12 Aug 2020

London, Ont. physical therapist creates new type of walker to help prevent dangerous falls

Wagner Souza, MIF’20 alumnus, was 19 years old when he was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis which impaired his ability to walk, and that has inspired him to help others get around more easily.

“I know first hand how difficult it is to rely on assisted devices because I have used them all. I’ve used canes, I’ve used walkers and I’ve had to rely on wheelchairs as well.”

Souza, who holds a PhD in neuroscience, says he also knows how easy it is to accidentally fall while using devices like walkers. He wanted to one day find a way to improve assisted walking devices.

“To date, 500,000 Canadians rely on walkers, 200,000 in Ontario alone and those people, some of them will fall, and some of them will end up dying with that fall.”

In fact, Souza says it’s specifically walkers that are the largest problem when it comes to falls.

“People fall seven times more when using a walker, over the cane,” says Souza. “That’s because walkers demand bi-lateral braking, so you have to pull and use the brakes manually.”

That’s why Souza and his team at Thalamus Assistive Technologies have come up with a new walker design. The walker brakes on its own, it can monitor gait, and the seat is where the person walks so no more pivoting around a walker to sit down.

“It is very smart in the sense that it will allow you less dual-tasking demands and less cognitive demands to perform.”

The walkers are in the pre-production phase and the team now is hoping to secure funding so the devices can be produced. The ultimate goal will be to improve the lives of many people.

“I want to help people and to give them this perception that even though I have a limitation, I can do more, I can go further, and I can live a better life.”

This article appeared in CTV News London.

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