International: People Making a Difference
People Making a Difference! features stories of people in their own homes, lives, families, communities, states, nations or around the world making a difference (as), (with) or (for) people with disabilities.
Select the People Making a Difference International article of your choice from the "quick links" below:
- February 2010 - Ralf Hotchkiss - Inventor, Designer of the Roughrider Wheelchair and his company, Whirlwind Wheelchair International are posed to assist people's needs in earthquake devastated Haiti
February 2010 - Ralf Hotchkiss - Inventor, Designer of the Roughrider Wheelchair and his company, Whirlwind Wheelchair International are posed to assist people's needs in earthquake devastated Haiti
Ralf Hotchkiss is an inventor and designer of a maneuverable wheelchair, whose non-profit manufacturing company, Whirlwind Wheelchair International, designs wheelchairs for use by people with disabilities in developing countries. This non-profit program also assists companies in developing countries to manufacture the wheelchairs, giving people with disabilities (many of themselves wheelchair riders) roles in all aspects of their designs and projects.
And that is not all! This worldwide company is posed to assist in earthquake devastated Haiti. Recognizing that there will be potentially many people who are injured with spinal chord injury and limb loss, this company is requesting the manufacture of wheelchairs from their network of regional, quality-certified manufacturers; small wheelchair shops across the developing world under their public domain licensing program. They have ordered chairs from their network of suppliers and those chairs will be sent to Haiti as rapidly as possible beginning in April.
From the Whirlwind Wheelchair International website, this non-profit social enterprise is "dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities in the developing world while promoting sustainable local economic development in the process. They work to make it possible for every person in the developing world who needs a wheelchair to obtain one that will lead to maximum personal independence and integration into society. (The World Health Organization estimates that 1 out of every 300 people, or 20 million people, in the developing world need a good wheelchair and do not have one. [WHO Wheelchair Guidelines, 2008]) By giving wheelchair riders a central role in all aspects of their designs and projects, they ensure that their chairs are appropriate for real lives in real environments. For thirty years in over 40 countries they have focused on producing durable, low-cost, and highly functional wheelchairs. These chairs give riders the reliable and functional mobility they need to reach their full potential. Their active adult wheelchair design, the RoughRider is used by 25,000 riders traveling over every terrain imaginable from muddy village paths to rough pot-holed urban streets. In partnership with their wheelchair buyers, Whirlwind provided 3,000 RoughRiders in 2008 and 3,500 in 2009."
Hotchkiss is himself a paraplegic from a motorcycle accident, a graduate of Oberlin College where he began to make changes and develop his own wheelchair. "After graduation he went to Washington where he established a small Center for Concerned Engineering that worked for stronger fire prevention standards, auto safety and improved equipment for the disabled. His success with inventions brought him to the attention of the Veterans Administration where he became a consultant on equipment for disabled veterans. He continued his refinements of wheelchair design, durability and cost of construction during the rest of the Seventies." (Inventors) He moved to Oakland, California in 1980, traveled the world and began to design a wheelchair to meet the needs of riders in Third World countries. In 1989, he co-designed the RoughRider wheelchair and began to teach mechanical engineering from the Whirlwind headquarters located on the San Francisco State University campus as part of the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement. Hotchkiss believes his non-profit's wheelchair, because of the versatility of design makes this wheelchair able to stand up to and useable on rugged terrain. He believes the injured people of Haiti will benefit from the Roughrider, the tough, sturdy, but maneuverable design will allow this wheelchair to ride over the difficult terrain of rocks, holes, unpaved roads, water, mud, sand, rubble and more.
Roughriders are very low cost - about $220 a piece and the organization is looking for donations to assist worldwide. For more information or to help with this effort, visit their website above.
(Bay Area Program Sends Wheelchairs To Haiti , Reporting by Kim Mulvihill, M.D, CBS5, 01 Feb 2010 and Inventors Wheelchair Helps Disabled in the Third World , 03 Feb 1986. )