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Oregon First in Nation to Install Mobility Device-Charging Station at Statehouse

Monday, June 19, 2017   (0 Comments)

SALEM, Ore.—For just $375, Oregon became the first state to install in its Statehouse a mobility device-charging station. The mobility device-charging station was invented by Pendleton-based entrepreneur Darrin Umbarger, who created the charging station after experiencing first-hand the challenges of powering his own mobility device. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the charging station installation took place Monday, June 5, on the Second Floor in the Senate.

Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney, of Salem, and state Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Pendleton, together led the charge to install the charging station at the Statehouse after learning Darrin’s story. Hansell first heard of Umbarger's story 15years ago when Hansell was a county commissioner.

“Hats off to Darrin for inventing a powerful device to help better the quality of life for people across the nation experiencing the significant challenge of powering mobility devices,” said Hansell. “And hats off to President Courtney for making this possible, we are removing a significant barrier for Oregonians to better access their Statehouse to connect with lawmakers and participate in the Democratic process. This public policy aspect excites me.”
Not long ago, Hansell sponsored House Bill 14-4108 with state Rep. Alissa Keny Guyer, D-Portland, to help families facing medical needs and to expand much-needed equipment access. Umbarger was involved in the effort to pass the bill and has continued to be a strong advocate for people experiencing disability.

“[House Bill 14-4108 will] not only help people get the equipment they need for their daily lives, it will also save money and keep good, usable medical equipment from going to the scrapyard,” testified Roger E. Kerns during HB 14-4108’s movement through the Legislature.

The mobility device-charging stations can be mounted anywhere there is an electrical outlet. The station is composed of a basic power source for on board chargers and has a 24V 4A three stage-battery charger for scooters and wheelchairs.

In 2009, Umbarger’s brainchild, Clearview, began from a kitchen table. Umbarger experiences Multiple Sclerosis and uses a wheelchair full time. He had been home bound for several years, it motivated him to work to help individuals like himself. When he was in public, he would be asked if he knew where to obtain affordable, durable medical equipment. Soon Umbarger found people who held onto items they no longer needed, that could be donated, and he began collecting the items, storing them in his garage.

In June 2010, Clearview was granted non-profit status and opened an office in Nov. 2010. 

“We were getting a lot of donations from the community and so we rented a 10’x10’ shed to store the equipment. Soon we went to a 10’x20’ then a 50’x50’ and now a 60’x80’ that is packed full of donations,” said Umbarger. “We clean and repair what we can and recycle what we cannot repair. Our medical loan closet provides gently used durable medical equipment to individuals in our community for up to a three-month loan at no cost to the client.”

“In 2014 we took a contract with Mid-Columbia Council of Governments doing Non-Emergent Medical Transportation. The clients we transport are on the Oregon Health Plan. We started with one wheelchair accessible van, a 2001 Dodge Caravan, that had been used as a taxi in Portland. You can only imagine how well-used it was. From there we have continued to grow this program and we now have five wheelchair vans and two regular passenger vans. This program gives us enough funding to provide all of our other programs for free,” added Umbarger.

Clearview now has 10 paid employees, two full-time and eight part-time, one volunteer driver, board members and about a half-dozen volunteers that help out.

“Having these chargers available to individuals with disabilities will allow more independence and a source of security that they will not be stranded without power to operate their wheelchairs,” said Umbarger.

“If there is a need for something he will work until he can find a source or create an alternative answer to the problem,” said Hansell.

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