Equipping kids to walk and run opens the door to opportunity
Specialist ankle foot orthoses can mean the difference between a child walking or being in a wheelchair.
AbilityMade co-founder, Johan du Plessis, says there are around 100 million kids worldwide that need orthotics each year, however nine out of ten can’t access the equipment.
“They can often end up in a wheelchair and can be excluded from society,” Johan said.
“We want to empower these kids to walk. To run. To be happy and healthy.”
Fitting traditional orthotics involves a slow plaster-casting process that is dangerous to doctors and uncomfortable for kids. The situation is made worse due to a worldwide shortage of orthotists.
In 2017, The Percy and Ruby Haddy Foundation funded AbilityMade to develop state-of-the-art 3D scanning and printing technology to replace the manual way that orthotics are made.
With further funding in 2019 from The William Buckland Foundation, AbilityMade developed a portable version of the scanner, which orthotists can take on the road to regional locations around Australia.
Johan said the funds helped develop a non-invasive, instantaneous scanner, which required kids to be still for less than half a second.
“It’s the first of its kind in Australia and, as far as we can see, in the world. This new grant will fund a more robust, portable version of the scanner, so we can help kids in remote areas as well.”
The funds have helped halve production time to two weeks. The portable 3D scanner will allow orthotists to easily visit rural and regional children and provide these innovative 3D printed orthotics.
“Looking ahead, we hope to cut the production time down to 48 hours,” Johan said.
The project has so far made 364 orthotics for 209 children and has cut down the wait time for children and demand on the system.
In Australia, only 35% of the certified orthotists needed to support the community’s need are available. This not only increases the wait time for children, but adds additional stress on families, disability services and orthotists to keep up with demand.
AbilityMade has disrupted this market with this innovative 3D scanning technology and distribution model. Orthotics practices can partner with AbilityMade to ensure they have the technology support and expertise to expand this model.
“With continued support, we hope to help thousands more children across Australia and eventually, the world.”
This project has been developed over a long period of time, partnering with disability service organisations Cerebral Palsy Alliance, Northcott and Scope. It has also received early stage philanthropic funding, as well as scaling funding from the NSW Government.
AbilityMade was supported by trusts managed by Equity Trustees, The Percy & Ruby Haddy Foundation and The William Buckland Foundation.
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