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Tetra Society Creates Custom Aids for Persons with Physical Disabilities


Tetra Society Creates Custom Aids for Persons with Physical Disabilities

The Tetra Society of North America provides custom solutions to increase independence among persons with physical disabilities.

Tetra Society of North America

Adaptations Designed to Increase Independence and Quality of Life:

The Tetra Society of North America seeks to eliminate physical barriers to increase independence and quality of life for persons with physical disabilities.

The Vancouver, BC-based nonprofit recruits skilled volunteers (including engineers and technicians) to create custom solutions and devices not commercially available to meet the needs of specific disabled persons.

Sam Sullivan, a C4-C5 quadriplegic, founded the Tetra Society in 1987. Sullivan needed adaptations to open his living space and to provide a measure of independence.

Tetra's first volunteer, Paul Cermak, created low-tech adaptations to Sullivan's apartment, inspiring him to form Tetra so that others persons with mobility limitations could benefit.

The focus of the Tetra Society's accessibility solutions is to enhance the quality of life for disabled persons, defined as one's one's ability to participate more fully in all aspects of life, including school, work, family, community affairs, and recreation.

Tetra Society Accessibility Solutions for School, Work, and Play:

Tetra volunteers have created thousands of assistive devices, ranging from adapting a SONY PlayStation controller for a boy with quadriplegia to a clock that display time as a bar graph.

Past Tetra projects for children have included:

  • Adding larger switches to enable a child to control a battery operated toy
  • Adaptations for bicycles, e.g. training wheels, seats
  • Wheelchair trays for organizing notes, textbooks, and laptop
  • Wheelchair cell phone mounts
  • Book holders to keep study materials open.

Past Tetra projects for adults have included:

  • Camera mounts
  • Cell phone holders
  • Accessible computer desks
  • Remote controls for doors
  • Power tool adaptations
  • Table risers.

Past Tetra projects for seniors have included:

  • Cane modifications
  • Modifications to make bathroom more accessible
  • Raising a bed
  • Modifications to scooters and related devices
  • Automatic shut-off stove timer.

Tetra does not charge for its solutions, though clients are asked to contribute towards material costs and mileage when possible.

A catalogue containing many Tetra solutions is available in the form of a searchable database that users can browse by category or search for a specific device.

What Tetra Society Does Not Do:

Tetra Society projects are unique to the individual. So if a carpenter or general contractor can provide an accessible solution, it's not likely a good use of Tetra's technical volunteers. Projects Tetra does not do include:

  • Fund the purchase of commercial assistive equipment
  • Copy existing, commercially available devices
  • Install ramps.

Tetra Society Accessibility Solutions Encourage Choices, Community Involvement:

The Tetra Society helps people with a wide range of physical disabilities and medical conditions. The organization serves people of all ages and needs, including infants, students, adults, and seniors. Tetra works closely with health care professionals, caregivers, and family members who are assisting those in need.

Tetra does not aim to "make things easy" for persons with disabilities, but rather seeks to provide solutions that foster independence and increase choices so individuals can have greater involvement in their community and, ultimately, discover new opportunities in all areas of life.

What distinguishes Tetra Society solutions from those of most disability organizations is their ad hoc nature: they are created to address needs discovered in daily life, insuring that a customized, assistive device can have an immediate impact.

The Tetra Society has 45 chapters throughout North America. Most are in Canada, but the organization's 300 volunteers have completed projects in Columbus, Ohio, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City. Use Find a Chapter on the Tetra website to learn more.

Project information is shared system-wide. Sometimes, requests for assistive devices can be filled remotely in areas not served by a Tetra chapter.

To apply for assistance, call 604.688.6464 or complete a Request for Assistance (RFA) form on the Tetra Society website. Referrals can come from any disabled person as well as family members or health care professionals.

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