The history of the wheel chair is both long and storied dating back to the 6th century as a depiction in some ancient Chinese documents. Even Confucius had a wee-bit of wheel chair fun, or at least in the minds of some creative inventors, when he was drawn as riding on a chair with wheels while going about his daily business. However, it was not until the 1930s when the modern incarnation of the wheel chair first saw light. This version was made out of steel but was lightweight enough to be carried enough and even foldable for easy transport. Since then, the role of the wheel chair in the lives of many has never been more established.
The wheel chair has allowed many individuals, who have otherwise been unable to get around, to live their lives in the most normal way possible. Wheelchairs are excellent forms of transportation getting people to move around the house, in schools and offices, and from one building to another using specially designed ramps that are now required as part of every facility based on local and international building regulations. Whether it is the manual or electric wheel chair, there is no doubt that this wonderful machine has made it easy for many individuals to resume their normal routines unimpeded by whatever physical disability that grips them.
Moving beyond the normal use of wheel chairs as a mode of transportation, wheel chairs have also paved the way for physically challenged individuals to participate in sports. There are many leagues using sport wheel chairs to play games such as basketball, tennis, rugby and racing. The wheel chairs are modified for specific purposes, but otherwise they follow the basic design of the equipment as a means to move people around. These sporting events are also recognized in the international community resulting to the Paralympics, an Olympics-type event for wheelchair-bound people who continue to fan the flame for sporting competition. In tennis, there is a wheel chair tournament that is part of every Grand Slam. In marathons, there is a wheel chair division for those who seek to show that they are much bigger than their physical limitations.
There are organizations all over the world whose sole calling is to distribute wheel chairs for charity. Some of these organizations include WheelPower, Direct Relief International, Hope Haven, Wheelchair Foundation, Free Wheelchair Mission and Personal Energy Transportation to name a few. The nobility of their cause leads them to solicit donations from all over, turn the donated cash into wheel chairs, and distribute them to those in need particularly in third world countries where most families are incapable of putting food on the table three times a day much less buy a wheelchair for a loved one. Even large relief organizations like the Red Cross and Red Crescent have groups that focus on wheel chair donation and delivery.
There is no doubt that the wheel chair has revolutionized the way we look at physical disabilities turning it into just another challenge that can be overcome with perseverance, hardwork, hope and a little help from those who have a kind heart. Wheel chairs will continue to develop, making itself more technological adapted to handle all sorts of demands, but one thing will remain for certain: the wheel chair will keep on changing lives and giving hope to those who want to show that they are greater than their physical challenges. And to that, the world is truly grateful.