Millions of people with disabilities in developing countries across the globe are in need of wheelchairs. However, a wheelchair simply isn’t effective if it does not work for a person. Enter the LETU Wheels team – LeTourneau students researching wheelchair function for people with disabilities in low income settings. Our goal at Wheels is to improve the lives of people with disabilities by providing feedback to wheelchair manufacturers specializing in low resource settings. We do this through field studies in Kenya as well as studies here on campus.
It’s a win/win situation. Manufacturers send wheelchairs to Kenya so they can get feedback through our field studies, and people in Kenya who need wheelchairs receive them. LeTourneau students make a global difference with their research as well as have a life-changing international experience.
We partner with Bethany Kids Relief and Rehabilitation International in Kenya which provides rehabilitation to the children at Joy Town Special Primary School for the Disabled in the town of Thika. We’ve been privileged to work with and give feedback to some of the key providers of wheelchairs around the world including: Motivation, Whirlwind, Hope Haven International, Free Wheelchair Mission, ROC wheelchairs, and Joni and Friends.
This year we’re looking forward to providing feedback on several sets of wheelchairs sent to be part of our study. Partly in response earlier studies, Hope Haven International has designed a new line of wheelchairs they are calling the Bee Line chairs. They’ve sent more than 20 of these chairs to Bethany Kids at Joytown. ROC wheelchairs has sent some of their new RockKit pediatric supportive folding wheelchairs, and some Rock the World wheelchairs are arriving from Germany. Free Wheelchair Mission is planning on sending some of their Generation 3 wheelchairs as well.
The exceptional students on the team this year will begin their research right here on our Longview campus. In low resource areas, there are few power wheelchairs so the ease of pushing is absolutely vital. The students will be studying the ease of pushing Hope Haven, Free Wheelchair Mission and Rock the World wheelchairs over rough terrain.
Students are raising funds and preparing to travel to Kenya in May to complete the field study there. The collected data will include feedback from the wheelchair users, feedback from clinicians, and tests that objectively measure a wheelchair users’ mobility in the study wheelchair types.
Study protocol has been approved by LeTourneau University, Queens University, and Bethany KidsRelief and Rehabilitation International, and all appropriate approvals have been obtained including subject consent forms and media consent forms. Letters of approval have been obtained from the Kenyan Ministry of Health.
Doors are wide open for the Wheels project to make a big difference in Kenya and around the world. We’d like to say a big thank you to all who are supporting the Wheels project; it wouldn’t be possible without you! This is a small project funded by generous individual gifts. Would you please consider supporting Wheels this year?
To learn more about Wheels, contact:
The Wheels project is a low budget enterprise funded largely by donations. With your help we can make a difference to children in wheelchairs at Joy Town and around the world.