury is geared toward men: performance enhancing drugs, male fertility, catheters, penile implants, etc. Women are often told little beyond the fact that they are still able to have children. But we find out there is much, much more.

The article, written by our Executive Producer, Stephanie Lollino, focuses on how women with SCI are now using the internet for information about sex.

In the hospital and in rehab, women are often busy recovering and learning how to adjust to life in a wheelchair — and everything that goes along with it. Hardly any time is spent discussing the intimate future of sexuality and relationships. And because women can still get pregnant after paralysis, not much else is discussed.

“Some women are told they can’t have an orgasm ever again,” according to Dr. Barry Komisaruk, Professor of Psychology, Rutgers University. He studied nerve pathways in women with SCI and found many of them indeed could feel sexual sensations. Some women in the study were moved to tears.

The good news is that these days, successful sex for women after a spinal cord injury comes down to finding the right information.

Read the entire article here:

Top 10 SCI Research

Questions For 2015

top10What are the most important questions that new research can answer about spinal cord injuries?

The editors of the highly respected British medical research journal, Lancet Neurology, decided to find out. They started with over 700 questions posed by 400 respondents, more than half of whom have spinal cord injuries.

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Dr. Henry B. Betts


Henry-B-Betts-Obit-PhotoDr. Henry B. Betts, a giant of rehabilitation medicine, passed away on Jan. 4, 2015 in Chicago. He was 86.

“He was an extraordinarily gifted person, a tireless and compassionate physician and a remarkably thoughtful and passionate individual,” remembers Dr. Joanne C. Smith, CEO of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

“Dr. Betts was one of the first people I consulted for guidance,” said Thea Flaum, founder and creator of the “His wise advice, insights and belief in the website remain an inspiration to us today.”

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“I Am Not Your Inspiration”

Remembering Stella Young -- A Re-Post

BlogStella Young, a comedian, journalist and disability advocate, died unexpectedly last month. In her honor, we’d like to share a blog post we wrote last summer on her powerful TED speech, in which she discussed a few of the backward misconceptions some have of people living with disabilities. Also be sure to watch her talk from TED located at the bottom of this post.

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Pictures of People With Disabilities

Featured on New Website

Positive images of people enjoying all aspects of life while sitting in their wheelchairs have historically been hard to find. But no longer.


Image Courtesy Rachelle Chapman Friedman

Rachelle Friedman, who was injured at her own bachelorette party after being playfully pushed into a swimming pool, is promoting a new website that features compelling images of wheelchair users involved in everyday life.

Jennifer Frankfurter for PhotoAbility

They include pictures of people using wheelchairs while enjoying energetic sports activities, traveling to exotic places and of families just having fun together.

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Giving Thanks

Remembering Jeff Shannon; A re-post from November 2013.

FB profile (3)Jeff was a veteran writer on disability issues, a longtime movie reviewer and film historian as well as a regular contributor to Jeff was also a C-5/6 quad, who was injured in 1979 at age 17. We are proud to have the thoughtful, provocative and honest voice of Jeff Shannon, and in his memory, would like to share his 2013 Thanksgiving FacingDisability blog post, “Giving Thanks on the 2-for-1 Plan.”


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Pain After Spinal Cord Injury –

What Do The Experts Say?

A new fact sheet that summarizes the latest medical advice about dealing with pain after SCI has just been released. It’s a publication of the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC), which has collected data about pain from the 14 best SCI research hospitals across the nation, and put it into plain language that people can understand and use in their everyday lives.

Pain_after_SCI_iStock_000019355827XSmallHere is a brief summary:

A majority of people with SCI experience varying types of pain, both in areas with normal sensation as well as in areas that have little or no feeling. The pain is very real. It can come and go, and negatively impact the lives of patients’ even years after they’ve been rehabilitated. The fact sheet outlines these steps for dealing with pain.

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Paralyzed Man Regains Some Use of Legs

Through Radical Cell Transplant Surgery

Darek Fidyka

A paralyzed man in Poland is moving again due to a pioneering treatment involving the growth of new nerve pathways in his spinal cord. The therapy is said to have given Darek Fidyka, 40, the ability to use his legs — even though he sustained a spinal cord injury nearly four years ago.

Professor Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, led the United Kingdom research team. These doctors lay their claim to 40 years of research stemming from the olfactory bulbs, responsible for our sense of smell, in the brain. “The olfactory bulb is the only nerve tissue in the brain that can be regenerated,” Raisman says, “We believe that this procedure is the breakthrough which – as it is further developed – will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury.”

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