Motivation welcomes new specifications on appropriate wheelchairs and wheelchair cushions from the WHO and UNICEF.

This week the World Health Organization with UNICEF published new guidelines that will make it easier for health services around the world to choose appropriate wheelchairs.

The Assistive Product Specifications give clear guidance on the necessary requirements for 26 priority assistive devices, including manual wheelchairs and wheelchair cushions. 

This guide is absolutely vital for identifying when a wheelchair is good quality, safe for users and appropriate for the setting in which it is being provided.

We are absolutely delighted to see these guidelines available to everyone who is responsible for deciding on the purchase and supply of wheelchairs.

Funded by by UK Aid under the AT2030 programme at Global Disability Innovation Hub, it is another great step toward better wheelchair provision globally.

And we were thrilled to give input to the specifications for manual wheelchairs and wheelchair cushions, using our 30 years of designing, making and providing these products around the world!

Chris Rushman, Technical Specialist at Motivation, consulted on the guidelines. He says:

"There are many different types of wheelchairs available at the moment, with many different features. That can make it confusing and difficult to work out what are the really important specifications and necessary adjustments.
"These guidelines are incredibly useful for anyone trying to work out what types of appropriate wheelchairs they should offer to wheelchair users.
"It was great to give input to the manual wheelchair and wheelchair cushion specifications. At Motivation we strive to share our knowledge from thirty years in wheelchair design and supply as widely as possible through training and consultancy. This will be a useful resource to reach even more people, ensuring they make more informed and appropriate choices."

Why are the guidelines needed?

Across the world there are 75 million people in need of wheelchairs and the need is growing. Worryingly, 10% of those who need a wheelchair cannot access one.

Where wheelchairs are provided, they are often completely inappropriate for the environment in which they’re being used. They might not be suitable for rough terrain; they may be the wrong size; they may be old and broken; and it might not be possible to repair them locally.

And the issue is not always about cost.

Despite the great – and increasing – need for wheelchair provision, service providers and rehabilitation professionals receive very little training on wheelchairs through their formal education. Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Prosthetics and Orthotics staff often have to learn on the job. This can mean a serious lack of knowledge when it comes to selecting a good wheelchair.

Watch the WHO video

What will the guidelines change?

We’ve been advocating for better wheelchair design and provision for three decades, because we’ve seen the impact of inappropriate wheelchairs. Often provided with the best of intentions, an inappropriate wheelchair can create more problems than it solves.

A badly-fitted wheelchair without an appropriate pressure relieving cushion reduces mobility and impairs function, meaning a child may be unable to go to school or an adult may not be able to earn an income. Use of the wrong or inappropriate products can lead to long-term secondary health complications and could cause permanent harm to the individual. Pressure ulcers, for example, can be life-threatening.

By increasing awareness and understanding of the qualities of appropriate wheelchairs and cushions, we can avoid these negative impacts.

We can ensure that more people are getting a product that brings them independence, supports their health and gives them an opportunity to fulfil their potential.

We can move closer to a world in which access to appropriate wheelchairs become a basic human right.


Download the guidelines

Find out more about our wheelchairs

Get in touch to hear more about our wheelchair provision training