Engineering the “dis” out of “disability.”

W

e hear a lot about the tragedy of disability, and the meager tools those affected have to compensate. A paralyzed person has a wheelchair, the blind have canes and dogs. Little else can be done economically to help the disabled, but engineers constantly seek to change that.

These economic solutions start as new, typically expensive ideas. Wheelchairs, for example, were impossibly expensive until the late 1800’s.

Claire wearing her bionic suit. (Image from spinal-research.org)

Today, engineers helping the disabled work in new fields. With the explosion of technology, a lot of previously impossible things have become possible, and a lot of previously expensive things have become affordable.

Here’s one sign of that: Google’s driverless car, which we’ve mentioned before, has finally been legalized in America—Nevada is the first state to approve Google’s driverless car. Driverless cars would be awesome for anyone who wants to take a nap on their way to work, but of course their designed purpose was to help keep the blind (and elderly) mobile.

Another example: A woman named Claire Lomas from London became the first paralyzed person to walk a marathon. It took her 16 days to do it, but she did it. Claire was paralyzed at 27 but got lucky enough to test the “ReWalk” suit, which mimics the movement of a person’s legs.

Exoskeletons have applications in the military, but will most commonly be used to help the disabled get around

Of course, these new ideas have yet to become cheap and widely available. But in terms of progress, these are good steps forward.

Every good engineer has some sort of passion. Some might want to develop the most incredible, innovative robot the world has ever seen. Some may want to build the first moon base. Some may want to build bridges, and some may want to solve some other kind of problem.

But every engineer has something in common: every one of them wants to solve some kind of problem. And if you happen to be passionate about helping the disabled—for whatever reason—check out the articles below…

…and study mechanical engineering or computer science. Because those are the tools you’ll need to build driverless cars, bionic suits, or any unique solution you think of.

Read on:

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