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iBOT May Lead To New Independence For Wheelchair Users

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The future is now for a South Carolina man who came to Raleigh for a new iBOT, a high-end wheelchair that climbs curbs, cruises over gravel and helps the owner rise up and look you in the eye.
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    Loy Stewart is like a kid on Christmas morning when he uses his new iBOT. Loy Stewart came to WakeMed Rehabilitation to undergo IBOT training before taking the chair home.

    "It's the greatest thing going," Stewart said. "I like the way it will turn on a dime."

    Doctors diagnosed Stewart with Lou Gherig's Disease, or ALS, four years ago. It is a chronic degenerative disorder that involves a slow loss of strength with eventual difficulty speaking, swallowing or even breathing.

    Stewart owns a Charleston shipyard, now run by one of his sons, but he still reports to work every day.

    "When I saw the iBOT, I said, 'This will get me out of the office,'" he said.

    Stewart is not only able to get out of the office, he can also go up or down steps. The iBOT will even roll over a grassy slope. It can also go up on two wheels. Six internal gyroscopes and three computers keep it upright.

    "The gyroscopes sense any shift in your center of gravity, much like your inner ear does," said Kathy Orf, of Independence Technology.

    In the upright position, Stewart can rise up to be 5 feet 7 inches tall, looking eye to eye at people.

    "I'll be on the same level. I don't feel like I'm in a wheelchair," he said.

    The IBOT costs $26,000. Plus, most insurance plans do not help with the cost. The Food and Drug Administration approved the iBOT in 2003.


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