TechOWL wheelchair repair workshops empower those with disabilities in Pennsylvania

ByMatteo Iadonisi Localish logo
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Wheelchair repair workshops empower those with disabilities
The team at TechOWL is gearing up to bring wheelchair repair skills to bicycle shops across the state.

PHILADELPHIA -- "I have cerebral palsy and my muscles and nerves don't work quite the same way as like someone without it," said Izzy Kaufman. "But that's why I have the wheelchair because it's much more freedom."

Kaufman only started using a wheelchair about six years ago. But with her newfound freedom of mobility comes responsibility.

"Wheelchairs are like an extension of our body and when something breaks on it, it's almost like we can't really live the same way or I might not be able to go to work," she said. "So, we're trying to get bike shop technicians to come to be trained in working on wheelchairs."

Kaufman is an Assistive Technology Program Coordinator at TechOWL, which is Pennsylvania's Assistive Technology Act program. Housed in the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University, TechOWL helps Pennsylvania residents with disabilities acquire accessible gadgets and gizmos.

One of their latest initiatives is the Wheeled Repair Alliance. Through it, TechOWL aims to partner with bicycle repair shops across the state in order to offer wheelchair repair skills.

"It instantly made sense to us as something that we wanted to do," said Andrew Ciampa, Operations Manager of Neighborhood Bike Works in West Philadelphia. "Education is a huge part of this space and we realize both with wheelchairs, bikes and a number of other vehicles that there are a lot of basic things you can do to keep yourself on the road."

Neighborhood Bike Works has already hosted two official repair workshops in partnership with TechOWL. But their goal is to open doors to wheelchair users at any time.

"During any of our shop hours or DIY hours, we want to do our best to help people with whatever mode of transportation they bring in," said Ciampa.

Future official workshops are currently planned in State College and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Anyone interested in learning more about the accessible tools and programs offered by TechOWL can visit their website.