#InclusionChamps – Low cost foot orthosis wins Aneesh Karma wins Universal Design Award 2019
As a young boy growing up in rural Uttar Pradesh, Aneesh Karma faced many setbacks due to his disability. It led him to develop knee foot ankle orthosis, KAFO, a low-cost device that allows people with weak knees to walk, run, climb stairs, even ride a cycle. The innovation has won him the NCPEDP MPHASIS Universal Design Award 2019 in the Persons with Disabilities Awards category.
A polio attack in childhood left Aneesh Karma with a lower limb disability. Growing up in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, he struggled to move around. With regular exercise, Aneesh managed to stand with some difficulty.
These experiences, and those of his wife, also a polio patient, left Aneesh with a burning desire to change the lives of people with similar mobility issues. It led him to develop KAFO, or Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis, which allows people with weak knees to walk, run, sit, climb stairs and ride bicycles. In other words, be equal to everyone else.
My wife and I are polio affected and she still needs the support of calipers to walk although I have managed to overcome some of the effects of my disability. The point is there are thousands of people like us and I wanted to do something to help them. That led me to work on KAFO. - Aneesh Karma, Winner, Universal Design Award 2019
Aneesh, who is a Technical Assistant at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B) , wanted to develop a device that would be a marked improvement on the products available in the market. The good quality ones are unaffordable to most people while those priced lower don't enable a range of activities.
"I walk with calipers but often slip because my leg is weak. My wife's foot swells up when she uses calipers", says Aneesh. "When we meet doctors and patients in rural areas, they share similar experiences".
KAFO is easy to wear and take off and comes with a belt that can be opened easily. It has an automatic lock so when the user outs his or her foot down, it locks. The knee is supported well too. Aneesh, who plans to start scientific trials soon, hopes to launch KAFO in the market within a year.
"The cost will be kept between ₹10,000-15,000 because I want everyone to be able to afford it", says Aneesh. "Those who can afford to pay more, can buy one with a better material". The technology, he promises, will be the same, one that guarantees an improved quality of life. "The Jaipur Foot is a regular calliper", he adds. 'While it gives support, it doesn't really allow for easy movement and does not support the knee. KAFO will change that".
Dr Rupesh Chyar, who is the Senior Scientific Officer at the Biomedical Engineering & Technology (incubation) Centre (BETiC) at IIT-B, where Aneesh works, is convinced that KAFO is a game changer.
"None of the existing products match up to what this promises. Both in terms of cost and comfort, KAFO has an edge over the others and will enable better mobility and independence. You can sit down comfortably without feeling any stiffness or pain and do all other activities as well."
Winning the Universal Design Award 2019 has come as a major morale booster for this 36-year-old innovator who is a class 12 dropout. "My father is a welder and we are many siblings. There were financial issues and I am also the kind of person who is not into theoretical knowledge", says Aneesh. "I am more of a doer. I am so honoured that someone who is not so qualified has been recognized. It makes me even more determined to work for my country".
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