Low Cost Durable Medical Equipment Project
In 2008, Sonoran UCEDD and Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF) Nogales sponsored a Border Conference on Disabilities that was held in Nogales, Mexico. The plan was not just to have a conference but to leave something behind after the conference concluded. What resulted was a construction shop in Nogales, MX that would build all-terrain wheelchairs; the RoughRider designed by Ralf Hotchkiss for the rough terrain that is so prevalent in developing countries.
Over the next several years, multiple partnerships including universities, governmental agencies, private companies and individuals from both sides of the border joined to form ARSOBO (ARizona SOnora BOrder Projects for Inclusion). A non-governmental organization (NGO) with 501c3 status was established on the U.S. side with a ‘sister’ NGO in Mexico.
ARSOBO’s mission is to provide medical devices, made by individuals who use the same device, to alleviate barriers and enhance the potential of those with a disability.
ARSOBO operates under three Principles:
- Train and then employ those who use the medical devices they build for others
- Charge for these devices but, only what the families can afford
- Work toward a sustainable ‘social business’
ARSOBO developed sequentially in three phases:
- Create a shop that constructs durable wheelchairs designed for rough terrain
- Develop the capacity and expertise to build prosthesis and orthotics
- Implement a Hearing Health clinic to evaluate adults and children for hearing impairments and distribute appropriate low-cost hearing aids to those who need them
In January of 2011, the first phase opened with a shop to construct both standard and custom-built all-terrain wheelchairs for individuals with disabilities to improve access to their communities. The wheelchair shop employs two skilled wheelchair technicians who are both wheelchair users. The chief technician had been building this wheelchair for more than 25 years. With equipment purchased from U.S. Northern Command and alterations in wheelchair production, ARSOBO has increased construction from 1 to 3 wheelchairs each week. As a result of partnerships, grant funding, and donations, in 2013 ARSOBO expanded to fabricating prosthetic limbs and orthotics. With grant funding from the Tichi Munoz Fundacion in Obregon, MX and the Shipley Family Foundation in AZ, ARSOBO’s two prosthetic using technicians received advanced training to fabricate prosthesis at the ARSOBO workshop in Nogales, Sonoran instead of at the Hanger clinic in Tucson. With that training, the time a person receives a prosthesis decreased from 2 months to 3-4 days. ARSOBO has been working with the Technical University in Nogales, Sonora to create 3D computerized prosthetic upper extremities. In 2014, faculty at the University of Arizona opened the Hearing Health clinic. Each month, faculty and PhD candidates from the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Department conduct hearing clinics to evaluate individuals for hearing impairments and distribute appropriate hearing aids.
The benefit of the project has created an avenue for individuals with disabilities to purchase assistive devices at a price they can afford and have access to increased employment opportunities. Due to its continuing efforts for providing low cost medical devices for people with disabilities, ARSOBO was named the 2012 recipient of the Andy Nichols Award for Social Justice. The award is given by the Arizona-Mexico Commission for persistent service in pursuit of social justice.
For more information, contact:
Dr. Burris "Duke" Duncan
Silla de ruedas Todo Terreno from Anders Klingberg on Vimeo
Los Amputados from Michael Collier on Vimeo.