Father hacks power wheelchair so his son can navigate the world

Credit: CNET

Everyone here at Dvice loves technology. The reason why is fairly simple: it presents a future that so recently seemed unimaginable. It can make daily tasks easier or offer possibilities we never even considered. And sometimes, in rare clear wonderfully beautiful moments, it can change someone’s life. Not a change like a you-can-now-store-your-copy-of-Yeezus-on-the-cloud change, but a change that takes the way someone experiences the outside world and completely turns it on its head.

These are the moments in which technology embodies its inherent promise to us. It happened for a little girl named Emma, who was given the necessary exoskeletal prosthetic via 3D printing. And it has recently happened to 2-year-old Alejandro, thanks to his father Shea.

Alejandro suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which severely limits his ability to move. While most 2-year-olds are discovering the world, Alejandro is confined to a wheelchair. A power wheelchair could make this easier, but his health insurance won’t cover it for another five years.

His father found this completely unacceptable, so he decided to build one himself. He began with an $800 adult-sized powered wheelchair from eBay, which he then completely modified (both in size and how it is controlled).

Writes Shea: "Alejandro's toes, while quite weak, seem to respond faster to his motor intentions than his two working fingers, so I decided to focus my efforts there.”

So he “hacked” the wheelchair’s power system to create foot pedal controls, specifically designed for Alejandro. The boy, who used to have absolutely no control over his movements, over exploring the world outside of his chair, can now move around as he pleases.

Check out the video below to watch Alejandro using his new chair. Prepare to get emotional. Might I recommend a box of tissues?

For an extremely detailed description of how Shea hacked the wheelchair (written by Shea), check out the origin link.

Hacking SMA, Via CNET

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