While we all await a biological cure for paralysis, technology has been saving the day for hundreds of years ever since the very first wheelchair was invented. The adaptive technology available in 2021 however is jaw-droppingly life-enhancing, taking people with paralysis to places they never thought possible,. Read on to discover some of the most cutting edge of adaptive technology currently available.
Exoskeletons are one of the most exciting technologies currently available to people with spinal cord injuries. They can help people with complete injuries walk again, and that’s pretty awesome. No exoskeletons are able to fully articulate one’s legs in a normal gait or running motion however. They allow you to take slow, paced steps. The medical benefits of walking definitely outweigh any negatives of exoskeletons, although they don’t fully replace needing a wheelchair.
And while there are several exoskeletons out there, only a handful have been cleared by the FDA, and by a handful we mean two. The PhoeniX SuitX exoskeleton recently received FDA approval and stands out for its ability to allow anyone who uses it to be as independent as possible. For example, if you fall over, you can still get up on your own without. Crutches are required to use this exoskeleton however. Also, at $65,000, this exoskeleton is one of the lowest-priced exoskeletons on the market.
Although it was first released to the public in 2013, Amazon Alexa, a virtual assistant technology that allows you to complete many tasks in the home using your voice, is more powerful than it has ever been. In the last 8 years, it has become one of the most important and lowest cost adaptive technology used by people with disabilities across the country.
Many people with disabilities will purchase smart plugs, which they can plug into any device in their home and then connect to Alexa. Once it has connected to your Alexa, you can control it any way you would like. For example, some people will plug their coffee maker into a smart plug so they can just start their coffee maker from their phone (pre-filling your coffee maker the night before however is still required).
Some of the most popular devices people will use their Amazon Alexa to control in their home as a person with a disability is their television, opening/unlocking the door, monitoring home security systems, blinds, thermostat and light switches.
Learn more: https://www.amazon.com/Echo-Dot/dp/B07FZ8S74R/ref=asc_df_B07FZ8S74R/?tag=&linkCode=df0&hvadid=366446844881&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=2035860038761122134&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9019545&hvtargid=pla-773029225412&ref=&adgrpid=77663899593&th=1
For those with paralysis in their arms, the Abilitech Assist is truly life-changing, as it is the first and only wearable arm exoskeleton to ever be created. It was launched in 2020. It specifically helps someone with paralysis move their shoulders and elbows. The powered arm exoskeleton not only brings physical independence by helping people do activities like brush their teeth, eat, drink, but it brings more social independence, making it easier to be independent and engage with others. The maximum weight the exoskeleton can pick up is 12 ounces.
Learn more: https://www.abilitechmedical.com/assist
For those with no arm movement who would love to control an adaptive sit-ski, for the first time ever a sit-ski has been adapted for someone with no arm movement. Created by a doctor in Colorado, he applied Sip ‘n Puff technology to the ski, which allows it to be controlled by someone using their breath/mouth.
While the Tetraski is not available to be purchased individually, it can be found at several adaptive ski programs throughout the US, where it can be tried by individuals with disabilities. It can be found at programs in Utah, Colorado, California and in the Northeast. To find one near you, you can contact the people who invented the Tetraski here: https://www.tetradapt.us/contact-us
Myolyn FES Cycle
FES, otherwise known as functional electronic stimulation, is one of the few technologies that helps people with paralysis move their muscles below their level of injury. Although this technology does not allow people with paralysis to move their muscles in a functional matter, by applying electrodes to their arms or legs and programming the signal, it allows people to do certain activities like cycle a bicycle using their legs or arms.
Traditionally, FES was only available at rehabilitation hospitals, but now it is available through several different companies. Myolyn is one of the several home FES machines that lets you move your muscles, and in turn build muscle, burn calories and feel healthier in the comfort of your own home. These machines can cost several thousands of dollars, but can often be covered by insurance.
Learn more: https://myolyn.com/
SMOVE Hand Exoskeleton
Announced to the public in 2021, the SMOVE Hand Exoskeleton, a prototype created by researchers in Japan. is not yet commercially available. Using a glove as its base, this exoskeleton individually articulates fingers on a paralyzed hand using tiny motors, giving quadriplegics much needed finger control. The makers of the Abilitech Assist arm exoskeleton are also working on a similar device called the Abilitech Grip. Learn more: https://www.abilitechmedical.com/abilitech-handgrip-abilihand
Learn more: https://megwel.co.jp/
iBot Wheelchair 2.0
One of the most buzzed about wheelchairs in the last 25 years has been the iBOT wheelchair. It is the only power wheelchair to be cleared by the FDA that can ascend and descend stairs. After not being available for several years as it was no longer produced by Johnson &Johnson, the iBOT was recently resurrected is now available with even more exciting features.
Other than it’s exciting stair climbing ability, it can also balance on its back two wheels, putting the wheelchair-user at a “standing height” so they can interact with others and look at people who can stand directly in the eyes. And one of its coolest features is it’s “Remote” feature, which lets a wheelchair-user drive the wheelchair from their phone, making it great for when they are on the bed or couch, or trying to get out of a vehicle and need control over their chair.
Learn more: https://mobiusmobility.com/
If you really want to explore the great outdoors, all-terrain wheelchairs and tank wheelchairs have been the go-to wheelchair of choice for outdoor exploring for years in the spinal cord injury world. However, the Terrain Hopper has completely changed the field when it comes to outdoor wheelchairs. Looking like a beefier cousin of a ATV or a toned down version of a dune buggy, the Terrain Hopper is considered an electrical powered off-road mobility vehicle.
It has a ground clearance of 10 inches and a 35° climbing capability. And the best part – this machine can go anywhere including deep mud, sand, snow, rocks, steep hills and more. If you’ve dreamt of exploring the outdoors in a serious manner since your injury, but haven’t been able to, this machine will make that happen. The cost for a Terrain Hopper starts at $18,995.
Learn more: https://www.terrainhopperusa.com
Firefly Electric Scooter Attachment
Electric scooter attachments that attach to manual wheelchairs and turn them into electric motor bikes have been popular in Europe for many years now due to the dense city areas commonly found there. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get many of these e-scooter attachments in the US, except for the Firefly Attachment from Rio Mobility that is. Costing $2,595, the Firefly 2.5 Electric Scooter Attachment can attach to most manual wheelchairs. It has five speed modes and can go up to 12 miles per hour.
For decades for people with high-level quadriplegia the only option to control their computer was by using their voice or using a mouth stick. Fortunately, technology has invented a much better option, eye control, and tecla-e, and it is now the go-to product for quadriplegics wanting enhanced computer control. And computers aren’t the only technology tecla-e lets quadriplegics to control using their eyes. They can use it to fully access smart devices and mainstream technology, like their phones, lights and TVs.
Learn more: https://gettecla.com/products/tecla-e
Obi Dining Robot
Another amazing product to transform the lives of people with high-level quadriplegia who are unable to feed themselves is the Obi Dining Robot. This robot is a robotic arm that’s programmed to take food from four individual compartments and feed them to an individual in a timed manner. Dignity and independence are two things Obi brings to people’s lives. Currently, Obi is only available on a trial-basis. To sign-up for a trial use of Obi, fill out this form: https://meetobi.com/contact#potential-user–caregiver
Learn more: https://meetobi.com/