A horseshoe-shaped device that can help those without sight explore the world better than ever.
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Toyota

"I don't think I'm different. I think how I interact with the world is different."

So explains Belo Cipriani, who was born with sight but lost it in adulthood. Like millions of Americans and people all around the world, he's learned to thrive in his new normal, savvily using the right tools to help him on his journey. A guide dog and sometimes a white cane help him get through his day.


All GIFs via Toyota USA/YouTube.

But what would an even more accessible world mean for him? How could he be provided with even more mobility and connectivity? What would that look like?

Hearing Belo discuss how he interacts with the world points us toward the true heart and soul of accessibility. Listen to him and then check out more of the story below.

The term "accessibility" is a common one. It is a sterile word that often conjures up images of ramps and chair lifts, parking spots and building codes. While it is indeed those things, it is also so much more.

Making the world accessible is about doing whatever can be done to ensure people with different abilities can be their full selves with the same freedom, confidence, independence, safety, and ease as everyone else.

It's about more than the occasional closed captioning and braille options or doing the bare minimum to ensure people with disabilities have subpar, insecure, minimally inclusive participation in the day-to-day activities of life.

It's about pushing the limits of what is and rethinking the status quo to give everyone the opportunity to participate in as much of the human experience as possible.

And if there's one sector that understands the value of pushing those limits and possibilities, it's technology.

That's where Toyota's Project BLAID comes in.

Their engineers in the Toyota Partner Robotics group have collaborated for more than four years with leading organizations and members of the blind community to better understand the mobility needs of the visually impaired and develop solutions to meet those needs.

Translation: They're creating technology to fill in the blanks left by current tools for the blind.

How innovative? Well, this new product is a hands-free, horseshoe-shaped device that sits on a person's shoulders. It’s easy to wear and comes with cameras, voice recognition, buttons, speakers, and vibration — all calibrated to help a blind or visually impaired person better explore and interact with the environment around them. Bluetooth technology pairs it with a smartphone.

With a push of a button, it helps identify signs for bathrooms, exits, elevators, stairwells, and other important places — giving people with limited sight a new level of accessibility so they can do more with greater independence and confidence.

Belo, who was invited to check out the product in its early stages of development, is quite excited about the potential and possibilities.

But he's just the first of many to come. Keep an eye on The Toyota Effect for more information.

Toyota's Project BLAID and other technology that is pushing the boundaries isn't a win just for Belo and others with visual impairments.

It's a win for anyone who believes that society is better when every person is able to freely contribute what they believe they are capable of giving to our world.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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