Free wheelchair program big success here

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 8, 2006

The success in Brookhaven of a statewide program offering freewheelchairs to the needy has prompted officials to send a secondshipment to its distribution point here.

AbilityWorks Inc., through a partnership between the MississippiDepartment of Rehabilitation Services and the Wheelchair Foundationof Mississippi, has received 35 more basic wheelchairs to giveaway, said Randall King, facility manager. Wheelchairs in the newshipment all have a width of 18 inches.

The initial shipment of nearly 130 basic wheelchairs in varioussizes the agency received in August have all been awarded, Kingsaid. Six were picked up Thursday.

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“We still have a few here, but they’re all spoken for,” he said.”We’ve had people come from as far away as Canton and Natchez. It’sbeen a real rewarding experience.”

Jennifer Clark, an AbilityWorks employee who is assisting withthe project, agreed.

“We have helped a lot of people,” she said. “It’s made a bigdifference in the lives of a lot of them.”

Many of the recipients of the chairs have said they stayed athome nearly all the time because they lacked the mobility to leavetheir homes to visit friends, go shopping or even attend church,Clark said.

“A lot of them say now they’ll see me at (a local store),” shesaid.

The chairs are very basic, King said, but should meet the needsof a disabled person and are available to anyone who meets a fewrelatively loose criteria, King said.

To qualify, a person must have a recognized disability that ispermanent in nature and a low income. The applicant must also signa waiver releasing the providers from any liability of injuryresulting from the wheelchairs.

There are no strict guidelines on what constitutes low income,King said.

“We can be the judge of that,” he said. “We want to be able togive a chair to everyone who truly needs one.”

The chairs available through the agency were allocated from atotal supply of 800 chairs distributed among 16 agencies throughoutthe state.

Applicants for the wheelchairs should call the agency at833-3201 to set an appointment, King said.