ARSOBO - Low Cost Durable Medical Equipment Project

As a result of the Sonoran UCEDD's first Border Conference on Disability in 2008 held in Nogales, Sonora, plans to develop a social business to create low cost all-terrain wheelchairs took shape.  In partnership with Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF) Sonora (Mexico's premier government disability service agency), other university and Arizona community partners, as well as individuals and social services and disability groups in Mexico, this social business plan evolved into ARSOBO (Arizona – Sonora – Border), a non-governmental organization (NGO) whose mission is to: “Assist in alleviating the physical, psychological, and economical barriers faced by individuals with disabilities by providing high-tech, low-cost medical devices that minimize their disability.” 

ARSOBO’s vision has three phases:

  1. Create a shop that constructs durable wheelchairs designed for rough terrain
  2. Assemble high-tech low-cost hearing aids with a solar-powered hearing aid battery recharger
  3. Develop the capacity and expertise to build prosthesis and orthotics

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 on both sides of the border to enable them to have better access to their communities. Currently, the wheelchair shop employs two skilled wheelchair technicians who are both wheelchair users. The chief technician has been building wheelchairs for more than 20 years.  Since 2013, the workshop has expanded to fabricating prosthetic limbs and hearing aid molds, as well as assembling solar-powered hearing aid re-chargers, as a result of their partnerships, grant funding, and donations. With equipment purchased from U.S. Northern Command and alteration in wheelchair production, ARSOBO has increased construction from 1 to 3 wheelchairs in a week. With grant funding from the Tichi Munoz Fundacion in Obregon and the Shipley Family Foundation, ARSOBO has extended the training of two prosthetic technicians who can now fabricate below the knee prosthesis at the ARSOBO workshop in Nogales, Sonoran instead of at Hanger in Tucson, which has shortened the time a person receives a prosthesis from 2 months to 3-4 days. ARSOBO is now working with the Technical University in Nogales, Sonora whose faculty and students are assisting with the electrical circuitry of the hearing aid re-chargers.

The expected benefit of the project is to create an avenue for individuals with disabilities on both sides of the border to purchase and obtain repairs for assistive devices as well as having access to increased employment opportunity for people with with disabilities through the development of this project.  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
(520) 907-7865

Silla de ruedas Todo Terreno from Anders Klingberg on Vimeo.