Monday September 17, 2012
Technology and disability
Since the success of India’s Jaipur Foot, prosthesis users have been enjoying new mobility and a better life.
IN India in 1968, a man by the name of Ram Chander Sharma designed and developed what is now known as the Jaipur Foot.
What sets it apart from other prosthesis is that the foot resembles a human foot and also practically mimics its functions, making it arguably the best among the prostheses available in the market.
Even more remarkably is that someone wearing this lightweight limb can actually climb a tree. He or she can dance and even jump if he or she so wishes. It has almost all the same range of movements as a human foot and can be worn with or without shoes.
The normal life span of a Jaipur Foot is about three years.
The cost of production for this rubberised prosthesis is very low, something like RM140 per limb. Indian non-governmental organisation Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), set up in 1975 under the stewardship of founder D.R. Mehta (jaipurfoot.org), conducts Jaipur Foot fittings to help people with disability.
They generally give these artificial limbs free of charge (through donations) to those in need at their centre in Jaipur and 21 branches throughout India. The NGO also travels the world doing the same for those in need.
Sheila N (name change on request) from Malaysia was one such recipient. Sheila, 41, who has been wearing a below-the-knee prosthesis since she was nine, says she knew about the Jaipur Foot for years. She recalls reading about famous Tamil actress and dancer Sudha Chandran who turned to acting after the loss of a leg during an accident in 1981.
Sudha was subsequently fitted with the Jaipur Foot and became one of the most highly acclaimed dancers in India. A further film on her life in 1984 where she played herself made her story even better known around the world.
“I was dreaming about having one myself but never got around to doing anything about it. Finally my sister-in-law googled it, and she made the arrangements for my trip there,” says Sheila.
She was accompanied by her elder brother and it took all of six hours to have her Jaipur Foot made. All the Jaipur limbs are fashioned by hand.
As of March 31 last year, 393,267 people have been fitted with the Jaipur Foot. Of those, 19,678 were fitted on people overseas.