Technology Developments Improve Life for People with Disabilities

Michal Prywata and Thiago Caires, AMO Arm Creators. Photo by James Kachan

It’s quite common to hear people say that they couldn’t function without their phone, or that their life is on their laptop. But for some, life really does rely on technology. For people with disabilities, technology provides the ability to move and communicate. And for them, the constant evolution and development of technology is invaluable. Recent breakthroughs are creating new opportunities and provisions, moving us forward on the path to accessibility.

In 2011, two Ryerson University undergraduate students created a new prosthetic arm that is controlled by the user’s brain signals. The Artificial Muscle-Operated Arm sends a signal from a headset to a miniature computer in the arm to activate the required movement (more information here). The developments of young people give promise to an accessible future.

Another great example is Nike’s new product: The Nike Sole. This adapted running shoe works with the Flex-Run Foot, a prosthetic foot designed for runners by the orthopedic company Ossur. The sole slips over the flex foot to work like a traditional running shoe, providing support, traction, and absorb shock. Nike has been working with Ossur and marathoner Sarah Reinersten since 2006 on this new development that promises to change the running experience for people with prosthetic legs/feet.

In similar news, NASA technology has been adapted and applied by a company called Alter G. The company created a treadmill for persons with disabilities: the M320 and P200. The machine allows users to adjust the body-weight reduction up to 80% so that they are able to support themselves while walking or running, some for the first time ever.

And lastly, new web and smartphone applications are being developed every day to serve people with disabilities. One of the more recent apps is the Rick Hansen Global Accessibility Map. It is an online rating tool where consumers can submit and obtain reviews on community accessibility. The app is designed to raise awareness about the importance of improved physical access to public spaces.

Accessibility is ever-changing. And with new technology and developments, we can achieve accessibility in new and exciting ways!

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