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Show RCA 2019

Niyoshi Shah

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Vyaadi Cherupukkal or Diseased Footwear

Focus: Public Health, Design

Under India’s National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) those with leprosy are given protective footwear made from Microcellular Rubber (MCR) for preventing chronic ulcers. This has been effective in alleviating impairment but, increasingly, patients are reluctant to wear these shoes. Some data exists in this regard but its focus is narrow: respondents are mainly asked about the cosmetic and clinical aspects of the footwear. Thus, to open up this discourse, Diseased Footwear takes a systems approach and analyses the gaps in this health service. Doing so makes apparent that the production of this footwear currently faces stagnation, which affects both wearers and makers. Patients are denied choice and have to make do with basic styles that are stigmatising, while those at the workshop don’t have opportunities to actualise their potential – they are denied fulfilment.

In developed economies, designers work with the public sector to resolve similar issues and improve what is offered to the disabled. Exchanges of this sort can happen in the Indian context too, but they don’t — and this project considers why this is.

Research for this project was supported by Schieffelin Institute of Health — Research & Leprosy Centre, Vellore and The Leprosy Mission Trust of India (TLMTI). 


  • Writer, Researcher (arts, design, culture)

    Prior experience: brand communication and content design.

    Other skills: editing, public programming.

  • Previous degrees

  • BA (Hons) English Literature, St Xavier's College, Lengpui, India, 2012; Diploma in Indian Aesthetics, Jnanapravaha Mumbai, 2013; Diploma in Fashion Marketing & Merchandising, Raffles Design International, Mumbai, 2014
  • Experiences

  • Exhibition researcher, Wallspeak, Mumbai, 2015; Exhibition researcher, Design: The India Story, Mumbai, 2016; Public programming, Objects Through Time, Mumbai, 2016; Editor, The Pluralist, London, 2017; Public programming, A Cornish Review for Groundworks, Cornwall, 2018; Editor, Near, Variations, London, 2019
  • Conferences

  • The Challenges of Footwear in Leprosy From a Design Perspective, 20th International Leprosy Congress, 10-13 September 2019
Royal College of Art