From the time I was born, my grandfather was paralyzed from the waist down and spent his days sitting in a wheelchair. I never really thought it was strange that he couldn’t walk growing up; it’s just the way he was to me. I do remember him having a hard time with the little things most of us never think about like getting dishes out of a tall cabinet, picking things up off the floor, and getting to and from the bed each day. I can only imagine how much more difficult life would have been had he been a quadriplegic.
Technology today makes living and doing the little things for the disabled much easier. We have talked about Willow Garage and its cool PR2 robot in the past. Willow Garage has been working with the Healthcare Robotics Lab at Georgia Tech and a paralyzed man named Henry Evans on new interfaces that allow the severely disabled to live an easier and more normal life. Evans had a stroke at 40-years-old and now only has use of one finger and his head.
He is able to do little things for himself using an experimental interface like shave and scratch his own back that he couldn’t not do alone before. I think this sort of research holds a lot of promise for the disabled; it’s too bad the PR2 costs so much though since 99.9% of the people that could use it can’t afford one.