Atlanta, GA,
09:30 AM

Wheelchair Users Can Both Learn and Refine Advanced Mobility Skills in Upcoming Class

Former Shepherd Center patients and community members are invited to attend a free training session on Oct. 15.

Whether new or experienced, users of manual wheelchairs have an opportunity to learn and practice advanced wheelchair mobility skills in an upcoming free event scheduled for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 15, 2016 at Shepherd Center.

Shepherd Center staff members of various disciplines volunteer their time to train former patients and community members at the annual Wheelchair Skills Clinic. This year’s class coincides with National Physical Therapy Day of Service, a day created to unite the physical therapy profession in acts of service.

“Our incredibly talented team of physical therapists and physical therapy assistants look forward to this day of service because it allows them to share their professional expertise with the community,” says Shari McDowell, director of the Spinal Cord Injury Program at Shepherd Center. “Last year, across the country, PTs performed nearly 11,500 hours of volunteer service. We hope the time our PTs and PTAs give at the 2016 Wheelchair Skills Clinic will help increase that number this year.”

In response to needs identified by staff members in Shepherd Center’s Seating and Mobility Clinic, as well as several physical therapists in Shepherd’s Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Program, the hospital started an Advanced Wheelchair Skills Clinic in 2012.

“We have found that between various therapies and intensive rehabilitation, patients rarely have the time they need to fine tune wheelchair skills before they are discharged from the inpatient program,” McDowell explains. “Plus, they often find they need a different set of skills to maneuver the variety of terrain they typically find in their own community.”

Participants in previous wheelchair clinic events have given the training session high marks.

“The class was definitely good for me,” said former patient Cameron Horner of Yanceyville, N.C., who sustained a C-6 to -7 SCI in 2011. “The intent is for people to get more active with more advanced skills with their wheelchair. We focused on many difficult things. We worked on wheelies and ways to use those to get around in certain terrains, such as sand, rocks, curbs and down hills. It was great because you can’t go over it so much in an hour-long class.”

Skills covered in the clinic may include propulsion technique, wheelies, curbs, falling safely, uprighting the wheelchair, and negotiating terrain such as grass, stones, sand and stairs. All are part of the event location – the Mike Utley Terrain Training Course located in the Mavis Pruet Leslie Memorial Garden in front of the Irene and George Woodruff Family Residence Center on the Shepherd Center campus. McDowell encourages former patients to register for the Oct. 15 clinic.

“The Wheelchair Skills Clinic is one part of Shepherd Center’s many efforts to help our patients stay active in their communities once they leave Shepherd Center,” McDowell says. “Becoming as efficient as possible when learning how to use a wheelchair is an essential part of being functional and independent, and it takes many hours of practice and training.”

There is no cost to attend. Participants will receive a free T-shirt. A caregiver or friend of the participant is encouraged to attend to work on spotting technique, but is not required for participation.

For more information and to register, contact physical therapist Jill Roecker at 404-603-4631 or

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.