Johnny Loughrey, at the Aura Leisure Centre today. Photo Brian McDaid
A not-for-profit foundation is seeking support to bring a piece of world-class equipment to Letterkenny that would enable people with physical disabilities to use gym facilities, and assist with rehabilitation programmes.
Physiotherapist Johnny Loughrey of the No Barriers Foundation organised a demonstration of Ekso Bionics' Ekso GT bionic exoskeleton at the Aura Leisure Centre in Letterkenny today.
“We’re looking to create an inclusive gym,” Johnny said. “Basically, if you have any sort of disability you should be able to train in the gym.”
He said if the foundation is able to raise the money to secure the equipment for Letterkenny, “it means people can avail of world-class equipment without having to pay any more than the average person to use the gym.”
The bionic suit would be of benefit to people with varying levels of disability and paralysis, including spinal cord injury and stroke.
Johnny, of JT Physio in Letterkenny, has seen the value of the equipment firsthand. He worked with the Irish Paralympic team for the past two years and went to the Rio Olympics with the team.
“When you see athletes training with varying disabilities - we can provide equipment in Donegal so that everyone can train in a gym in Donegal,” he said.
He said if the equipment is acquired for Donegal, “people with disabilities will be able to use it and train side by side with anybody in the community.”
The Ekso bionic exoskeleton is already being used successfully by Helpful Steps in Cork, where the suit is operated by Elite Gym. The No Barriers Foundation said the suit can be moved from place to place, making it ideal for incorporation in hospital and community-based rehab programmes.
The Letterkenny-based No Barriers Foundation aims to create an inclusive health facility equipped with specialist neurological equipment that would enable anyone with a disability to train and improve their current levels of physical and mental health by targeting mobility, strength and physical fitness regardless of their current baseline.
People interested in the initiative can contact Johnny on 086 777 0292 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.