Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras in collaboration with Phoenix Medical Systems has launched India’s first indigenously-designed ‘Standing Wheelchair.’ It enables a differently-abled person requiring a wheelchair to shift from sitting to standing position, and vice versa, independently and in a controlled manner.
The Standing Wheelchair, christened ‘Arise’, was launched at IIT Madras Research Park on Tuesday in the presence of Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Thaawarchand Gehlot. The Standing Wheelchair was designed and developed by the TTK Center for Rehabilitation Research and Device Development (R2D2) at IIT Madras, headed by Prof. Sujatha Srinivasan in the Department of Mechanical Engineering/ Since 2015, with CSR support from TTK Prestige, R2D2 has been involved in research related to human movement, influence of orthotic and prosthetic devices on human movement, and the design and development of mechanisms, products and assistive devices for people with impairments.
The commercialization of the Standing Wheelchair technology was made possible through support from Wellcome, U.K., through an ‘Affordable Healthcare in India’ Award, which brought together the research and manufacturing partners. Thanks to a novel mass-manufacturable mechanical design (one Indian patent granted, other Indian, U.S. and China patents pending), and Phoenix’s manufacturing capabilities, Arise will be made available at affordable prices.
Speaking about the importance of this launch, Thaawarchand Gehlot, said “In the last five years, I have seen a lot of modern technologies in India and abroad but Have not seen such a good standing wheelchair anywhere in the world. I am very happy and impressed and I congratulate IIT Madras and its partners for coming up with such a nice wheelchair, which is multipurpose and beneficial for health also, besides being cost-effective.”
It is not widely known that users of conventional wheelchairs face a host of difficulties. Being in a seated position for long durations can lead to secondary health problems such as poor blood circulation and pressure sores. However, users require considerable effort, aids and assistance to attain a standing position from their wheelchairs. Thus, they do not adopt the standing position as frequently as they need to or wish to.
Problems due to prolonged sitting may be minimized by using standing wheelchairs instead of conventional wheelchairs. Users can, by themselves, use standing wheelchairs to arise from the seated position to a standing position and vice versa. This can be greatly beneficial to the health, self-esteem and sense of well-being of a wheelchair user. Unfortunately, most Indian wheelchair users cannot afford the standing wheelchairs that are available.
Highlighting the work being done by R2D2, Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Director, IIT Madras, said, “The TTK Centre for Rehabilitation Research and Device Development, created with a generous endowment from our Distinguished Alumnus T. T Jagannathan, has become the research and innovation hub for several affordable assistive technologies, which would otherwise never have been worked upon and delivered. The standing wheelchair ‘Arise’ is one such sterling example. The Centre and Phoenix Medical Systems are to be congratulated for their persistent efforts to make the device user-friendly and affordable.”
Arise was designed in three stages. In the first stage, a hand-operated, linkage-based mechanism was developed to achieve the standing functionality. A proof-of-concept prototype was used to validate the functioning of the standing mechanism. Arise was designed such that the user can actuate it from the sitting position to the standing position and vice versa independently and in a controlled manner. This can be done using the power of the user’s arms. With optimal one-time fitting, the effort required is no more than that required to propel the wheelchair. A gas-spring was a key element in reducing the effort expended by the user. This early prototype was tested by able-bodied persons.