Posted on Oct 07, 2021
The Wheelchair Foundation is a nonprofit organization leading an international effort to create awareness of the needs and abilities of people with physical disabilities, to promote the joy of giving, create global friendship, and to deliver a wheelchair to every child, teen and adult in the world who needs one, but cannot afford one. For these people, the Wheelchair Foundation delivers Hope, Mobility and Independence.
Established in 2000, the Wheelchair Foundation has committed or delivered a total of more than 1.1 million wheelchairs to 157 countries and geographical areas over the last 20 years.
The Wheelchair Foundation partners with donors (individuals, groups and companies) to provide wheelchairs to people who need them but cannot afford them, mostly in developing nations. 
According to the Wheelchair Foundation, an estimated 100 to 130 million people worldwide need wheelchairs, though less than 1 percent own or have access to one. Furthermore, the Wheelchair Foundation estimates that the number of people who need wheelchairs will increase by 22 percent over the next ten years, with the greatest need existing in developing countries. With such staggering and seemingly insurmountable figures, a solution hardly seems imminent. However, the Wheelchair Foundation's founder, Kenneth E. Behring, is tackling the issue one wheelchair—or sometimes five thousand—at a time.

Basic Information On The Wheelchair Foundation

What is the goal of the Wheelchair Foundation?
The Wheelchair Foundation's goal is to distribute 1 million wheelchairs over the next 5 years, and to further the awareness that a wheelchair is no longer an unaffordable item for delivery in developing countries throughout the world.
Where are the wheelchairs manufactured?
The Wheelchair Foundation purchases wheelchairs from several manufacturers in China that build a quality product designed to be easily maintainable in developing countries. According to Behring, since the Wheelchair Foundation's mission is to provide as many wheelchairs as it can, it aims to be very competitive in price, while still getting the best quality possible. Manufacturers in China are the biggest in the world – there is one company that makes ten million bicycles per year, so they are able to be very competitive when producing wheelchairs. However, while nearly all the chairs are currently made in China, eventually the Wheelchair Foundation will be purchasing them from multiple countries.
Are the chairs free to the recipients?
Yes. The Wheelchair Foundation and its partners purchase the chairs and then give them away for free.
Are these wheelchairs designed for rough, developing conditions?
Yes. The wheelchairs that the Wheelchair Foundation distributes are specifically designed for the rough conditions of developing countries. Extra heavy wheels, tires, and front casters, sealed bearings and nylon seating make these wheelchairs the best possible solution for most conditions.
How is it decided who gets a wheelchair?
The Wheelchair Foundation distributes wheelchairs worldwide through a network of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that have ongoing humanitarian relief missions in the countries of wheelchair destination. These distribution partners handle all aspects of the importation and distribution of the wheelchairs to children that can now go to school, adults that can now go to work, and seniors that can once again become an active part of family life and society.
How much does a wheelchair cost?
The Wheelchair Foundation can purchase and deliver a wheelchair to our distribution partners worldwide for an average of US $150 per unit. This wheelchair would normally cost $500 in the U.S., but the large quantities that the Wheelchair Foundation purchases allow it to deliver each one for roughly $150, by a 280-wheelchair sea container. This same type of wheelchair sells for up to US $1,700 in some developing countries. 
How much is needed to deliver a wheelchair to a physically disabled person?
US $150 helps purchase, ship and deliver a new wheelchair to a person in need and supports the mission of the Wheelchair Foundation. However, most chairs are provided in bulk via shipping container at a price of  about US $42,000 for 280 units per container/order. For up to date and specific pricing, contact the Wheelchair Foundation directly.
How are the funds raised?
Through a combination of efforts, there are a number of different groups that support the Wheelchair Foundation, as well as, individuals who personally contribute a significant portion of the funds on a regular basis.
Does the Wheelchair Foundation work with NGOs (non-government organizations) to assist with the distribution efforts?
Absolutely! NGOs are crucial in every country. and the Wheelchair Foundation is currently working with several hundred NGOs. In Afghanistan, the Wheelchair Foundation worked with some people from the disability community and the U.S. Army. In China, the Wheelchair Foundation works with the Disabled Federation. In Central America, the Wheelchair Foundation works with First Ladies – the wives of the presidents have their own foundation and connections to rehabilitation hospitals. Additionally, the Wheelchair Foundation maintains long-term partnerships with various service organizations, including Rotary Clubs, the Knights of Columbus and Sister Cities International.

Rotary and The Wheelchair Foundation

In 2001 at the Rotary International Convention in San Antonio Texas, then RI President Frank Devlin launched a joint program with Ken Behring and the Wheelchair Foundation.
With the help of Rotary Clubs from around the globe, the Wheelchair Foundation has been able to deliver more than 895,000 wheelchairs worldwide and, together, the two organizations have changed hundreds of thousands of lives with the gift of mobility.
As a club or district initiative, Rotarians can participate in a wheelchair distribution as a hands-on Rotary project.

Prior to 2013, Rotary's Matching Grants scheme allowed small clubs to do big things. In order to maximize the potential of contributions made by Rotarians worldwide, The Rotary Foundation allowed for eight Matching Grant opportunities with any outside organization acting as a cooperating organization. The Wheelchair Foundation was one such entity and was pleased to be able to help Rotarian donors maximize the potential of contributions by coordinating this participation.
Over the course of about last twelve years, between 2001 and 2013, funds from individual Rotarians and clubs alike and the coordination of the application process to maximize the value of each and every donation were spearheaded by Rotarians. Matching Grants even allowed Rotary clubs and Rotarians to combine funds and participate in large scale projects with substantial local and international impact and receive Paul Harris recognition credit.
In July 2013, as Rotary moves into its Future Vision program, the Wheelchair Foundation Matching Grants scheme offered by The Rotary Foundation was revamped and reconstituted into the current grant processes utilized by Rotary. Under this revised scheme, clubs and districts across the globe have been able to support and benefit from multiple Global Grants and District Grants that have resulted in projects to provide wheelchairs via the Wheelchair Foundation gaining funding from The Rotary Foundation.
Within District 7030 itself, many persons in several countries have benefited from the Wheelchair Foundation.
Antigua and Barbuda280
Saint Lucia1070
  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines  665
Trinidad and Tobago   5980   
*all figures are based on reported estimates and may have increased to date
For more information, visit the Wheelchair Foundation website

The Work of PhysioNet

Over the past decade, the Rotary-run charity PhysioNet has provided a fresh lease of life for specialised disabled equipment in the UK, which has then been distributed to 25 countries around the world.
PhysioNet is dedicated to helping some of the most marginalised people in the world by supplying children and adults with disability equipment considered surplus or redundant in the UK. In 2019 PhysioNet supplied almost 8000 items of physiotherapy / paediatric equipment, wheelchairs, mobility items and some hospital hardware that would have normally ended up in landfill!
Established with its roots through work done with the charity Hope and Homes for Children in Eastern Europe during the mid to late 2000s, PhysioNet found its niche around 2009 – a need for specialised equipment, which the charity was able to easily source.
By 2009, the first containers were sent to South Africa and Fiji, and by 2018 PhysioNet was serving 25 countries having sent out 75 container loads. In May this year, the Spinal Injury Association of Fiji received its 14th consignment from PhysioNet, which included mobility devices and medical consumables.

On average each container holds more than 500 items. In total, 37,270 items were dispatched abroad between 2009 and 2018, including 6,188 items of therapy equipment and 11,688 wheelchairs.

The potential saving to the often cash-strapped homes and physiotherapy centres, working with adults and children with disabilities in developing countries and Eastern Europe, is enormous.
Concurrently, in the current spirit of being environmentally sensitive, PhysioNet has managed to recycle around 500 tonnes of usable equipment from hospitals, special schools, wheelchair services, residential and nursing homes, companies and private individuals which would otherwise have gone to UK scrapyards. Through collaboration with the Margaret Carey Foundation, prisoners in the UK refurbish wheelchairs for PhysioNet, before they are dispatched abroad. 

While PhysioNet is not a Rotary charity, it is strongly supported, both financially and in kind, by Rotarians and Rotary clubs across Great Britain & Ireland.

PhysioNet has a busy collection and distribution hub in the South West of England where a private benefactor generously provides storage for overseas shipments, giving a very positive effect to the organisation’s carbon footprint.

The Inverness Culloden Rotary Club spearheads a project with the Highland National Health Service to recover some 4,000 redundant wheelchairs which will be recycled and dispatched directly to developing countries around the world.

A further example of the Rotary partnership with PhysioNet is in Essex, where over the last four years, Saffron Walden Rotary has been collecting surplus mobility and physiotherapy equipment from all over East Anglia, London and the Home Counties which they then deliver to PhysioNet’s Yorkshire base. They supply about 50% of all equipment PhysioNet collects, undertaking the collection and deliveries in their own van. They have also donated a van for PhysioNet’s use, supported by Rotary clubs from all over the country which have made cash donations.

Additionally, PhysioNet’s volunteer healthcare professionals continue to monitor the ‘fitness for purpose’ of the equipment. They have made numerous visits to recipients in different countries, providing training for local physios and teachers, while helping to assemble, maintain and adjust equipment, matching items to user needs.

Lastly, and largely due to help from the Wheelchair Foundation, a number of clubs, particularly in South Africa, have received shipments from PhysioNet.

Recognizing that the needs of people with disabilities overseas remains great, Rotary volunteers continue to support the work of PhysioNet by identifying unwanted equipment in their communities, helping with collections, setting up local collection points and financially sponsoring this all-volunteer charity which has been the recipient of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
For more information, please visit the PhysioNet website.