Every technology is connected to a body

In recent years, the gap between virtual and real, corporeal and extracorporeal, has become increasingly subtle.

The spread of integrative technologies suggest us the possibility to can manage and, in some cases, overcome relevant functional problems, and to realize innovative rehabilitation practices, opening scenarios unthinkable before.

Bionic arts, exoskeletons, robotic rehabilitation, indeed, are restoring hope and willingness to live to people who have known the traumatic experience of amputation. Going back to walking, grabbing objects, seeing people at the same height, making stairs, being able to access places previously inaccessible, seem to be no longer unreachable dreams, but increasingly closer objectives.

Undoubtedly, there is a real risk that these innovations will remain abstract. In the disability field, achieving autonomy, being able to participate in active life are very subjective concepts: what, at first glance, seem to be technological solutions acceptable to all, must be calibrated and declined according to real needs, to be useful tools and not a mere scientific-technological achievement.

For instance, walking is not the only missing dimension for a person with spinal cord injury: let’s think to the difficulty in adapting again in a world full of obstacles, and to physical complications, fears, economic and social problems, desires.

The identification of an integrative technological solution is the result of a multidisciplinary rehabilitation process that starts from listening to the amputee person and his/her family, to understand their expectation and needs, and then to involve doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, orthopaedic technicians and prosthesis developers.

Currently, it is a shared opinion that personalization represents the strong element of a rehabilitation project and that we must not linger on purely clinical and motor aspects, but evaluate the psychological, social, and economic impact eventually generated by a prosthesis.

For this reason, since 2014 ISTUD Health and Wellbeing Area has started a collaboration with the INAIL Prosthesis Centre, the Rehab Technologies Lab of the Italian Institute of Technology and, since 2018, with the BioRobotics Institute of the Sant’Anna Institute of Advanced Studies: all partner representing the best expression of prosthetics, biorobotics, and bionics competencies in Italy.

We started a large-scale qualitative-quantitative approach listening operation to people with an upper/lower limb amputation, their families and clinical units. During these years, we have heard more than 300 people, family members, health workers; collected data were useful to gather new information and knowledge and constituted the basis, for technological partners, for the realization of valuable and innovative technological solutions.

Every technology is connected to a body, stated Tomás Maldonado, designer and philosopher: a sentence that, according to me, sums up the essential link that must exist between corporeality and technology.

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Luigi Reale

Degree in Political Science, Master in Health Management at SDA Bocconi in Milan. He developed research project, training and consultancy in healthcare organizations. He is professor of organization and health politics. In recent years he focused his interest on sustainability and personalization of care through the narrative approach. He has authored various project research, articles and essays on these topics. He is Director of the Health Area of the ISTUD Foundation, member of the Board of the Italian Society of Narrative Medicine.

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