Accessibility in a developing country

March 14, 2010 at 8:29 am 1 comment

Living in the United States we are afforded many rights and opportunities you may not have in other areas of the world.  Imagine what life might look like for a person with a disability, in Africa.  This is exactly what a mechanical engineer doctoral candidate from MIT did when he invented the levered wheelchair. 

The main reasoning behind the creation of this wheelchair was due to the difficult terrain that a person must navigate in a wheelchair in Africa.  It is the long levers that power the chair.  The article reports “hold them low, near the axle, and it goes fast.  Hold them higher up, and it generates a lot of torque, making it possible to climb slowly but surely over rocks and up hills.  In effect you change gears by changing your body geometry.”

In 2005 I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of a delegation of Occupational Therapists to South Africa for a professional and cultural exchange with the People to People Ambassador Program.  During this time we visited hospitals, schools for students with disabilities, sheltered workshops and other vocational programs for the disabled.  It was obvious to see the added struggles that one would have with a disability living in Africa.  We were told by many of the people we met of how lucky they felt because they had been given a wheelchair and could finally go to school, work, or just get around easier.  The wheelchairs we saw were older, and had several “odds and ends” parts, but provided the user with added independence.

The students that I spoke with at the Hope School, a school for special needs children in Johannesburg, talked about how they could get around in their wheelchairs much easier at school than if they were at home.  Sixty percent of the student body (127 of 212) reside on campus during the week and return home on weekend, holidays and in summer.  This school is a preschool through high school that enrolls students with physical and/or learning disabilities that are deemed “educable”.  I am sure that there are many other children and adults in Africa that never have the opportunity to go to school or even leave their home because they have a disability.

My experience in Africa was invaluable.  I am thrilled to see that others have found a passion to provide opportunities for more independence for people living with disabilities in third world countries.

Entry filed under: Wheelchairs. Tags: , , , , .

Aging-in-Place products Accessible public transportation

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. landinginafrica  |  November 13, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Your site inspires me as I move towards my vision!


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