Technology is always evolving, bringing continuous improvement to the lives of many wheelchair users and making every day tasks – as well as the more unusual experiences - just that little bit easier and more enjoyable. Below are some of the innovations that we at Steering Developments are the most excited about.
1. The stair-climbing wheelchair.
Stairs are perhaps the biggest challenge for wheelchair users as they are everywhere and can make even the shortest distance a huge test. That’s why the iBot from inventor Dean Kamen could revolutionise getting from A to B. This clever machine is a self-balancing, stair climbing chair for the physically disabled that opens up almost any terrain and removes the age old problem of having to spend ages looking for the lift.
2. Wheelchair skis.
Winter conditions such as snow don’t usually present the opportunity for an enjoyable experience for wheelchair users and are usually more of an obstacle – however with wheelchair skis this could soon change. As it is usually the small front wheels of the wheelchair that sink into the snow, the invention of the wheelchair skis by Patrick Mayer, a paraplegic who has depended on a wheelchair for 11 years, is revolutionary. The lightweight blade attachments mount the small front wheels providing a smooth fluid movement over frozen ground and, according to the inventor, “a new feeling of freedom.”
Rewalk is an exoskeleton developed by Cyclone Technologies that offers those with severe walking disabilities the potential to move again. The combination of a brace support, motion sensors and a computer-based control system mean the user can ‘walk’ in a way that would be impossible otherwise, whether on tarmac, grass, ramps or even up curbs.
4. The Functional Electrical Stimulation System.
This innovative system has also been pioneered by Cyclone Technologies and works to improve the user’s range of movement, overall health, circulation and fitness, as well as potentially halting or limiting muscle atrophy. It works by stimulating the lower motor neurons and evoking patterned movement of the arms and legs.
Although slightly less futuristic than some of the other technologies here, wheelchair conversions can make a huge difference to people who don't want to leave their manual wheelchairs, but need a little bit of support to help them move along. Adding power to a manual wheelchair is something that can make long distances and slopes far easier for wheelchair users to tackle, saving crucial energy for enjoying yourself when you get where you're going.
These innovative gadgets open up new horizons for wheelchair users, many of which would have been unthinkable in previous years.