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Clinicians of the Future Leisure

Adaptive Surfing: Push the Boundaries

Adaptive Surfing

When I began researching types of adaptive sport, surfing really caught my attention. Adaptive surfing was something I had not come across before. As I dug deeper, I found that people of various abilities adapted their boards and surf style in a range of ways to enjoy the thrill of catching a wave. I was inspired to see people finding a way to participate, whether they have experienced an amputation, congenital condition or even a visual impairment. I came across some truly inspiring content of people utilising an array of assistive equipment and strategies to support their participation in adaptive surfing. Adaptive surfing really made me think outside the square of what is possible in adaptive sport.

Adaptive surfing is becoming an increasingly popular and more recognised sport around the globe. In 2015, the first International Surfing Association’s (ISA) World Adaptive Surfing Championships was hosted in California, USA. Australia was close to follow, developing the nudie Australian Adaptive Surfing Titles at the Australian Surfing Championships, providing opportunities for Australia’s most talented adaptive surfers to be recognised on a national stage. Surfing Australia has provided a resource which outlines the classifications in competitive adaptive surfing. You can view the classifications here.

The classifications outline how people can surf in different ways, such as kneeling, laying or sitting. There is also a classification for people with visual impairment.

With these exciting developments in adaptive surfing, and the recent inclusion of surfing as a recognised olympic sport, only time will tell whether adaptive surfing will be included as a competition in the paralympic games. This video showcases the opportunities provided to adaptive surfers at the Australian Adaptive Surfing Titles. Take note of the different strategies and equipment the participants are using to ride the waves.

Let's Surf!

The beauty of adaptive surfing is that the boards can be modified according to the surfers abilities. I’ve come across some extremely innovative ideas! I’ve been able to discover some board accessories and features that adaptive surfers may use and I want to highlight just some of the ways people are participating; but the possibilities are certainly not limited.

 

Grab Handles

Handles can be installed on a board for people requiring some extra support to stabilise and stay on the board. For example, surfers who have experienced an amputation of an arm may benefit from a handle. Or, a person who has reduced movement in their legs may benefit from a handle to increase their stability when laying on a board. Handles can be placed on a board in varying positions according to the person’s needs. Below are examples of grab handles being used by adaptive surfers.

 

 

Boost Surfing: Electronic Fin

One of the latests advancements in surfing technology is the Boost Surfing Electronic Fin. This electronic fin can be attached to a surfers board. This can be used by people with and without impariments, and could be an option for surfers with physical limitations who may not be able to paddle on their own or may have difficulty paddling continuously. The Boost Surfing fin is  connected to a smartphone application so surfers can adjust the power and duration of the ‘boost’ based on their experience level and needs. It will be interesting to find out if this technology will be useful and widely adopted by adaptive surfers in the future. You can find out more here.

 


Adapted Surfboard Shapes

Boards can also be shaped to suit a surfer’s needs. Pictured below are examples of different ways a board can be shaped to support different abilities. For example, for people with lower limb amputations, ‘grooves’ can be shaped into the surfboard to assist in stabilising as the person kneels to ride a wave.


 

These are just some of the options out there today, but it’s most certainly not limited! The main message that I gained from researching adaptive surfing is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to enabling a person to participate. I think this is a valuable lesson, to be open-minded and to not be afraid to try something new. Innovative assistive equipment and thinking outside the square is making surfing more of an option for people with a disability on a social level.

I found it challenging to identify how to access surfing equipment to facilitate participation in adaptive surfing. Some people may not require extra equipment or a modified board, others may need significant adaptations for them to participate. In this case, finding a board shaper or manufacturer that can accomodate for these adaptations or extra accessories may be challenging and come at a cost. There’s got to be a board shaper who is up for a challenge out there somewhere!

Find Out More

There are many people and organisations spreading conversation and promoting participation in adaptive surfing for all ages and abilites. The Disabled Surfers Association of Australia supports people with an intellectual or physical disablity to spend a day at the beach and catch a wave. There are organisations in each state of Australia and there are also opportunities in New Zealand. See more here.

Surfing Australia provides updates on the latest events happening in surfing nation-wide. There is contact information on their website for surfing in each state of Australia. This may be a good place to start if you would like to find out what opportunities are available or to find like-minded people encouraging adaptive surfing participation.

Also, check out ‘Adaptive Surfers of Australia’ on Facebook!

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Clinicians of the Future Leisure

Adaptive Sports – What if?

 

Imagine training your whole life to compete in one event and then being told you are not allowed to participate.

This is what happened to Blake Leeper a US athlete who was training for the 2020 US summer games. Leeper is a double amputee athlete who utilises two running prosthetics which are often referred to as running blades. Leeper was told he was not able to compete in the summer games against able bodied athletes due to his running blades providing him with an unfair advantage. 

This is not the first time an adaptive athlete has been told they are not able to compete. Following his success at the 2004 Paralympics Oscar Pistorius was the first adaptive runner to compete against able bodied athletes. However in 2008 the World Athletics implemented rule 144.2 which prohibited the use of any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element which provides the user with an advantage over another athlete not using such device. 

Adaptive athletes running on blades in paraolympics

This ruling was based on research which found that running blades could provide an athlete with an advantage, however it has since been proven that the study which produced this research was poorly made and no follow up was completed. Future studies have actually proven this is not the case and that running prostheses do not provide runners with an unfair advantage, when all elements are taken into consideration including metabolic function and running style.

Pistorius fought this ruling and in 2012 became the first adaptive athlete to run in the Olympic games. Blake Leeper is currently fighting to have his ban lifted and to be allowed to complete against able bodied athletes just as Pistorius did.

Double amputee wearing running blades

Would Usain Bolt still be the fastest runner in the world if he used a running blade?

The 100m sprint world record is held by Usain Bolt in a time of 9.58 seconds. In comparison the fastest Paralympic 100m sprint time is held by Jayson Smyth who runs it in a time of 10.36. Jayson runs in the T13 category for track events as he is partially blind. Most Paralympic events have categories in which the competitors race depending on their impairment and the functional disadvantage this places them at in their sport. 

Johnnie Peacock is a sprinter from the United Kingdom who runs in the T44 category. Johnnie has a right leg amputation below the knee. Johnnie’s fastest time for the 100m is 10.75. The differences in these runners times are relatively small when you look at the full picture.  

Imagine if there was an exoskeleton that could be used by Jonnie Peacock! Would he run faster than Usain Bolt? What if Jayson Smyth had full vision maybe he would beat Usain Bolt?

Paralympic athletes can run at the same speed as able bodied athletes with prosthetic running blades using 25% less oxygen due to the prosthetic energy return. Running blades today are made form carbon fibre and return three times as much energy as the human ankle. Current studies have found that these running blades do not provide athletes with an unfair advantage due to other factors such as cardiovascular fitness and the inability of running blades to store energy as the human leg does. Engineers are working everyday to continue to improve running blades and who knows what may be possible in the future as technology continues to advance.

Johnnie Peacock competing at the 2017 World Para Athletics championships 

Speedo LZR full body suit

Swimming has been at the forefront of the assistive technology debate in the past in regards to racing suits and whether or not they provide participants with an advantage. The speedo LZR full body swim suit which was commonly seen at the 2008 Olympic games, made famous by Micheal Phelps was banned in 2010, after FINA the governing body of swimming announced they provided an unfair advantage by cutting down on fatigue and giving swimmers more buoyancy and speed. 

Currently there are prosthetic limbs which can be used in the water however the technology does not allow for diving in or exiting the pool and they may actually slow an elite swimmer down. Bionic limbs for use in the water are also being developed. The difference between prosthetics and bionics is that a person can control a bionic limb just as they would a regular limb using their brain. This is possible through computers and sensors in the bionics which detect the signals from the brain for muscle movement. With the rate that bionic limbs are developing today they may soon be able to outperform regular limbs. 

 

Double leg amputee wearing bionic limbs

 

If Ellie Cole was able to swim with a bionic leg would she be faster than Cate Campbell or Sarah Sjostrom

Sarah Sjostrom is the fastest women’s 50m freestyler in the world, holding the world record time of 23.67. In comparison Cate Campbell is the fastest women’s 50m freestyler on the Australian Olympic team and has a time of 23.78. Her team mate Ellie Cole won silver at the 2016 Paralympic game and swims the 50m freestyle in a time of 29.13 seconds. Ellie swims in the S9 category in Paralympic swimming as she has one leg which is amputated above the knee. 

When Ellie was three years old she had her right leg amputated due to a sarcoma, a life threatening cancer behind her right knee. She began swimming lessons as part of her rehabilitation and fell in love with the sport. Ellie made her first Paralympic games in 2008 at the age of 17 winning a silver and a bronze, and from there has continued her success winning gold at both the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. 

With the advances in technology we are seeing today who knows what could be possible in the future. If there is a bionic limb which could be used in the pool just as a regular limb would this piece of technology be considered an unfair advantage?  Or could we see adaptive swimmers utilising this technology and keeping up with or beating some of the fastest swimmers in the world?

Ellie Cole swimming the 50m freestyle at the 2016 Paralympics 

Dylan Alcott is a well known Australian wheelchair basketball and tennis player, Dylan was born with a tumour wrapped around his spinal cord, which was successfully removed when he was five weeks old, however due to the underdevelopment of his spinal cord Dylan was unable to functionally use his legs and was left a paraplegic. 

From an early age Dylan participated in many sports but his real love was basketball and in 2008 at the age of 17 he got the chance to represent his country at the Paralympics in the Australian wheelchair basketball team. Australia won gold at the 2008 Paralympics and to this day Alcott remains the youngest male wheelchair basketball player to win gold at the Paralympics. 

 

Dylan Alcott Playing basketball at the 2008 Paralympics
Dylan Alcott playing basketball at the 2008 Paralympics

 

After coming in second place at the 2012 Paralympics and taking home the silver medal Alcott shifted his focus from basketball to tennis. 

In 2015 he took home the Australian Open title and in 2016 the gold in the doubles and single events at the Rio Paralympics. Since then he has gone onto win the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Australian Open Wheelchair Tennis championships. Dylan is a huge advocate for people with disabilities promoting the message that “anything is possible” if you set your mind to it and work hard enough. 

One of the greatest able bodied tennis players in the world is Novak Djokovic. He has 17 grand slam titles to his name and has broken numerous records over the course of his career, he has even tried his hand at wheelchair tennis on the occasion.

Dylan Alcott competing in wheelchair tennis at the 2016 Paralympics

Who would win a game of wheelchair tennis, Dylan Alcott or Novak Djokovic? 

When playing tennis in a wheelchair it is essential to keep moving and turning the entire time to ensure that you are able to get to the ball and it takes an expert wheelchair user to be able to do this. Tennis wheelchairs are designed to be light weight and usually made from aluminium or titanium to ensure that they are quick and manoeuvrable. They have steep angled wheels which assist with this manoeuvrability and turning. They also have one smaller wheel at the back and two at the front, these are referred to as castors and they ensure stability making sure the chair does not tip when the player is moving around the court. As you could imagine it takes a lot of practice to get the hang of using this highly specialised chair.  

Djokovic and Alcott competing in wheelchair tennis

Learning about all these adaptive sports and the athletes who train so hard to be at the top of their game has been truly inspirational to me as an Occupational Therapy student. I think the message they leave will inspire people all across the world with all different types of disabilities to try their hand at sports. I believe with the continual development of all these new types of assistive technology and the incredible athletes we see today that the future of adaptive sports is going to be incredible. Who knows what could be possible. 

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Clinicians of the Future Professional Perspectives

5 Innovative Allied Health Start- ups

I want to preface this blog post by saying Thank-You to the team at Eazilee for allowing me to undertake such a fun project for the last 3 months. It has truly been a pleasure.

My project was called the “Digital Allied Health” project. This project was based around innovative allied health start-up companies and the products they are providing for clients and consumers. This project was designed to gather information on new and innovative allied health start-up companies and provide the information gathered to the consumers of Eazilee. Within this blog post, you will be able to find information on 5 Start-Up Companies that are changing the world with their new and innovative assistive technology and devices.

Aira

Founded in 2015, Aira or Artificial Intelligence and Remote Assistance is a start-up company started in San Diego, California. Aira have developed an app that aims to provide assistance to people who are visually impaired or blind. They aim to achieve this through the use of technology by enhancing their everyday experiences, occupational efficiency, independence and occupational engagement.

Aira Tech Corp has dedicated their time and efforts into making people lives easier, simpler and more fun. Aira employs a network of trained professionals and agents who remotely assist the visually impaired, called “Explorers”, with their occupations and tasks. 

For example the occupations they assist with can include: Crossing roads, going to visit family or going shopping. The Aira Agents are also able to connect with users who are deaf or hard of hearing by using the Messaging function on the app. Aira predominantly works through wearable and augmented reality, using the Aira Horizon Smart Glasses. These glasses allow the Agents of the “Explorers” to act as their eyes. These agents are connect to the “Explorers” through the Aira Application.

Person with Visual Impairment using Aira and Cane

The Aira App is a new and innovative technology different from what we are used to as clinicians and consumers providing an online and instant form of healthcare. The Aira.io App has been available to the public since 2017 and is available for all smart mobile phone users in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. The app can be found on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Aira have also teamed up with various businesses to ensure that they are inclusive for people who may be hard of hearing, deaf, blind or visually impaired.

Aira is available on a monthly package ranging from “Guest, Intro, Standard and Advanced”. Explorers are also able to add additional minutes if they exceed their limit which can be done by paying an additional one off fee.

The Packages Aira Offer include:
Guest Package: Access to the Aira Access Calls, Free Aira Offers and the Smart Phone App.

Introduction Package: Free 5 Minute call per 4 hours, 30 minutes of calls, All of the Guest Features, Connection with Agents 24/7 and a referral program.

Standard Package: Free 5 minute calls every 4 hours, 120 minutes of call time, All guest features, Connection with agents 24/7, referral program, and minute sharing with 2 other people.

Advanced Package: Free 5 minute calls every 4 hours, 300 minutes of call time, All guest features, Connection with agents 24/7, referral program, and minute sharing with 2 other people.

Package Pricing List:

US and Canada:                  Australia:                           New Zealand:                United Kingdom and Ireland:
Guest: Free                          Guest: Free                        Guest: Free                     Guest: Free
Intro: $29                             Intro: $40                            Intro: $40                        Intro: £24
Standard: $99                     Standard: $140                  Standard: $150             Standard: £79
Advanced: $199                 Advanced: $280                 Advanced: $300            Advanced: £159            

Open Bionics

Open Bionics are a bionics company that are developing affordable devices with the aim of enhancing the body. Open Bionics was founded in 2014, by Joel Gibbard and Samantha Payne. Based in Bristol UK, the team at Open Bionics are working closely with their consumers to develop devices that are especially suited to them. 

The team at Open Bionics have developed a multi-grip bionic hand called the Hero Arm. Each Hero Arm is custom built to match the needs and measurements of each client and can be purchased through private clinicians who are partnered with Open Bionics.

The Hero Arm works using myoelectric prostheses. Myoelectric is the term used for the electric properties that our bodies muscles have. Once the Hero Arm receives the electric signals produced by the muscles in the arms, the Hero Arm activates different grips with precision and proportional control. 

Not only do Open Bionics provide the Hero Arm, but they also develop Hero Arm Covers that can be customisable, or different designs as a way to personalise your Hero Arm. The Open Bionics Hero Arm differs from what we as clinicians are able to provide for individuals who have lost parts of their limb. The Here Arm device allows users to use the affected hand to complete occupations and engage in activities that they previously were unable to attempt.

The Hero Arm developed by Open Bionics is available privately through clinics that are partnered together. The prosthetic clinicians receive a 3D scan or physical case of the limb, and create a custom-built prosthetic Hero Arm. However, to be eligible for the Hero Arm, the individual must meet the certain requirements.

These requirements include:
-Below elbow difference
-Being aged 8 or over.

Unfortunately, The Hero Arm is not currently available for individuals under the age of 8 although Open Bionics are continuing to develop technologies with the aim to do so. Open Bionics aim to expand their reach from 2020 and onwards, where they currently provide their services to the following countries:
-The UK, USA, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the Netherlands.

As the Hero Arm is only purchasable through private clinics that are partnered with Open Bionics, the device itself may be out of reach for their target audience due to the expenses and place of residence.

The featured stories are an integral selling point for the Hero Arm developed by Open Bionics. Having numerous success stories, Open Bionics pride themselves in bringing joy to the individuals who are using their assistive technology device. Click here to read Open Bionics success stories.

Boy with Spider Man Bionic Hero Arm
Photo: Zac Dubin Courtesy of Open Bionics
Tilly Alita with two Bionic Hero Arm
Photo : Tilly Alita courtesy of Open Bionics

Consequential Robotics

Founded in 2016 by Sebastian Conran, Professor Tony Prescott and Dr Ben Mitchinson, Consequential Robotics are a robotics service that are engineering and developing next generation consumer and commercial robots. Consequential Robotics have the aim of developing robotic platforms and assistive systems that have the aim to enhance the quality of life of humans. Consequential Robotics work with a range of partners to help with the designs and development of their unique robotic systems. Consequential Robotics take the approach of “Building on Biomimetic, Appropriate Autonomy and Human-Centred Designs”.

Consequential Robotics have made their devices available for the public to purchase and are available in a wide range of countries. Consequential Robotics make the purchasing process easy by having the option to purchase their assistive devices on their website.

The MiRo

The MiRo is an autonomous robot that can be useful for people at all abilities and stages of their lives. The MiRo has an innovative operating system and has a wide range of sensors that can react to sound, touch and movement, allowing it to be an interactive device for all ages. The MiRo has been developed with the aim of building relationships between human and the robotic devices. The MiRo can share personal spaces and interact with their users, providing emotional engagement and entertainment. The MiRo is a device that is currently available to be purchased. The MiRo is currently priced at £2450 or $4420. 

The Intellitable

Consequential Robotics currently have devices available to purchase, as well as have devices that are in the developmental and prototyping stages. The “Intellitable” device is currently in the prototype phase. The “Intellitable” is a semi-autonomous table that is able to move on its own and adjust the height and altitude of the tables surface. The “Intellitable” is intended for domestic and industrial use. The “Intellitable” can be programmed using smartphones to be voice activated, as well as uses sonar and ceiling tracking optics to allow for self-learning navigation.

 

The Omniseat

The “Omiseat” is a wheelchair device that is in development by Consequential Robotics. The “Omniseat” was designed for domestic homes that have confined and restrictive space. The “Omniseat” has the ability to steer omnidirectionally, sideways driving, vertical seat positioning, and has a tilt function with automatic adjustments on ramps, which provides the users with more range of freedom than the traditional wheelchairs.

Consequential Robotics devices are useful for people with a range of abilities. The MiRo is helpful for building relationships and acts as an emotional support device. The Omniseat is helpful for individuals who require powered or manual wheelchairs. The Omniseat allows individuals to perform occupations to the best of their ability. The Ominseat provides their users with the ability to be independent when completing occupations.

What makes Consequential Robotics devices different from what we are used to in traditional practice, is that they focus on the autonomy aspect of their devices, with the aims of promoting independence and occupational engagement. However a potential barrier for some consumers can be the pricing of the devices.

Omni Seat

Wandercraft

Wandercraft was founded in 2012 by Nicolas Simon, Alexandre Boulanger and Matthieu Masselin. Wandercraft was established with the aim of helping the walking-impaired to walk again. Where they worked on developing a well-constructed team to design and produce an exoskeleton. In 2017, Wandercraft premiered their Exoskeleton, showing that a paraplegic person can walk using the device. In 2019, the Atalante Exoskeleton was made available for commercial use. In developing the self-balanced exoskeletons they aimed to emulate human walking with state of the art dynamic walking algorithms. The Wandercraft team believe that frequency, intensity and duration of the rehabilitation sessions is essential for efficient gait re-training.

The Wandercraft Atalante Exoskeleton is currently in use in European rehabilitation hospitals with the aim of assisting Stroke and Spinal Cord Injury patients re-learn gait. Wandercraft hope to be able to release the Atalante Exoskeleton to the public and clinicians in the USA in 2021. Wandercraft aim to develop “personal” versions of the exoskeleton within the “next few years” with no official date set. Wandercraft have an upcoming project that aims to create an Atalante Exoskeleton for children.

 The Atalante Exoskeleton empowers the therapists to provide rehabilitation sessions that are task and goal orientated, non-repetitive, challenging and stimulating. Wandercraft believe that completing occupations that are familiar to the individual will promote neuroplasticity and help regain their ability to walk. The Atalante Exoskeleton is controlled by a remote control program AGUI. Using the AGUI the Clinician is able to control the step-length and rhythm to fit the patient’s needs.

The Wandercraft Atalante Exoskeleton is different to what we are used to as clinicians and consumers and provides a new way of retraining gait in mobility impairment. The Atalante Exoskeleton is allowing individuals who are no longer able to walk, with the ability to walk autonomously.

Consumer Statements:
“He is so happy, this is the first time I have seen him motivated since his accident”
“It is amazing how quickly you can become one with the robot, it is super easy to use”

Click here to find out more about the Wandercraft Atalante.

Scewo

A Zurich Based Company, Scewo was founded in 2017 with the aims of developing a powered wheelchair, that is versatile and has the ability to climb and descent stairs safely which can be used daily. Scewo aim to “redefine life of disabled people with design and outstanding functionality”.

After several years of research and prototype development, in 2018 Scewo have been able to develop and launch a powered wheelchair that meets their criteria.

The Scewo bro is a modern and aesthetically pleasing designed electric powered wheelchair that comes with a wide variety of features and abilities.

These features and abilities include:
-The Scewo Bro has a unique set of LED headlights.
-The Scewo Bro can be controlled using the onboard joystick which controls the direction and driving speed. However, the driving modes can also be controlled and changed using the smartphone application.
-Range of functional modes: Driving Mode, Park Mode and Track Mode.
-The Scewo Bro can be also climb stairs with the push of a single button. The Scewo Bro lifts you on to the first step, where you control the speed and direction of the climb.
-Height adjustable seat to ensure that the users are able to fit under tables, as well as reach the top shelf.
-The Backrest of the Scewo Bro is electronically adjustable as the seat depth can be adjusted for your comfort.
-Has a Relax Function that tilts the seat, backrest and footrest so that the user can be in a relaxing position, which aims to relieve the pressure within the seat area and gives you time to relax.

The price of the Scewo Bro is ₣36’000 or $57,785 excluding VAT, transport costs and duty costs.

Click here to find out more about the Scewo Bro.

The Scewo Bro has been a success and is currently sold out. However, Scewo are currently taking Pre-Orders for their upcoming series of Scewo Bro which will arrive to its customers within the next year. At the current time, the Scewo Bro Is available for the following Countries; Switzerland, Austria and Germany. However, Scewo are aiming to expand and are working towards making the Scewo Bro more accessible to users who are required to use a powered wheelchair.

The Scewo Bro is useful for all individuals who are required to use a wheelchair as form of transportation and mobility. What makes the Scewo Bro electric powered wheelchair so unique and different is the wheelchairs ability to scale and climb stairs. For wheelchair users in the past, stairs have been a limiting factor, however the Scewo Bro eliminates that issue and allows its users to explore and access more areas of their community.

I hope you have found the information I have presented informative and valuable. As an Occupational Therapy Student, I am very excited to see what the future holds for the assistive technology world.

These incredible start-companies have been able to develop technologies and devices that are changing the way we are able to provide care, and are continuing to develop devices that will further enhance the way we live our lives.

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Clinicians of the Future Leisure

Run: Push the Boundaries

Let's Talk Running Prosthetics

Prosthetic advancements have enabled professional and recreational adaptive participants to engage in running. These advancements have allowed professional athletes to gain recognition on a world stage. Running feet come in a variety of designs and configurations. Some feet come complete with a toe and a heel section and others the toe section only, which are commonly known as ‘blades’. 

Blade designs are generally used by individuals for sprinting or distance running, which requires the prosthetic to mimic a ‘running on toes’ action. Running prosthetics are also made in different shapes according to the type of running.

Sprint prosthetics are often made in a ‘j’ shape. The ‘j’ shape exhibits a quick return of energy, like a spring, which supports the athlete to run at higher speeds. Specialised sole pads can be added to the sole of the blade to assist with traction.

Long distance prosthetics are often shaped like a ‘c’ as pictured below. The ‘c’ shape is more effective at storing and releasing energy over time, which supports the athelete to run over longer distance and requires less forceful input to be effective.

 

Ottock and Ossur are two leading prosthetic developers who are paving the way for many exciting advancements for people who have experienced limb loss. These advancements have empowered many athletes to be recognised on a world stage, and are inspiring others to push the boundaries too. They have even developed junior options as well. You can view more of their sports lines on the Ottobock and Ossur websites.

Prosthetics require correct alignment and set up to ensure they are moving correctly. They also require maintenance to prevent injury. Limbs 4 Life supports people who have experienced an amputation. They have information about prosthetic services and where to find them in Australia on their website.

Independence for Visually Impaired Runners

Usain Bolt as Guide Runner for visually impaired athlete

Commonly, runners with a visual impairment rely on a support person to run beside them to navigate. But, what happens when a support person isn’t available? The person simply can’t run. Technology is changing that!

I came across a new item of technology: The Wayband, by Wearworks. The Wayband is a wrist band device, that looks a bit like a watch and can be fastened on the wrist or upper arm. The band operates by using GPS signal which creates a virtual ‘corridor’. If the person goes off track, the band will signal by exhibiting haptic vibrations. If there are no vibrations, this means the person is on the right track. The band is still in pilot stages of testing, launching in April 2021. A blind marathon runner, named Simon Wheatcroft has been testing it out with fantastic results. View his story here.

The beauty about this technology is that it can be used by people requiring navigation for running or for those who are just out for a casual stroll! This is amazing innovation, enabling people with a visual impairment to walk or run with freedom and piece of mind that they’re on the right track.

Find out more about the Wayband on the Wearworks website.

Wayband by Wearworks. Image - Wearworks.
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Clinicians of the Future Leisure

Adaptive Sports – Role Models

As a part of my fourth year occupational therapy project placement at Eazilee, I completed a research project looking predominately at the influence that adaptive sports role models have on people with disabilities and adaptive sport engagement. 

Throughout this project I discovered minimal research evidence exploring adaptive sports influencers. However, through identifying a number of adaptive athletes and seeing the work they are doing to advocate and educate, it is clear to me that adaptive sports role models are having a positive impact on people with disabilities, encouraging sport engagement as well as more broadly helping to combat traditional views of disability, diversity and excellence.

Vanessa Low at the Rio Paralympics

Adaptive Sports

So what are adaptive sports?

Adaptive sport refers to the modification of a given sport to accommodate for the varying ability levels of an individual with a disability. A key feature of adaptive sports is the provision of assistive technology to facilitate independent participation.

Research suggests that participation in adaptive sports and recreation is found to have a positive effect on overall health, quality of life and social wellbeing. Participation in adaptive sports also combats traditional views of disability, challenges negative attitudes and provides a sense of freedom and success.

The Australian Wheelchair Rugby Team

Assistive Technology Used by Adaptive Athletes

The most common assistive technology used to enable participation in elite and recreational sports include:
  • Manual wheelchairs: Used in sports such as tennis, rugby and basketball. Frames, seats and wheels are customised to the individual which can enhance performance and cater to the individuals body type and physical needs
  • Prosthetics: Come in a variety of designs to suit the athletic purpose. Lower limb prosthetics can be used for ambulation in running, jumping and climbing sports and act to mimic the spring like movement of the human ankle complex. Upper limb prosthetics can be used to participate in sports such as golf, fishing and sailing.
  • Non-wheeled seated technology: Can be used to offer stability to athletes needing a stable base for throwing sports such as shotput, discuss and javelin.

Role Models

Dylan Alcott - Wheelchair Basketball & Tennis

Dylan is an Australian wheelchair tennis and basketball athlete. Dylan had a tumor on his spinal cord at birth which had to be removed leading to paraplegia. Dylan has been incredibly resilient and to date has achieved the following and more:

  • Paralympic gold & silver medalist in both wheelchair basketball and tennis 
  • At age 17 became the youngest Australian “Rollers” basketball player
  • At age 18 received a medal of The Order of Australia
  • 2016 GQ Sportsman of the year & Paralympian of the year 
  • 9 x tennis Grand Slam Champion
  • Motivational speaker, radio host and author of the book “Able” 
  • Podcast host of “listenABLE” – aiming to change perceptions of what it’s like living with a disability https://www.podcastoneaustralia.com.au/podcasts/listenable
  • Founder of the Dylan Alcott Foundation: helping people with disabilities to fulfil their potential. In 2019 the foundation funded the first “Ability Fest” – universally accessible music festival in Melbourne  https://dylanalcottfoundation.com.au/ability-fest/
  • Founder of ”Get skilled access” – Works alongside organisations to create accessible and inclusive workplaces https://getskilledaccess.com.au/our-services/
  • Get skilled access has also recently started the Sports4All program which provides schools and sporting clubs with the tools and training to create inclusive sporting environments and opportunities https://getskilledaccess.com.au/making-australia-a-sporting-nation-for-all-abilities-sport-4-all/
  • Is currently about to launch “Able Foods” – A company lead by people with disabilities with the aim to provide healthy, ready made meals to help people with disabilities live healthier and happier lives https://ablefoods.com.au/

Dylan is a tireless advocate for people with disabilities. He does some really impactful work to change global perceptions of disability, advocate for people with disabilities and provide inclusive opportunities both in the sporting community and more broadly. 

Madison de Rozario - Wheelchair Racing

Madison is an Australian wheelchair racing athlete. Madison acquired a spinal cord injury at age four due to a neurological condition called Transverse Myelitis. Madison has since gone on to see some incredible sporting achievements as well as mentor and encourage younger athletes. Some of her achievements include: 

Madison does some great work in encouraging and mentoring young people with disabilities to engage in wheelchair sports and is a great role model for many young athletes.

Beatrice (Bebe) Vio - Fencing

Bebe is an Italian fencing athlete. At age 11 Bebe was affected my severe meningitis leading to an infection and the amputation of both legs from the knee down and both arms from the forearms. After three months of intense rehabilitation she returned to fencing with the use of a custom wheelchair and a hook system in her forearm to which she fits a prosthesis and then the fencing sword. Since then has achieved the following and more:

  • Competed at the paralympics as the first fencer without arms worldwide and won gold and bronze at the 2016 Rio paralympic games for the individual and team event (Gold medal moment seen in the video above)
  • Bebe will compete in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Parlympic games
  • Was the torch bearer at the London 2012 Olympics
  • 2014 Italian Paralympic athlete of the year
  • Has won four European Championship gold medals, three World Championship gold medals 
  • 2017 Laureus world sports awards – Sports person of the year with a disability at age 19
  • Author of “If it seems impossible then it can be done” & “They gave me a dream” 
  • Motivational speaker and campaigner for early vaccination 
  • Co-founder of Art4Sport – a non-profit organisation that uses sport as therapy for young people recovering from limb amputation and adapting to the use of prosthetics https://www.art4sport.org/
  • Featured in the 2020 Netflix documentary – Rising Phoenix. This documentary is incredibly moving and features a number of elite athletes who reflect on the Paralympic games https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyjOEFEO3I8
Bebe does a lot to change global perceptions of disability, encourage sport participation and has a particular drive to ensure the Paralympic games are more recognised. I was incredibly moved by the Netflix documentary “Rising Phoenix” which Bebe featured in. This documentary does an incredible job at giving viewers an insight into the lives of a number of incredibly talented para-athletes, which as a health professional I found helped shift my clinical view of disability to one that is more person centred.  

Ryley Batt - Wheelchair Rugby

Ryley is an Austrlian wheelchair rugby athlete. Ryley was born without legs and with webbed fingers which he had surgery to seperate. Up until the age of 12, Ryley refused to use a wheelchair and instead mobilised using a skateboard. After seeing a demonstration of wheelchair rugby at his school, he started using a wheelchair and got into playing wheelchair rugby shortly after. Since then he has achieved some incredible things including:

  • Competed at the 2004 Paralympic games with the Australian Steelers wheelchair basketball team where he was the youngest Paralympic rugby player at age 15
  • Achieved silver at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, and gold at both the 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games
  • Achieved two silver and one gold medal across three World Championships
  • Finalist in the 2012 Australian Paralympian of the year
  • Order of Australian Medal 2014
  • Three awards at the New South Whales Institute of Sport Awards 
  • Featured in the 2020 Netflix Documentary “Rising Phoenix”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bnTmIpHlsI
  • Co-captain for the upcoming Paralympics in Tokyo
Ryley is an incredible athlete, advocate and role model for people with disabilities. I highly recommend watching the Netflix documentary to get a better insight into the life of Ryley Batt and his path to the Paralympics.

Vanessa Low - Athletics

Vanessa is a German-born Australian Paralympic athlete in sprinting and long jump. At age 15 Vanessa lost balance on a railway platform, being struck by a train severing her left leg. Doctors were forced to amputate her right leg during life saving surgery. She was in a coma for two month and after that took two years to relearn to walk with her prosthetic legs. Since then she has returned to sport and achieved some incredible things including:

  • Has received ten World Championship medals across both long-jump and the 100m sprint
  • Received the gold medal in long-jump and silver medal in the 100m sprint at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games
  • 2015 broke the long-jump world record by 19cm!
  • 2019 Athletics Australia Female para-athlete of the year 
  • National Rail Safety Ambassador 

Vanessa speaks a lot in the media about the challenges she has overcome, promotes road safety and displays the fashionable prosthetic covers she uses as seen in the images above (one being her wedding photo where both her and her partner are wearing them). Vanessa is a talented athlete and role model who has demonstrated great resilience to get to where she is today.

 

Reflection

As an able-bodied athlete myself and soon to be health professional, I found this research thoroughly enjoyable, impactful and informative. Gaining a better insight into adaptive sports, the assistive technology available, the benefits of adaptive sports and the impact that sports role models can have on global perceptions of disability, has undoubtedly lead to me being more informed and better equiped to assist people to engage in adaptive sports as an occupational therapist. 

This research has helped me to see disability through an entirely new “lens” and has shifted my views from what I now understand to be a more clinical view of disability, to one that is more person-centred. I have gained a further passion for empowering people to reach their highest potential, whether that be in sports or other meaningful activities. I hope the role models and education presented in this blog have impacted readers in one way or another and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for assistive technology and adaptive sports. 

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Professional Perspectives

Adaptive Fashion – my experience as an able bodied young adult

Recently we had the pleasure of working with a group of 4th Year Occupational Therapy Students from Deakin University in Geelong, Australia. Each of these students spent 3 months with us delving into the world of adaptive design, fashion and assistive technology. One of our students was honored to take out the prize for best presentation sharing her perspectives on adaptive fashion with her graduating class. We would love to share it with you.

By Madi Jones

If I think back to my early teenage years one of my favourite things to do on school holidays was to get a group of my friends and take the one-hour bus to the next town, where we could find a bigger shopping centre then country target. Now for me this was so much fun! It gave me and my friends a sense of freedom, maturity and just enjoying trying on clothes and having fun. Then when I got home my poor mother would have to put up with my little fashion show, where I would put on all my new clothes and show her how many different ways I could wear them so she wouldn’t get too mad about me spending more of my money on clothes “I didn’t need”.

But Imagine, if myself or one of my friends required clothes that were adaptive. I imagine these trips would not be nearly as enjoyable for that person. When we finally got to the shopping centre where would we shop? Yes, most shopping centres are accessibility friendly but what about accessing, cramped stores filled with racks and racks of clothes that just are not appropriate or change rooms that are not big enough for a wheelchair or even just high displays that make it impossible for wheelchair users to access without assistance.

Then once I got home trying to convince my mum that my shopping trip was necessary by saying, now imagine this jacket when its hemmed to cater for my adaptive body shape or my wheelchair or these jeans are practical and I can wear them with everything but whilst I’m sitting in my wheelchair they are two short or leave my lower back exposed. I don’t think she would have appreciated it much as I would have to also pay for the alterations or make her do it. I think about this and what it would feel like to be in this situation and all it does is make me feel so privileged that I don’t have these issues and so uneducated that I have never researched adaptive fashion, I would be oblivious to these challenges.

Over the last 3 months I have been researching adaptive fashion, whilst doing so I have come across companies that make adaptive clothes that are fashionable and practical. This made me feel hopeful that there are companies that are accessible to those who need it and giving them an option to express themselves through their clothes choosing designs that work for them. But then I started looking a bit deeper and feelings of frustration started to creep in as themes started to emerge. Not all, but some of these companies had maybe 5 options of different styles of clothing, the price was way over anything I would buy unless it was a nice occasion and worst of all, most of these companies did not ship to Australia. This is not okay!

I have a challenging body and when it comes to buying bathers, I prepare myself and whoever I’m shopping with, to be ready for full-on tears and tantrums when I can’t find bathers that fit me that I like. I can guarantee that if I wasn’t as picky with a style or design I probably wouldn’t get as upset but this happens 90% of the time. The difference is for me that I eventually find a store that has bathers that I like and that fit as I have options to do so. Those who need, not even just want but need these adapted clothes do not have the opportunity to be a picky and that is not fair especially for the young teenager who just wants to go to the shopping centre with her friends on the school holidays or buy that item of clothing that suits them in every way with the ease, options, and accessibility as everyone else.

According to the Australian Bureau of statistics approximately one in five Australians reported having a disability in 2015. All these people need clothes why are we not catering for them? Why do brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Nike provide adapted clothes to the US but not to Australia?

In researching this topic, it gave me the opportunity to explore a topic that I had never heard of or considered. This has reminded me that I am still yet to experience and be exposed to so many different aspects of occupational therapy and the different types of assistive technology and how it can influence the lives of those who need it. It has also reminded me to ensure that I am taking a holistic approach when working with a client and to not overlook the “little” occupations that we do every day without a second thought, such as getting dressed in the morning.

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Clinicians of the Future Leisure

Adaptive Skiing: Push the Boundaries

Adaptive Skiing

Imagine the feeling of gliding across the snow after experiencing limitations which reduce your feeling of freedom. Adaptive skiing is described by many as a having a sense of freedom, exhilaration and accomplishment. Participation in adaptive skiing dates back to World War II, when injured troops made their own skis from their crutches to return to their beloved activity. Since then, technology in adaptive skiing has come a long way. It is amazing to see how technology now enables people of all ages, abilitites and skill levels, to ski. I want to showcase the ways people are participating in this thrilling sport, using various items of adaptive equipment which suit different abilities.

Sit-Skiing

There are various options for people who participate in sit-skiing. A sit ski involves a seat called a ‘bucket’, which is attached to either one or two skis. Items called ‘outriggers’ are used for extra stability, and aid in steering the ski. Sit skis are designed so that a participant’s legs are fastened to the bucket and are able to load on and off a chair lift.

A mono ski is where the bucket is atached to only one ski. A skiier will often use two outriggers, which are similar to crutches, but with ski-like attachements on the bottom. Adapative skiiers who use a mono ski may have a lower limb impairment which means they need to be seated to participate. A mono-ski is more commonly used by more advanced and confident skiiers, requiring limited supports.

 

A dual-ski is where the bucket is attached to two skis. A dual-ski is a great option for someone who requires more stabillity, as the two skis provide an extra base of support when on the snow. If a skiier requires extra support for steering, they can be guided by another skiier by attaching tethers or bars to the rear of the bucket.

Ski Prosthetics

The progression of technology also enables people who have had an amputation to participate in standing skiing. Sports prostheses have been developed to enable people to paticipate in skiing after experiencing above or below knee amputations. The ProCarve Sports Prosthesis by Ottobock incorporporates hydrolic technology to dampen impact and support dynamic movement. This means the prosthetic can be used for other sports which involve similar movements, such as wakeboarding or water skiing. This prosthetic is just one example of a product used by both recreational and professional adaptive skiiers, as shown below.

Find Out More

Skiing is one of the most progressed adaptive sports, enjoyed world-wide. Therefore, information about adaptive skiing was more accessible. When you think about the progression of adaptive snow sport technology, evolving from modified crutches, to high tech prosthesis and skis, it is amazing to see the progression and possibilities that technology can bring people with various limitations. If a person was to participate on a recreational level, cost may be a barrier to participation. Ski gear does not come cheap! However, for people wanting to give it a go, there are options for equipment hire and some organisations provide adaptive ski options and programs for people of all ages and various levels ability.

Check out Disabled Winter Sport Australia to find out more about the adaptive ski programs available in Victoria and New South Wales.