The International Society of Wheelchair Professionals (ISWP) was launched in February 2015. The organization's mission is to serve as a global resource for wheelchair service standards and provision through advocacy, education, standards, evidence-based practice, innovation and a platform for information exchange. ISWP's vision is that all people who need wheeled mobility devices receive the appropriate products and services with dignity.
The need is great. Over 70 million people worldwide require wheelchairs for mobility and function, yet most lack access to appropriate wheelchairs or services to repair them. Based on global data, we estimate that 23 million wheelchairs are needed annually. Currently, about 3 million wheelchairs are produced each year, resulting in a 20 million per year deficit.
To address this need, ISWP helps to professionalize wheelchair services around the world, benefitting both wheelchair users and those who provide them services. This is accomplished by promoting the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines on providing manual wheelchairs in less resourced settings, promoting training and research activities, improving wheelchair design and manufacturing, and coordinating services.
ISWP was started with a seed grant from USAID, and the executive staff are in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology in the School of Rehabilitation Science and Technology at the University of Pittsburgh.
An Advisory Board comprised of an experienced cross-section of wheelchair clinicians, research scientists, humanitarian organizations and manufacturers provides direction and counsel for ISWP’s programs. Working Groups of representatives from the international wheelchair community meet regularly to develop and implement action plans related to the objectives.