Established in 1992 by Shona McDonald, Shonaquip is the first woman run wheelchair business of its kind in Africa. It was established as a social enterprise to provide appropriately fitted wheelchairs for children and adults, capacity-building for local wheelchair practitioners, together with empowerment and advocacy programs for people with disabilities.
Shonaquip is entrenched in the Social Model which recognises that people with disabilities’ inclusion in society and their barriers to access are framed just as much by social barriers as by the practical limitations of their impairment.
We are passionate about building an inclusive work environment to reflect the rights of all, including people with disabilities, to access work. As such, we see our factory as an incubator to build skills and provide opportunities for our staff to become our suppliers.
With the ongoing support of local and internationals partners, investors, funders and Governments, Shonaquip aims to develop local skills, manpower and the infrastructure in Africa (and other developing economies) to ensure that appropriate devices and responsible services for people with disabilities can meet the growing demand.
Shona believes strongly in the growth of local infrastructure and manpower to manufacture our range of paediatric wheelchairs which we believe are well suited for use in urban, under- resourced and rural areas.
We believe that long-term sustainability can only be achieved by empowering wheelchair users, their families and caregivers to advocate for their children’s rights to affordable, quality devices and accessible support services.
Working with our local government and other regional and global partners, we are developing a new skilled profession of wheelchair practitioners across Africa.
This combined effort helps ensure that access to appropriate wheelchairs and responsible service expands and that wheelchairs are maintained using locally sourced materials, local health providers and technicians.
When Shelly McDonald was born in 1982 and diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Shona and her family experienced first-hand how difficult it was to find appropriate assistive devices to support her care, development and learning.
As Shelly’s mom and Shonaquip founder, Shona McDonald felt it was vital for her to turn the negative diagnosis, negative advice and depressing prognosis into something constructive. This would help to solve not only her and her daughter’s personal needs, but could spread and grow the broader need for parent empowerment.
When offered a cardboard insert for their pram as ‘posture support’ (the only seating available to her in South Africa at the time), Shona refused to settle for this inadequate and ugly solution. With Shona’s personal experience of Shelly’s needs, she was determined to design a device perfectly suited their daily challenges. Shona threw herself into building Shelly’s first full body support wheelchair so that by age two years old, Shelly was already testing out her ability to control her first motorised wheelchair.
Shona soon realised the need for specialised disability equipment extended far beyond their family, and in 1992 Shonaquip was born. It started out as a small closed corporation which enabled Shona to raise funds for and sell a few of her custom-made buggies and support devices to the parents of children with disabilities, whom she had met through her journey with Shelly.
Starting with a small staff of two operating out of her garage, Shonaquip has since developed into a well-established and reputable business that employs over 40 technicians, seamstresses and therapists.
The unswerving compassion and dedication of our diverse Shonaquip team has transformed the lives of thousands of children with disabilities by providing essential devices, support services and training across Southern Africa. We have brought services to even the most remote locations, housing communities who have never had wheelchair services before.
Almost 30 % of our staff working at the social enterprise have a disability, demonstrating our commitment to the employment of people with disabilities.