Innovation for Independence

FES free gait walking (rehabilitation and exercise) aid

Publish date:
16/01/2015 - 12:46pm
Last updated:
16/01/2015 - 12:49pm
Active Design

Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a technique that uses small electrical charges to improve mobility for individuals with paralysis resulting from a spinal cord injury (SCI), head injury, stroke and other neurological disorders. It has proved to be an excellent rehabilitation and exercise tool to build up and maintain a strong and healthy body to help individuals face a barrage of underlying complications in addition to their medical condition. It is already commonly used and commercially available for specialist exercise bikes and rowing machines at home or for leisure activities. Clinically, FES has been integrated with static walking exercisers but the size of the apparatus and assistance needed limits home use for many individuals. Control of the FES electrical impulses have now become so sophisticated that unsupported FES walking has been achieved in a clinical environment and has opened the opportunity to develop an independent and mobile FES walking aid for rehabilitation and exercise with the possibility of becoming an alternative aid to a wheelchair for some users. The idea is to commercially develop a safe and fully supportive mobile walking frame that houses the FES controller to assist the user to independently replicate a basic walking gait. We don’t have an image of our current idea however, I have attached an image of our original concept.

Insight & Impact

There is a real demand in the market for mobility aids for the next technological innovation that can offer more than the convenience of a manual wheelchair and can empower the user to become a more active and inclusive member of our society. Being able to move around in an upright position would open up access to a whole host of opportunities that are designed or limited to able bodied people. A standing and walking mobility aid would not only provide practical but also significant psychological and health benefits. Standing wheelchairs and standing aids such as Easystands and Parapodiums have helped to some extent and the recent development of exoskeletons are providing a glimmer of hope where stem cell research has lacked but an active mobility aid that makes use of the users own body and muscles to power a walking motion would be most beneficial. The idea has been developed in collaboration between two companies, The Design Orchard, a product design consultancy who have researched and worked on various mobility aid designs and Active Linx, who supply specialist equipment for the disabled and is headed up by an active wheelchair user and former Paralympian. We don’t have an image of our current idea as our thinking on the solution has changed during our ongoing research, however I have attached an image of our original concept

Skills needed for this project

  • Legislative & legal advice
  • Expert clinical advice