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New guidance, intended for anyone who has a role in wheelchair provision to help secure access to appropriate and quality wheelchairs, has been released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The guidelines have been developed in collaboration with the International Society of Wheelchair Providers and the International Society of Prosthetics and Orthotics. They are intended to support wheelchair users in any country and are relevant to all types of wheelchairs.

  • New wheelchair guidelines have been released by the WHO.
  • They are intended to inform anyone involved in wheelchair provision.
  • Relevant to all types of wheelchairs, they are intended to support wheelchair users worldwide.

Globally, wheelchairs are one of the most widely used pieces of assistive technology equipment, providing essential mobility for children, people with mobility disabilities, older people, and those with other health conditions who are unable or who have difficulty walking.

In fact, an WHO estimation suggests that around 80 million people are likely to require a wheelchair to assist their mobility at some point, and as chronic health conditions continue to increase, and the population ages worldwide, this number is only likely to expand.

And yet, according to WHO, the opportunity to access a suitable wheelchair, together with quality wheelchair provision in general, is often a challenging and inconsistent process. This can result in a range of outcomes for people such as having no opportunity to use a wheelchair at all, having the use of a wheelchair that is inappropriate for their individual needs, or having one without proper guidance on how to use it safely.

Access to the most suitable wheelchair equipment is more easily enabled for individuals who can benefit from the support of trained staff providing suitable individual assessment, fitting, training, and ongoing follow ups after an initial effective referral. This is best provided by easy access to user-centric, responsive wheelchair services which have been integrated into health and care sectors.

The document states that,

‘These guidelines focus primarily on the area of provision. They offer service and system level recommendations and implementation guidance towards optimising wheelchair service models, delivering wheelchair service activities, ensuring training for all personnel that play a role in wheelchair provision, strengthening systems to monitor and evaluate wheelchair provision, and encouraging a supportive policy environment.’

Fundamentally, the recommendations are intended to promote improved access to appropriate wheelchairs for people who need them, worldwide.