Lions partner with ADRS to construct wheelchair ramps

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The missions of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services and Lions Club focus on improving the lives of Alabamians with disabilities, so it is only fitting that the two recently established a partnership.

A presentation to the Alabama Board of Rehabilitation Services by board member Dr. Stephen Kayes highlighted success stories that allowed club members and ADRS Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Services (RE&ATS) staff to partner in the construction of eight wheelchair ramps in the Mobile area.

The process began when Kayes invited Bynum Duren, an ADRS rehabilitation technology specialist, to serve as a guest speaker for the South Alabama Lions.

Duren highlighted some of the success stories in the River Region that have been possible through a partnership with the State of Alabama Independent Living (SAIL) program and Carpenters for Christ in Tallassee. He said he could see the enthusiasm on the faces of club members as he spoke.

“I think one of the things they picked up on was that any person in that Lions Club meeting could help,” he said.

The wheels were soon in motion, and a busy slate of projects for the engineers and volunteers materialized.

Kayes said wheelchair ramps and home modifications represent some of the most frequently requested independent living services. Fortunately, the department’s rehabilitation technology specialists have established a system to cut costs while still producing quality structures.

“The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services has designed a modular wheelchair ramp system to meet this need,” he said. “It is an ideal setup for volunteers to help.”

Duren said he and other RE&ATS staff have designed a system that allows volunteers of all skill levels to lend a hand.

“We have some people who have more experience in building ramps than others, and then we have another group of people who are less experienced that want to help but just might not know how to build a ramp,” he said. “From that perspective, we are continuing to call on retired contractors, retired engineers, and others who have experience and can go out there and build a ramp.”

When a team of inexperienced volunteers makes up the majority of the team, the process can still proceed quickly to meet the needs of the consumer. A large part of these projects can be completed in an indoor workshop, which was provided in Mobile thanks to help from Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast. Though there might be less manpower, delays from weather are eliminated and work can continue.

At one point, Duren said they were able to build about 33 ramp components in the shop during a two-day period. Segments measuring 4-by-8 feet could be built quickly.

Once the sections were delivered to the site, the materials were laid out and leveled off. Volunteers were then easily able to assembly the pieces to complete the ramp.

The process will only become more streamlined moving forward, Duren said. Engineers plan to produce assembly sheets and training manuals for project leaders, with the goal of expanding the partnership as a statewide service.

“I am really hoping that we will eventually be able to get that training program started to bring on other Lions in different areas,” he said. “One of our objectives would be to establish one Lions Club in each area to start working and developing plans.”

The idea was presented as a statewide service project and met with 100 percent support. Kayes said there are 129 clubs in Alabama across three districts with more than 3,000 members.

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