ASORBO – Mexican NGO Devoted to Providing Medical Devices for Individuals with Disabilities Receives Award from the AZ-MX Commission

Sonoran UCEDD Update
July 2012

ASORBO (Arizona – Sonora – Border) is a non-governmental organization (NGO) whose mission is: “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.” 

ASORBO’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. This social business, which evolved into ASORBO, is a direct result of the first Border Conference on Disability in 2008 held in Nogales, Sonora.  Phases 2 and 3 are in development and we will continue to update you on their progress.

Currently, the shop in Nogales, Sonora is building the ‘RoughRider’ wheelchair, an all-terrain wheelchair designed by Ralf Hotchkiss at Whirlwind Wheelchair International in San Francisco State University (http://www.whirlwindwheelchair.org).   This wheelchair was specifically designed to circumvent the rough terrain that is the norm for many developing countries: large cracks or holes in sidewalks or no sidewalks at all, exposed roots, soft or sandy soil, and mountain paths.

Currently, the wheelchair shop employs three individuals, two of whom are wheelchair users themselves. The chief technician has been building wheelchairs for more than 20 years. We will soon reach the capacity to build 18 chairs a month. If all are sold, this number should be enough to maintain our current on-going expenses and when that goal is reached, the shop should be self-sufficient.

Due to its continuing efforts for providing low cost medical devices for people with disabilities, ASORBO has been 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.  The Andy Nichols Award for social justice is given in honor of Andrew W. Nichols, MD, MPH. Dr. Nichols was a visionary who lived a life of service in pursuit of justice and health for all, and most specifically, for the disadvantaged.  Dr. Duke Duncan, Tracy Carroll and Norma Orozco accepted the award on behalf of ASORBO.

The Arizona-Mexico Commission is Arizona’s premiere cross-border nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the well-being and quality of life for residents of Arizona by promoting a strong, cooperative relationship with Mexico and Latin America through advocacy, trade, networking and information.

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(left to right) Sonora Governor Guillermo Padres, Dr. Duke Duncan (Sonoran UCEDD), Tracy Carroll (UA FCM), Norma Orozco (DIF), Kathy Nichols, AZ Governor Jan Brewer