CHILD, the Chivalrous Humanitarian Ideological Loiter Device, is a wheelchair with a mind of its own. As the name suggests, it is a creation made for the purpose of looking after its parent. Udhay Shankar, 20, the ingenious mind behind this innovation, describes the wheelchair’s user as the parent, and the chair itself is the child. As a kid, Shankar saw his father, a cancer patient, struggle to lead an independent life. This experience helped foster his approach to innovation and development.
According to the United Stated Agency for International Development, about 20 million people in developing countries  need wheelchairs. In India itself, there are 20 million people with disabilities and out of that, 11 million are locomotive disabled. In a country like India, where wheelchairs are in such high demand, 80-100 domestic manufacturers sell only about 100-150 wheelchairs a year. The wheelchair market in India is primary controlled by China, as wholesalers import wheelchairs from there.
Manual wheelchairs are still dominant in India, despite technological innovations, and control the lives of twenty million people. Shankar imagined spreading access to motorized wheelchairs and entered Accenture’s Innovation Jockeys competition, where he won a Grand Jury Award for his ‘child’ this year.
CHILD offers support for a range of disabilities. Shankar designed the devise to respond to a variety of inputs, depending on the unique requirements of the user. For example, a person with locomotive disability can use fingers or feet to apply strain to get the wheelchair going. Shankar notes that this maximizes user independence, minimizes effort by caretakers, and optimizes performance.
The wheelchair also responds to touch and gestures for navigation. The haptic arm allows the user to pick and place objects and the chair is equipped with an attached edge and wall avoider so the user avoids collisions. It is secured by a password and has a health monitor that allows immediate emergency correspondence. The motorized wheelchair automatically stops if the person’s back loses contact with the backrest.
Shankar has a clear goal: to utilize all his knowledge for the betterment of the society. One example is his new NGO called TRY (The Revolutionary Youth), which aims at teaching orphans and underprivileged children robotics, MS Office, writing skills and how to effectively use search engines.
“The most important thing is to understand the pain of others and take it up as your own. Believe that every problem has a solution,” says the empathetic young engineer. The 20-year-old’s message to those seeking to made a difference is, “Spend some time thinking of the possible ways to solve [the problem]. Analyze the merits and demerits. The scope of any innovation revolves around cost, performance and utility. The solution’s simplicity is its essence.”
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