We’re looking at a business in London, Ontario that gives people who were told they’d never walk again a chance to do just that. Able Bionics uses robotic exoskeletons to help people get out of their wheelchairs and stand on their own two feet. The suits are made for people who have some type of paralysis that prevents them from walking. They’re a bit strange looking and quite heavy to wear but the weight is worth it for someone who hasn’t taken a step on their own in years.
Two and a half years ago, Lee Thibault was in a hit-and-run crash on his motorcycle and lost mobility in his legs. “I’ve come a long way since then. I’ve gotten to do amazing things. I’m back playing sports, I’m back playing hockey, playing sledge hockey.” And now, he’s back on his own two feet learning to walk using an exoskeleton called Rewalk. It’s one of several robotic exoskeletons available through Able Bionics. The london company trains people to use the devices for indepence and rehabilitation to prevent some of the side effects of immobility.
“Bone mineral density, for bowel and bladder function, that improves, for circulation.” Company founder, Mitch Brogan, is a quadraplegic. He started able bionics after purchasing his own exoskeleton.
For someone who uses a wheelchair, one of the most incredible parts of wearing an exoskeleton is being able to look at someone eye to eye. This is only Shannon Wilcox’s second time using one. “It’s just such an amazing feeling. When you do walk you kind of take it for granted. And being able to do this again it just reminds you how such an amazing experience that it is to be able to get up and walk.”
Exoskeltons are very expensive, starting at around $70,000. some can only be used by people with upper body control. But the technology is constantly evolving, allowing more and more people to step beyond expectations.
“Being told you know, with a spinal cord injury there’s a highly unlikely chance that you’ll ever walk again and I think they need to elaborate a little bit more because now I’m up using robotics and I’m walking again.”
A new version of Rewalk is arriving at Able Bionics this month. It’s designed for all day use at home and around town. But it comes at a price. Brogan hopes as more exoskeletons enter the market, they’ll become more affordable.