Paying a premium to feel ‘normal’
I’d like to encourage you to follow the link below to the video and article by Sophie Morgan, one of the presenters of Channel 4’s paralympics coverage, as she trials something called an exoskeleton. It’s incredibly moving, as you might expect, but also shows both what can be achieved through technology and also what it’s limitations are. It highlights the limitations of most ‘specialist technology, such as prohibitive cost.
However, the freedom that this robot provides raises interesting questions, as for people with an aquired disability it gives people something of what they had lost, albeit primitive, until the technology develops. One of the dangers of this type of technology is that is reinforces current stereotypes, that to walk is normal, and to wheel is an inadequate alternative only suffered by those who have no other choice. This is something which Morgan herself alludes to.
what has happened, in effect, is that a new door has opened to a world where, despite my disability, I can still have the freedom of standing and moving, but that the condition I have adapted to doesn’t need to change.
This approach highlights the potential problem, as standing and walking equate to freedom, despite Morgan being “comfortable” with being in a wheelchair. The potential dander then is, that to be in a chair effectively means your body is in a prison, or at least that to use wheels is the poor cousin to walking, and therefore being independent, and ‘normal’, although it is interesting that Morgan denies some of this.
The final quote from Morgan immediately brings more than one Bible passage to mind. (Apologies to those who consider me to be bible-bashing!) Morgan says that perhaps one day “ill [sic] be jogging down Brighton beach with an exoskeleton robot under my trousers and my wheelchair in the skip!!” The truth is of course, that for those who turn to Jesus, one day we really will be jogging, and our wheelchairs will be in the skip. We will have a freedom far beyond what any robot can provide, however ‘advanced’ it is. That said, this is an interesting development which I look forward to following.