Three Emerging Lessons in the Wheelchair Sector

Over the past four years, the USAID-funded Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) Project partnered with several organizations to improve the quality of services for persons with disabilities. Through the Essential Management Package-Leadership Development Program (EMP-LDP) trainings and Senior Leadership Program with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Women’s Institute on Leadership and Disability with Mobility International, and coordination efforts in the wheelchair sector, the LMG Project—led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH)—has become a respected partner in the rehabilitation sector and inclusive development.

I had the opportunity to share some of the LMG Project’s lessons in August 2016, when I presented at the 8th International Congress of African Federation of Orthopedic Technicians (FATO) in Lomé, Togo. In particular, I highlighted the LMG Project’s work in the wheelchair sector: supporting the roll out the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Wheelchair Service Training Package (WSTP), coordinating the development of the Wheelchair Service Training of Trainers Package, and aligning global and national stakeholders working in the wheelchair sector. These activities have increased awareness and promoted best practices for appropriate wheelchair service provision, adding value to previously existing efforts.

Meredith Schlussel presenting on the LMG Project’s integrated approach to trainings in the wheelchair sector. (Photo: MSH)

I used my presentation to share three emerging lessons for improvement in the wheelchair sector:

  • Tailor the standard WHO WSTP to the local context
  • Facilitate the development of a shared vision and coalitions
  • Integrate training into a larger professionalization process

However, more powerful presentations came courtesy of several past EMP-LDP participants from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Madagascar who shared work they have done with the LMG Project, and how it has had a positive impact on their service centers and their countries’ rehabilitation sector overall.

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I especially appreciated Christian Rafamantanantsoa’s presentation. Christian, representing the Centre de Rééducation Motrice de Madagascar (CRMM), described the center’s use of the Essential Management Assessment Tool, a participatory data collection tool that staff use to identify management systems and processes that need to be improved. He shared how the EMP-LDP allows centers to overcome challenges related to the delivery of services and improve the quality of services for persons with disabilities by addressing management gaps within the center. In addition, he emphasized how using the assessment tool changed the mentality of the center staff to work together in creating a shared vision and direction that implicates the staff at all levels.

One theme across the three EMP-LDP presentations was that building leadership and management capacity has led to and can lead to positive change in the sector, and how centers have taken ownership of their projects to promote some of their successes.

This is something that USAID and MSH have recognized in the health sector for years, and thankfully, the LMG Project has helped to bridge the gap between the health and rehabilitation sectors to transfer experience in building leadership and management capacity.

Whether it is through continued efforts in building leadership and management capacity in organizations, universities, and governments; working with private suppliers of assistive technology such as prosthetics or wheelchairs; partnering with associations to professionalize the sector; or strengthening human resources departments; the LMG Project and MSH have demonstrated the importance of future collaboration between partners in the health and rehabilitation sectors.

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