With Inali Arm, developer Prashant Gade aims to change the outlook of people with upper limb disabilities
In #TechThursday, read about Inali Arm, a prosthetic arm that is both affordable and easy to wear. Find out about developer Prashant Gade’s single minded devotion to making the lives of people with upper limb disabilities comfortable and easier.
Even as a child growing up in small town Madhya Pradesh, Prashant Gade was drawn to figuring out how things around him really worked. An interest that led him to pursue engineering, teaching, and finally turning developer with Inali Arm, a low-cost myoelectric prosthetic arm.
The innovation that has won this young man top honours at the Aarohan Social Innovation Awards 2018-19 .
Gade says he was motivated to start working on developing a prosthetic arm after a chance meeting with a little girl, who had no arms.
“I met this seven-year-old called Shreya who was missing both arms from birth and I wanted to help her out by gifting her a prosthetic arm”, recalls Gade. Until he realized the cost factor. “A company I contacted for this quoted a price of Rs 24 lakh and I was shocked because most people cannot afford this”.
Gade decided to dig deeper and found that every year in India over 40,000 people lose an upper limb, and 85% of them cannot afford prosthetic arms. That was the germ for Inali Arm.
I started working on Inali Arm in 2015 and since then I have created nearly eight design iterations. The final design works with the brain signals so that whenever a patient thinks about moving his muscles, the brain sends a signal that are captured by the sensors and processed. That’s how the hand works. – Prashant Gade, Innovator, Inali Arm
Inali is named after Gade’s fiancee, whom he calls the “matchstick who gives the fire that makes me go beyond the limit and do the miracles”. Her support was critical given the enormous financial and personal challenges that Gade battled to come this far. Starting with his parents. Unhappy with Gade’s decision to quit his job and devote full-time attention to Inali Arm, they parents stopped talking to him.
“The other challenge was affordability and it took two years for me to design circuits so the cost factor was addressed”, says Gade. “I did not have the machines and that was a setback. Until a miracle happened. I designed a few hands and fitted them to some patients and put the videos on YouTube and they got noticed by a professor in the United States who invited me for a conference there. Some people gifted me 10 machines for free and I could make more hands and give them to people”.
Inali Arm is available in the market and currently caters to people with upper limb disability. Jitendra Singh, who is based in Vadodara, has been using it for over six months. “It is very comfortable and easy to wear. The prosthetic arms that are available in the market are very heavy and weigh the arm down, making prolonged use difficult. Inali Arm, on the other hand, is comfortable and light”, says Singh.
Gade is working on honing Inali Arm further so it can meet specific needs. Among his strongest supporters is philanthropist Nilesh Patel, who led him to the well-known industrialist, Lalit Gala. “I have been connected to Jaipur Foot for over 15 years and when I got to know about Prashant from Nilesh Patel, I decided to help him in making the product robust and reliable”, says Gala. “We are working with him to try and address specific needs and issues that people have and fine-tune it further”.
Patel, who is also associated with the Jaipur Foot initiative believes that Inali Arm has great potential in India. “Instead of depending on prosthetics from other countries, we can make them here indigenously. India can now supply them to the world”, says Patel with pride.
Going ahead, Gade plans to create a range of affordable healthcare products. “Until now, I have given over 700 limbs to people from various parts of India for free. the country and for free”, says Gade. “In 2015, when I started off I was all alone. Now I have a team of people from the medical sector, industry and universities so I am hopeful of getting there”.
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