During our visit to Kosovo in February of 2014 we met with Ilir Gashi who was responsible for maintaining wheelchairs at HandiKos, a non-profit organization helping people suffering from paralysis. It’s a challenge for Ilir to keep various kinds of wheelchairs in working order. Some are America made, others are typically manufactured in Europe. His desire was to have a standard chair for the people of Kosovo.
ROC Wheels (Reach Out and Care) is located in Belgrade, Montana a few miles from Bozeman. Wayne Hanson is Co- Founder of ROC Wheels with his wife Lee Ann and has graciously offered his services to help with the project of providing quality wheelchairs to Kosovo. The first phase of this project began last fall with the arrival in Montana of our guests from Kosovo. The purpose of the visit was to proceed to ROC Wheels in Belgrade, Montana, and observe wheelchair research, design and basic assembly.
The team from Kosovo traveled to the U.S. and arrived in Montana with Steve Doty on December 19, 2014. The team spent three days with Wayne Hanson at ROC Wheels to see the operation and to observe some of the basic functions of the ROCKIT Chair and its assembly.
The second phase was to send a sea container to Kosovo in the fall of 2015 with a variety of chairs, for adults, children and some sport chairs to be distributed by HandiKos. During this distribution, phase three will begin with the arrival of Wayne Hanson and his team from ROC Wheels to set up the shop at HandiKos to manufacture the ROCKIT Chair, the customized chair for children ages 1-14 years.
ROC Wheels in Belgrade Montana is a leader in providing the best quality wheelchairs for children with severe disabilities. The ROC Wheels ROCKIT Chair is very adjustable and can be made to conform to the special needs of the child’s body position. All the research and design takes place at the facility in Belgrade, Montana.
Proto-types are made and parts are fabricated to determine functionality in the overall assembly. The prototype chairs are sent to a testing laboratory to undergo exten-sive testing to reveal any weakness in the design and determine its durability.
The majority of the ROC chairs are produced in the South Dakota Prison System by inmates. They say that being involved in the ROC Wheels program at the prison is one of the most sought after work programs by the inmates in the South Dakota Prison System.
The inmates take great pride in producing quality parts for these specialized wheelchairs. Hands on training is the best way to learn! It was obvious that Ilir is very competent and possesses a good understanding of the finer points of wheelchair functions.
Much of what was learned during the visit was centered around the ROCKIT Chair that is for children 1 – 14 years of age. Mr. Hanson said that they have a prototype chair in design for adults that will be available in the future. If all goes well in setting up production in Kosovo for the ROCKIT Chair, our hope is that production of the adult chair would be possible as well.
Mr. Hanson said his personal goal would be to provide a quality wheelchair to every child in this world who needs one. He is willing to do whatever it takes to make this project in Kosovo a success. He has provided all the drawings and technical data necessary for HandiKos to make the ROCKIT Chair.
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