I had the honor of going to the International Seating Symposium this year in Nashville, Tenn. The conference is all about wheelchair seating and mobility and is one of my favorite to attend. Sessions over two and a half days cover everything from trends in mobility research to access to mobile devices to power wheelchair drive control systems. In addition, there is a huge exhibit hall filled with new assistive technology or what tried-and-true technology that’s been improved. I realize not everyone gets excited as I do about this, but I’d love to share some of the really cool things I saw.
- Adaptive rock climbing. There was a 15-foot portable climbing wall that could be really easy or really difficult to climb. Depending on how the cables were set up, climbers could pull as little as 1/9 or ALL of their body weight. There had different handles that could be used (e.g., both hands or a single hand to pull). It was really awesome and proves there are no limits.
- JACO is an assistive robotic arm for people who have upper extremity limitations that use a power wheelchair. It is very costly ($50,000) and not yet covered by insurance. I got to try it out and actually picked up a cup and brought it to my lips like I was going to drink out of it. Do I think it replaces personal human attendants? No. Do I think for the right person this would be amazing? Yes.
- ROHO Smart Check is a cushion feedback system that is intended to assist the user by saving an inflation range during cushion setup. During subsequent inflation level checks, Smart Check is intended to indicate whether adjustments are needed to remain in the saved range. I can’t tell you how many people come to Paraquad who are either don’t know they are sitting on a flat ROHO or don’t know how to properly inflate and fit a ROHO cushion. Thanks to my assistive technology course in the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, I left knowing how to inflate and fit a ROHO cushion. This brings up the question of why users don’t know how to do it. Is it a lack of training time by the therapist? A lack of funding to pay for training the user? There are several possibilities (and that’s probably another blog topic), but ROHO came up with a very helpful solution: the Smart Check. I fit myself to a ROHO with the Smart Check, and it was really easy. Now the user just has to remember to attach the Smart Check every once in a while and know how to put air in and let it out.
Next year’s ISS is in Vancouver, British Columbia. I can’t wait to learn about the the newest technology.
Lindsey Bean-Kampwerth is the Director of Assistive Technology at Paraquad. She can be reached at email@example.com.