Claire Lomas, promoted by the media as the “Bionic Woman” just made history and sparked inspiration by completing the London Marathon in 16 days. Averaging about two miles per day, this woman with below-chest paralysis walked her 26.2 miles to finish proudly in 36,000th place. She did so with the help of a ReWalk suit, a supportive family, and the goal of raising money for spinal cord injury research.
The ReWalk suit resembles closely the Ekso suit that I wrote about previously and raises similar questions. They both enable people with spinal cord injuries to stand and walk. They are heralded by the companies as tools to enhance rehabilitation, mobility, and dignity. They also both leave me with the same uncomfortable uncertainty: is this progress or ableism? (See link above for a full delineation of this uncertainty and a lengthy discussion in the comments section). (more…)