Eve Darcy has magic shoes. Bright silver and sparkly, they certainly look magical – but their power comes from the carefully designed and 3D printed orthotics inside them. Eve was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was just a few weeks old, and until now, the toddler could only walk holding on to a rolling frame. But with her specially tailored Magic Shoes from Australia’s AbilityMate, she’s now walking on her own, and it only took her a couple of days to learn.

“She was in daycare on Wednesday, she walked in with her frame, she didn’t go Thursday, and she walked in on her own on Friday. It happened so fast, she just took off,” said Eve’s father, Joe Darcy.

Eve was obviously ready to walk; she just needed a bit of extra help, as do many children with cerebral palsy. In Australia, where Eve lives, a child is born with the condition every 15 hours, making it the most common childhood physical disability on the continent. Most of these kids will need orthotics throughout their lives, but right now it takes a lot of time to fulfill those needs. Demand for the devices far exceeds the ability of orthotists to keep up, and children can wait up to a year just for an appointment.

[Image: AbilityMate]

Once a child finally has an appointment, he or she is subject to an uncomfortable plaster casting process, and from there it can take weeks to translate that cast into a wearable device. With AbilityMate’s method, a 3D scan is taken of the child’s leg and foot in a process that takes seconds, and then the orthotics are 3D printed in as little as 48 hours. A child can be fitted in less than two months, and orthotists are freed up to see more patients, resulting in shorter wait times.

On a global level, 100 million children are in need of orthotics, so AbilityMate’s model is desperately needed. The organization is about to begin a clinical trial, after which it hopes to begin supplying Magic Shoes to children in Australia. AbilityMate has high hopes for the devices, envisioning wait times reduced by 50-80% and orthotist efficiency increased by 400-600%.

AbilityMate is now looking for 20 to 30 children, ages 2-8 years old, who are in need of ankle/foot orthotics and meet strict criteria to participate in the clinical trial. The organization also needs orthotists who are interested in being among the first to offer Magic Shoes to their clients, as well as research partners. If you’re interested in applying for any of the above, you can do so here.

In November of 2016, AbilityMate launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the Magic Shoes project. Its goal was to raise $20,000; by the end of the campaign, it had drawn in close to $100,000. According to AbilityMate Co-Founder Melissa Fuller, Magic Shoes are just the first product that the organization hopes to be able to eventually offer.

“The potential is endless. We are starting with this product the ankle foot orthotics but there’s orthotics for heads, necks, backs,” she said.

If the children in the clinical trial respond like Eve has, AbilityMate should have no trouble getting Magic Shoes to the market.

“Eve can just play in the playground like a normal child, that means she can just hang with other kids…and not be held back by the fact she was a lot less mobile,” said Eve’s mother, Hiam Sakakini. “I can go into a playground with her and she can just go.”

AbilityMate lays out its vision as a repeatable four-step plan:

  • Step 1: Commercialise our first product and service – Ankle-Foot Orthotics for children with disabilities and upgrade Orthotics clinics in Australia
  • Step 2: Make designs available to the global disability community through a safe & ethical open licence and training program.
  • Step 3: Develop a scaleable platform whereby approved 3D printing hubs can sign up and get paid to make assistive products.
  • Step 4: Hit sustainability and reach people who are desperately in need!
  • Go back to step 1: Repeat with the next most needed product.

Discuss in the Magic Shoes forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: 9News]

 

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