Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide by Dr. Jeanne Beckman

Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide   by Dr. Jeanne Beckman
Finally, a book to help families find the right technology to accommodate reading disorders (dyslexia) and other disabilties! ISBN 978-1-60264-089-4

How to purchase my book

To purchase through Virtual Bookworm (my publisher) you can click Virtual Bookworm Publisher: Tech Psychologist's Guide or
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Monday, January 14, 2008

Score: Bullies 1, Amputee Sprinter 0

Alt: photo of Oscar Pistorius and his prostheses

Well, there's no end to the barriers created by bullies who claim that a person's assistive technology is an unfair advantage. For those of you who have been following double-leg amputee Oscar Pistorius' quest to compete in the Bejiing Olympics, here's an article about the ruling:

Monday January 14, 2008
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The IAAF ruled Monday that double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius is ineligible to compete in the Beijing Olympics because his prosthetic racing legs give him a clear competitive advantage.

The International Association of Athletics Federations had twice postponed the ruling, but the executive Council said the South African runner's curved, prosthetic "Cheetah" blades were considered a technical aid in violation of the rules.

"As a result, Oscar Pistorius is ineligible to compete in competitions organized under IAAF rules," the IAAF said in a statement from Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Pistorius, known as the "blade runner," announced last week that he planned to appeal any adverse decision, including taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Athletics South Africa said it would immediately apply the decision, further complicating Pistorius' future since he will not be able to set legal Olympic qualifying times in his own country.

"That's a huge blow," said Pistorius' manager, Peet Van Zyl. "He has been competing in South African abled-bodied competition for the past three years. At this stage it looks like he is out of any able-bodied event."

The decision was reached in an e-mail vote by the 27-member IAAF Council. The vote count was not disclosed but was believed to be unanimous.

The IAAF endorsed studies by German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who conducted tests on the prosthetic limbs and said they give Pistorius a clear competitive advantage over able-bodied runners.

"An athlete using this prosthetic blade has a demonstrable mechanical advantage (more than 30 percent) when compared to someone not using the blade," the IAAF said.

The federation said Pistorius had been allowed to compete in some able-bodied events until now because his case was so unique that such artificial protheses had not been properly studied.

"We did not have the science," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said. "Now we have the science. We are only interested in competitions that we govern."

Davies stressed the findings only covered Pistorius' specific blades and did not necessarily mean that all lesser-abled athletes would automatically be excluded.

The ruling does not affect Pistorius' eligibility for Paralympic events, in which he was a gold medalist in Athens in 2004.

"It's unfortunate because he could have boosted team athletics at the Olympics at Beijing, because he had the potential to qualify," said Leonard Chuene, president of Athletics South Africa.

Chuene said the federation would respect the ruling.

"There's not much we can do," he said. "It rules him out with immediate effect. We use the IAAF rule book. If we had our rules and our own competition, it would be easier. It is a huge problem."

Pistorius finished second in the 400 meters at the South African National Championships last year against able-bodied runners.

The runner worked with Brueggemann in Cologne for two days of testing in November to learn to what extent the j-shaped carbon-fiber extensions to his amputated legs differed from the legs of fully abled runners.

Brueggemann found that Pistorius was able to run at the same speed as able bodied runners on about a quarter less energy. He found that once the runners hit a certain stride, athletes with artificial limbs needed less additional energy than other athletes.

The professor found that the returned energy "from the prosthetic blade is close to three times higher than with the human ankle joint in maximum sprinting."

Based on these findings, the Council ruled against Pistorius.

The findings are contested by the Pistorius camp.

"Based on the feedback that we got, the general feeling was that there were a lot of variables that weren't taken into consideration and that all avenues hadn't been explored in terms of coming to a final conclusion on whether Oscar was getting some advantage or not," Van Zyl said. "We were hoping that they would reconsider and hopefully do some more tests."

The IAAF adopted a rule last summer prohibiting the use of any "technical aids" deemed to give an athlete an advantage over another.

Ossur, the Icelandic company which is a leader in the production of prosthetics, braces and supports and also made Pistorius' blades, has said the blades do not provide an edge over able-bodied athletes.

Pistorius has set world records in the 100, 200 and 400 in Paralympic events.

Pistorius was born without fibulas -- the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle -- and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee.

He began running competitively four years ago to treat a rugby injury, and nine months later won the 200 meters at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

Pistorius competed in the 400 at two international-level able-bodied meets in 2007. He finished second in a B race in 46.90 seconds at the Golden League meet in Rome on July 13 and, two days later, was disqualified for running out of his lane in Sheffield, England.

This article found at


I think that, since I am only 5 feet tall, those female sprinters who are 5'11" have an unfair mechanical advantage over me. After all, I probably have to take 2 or 3 strides to every one of theirs. I think perhaps I should protest.... If taller skiers have longer skis, don't they cross the finish line sooner than those with shorter ones? If there is a maximum length of ski, wouldn't taller skiers have an unfair mechanical advantage over those who are shorter? Are Olympic sharpshooters allowed to wear glasses or contact lenses? Aren't glasses and contact lenses mechanical aides? Do some Olympic athletes wear a hearing aide to hear the start gun or even hear the competition coming up behind them?

Here's a statement by the prosthesis maker Ossur:

...Importantly, the technology used in Mr. Pistorius' Cheetah Flex-Foot prosthetic feet has existed since 1997, and has not experienced any significant updates since that time. Scores of amputee athletes have used the very same product to compete at an international level of sport over the years. Some have come close to able-bodied world record times, but what we have in Mr. Pistorius is an extraordinary athlete: one that has taken technology that has existed for over a decade and pushed it to its very limit.

In light of this, we feel strongly that any judgment against Mr. Pistorius at this stage and based on insufficient information, would be irresponsible and unfair, and that he should be allowed to participate at IAAF-sanctioned events -- as long as his times qualify him to do so.

The past few years have been enlightened and remarkable times for active amputees who have worked so hard and overcome so many challenges to at last experience the opportunity to compete alongside able-bodied athletes. It would be unfortunate and regrettable to take such a giant step backwards when we are presented with this occasion to partner with the IAAF and show the world how equal we all truly are.

To read the full statement, please go to

According to Ossur, this prosthesis has been used internationally on a competitive basis for 10 years. It seems no one cared about this technology until a great athlete actually started beating those who do not need prosthetics. Perhaps those individuals should focus on developing better strategies to run instead of finding loopholes and legal maneuvers for cutting their competition.

I hope Oscar wins his appeal.

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