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Executive order focuses on latest technology for disabled

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In a March 14, 2018 file photo, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is interviewed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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COLUMBUS — Government agencies serving the developmentally disabled will focus more on getting advanced technologies like smart wheelchairs in the hands of their clients under an executive order signed Thursday by Gov. John Kasich.

Briefly joking with a small robot named Milo, the governor said such advanced technologies could help everyone from autistic children to seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s by providing reminders of routine tasks and detecting medical emergencies.

“Government is so stuck on itself and stuck in the past that to introduce new technologies that can really bring an exciting life to people is just about as cool as it can get,” the Republican governor said.

Patty Ruble, of Columbus, is confined to a wheelchair and said she always had to worry that it could fail her, particularly when she ventures out on her own. She now has one with custom sensors that monitor her location and environment, help with navigation, and provide alerts when something goes amiss.

“I don’t have to worry — if I got out alone, which I love to do — that I can’t get anybody to help me when necessary,” she said. “This has given me a freedom, independence. I can keep on doing my thing with my life.”

The technology was developed by Ali Rahimi, of Medforall LLC, of Columbus, a native of Iran.

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Ms. Ruble was unsure how much her wheelchair costs but said its predecessor, without all the bells and whistles, cost about $25,000.

John Martin, director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and former executive director of Sunshine Inc. of Northwest Ohio, said private insurance and Medicaid covers such devices.

The order requires state agencies as part of their planning to think “Technology First” to use the latest to provide support and sometimes supplement or replace in-person support for the developmentally disabled.

It creates a 10-member Ohio Technology First Council to help drive state policy and to advise agencies.

Mr. Kasich said he has ordered his administration to purchase 10 Milos, a one-way communication robot device at a cost of $5,000 each.

“All these things will come down in price,” he said. “These chairs will come down. The Milos of the world will come down as time goes on…That’s the beauty of technology.”

Contact Jim Provance at jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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