Gizmo of the Week: the US$44.40 wheelchair
January 19, 2006 It is estimated that there are more than 100 million people in the world who need a wheelchair but cannot afford one. Mechanical engineer Don Schoendorfer had a secure, highly-paid job when he decided he could make a difference during his short stay on the planet, forsaking his job and embarking on a quest to help all those people. Don’s goal is to distribute 20 million of the pictured wheelchairs by the year 2010. Don set up the Free Wheelchair Mission in California in 2001 as non-profit organization committed to providing the gift of mobility to the physically disabled poor in developing countries and has just manufactured its 100,000th wheelchair. The central seat is a plastic garden chair – the use of existing parts enables the wheelchair to be manufactured in China, shipped in knockdown form via container, assembled and delivered to needy people all over the world for a total factory-to-field price of US$44.40. The Free Wheelchair Mission creatively partners with like-minded international humanitarian and indigenous organizations and it also accepts donations. Just think how much difference US$44.40 can make to the life of one human being.