In a time when adaptive technologies and techniques are improving rapidly and empowered consumers are hungry for knowledge, the No Barriers Festival, Miami, Florida, offered a unique opportunity for innovators and end users to come together.
The June 4-7 festival, sponsored by No Barriers USA at the Shake-a-Leg Miami, Florida, aquatic activities center, saw approximately 550 participants come together to share the newest adaptive technologies, abilities workshops, and equipment.
“The thing that’s really so unique about No Barriers is that we bring scientists, inventors, and researchers together with the end user,” said Nicole Deters-Spader, No Barriers USA executive director. “I think it really inspires what is possible both in the commercial field of adaptive devices and technologies as well as what is possible in our personal lives.”
Some of the best-known pioneers in the field came together to discuss, demonstrate, and share new technologies with end users, who were eager to learn and share their own perspectives. A highly popular speaker was No Barriers board member Hugh Herr, PhD, who is director of the MIT Biomechatronics Group and an associate professor at Harvard University. Herr demonstrated the computer-controlled ankle joints that he wears on his own prosthetic legs. Board chair Eric Weihenmayer, the first blind climber to summit Mt. Everest, also demonstrated the BrainPort vision device, a system that translates images from a camera to a tongue-based input that can create low-resolution, black-and-white vision that bypasses the eyes.
Visitors also enjoyed opportunities to try adaptive activities that included windsurfing, scuba diving, mountain biking, and deep-sea fishing.
“There were four sessions over the two main clinic days,” recalled Deters-Spader “We had had about 200 openings per session and every one was basically full.”
Lisa Strong, a recent quadruple amputee, took advantage of a workshop, and learned to swim freely for the first time since an infection took both of her arms and legs. She told The O&P EDGE, “It was really enlightening to be around so many other people with disabilities. It was my first time getting out and seeing all these people with disabilities and realizing that I don’t have to sit in the house all the time-I can get out and be physical.”