I was browsing through some of my old bookmarks today in an attempt to clean up some necessary clutter on my machine when I came across a unique blog post I flagged back while I was shopping for my Powerisers. This post profiled a paraplegic named Aimee Mullins. Aimee is an athlete who competed with spring-like prosthesis at Georgetown University and set the World Record for NCAA Division I women in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and the long jump.Since then many athletes have begun using similar designs to compete while Aimee diversified into other areas of interest. Her popularity in sports earned her international speaking roles, which led to a debut as a runway model in London, which catapulted her acting career, which ultimately led to more prestigious lecture venues, (and a lot more credibility).
This is all very impressive, but after reading more of her personal biography I discovered that Aimee was well on her way to success even before the innovative carbon fiber “cheetah legs.” From her biography:
“After graduating high school with honors, Aimee was one of three students in the US chosen for a full academic scholarship from the Department of Defense, and at age 17 became the youngest person to hold a top-secret security clearance at the Pentagon. She worked there as an intelligence analyst during her summer breaks.”
The first time I saw an image of Aimee I have to admit, my initial reaction was to think of the test subject, Chell, from the Portal video game.
After I got beyond this amusing similarity I began considering the potential of such an optimistic view of life without traditional legs. After I received my Powerisers and began using them I started to understand the potential of strapping carbon fiber springs onto your legs and the resulting effects. Check out some videos of some skilled jumping-stilts users to see what I mean. This opens the door to begin thinking about other alternatives. Perhaps legs not designed to blend in or just provide basic mobility, but instead to allow the user to change their identity with each prosthetic. Aimee uses the example in her TED talk of her friends jealousy when she acquired legs that increased her height from 5′-8″ to 6′-1″. With the increasing technological capabilities I think it would be exciting to fashion legs with wheels, or advanced shock absorbers. The possibilities are literally limitless.
Most importantly though, is that Aimee, through her lectures and lifestyle, has begun to change the way people think about prosthetic limbs. She advocates that through intelligent design and artistic interpretation the user can change their appearance and ability based on what legs they choose to put on that day, like any other accessory. Instead of being considered to have a disability perhaps they will be considered to have a superability.
Be sure to check out Aimee’s TED talk below as she relates her story much more eloquently than I, and her website to find out more about her history and achievements.