Empowering children with disabilities

Helping to provide correctly-fitted wheelchairs and promoting disability inclusion

In a remote community in northern Uganda, four-year-old Mackline is beaming with happiness as she is fitted with her first wheelchair. She knows that this wheelchair is the first step in transforming her life and opening a world of opportunities. With a correctly-fitted wheelchair, Mackline can attend school, build new friendships and participate in activities with her classmates. Her knowledge and skills will multiply, as will her quality of life. She will learn, play, grow and thrive, and be granted the opportunities that every child deserves.

A world away, a team of Australian volunteers gather in a warehouse in the heart of suburban Perth, Western Australia. The volunteers are about to begin another day of work with Wheelchairs for Kids – an organisation whose mission is to manufacture and distribute wheelchairs to children in the developing world. A typical day sees more than 100 volunteers working to construct various wheelchairs, which will be shipped to countries across Asia, Africa and South America. The wheelchairs are locally designed to function on rough terrain and comply with World Health Organization standards.

World Vision Australia partners with Wheelchairs for Kids to distribute their specialised, all-terrain wheelchairs to vulnerable children in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda. In each country, World Vision works with local communities to identify and refer children with disabilities to hospitals and clinics. We partner with Motivation Charitable Trust – an organisation that specialises in training local staff on the World Health Organization standards of wheelchair fitting – to ensure that wheelchairs are fitted correctly and families are empowered to maintain the life of the wheelchair. World Vision also works with the local community to raise awareness of the rights of people with disabilities and advocate for social inclusion.

Back in Uganda, Mackline’s mother, Annet, helps to hold her daughter as local health workers make the necessary adjustments to ensure Mackline’s wheelchair is correctly fitted. Fitting a wheelchair is a long and challenging process, requiring specialist knowledge and technical skills. Herbert and Denis, the health workers pictured above, received training from Motivation Charitable Trust on how to fit wheelchairs according to World Health Organization standards. The work of Motivation Charitable Trust is key to successful wheelchair provision, as it empowers local health workers with the knowledge and skills to correctly fit wheelchairs and prevent secondary injuries.

As Herbert and Denis work patiently to adjust Mackline’s wheelchair, her mother expresses gratitude for the gift of this wheelchair and the positive change it will bring to their lives. “I am so thankful. This wheelchair will help [me] to take care of Mackline [and] juggle the household chores.”

In Mackline’s community, World Vision is already hard at work to promote disability inclusion and advocate for the rights of children with disabilities to health, education and employment.

Malawi schoolgirl in fit-for-purpose wheelchair

Twelve-year-old Minelesi in Malawi loves her new wheelchair.

What is disability inclusion? 

Disability awareness, advocacy and inclusion begin with a respect for human equality and diversity. The goal of World Vision’s disability inclusion work is to see full, equal and meaningful participation of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of daily life and in all spheres of society.

In Uganda, World Vision works with schools, health centres and the wider community to support and enable disability inclusion. This means supporting the development of disability-friendly infrastructure, helping children like Mackline access wheelchair-friendly toilets and water points. It means working with schools and businesses to provide opportunities for learning and employment for people with disabilities. World Vision is also committed to tackling negative stereotypes towards people with disabilities, so that community members are able to recognise the valuable contributions that people with disabilities can make to their community.

Uganda girl is fitted to a wheelchair

Nine-year-old Sophie in Uganda is fitted to a wheelchair.

Gender and disability

In the developing world, the discrimination faced by women and girls is multiplied when they live with a disability. For girls like Mackline, it is important that we work together to address the unique barriers to participation, education and inclusion.

On 3 December, we celebrate International Day of People with Disabilities and the contribution of our partners in working towards a sustainable and resilient society for all. Through the dedication and hard work of Wheelchairs for Kids volunteers, children like Mackline can now enjoy greater freedom and mobility.

The partnership between Wheelchairs for Kids, Motivation Charitable Trust and World Vision Australia ensures holistic wheelchair provision – meaning that children with disabilities receive correctly-fitted wheelchairs and are supported to access their rights to education and inclusion. Together, we’re providing the tools, training and support for children like Mackline to grow and thrive.

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