Global Network

Why a Global Network

Design and Manufacturers:  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, and 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.  In order to improve the quality of wheelchair services, Whirlwind is establishing Wheelchair Provision and Assembly Centers (WPACs).  The WPACs receive unassembled wheelchairs from a regional factory.  Since twice as many unassembled chairs can fit into a container as assembled chairs, and because the WPACs provide some labor intensive value-added services such as sewing the upholstery, savings on shipping and factory labor costs are available to the enterprise to fund service provision operations.  A financially sustainable WPAC can be the anchor for creating a sophisticated wheelchair services infrastructure that can grow to include other assistive technology.  It can serve as a base for disability advocacy and other disability-related projects.   Capable, entrepreneurial organizations are invited to submit business plans for a WPAC and to begin working with Whirlwind to establish local wheelchair provision.  With WPACs and other business innovations, Whirlwind hopes to return to its roots and work directly with wheelchair riders in design, testing, feedback, job training and employment, and collaborate in their advocacy efforts to improve access and opportunity.

WPAC – Wheelchair Provision and Assembly Center

Why WPAC?

Wheelchair users need chairs that fit and work well where they live.  A local organization operating with a sustainable business mindset creates not only a local supply of good chairs but a place for good provision, user and provider training, repair and, follow-up services, and disability community development.  Because a WPAC is rooted in the local community and is a sustainable social business, it is set to provide a world-class level of support to wheelchair riders.

  • Does your organization have a proven record of service to people with disabilities?
  • Is committed to excellent wheelchair provision?
  • Is capable of running a sustainable business?

If you answered “yes” to these three questions then you might be interested in establishing a Wheelchair Provision and Assembly Center (WPAC).  Some WPAC applicants will qualify for USAID assistance to off-set the start-up costs including the purchase of the first container of RoughRider wheelchair parts, training in WHO wheelchair service standards, and consulting services in provision and business management. WPAC partner organizations are responsible for assuming remaining costs of the business including salaries, benefits and rent. Please note that the USAID funding mentioned in the video is no longer available.

Apply to start a WPAC here.

WPAC Selection criteria

A qualified WPAC business or organization will have:

    • A business plan that shows an ability to achieve success in wheelchair provision, marketing, management, and technical processes
    • A vision and strategy to build a sustainable network of partner organizations which are trained to meet World Health Organization Guidelines On Wheelchair Provision (Please see Sections 3 & 4 in particular)
    • An initial demand of at least 800 wheelchairs per year and have the marketing capacity to increase demand in the future
    • A capability to import wheelchair parts and have a track record of managing projects with earned income from sales
    • A track record of managing projects with earned income from sales of products
    • And experience using quality control methods is preferred.

Travelers Program

Through the Travelers Program, individuals in the USA can purchase Whirlwind products in small volumes and take them as airline baggage on trips to the developing world.  Most of Whirlwind’s partners buy large volumes of wheelchairs and distribute them through rehabilitation hospitals and other local partners.  If you are planning to visit a person who needs a rugged wheelchair in the developing world, this program is you.

Success Story

“While working with Slum Women’s Initiative for Development in Uganda I met a very bright young teenager named Jayla, but because of her disability and the rural dirt roads that become impassable during the rainy season, she rarely left her grandmother’s hut. After telling my husband about Jalya, with the idea that we would sponsor her for her school fees, my husband mentioned a unique organization named Whirlwind that had developed the RoughRider wheelchair for people just like Jalya. When I returned to Uganda the following summer, my husband and I carried two RoughRiders as our excess baggage-one for Jalya and one for a mother of two we were connected to through the Whirlwind network. Delivering the chairs was a fantastic success and we’re delighted that Jalya’s able to maneuver around her new school much easier in her RoughRider. Whirlwind was incredibly helpful pre-trip as she needed to be “assessed” for the chair several time zones away. They needed to be shipped to the East Coast ahead of my move to Uganda with a very slim turn around time. The folks at Whirlwind went above and beyond to educate us about the wheelchair and to answer our queries once in Uganda. Since that time we’ve continued to be in touch as we are so grateful to Whirlwind for their very hands on approach that made the RoughRider transporting incredibly efficient.”

~ Raina Clark-Gaun, Development Worker

Jalya transferring to her new chair.

Jalya transferring to her new chair.

The Process

You can order the RoughRider using this website and it will be delivered to your home before you travel.  Because our non-profit mission is to serve wheelchair riders in the developing world, we offer a price discount and information resources so that you can do your best to make sure that the chair fits the user and is appropriate for his or her needs.

1. Review this page and make sure this program is right for you.
2. Fill out the Travellers Program Form. You will receive a response email right away.
3. Download and email the Wheelchair Rider Assessment Form to someone who can assess the user.
4. Email Whirlwind a letter of support on your non-profit organization’s letterhead. This letter will verify that you are planning to donate the chair in the developing world.  Sample Letter Here.

5. Using the response email, send the complete Wheelchair User Assessment From to Whirlwind. Please CC the person who did the assessment.
6. Whirlwind will double check the fitting prescription and email you a price discount code.
7. Purchase your RoughRider online – don’t forget to use your discount code.
8. The RoughRider will arrive in a few weeks.

Pricing Info

Discount pricing is only available to travelers who are working with non-profit organizations.  Please submit a letter of support by email.  After Whirlwind receives your letter of support and the Wheelchair Rider Assessment Form is complete, you will receive a special discount coupon code.  You will use this code when you make your online purchase in order to receive the special price.

You can order the RoughRider using this website and it will be delivered to your home before you travel.  Because our non-profit mission is to serve wheelchair riders in the developing world, we offer a price discount and information resources so that you can do your best to make sure that the chair fits the user and is appropriate for his or her needs.

After Sale Service

The following product descriptions are available for riders and buyers:

If you have any additional questions, please fill out the Travelers Program Form.  If you need help with a previous order, please contact Whirlwind using the travel program email you already received.

Become An Advocate For Whirlwind Riders Around The World

      • Looking to help someone in need in the developing world?
      • Currently using or previously used assistive technology?
      • Passionate about increasing access and wellbeing for wheelchair riders?

Then become a Whirlwind Advocate!

Whirlwind Advocates understand that a person who needs a wheelchair needs the right wheelchair.  The rugged, durable, safe and adjustable RoughRider can be this wheelchair.  As an advocate you can contribute to the process and provide quality assistive technology to those with similar disabilities in developing countries.  Become a Whirlwind Advocate HERE.

To get started, please fill out our Volunteer Form and so that we’ll know you are interested.  We’ll get back to you quickly and help you turn your good intentions into the change you want to see in the world.  Please take a few minutes to look through the fundraising opportunities which are listed below.

What you can do

Fundraising Opportunities

Raise funds to support Whirlwind’s ongoing design and quality control efforts. We are constantly developing new products, improving existing designs, and helping build the local infrastructures. Contact us for more information here.

Raise funds to buy wheelchairs.  Either rely on us to decide where the chairs should be distributed or choose a specific country or organization. Contact us for more information here.

Help sell the Whirlwind RoughRider® in the U.S.  The RoughRider® is FDA approved for sale in the U.S., and all revenue goes to supporting Whirlwind’s non-profit mission in the developing world.
Make presentations to local charitable and philanthropic organization with Whirlwind provided promotional materials.
Host neighborhood house party fundraisers.
Donate here and tell your friends and family members to do the same.
Buy a RoughRider for your personal outdoor use.
Demonstrate how you use the RoughRider® to fellow users.
Promote the RoughRider® to organizations that attract wheelchair riders through sports and recreation.
Take a photo or video using your RoughRider and send it to us.  We’d love to see your action shots.

Whirlwind Quality Assurance Program

Quality of design and manufacturing are extremely important to wheelchair users. A wheelchair breakdown is a serious problem that can leave its rider stranded far from home or unable to return to work or school until the chair is repaired. Not only do most wheelchair riders not have the money to buy their chairs, but the can not even afford to pay for repairs. To achieve our goal of full inclusion and social participation for wheelchair riders, we are very careful to make certain that the chairs are free of manufacturing defects which would interrupt or cut short the benefit of the wheelchair for the user.

Whirlwind’s quality assurance program has three check levels. Check Level A is done on every chair. It includes tests like roll testing for distance and straightness, checking the function of each feature like the wheel locks and the foot rests for the ability to hold full body weight, checking that bolts arer tightened to spec, checking for sharp edges, and checking for the tension of the spokes. Chairs must pass these tests and failures indicate to manufacturers that deeper problems exist which are then resolved. Check Level B is a batch test done on one of 100 chairs or one per batch for smaller batches. After assembly all the important angels and lengths are measured like seat angle, back angle, seat height, distance between wheels, toe in/out, caster barrel angle, etc. Then a chair is torn down into pieces and each component is measure to ensure it is within specifications. This is a very close inspection that looks at everything from the quality of the upholstery stitching to the spacing between welds.

Manufacturers submit their quality reports to Whirlwind with each order so that they can receive support from the Whirlwind technical team as needed. Whirlwind also uses various methods of gathering samples from manufacturers so that we can double check that reports are consistent with our observations of randomly chosen units.

Check Level C is done at Whirlwind HQ. This test is verification that the design the factory is building matches our intended design. In manufacturing, there is always an impulse to cut costs by using cheaper materials which will not meet the intended performance requirements. Check Level C includes testing of paint, all materials, and ISO tests like the double drum test to 400,000 revolutions, two times the ISO standard.