Research is still limited on the impacts of robotic arms in improving independent living and social participation of individuals with upper-limb disabilities, and several knowledge gaps remain. This study aims to investigate the impacts of the JACO robotic arm on individuals with upper-limb impairments due to a neuromuscular disease.
For this prospective study, participants used the robotic arm in their daily life for a 2-month period. The effectiveness of the robotic arm was objectively observed during activities performed in a controlled environment. The perception of the users and of their main family caregivers was also documented. Finally, the nature and importance of activities carried out with the robotic arm in a community-living environment were explored.
Participants' abilities with the JACO robotic arm improved continuously during the trial duration. Participants actively took part in more life habits, perceived fewer difficulties, and were more satisfied with their social participation. Despite these findings, very few life habits could be performed completely independently, limiting the impacts on global caregivers' burden.
Even if participants encountered some difficulties, this study demonstrates short-term benefits of the robotic arm for individuals with upper-limb impairments due to a neuromuscular disorder. Future studies should mainly focus on the psychosocial, economic, and occupational long-term impacts of the robotic arm. The development of services to assist the integration of such devices in people's lives could optimize their impacts.
The results of this study contribute to the body of knowledge of clinicians for the prescription of a robotic arm.