Salute to Accessibility Inventors

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Although National Inventors Month is celebrated during the month of August, we think inventors should be celebrated all year long, especially those who have contributed to making people’s lives better. From soft clothing to digital hearing aids and wheelchairs designed for the beach, here’s a look at five inventors who have made a difference to people with special needs.

1. Suzy Kogen Friedman, Soft Clothing®

Catering to all children, including those with autism, Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD who often have sensory issues related to clothing textures, the Soft Clothing line is the brainchild of inventor Suzy Kogen Friedman, herself the aunt of an autistic child. Characterized by flat seams, smooth fabrics, encased elastic waistbands, and printed labels, the clothing line helps eliminate the most common complaints from parents and children. The first collection was launched in 2009 with business partner, Jessica Ralli. (Source: www.softclothing.net)

2. Al Roth, The Clumsee

Eighty-nine-year-old Al Roth was inspired to invent the Clumsee when he found it increasingly more difficult to hold his small digital camera firmly enough to take pictures. The simple device screws into the bottom of any point-and-shoot digital camera to increase the gripping area and fits all camera models. The invention of the device was a family affair for Roth, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran and retired professional photographer, who still enjoys taking pictures of family and friends. (Source: www.clumsee.com)

3. RJ Cooper, Assistive Technology

California resident RJ Cooper spends a lot of his time with special needs students. An inventor and computer programmer, Cooper specializes in Assistive Technology, educational computer programs and technological gadgets that enable special needs kids to communicate and learn. Among Cooper’s inventions are “Wheels” 3D Action Game for Power Chair Training, Slo-Mo software that slows down other software programs such as games to make it easier for special needs kids to play, and ICanEmail—a large print, talking, simple email program. (Source: www.rjcooper.com)

4. Maynard Engebretson, Robert E Morley, Jr. and Gerald R Popelka, Digital Hearing Aids

Invented by Maynard Engebretson, Robert E Morley, Jr. and Gerald R Popelka, the first digital hearing aid (US Patent 4,548,082, "Hearing aids, signal supplying apparatus, systems for compensating hearing deficiencies, and methods", filed in 1984) was a revolutionary step forward for the hearing impaired. Digital hearing aids use advanced technology to maximize the sound of speech while minimizing background noise through the use of a computer chip that digitally processes sound. (Source: www.asha.org)

5. Hank Weseman, Jr., The Beach Cruzr™

As the owner of a small moving company that he built from the ground up, Hank Weseman, Jr. was no stranger to the entrepreneurial spirit. But when a speed boating accident left him paralyzed, he had to close his business. In true entrepreneurial spirit, Weseman bounced back and invented a specialized wheelchair called the Beachcomber that was specially designed for the beach. Weseman went on to create a number of other specialized “wheelchairs,” including The Beach Cruzr, a more powerful version of the Beachcomber. (Source: www.hotshotproducts.org)