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eyeharp, music for people with disabilities, zacharias vamvakousis

Fourteen-year-old Joel Bueno jams on his EyeHarp.

Playing an instrument can have incredible benefits for people with disabilities. The repetition and memorization required to play an instrument stimulate learning. It helps people to improve their focus and calms their anxieties. It also provides them with an important emotional and creative outlet while putting them on an equal social footing with people who may not live with the same struggles.

The problem is that some people with disabilities that affect their limbs and coordination aren’t physically able to play an instrument. But all of that is changing due to the work of a Greek professor, Dr. Zacharias Vamvakousis.

In 2008, a musician friend of Vamvakousis got into a serious motorcycle accident that threatened his ability to play the guitar.

This inspired the professor to look for ways to combine his computer science skills with his passion for music. “I realized that the technology was there, but that nobody had done anything about it,” he said according to Christian Science Monitor.


It led to Vamvakousis developing the EyeHarp for his final project for the master’s degree in music technology he was pursuing in Barcelona. He then pursued and earned a Ph.D. in digital musical instruments for people with disabilities.

The EyeHarp is a gaze-activated instrument that can be played by simply moving one's eyes. According to its website, it offers the “same expressive qualities as any traditional instrument.”

Musicians can play the EyeHarp by downloading and installing the software and using the program with an eye-tracker camera. Notes appear on the screen in a color-coded wheel that can be played by moving one’s eyes.

Players are given the option to choose whether to use a pentatonic or heptatonic scale and can practice with or without rhythm. The app has a gamification mode where players can test their skills and be scored on their accuracy.

The EyeHarp has made music accessible to people with cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and amputations. It can also be played by people with intellectual disabilities.

Currently, there are around 650 EyeHarp players in the world. One of its most enthusiastic supporters is 14-year-old Joel Bueno, who says that the instrument brings him joy and allows him to express his emotions with others.

“The way Joel plays this instrument and flourishes is mind-blowing,” Tamar Zamora, a musician who was accompanied by Bueno said. “Seeing him enjoy himself and brimming with happiness on the chair is extraordinary.”

Bueno’s mother, Laura Bueno, believes that the instrument has opened a world of possibilities for her son.

“We knew certain activities like playing soccer or music would be impossible for Joel,” Laura said. “When EyeHarp appeared, we felt, my God, if we can do this we can do anything.”

Although Vamvakousis has already allowed hundreds of people to experience playing music who wouldn’t have otherwise, there is still a lot more work to be done. In 2019, he created the EyeHarp Association, a nonprofit that’s goal is to further develop the instrument and have it available to as many people as possible for the lowest piece.

“I wanted to make all this available to anyone,” Vamvakousis said.


Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

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Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via YouTube

This article originally appeared on 02.15.22


These days, we could all use something to smile about, and few things do a better job at it than watching actor Christopher Walken dance.

A few years back, some genius at HuffPo Entertainment put together a clip featuring Walken dancing in 50 of his films, and it was taken down. But it re-emerged in 2014 and the world has been a better place for it.

Walken became famous as a serious actor after his breakout roles in "Annie Hall" (1977) and "The Deer Hunter" (1978) so people were pretty shocked in 1981 when he tap-danced in Steve Martin's "Pennies from Heaven."

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via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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