Increasing awareness and knowledge amongst humanitarian organisations that a solution exists for supporting disabled people in emergencies

Organisation: Motivation Charitable Trust

Partners: World Federation of Occupational Therapists and Johanniter

Location: The innovation will be rolled out in emergency settings; the diffusion activities will be largely in the UK, New Zealand and Germany

Type of grant: Core – diffusion

Status: Completed




The development of an innovative response to ensure the rapid and appropriate provision of emergency wheelchairs to injured and disabled people in humanitarian crises.

What humanitarian need is being addressed? 

The emergency wheelchair response meets a need not currently met by any other organisation or body. It includes a wheelchair which, in contrast to the majority of orthopaedic wheelchairs that are donated in emergencies, is highly suitable for an emergency context and environment. The unique design of the wheelchair makes it compact, easily transportable, adjustable, suitable for difficult and/or rough terrain, and available at an affordable cost to enable organisations to reach the maximum number of people during an emergency. It is quick and easy to assemble, using hand tools provided, and designed for rapid implementation. Further, its bright orange frame increases visibility of disabled people – vital to increase reach in an emergency. The field support package of tools and training, which accompanies the emergency wheelchair, contains guidance on setting up an emergency wheelchair service including clinical, mobility and storage areas; clinical information; a fitting form and user training instructions, and guidance for the user, including health and mobility information and wheelchair maintenance. The package of tools ensures efficient and high quality roll-out of wheelchair distribution, and ensures staff in the field will be assessing and fitting users in line with World Health Organization’s (WHO) ‘Guidelines on the provision of Manual Wheelchairs in less resourced settings’

What is the innovative solution?

The Emergency Wheelchair Response will allow high numbers of victims in an emergency situation to access relief services and have a greater chance of survival. Engaging with stakeholders involved in disaster risk management to inform them about our Emergency Wheelchair Response package will increase their awareness about including people with disabilities, and hopefully lead to them implementing the package within their disaster response planning

The lack of suitable wheelchairs in emergency settings causes life threatening situations for injured and disabled people. Without one these already vulnerable people are immobile, excluded from relief efforts, dependent on others and at risk of serious health complications. Despite these needs, wheelchair provision in emergency situations is often:

  • Omitted from emergency rehabilitation services (which predominantly focus on prosthetics and orthotics (P&O)), and not linked to other service provision
  • Not immediate – wheelchairs often arrive after the critical period when intervention can save lives
  • Unplanned – there is often no service infrastructure or training for the appropriate delivery of wheelchairs
  • Uncoordinated – the wheelchairs which do arrive are donated in an ad-hoc way
  • Inappropriate – according to the WHO Guidelines and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 7176

How does the innovation build on and improve existing humanitarian practice?

We will build on the momentum gained and successes achieved through two previous HIF grants; firstly a small grant where we were able to design the innovative emergency response wheelchair; and a large grant where we developed accompanying field tools and training to support the effective distribution of the emergency wheelchairs as well as then testing the complete package during the Haiyan Typhoon in the Philippines.

Following the completion of the large grant, we have been working closely with the UK International Emergency Trauma Register (UKIETR), a DFID-supported programme run by UK-Med. UKIETR brings together surgeons, anaesthetists, emergency physicians/nurses and other supporting medical, nursing and paramedical personnel who are interested in responding to large scale emergencies overseas.  We have provided training to professionals on this Register and they have already been mobilised to respond to the emergency in Gaza, utilising the Emergency Wheelchair Package. Further, both Handicap International (HI) and Johanniter Unfall Hilfe (JUH) have purchased stock of emergency wheelchairs, with the aim of utilising these in a future response. Motivation is also holding a stock of wheelchairs in the UNHRD Storage Hub in Dubai, ready for rapid deployment.



Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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