Spinal Cord Injuries and Adaptive Technology

Spinal cord injuries can have a lifelong effect on victims. Paralysis of one or more body parts can make even simple, everyday tasks difficult for those living with a spinal cord injury. Luckily, there are modern pieces of technology that can help make the lives of these people easier and increase their self sufficiency. This technology oftentimes falls under the branch of “adaptive technology”. On this page, I will discuss common forms of adaptive technology that can assist with driving, communicating, environmental control, and mobility.

Adaptive Technology for Driving

Driving relies heavily on the use of a person’s hands and feet. If someone sustains an injury that leaves their hands/feet paralyzed, it can make driving impossible in a traditional motor vehicle. Luckily, adaptive technology has allowed to modified motor vehicles that help people facing a spinal cord injury drive. These cars are usually designed so that a person can use their hands to operate the vehicle. Even a person with limited use of their upper body can likely drive one of these adapted cars.

If your loved one can no longer drive a traditional motor vehicle, you can look into adapted cars for them. There might be a type of vehicle out there that they can operate given their abilities. Keep in mind that to operate one of these vehicles, your loved one will have to get a new license from the DMV.

Adaptive Technology for Communicating

Some spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries can damage a person’s vocal cords and their ability to speak and communicate. If your loved one is suffering from a communication issue, a computer is the best type of adaptive technology to help them. If your loved one has the use of their hands, they can use a traditional computer to work, communicate, shop, do research, and more. In the event that your loved one cannot use their hands, there are special computers that will respond to other body movements, such as head movements, certain types of breathing, and blinking.

Adaptive Technology for Environment Control

Performing day to day tasks in the home or in a person’s environment can be made difficult by a spinal cord injury. In the home, there are technology options to make simple tasks such as turning lights on and off, answering a phone, opening or closing doors, changing the temperature, etc., easier. Just as with computers, this technology can be controlled through voice command, blinking, head motions, and more.

Less complex technology such as ramps, guardrails, wider doors, and more, can also be utilized. Some of these changes are simple enough projects to do yourself. Others may require the help of a professional. But, they can assist your loved one as they learn to navigate their environment given their new circumstances.

Adaptive Technology for Mobility

Mobility can be a significant challenge for those suffering from a spinal cord injury. The best type of technology to help with mobility is the wheelchair. There are two major types of wheelchair to consider for your loved one – the manual wheelchair and the power wheelchair. When deciding which is best, consider the following questions:

  • Can your loved one propel a wheelchair on their own?
  • What is your loved one’s everyday environment like?
  • Will you or your loved one frequently have to transport the wheelchair?
  • Does the wheelchair commonly need to go in and out of tight spaces?

Understanding what your loved one needs from a wheelchair can help you find the right fit for them.

Getting Help

Taking advantage of adaptive technology can be extremely beneficial for someone facing a spinal cord injury. For assistance finding the right resources for your loved one, you can contact my office.

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