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.
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.
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.
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.