The small-business wheelchair in Tanzania

People with disabilities in developing countries face tremendous discrimination. They often struggle to find employment because of their reliance on wheelchairs for mobility. In a country like Tanzania, the terrain alone can be hard to traverse in a wheelchair, which often makes it difficult for people to get to work or to be taken seriously in the business world.  These issues motivated Tish Scolnik (’10 Course 2) to return to Tanzania as a Public Service Fellow for a second time in an effort to build upon ideas she had after designing and constructing wheelchairs last year.

Tish was inspired by individuals like Peter Shio, who relies on his wheelchair for mobility.  Peter found it difficult to make a living because of his disability and the stigma for people in wheelchairs.  With the help of a small-business wheelchair - largely inspired by Peter and his determination - he is now successfully selling vegetables in the village market from his own stand as well as running a radio repair business.  “They have inspired me to never give up in the pursuit of my dreams,” says Tish of Peter and the other recipients of small-business wheelchairs.

In order to give the people with disabilities more freedom and economic viability, she added “special attachments to the traditional African three-wheeler that would help facilitate roadside business, such as drawers under the seat for safe storage, a collapsible desk, and an umbrella for shelter from the elements.”  With the help of MobilityCare Wheelchairs in Arusha and the Kilimanjaro Association of the Spinally Injured in Moshi, Tish’s ideas were realized. They were able to distribute five small-business wheelchairs to disabled entrepreneurs.  She also helped each person with business plans and provided a business-training course to ensure their success as entrepreneurs by the end of her eight-week Fellowship in Tanzania.

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