by Bridgette Mabuto
Technological advances are occurring exponentially. Every day we hear about anything from the latest gadget to high-tech cars. However, one area in tech doesn’t get the amount of hype it deserves: Tech advances to help those with disabilities. You’ve probably watched YouTube clips about people hearing for the first time thanks to the advances in cochlear implants, but technology is improving millions of lives in millions of ways that don’t end up going viral.
No one knows how to meet a specific need better than a person who has that same need. This was the case with Amit Goffer, who was confined to a wheelchair after an accident. In order to help those with spinal cord injuries or other lower-limb disabilities, Goffer created ReWalk, which is “a wearable robotic exoskeleton that provides powered hip and knee motion to enable individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) to stand upright, walk and turn.” Not yet available in the US is the stair function, allowing for climbing and descending stairs. This can completely revolutionize life for those otherwise confined to a wheelchair.
While the ReWalk exoskeleton is a great way for adults with lower body injuries to walk, there’s an entire different group that struggles with the same problem. The Upsee (which granted, is not exactly technology) was designed by a woman whose son had cerebral palsy, which left him incapable of walking. This woman saw a problem and worked to create a solution, the Upsee. This is a shoe, harness, and belt system that allows the child who is unable and an able-bodied adult to walk together. The Upsee gives children with motor impairment a completely new way to move around that, while not independent, still gives the feeling of walking.
As the name suggests, Nano-Retina will be a small artificial retina that would be implanted into a damaged retina to help restore sight. This would be a huge step forward for those suffering from blindness due to a damaged retina. Unfortunately this project is still in development; the retina isn’t just a physical part of the body, it’s also neurological, since it sends signals to the brain to allow the person to interpret what he or she is seeing. Still, this will be a huge breakthrough for those with certain types of blindness.
Lechal, the first navigation-oriented “smartshoe,” is actually a bluetooth-enabled insole, created with the idea that GPS could be used with haptic technology to help those with visual impairment to navigate the world by creating vibrations that direct the visually impaired to their location, offering greater independence.
The insole, which works with Google maps, can fit into just about any shoe, turning almost any footwear into a guiding device. Lechal also counts steps and distance traveled, making it perfect for runners or walkers, and it is also a great idea to use when exploring a foreign city.
Project Ray Smartphone
Can you imagine not being able to use your smartphone? Or not even having one? So much now days depends on using a smartphone. Unfortunately, before Project Ray, there were very few phones designed for the blind, which meant those with this disability were excluded from a huge part of what makes up society now. Project Ray is a smartphone completely built around the needs of the blind. It can be controlled through voice, touch, and sounds. It allows the visually impaired the freedom to send and receive calls, texts, and emails. It also has calendar reminders and GPS navigation designed specifically for the visually impaired or blind.
Unlike your regular gaming system, Timocco is specifically designed to help those with special needs go through their therapies. Designed to help those with ADHD, cerebral palsy and autism, this game was made to help develop motor and cognitive skills, but in a fun way. This takes out a lot of the struggle parents often feel with forcing their children to attend therapy. To keep things easy, Timocco can be used on a computer or smart TV. And, with over 50 games to choose from, children will never get bored.
Mobile Lorm Glove
Lorm is the complex language system used by those who are deafblind. Because one of the few ways to communicate to those who are deafblind is by tapping out messages on their hands, it can be a long and complicated process. Unfortunately, this often leads to those who are deafblind becoming isolated and anti-social. The mobile Lorm glove connects to mobile devices through Bluetooth and allows deafblind to email and text by tapping out their message on the glove. It also allows people to email and text back and, through a series of vibrations, taps out the message into the Lorm glove. This gives a whole new level of communicating capabilities, including being able to communicate with large groups of people. Soon this technology will also include the ability to read e-books.