While wheelchair accessibility has come a long way, the world is still largely geared for people who can stand upright. Besides the day-to-day inconvenience, people who are wheelchair bound, also suffer from cardiovascular, respiratory and other health problems.
Now, a new invention called ReWalk enables Paraplegics or people who are paralyzed from waist down, to stand up and 'walk' - enabling them to re-habilitate faster and hopefully, also alleviate some of the health issues.
Fitted with sensors at the joints, ReWalk is designed like an external skeleton that a patient wears over clothes. A computerized control system that can be carried in a backpack along with a rechargeable battery, is connected to a wristband remote, which is preprogrammed with some standard commands like stand, sit, walk, descend or climb.
The user presses any one of them and than leans forward. This in turn, activates the sensors and sets the robotic legs into motion to perform the requested task. Using crutches to balance, the patient is able to walk or climb up stairs, almost like a normal person.
The device is the brainchild of Amir Goffer who came up with the idea after a car accident left him completely paralyzed. Since the device requires the user to be able to hold crutches, it is not of much use to him, because he does not have full use of his arms. However, for millions of people it will be a dream come true when ReWalk comes to market at the rather steep price of $100,000 USD in January 2011. And, Mr. Goffer's company is already working on their next product - One that will allow quadriplegics to stand upright too!