Eight years ago, Riley Poor, 25, was paralyzed in a swimming pool accident and was forced to live in a hotel because he couldn't find wheelchair-accessible housing. His godparents, Joseph Cincotta, principal at LineSync Architecture, and Julie Lineberger, the firm's CEO, eventually helped Riley retrofit a house to his needs. But they wished they'd been able to make Riley's life a little easier during his long recovery.
"What if there had been a room attached to his mom's or dad's house so Riley could have been with family while he recuperated?" Joseph wondered aloud over dinner with Julie and Riley one night in 2010.
With Julie's input, Joseph and his colleagues began to sketch out a concept that would give wheelchair users a private bedroom and bathroom as well as access through a door to a loved one's house. The resulting blueprint detailed a structure they called , a 200-square-foot space built on a flatbed trailer that could be delivered nearly anywhere and connected to the electricity and plumbing of an existing house. "When you're able to be at home during recovery, you remain included in your family's day-to-day. You feel more motivated to get back into your routine," says Julie.
Julie and Joseph consulted with Riley, other wheelchair users, and medical professionals to perfect plans for Wheel Pad's footprint and other details like the placement of handrails and electrical outlets. One of the most innovative features is a built-in track from the bedroom to the bathroom for a Hoyer lift, a device caregivers rely on to hoist and move people with mobility issues.
In 2016, Julie and Joseph completed construction of the first fully functional Wheel Pad prototype. This year the company received orders for and built its first units, which can be leased for $3,000 a month or purchased for $60,000. Julie will work with local contractors to deliver and install each unit.
In April, disaster struck again. Julie and Joseph's longtime friend Cynthia Payne-Meyer fractured two vertebrae while boogie boarding, and she must now use a wheelchair. This time, the couple knew how to help: They offered to let Cynthia use the Wheel Pad prototype for free, and the unit was installed right beside the garden of her Putney, VT, home in July. "I was overwhelmed by their generosity," says Cynthia. Once she is done with it, the Wheel Pad will stay in rotation as a free unit for others in need. Says Julie, "Being able to improve lives gives so much meaning to our work."