Lifelong Mobility

A global team of partners is working together to develop a sustainable and generalizable model for increasing independent mobility for people with disabilities around the world.

Traditional charitable models for helping disabled children gain mobility in the developing world have focused on providing these children with donated wheelchairs. These laudable efforts have resulted in a dramatic increase in the mobility of disabled children around the world. Unfortunately, in many examples, children grow out of the wheelchairs or the wheelchair breaks leaving the child without effective mobility for a period of time until they can secure a new wheelchair. In addition, the demand for wheelchairs exceeds the supply in many developing countries resulting in long waitlists of children who need wheelchairs but can’t get them.

The 4R Model for Lifelong Mobility (Recycle, Reuse, Repair, Retrofit) is designed to solve these problems by increasing the lifecycle of donated wheelchairs. This population level approach aims to achieve equilibrium between the need for wheelchairs and the level of donated wheelchairs available at any one location. Currently, there are very few options for disabled children in developing countries with broken wheelchairs because parts and tools required to repair the wheelchairs are not readily available. The 4R Model establishes a depot of parts and tools accompanied by technicians who are trained to identify common problems with wheelchairs and fix them.

By extending the life of donated wheelchairs, the 4R model can decrease the amount of time a disabled child spends without a wheelchair. The ultimate goal is to develop the 4R model so that can be disseminated and used around the world.

The Benter Foundation has facilitated an active collaboration between American Wheelchair Mission (AWM) and the Teletón Children’s Rehabilitation Centers or CRITs (Spanish: Centro de Rehabilitación Infantil) in Mexico along with the Carnegie Mellon University, Mercyhurst College and the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratory (HERL) to develop and pilot test the 4R model in one CRIT site in Mexico at Guanajuato.

David J Dausey, Mercyhurst College and Carnegie Mellon University

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