High Tech Shows and Expos

Robotic Rehab for a Paralyzed Arm

Power JacketLast September at Tokyo’s Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition in, Matsushita Electrical Industries showed a robotic jacket which lets a partially paralyzed limb move in response to cues from the undamaged arm.

At Home Everyday Gear Good Stuff Shows and Expos

Slick Reacher/Grabber

PikStik ProOne of the everyday aids I did see at WCD Expo was the PikStik Pro. A reacher — essentially a stick with a clamp-like grabber on one end — has been an essential part of my dad’s life for many years now. It’s not just a convenience, but a matter of safety and well-being — over-balancing is definitely not good for Dad!

Come to think of it, just about every household could use a reacher or two in strategic places.

I’ve used lots of reachers that handle chunky stuff (think cans, etc.) but this is the first one I’ve used successfully for a situation requiring a more deft touch.

Using it, I was able to lift a business card repeatedly from a flat, hard counter with no trouble at all — the tips are ‘grippy’ and more sensitive than those on the heavier duty reachers.

For those finer pick-up tasks (pens, pencils, pieces of paper, a comb, etc.), this could be a great solution. It’s available on Amazon and comes in various lengths.

Everyday Gear Shows and Expos

Rant — Few Everyday Aids at WCD Expo

I enjoyed the WCD Expo and chatting with various visitors and vendors, but was left wondering again why there were so few booths showcasing everyday aids. Nichole Medical Equipment and Supply (Philadelphia) had an extensive exhibit of scooters, chairs and accessories and few vendors had miscellaneous items — a buttoning aid, etc., but that was about it.

Maybe it’s too much of a nuisance to haul cartons of small items to a show, but it’s so difficult to track them down out in the wild, and tough to determine if what you’re seeing on a web page will really do the job. Is there a better place to sell the tools that can make daily living easier? Is there better exposure? A better focus group? Honestly, I’d really like to know . . .

Everyday Gear Shows and Expos Travel Wheelchairs

Remote Control Wheelchair Docking

You Can Take It With You

Coolest not-yet-existing product at the WCD Expo? The ATRS system — essentially a conversion van which uses remote control to return your wheel chair to its docking point inside your van. ‘ATRS’ stands for ‘Automated Tranport and Retrieval System.’

The system is expected to include Freedom Lift’s Freedom Seat, the Tracker with Dock ‘n’ Lock with the ATRS. The Freedom Seat lifts, rotates, and lowers outside a vehicle next to a wheelchair for a side-to-side transfer, and re-entry into the vehicle. The Tracker is a wheelchair lift with a locking/docking component (Dock ‘n’ Lock).

atrs system mapThese two items (three, if you count the Dock ‘n’Lock as separate) are available now, but the cool part is the ATRS — the software and hardware that Freedom Sciences has developed to use the Freedom Seat and the Tracker as parts of a remote control system. This system will allow you to roll up in your chair, transfer to the Freedom Seat and remotely send your wheelchair from the front vehicle door to the Tracker, load it onto the Tracker, dock it, slide it into the vehicle and stow it — all while you’re sitting in your van (mini or otherwise).

That’s cool enough, but the kicker is that the Freedom Seat and Tracker don’t require any drilling for installation — they install in the existing manufacturer slots for the OEM seats. Yes, you can take it with you . . . this conversion can follow you from van to van, reducing the cost of conversion considerably over time.

At the moment, cost of the system and van is estimated at more or less the cost of a full conversion van, so (and assuming this is still true when it becomes available) the initial cost won’t be any saving, but should add up as vans get replaced.

It won’t be for everyone, but for those who can use it, this system, with its fabulous robotic component, could offer unparalled freedom for many, along with the opportunity to ride and drive in a fully-tested safer automotive seat. Launch is set for spring 2007.

I have high hopes for this baby. In defiance of all previous known manufacturer/developer practices, the engineers are actually using the system themselves — in a (gasp!) wheelchair, just as if they expected it to work the way they’re designing it. Way-to-go guys!

At Home Everyday Gear Good Stuff Kids Shows and Expos

Silverware for Hands With Grasp Impairments — Dining With Dignity

Dignity UtensilsI was happy to see Bob and Debbie Bayton at the WCD Expo, and to get another chance to look at Bob’s clever invention. Bob has taken ordinary tableware and adapted it for use by people with various grasp impairments. Two flexible metal loops attached to the flatware handles give diners the leverage and grasp needed to eat without being fed — and using flatware similar to ordinary nice tableware. Individual adjustments are easy to make, and the flatware now comes in smaller sizes, too, for children or small adults. See it all at Dining with Dignity.

Everyday Gear Good Stuff Shows and Expos Travel Wheelchairs

Coolest Van — No, SUV — Conversion Ever

Coolest existing product at the WCD Expo? Without a doubt, the Honda Element XWav wheelchair conversion. Forget the van — this SUV gets 26 MPH, and the conversion is a marvel of simple good sense. Freedom Motors had a passenger side conversion at the show. They dropped the right front floor ten inches, leaving a level floor where the front seats go, and an opening an amazing 56 inches tall.

Element conversion open doors

At Home Everyday Gear Shows and Expos

Innovative Cane — Walkin’ Strong

At the WCD Expo this past fall, I tried out a new cane from Strong Arm Mobility. The site’s designed badly with a flash screen to discourage you, but this link will get you to a description of the innovative design.

Essentially, it serves the function of a standard cane, but relying on forearm support rather than just the wrist. It’s kind of aStrong Arm Mobility Curved Arm Cane cane/forearm crutch hybrid, without the clumsiness of a forearm crutch.