Berkeley, CA – home of the eLEGS

Berkeley, CA – home of the eLEGS
Photo by: Gabriel Doyle (Stock Exchange)

Good morning, everybody!

As I put the finishing touches on my Argentina access guide for next week, I just wanted to share an article from Time Magazine that means more good news for paraplegic travelers. Not so long ago, I posted about the ReWalk, a backpack-style hookup and prosthetic attachment that restores the ability to walk to some patients with lower body paralysis.

Now, there were some caveats about the ReWalk: at the time of that post, it was approved for institutional use only, and it was very, very expensive. Despite my hopes, I’ve not yet heard of any facility making a ReWalk available for travel purposes.

But then I found out about this …

So here’s the article: Bionic Legs Allow Paraplegics to Get Up and Walk. Sound amazing? Well, it gets better from there. Remember that the ReWalk is basically meant for rehabilitation, which makes it that much less likely we’d be seeing it put to use in travel. Well, the eLEGS system is a product of the good ol’ US of A, more specifically the fine folks at Berkeley Bionics, UC Berkeley. eLEGS is aimed at consumers, and provides a natural gait. The top speed is a moderate two miles per hour, more than enough for daily activities and travel.

Early versions aren’t quite able to get you up stairs without assistance, but with the units about to debut soon, there are a lot of promising signs for independent travel here, including a design that allows you to put the eLEGS on and take them off without assistance. Right now, eLEGS is on its way to certified rehabilitation centers, where some patients will be training to restore their gait with the new technology. Currently, eLEGS are meant to be used under medical supervision, but with new training methods being adapted, it might be possible for disabled travel companies to start using these in group tours sooner than we think.

Now, not for nothing, Disabled Travelers fans, but when we talked about the ReWalk a few months back, I predicted we’d be seeing similar technology from other companies soon, and from there it’s only a matter of time until they become the next big thing in disabled travel. Here we are about four months later, and one of my predictions has already come true! Now, there’s still testing to be done, but I’m going to make another prediction: within a year, we’ll be seeing group tours that incorporate eLEGS. And just to do my part, I’m going to get in touch with some of the largest disabled tour operators and travel organizations and make sure they know all about it.

Next time, Argentina! Until then, keep cool, travelers!

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Comment by Michael R McGuire

Posted on May 14th, 2011

My wife who is a T5 paraplegic and I have traveled the world together (South America; the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand; Mexico, the Carribean, and Central America. She fell down a Mayan pyramid in Mexico before I met her; before that she saw even much more of the world.

I wrote a memoir about our lives and travels. The book is available on Kindle, “May You Have an Interesting Wife”, but if you would like to receive a no-charge PDF version, I would be happy to send you a copy.

My email address is “”.


Comment by Si

Posted on May 20th, 2011

Hi, Michael,

Thank you for sharing about your experiences. I’d really be interested in reading your book and perhaps mentioning it in a future blog post. I’ll get in touch with you by email soon!


Comment by Amanda Boxtel

Posted on July 27th, 2011

Dear Si: My name is Amanda Boxtel and I am help manage Berkeley Bionics’ pilot ambassadors for eLEGS, in addition to being a communication’s liaison. I wanted to personally thank you for your mention of eLEGS in your article. I have had the opportunity to walk in eLEGS for a year as a spokesperson for Berkeley Bionics. Each time I rise up out of my wheelchair and take steps in eLEGS in the most natural gait in almost 20 years of paralysis, I am in awe. I am living the dream for each person who cannot walk on their own two legs and feet and I feel extremely blessed.
Bionic exoskeleton technology will offer another mobility option for wheelchair users and will certainly enhance travel. I do want to emphasize that our company is currently innovating the eLEGS Professional device to be used in rehabilitation centers. While we perfect the technology over the next 18 months or so, we will be able to gather critical objective data on the benefits of eLEGS for a end-users. The eLEGS Personal device won’t be available for use in and outside of the home until late 2013, at which time your projections for making disabled traveling easier will manifest. For more information I encourage your blog followers to visit the Berkeley Bionics website at http://www.berkeleybionics,com. If you complete our contact form on the website, we’ll be sure to keep you updated on our progress. This is a new day and our future is now! With bionic technology, I believe anything is possible.