CORE had the unique opportunity to attend a live demonstration hosted by the Disability Wellness Center in Sanford, FL to see the Ekso, a wearable robot that powers people with lower-extremity paralysis or weakness to get them standing and walking. According to Ekso Bionics, the ready-to-wear, battery-powered bionic exoskeleton uses motors and sensors in combination with the users own balance and body positioning to allow the user to walk over ground with an efficient reciprocal gait pattern.
Now, at first glance, this suit looks like something out of an Ironman movie that may not be practical for real world applications. However, for those of us who are paralyzed and don’t have many options that allow us to get upright and walk the Ekso seems like the beginning of a beautiful dream.
Admittedly, the Ekso does not incorporate functional electrical stimulation which is necessary to activate muscles, but it does offer users load bearing and range of motion to help keep joints flexible. And, while it can not be taken to the grocery store or used to navigate the world outside of a therapy setting the Ekso brings smiles to the faces of its “test-pilots.” We saw this smile first hand when Amanda, a test pilot for Ekso, strutted across the floor, did a pretty pirouette and walked back.
And, at the end of the day CORE supports any organization or company who is attempting to create awareness of the needs of the paralysis community and who has the vision to use technology, science or neurorehabilitation to overcome the challenge of paralysis.
This support also extends to the Disability Wellness Center, who have created a facility described as “a place where disabled persons and their families can freely interact, receive specialized services and enjoy activities they would otherwise have difficulty obtaining.” They currently provide clients with an on-site physician’s office, wheelchair accessible gym and medical supply store.
The Disability Wellness Center, a non-profit organization, is in the process of raising the $250,000 needed to purchase an Ekso for their facility and clients. To find out more about how you can support their efforts, visit http://disabilitywellnesscenter.org/get-involved/.