As National Spinal Cord Awareness Month comes to a close there is big news! The ReWalk 6.0 robotic exoskeleton has been cleared by the FDA for personal and rehabilitation use. The ReWalk 6.0 allows users to stand upright, walk, turn and maneuver stairs and is designed specifically for users recovering from spinal cord injuries.
They have now sold over 100 personal systems and have over 70 rehabilitation training centers in North America. ReWalk is working with leading research universities such as Stanford and Harvard to improve upon their design and software. They hope that in the future they will be able to expand their technology to help users with mobility limitations such as Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s.
Check out the video below to see the ReWalk 6.0 in Action!
The RipChair 3.0 may be the most extreme accessible off-road vehicle ever manufactured! Geoff and Michael Howe have a history of building over-the-top modes of transportation. They rose to fame in 2001 with the development of the Ripsaw. This unmanned ground vehicle was purchased by the U.S. Military making them the youngest duo to ever receive a government defense contract. The brothers also designed and manufactured the first unmanned fire truck, which today is used to combat out of control wildfires. From there, the Howes were given a reality television show on the discovery channel, in which they built vehicles and robots straight from their imagination.
In 2010 the original design for the RipChair, which they describe as the ultimate power chair upgrade, came from their television show. The Howe brothers received so much interest from the public that they started working on a model they could bring to the market. Their third version of the Ripchair was just released and it has some serious upgrades. It fits almost any wheelchair and comes standard with a power tie down locking system. This version is completely customizable with multiple color options and has several available hand control set-ups. Additional packages include gun and fishing pole racks as well as a 5,000 pound winch. The Ripchair 3.0 can reach speeds of up to 17 mph and climb hills as steep as 60°!
In 2012 the Howe brothers formed Outdoors Again, an organization dedicated to building the world’s first outdoor recreation facility designed specifically for wheelchair users. The group has gone on several outings including concerts, football games and ice fishing while they continue to chase their dream of building the inclusion reserve. They have even participated with the Make-A-Wish foundation, when they gave 12 year old Florian full access to their facilities in Waterboro, Maine.
Congratulations to the Howes on their latest design, and we look forward to seeing what they will dream up next!
Last year, BraunAbility released the revolutionary Ford Explorer MXV. It is the first accessible SUV on the market with an automatic, in-floor ramp and it has several patent pending features that maximize comfort and convenience. The glide-out door and sliding shifter are two unique features that help make the MXV extremely accessible.
Time-Lapse Video of the BraunAbility MXV Conversion
It takes three days to install all of the accessible features of the Ford Explorer MXV. You can watch the time lapse video of the conversion taking place in just 3 minutes in the video below.
Ralph Braun was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy as a young boy in 1947. He was told that he could never be independent, but those doctors could not have been more wrong! As a young man he built and designed the world’s first battery powered scooter. A few years later he had successfully installed the first wheelchair lift and hand controls into a used postal jeep and from there, BraunAbility was born.
Ralph Braun passed away in 2013, but he will always be remembered as one of the greatest innovators for the mobility community. Today the employees of BraunAbility help carry on his legacy by building vehicles like the MXV. We know that Ralph would be extremely proud of their accomplishment in finding new ways to make a person’s SUV vehicle preference a reality.
Fitness trackers and apps like the Fitbit have been some of the hottest items in 2016, especially with younger adults on the go. They can do everything from track your sleep, to tell you how many calories you’ve burned. Until recently, however, there weren’t any options available for the over 2 million Americans using manual wheelchairs. That changed last month when Apple announced they will be adding a way for wheelchair users to monitor their activity this fall on their Apple Watch.
This is a feature that has been in the plans for Apple since they released the first watch, but implementing this was not an easy task. Due to a lack of previous research on how wheelchair users burn calories, Apple was forced to do some investigating on their own. They partnered with the Lakeshore Foundation and Challenged Athletes Foundation to study about 300 wheelchair users for over 3,000 hours. Apple encountered several challenges such as the fact that everyone pushes their wheelchair a little differently and calculating for the type of surface the wheelchair is on. These along with several other factors had to be taken into consideration when Apple finally sat down to write the algorithm.
Accessibility has been a priority for Apple when it comes to all of their devices. There is a voice-over feature on iPhones for users with limited vision as well as an option to turn on Assistive Touch for people with physical and motor challenges. A lot of the research for Siri actually came from natural speech recognition which was originally intended to help people with limited use of their hands. The new updates will include the option to have information displayed using morse code, and iPhones will also be able to save transcripts of TTY conversations for the hearing impaired. When the new wheelchair features become available early this fall, users will be able to track daily fitness goals and can even be reminded when it is “time to roll”.
For more information on assistive technology check out our blog on Useful Free Apps for Wheelchair Users here.
Many wheelchair users face multiple challenges to perform everyday tasks. That’s why we love hearing about people coming together and getting creative to find a solution. You won’t believe these amazing adaptions that solve problems wheelchair users face.
Peter is a New Jersey resident with cerebral palsy. He wrote to Sony complaining about his PlayStation touch-pad interfering with his gaming experience. Alex, a Sony employee, wrote back promising a solution. He put in about 10 hours of work to create a custom controller with a second button that rerouted the touch-pad’s functions. Now, Peter can play and enjoy his games without interference.
“The email you sent definitely struck a chord within,” Alex replied in a letter back to Peter. “It killed me to hear how something you used to enjoy thoroughly was being ruined because of our new controller design.”
Alex asked for feedback on how the controller performed and told Peter he was making a second controller in case the first breaks.
Brin is a sixth grader with cerebral palsy. Her limited motor skills made opening her locker a challenging task. When classmates caught wind of her difficulties, 8 seniors in an engineering class designed an adapted lock over 5 months. After several prototypes, the students redesigned the lock into one motion to easily pop the lock. The lock was printed using a 3D printer. Brin said she wants to be an engineer when she grows up so she too can help others with disabilities.
“It certainly gives me more independence,” said Brin, who said the old lock was frustrating and she’s thankful to the seniors who came up with the solution. “A simple design on a computer turned into something that could help me. It’s pretty amazing!”
Sharina is a first-time mom that lost the use of her legs when she was shot as a child. When she was pregnant, she was concerned about handling a stroller with her newborn. Sharina called the local university as they work with high school students to give them college-level research projects. 16-year-old Alden was assigned the project to create an adapted wheelchair stroller. His biggest priority was making sure the device was safe for the baby. Alden was motivated by Sharina’s due date to get the project completed in a timely manner. The device is made from stainless steel piping with connectors that attach it to Sharina’s wheelchair. The teenager is hoping the device can be used by other new parents as well.
“I love it,” Sharina said of the stroller attachment. “It makes everything so much easier. He’s [Alden] a great kid. He is going to be an amazing engineer.”
Mary, a 7-year-old with muscular atrophy, can now swing in her backyard thanks to an accessible swing her father built her. Her father, Ryan, has a background in mechanical engineering. He had drafted plans to build the swing to hold Mary and her 450-pound chair. Ryan won a parenting website grant to fund the project so Mary now enjoys the coolest swing in the state of Alabama.
“The accessible playgrounds are 10 or 15 miles away,” Ryan said. “Mary said she wanted a swing that her chair can go in. So, I said I would do it. The only thing Mary is limited by is our imagination. You have to be the person who enables your child to live a normal life.”
Matthew was born with cerebral palsy. Since he was born, he has overcome many limitations doctors predicted for him. Tying his shoes was still a challenge. Matthew wrote a letter to Nike saying, “My dream is to go to the college of my choice without having to worry about someone coming to tie my shoes every day. I’ve worn Nike basketball shoes all my life. I can only wear this type of shoe because I need ankle support to walk. At 16 years old, I am able to completely dress myself, but my parents still have to tie my shoes. As a teenager who is striving to become totally self-sufficient, I find this extremely frustrating and, at times, embarrassing.”
The letter landed in the hands of Nike designer Tobie who has worked with Special Olympians. The two worked together for three years to develop the Nike FLYEASE sneaker. The wrap-around zipper solution opens the back of the shoe making it easy to slide the foot in and out. Matthew is now a student at Florida Gulf Coast University and can be seen wearing his FLYEASE sneakers all over campus.
Amphibious All-Terrain Vehicle
Alfred owns 650 acres in Florida and has always considered himself to be an outdoorsy person. He purchased a 6-wheeled amphibious ATV and knew he had to bring it to MobilityWorks to convert. The Tampa location installed driving controls, extended the shifter handle and added a chest strap and taller backrest, among other adjustments. The service team even added a remote jump port connector that would jump start the vehicle for Alfred if it lost power while in the water.
“Hats off, awesome job!” Alfred said of the Tampa team’s commitment. He enjoys taking the ATV out every day with his son and at family functions. Alfred’s mobility challenges no longer stop him from fishing and enjoying his land.
Transportation can be a huge challenge for wheelchair users. That’s why we offer many solutions from lifts to adapted vehicles. Find out how an accessible vehicle can offer you the freedom you deserve by clicking here.