Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Out For A Roll (Technology)



AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Out for a Roll, by Brian Hartman


BLOG DESCRIPTION: Brian Hartman's personal blog, discussing disability, technology, and writing. "Technology and writing, from a seated position."

MY REVIEW: For those people with disabilities, or those who are interested in technology under development for those people with disabilities, this is an excellent blog.

I must confess I was somewhat disappointed with it. I wanted a more personal approach. I wanted to get to know the author - what he does (well, he's a computer programmer, but what does he do all day long - what does he read, what does he watch, etc. etc), who he is...instead it's pretty impersonal. Just articles about new technology.

(I did find this comment interesting (from the post below): "For those of you who don’t know, if you can use a manual (non-motorized) chair to get around, you do use a manual chair to get around. Power chairs are for people without sufficient arm strength to use a manual chair." For myself, if I were in a wheelchair, even if I could use a manual wheelchair, I'd most definitely want a motorized one. WIth all the cool stuff that Blofeld had - rocket launchers, a sub machine gun, etc...)

In any event, new technology is interesting in itself. So check it out.

Sample post
Quite Possibly, the Coolest Wheelchair You Never Saw (or Will See)
photo not included
It’s a close relative to the Segway. Specifically, it has the same ability to self-balance. This means that it can, among other things, go up stairs (with a little guidance from the user) and elevate the user to standing level with their peers.

Unfortunately, those who could use one will never be able to own one (unless you can score one on Ebay somehow). Johnson & Johnson took it off the market in 2009, citing low demand (they apparently only sold ~ 400 of them in 2007), and the inability to get Medicaid or Medicare to pay for them. (Not terribly surprising. Read on.)

I worked for Johnson & Johnson from 2001 to 2007, and I actually saw the iBot in person. I thought it was cool technology, but I knew at the time that it wasn’t going to have a market. The article I linked to in / cites the exact reason I gave everyone who asked: It was a power wheelchair you needed your arms to take full advantage of. (Um, hello?)

For those of you who don’t know, if you can use a manual (non-motorized) chair to get around, you do use a manual chair to get around. Power chairs are for people without sufficient arm strength to use a manual chair. That’s it. The problem with the iBot was that in order to get up stairs (the really big attraction of the chair), you had to be able to pull yourself up with your arms. The chair provided the stability, but you had to provide the pull (at least, to some degree). This meant that in order to go up stairs unassisted (which would be the only reason to use the chair for stairs, after all), you had to have some arm strength. But if you’re using a power wheelchair, that’s the exact thing you don’t have. This doomed the iBot in two ways: First, the people who could use it to get up stairs wouldn’t be in the market for a power wheelchair, and second, even assuming they were (and apparently this fits some people, since they did sell 4,000 of the things), they’d be on their own paying for it, since in order to be covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and most insurance, you need to show medical necessity. The iBot wasn’t a medical necessity for anyone.

And so ends the tale of the coolest wheelchair you’ll never see. Hopefully Dean Kamen will work on a more manual version that only uses power for the balance and elevation.

--Voice-Controlled Wheelchair
--Toe Mouse for Upper Body Disabilities/Handicaps
--DARPA Seeking FDA Approval for Synthetic Blood
--“First Steps” Short Story Published on Kindle
--Quite Possibly, the Coolest Wheelchair You Never Saw (or Will See)
--Dean Kaman’s “Luke” Arm

Ms. Cairo writes several blogs including:
Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
Topical Murder and Dated Death

1 comment:

  1. Sure it would be outstanding if stair climbing were easier, but the fact that the iBOT gives you secure and easy mobility at eye level with the rest of the adult world is priceless. We humans should remember when our child's teacher asked us to sit in that first grader's seat. Adults, teachers all use height to control others. That's ok until you were someone's equal yesterday and now you are disabled. Many of our disabled today are returning veterans who had been injured in the service ouf our country. The soldiers first but then all who suffer such disabilities should have a way to regain their equality and thus their capacity for greater independence. I would love to see those bureaucrats at the FDA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid strap themselves to their desk chairs and not stand up for a week, how about just a day. Maybe then our government would "get it". How about those members of Congress. One in their midst uses an iBOT, why isn't he more vocal? G Lawson