Winners of International 2011 da Vinci Awards® Announced at Awards Gala

Prestigious international awards forum created by National MS Society Michigan Chapter honors creators of latest innovations providing equal access and opportunity for all; two individuals receive Lifetime Achievement and Spirit of da Vinci awards
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Sept. 29, 2011 - PRLog -- Months of nominating, judging and YouTube video viewing culminated with 16 finalists coming together at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, for the announcement of the 2011 da Vinci Award® winners.

Speech recognition software, a full power exam table with a docking wheelchair, a Smartphone Universal Access Hub, high performance forearm crutches, and a fully automated fishing machine for the severely disabled, were winners of this year’s awards which drew nominations from across the U.S, Canada, United Kingdom and Sweden.  

Benefiting the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society’s Michigan Chapter, the da Vinci Awards is a prestigious international forum recognizing the latest developments and research in adaptive and assistive technologies that enable equal access and opportunity for all people, regardless of ability. 2011 marked the 10th Anniversary of the event.

In addition to the five category winners, a special 2011 Spirit of da Vinci Award was given to Cody Unser, of the legendary motorsports family, for her accomplishments and ongoing advocacy for those with disabilities. Unser was paralyzed at age 12 from an autoimmune disorder and established the Cody Unser First Step Foundation to create public awareness, raise research funds and improve the quality of life for those with spinal cord-related paralysis.

Robert Burgdorf Jr., recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as the drafter of the original Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) bill introduced to Congress in 1988, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Burgdorf has been an advocate for equal rights for people with disabilities for more than 38 years.

The 2011 da Vinci Award winners are:  
Communication/Educational Aids
- SSR – Supplemental Speech Recognition (Alma, Ark.) – speech recognition software designed specifically for people with difficult to understand speech and sufficient physical disability that typing is difficult. SSR reduces the amount of typing required to enter text by approx. 40 percent over word prediction software alone.

Environmental Adaptation/Daily Living or Work Aids
- Freedom Chair-A-Table (Wendell, N.C.) – a full power exam table with a docking wheelchair that completely eliminates the physical lifting of disabled patients on to and off of an exam table. Protects both patients and caregivers from the risk of injury from lifting the patient.

- MIT Smartphone Universal Access Hub (Cambridge, Mass.) – hardware and software that makes it possible for people with physical impairments to plug in any adaptive switch, from a pushbutton to a sip-and-puff device, to access smartphones, tablets and other mobile computing devices.

Transportation and Mobility
- SideStix (British Columbia, Canada) – high performance forearm crutches with unique damping shock absorbers to take the jolt out of every stride, cuff pads that prevent chaffing, grips for comfortable support and ergonomic angles that put wrist and arms in neutral positions.

Recreation and Leisure
- Ken’s Power Caster (Smock, Pa.) – a fully automated, push-button or “sip and puff” controlled fishing machine that gives severely disabled people the ability to cast out their line, hook, fight, retrieve, and land fish with total independence – regardless of their disability or injury level.

Video submissions for each finalist were featured for the first time at with a special “Leo” award presented to SideStix Ventures, Inc., of British Columbia, Canada, for receiving a combination of the most views and “Like” (thumbs up) votes.

ASK Messaging of Ann Arbor, Mich., won the first-ever Student of da Vinci Award. ASK Messaging is an iPad application that helps users without fine motor skills control to send emails and text messages on a touch screen.

About MS and the da Vinci Awards

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease usually diagnosed in young adults. Michigan has one of the highest incident rates of multiple sclerosis in the U.S., with more than 18,000 residents living with MS.

The da Vinci Awards® were established in 2001 by the Michigan Chapter of the National MS Society ( to recognize individuals, organizations and corporations whose innovations are designed to enable everyone to participate in and contribute to all aspects of society. The awards celebrate people who triumph over disabilities and those who have developed new technologies that enhance mobility. Past nominations have come from all over the globe in the engineering, construction and technical fields.  A complete list of past award winners can be found at
Source:National MS Society Michigan Chapter
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