Fighting ALS, one gadget at a time

August 22, 2010

Steve Saling talks about being lucky and as happy as he has ever been, which might seem odd, given that Saling cannot speak, walk, or move his hands.

Saling was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease four years ago, a month after the birth of his son. Instead of despairing, he went into overdrive, determined to use technology to stay one step ahead of the relentless and usually lethal disease. Now he is blazing a path for many others.

Through a chance encounter shortly after his diagnosis, he teamed up with Barry Berman, chief executive of the Chelsea Jewish Foundation, and helped to design the nation’s first residence for ALS patients needing nursing care. Using customized infrared technology, patients have far more independence than in a typical nursing home.

Saling, who once specialized in making public parks accessible for disabled people, is its first resident.

The Leonard Florence Center for Living’s Steve Saling Residence officially opened yesterday in Chelsea. Tiny infrared transmitters in the ceilings connect to a master computer in the basement. This allows its residents to use small computers on their wheelchairs to summon an elevator, open and close doors, turn lights, televisions, and DVDs on and off, control the heat and air conditioning, even order meals from the cafe downstairs.

“My whole life has perfectly prepared me to be right where I am today,’’ Saling wrote in an introduction for the opening of the 10-bedroom residence. “I was a very good landscape architect and I am proud of my professional achievements, but my most important work will be done after I got ALS.’’

With a mischievous smile, Saling recently demonstrated his masterpiece.

Click here for the entire article.

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