Rolling Inspiration recently attended the first demonstration in Africa of the revolutionary Ekso Skeleton at the Netcare Rehabilition Centre in Aucklandpark.

Manufactured by ekso Bionics, Ekso is a wearable, battery-operated bionic exoskeleton that enables patients with extremity weakness, or paralysis to stand and walk on level surfaces. It is a ready to wear, battery powered, bionic device that is strapped over the user's clothing.

Motors power the hip and knee joints, and all motion is initiated through the use of an external controller. The device enables the patient to stand and walk with assistance of either a front rolling walker, or crutches.

The physical therapist uses the control pad to program the desired walking parameters, such as step length and speed, as well as control when the Ekso stands, sits, and takes a step. It is powered by two high-capacity lithium batteries that drive the hip and knee motors.

The device weighs approximately 23 kg. The user doesn't support the weight of the device as it is transferred into the ground through the Ekso structure. The walking speed of Ekso depends on a patient's aptitude and condition. It allows walking speeds up to 1 mph. This version of

Ekso is intended for use in a medically supervised environment and the company is launching a personal version in 2014.

Cerebral Palsy conference in Cape Town

The conference takes place on the 20th to 22nd May, at The Upper Eastside Hotel in Woodstock will draw great interest from the association in Southern Africa and will ensure a healthy exchange of views. Delegates will be provided with the unique experience of gaining the latest information with regards to issues the association is currently facing. The event will draw interesting speakers. Cerebral Palsy in South Africa today faces many challenges. This conference, organised by the National Association for Persons with Cerebral Palsy (NAPCP) will explore some of the global methods and best practices in education and caring for people with Cerebral Palsy.

With a captive target market comprising of industry leaders, the education sector, local and national government, NGO’s, medical practioners, corporations, professional societies, publishers, universities, training facilities, therapists, legal fraternity, suppliers and service providers the conference will afford the opportunity to discuss matters of common interest and concerns and provide an understanding of different solutions to challenges.

Call for papers

Submit a presentation- this is an opportunity to:

Help others understand the challenges you face as an individual with Cerebral Palsy, how you are overcoming them, and the type of assistance that works;

Outline to colleagues and friends what you and your organisation are doing to assist individuals with Cerebral Palsy overcome the challenges they face;

The way forward -SASCA congress - report back

The Southern African Spinal Cord Association (SASCA) recently hosted its biennial congress in Cape Town from 22-24 November 2012.

International speakers shared the latest trends in spinal cord injury treatment and rehabilitation with the delegates. Dr Jennifer Hastings and Dr Brian Kwon - leaders in the field of rehabilitation - were some of the keynote speakers at the event.

Dr Jennifer Hastings specialises in physical therapy and hails from the University of Puget Sound in the USA. She presented a pre-congress workshop on balance, transfers and seating and attendees learnt some great new techniques for use on their patients to enable them to be more independent. She also presented on three issues: Seating and wheelchair prescription for optimal function, Preventing musculoskeletal pain and The Future in rehabilitation and mistakes to avoid.

Dr Brian Kwon is an orthopedic surgeon with a PhD in Neuroscience and who comes from the Department of Orthopedics at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. He works with patients in the spinal unit and he is very involved with research in the field of spinal cord regeneration. His keynote speech "Stem cells for spinal cord Injury - Fact or Fiction" was very informative and he stated that although research is promising unfortunately we still have a lot of work to do before stem cells can be regarded as a cure.

Local speakers presented many papers and attendees are now much better equipped and informed to treat their patients.

DoC launches ICT strategies for the disabled

The Department of Communications (DoC) has developed a Disability and Information Communication Strategy that will provide a platform to support and create opportunities for the youth and people with disabilities. The DoC has been active in pursuing and identifying gaps to ensure persons with disabilities enjoy the benefits of using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). They initiated a systemic approach to ensure mainstreaming disability in order to improve access to services by incorporating universal design, universal access and ICTs for people with disabilities using technology and services.

The launch of these strategies coincided with Disability Awareness Month in November, with the theme of last year's International Day of Disabled Persons (IDDP) being "Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all."

Consultation and engagement with stakeholders ensured that viewpoints were expressed and interests considered. Disability is a priority area of development and the implementation of these strategies will assist the department in its efforts to reach the people who need it most, said Ms Dina Pule, the Minister of Communications.

Ari Seirlis, CEO of QASA, challenged the minister to give this accessibility of ICTs to people with disabilities in order for them to be more functional and be inclusive in society.

According to Seirlis, disabled people's functionality in society depends highly on communication, especially when they need to convey messages to others through the use of ICT tools.

Over and above living with disabilities, the disabled face the additional challenge of living in environments that do not have the right infrastructure to accommodate their needs in the use of new technologies like mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies.

The Minister said that the path to freedom has many obstacles and that ICT has many roles to play and explained that hand held gadgets have improved many lives. "We need to explore and exploit all ICTs in order for our youthful country to provide solutions for youth to participate in the economy. It is only then that freedom has been reached."