Wheelchairs can be incredible, useful mobility devices. But sad to say, many of the wheelchairs distributed worldwide are of low quality, which could pose danger to the users. To avoid adding insult to injury, Pitt scientists are preparing to take these wheelchairs to a new level by upgrading the standards.
The University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, after given a federal grant of an astounding $2.3 million, has announced a collaboration and partnership with the United States Agency for International Development. The two-year alliance is for the development of the new Society of Wheelchair Professionals.
Pitt scientists stated that the global network’s objectives are teaching and professionalizing the repair of the wheelchairs, building affiliations to put the improved equipment in the right hands, and ensuring a good level of standardization as well as oversight and certification. The International Society of Wheelchair Professionals will start this year and the launching will be administered by the faculty members of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Jon Pearlman, assistant professor and associate director of engineering at HERL (Human Engineering Research Laboratories) and Rory Cooper, founding director of HERL and a distinguished professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology will serve as co-directors during the launching.
Pearlman, during a press conference, stated that there are about 70 million wheelchair users worldwide but most of the chairs distributed across the globe are of very low quality. With wheelchairs like that, users could be at risk for falls or injury, for instance. Pearlman added that it is unfortunate not to have any trained personnel on the planet that has the ability to know what type of chair best suits its user. That is why the international network aims to give an emphasis on these three critical areas:
- Training of personnel – It is important to have people who are trained and are experts in building capacity. Wheelchair service providers worldwide would need these individuals.
- Developing of standards – A set of standards for wheelchairs will be developed by the International Society of Wheelchair Professionals so that wheelchairs will be made with high quality.
- Initiating advocacy and campaigning – The international network plans to initiate a broad public support as well as outreach campaigns in order to recruit and gather affiliates from different states and nations.
Cooper said in a press release that there is a need for a global network to help improve the quality of mobility chairs and the service delivery, as well as the repair of the wheels. He further stated that the international society is also necessary to link the designers, manufacturers, consumers, rehabilitation experts and wheelchair users to each other in order to better understand the needs and the requirements of individual user that would help develop a high quality wheelchair. Cooper also told the press that with the International Society of Wheelchair Professionals, Pittsburgh and their partners are ready to take wheelchairs to a new level.