Will the Exoskeleton Suit Replace Wheelchairs?

The exoskeleton suit helps paraplegics to walk

Will the exoskeleton suit for the disabled ever replace wheelchairs? Probably not. Then again, exoskeleton technology is so new it’s too soon to say. We can, however, say this robotic suit is helping people with spinal cord injuries and those recovering from a stroke to walk again. And that the technology is already being used in Australia.

In terms of assisting with physical disability, the exoskeleton suit is revolutionary. One of the most major milestones since the development of the wheelchair. It’s different to the wheelchair in several ways, but primarily because it helps a person stand upright.

This can be a game changer in terms of rehabilitation, which is the ideal time to start using the mechanical suit. In this article we talk about what exactly this latest technology is, how it works and where to find it in Australia.

An exoskeleton suit on show at an expo. The suit is mechanised, lightweight and a great development in assistive technology

What is an exoskeleton suit?

You’re probably wondering what the exoskeleton suit for the disabled is. Well, it’s a kind of robotic suit that straps around the waist, legs and feet. It’s used for people who’ve sustained a spinal cord injury or had a stroke and don’t have full or partial use of their legs.

The suit provides support (together with walking sticks) and mechanically helps a person take steps. The robotic suit uses a person’s natural gait and the shifting of weight to gauge when to take each step. This way, it simulates your own natural walking as much as possible.

The concept of the ‘exoskeleton’ originally comes from nature. Invertebrates, like crabs, insects and spiders have no internal support, but instead, have exoskeletons. Their exoskeletons give them the strength and support needed for mobility – just like the exoskeleton suit.

The best way to understand new technology is to see it in action. Watch this video to see how the exoskeleton suit works:

How much does the exoskeleton suit cost?

The cost of the exoskeleton suit is still prohibitively high; the lowest price tag is still around $55,000. However, as supply and demand increase, prices will drop. Like all technology, as more people start to use them, sellers will be able to reduce the cost to the buyer.

Robotics companies are anxious to slash prices, so it’s only a matter of time.

The exoskeleton suit in Australia

Exoskeleton suits for the disabled are already being used in Australia. The first NDIS funded exoskeleton was trialed in 2017 by Canberra resident Paul Jenkins. At the time Paul was 27 years of age and had experienced a motorcycle accident that resulted in paraplegia.

This year in New South Wales, 27 year old footballer Shaun Greentree is using the exoskeleton suit for rehabilitation after a serious sports injury. Shaun collided with another player on the field, causing multiple fractures to his vertebrae that resulted in quadriplegia.

This initiative is made possible by Royal Rehab. It’s the first Australian hospital to offer this exoskeleton suit as part of several rehabilitation programs.

the exoskeleton suit is mechanised, lightweight and a great development in assistive technology

Benefits of the robotic exoskeleton

A defining aspect of the exoskeleton suit is that the incredible technology behind it helps paraplegics and quadriplegics to possibly walk again.

Aside from the obvious emotional and logistical benefits of being able to walk once more, there are numerous positives that come from being upright and keeping muscles active. Some of these include:

  • Speeds up recovery following a spinal cord injury or stroke
  • Builds muscle capacity
  • Improves bladder function
  • Increased bone density

One can only imagine the potential benefits for so many Australians as the usage of exoskeletons grows over time and technology constantly evolves. We’ll be watching the progress and barracking for further breakthroughs in design and pricing!

Interested to find out more about accessibility tech? Check out these latest innovations in assistive technology and this piece on the latest wheelchair advancements.

Also read about Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation research toward a cure for paralysis.

A man practices walking in an exoskeleton suit, a great development in assistive technology

Disability parking permit holders get 25% off car insurance

Mobility equipment is evolving in leaps and bounds, but finding a disability parking space is still just as difficult as ever! However, for those with a disability parking permit, there’s some good news – up to 25% off disability car insurance for disability parking holders in Australia.

At Blue Badge Insurance we believe you deserve discounted premiums because disability parking permit holders are statistically safer drivers. Simple.

Using a wheelchair? Check out our comprehensive wheelchair insurance too.

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