Every four years, the Paralympics show us the cutting edge of assistive tech
The 2020 Paralympics held in 2021 will be a global window on assistive tech. Every four years new technology brings extra excitement to the arena and goes on to change disabled people's lives. We could see these recent assistive tech innovations at this year's Paralympics.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) uses the Paralympics to raise the profile of assistive tech: Any tech that gives people with disabilities more independence. Assistive tech can improve access to any part of life where disabled people face barriers, from eating to travel, sport to work. Alongside funding research into anything that can improve access for people with disabilities, the IPC funds research into assistive tech.
Several tech innovations in recent years have potential for use by this year's Paralympians. Here are some you could see.
Affordable artificial limbs
Assistive tech can be a game-changer, if you can afford it. For many with disabilities, getting hold of the technology is a bigger barrier than speed of innovation.
Motorica is one company emphasizing affordability in developing prostheses. They think all people living without limbs should be able to access start-of-the-art artificial limbs – body-powered and bionic arms and legs designed for individual need.
With the level of technology they employ, it's great that Motorica builds cybersecurity into all their products.
Technologies that debuted at Cybathlon
Multi-sport assistive tech championship Cybathlon is a four-yearly event that sees many new assistive technologies burst onto the scene. It aims to encourage innovation with the latest materials and developments in areas like AI and robotics.
Cybathlon sees disabled people using assistive tech to compete in events designed to mimic everyday challenges. It's this 'everyday' angle that's made Cybathlon the birthplace of assistive tech from the futuristic to the home-made.
High-performance Para-badminton chairs
Badminton enters the Paralympics for the first time at Japan 2020. High-performance para-badminton brings unique challenges for sports wheelchair design. Chairs must perform a wide range of pulls, quick pivots and have backward-bend stability. Although basic para-badminton only needs a chair with front and back stabilizers, IPC expects to see some exciting chair designs on the courts.
New assistive tech adds another angle to para-sport, but it also raises questions about financial access to technology. These questions aren't unique to the Paralympics. What does winning mean when your competitor can't afford the best kit? How do we make competition fair in an unequal world?