Salt Lake City’s emergency response services for residents who use motorized wheelchairs will take a leap forward on Monday with the debut of two heavy-duty wheelchair lift trailers.
In the past, first responders have been unable to transport the 300-plus pound, motorized chairs when users are taken to a hospital. The availability of lifts means that the chairs can be transported along with an individual — a significant change in service.
“This is an important step in providing a 911 response that offers greater equity for residents who use wheelchairs,” Mayor Jackie Biskupski said. “The lifts expand our capability to serve those who depend on motorized wheelchairs for their independence.”
Salt Lake City is thought to be one of the first in the nation to provide the service, Sarah Benj, ADA Coordinator in the Mayor’s Office said. Two years ago, as a Mayor’s Office intern, Benj called dozens of U.S. cities and found that most refer citizens to third-party service providers, because police and fire agencies don’t have the capacity to transport the heavy, bulky motorized chairs in emergency vehicles.
A motorized chair user herself, Benj knows from experience how difficult it is to have to leave it behind. In February, when a health issue sent her to the hospital, she had to abandon her chair at a walk-in medical clinic and return to the clinic in a cab to retrieve it after treatment.
“It was like leaving a part of me behind,” said Benj.
Salt Lake City has purchased two heavy-duty lifts for use by the police and fire departments. Each is trailer that attach behind emergency vehicles. Salt Lake City’s Fire Department has worked with area hospitals to establish protocols for receiving the chairs and ensure they get to their users, Salt Lake City Fire Chief Karl Lieb said.
The lifts, he added, will bring significant peace of mind to the City’s ADA community and helps the fire department it its continual effort to have a positive impact on those experiencing difficult or tragic situations.
“Patients can focus on treatment without the worry of what will happen to their vital means of transportation,” Chief Lieb said. “We are proud to be at the forefront of this initiative and hope its success encourages other agencies to adopt a similar approach.”
Salt Lake City’s 911 Dispatch is also pleased to partner with the fire department in working to improve the lives of the ADA community when they are in need, 911 Dispatch Director Lisa Burnette said.
“This is an exciting opportunity to participate in such a valuable program,” she said.
What: Debut of emergency wheelchair lift trailers
Who: Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski
Salt Lake City Fire Chief Karl Lieb
Sarah Benj, ADA Coordinator, Office of the Mayor
When: Monday, July 29, 2019, 11:00 AM
Where: Salt Lake City and County Building
451 S. State Street, SLC
East Side steps
Visuals: Demonstration of the lift use