Every so often, I post about the latest adaptive equipment that catches my eye. Here’s a roundup of six items you might find helpful – maybe even transformative.
Stair-Climbing Motorized Wheelchair
With the BRO, a new motorized, stair-climbing wheelchair from Scewo, most stairs are no longer an insurmountable barrier if you have a disability.
The wheelchair’s stair-climbing mode, which can be activated with the push of a button, uses tank-like treads to safely navigate curbs and stairs while keeping you safely in your seat.
Sensors constantly measure your surroundings, like the angle of the stairs. All you have to do is move a joystick in the direction you want to go. There’s even an optional rear-view camera.
The BRO continuously adjusts your seat height while climbing stairs so you’re always sitting upright. The wheelchair can handle a maximum gradient of 36 degrees, travel at up to 30 steps per minute, and tackle a curb or other obstacle up to about 8 inches (20 cm).
Like a Segway, the BRO rolls on just two wheels and self-balances, even if you have little or no upper-body stability. As a bonus, it can raise you to eye level for a conversation with someone else on flat terrain. You can even fold and store it in the trunk of your car.
The BRO is available in Europe and will soon be available in the U.S. The bad news is that it reportedly costs about $38,000. But if you can afford it, I can’t think of a more life-changing piece of equipment for someone with paralysis.
Dubbed “a mobility device designed to bring more joy to life,” the Zeen is essentially a hybrid between a walker and a wheelchair. You can roll with it like you do with any wheelchair, or you can raise the seat to different heights. The later function is a godsend for wheelchair users who get frustrated by looking up at everyone all the time.
Another neat trick is that the Zeen can support someone as they stand or walk.
“Our goal is to help [people] hang on to what they’ve got, because you atrophy frighteningly quickly if you cease to use any given set of muscles,” Zeen inventor Garret Brown tells PBS affiliate WHYY.
People with chronic conditions who have different levels of mobility can especially benefit from the Zeen. In addition, physical therapists can use it to help their patients recover from injuries or illnesses.
Zeens aren’t cheap at about $3,900, but they do something few wheelchairs can do.
Accessible PlayStation 5 Controller
Project Leonardo is an accessible, highly customizable controller for PlayStation 5. It can help people with disabilities play games more easily, more comfortably, and for longer periods.
The controller works with many third-party accessible gaming devices and integrates with the PS5 console. It’s built to address common challenges faced by many players with limited motor control, including difficulty holding a controller for extended lengths of time, accurately pressing small clusters of buttons or triggers, or positioning thumbs and fingers optimally on a standard controller.
Project Leonardo includes swappable components like analog stick caps and buttons in different shapes and sizes. You can use these components to design a wide array of control layouts. You can also adjust the distance of the analog stick from the game pad.
‘Smart’ Wheelchair Seat Cushion
Kalogon has reinvented the humble seat cushion with its Orbiter, which the company says is the world’s first “smart” wheelchair cushion. It uses “intelligent redistribution technology” to eliminate direct pressure on sensitive areas. This is said to help pressure injuries heal faster and prevent new ones.
Overall, the technology is designed to make sitting for long periods easier on your body. The Orbiter features:
Intelligent pressure control: The cushion monitors pressure changes within air cells and adapts instantly to comfort preferences you define using an iOS or Android app.
Continuous pressure relief: You can automate and control pressure redistribution using Kalogon app presets. Update your seating profile to define areas that require additional pressure relief or added firmness, optimizing blood flow across sensitive areas.
Power automation: The cushion turns on when you sit down and automatically turns off when no pressure is applied. It also has a waterproof cover.
Updates and upgrades: Kalogon customers receive free software updates and upgrades.
Next-Generation Ankle-Foot Orthosis
The Biomotum Spark ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) provides adaptive support for people with neurological conditions that affect their ability to walk. It provides assistance and motion adjustments for on-demand tuning to match your mobility needs as they change over time.
This AFO is also adaptive and adjustable, allowing task-specific transitions from flat ground to sloped surfaces or stairs, or even getting up from the ground. And the quick-connect, modular system allows for a custom fit for better function and comfort.
One thing I notice is that there isn’t a cradle for your foot like my plastic AFOs have; there’s just a flat platform. As a result, I don’t think this AFO would work for me, but it may be perfect for others.
The Spark is currently available for preorder.
App That Lets You Control an iPhone With Your Eyes
A new free app from Athena Accessible Technology allows users to control an iPhone with their eyes. The app, appropriately called Athena Eye Control, tracks your eyes and employs artificial intelligence technology to determine where you’re looking and how fast you’re reading. It then scrolls the display accordingly.
Unlike some eye-controlled systems, you don’t have to practice using Athena Eye Control. You just read your phone, and it scrolls automatically. If you look away, it stops scrolling.
The great part is that you don’t have to touch the screen at all to read whatever’s on your phone. Athena tested the technology with users who live with quadriplegia, chronic pain, limb differences, and other disabilities.
The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store. Athena also recently produced a software development kit that will allow other companies to use its eye-control technology in their own apps. TwP