By: Darrin Umbarger, Board of Directors, Disability Rights Oregon
The idea came to mind a couple years ago.
One of my biggest fears as a wheelchair user is being out and about and having my batteries run dead.
Not only does this affect me, but it affects my friends and family who are with me. If I need to leave a location to charge, then my friends and family have to leave also.
In 2015, I approached the Umatilla County Special Transportation Fund (STF) committee with my idea of putting 8 – 10 wheelchair charging units around Pendleton as a pilot city to see how it works. The committee granted my request for funding and we began locating charging stations around Pendleton.
We worked with the City of Pendleton’s parks and recreation to install the charging stations in local parks.
I later became involved in another disability inclusion grant through Oregon Office on Disability and Health at OHSU and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) and shared my idea with them.
There was lots of support so I decided to move forward and try to place this idea into other cities, counties and states. Several of the states involved in the NACDD have made an order.
We worked and re-worked the idea until we felt it was ready to distribute. Senator Bill Hansell decided that Oregon would be the first state capitol to place one for public use.
These wheelchair charging stations will provide individuals in wheelchairs confidence to be independent in their communities. An example of prime public areas would be parks, shopping malls, casinos, zoos, grocery stores, fairs, libraries, medical facilities, just to name a few.
The stations are equipped with a standard power cord and a basic charging unit. Most individuals in wheelchairs that are high end and need special chargers, carry those chargers with them. They would only need the power cord to connect their charger.
We will list the locations of the charging stations on our website. Individuals can check to see if the area they will be visiting has a wheelchair charging station for their use.
Darrin, a resident of Pendleton, Oregon, is the CEO of Clearview Medication and Disability Resource Center.