Conference encourages mobility for disabled

By on April 13, 2005

Recently, the Albert Schweitzer Institute held a three-day conference entitled “A World of Possibilities: Empowering People with Disabilities,” with the purpose of allowing the disabled to live better daily lives in the United States and abroad.

David Ives, director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute, spoke during the opening session. “Due to my own personal experiences and health problems, I have gained respect for those within the medical and rehabilitation field,” Ives said.

Attendees of the event included medical professionals, caregivers, people with disabilities and students. People were able to attend up to three of the 12 panel discussions available. Some programs offered included: Cultural Differences in Therapy, The Latest in Pain Management and Spiritual Aspects of Therapy.

Sue Gallagher, an occupational therapy professor, held a Low-tech Adaptive Equipment Workshop during the first block of panel discussions. She demonstrated various ways to adapt toys for children with special needs. According to Gallagher, low-tech adaptive equipment is readily available requiring little training and set up.

Examples of the adaptive equipment included wooden puzzles with Velcro handles for children who are unable to grip the edges, clothespins attached to the edges of cardboard books to allow for easy page-turning and the use of Styrofoam balls attached to pencils to create increased grip strength while writing.

Gallagher has worked in mental health settings, as well as adolescent and adult rehabilitation settings, and primarily deals with patients from birth to age three. She has a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and a master’s degree in special education and early childhood education.

Sarah Raskin, Geoffrey Twohill and Kathleen Sullivan presented a panel discussion on Cerebral Vascular Accidents, Traumatic Brain Injury and Constraint-Induced Therapy during the second panel block of time.

“I think this really fits in to what this conference is all about,” Sullivan said.

The panel discussed how the brain recovers after an injury such as a stroke or brain injury. It explained how new growth of neurons is necessary to carry electrical information throughout the neurological system.

Attendees learned about the condition of a patient who is almost totally paralyzed on one side after suffering a stroke. They learned that certain patient populations are able to regain use of their affected side years after their stroke by constraining their good side and teaching their brains to use the lower-functioning limbs.

Proving this point, a video was shown of a man who regained almost full functional use of his hand after two weeks of the constraining method.

“I never knew that could happen,” Rebecca Noyes, a senior physical therapy student, said. “It almost looked like there was nothing wrong with him after the two weeks.”

One of the final sessions was that of Kelly Ace, Barbara Beitch and Mitchell Tepper, who presented Sexual Issues: The Forgotten Activity of Daily Living.

“Sex is essential to all human beings,” Beitch said.

“By ignoring or simply not learning about sexual issues in the disabled, you are encouraging the idea that the disabled are child-like, asexual, invalids or simply inappropriate candidates for affection and procreation,” Tepper said.

The panel discussed legal issues and the therapeutical and motivational benefits. They provided resources for students, professionals, as well as patients with disabilities in order to increase the advocacy for the teaching of sexual education to the disabled.

Attendance was free to Quinnipiac students and faculty. Up to 11 continuing education credits were available.

To view a powerpoint outline of the presentations from the conference, please visit


About Elizabeth Morrow