Modern crutches are still less than a century old, and dozens of designers have taken a stab at improving them. But while most attempts are variations on a familiar theme, one entry to James Dyson Foundation's annual Dyson Award proposes a solution that improves on even the best recent alternatives.
Behzad Rashidi is a 27-year-old Ontario-based industrial designer whose student project, Sit & Stand, is being featured by Dyson as one of the standout entries. The device is fairly simple: Rather than a crutch that relies in your upper body to support the weight of your leg, Rashidi designed a device that simply hangs the weight of your calf on your quad muscles, thanks to a support system that spreads the weight over the entire backside of your thigh. That means you're able to sit while wearing it — an invaluable feature during a long recovery.
"It all started as a class project," explains Rashidi in his brief. "The challenge was to design a crutch which performs better than traditional forearm and underarm crutches for young adults with temporary leg injuries."
He designed the prototype and then submitted it to the Dyson Award, which asks industrial designers and engineers to do something very simple: Design something that solves a problem. Last year, the winner was an upper-body exoskeleton designed to improve the functional capacity of the wearer. This year, it seems many of the entries are similarly suited to improving the abilities of humans using clever engineering.
Other recent crutch designs, like iWalk, have taken a similar tack to design — but almost all of them pull the injured leg up at the knee meaning that the wearer can't sit down while wearing it, and putting unnecessary pressure on the knee.
Rashidi's idea made an important tweak: Pull the knee up in front of the wearer using a broad, cushioned piece of plastic, which self-adjusts thanks to a simple hinge system. That support also acts as a seat: When the wearer slouches back, the hinge adjusts to support their body weight. The value of a functioning seat, for someone recovering from a severe injury, is obvious.
Right now, there's no way to tell if Rashidi or one of the other — very plentiful — smart entries will secure some of the $US150,000 in funding that Dyson will award to the winners. We'll know more on September 18, when the national winners and the finalists for the overall competition will be announced. Until then, what do you think? Is this the crutch alternative that would have made your life 1000 times easier that time you twisted your ankle?