Wikinews tours London Paralympic Village wheelchair repair workshop

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ottobrock workshop.
Image: Hawkeye7.
Carbon fibre running blades.
Image: Hawkeye7.
Pumping up a wheelchair tyre tube.
Image: Hawkeye7.
Store room.
Image: Hawkeye7.

London, England — Yesterday Wikinews had the opportunity to tour the Ottobrock wheelchair repair workshops at the Paralympic Village in London.

It is one of a network of workshops at every Paralympic venue. They are run by Ottobrock, which has been repairing wheelchairs at the Paralympics since 1988. The workshop opened on August 22 and will remain until September 10.

The Ottobrock employees include people from 20 countries. Between them, they speak 23 languages. They liken themselves to the pit crew of motor sport — except that they have no idea what sort of equipment they will have to work with. The store room contains 15,000 spare parts, with everything from spare carbon fibre running blades to spare tyres — over 2,000 of them. They stock Ottobrock parts and their competitors' too, as they have no idea what will arrive at the workshop next. Athletes from around the world bring in all manner of equipment.

The prosthetic technicians have to deal with everything from flat tyres to broken spokes to full-scale rebuilds. They have to be expert problem solvers. They frequently collaborate on determining how best to effect a repair. The objective is to get the wheelchair repaired and back in service as soon as possible.

Wheelchairs vary somewhat in design, depending on the sport. Those for wheelchair basketball and rugby have cambered wheels so they can spin around. Aluminum and titanium parts are used for strength. Ottobrock has a welding workshop where frames are repaired; the teams' equipment managers understandably cannot bring such heavy equipment with them to the games, so they rely on the workshops. When a repair job is required, it is often required in a hurry. At the Turkey vs United States game, a chair was repaired during the match.

In addition to wheelchairs, the workshops handle all manner of work with prostheses. Carbon fibre running blades are adjusted. Broken feet and legs are a challenge. The Chinese Boccia team brought in its power chairs to have the electronics adjusted. In that sport, having the controls working perfectly is all-important.

There are 4,200 athletes at the Paralympic games. So far, the workshops have carried out 1,100 repairs.


Sources

Wikinews
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