It’s being called an exoskeleton for the paralyzed — a device consisting of leg braces, motion sensors, motorized joints, a computer and a remote control that helps people who are paralyzed from the waist down to sit, stand and walk with assistance.
And it’s the first such motorized device to get the U.S. Food and Drug Administration‘s stamp of approval for home use. It’s already in use in rehabilitation facilities.
ReWalk was built for people who are disabled by some spinal cord injuries. It was developed by the founder of Israel-based Argo Medical Technologies, who was paralyzed in a vehicle crash.
The device uses braces with motion sensors that strap around the legs. Motorized joints supply movement to the hips, knees and ankles. A backpack holds a computer and power supply, and crutches offer stability. The user wears a wireless remote control on the wrist through which he can command ReWalk to stand up, sit down or walk — with a little help.
“Innovative devices such as ReWalk go a long way towards helping individuals with spinal cord injuries gain some mobility,” said Christy Foreman, director of the Office of Device Evaluation at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Along with physical therapy, training and assistance from a caregiver, these individuals may be able to use these devices to walk again in their homes and in their communities.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 200,000 people in the United States living with a spinal cord injury.
There was a lot of discussion of policy, enforcement of the laws around sexual orientation, gender identity and disability, and the fights for bills like the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Affordable Care Act. But there was also a lot of conversation about culture, and what it teaches us about the world, particularly in two keynote addresses by actress Geri Jewell and comics writer Gail Simone. My tweets focused mostly on those parts of the forum.
LGBT folks in the same city can have wildly divergent experiences at home, at school and at work. Folks with disabilities who get into a leadership program may have a radically different education from their peers in the same school system who do not make the cut. And this is not even to get into differences across regions, classes or any other factor that can influence coming out, the quality of education you get, and the jobs and support systems that are available to you.
For this reason, it is terribly important to remember that making culture more diverse is not a matter of simply putting members of an underrepresented community on screen. You cannot give audiences the same affluent, white gay men and claim you are representing the gay community. You cannot give audiences only people who began using wheelchairs after car wrecks and decide you have fulfilled your quota of characters with disabilities.