Our network includes designers, manufacturers, riders and disability activists
Why a Global Network
A great wheelchair design is nothing without a quality manufacturer. Whirlwind works together with independently owned factories around the world to produce excellent quality chairs. From our headquarters in Berkeley, California, the Whirlwind engineering team regularly monitors production quality at each of the quality-certified facilities in the Global Network. The network presently includes 4 certified regional wheelchair manufacturers in Mexico, South Africa and Vietnam as well as provision and assembly centers around the world. The Whirlwind Network functions as a non-profit social business, competing in the global wheelchair market on the basis of quality of workmanship, durability and price. Success has generated income for Whirlwind and our partners. This market-based approach to our social mission allows Whirlwind to serve donors, purchasers and ultimately wheelchair riders with an efficient, high quality, and cost competitive production system.
Regional production decreases shipping costs, shipping transit time, and our carbon footprint. Multiple manufacturers give Whirlwind the flexibility to choose which manufacturer is most appropriate for each order, usually based on available production capacity, lowest shipping cost, and fewest tariff and customs problems.
Durable wheelchairs that give a genuine and lasting benefit to wheelchair riders are an expression of one of our deeply held values that we should help people to help themselves. Our regional manufacturing approach creates jobs in many developing countries around the world. Many people with disabilities are given jobs in these facilities’ regions. Economic benefits from local manufacturing centers ripple through local communities. Through these centers, Whirlwind is bringing world class wheelchair technology to places that previously only had access to rudimentary and second-hand wheelchairs much like those used in mid-20th century U.S. hospitals.
The underlying unifying concept of the Whirlwind Network is the combination of the benefits of centralized mass production with appropriate local provision in an economically viable and sustainable manner. With imported parts, quality can be maintained at world-class levels while keeping prices reasonable. Best of all, local entrepreneurs can participate in the wheelchair market with excellent products instead of being cut out by imports of low-performance chairs.
Design and Manufacturing: Whirlwind provides high performance wheelchair designs to manufacturers, transfers the technology, provides initial and ongoing quality control, and certifies the quality of their production. Whirlwind uses its international reach and well-known brand to market to international non-governmental organizations and charities that are committed to doing the very best for wheelchair riders.
Network members have the right to:
• Use the Whirlwind logo and other marketing materials.
• They have the right to free design updates, including design improvements and innovations that are generated elsewhere in the network
• The right of first refusal on any new Whirlwind designs.
Manufacturers receive these benefits in return for providing Whirlwind with the lowest cost, highest quality products at agreed upon prices. Whirlwind represents the network’s manufacturers on all international transactions and is the sole agent for international sales, defined as sales where the funds originate outside the country, regardless of where the chairs are distributed. Whirlwind plays this role in order to ensure manufacturing quality on each order and to see that our chairs are responsibly provided to the users through proper assessment, fitting, and training.
Provision and Distribution
Wheelchair provision must be done locally in order to ensure that the necessary services such as assessment, measuring, fitting, adjusting, user training and repair are provided. The general lack of infrastructure for the delivery of wheelchair services in developing countries has led to a situation where donated wheelchairs are usually distributed without proper services or in the best case scenarios, are distributed by foreign volunteers on short visits.