Power Wheelchairs Could Soon Be Fitted With a Smart Safety System

Power Wheelchairs
Photo : Stephen B Calvert Clariosophic / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Power wheelchairs may soon come equipped with a "smart" safety system.

Eleven-year-old Betsy Pringle was born with muscular dystrophy. She has been chosen as one of the less than 10 people participating in the trial of LUCI.

For the past six years, Betsy has been using a power wheelchair to move around. That can also be a concern as her chair could tip over if is she is not paying attention to her surroundings. She said participating in the trial of LUCI was an exciting experience for her as now there is no more risk of her hitting her pet, siblings, or walls, or even going off any curbs. 

Betsy's mom, Anne, is just as excited and thinks that her daughter will become more independent because of LUCI. Betsy can now roam and explore the neighborhood safely. She is also able to play like the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. And her mom does not need to worry about her encountering an accident

Anne said that LUCI gives her peace of mind knowing that she would be alerted in case something untoward happens. However, what is even better is that LUCI can prevent accidents from happening in the first place.

LUCI makes power wheelchairs safer

LUCI is the latest technology developed by Barry Dean and his brother, Jered. His 19-year-old daughter, Katherine, has cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair. The idea of developing LUCI came when Barry discovered that no one has yet come up with an invention to make wheelchairs safer

Barry and Jered then developed a device that will make power wheelchairs safer for its users. LUCI can be mounted to a power wheelchair. It combines radar, sensors, and a camera to let the wheelchair sense its surroundings. The device also has communication and alerts capabilities plus voice activation compatibilities. 

Betsy was chosen to be part of LUCI's pilot program thanks to Cathy Carver. Cathy is a physical therapist at UAB's Spain Rehabilitation Center. They met at an event that Cathy's community program organized. Betsy participated in the event to help show other kids how to interact with kids with disabilities. The two have been in constant communication since. 

Cathy Carver later learned that the company was looking for people to participate in the LUCI pilot. She then thought of Betsy. According to her, Betsy is best qualified to test and give feedback about LUCI. She had the opportunity to ask Betsy when the eleven-year-old returned to Spain Rehabilitation Center to get fitted with a new wheelchair.

Over the next few months, Betsy will test the device. She will afterward provide her feedback about her experience using LUCI. The information that she will provide will be used to refine the device before making it available to the public.

As for Cathy, she told WTVY that she sees the technology becoming part of every wheelchair in the future. Pringle agrees and she added that this type of technology gives her a lot of peace of mind. 

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