“Wheelchair bound.” “Confined to a wheelchair.” Referencing wheelchair users like this is not only outdated and offensive, it also reflects a lack of understanding. “People are not ‘confined’ to their wheelchairs,” say the folks at the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, “they are in fact liberated by their wheels. … A wheelchair offers people access to work and shopping or any other travel outside the home.” Sadly, an estimated 100 million people in developing nations across the world who need wheelchairs, are too poor to afford them. But thanks to Dr. Don Schoendorfer and the Free Wheelchair Mission, the humanitarian, faith-based nonprofit he founded, they now have hope.
Schoendorfer’s journey began many years ago on a visit to Morocco. There, he saw a woman who was unable to walk but had no wheelchair, drag herself across a busy intersection. He was deeply impacted by what he saw, and eventually Schoendorfer, a biomedical engineer and inventor, left his successful career to pursue a higher calling: He wanted to help people like the woman in Morocco by designing a wheelchair that was “basic, inexpensive and durable,” enough to withstand the rugged topography of many developing countries.