Too many disabled children go without a wheelchair and some cannot even attend school because of their lack of mobility. An Israeli innovator seeks to change this reality by developing affordable wheelchairs for children in disadvantaged parts of the world.
Millions of disabled people lack minimal mobility as the third world has a shortfall of 20 million chairs to serve them. Children aged five and older sometimes need to crawl to get around, or can’t attend school because of lack of accessibility.
So Pablo Kaplan, who served for almost 30 years as the vice president of Marketing at Keter Plastic, an Israeli manufacturer of plastic household and garden products, decided to come to their aid and set up the Wheelchairs of Hope project. The aim was to produce wheelchairs for disabled children in Third World countries.
After he spent three years working on the project, the first shipment of 250 wheelchairs for children in institutions in Israel and the Palestinian Authority is to be sent this month, with a batch for residents of the refugee camps in Syria soon to follow. Distribution of the wheelchairs is being done through institutions including the Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem and Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana.
To develop the optimal chair that can withstand harsh conditions but at the same time be comfortable for children, Kaplan contacted his friend and colleague back from his days at Keter, Dr. Amir Ziv Av, now the owner of engineering company Ziv Av Engineering Group. Together they developed a lightweight chair — it weighs 10 kilograms (22 pounds) as opposed to the standard 15 kilograms — that can handle off-road conditions, requires zero maintenance and is robust and simple to assemble. More importantly, the chair costs just $100.