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Making Assistive Devices Accessible and Affordable

This hospital finds assistive solutions for children with disabilities

This hospital finds assistive solutions for children with disabilities

Assistive devices and technologies are important for people with disabilities. They maintain and improve their functioning and thus promote their independence and quality of life. However, access to such devices and technologies is often an issue.

Poverty is a key reason why many in low- and middle-income countries have no access to assistive devices and technologies. Even in wealthy countries, money is still a big restriction. Devices like the LapStacker offer practical solutions to people with disabilities but are often sold at high prices like luxuries.

Then, as mentioned in this blog post about designing a wheelchair, bringing ideas for a new assistive device to a prototype level is hard. And it is even harder to make a prototype become an actual product and commercialize it in the global market. Often that requires a big investment, not just money but perseverance.

In Israel, there is a hospital which tries to tackle all these problems.

Israel’s facility which facilitates many in the world

ALYN: the only pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation facility in Israel. (Source: Facebook page of ALYN Hospital Pediatric & Adolescent Rehabilitation Center)

Founded in 1932, ALYN is a hospital offering regular medical services, paramedical therapies and rehabilitation services. It is also the only pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation facility in Israel.

In late 2017, ALYN went beyond the traditional hospital services and established “Innovation Space”, which further consolidated its status as one of the leading hospitals in the field of pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation, both in the Middle East and the world. Innovation Space aims at empowering children in Israel and worldwide by supporting them with accessible and affordable assistive technologies.

The idea of Innovation Space was developed out of a collaboration of ALYN with two people, Pablo Kaplan and Chava Rotshtein, from a big plastic company who would like to make a difference to the society than just producing plastic furniture. In 2009, Kaplan founded the non-profit organization Wheelchairs of Hope. Sharing the same vision in empowering children with disabilities, Wheelchairs of Hope consulted and collaborated with ALYN on creating low-cost and maintenance-free plastic wheelchairs for children in need of mobility around the world.

Bringing the talents and experts under one roof

Following the success of Wheelchairs of Hope, ALYN set up Innovation Space with the goal to bring health professionals, inventors and entrepreneurs together under one roof. This one-stop concept facilitates their exchange of ideas and expertise so that more assistive inventions would have the chance to make it to the global market.

The 450 square meters Innovation Space is now shared by its two units: PELE and ALYNnovation. PELE is responsible for the design and production of customized solutions for children and adolescents with physical challenges. ALYNnovation identifies and modifies potential assistive inventions from PELE or external parties and partner with interested entrepreneurs to commercialize these products at affordable costs.

With its own 3-D printing room and biomedical lab for prototyping and initial manufacturing of inventions, the Innovation Space continues to attract talents around the world to work and volunteer to find the best solutions for the young patients at ALYN. Here are two of the results.

Yusuf has problems with his limbs but he wants to eat by himself, so PELE created a customized eating tool for him:

Another team of inventors at ALYN found a decent solution for tube-feeding babies in public:

Over a hundred participants gather at PELEthon each year to find assistive solutions for children with disabilities at ALYN. (Source: Facebook @innovationspaceALYN)

Innovation Space has also become the venue for PELEthon: the annual make-a-thon event at ALYN, where over a hundred participants work in teams to create the best assistive technology prototype for the children in need within a day.

PELEthon was held for the fourth time in April this year. During this year’s event, a customized joystick system which helps a girl with motor disorder to drive her powered wheelchair was created. Another team has developed an alternative organ which allows a paralyzed boy to play the musical instrument independently. With the continuing effort of Innovation Space, these two prototypes together with other products and ideas from the event will hopefully be developed into final products to maximize their global outreach at affordable costs.

What do you think about this idea of one-stop facility for promoting assistive technologies? Do you know any similar facilities in Switzerland or Europe?

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