- Published on Sunday, 06 November 2016 10:12
- Written by Alan Moyne
- Published on Monday, 17 October 2016 11:14
- Written by Anne Smith
Last month, the debate about whether or not to legalise cannabis for medical purposes came before Parliament once more. At the same time, Irish pharmaceutical start-up company, GreenLight Medicines, secured €500,000 in funding from a consortium of Irish investors in order to help them further their research into the medical benefits of marijuana and its ability to treat, and limit the impact of, a wide variety of different illnesses.
The Benefits of Medical Marijuana
In wider Europe, extensive research has been conducted into the medicinal benefits of medical marijuana, particularly for individuals suffering with conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Epilepsy, Arthritis and Cancer. Marijuana can help to control tremors and seizures, making it particularly beneficial for those suffering from neurological and skeletal conditions (of which MS is the most common). It can also minimise sensations of nausea and improve appetite, which is why medical marijuana is made widely available in the United States to patients suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDs, and other life limiting condition that can lead to appetite loss and general wastage. For individuals suffering from glaucoma, marijuana can release the pressure that the nerves are placing on the eye, minimising the pain that the condition causes and potential saving their eye sight. Whilst only 6% of studies into the benefits of marijuana focus on its medicinal benefits, it is clear from a wealth of clinical research that the benefits of the drug are widespread. Not all the research is positive; It is worth noticing that smoking too much marijuana can have a negative impact on memory and on wider emotional health. However, in a system where the use of medical marijuana is more strictly monitored and controlled, the amount recommended for individuals with specific conditions can be shared and regulated.
There are many vocal opponents to the use of marijuana for medical purposes, including the drug companies that would rather people were being prescribed pharmaceuticals to help control their pain, and the politically conservative (such as leading party Fine Gael )who fear that making marijuana more accessible might increase its use across wider society, and that it might be used by the young and the vulnerable as a gateway drug, leading to more significant drug taking problems. Speaking earlier this year, Health Minister James Reilly said the government did not currently intend to change its policy on the use of medical marijuana because of the “serious concerns about the health impacts” of cannabis use.
The Legal Status of Medical Marijuana in the Republic of Ireland
The use of cannabis for medical purposes is a currently a ‘grey area’ in the Republic of Irelend. In 2014 the country amended their regulations in order to allow for certain cannabis-based medicinal products to be manufactured and distributed: largely this refers to the use of a cannabis-based tablet which was authorised for use by individuals suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. However the purchase of and smoking of marijuana (regardless of whether that is for medical or recreational use) remains officially illegal, despite the fact that many authorities consistently ‘turn a blind eye’ to the smoking of marijuana for medical use. Speaking earlier this year, Drugs Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin noted that he was “aware that cannabis for medicinal use has been legalised in some countries and that there have been several studies internationally on the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for a number of medical issues”. Despite this, the official stance is that medical marijuana remains illegal in the country, and this is something that all disabled people considering using the drug to alleviate their symptoms should consider.
There is, however, a mood for change in the country, and there are regular and consistent calls for review into the use of medical marijuana. Perhaps as awareness of the health benefits of the condition increases, buoyed by the new work that GreenLight Medicines are conducting in the country, in order to confirm the many health benefits of marijuana that other clinical research has found, we will soon find that medical marijuana is legalised and made accessible to all of those with a legitimate medical reason to need it.
- Published on Monday, 22 August 2016 18:38
- Written by Alan Moyne
NEW WOODEN GUITAR ATTACHMENT MEANS ANYONE CAN PLAY IN MINUTES – even if they have no fingers!
Guitars are everywhere – they make a huge range of sounds and are the easiest instrument to sing along to. But, as most of us found out early in our lives, they are surprisingly difficult to learn. And that’s even if all your fingers work normally – they’re almost impossible if you have arthritis or a few fingers missing. So, since the modern guitar first evolved - approximately 150 years ago – people have been trying to make attachments to make them easier to play.
Unfortunately, the challenge sounds a lot simpler than it is, because the mechanism has to replicate the human hand, which is an incredibly complicated structure. Various systems have been devised over the years to hold down the strings in all the right places - including steam-powered contraptions and ones involving miles of wiring and electronics. Hardly ideal if you just want to lie back in your hammock and sing old Bob Dylan songs, or join in a session in your local pub.
So it’s not surprising that the Chordelia Guitar Machine is creating quite a stir. Launched last month from a tiny workshop in West Cork, it does the hard part for you by making the chords when you pull a lever. Now all you have to do is strum. And sing.
Last year, Tim Rowe reluctantly had to down-size his commercial beekeeping venture, because of increasingly wet summers. ‘No honey meant no money – and that was a scary prospect.’ Looking around for a replacement, he went back to a project he’d begun 11 years earlier – the Chordelia.
‘I’d given up on it many times, because progress was so slow. Getting the correct pressure on the strings was the hardest part. I made 59 versions of it altogether, before I got one to work reliably. That was a good day.’
Having established (and patented) some new aspects of the design, he still had to work out how to manufacture them. ‘That involved a lot of noise and sawdust coming from the back-bedroom! People said they should be plastic, but I’m a carpenter and I know wood best. And wood feels right for them.’ He has started with the simplest model – the Chordelia number five – which makes the five most commonly used chords. With it you can play literally hundreds of songs. He expects to launch the 7-chord and 9-chord models before too long.
‘They’re not for musicians’, he says, ‘they’re for ordinary people who just want to play some songs on the guitar. Because music and singing should be for everyone.’
- Published on Tuesday, 11 October 2016 17:23
- Written by disabilityie
Living with a disability always poses many challenges, but in many ways, life has been made easier, or at least more practical, by technological advances and new Apps, which have in many ways enabled us to rely on our tablets and smartphones in order to complete some of the most pressing tasks of the day. Many of us have these gadgets around us for most part of the day and don’t know what we would do without them, since they have become much more than a means of entertainment. Depending on your disability, Apps can be more or less useful, but we have compiled a list of just a few that may make your day a little easier, and at the very least, more entertaining.
- Be My Eyes: This App was created as a non-profit startup by visually impaired craftsman, Hans Jorgen Wiberg (from Denmark), who wished to connect those who are blind, with a plethora of volunteers who are willing ‘to be their eyes’. The blind user and the volunteers are connected via video camera. The blind person can ask the volunteer for information such as the expiry date on food, or whether or not particular colours match! The App enables good-willed yet busy people to give even just one or two minutes of their time to help out those who cannot see. The App already has over 200,000 volunteers and close to 20,000 blind users. Why not sign up and begin to avail of useful connections with others?
- RogerVoice: This App aims to facilitate phone conversations for the deaf. “Read what you cannot hear. Type what you cannot say,” says its motto. Just install the App and start calling. RogerVoice has advanced text-to-speech integration so you can type out a sentence and the App will speak for you. It also transforms voice into instant messages, so you can read anything you did not understand. The App recognises over 80 languages, so feel free to change the app language if you are speaking to someone in a foreign language.
- Proloquo2Go: This award-winning App uses symbols to help individuals who cannot speak, such as children with autism or those who are non-verbal. It aims to increasing communication skills and helping develop language through research-based vocabularies. The App covers various levels of communication, catering for a wide range of cognitive, visual and fine motor skills. There are 23 different grid sizes and three vocabulary levels, so users can continue to advance as time goes by. The App is available for English and Spanish users. As you click on the images, a natural voice speaks out the word or message, and you can build new sentences, storing them for later use.
- Visual Schedule Planner: This is a great way to remember all the things we have to get done in the course of a day. The app uses visual representations of events and helps users create an activity schedule or rely on video clips to help model the task that needs doing. Users can customise images and sound, as well as take notes about one’s day for future reference.
- iReward: This is a special education app that made it to Parent Magazine’s selection of Beat Back-to-School Apps. It seeks to reward positive behaviour via star charts and has been found to work well with children with autism, developmental delays, anxiety, and ADHD. Give stars for chores well done or for good behaviour, and allow your child to reward themselves via smiley faces, checks, etc. The App also has a transition component that invites the child to complete the next task after they are done with their current task. The App helps children focus on the task at hand and gives them clear feedback which motivates them to stay productive throughout the day. It is a great App for all parents of little children, not just those with special needs.
- Autism Speech Diego Says: This App has been used successfully with children with autism. It has one button that says “I want” and a host of visual representations of actions and things (for instance, food or toys). It helps children express what they want and encourages them to use their voice. Children love the app and many parents report that it has helped their children be more vocal and take on a more positive attitude to language.
Post written and submitted for publication by Anne Smith
- Published on Thursday, 18 August 2016 22:41
- Written by Anne Smith
Many disabled people miss out on holidays to places they’d otherwise love to go, because they’re worried that they would not get the healthcare they need there. Sadly, in some cases this is the truth. Health infrastructure issues, economic limitations, or the convoluted (and sometimes expensive) nature of the healthcare systems in some places means that those with serious conditions which may need medical treatment during the holiday would be better off picking a more medically congenial country. However, a disability need not be nearly so limiting as one may expect. Plenty of countries have agreeable deals with Ireland, allowing Irish citizens easy access to necessary healthcare. Read on to find out more.
Great Britain And Northern Ireland
Irish citizens travelling to Great Britain or Northern Ireland are entitled to free healthcare on the NHS. They have no need to obtain any kind of health insurance, but may need to show an identity card which proves that you are Irish.
If you are travelling to a nation within the European Economic Area (including Iceland), you may well be entitled to free or greatly reduced healthcare. The precise nature of the healthcare you’ll be able to obtain varies greatly from nation to nation, of course, as does the price (or lack thereof). Nations like Germany and Denmark provide a high standard of easily accessible healthcare, while you may experience more issues in nations like Romania. The important thing to note for travel within the EEA is that in order to access the benefits of Ireland’s EU membership when it comes to healthcare, you will need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). These are easily obtainable via the health service. The EHIC entitles you to reduced-price or free healthcare in participating European nations, but will not cover the costs of any emergency transport back to Ireland, should you so require it.
The USA And Canada
You’d be well advised to sort out some health insurance some time in advance of heading to the USA, as their privatized healthcare system can be prohibitively expensive. Sadly, this is especially true for foreigners and those who have long-term medical conditions. It’s not too hard to find some insurance to suit you, but do make sure that you do your research properly and find something which will cover you properly should you find yourself needing to make use of an American hospital. Canada, meanwhile, has a nationalized health service, which means that its healthcare is generally more accessible and affordable than that in the USA. However, the government of Canada does not extend free healthcare to foreign nationals who are not resident in Canada. Should you wish for healthcare in Canada, you are similarly advised to obtain health insurance before flying out. On the plus side, the standard of healthcare in both these nations is reasonably sound, meaning that you’ll probably be in safe hands should you find yourself in need of medical attention.
Australia has a Reciprocal Healthcare Agreement with Ireland, meaning that Irish citizens are entitled to subsidized (although not free) health services. It’s worth noting that not all services are covered under this agreement, so check before you go!
Elsewhere In The World
The quality, availability, and affordability of healthcare elsewhere in the world varies greatly. Some nations have deals with Ireland which allow Irish citizens more affordable healthcare, while others don’t. You can usually find out whether or not this is the case via a simple internet search.
If you must travel with medications, it is crucial that you check whether or not these are allowed in the nation to which you are heading, and whether or not you must declare them at customs. While most common medications can cross borders fairly easily, some are regarded as controlled substances or even drugs in certain nations. You could find yourself labelled a drug smuggler simply for attempting to preserve your health! So check before you go what the bigger picture is regarding any drugs you have to take with you. Your embassy will be able to help you with this, as will any good travel agent. Should you find that your medicine is banned or controlled - don't despair. Your doctor may be able to suggest a non-prohibited alternative
Post written and submitted for publication by Anne Smith