Fundamentals in Africa

Date: 
Friday, December 20, 2019 - 3:15pm
Category: 
Member News

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, RESNA is justifiably known for its continuing education offerings, particularly the popular “Fundamentals in Assistive Technology” course.

Now, thanks to a grant from Rehabilitation International, the Fundamentals Course was offered for the first time in Africa - – specifically, Ethiopia, where RESNA members Jerry Weisman and Alisa Brownlee taught the course to about thirty technicians currently providing assistive technology services in that country.


Alisa Brownlee explains how to write an outcome measure during the Fundamentals Course in Ethiopia.

Weisman and Brownlee spent several days in Ethiopia, during which they taught the full Fundamentals Course, which covers topics including service delivery, seating, access, mobility, AAC devices, and EADLs. They were greatly assisted by local coordinator Demelash Bekele, who helped with everything from finding a place to hold the course to recruiting the students.

While the language barrier could be challenging, the instructors say they found it rewarding. “I really did enjoy the students,” says Weisman. “They were very enthusiastic about learning the material and appeared to be very passionate about providing assistive technology services to their clients and patients.”

Both instructors say the experience taught them something, too.

“We learned quite a bit about the challenges [Ethiopian technicians] have in providing these devices and services,” says Weisman. “These challenges include resources, training, transportation, and program development.”

Towards the end of their trip, Weisman and Brownlee toured one of the country’s assistive technology centers, whose staff built many things from scratch.

“They carve crutches out of local wood, make wheelchair rims and wheels from bicycle rims, weld all their metal for wheelchair frames,” Brownlee recounts. “They make all their own prosthetics and orthotics and even make their own shoes to go on the end of these. It was amazing.”

“It just goes to show that the human spirit is very resilient,” says Brownlee. “It was amazing to see how professionals address the assistive technology needs of Ethiopians without having as many resources.”

The Fundamentals course was also offered this year in Singapore. We hope to offer more international Fundamentals courses in 2020. Thank you to our dedicated instructor corps for a fantastic year!


Alisa Brownlee visits a Prosthetic and Orthodic Training Workshop in Ethiopia.