In developing nations where poverty and economic isolation are the norm, it is estimated that 100 million people need a wheelchair, yet cannot afford one. Already suffering with the pain, inconvenience, exclusion and indignity of a physical disability, many of these people with physical disabilities must endure further burdens. Some are forced to crawl on the ground or wait to be carried by loved ones to reach their most basic of needs. They are subjected to danger and disease. Many succumb to hopelessness. Safety nets are few, and available social services are scarce. Families strain to care for their disabled loved one within an already overburdened existence.

100 million people need a wheelchair, and yet this empowering gift of mobility is an economic impossibility, a dream far beyond their wildest imagination.

Why are so many people disabled?

80% of people with disabilities live in developing countries. There are many reasons for the preponderance of disability in low-income parts of the world.

Disease and lack of access to immunization
. Birth defects from malnutrition or exposure to chemicals are not uncommon. Illnesses like polio that have been eliminated in the United States through a comprehensive vaccination policy continue to wreak havoc in underserved areas. Injuries. Injuries that could be treated and cured with simple medical attention are often left to deteriorate, due to the lack of available and affordable health care in poor areas. Burns are commonplace, working conditions can be unmonitored and highly risky, traffic accidents are on the rise, and often the poorest members of society are caught in the fray.

Conflict-ridden areas haunted by the remnants of war can be peppered with land mines, often killing or injuring children and unsuspecting victims. Biological elements of aggression, such as Agent Orange have caused birth defects which can result in disability in generations to come.

And, unfortunately, the poorest members of any society tend to live in the least desirable areas, which are at best unclean and at worst, dangerous and uninhabitable. What does poverty have to do with disability? Disability has many contributing factors, but one of the most powerful, observable, and universal links is the direct relationship between poverty and disability. The two are intricately connected.

Poverty causes disability through dangerous living conditions, lack of health care and malnutrition. People living in poverty are often forced to live and work in unsafe conditions, risking illness and injury. They often must make decisions that sacrifice their own health and well-being for the sake of children, family or community, and they have no safety net to save them from the consequences of these difficult choices.

Disability creates poverty when it excludes the disabled from full participation in the economic and social aspects of community.
In many parts of the world, the disabled lack access to jobs, health services, transportation, or any form of rehabilitation. Disabled individuals may suffer additionally from inbuilt social stigma, cultural suspicion and economic prejudice; in many times they are exposed to abuse and violence, some of which may be considered culturally acceptable.

Education – the vital link… Perhaps the most damaging arena from which the disabled are excluded is that of education. Education is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially disadvantaged populations can lift themselves out of poverty. Education should be a basic right for all people, yet millions of children are deprived asthe result of a disability and must face life without basic literacy, math skills and the hope for the future that education provides; in fact, it is estimated that 98% of children with physical or mental impairments in developing countries do not attend school.

How does Free Wheelchair Mission address the problem of global disability?

OUR SOLUTIONWe build our wheelchairs simply and inexpensively.
We use commonly available components.

We partner with like-minded organizations to leverage our ability to reach some of the most remote regions on the planet.
And we do it for an astonishingly reasonable cost.
For a little over seventy dollars, a wheelchair can be built, transported and delivered around the world, to lift someone up off the ground, and change a life forever.

See "The Journey of a Wheelchair"


Change a Life for $77.91