Improving mobility for the disabled

Health workers are being trained on how to custom build wheel chairs based on individual needs 

Service: In an effort to provide better services to persons with disabilities in the country, health professionals are receiving training on wheelchair service training in Thimphu.

The two-week training is aimed at providing skills and knowledge to ensure safe and functional seated mobility to those who need it.

A team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, rehab engineers and seating specialists from the US, Canada, Argentina, and South Africa will train local health professionals and members of the disabled community from across the country.

Department of Public Health director, Dr Pandup Tshering said that physical mobility is important for an individual as it gives the person the right to enjoy life and live in dignity. He said that wheelchairs are one of the most commonly used assistive devices used by people with disabilities for enhancing personal mobility.

Dr Pandup Tshering said that the wheelchair service training is important for both the service providers as well as the users.

The health professionals will be taught how to assess the patients on what type of wheelchair they may require and to custom assemble those chairs.

He added that they would also be trained on how to maintain and repair the chairs and on how to make pressure-relieving cushions, among others.

Around 30 customised wheelchairs will be used to train health professionals and invited members of the disabled community from various parts of the country.

Project coordinator, Linda Wolff, said that through the years she has heard the frustrations of many health professionals in regard to the absence of durable and appropriate wheelchairs for their patients who need it, in the country.

The health workers have witnessed patients being discharged from hospital only to return months later with life threatening pressure sores, Linda Wolff added. This is because they were not mobile.

“Children who require wheelchairs are not able to go to school or go out because they do not have a functional wheelchair,” she said “The good news is that Bhutan is making great strides in regards to disability awareness and services.”

The majority of wheelchairs available in the country are limited in their mobility as they are heavy, unstable and not very supportive or adjustable.

The wheelchairs are also not built to fit the specific size, needs or comforts of the user, therefore greatly reducing their efficiency and potentially leading to complications in their long-term health and wellbeing, it was pointed out.

Participating wheelchair users will get to take home their chairs after being properly trained on how to maneuver them on all types of terrain, as well as on their repair and maintenance.

The wheelchairs are made for rough terrain and will enable the user to sit in a proper upright position, which reduces physical problems that can arise from using a wheelchair over a long period of time.

Linda Wolff said that the training would empower the wheelchair users and show them that with their mobility they can continue to be full participants in their family and community life.

“When done correctly, providing proper seating and wheelchairs can save lives and change lives.”

Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Programme’s officer, Tashi Duba said that the training is one of the many interventions that the government supports.

Tashi Duba said that apart from the ministry, other NGOs, private organisations, families and individuals have an equal role to play when it comes to improving the lives of persons with disabilities.

The international team sponsored by US Aid, Health Volunteers Overseas (HVO) and the Arlington, Virginia-based Management and Sciences for Health (MSH), in collaboration with the health ministry organised the training.

The training began at the Taj Tashi hotel in Thimphu yesterday.

Dechen Tshomo

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