Occupational and physical therapy students took their classroom learning outside during a community service project on Tuesday. During Wash and Roll, dozens of wheelchair users had their power chairs cleaned and serviced free-of-charge by students and faculty from Belmont’s Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy programs and local equipment dealers.
“This collaboration of physical therapy and occupational therapy was to get students involved in community service with an underserved population. Because once they get a wheelchair from insurance, they can get serviced once a year, but it is difficult to find place to get it done,” said Occupational Therapy Assistant Professor Teresa Plummer. “No one just cleans and services chairs, so families of people with medical disability have to do it on their own.”
The service is so rare that Barbara Pierce drove her husband, Marion, 90 miles from Winchester, Tenn. to Belmont’s campus to have his five-year-old wheelchair evaluated and cleaned.
Students sanitized wheelchairs and evaluated their needs, replacing seat cushions and worn arm rests as well as repairing faulty joy sticks and missing buttons.
“This is a great way for the community for learn about Belmont, and for Belmont students to apply what we have learned in the classroom,” said second-year occupational therapy student Anna Cole, also president of the Belmont Student Occupational Therapy Association. She and her classmates have spent the semester learning wheelchair assessment, how to fit clients for wheelchairs and best seating practices.
Physical therapy students also applied what they recently learned about adaptive seating, car seats and medical restraint devices, said third-year physical therapy student Constance Taras. She said she enjoyed Wash and Roll because it gave occupational and physical therapy students a chance to work together and learn how their fields are interdisciplinary.
Wash & Roll was sponsored by two leading providers of wheelchairs and mobility devices, wheelchair manufacturer Permobil and service provider Numotion, as well as the Tennessee Chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association.
The services the students and companies provided through Wash and Roll usually are expensive, said Peter Clinard, an accredited wheelchair technician with Numotion. Service calls typically are $60, he said, and it costs $400 for battery and $120 per footrest replacement.
“But if you don’t stay on top of your repairs, it gets worse and worse, and wheelchairs that haven’t reached their lifetime will appear to be unusable,” Clinard said.
Students used an obstacle course to test the power wheelchairs on different terrains to see how they fare on slopes, curbs, fitting through doorways and turning in tight spaces. There also were giveaway items and games.
Sofia Maneschi may have enjoyed the event the most. It wasn’t because she had her wheelchair cleaned or footrests adjusted, but because she was able to socialize with Belmont students, she said.
“We wheelchair people have a wheelchair support group and talk amongst ourselves,” Maneschi said, “But I’ve enjoyed being out among young people on this glorious, sunny day.”