Usually when we hear of hacking we think something bad. However, in the case of Shea Ako, the father of a 2-year-old with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), hacking is just a way to make life easier. On March 30, 2011 Shea’s son Alejandro was born and at five months he was diagnosed with SMA. When Shea contacted his health insurance company about obtaining a power wheelchair he was told the wait would probably be five years. That answer wasn’t good enough.
Shea took to the internet and found an adult-sized power wheelchair on eBay. The mobility device needed modifications to the seat and some batteries but it allowed Alejandro to be active. Yet one problem remained: how the wheelchair was controlled.
Since the birth of his son, Shea has documented the incredible journey in his blog, Hacking SMA. Now that blog includes the intricate and detailed hacking job Shea did to adapt the wheelchair so Alejandro could use his toes to control the wheelchair. Shea used his creativity to create a new foot pedal design uniquely suited to Alejandro’s abilities. As Shea writes in his blog, “Alejandro’s toes, while quite weak, seem to respond faster to his motor intentions than his two working fingers, so I decided to focus my efforts there”.
While Alejandro suffers a physical disability there is nothing wrong with his curious mind and now with the help of his modified power wheelchair he is able to roam on his own to explore the world around him. At HDS MEDALLION® we proudly salute Shea for his ingenuity and Alejandro for his curiosity.