By Adero Knott. Photography By Deun Ivory.
“I deserve to be here; I deserve respect; I deserve to exist” is the mantra I say to myself before and while entering spaces that aren’t “meant” for people who look like me. As a black woman born without her left hand, I’m often the only person who looks like me in any setting. So I learned to take up space a long time ago, creating a special place for myself in all of the things that I do.
My journey starts, surrounded by aunties who were the embodiment of any strong black woman that Bell Hooks wrote about. My maternal great-aunt, Dr. Bennie Lynn Knott, raised me as her own daughter and taught me to be fearless. She made sure to expose me to all life had to offer; including the cradling lulls of classical music. When I wanted to play the violin, she found a teacher and luthier to make me a custom violin. When I wanted to study abroad in China as my first out of the country experience, she supported me. And when I told her I wanted to own a business one day, she would see to it. At the age of 28, I look back now and I am so grateful for all of the wisdom and knowledge passed down, and for the foundation she laid out for me. Of course I didn't do everything exactly as she wanted, what child does? But the foundation that she provided gave me the freedom to be my authentic self and the will to create space needed for others to be their authentic selves.
In 2015, after returning to Chicago from a two year stint of living abroad in China, I discovered my purpose in life. I realized that I chose to have my human experience as a highly melanated woman, with one hand, and with a purpose to empower people and build confidence by making prosthetic limbs accessible. After navigating the healthcare system alone, I became aware of two things: prosthetic limbs cost as much as houses, and that there's a serious problem surrounding diversity in the prosthetics field. Aligning myself with purpose, in the fall of 2016, I participated in Di-Ann Eisnor & Lupe Fiasco's Neighborhood Start Fund Pitch Competition, a chance to pitch a billion dollar idea, and won $5000 for my invention, the AK Creator: the world's first prosthetic limb vending machine. Feeling validated with Di-Ann Eisnor and Lupe Fiasco as advisers and armed with my truth, I set out and founded AK Prosthetics, Corp. in May of 2017.
Embarking on my entrepreneurial journey gave me the courage to do anything I wanted and without permission, that included becoming a prosthetics designer without formal training. This desire was heightened during the summer of 2017 when I embarked on a 30-day bikram yoga challenge. My bikram yoga experience gave me insight into what type of prosthetic devices I could create to make my yoga experience adaptive and overall more enjoyable. My research led to first iterations of the AK Balancer, a device I designed that attaches to the forearm of transradial amputees and acts as an extension of the arm to provide support for push-ups, downward dog and even handstand positions.
As I move forward into May, my baby, AK Prosthetics turns 2 years old. Product development is moving right along and my creative energy is flowing effortlessly. A desire to recreate my first yoga experience into one where disabled WOC feel welcomed and are able to breathe easy has been a driving force in creating a 5-Day Adaptive flow series. I feel empowered in knowing my gifts are limitless and that I don't need permission from anyone to exist or to create what does not already exist in the world.
Adero Knott is a MedTech entrepreneur from the south side of Chicago. Born without her left hand and frustrated with the limitations of her own prosthetic arm, led her to starting AK Prosthetics. AK Prosthetics is a prosthetic limb company that empowers people and builds confidence through customized and easily accessible prosthetic limbs created via 3D Scanners, 3D Printers and other hi-tech solutions .