Wheelchair provision guidelines

Mobility and movement are essential for human health and well-being. For people who rely on wheelchairs for mobility, an appropriate wheelchair is essential to ensure physical and mental health and development, function, participation and inclusion. However, quality wheelchair provision is globally uneven and access to appropriate wheelchairs for many is a significant challenge. Multiple barriers exist, resulting in wheelchair users either not having a wheelchair, or accessing one without trained guidance, potentially receiving an inappropriate wheelchair with the associated risks. And yet, WHO has estimated 80 million people (or 1% of the world’s population) are likely to require a wheelchair to assist their mobility, with this number set to grow as the global population ages and other trends such as an increase in chronic health conditions continue.

To support countries in addressing this challenge, WHO has released new Wheelchair provision guidelines, which were developed in collaboration with the International Society of Prosthetics and Orthotics and the International Society of Wheelchair Providers.

The Wheelchair provision guidelines aim to support improved access to appropriate wheelchairs, for all those in need, including children, older persons, people with mobility disabilities, and those with chronic health conditions. They are relevant for all countries and apply to all wheelchair users and types of wheelchairs. They emphasize that the best outcomes in wheelchair access occur when wheelchair users have the benefit of wheelchair selection following an individual process of assessment, fitting, training and follow up, provided by appropriately trained personnel. It is understood that this requires effective wheelchair provision systems that are integrated within health and other sectors, inclusive of effective referral networks and will likely require task-shifting and other strategies to mobilize the required workforce. Ultimately, the purpose of these guidelines is to ensure that wheelchair users have timely access through wheelchair services that are people-centred and responsive to their needs.

WHO extends special thanks to the many across the six WHO regions involved in developing these guidelines. Their combined expertise and experience, coupled with detailed review of the available evidence, has contributed to a valuable resource that will guide countries in the enhancement of wheelchair provision within health care and beyond. WHO also thanks the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for their financial support towards this work.

“Investing in wheelchair provision is an investment in a better future, and it is up to us to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to pursue their dreams.” (Dr Hanan Balkhy, WHO; David Constantine, ISWP; Claude Tardiff; ISPO)

Watch the launch video  to learn more about how the guidelines were developed: