Mark E. Smith’s great blog Wheelchairjunkie.com, has a great article about powerchairs — a topic which combines two issues I am passionate about: disabilities and technology.
I have seen some amazing powerchairs, from a super speedy model with an Herman Miller Aeron chair, running circles around people at Sam’s club, to a Dean Kamen Segway filled with a small bench (!) at Whole Foods letting the rider sit much higher that in a traditional chair, aiding in shopping and interacting with people at a common height. It is exciting seeing the developments in this area. These advances create an expectation of more than just simple mobility but also freedom.
So, do powerchairs chairs really cost as much as a car.
Not long ago, I saw a television news story about an amazing young woman who happened to use a power wheelchair. … However, just as I was enjoying the story, watching the young woman walk her dog through the grass at a park, the reporter uttered the very words that make me want to rip my flat-screen cable television from the wall every time I hear such statements: “Her power wheelchair cost $30,000, as much as a car,” the reporter said.Like a football fan whose quarterback just dropped the ball, I wanted to jump into the television and choke the reporter. “Power wheelchairs dont cost as much as cars – thats a $5,000 wheelchair configuration, not a $30,000 one!” I screamed, rolling close to the TV, trying to get in the reporters face.
I was surprised to read in Popular Science that Dean Kamen’s iBot (an electric, motorized wheelchair which goes from four wheels to two wheels lifting the rider in the process, and can climb stairs,) has been discontinued due to costs. Neither insurance companies, nor Medicaid, wanted to foot the bill for this expensive, although amazing, power chair.
If you are lucky enough to have an iBot, HiZook notes that service will continue on the iBot until 2013.
HiZook also has a review of the Segway RMP 50 robotic platform, an omnidirectional powered platform that reminds me of something I read in comic books as a kid. Can you imagine using something like this as a base for a powered wheelchair?
Alright! Dean Kamen’s prosthetic “Luke” arm is one step closer to helping amputess, especially injured veterans:
Last week, VA announced the start of a three-year clinical trial that represents the first large-scale testing of the arm, a critical step before it can be made widely available. The first patient was fitted with an arm in April.
The device was developed by Deka Research and Development, the New Hampshire company whose founder, Dean Kamen, invented the Segway and various medical devices.
The robotic arm, nicknamed the “Luke arm” after the artificial arm worn by Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” films, allows those who have lost a limb up to their shoulder joint to perform movements while reaching over their head, a previously impossible maneuver for people with a prosthetic arm.
Watch this 60 Minutes story on Scott Mackler, a man with almost total paralysis, who can communicate with a computer with just his thoughts using a BCI (Brain Control Interface).
Scott Mackler was a husband, father and successful neuroscientist when he received perhaps the worst news imaginable. At the age of 40, he could run a marathon in three and a half hours, but it was about that time he discovered he had ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Today, Scott Mackler’s mind is as sharp as ever, but his body has failed. Doctors call it “locked in” syndrome. Scott and his wife Lynn learned to communicate with about the only thing he has left, eye movement.To signal “yes,” Lynn says Scott looks at her; to signal “no,” he looks away.
But recently Scott found a new voice. “Can everyone hear the PC?”