Uncovering unexpected impacts: the case of digital manufacturing of wheelchairs in Kenya

Dr Giulia Barbareschi, Sibylle Daymond, Jake Honeywill, Dominic Noble, Nancy Mbugua, Ian Harris, Catherine Holloway, University College London Interaction Centre (UCLIC), Global Disability Innovation Hub, Motivation, Motivation Africa
Sept. 1, 2020
Academic Research Publications


To address issues around the provision of appropriate wheelchairs in low-and-middle income countries Motivation developed a new method for producing customized wheelchairs leveraging technologies such as Computer Aided Design and 3D printing.

To test the feasibility and acceptability of this new provision system alongside the quality of the wheelchair manufactured, a 5-month study was carried out in Kenya. Five local members of staff and 8 expert wheelchair users were recruited as participants.

The results of the study show that in general both the local members of staff and the wheelchair users had extremely positive opinions concerning this new delivery system. However, technical and logistic challenges will have to be taken into account in future wider implementations. Beyond the measurable outcomes recorded as part of the study, the project had a considerable impact on participants.

The inclusive assessment process made wheelchair users feel empowered and increasing both their confidence and their knowledge about appropriate wheelchairs. Similarly, the staff at Bethany Kids reported that their involvement in the study changed the way they approach their clinical practice, making them more prone to listen and proactively involve users when prescribing a new wheelchair or adapting an old one.

This article was part of the RESNA 2020 Virtual Conference, GAATO/RESNA Assistive Technology Outcomes/Impact Summit.

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