The Life-Changing Impact of Improved Physical Mobility

Most of the time, able-bodied adults can take for granted their ability to physically move from place to place to accomplish their goals. Whether walking to the corner store, bike-commuting, or hopping in the car to run an errand across town, our mobility is an often-overlooked aspect of our independence and a critical component of our ability to meet our own needs and support our families and communities.

When circumstances arise that affect mobility, whether as a result of physical injury or deformity of the limbs, or simply the result of living in remote rural areas, it can take a lifelong toll on individuals’ health, education, and long-term earning potential.

Organizations like World Bicycle Relief use the power of bicycles to bridge the gap where distance is a barrier to economic and social development. In Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, walking is the primary mode of transportation for more than 600 million people. For women and girls, riding a bicycle can be a safer and faster way to cover long distances to go to the marketplace or to school. And it’s also a useful tool for transporting cargo (food, medicines, water, and more) in a fraction of the time it would take to carry on foot.

In addition to alleviating challenges of mobility arising from distance, effective interventions can also help overcome some of the toughest mobility challenges that may arise from birth defects, accidents, war and conflict, and environmental hazards.

Organizations like Mobility Outreach International, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month, perform surgeries and provide prosthetics and orthotics to thousands of people around the world – people like Figgy, a basketball-loving teenager in Haiti who lost his leg in the country’s catastrophic 2010 earthquake.

December 2016 marked a decade since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a groundbreaking convention that set the stage for greater inclusion of the more than 1 billion people worldwide with physical disabilities. In an article for Devex, the heads of seven civil society organizations, including Mercy Corps CEO, Neal Keny-Guyer, and World Vision President, Richard Stearns, announced a Global Call to Action for the international community to work toward greater disability inclusion, including in their own humanitarian work. In fact, they argued that not including members of this community amounts to a tremendous waste of opportunity and talent.

Ensuring that everyone has the ability to fulfill his or her potential is both the right thing to do and a smart way for societies to ensure they benefit from the skills and contributions of every individual.


The following Global Washington members are ensuring that mobility challenges do not prevent people from reaching their goals:

Mobility Outreach International 

Mobility Outreach International (MOi) enables mobility in under-resourced areas of the world. MOi provides non-surgical treatment to children with clubfoot, and prosthetic; and orthotic services, physical rehabilitation, advocacy, and orthopedic surgical outreach to adults and children.

PeaceTrees Vietnam

PeaceTrees Vietnam is a humanitarian organization dedicated to healing communities affected by war. Working alongside the Vietnamese people, Peacetrees Vietnam accomplishes this through landmine removal and education, survivor assistance and citizen diplomacy. The organization funds initial medical treatment for landmine survivors, as well as long-term support through prosthetics, wheelchairs and ramps. It also offers nutritional, economic and educational support for the families of victims, including helping rural families purchase livestock for food and income.

The Rose International Fund for Children

The Rose International Fund for Children helps ‘differently-abled’ and disadvantaged children and adults in Nepal and other developing countries.

SIGN Fracture Care International

SIGN Fracture Care International’s mission is to give the injured poor in developing countries access to effective orthopaedic care by providing surgeons in low resource hospitals with relevant orthopaedic education and implants.

World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief mobilizes people through The Power of Bicycles. The organization is committed to helping people conquer the challenge of distance, achieve independence, and thrive. For many people in rural regions of developing countries, poverty is a daily reality. In areas where walking is the only mode of transport, a Buffalo Bicycle offers the real and immediate benefit of reliable access to essential goods and services. World Bicycle Relief’s innovative model, combining philanthropic distributions with social enterprise sales, is the backbone on which it delivers greater efficiencies of scale, distributes more bicycles per donation and generate deeper impact where the organization works.