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Karen Reyes, Project Coordinator – Wheelchair User’s Voice, outside the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

UCP Wheels for Humanity  staff members, Keoke King, Director of Social Enterprises and Karen Reyes, Project Coordinator – Wheelchair User’s Voice, traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, this August, to participate in the World Health Organization (WHO) inaugural Global Research, Innovation, and Education in Assistive Technology (GREAT) Summit.

The summit brought together 200 of the world’s top researchers, innovators, and educators in the field of assistive technology (AT), which includes everything from eyeglasses, hearing aids and wheelchairs to sophisticated automated systems. AT is a critical and cost-effective tool that can enable full participation in daily life for millions of people.

Currently, only 1 in 10 people in need of assistive products have access to them. To address this gap, the GREAT Summit aims to further the global AT research agenda, to establish research collaborations, accelerate innovative education and certification, and showcase groundbreaking developments in the field.

King and Reyes presented summaries of two important AT projects being led by UCP Wheels – Wheelchair User’s Voice and CLASP.  

Wheelchair User’s Voice is a two-year Google.org funded research project that studies wheelchair users in Indonesia and Nicaragua to evaluate the quality, durability and performance of six different types of wheelchairs and the impact on the user’s quality of life, health, economic and social participation.  The aim is to transform the existing market by equipping buyers with data so that their limited funds can be best spent to maximize positive outcomes for users.

CLASP is a USAID funded social enterprise that improves access to high-quality and affordable wheelchairs and other mobility aides. CLASP focuses on product performance and durability in the user’s real environment and stocks a wide range of products to meet the needs, lifestyles and environments of all wheelchair users around the world.

Speaking about the summit, Karen Reyes commented, “It demonstrated that a huge transformation is taking place in how people think about assistive technology. It was a privilege and honor to participate and, via our work with Wheelchair User’s Voice and CLASP, to be a part of moving the sector forward. The context and momentum created by GREAT makes this a perfect opportunity for partnerships, collaboration, and continued implementation to enable everyone in need access to high-quality and affordable AT products.”

Notes to editors: The GREAT Summit is an initiative of the Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE), created by WHO in 2014 to spur progress towards a world where everyone in need has access to high quality, affordable assistive technology to lead healthy and productive lives.

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