The Center for International Rehabilitation (CIR) is a Chicago-based not-for-profit organization that develops disability research, disability education and disability advocacy programs to improve the lives of people with disabilities internationally. With programs in some of the poorest, most medically underserved nations on earth, the CIR operates in collaboration with the renowned Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and
University . The CIR, which was founded in 1996 by Dr. William Kennedy Smith, conducts fieldwork, research, training and education around the globe.
In 1996, the international landmine epidemic prompted Dr. William Kennedy Smith to found Physicians Against Landmines (PALM). As a member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, PALM was a co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize and has served as part of the international working group on Mine Victim Assistance and the Steering Committee of the United States Campaign to Ban Landmines.
In 1998 , as part of its long-term strategy, PALM opened the Chicago-based Center for International Rehabilitation (CIR) and expanded its activities in the area of landmine victim assistance to include landmine rehabilitation services and advocacy for people with disabilities. As part of its program expansion, the CIR developed the world's first disability distance learning program in prosthetics, orthotics and amputee care. The program uses a tailored mix of educational materials, including texts, electronic interactive media and face-to-face workshops, which are designed to reach the largest number of students in the most cost-effective manner. Courses have been taught in six countries to over 70 students from 30 rehabilitation centers. The centers in which these students are employed treat an estimated 8,600 war wounded and other amputees each year.
The CIR also operates a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) on Improved Technology Access for Landmine Survivors. It has been designated a national center of excellence in rehabilitation engineering by the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research, which funds its operation. By developing and disseminating new technologies and techniques, the RERC works to improve access to mobility aids for landmine survivors and other amputees. It conducts research, development and training activities to explore appropriate technology solutions and build capacity within developing countries. The RERC also provides outreach and technology transfer to partner centers around the world through training workshops and international conferences.
In an effort to improve practical, medical and technological knowledge about rehabilitation, the CIR launched the world’s first disability distance learning program in prosthetics in conflict-affected countries,in 2001. The Internet-based training courses began in
and later expanded to the Balkans. The progam harnesses the power of the Internet to deliver world-class rehabilitation education programs in prosthetics and orthotics to workers in clinics and hospitals in some of the poorest regions in the world. These educational programs and workshops promote the highest quality of care, and encourage professional development of local workers. Training materials range from workbooks to multimedia online materials incorporating videos and graphics. Additionally, hands-on workshops are held to improve the knowledge and skills of service providers.This program has been recognized as a distance education program in the area of prosthetics by the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO)
As its programs have expanded, the CIR has become an established member of a global community of individuals and institutions working through international rehabilitation efforts to improve the lives of people with disabilities around the world. In 2003, the CIR launched a grass-roots disability activists research project, the International Disability Rights Monitor (IDRM) , that assesses the status of persons with disabilities worldwide in order to promote full inclusion in society.
The CIR’s IDRM served as an invaluable resource during deliberations during the three years leading up to the 2006 passage of the United Nations (UN) International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The CIR is a founding member of the steering committee of the International Disability Caucus (IDC) and has been fully involved as, for the first time in UN history, civil society groups have sat side-by-side with states parties in the negotiation of an international treaty. Through IDRM, the CIR has created a network of disability researchers in more than 45 countries and has released a series of reports that draw a comparative analysis of living conditions, legal protections, education, employment, accessibility, health and housing services for people with disabilities.
In 2005, the CIR formally launched the International Disability Educational Alliance Network (IDEAnet) website. IDEAnet uses Internet-based knowledge management and communication tools to facilitate communities of practice in the areas of disability rights and disability rehabilitation services. IDEAnet provides a forum for the exchange of disability resources and information on disability-related topics between universities, research centers, disability advocates and rehabilitation service providers. IDEAnet, like the CIR, has a particular focus on disability in low-income and conflict-affected countries. IDEAnet members use the site to collaborate on research and advocacy and in the development and dissemination of appropriate disability rehabilitation technologies.
In 2008, the CIR launched iCons in Medicine(iCon), a global Physician social network alliance that connects health professionals in remote and medically underserved areas with specialty volunteer physicians who provide clinical support which expands treatment options for patients who otherwise would not have access to specialty care.
The CIR's long-term goals are to conduct research, raise awareness and promote action to improve the quality and advancement of medical and rehabilitation services in remote and medically underserved areas.