CITE Kicks Off Evaluation of Wheelchairs Designed for Developing Country Context

Photo: Wheelchair user Serafin Kangad from Mindanao, Philippines. Credit: Matt McCambridge.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than seventy million people worldwide need wheelchairs, and notes that in developing countries only a small percentage of people can actually access them. Without wheelchairs people with mobility impairments may be imprisoned in the home, often essentially in solitary confinement, their skills, abilities and human presence lost to their communities. A diverse array of organizations have responded to this need by providing various types of wheelchairs. Some wheelchairs more than others have been designed with specific features intended to enhance their suitability for use in the developing world, others have been designed with a higher priority on reduced purchase cost to maximize number of units distributed. Organizations differ not only in their approach to design but in their working assumptions regarding the distances travelled and types of terrain encountered by wheelchair riders.  

In 2016, CITE will seek to assist this global effort by evaluating a diverse group of wheelchairs intended for use by adults in the developing world which have been distributed by organizations skilled in service delivery, and by collecting data (both through survey tools and by sensors affixed to wheelchairs) on how various wheelchairs are used by their riders and families. How can CITE best select which products to evaluate?

To draft our list of products to evaluate we worked with the Standards Working Group of the International Society of Wheelchair Professionals to select a range of products that ISWP felt well captured the industry as a whole. We then reviewed this list with the leadership of a USAID-funded project called CLASP (Coordinating Logistics of Assistive Technology Provision) whose mission is to provide a diverse array of products to service providers globally. CLASP affirmed that it would provide examples of  each type of chair to the skilled service providers whom CLASP supports. The chairs proposed by ISWP and vetted by CLASP are as follows: 

  • Motivation Standard Folding
  • Motivation Active Folding
  • Motivation Rough Terrain
  • Whirlwind Rough Rider
  • Motivation Romania Active Urban
  • UCP Expression 
  • Drive Blue Streak
  • CE Mobility Cruiser
  • INTCO Standard
  • GRIT Leveraged Freedom Chair
  • Free Wheelchair Mission Gen 2
  • Free Wheelchair Mission Gen 3

The list of twelve products deliberately includes both a range of product types (for example, chairs optimized for use on smooth urban terrain vs. rough urban/rural terrain) as well as seeking to include more than one example of each type.  The list includes chairs which have been selected for their current high prevalence in the global market, as well as chairs which are currently less prevalent but which exhibit a design feature which ISWP felt to be noteworthy or illustrative.   

By practical necessity, CITE must exclude a number of products from consideration in this study and is grateful to ISWP and CLASP for their guidance in this regard. The study excludes pediatric wheelchairs, as those products’ function is tied very closely to posture support of a growing child, a functional category beyond  the scope of this evaluation.  The list excludes handcycles (aka trikes) and other mobility devices which are not designed for use inside the home. The list also excludes skateboard- and creeper-type devices which are prevalent in many developing countries as improvised solutions for use very close to the ground. Additionally this study focuses on products which are available for mass production and global distribution, and thus excludes wheelchairs made in small quantities for local use. ISWP notes that locally produced wheelchairs may be of excellent quality and suitability for local conditions and should not be excluded from consideration by local purchasers. This list excludes wheelchairs available in the marketplace which are perceived to be of such poor quality, or lacking features perceived as essential, that CLASP partners would refuse to distribute them to their clients.  CITE will seek to obtain samples and perform bench testing of as many of these undistributed products as possible. 

What are we missing? What might we cut to accommodate something more critical? Join our latest monthly discussion to share your feedback!

Thursday, October 29, 2015
Matt McCambridge
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