Whirlwind Wheelchair International lands big Department of Education grant

Marc Krizack, director of Whirlwind Wheelchair International — a planning and mobility assistance program based out of San Francisco State University — was recently awarded a $4.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to develop wheelchair technology for citizens living in Third World countries.

What will you use the $4.8 million education grant for? We’re going to do a five-year comprehensive research study on wheelchair technology in five developing countries: Tanzania, South Africa, Vietnam, Cambodia [and] Colombia, as well as American Indian tribal lands in the U.S. The project has two parts. The first will be an information-gathering phase and the second will be about demonstration projects.

What are the current living conditions for people with disabilities in these countries? Most people with disabilities in the developing world are the poorest of the poor. The lucky few who do get support rely pretty much solely on government, nonprofits and charities to provide for them.

How responsive are these government and nonprofit groups to the needs of disabled people? It really depends on the place. Some provide very little support, some are better. We’re working with a government agency in South Africa which has been very supportive. But in Vietnam, the government does very little.

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