The International Society of Wheelchair Professionals (ISWP) was launched in February 2015 with a mission to serve as global resource for wheelchair service standards and provision through advocacy, education, standards, evidence-based practice, innovation and a platform for information exchange. The vision is to have all people who need wheelchairs receive appropriate products and services with dignity, enabling them to access education, employment and health care and to participate in their communities.
To address this need, ISWP will help to professionalize wheelchair services around the world, benefitting both wheelchair users and those who help them. This will be accomplished by promoting the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines on providing manual wheelchairs in less resourced settings, promoting training and research activities, improving wheelchair design and manufacturing, and coordinating services.
The International Society of Wheelchair Professionals (ISWP) understands the variability of wheelchair service providers’ activities worldwide. In some contexts and specialized centers, a wheelchair service provider may work with 3-4 clients per day and in some cases, a wheelchair service provider may only see 1 client per week. With these assumptions, ISWP estimates that in any context, one wheelchair service provider may see a range of 1 to 10 wheelchair user/s per week, or 24 to 240 per half year, assuming that the same provider may see the same clients again for a 6-months follow-up in a given year, that’s an average of 132 clients per year. To assure each user receives ample time in wheelchair services, we recommend 1 provider to every 100 wheelchair users (clients).The need is great. Over 100 million people worldwide require wheelchairs for mobility and function, yet most lack access to appropriate wheelchairs or services to repair them. Based on global data, the University of Pittsburgh estimates that 23 million wheelchairs are needed annually. Currently, about 3 million wheelchairs are produced each year, resulting in a 20 million per year deficit.
Initially funded through a multi-year USAID grant, the Society is being led by staff at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology.
An Advisory Board comprised of an experienced cross-section of wheelchair clinicians, research scientists, humanitarian organizations and manufacturers provides direction and counsel for ISWPs programs. Working Groups of representatives from the international wheelchair community meet regularly to develop and implement action plans related to the objectives.