Changing What’s Possible: The Power of Technology

Thu 06 Oct 2022

Changing What’s Possible: The Power of Technology

By Katy Gaastra, Founder of Cerebral Palsy Strong

Today marks a special day for the CP community. It’s World Cerebral Palsy Day. For me, it’s a time to celebrate personal progress, reflect on collective challenges, and think about the future. For others, it could be about sharing their personal experiences, educating others about disability, or raising awareness about accessibility. 

World Cerebral Palsy Day focuses on innovative technology this year, with an eye toward accessibility and inclusion for people with CP and other disabilities. Given this theme, I want to share a bit about my own disability experience and how it’s intersected with mobility technology over the last six years. 

As a result of both aging with CP and leading a high-impact, active lifestyle, I’ve had my fair share of injuries — stress fractures in both of my feet required surgery that’s led to extreme bone pain, weakened muscles, and decreased mobility. 

In 2016, at 24, when life felt like it should be speeding up, I was slowing down. But that all changed when I discovered the ExoSym. This device, called a kinetic orthosis, corrects my posture, powers my movement, and absorbs the impact of my body weight. 

The ExoSym has truly changed what's possible for me in this world. With its custom-made, lightweight carbon fiber design, I'm able to move through life without pain or fear of falling and causing further injury to my muscles and joints. 

Only six weeks after receiving the device, I spent six months with my boyfriend, Josh, camping and driving down the coast of South America. We hiked in the Colombian jungles, camped in the Peruvian Andes, and drove around the jagged mountains of Patagonia. 

In 2017, we moved to Boulder, CO, where we’d often go on long hikes around the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

In 2018, we biked and kayaked down the length of the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West. 

In 2020, we got married and we’re still dreaming big. We’re considering attempting a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail along the Pacific Crest Trail one day.

All these extraordinary experiences and goals would not have been possible without my ExoSym. Today, I’m especially reflective about the power of technology and what devices like mine could mean for people with CP. The potential feels endless when I think about the entrepreneurs who are working to develop new, affordable, accessible products and services for more than a billion people on this planet who need support.

I’m grateful that CPARF expanded their mission to include innovation, because that shows me that they, too, value the power of technology for the disability community.

Give today to help us make technology like Katy's device accessible to more people. 

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A green background with black rectangle across the bottom. In the left are the colors of the disability pride flag to the right white text reads "Hosted by" the the CPARF and CVI logos. Above, text in dark grey reads: CP & CVI Now: A Community Discussion followed by July 25, 2024 from 5:30-6:30 pm ET.

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