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photo A Wheelchair for Petronilia
By Bob Gliner
DocMaker Online

Potholed dirt roads and cobblestone streets, high curbs with no curb cuts, rough-hewn stone stairways instead of ramps — in Antigua, Guatemala, life for anyone with a mobility impairment is hard. After Alba Hernandez had polio at the age of five, she had to be carried everywhere by her mother. Eventually a group of nuns gave her a donated, second-hand hospital wheelchair, but it was uncomfortable, unstable, and too fragile to stand up to such conditions. Today Alba gets around Antigua in a rugged, agile sports chair that she helped to manufacture herself. She has a responsible job and is part of an international movement to make assistive technology available to people in the developing world.

It's been conservatively estimated that as many as twenty million people in developing countries need wheelchairs, but less than one percent have access to them. Those they do have are usually "first world" castoffs that break down frequently, and are made from materials and parts that cannot be repaired or replaced locally.

23-year-old Alex Galvez became paraplegic at the age of 14, when he got caught in the crossfire of a neighborhood gunfight. Today he's the president and co-founder of The Transitions program where Alba Hernandez works. Transitions trains Guatemalans with disabilities to build and repair wheelchairs while providing a range of other support services, including a small independent living center. Almost entirely operated by people with disabilities, the organization encourages education, employment, and entrepreneurship — and fields a winning wheelchair basketball team. Filmmaker Bob Gliner is also a professor of sociology at San Jose State University.

DVD version has both closed-captions and audio description.

28 minutes
© 2003
Purchase $199 DVD
Order No. QA-398
ISBN (DVD) 1-57295-993-2
close captioned

"Useful in college libraries and recommended for students studying multicultural aspects of disability, or efforts to serve people with disabilities in third-world countries. Shows what a project like this can mean to the people it serves." Educational Media Reviews Online

Awards & Conference Screenings
Bronze Remi Award, WorldFest Houston

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Awards & Screenings

Related Films

Web Resources

To rent or purchase this film, please visit the Icarus Films website