In collaboration with Berkeley's Easy Does It (EDI) non-profit and the Bay Area disability community at large, I propose to enhance the existing wheelchair repair program hosted by EDI with multi-tiered outcome improvements. Currently, EDI receives donated wheelchairs with varying degrees of functionality that are used either for parts or, if adequate, revamped and donated to individuals who need them. The model has been successful and long-running, yet has far more potential than is currently tapped. Limitations to reaching this potential include limited funding and staffing and their sequelae; limited community participation, outreach, and opportunities for fundraising. As a disabled adult who has benefited from EDI's wheelchair program, I have the passion and vested interest in seeing this program thrive. I currently volunteer at EDI to help repair wheelchairs and coordinate community events. In the past month, my experience at the workshop has showed me the tremendous potential for wheelchair repair and maintenance to be an activity around which the disability community can gather to socialize, organize, reduce isolation, enhance self-efficacy, and improve the quality and lifespan of wheelchairs - an increasingly critical activity in the the current political landscape that threatens health insurance for the poor and disabled communities. This awesome project would build on the existing EDI program to host more frequent and routine wheelchair repair and maintenance workshops geared towards the disability community. It would provide the tools and parts, in particular the 12 volt batteries, needed to revive and/or maintain a wheelchair for oneself or another community member. Wheelchairs can be liberating for their users; wheelchair repair extends that liberation to empowerment and cost-savings when chair users are equipped to maintain and repair chairs within the community. I plan to donate my time to coordinate this proposal.
What our trustees are saying: "I think John Benson is amazing and like his work. Anyone supporting him and helping wrangle that warehouse full of parts into shape has my vote! I also feel deeply committed to repair of existing equipment and getting it to people for low cost. Repair workshops for people with disabilities to tinker with their equipment sounds like a great idea to me."
"I liked this submission because it's well rounded. It focuses on creating meaningful and positive experiences that teach valuable life skills to people with disabilities. And it's a practical request that is going to benefit a bigger cause."
"As a wheelchair user many of us are dependent on wheelchair repair companies. This project supports peer exchange of skills and information that will give them the tools to maintain their chairs without being held hostage to the DME industrial complex."
What our grantee is saying: "I am honored and thrilled to receive the Awesome Disability award! While congress places our health care and liberty and under attack, disabled people need to find creative ways to use our own community as sources of support: My goal for these funds is to contribute to our community's capacity to upkeep our wheelchairs and by extension our liberty. My wheelchair, Anita, made it possible for me to protest the senate health care bill yesterday. Our community's potential is endless when our basic needs are met!"
Funded by Disability (June 2017)