Reduced Inequalities

Wheelchairs of Hope – Enabling Future Generations

Chava Rothstein and Pablo Kaplan were two business professionals at the top of their game in the corporate world when they decided it was time for a change. They realized they could use their collective experience in international business and plastic product development to design, build and provide wheelchairs to children in developing countries across the world.

Why wheelchairs? Kaplan admits it was his lifelong dream. Working in the plastic chair industry for 30 years, Kaplan learned how to create a chair design that was both appealing and affordable. That was when the penny dropped. Kaplan took a look at the existing wheelchairs designed for children and came to the conclusion that they could be designed to be lighter, more affordable, and fun. Soon after this revelation, the married team of Kaplan and Rothstein embarked on a research journey that began at the World Health Organization in Switzerland. There they learned that there are over 20 million people in the world with a permanent need for wheelchairs, with most of those people in developing countries.
After that meeting they met with the United Children’s Fund (UNICEF) team in India, where the numbers pertaining to children in need of wheelchairs became concrete: over 7 million children in need of permanent wheelchairs. But the meeting with UNICEF also brought to light for Kaplan and Rothstein a very basic principal of wheelchairs vis a vis education: A wheelchair means that a disabled child can get to school. In developing countries, 90% of disabled children do not attend school. And according to UNESCO studies, an undereducated country spells bad news for its economy. Kaplan and Rothstein came up with a formula, which became their vision: Mobility => Access to Education => Independence => a Better Future for children with disabilities.
Wheelchairs of Hope - Enabling Future Generations - sdg 10 - social impact israel
@Wheelchairs of Hope
Soon they set out to design a more affordable, and “joyful” wheelchair. Two years later, after the design of several different prototypes by their multidisciplinary team, “the champion” (as they call it) wheelchair was born. The wheelchair was, and still is designed for children aged 5 to 9. It is made of a lightweight, durable plastic and comes in fun colors: red, striking blue, or pistachio green, and include a seat cushion and safety belt. The wheelchairs arrive unassembled but with tools and assembly instructions. (One can even watch a fun and informative step-by-step tutorial on wheelchairsofhope.org).
Kaplan describes how when the team tested out the first prototypes with disabled children “the kids didn’t want to return them. They wanted to keep them.” It was then that Kaplan and Rothstein learned another important lesson: The design of the wheelchair had the ability to affect attitudes about disability, among others and among the disabled themselves. “In reality we created a new approach toward disabilities, a superhero in the world of disabilities,” says Kaplan. That was the moment they saw the hope a wheelchair can create.

In December 2016 “Wheelchairs of Hope” began to provide their wheelchairs worldwide. Their wheelchairs were shipped to Peru, Chile, Ukraine, Vietnam, Swaziland, South Africa, Panama, Ethiopia, Argentina, Israel and other countries. Their motto: “Enabling Future Generations.”

To ensure that their product conformed to international health standards, Wheelchairs of Hope joined forces with Alyn Hospital, Israel’s pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation center, and provided training to teams in developing countries that would receive and distribute the chairs. They also enlisted ZivAv Engineering (product development), Reinhold Cohn Group (legal) and Nekuda Design Management (design) as partners.

Sustainable Development Goal number 10 — Reduced Inequalities — explains that, “Inequality threatens long- term social and economic development, harms poverty reduction and destroys people’s sense of fulfilment and self-worth. Most importantly, we cannot achieve sustainable development and make the planet better for all if people are excluded from opportunities, services, and the chance for a better life.” Encouragingly, Wheelchairs of Hope is achieving target 10.2 — empowering and promoting the social inclusion of all, including those with disabilities.

Wheelchairs of Hope has been featured on Israeli, British, Russian, Vietnamese, Peruvian and Chilean news, spreading its messages of mobility, independence and empowerment, replacing helplessness with security and confidence, and bringing new hope to disabled children the world over.
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