Riley Saban – Driving Change

Have you heard of Riley Saban? It’s only a matter of time until you do. This nominee for Young Citizen of the Year is local to Coffs Harbour and driving technical breakthroughs for people with disabilities all around the world. Why? Riley was born with level 5 Dystonic Cerebral Palsy. Like other change-makers throughout history, Riley uses the problems he faces daily to create change for others. But what does Riley Saban want? Like so many other teenagers looking forward to their future, Riley wants to drive a car.

Riley Saban at the beach

Cb: How did you react to your Young Citizen of the Year nomination?

Riley: It was an absolute surprise to be nominated. I feel very honoured. I have based my life on finding innovative ways and technologies to assist people with disabilities to live fulfilling and meaningful lives. I am lucky to have a supportive team to help me do the things that I want to do.

Level 5 Dystonic Cerebral Palsy limits my ability to do tasks independently. I use an eye gaze system to communicate as my speech is hard for people who are not close to me to understand.

We live in a country where we treat each other as mates. Together we can all make a huge difference, whatever our abilities are. My objective is to raise awareness and normalise people with disabilities. I think it’s the environment that prevents us from being included and if we have the right tools, the right people to support us, and innovative technologies, we can all do anything!

Cb: Tell us about your projects.

Riley: Over the years I have run assistive technology workshops with my colleague Gai Cross, to educate people on the possibilities of assistive technology. I’ve worked with Dr Jordan Nguyen and together we presented about assistive technologies.

Riley has also worked with the Department of Education, on the board of the NSW student advisory committee. Many people met Riley in the ABC Catalyst program ‘Becoming Superhuman’, which won the 2017 Eureka Award for science journalism. Biomedical engineer Dr Jordan Nguyen’s ground-breaking technology was designed around Riley, harnessing his eye movement to control electronic devices.

It’s futurist high-tech, involving a team of specialists led by Dr Nguyen, who was inspired to focus on technology addressing disability through his own brush with injury.

At home, Riley and his dad Clint have designed PolySpine, a customisable supportive exoskeleton for people with moderate to severe physical disabilities. It provides support so users can participate in rehabilitative and recreational activities, outside of their main wheelchair or accessibility equipment. Polyspine is approved through the TGA as a medical device and is being trialled for market release very soon.

Riley is currently studying Certificate 1111 in Assistive Technology, building on his HSC studies. As technology is essential to Riley’s everyday living, he has typically made mastering technology his passion.

Riley: I am hoping to use all my passions together and own my own businesses to support people with disabilities in the near future.

I feel very humbled to be nominated for the Young Citizen of the Year Award, but I don’t think this award is just all about me. I have been very fortunate to have the support from a wonderful team and a great community to achieve the outcomes I set out to do.

Cb: What will you do if you win the Young Citizen of the Year Award?

Riley: ‘To be honest, I am not expecting to win the award. I was happy I was even nominated. I will continue to give back to the community who have always supported me, because that’s what Australian people are all about. Helping your mates! And I plan to keep raising awareness about the obstacles people with disabilities face and continue to try to find innovative solutions to overcome barriers.

Follow Riley’s achievements on the following sites as he works towards driving a car for the first time – it’s super human.

Follow Riley on Facebook.

Meet Port Macquarie Citizen of the Year nominee Jamie Donovan.