Statistics show that there are 65 million people in the world who need a wheelchair to move around. Of that number, it is estimated that 20 million, including 5 million children, do not have access to wheelchairs.
But there is hope, literally. A nonprofit called “Wheelchairs of Hope” is aiming to give more children access to wheelchairs by designing an affordable model that is built specifically for children.
Pablo Kaplan, co-creator of the project recently told Shalom Life, “The wheelchair provides mobility. Mobility provides access to education and empowers independence. This is the core of our project”.
The company has backing from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations (UN) and two Nobel Prize winners and has already made agreements with Tajikistan and the Dominican Republic as future pilot production sites. The Palestinian Authority may be a third.
Wheelchairs of Hope are based in Israel and Kaplan spent more than 30 years in the plastics industry, primarily as an executive. He teamed up with Chava Rothstein to form the nonprofit and the two hope to revolutionize how companies design wheelchairs for kids.
“The problem with today’s standard wheelchair is that it is not designed with kids in mind,” Kaplan says. “The current wheelchairs available for kids are merely adult wheelchairs, just reduced in size. Moreover, the look of these wheelchairs is as appealing to a kid as a plate of broccoli.”
The two traveled to theme parks around the world and looked at designs for seats that were used on rides for children to help inspire them. After just 6-months from initiating the project, they had their first prototype.
The early stages of the project were financed out of pocket but now Wheelchairs of Hope needs funding to make it through the critical stages of design, production and manufacturing. The company has received a lot of international support and attention from the United Nations General Assembly and UNICEF’s task force for assistive technologies. However, while the kind words and attention are nice, right now the team needs investment.
Kaplan is hoping the aid of two Nobel Prize winners, Israel’s Aaron Ciechanover and the UK’s Richard Roberts, will help. Already the two have sent letters to Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation in hopes of finding much needed financial support.
“We are very enthusiastic and optimistic,” Kaplan says.
People interested in making a donation can contact the company here.