AN ISRAELI-MADE SUIT THAT LOOKS LIKE AN EXOSKELETON RAISES PARAPLEGICS OUT OF THEIR WHEELCHAIRS AND LETS THEM WALK AGAIN
A new Israeli invention is helping paralyzed people walk again. Something of a mix between the exoskeleton of a crustacean and the suit worn by comic hero Iron Man, the device, called ReWalk, helps paraplegics – people paralyzed below the waist – to stand, walk and climb stairs.
One of these new ReWalk users is former Israeli paratrooper Radi Kaiof, who was injured in 1988 while serving in the Israel Defense Forces. “I never dreamed I would walk again,” Kaiof told Reuters. “After I was wounded, I forgot what it’s like. Only when standing up can I feel how tall I really am and speak to people eye to eye, not from below.”
ReWalk was invented by engineer Amit Goffer, founder of Argo Medical Technologies, a small Israeli high-tech company. “It raises people out of their wheelchair and lets them stand up straight,” Goffer said of his contraption. “It’s not just about health, it’s also about dignity.”
When Goffer speaks about dignity, he understands all too well. He was paralyzed in an accident in 1997 but he cannot use his own invention because he does not have full function of his arms.
ReWalk, which requires crutches to help with balance, consists of motorized leg supports, body sensors and a backpack containing a computerized control box and rechargeable batteries. The user picks a setting with a remote control wrist band – stand, sit, walk, descend or climb – and then leans forward, activating the body sensors and setting the robotic legs in motion.
The ReWalk is now in clinical trials in Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Centre, and Goffer said it will soon be used in trials at the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute in Pennsylvania. Slated for commercial sale in 2010, ReWalk will cost as much as the more sophisticated wheelchairs on the market, which sell for about $20,000, the company said. To learn more about the ReWalk system, visit www.argomedtec.com.
FYI . . .
The Performers With Disabilities (PWD) Tri-Union Committee of Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), announced the launch of a major disability rights campaign to increase the visibility and equal employment opportunities for actors, broadcasters and sound recording artists with disabilities throughout the entertainment and news media – I AM PWD (Inclusion in the Arts Media of People With Disabilities).
I AM PWD is a global civil rights campaign seeking equal employment opportunities for artists and professionals with disabilities throughout the entertainment and news media. It is dedicated to ending the discrimination and exclusion of performers and broadcasters with disabilities by uniting labor, industry, community and governmental allies in the fight to combat continuing discrimination against people with disabilities. Over the course of the three-year I AM PWD campaign, the group will coordinate with these groups as well as the entertainment and media industries and the general public in an effort to open up equal opportunities for disabled performers in the entertainment industry.
Robert David Hall, National Chair of the Tri-Union Performers with Disabilities Committee said, “I’m fortunate to have a good career as an actor and creative artist. The normal struggles any performer faces, however, are complicated ten-fold by our industry’s reluctance to include people with disabilities in the full landscape of entertainment. In the 21st century, media is the world’s common cultural environment. Society’s values and priorities are expressed and reflected in film, television, theatre, news and music. If you aren’t seen and heard, you are invisible. People with disabilities are largely invisible within the arts and media landscape. I AM PWD will awaken the general public to the lack of inclusion and universal access for people with disabilities by uniting with a network of industry, labor, community and government allies.”
Those interested in the campaign are urged to join the I AM PWD network by signing up at www.IAMPWD.org. Others can learn more about the organization at the website.