Providing Independence Through Technology
Fond Memories of Franklin W. Vanik
We lost a great friend in January. Frank Vanik passed away after living with Multiple Sclerosis for 25 years. Since his diagnosis at age 21, Frank several times used the services of both VME and LINC, our founding organizations. VME volunteers and LINC professionals helped Frank negotiate an ever smaller world as he lost strength in his muscles over the years. His computer was his most valuable possession as he typed out messages to the many people he knew and loved. We remember when he could no longer use a mouse--his fingers grew too weak to click a mouse. So Frank, in his determined way, learned Morse code to tap out his messages. His family located a "bite switch" (actually intended for photographers using parachutes) so he could keep communicating. V-LINC staff and volunteers helped him make these devices work with his computer. It was his lifeline to the world.
Franks mother told us: "V-LINC is always so warm and will do everything possible for each individual who asks for help. You go right to the heart of the problem and find a solution." We salute his parents, Gert and Frank Sr., for their constant support of Frank, and we mean that literally, as they helped him travel to countless meetings and events. Just before the VME-LINC merger, Frank was a member of the LINC board, and not long before that he was given the VME Moving Mountains without Muscles Award for advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities. What we will never forget is Frank's humor, kindness and his beautiful smile. He was an exceptional man.
More about Frank:
National Merit Scholar, Virginia Tech graduate, and advocate for people with disabilities, Frank Vanik was only 21 when he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He worked as an engineer as long as he could. Over the 25 years that his illness progressed, Frank was variously a client, a board member and a donor. Above all he was always a friend. He served on more boards than we know, and was a commissioner on the Baltimore County Disability Commission until his death in late January. Frank always managed to communicate even when his speech had deteriorated. Through his smile when all else failed.
A VME project completed for Frank:
Spring 2008 - One of VME's partner schools, CCBC - Essex campus - took on the creation of a laptop desk to be attached to Frank's wheel chair. During the semester, the first year engineering class did outstanding work to design and build a functional and much appreciated wheel chair laptop desk. As you will see in the several photos of the class at work, it may have been done with more than the usual class diligence because all the students immediately fell for Frank. For some reason these students were smiling as they worked.
CCBC students split into groups working on different pieces of the desk
Great to see young women on track to becoming engineers!
Student team is proud on the finished wooden desk top.
Showing Frank their results to-date
Trying out the attachment to Franks wheel chair
Student welding the metal arm for the wheel chair attachment
Frank attends the class final presentation: his mother and Instructor Laura Lemire in background.
Frank surrounded by the students who helped him have an easier time communicating with his laptop.
Parents bring your iPad, your questions and what you've learned about iPad apps that help your special needs child learn and grow.
March 13 at 6 pm
Network and learn more about apps for special needs children.
Meet-up with V-LINC and other parents of children with special needs to find out how to find apps help your child learn and develop faster while s/he is young and learning most quickly. We'll provide snacks and will have a couple of extra iPads. Children welcome.
Networking event at System Source in Hunt Valley at 6 pm on Thursday March 13.
Free parking available near entrance.
Click here for directions.
V-LINC hold Bike Clinic at Aviation Velo, the bike shop in Linthicum to help 4 special needs children realize their dream of riding their own bike! Engineers and other are still needed to help assemble, fit and deliver these bikes to each child's home.
V-LINC GRANTS 12 WISHES
Twelve central Maryland families will have their wishes granted to receive FREE custom built devices to help their disabled child gain more independence. The twelve applicants (children ages 3-21) were from a pool of 54 who submitted requests to V-LINC’s What I Wish for My Child Program. Many requests came through the assistance of WBFF-TV, the program’s major sponsor.
Now in its fifth year, the What I Wish for My Child Program offers a unique opportunity for parents of special needs children to submit “wishes” for one-of-a-kind solutions to empower their child.
“We help parents realize the dream for their son or daughter to to lead a more normal life among their peers. V-LINC has received request for everything from a dressing assist device for children with club arms to a voice modulation device for high energy autistic children” according to Volunteer Manager Angela Tyler.
Here are just three of these great children who are winners: A'lain, Rachel and Noah.
“I am delighted that my son will be able to sit and enjoy the entire meal with the whole family” says Stephanie, a Baltimore County mom who wanted a custom rocking chair to calm her autistic son.
"In the midst of the dwindling economy and budget constraints, it’s good to be aware that such supportive agencies are available” says Esther, a Baltimore City mom whose non-verbal son has developmental delays – her son will receive an adapted bike to ride outdoors with other neighborhood children.
V-LINC grants these wishes through the teamwork of volunteer engineers, medical professionals, and engineering classes in nine local high schools and universities. Each request is researched to determine its safety and whether the solution is commercially available. Engineers use innovative design techniques and the latest technology to meet the needs of these children.
“Nothing means more to a parent than to see their child leading a happier life, empowered and accepted by their peers” says Executive Director Theo Pinette. "Something as simple as a way to ride a bike with friends is huge in a child's life."
V-LINC Volunteers were recognized in May for their many achievements.
Dr. Pakula was on hand to accept V-LINC's Rose Award on behalf of the Loius H. Gross Foundation. The Foundation has had significant impact on V-LINC's ability to expand its Inclusive Summer Day Camp and on many children with disabilities served by V-LINC, and LINC, over the years.
Below: Dr. Lawrence Pakula and VME Founder John Staehlin at Recognition Dinner
President Dean Drake recognizes Carol Wheatley, our Volunteer of the Year
Valerie Brammer with daughter Hannah and A-Team volunteers Andy Conn and Ron Newman
Antoinette (and mom) with the JHU Engineering Team who worked on her Dining Device
V-LINC Board Members Dr. Kenneth Silver, Ken Johnson and President Dean Drake
Yes, Board Member and Volunteer Erick Vinas Figueroa is still playing the guitar for us!
Chuck you are our Favorite Unsung Hero!
So many fantastic people volunteer for V-LINC - here are some with Angela Tyler (R) V-LINC's Volunteer Manager (have you heard the one about managing engineers? - something about herding cats?
New UMBC volunteer Joe Deangelis who working on improvements to the Sonar Device for Joel Zimba (shown here with Cat)
Carol Wheatley, V-LINC Executive Director Theo Pinette, President Dean Drake
V-LINC, a non-profit organization located in Baltimore, MD is seeking a special education teacher with excellent computer skills. Experience in an inclusive classroom or teaching people with disabilities is highly desirable. The Learning & Technology Specialist will evaluate the potential for use of technologies (software, computers, assistive devices etc...) to aid people with a wide range of disabilities, assist with technology selection and provide training and limited technical assistance to both educators and possibly special needs students or young children an toddlers. Will focus on training educators or parents on use of iPad and apps for specific learning disabilities and other disabilities.
V-LINC explores and provides technological solutions to improve the independence and quality of life for individuals of all ages with disabilities in Maryland. We do this through a mix of off-the-shelf computer software and equipment and one-of-a-kind, customized assistive technology. Our AT program includes training for area teachers on tools to help special needs students learn and achieve. We are currently training teachers with inclusive classrooms to use iPads to integrate special needs students materials and learning into the curriculum.
Arthrogryposis is a rare disorder characterized by multiple joint contractures, which can include muscle weakness and fibrosis. Antoinette has lived with this since birth, yet she manages to pursue her interests, such as controlling a computer with her head and reading books. Of course, she has to rely on others for some other needs.
Her 50-year-old mother currently carries her from floor-to-floor in their home because it is a rental and they cannot make modifications. Antoinette initially requested a better way to get upstairs to her bedroom, but decided to change her request to address what she sees as a bigger problem.
While at home, Antoinette lies on her side and eats off a plate on the bed. When dining in public, someone has to feed her, which would be embarrassing for any 20-year-old.Despite these obstacles, Antoinette remains strong and hopes V-LINC will be able to help her. She would like an engineer to design a way for her to feed herself at the family dinner table, a place of conversation and sharing.
If V-LINC’s Project Review and Acceptance Committee (PRAC) committee approves this request, we will then begin the search for a volunteer who is ready to take on a tough project. This will not be an easy challenge!
We are always looking for creative volunteers and other inventive minds who want to help make life better for others. Please contact V-LINC or fill out a volunteer application if you or someone you know is the right person for this job.
Hannah is an intelligent 12-year-old child with severe osteogenesis imperfecta (OI) type III, a condition that causes very fragile bones. She is very small and is not expected to grow significantly. Her mother, Valerie, tells V-LINC that Hannah has had more than 110 bone fractures in her life already, and both arms and her right leg are currently in casts. She cannot even walk without causing a fracture.
Valerie wanted a way for Hannah to transfer in and out of bed independently. Hannah can scoot across the floor and crawl onto surfaces up to 10 inches from the floor, so Valerie suggested a low bed with the possibility of a recline for comfort. Several members of our Client Service Team (CST) contacted Hannah's mom to learn more about Hannah and report their findings back to the rest of the committee. The CST had a difficult time deciding whether or not V-LINC's volunteers might provide a solution without harming Hannah. Difficult decisions such as this are ones the CST is faced with all the time. Our hearts are grabbed.
V-LINC volunteers and Hannah's mom put their heads together and found a way to make Hannah's wish for a small, Hannah-size couch was granted, along with another project to create a ramp so Hannah can crawl onto her sofa by herself. Hannah has heart and does not let her fragility keep her from being a teenager and full of life.
Hannah is able to sit in her own Hannah-size sofa now. She can crawl up a soft ramp to sit and then she tilt the sofa to rest comfortably. A wheel chair is not a comfortabe place to be all day long, so this is a very welcome addition in her life.
BLINK System - Created in the 1980’s by V-LINC (VME).
Now available for any platform (download)
Thanks to Volunteer Telly Stroumbis.