Thanks OpenIDEO for your comment and sharing users feedback as well. We are very happy to know that experts thought that our idea has a lot of potential to be valuable. We also think that if executed and implemented properly this idea will solve two problems at one time - unemployment and unavailability for wheelchair repair centers in local level.
We will try to answer all of your questions one by one.
1) How are you ensuring repair of the various types/models that are distributed? There are not many types of wheelchair that are distributed in our country. We know this because we are the main distributor of wheelchairs in Nepal. We provide wheelchair even for the government agencies to distribute. Many wheelchair users in Nepal use same kind of wheelchairs (i.e. Standard Wheelchairs and Rough Riders). We import the parts of these wheelchairs while we import the wheelchairs, so we can be sure that we will ensure the repair of all kinds of wheelchair. Also the rough rider wheelchair uses a lot of parts that are used in cycle, and is normally available.
2) How might you make this model sustainable (for example some models and obtaining spare parts can be expensive)? Because the distributed wheelchairs and its parts are not of many kinds, we will ensure the import of the parts in regular intervals to provide to the repair center (in nominal cost). We have also change our idea to start a small shop to sell simple items like water, noodles, tea etc (like a road side eatery) along with repair center. We have a plan to make this repair center a hub for people to come and gather etc. So because of this we think that , this model will sustainable as the business will grow and they will keep doing this work.
3) Have you considered making local chairs with local resources? Until now we have not considered making local chairs. However, we know a organization called @Independent Living Center for Persons with Disabilities in Kathmandu (CIL-Kathmandu), who have started to make some number of wheelchair locally. We will work with them so that our repair center have access to spare part for those local chairs as well.
4) Can you share with us more specifics about the users needs now, and how you will continue to gain user insight and perspective throughout this process? We aim to solve two of the most important need that a wheelchair users have. Economic Independence and Mobility Independence. There are not many employment opportunities for wheelchair users/persons with disabilities in local level currently. So that is main need for them to become financially independent. Also there is not even a single wheelchair repair center and if their wheelchair breaks down; it is very hard for them to achieve mobility independence.
Our organization has many local partners who have helped us in distributing the wheelchairs previously to persons with disabilities. We will gain users insight about this idea even after implementation with the help of these local partners. We will keep changing our models to accommodate the users need.
4. How do you make sure you have chairs that are appropriate to users needs and local terrain? We have wheelchair assessment guideline. Our guideline is based on one developed by World Health Organization. We never donate a chair to anyone without doing a proper assessment. This assessment ensures that the user gets a wheelchair that best suits his need. Also we provide rough riders wheelchair in terrains which are somewhat rough and not very smooth. Also we provide tricycles where publc transport are not friendlier for people with disabilities ; so that they can travel longer distance on thsoe tricycles.
We also have plans to train the repair center owners (artisans) on the wheelchair assessment tool. So that they can also conduct such assessment in the local level and send those assessment results to us to make our donation more effective.
Thanks a lot Sightsavers. Yes, we included cycle for the same particular reasons that we wanted to increase our customers base (not only those using wheelchairs but also those using cycles.) and also as you highlighted it becomes a hub for connection between persons with and without disabilities.
We will have a training session before the start of actual repair center. And you highlighted that training will certainly have sessions on financial literacy and also entrepreneurship skills beside core technical skills. We have plans to help them start a small shop in one corner of their repair center that would sell quick food items like tea, bottled water, noodles etc. The reason for this is again, we want to create these centers as some kind of economic hub in that area run by people with disabilities. This will create a certain change in the perception towards people with disability in the community.
Coming to your last query, we had not thought about advocating for their employment within existing cycle repair centers but this might certainly seem like an idea we might want to pursue in our project. What we can do on the repair center is operation, the owner can then give repair training to other people with disability in the community and we/supporting organization can then start advocating for the employment of these trained people in existing repair center. Also there is another exciting project by our friends at National Federation of the Disabled Nepal which is titled Get Hired! - Employment Support Program for Youth with Disabilities. We can also take their help in finding employment for those who take training in our programs.