Reinventing the wheelchair for children in need
Israeli entrepreneurs partner with hospital to provide mobility solution for 5- to 9-year-olds.
When entrepreneurism meets philanthropy, the results can be inspiring.
A pair of business professionals in Israel decided they could no longer ignore the staggering statistics: 20 million people across the world need wheelchairs but don’t have the funds or access to obtain them, and of those, 25 percent are children. So they decided to do something about it.
They formed a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Wheelchairs of Hope, and they created a mission – develop, design, manufacture and provide wheelchairs to children in need of mobility.
To ensure their product conformed to international health standards, Wheelchairs of Hope joined forces with Alyn Hospital, Israel’s pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation center, and provided training to teams in developing countries that would receive and distribute the chairs.
At the helm of the organization are Chava Rothstein and Pablo Kaplan, two corporate veterans who brought decades of experience in international business and plastic product development – as well as their own social consciousness – to the table. They enlisted ZivAv Engineering (product development), Reinhold Cohn Group (legal) and Nekuda Design Management (design) as partners.
They set out to create a chair that even kids could enjoy – not just an ordinary wheelchair sized down for smaller people. This chair was specifically designed for kids ages 5 to 9, blending modern design elements, bright colors and durable materials into an affordable, lightweight wheelchair.
“The problem with today’s standard wheelchair is that it is not designed with kids in mind,” Rothstein told From the Grapevine. “The current wheelchairs available for kids are merely adult wheelchairs, just reduced in size. As a vital piece of medical equipment, a wheelchair that is both practical and appealing for kids could make all the difference.”
The group is now in the funding stages, hoping to attract investors. Kaplan says mass production should begin later this year.
Wheelchairs of Hope's mission goes much farther than putting children in wheelchairs. They believe that it opens the door to a world of new opportunities – education, self-confidence and independence. Call it the mobility domino effect.
"The wheelchair provides mobility,” Kaplan said. “Mobility provides access to education and empowers independence. This is the core of our project.”
After creating prototypes of the chair using a 3D printer, Kaplan and Rothstein went back to Alyn Hospital to test it out.
“We wanted to see the chair with actual patients to see how it would perform on both an emotional level and technical level,” said Kaplan. “It was very emotional for us because when the children moved from a traditional chair to ours, they didn’t want to give it back! Parents wanted to buy it on the spot.”
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE: