Assistive technology is available nationwide and many rehabilitation-focused state agencies provide disabled people and their families resources and services related to everything from care options and vehicle modification to employment and home/workplace modification.
One example of a vehicle modification is a van that takes voice commands and has two different joysticks that allow a person with SCI to drive, steering with their right hand and accelerating with their left. The modifications mean the driver never has to touch the steering wheel or pedals.
Assistive technology can also include adapted-eating utensils, splints, lifts and voice-activated environmental control units. The ultimate goal is supporting independence and keeping people with disabilities in their own home.
One patient, who broke his neck over 30 years ago during a tackle in a football game, has been granted the ability to hunt by using assistive technology. Thanks to this technology, he can hunt with a motorized gun mount. Using a joystick guided by his chin or mouth, he aims and a solenoid pushes on the gun, activating the trigger by sipping on a tube. This just goes to show that many pre- spinal cord injury activities are still possible.
A wheelchair that was in production over a decade ago, and then was discontinued, may be making a comeback. This futuristic wheelchair hit the market and was instantly highly sought after. The iBOT allowed paralyzed people, including many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, to stand up by rising to eye level. It also did something no wheelchair ever had: climb stairs. Earlier this year, Toyota announced that it’s bankrolling a reboot of the iBOT, which the machine’s inventor, Dean Kamen, says will allow him to make some improvements. Stay tuned in to the news for more details in the near future.
Advances continue to take place, which offers more opportunity for companies to provide additional assistive technology for people with SCI. We’re excited to see what the future holds.