This past fall, Lineberger and Cincotta began looking for a southern Vermont family who could use their prototype lease-free for six to 18 months. Recently, a need arose. Cynthia Payne-Meyer, of Putney, sustained a spinal injury while on vacation in Maui in April. Since then, she has been hospitalized and has been in rehabilitation facilities. She will return to her home in Putney at the end of July, where Wheel Pad will be waiting for her.
For Lineberger, who has known Payne-Meyer for many years, news that there was a local need for the prototype was professionally exciting but personally heartbreaking.
“It was yay, we have somebody who’s our first prototype who’s going to do a free lease! Then, oh my goodness. It’s someone I’ve known and loved 25 years,” said Lineberger to members of the public who gathered to tour Wheel Pad on Friday.
“It’s a longstanding relationship,” said Lineberger. “So, oh my gosh, it’s Cynthia Payne-Meyer. This family does so much for the community and she is probably the most physically active person I’ve ever met in my life. But, so, I get to help a friend.”
Wheel Pad contains a bedroom and bathroom and is intended to be attached to an existing home. It was inspired by another friend of Lineberger and Cincotta’s, Riley Poor. Poor suffered a spinal injury four days shy of his 26th birthday. After leaving rehab, Poor was unable to find an accessible living space and had to live in a hotel and then an apartment. Eventually, he bought a home and asked Cincotta and Lineberger for help.
“He called us, his godparents, to say, ‘Will you help me make my house universally accessible?’” Lineberger told attendees of Friday’s event. “So we did, and in the process of that, Joseph said, ‘Hey, Riley - what if there had been an accessible bedroom and bathroom that could attach to an existing home? That way, rather than being in a hotel room and this apartment for three years, you could have been at your mom’s house or your dad’s house. Roll in to help someone with their homework. Participate. Not be isolated.’ So that’s how Wheel Pad was born.”
Wheel Pad went on to win a number of awards, including Launch VT’s Innovation Prize, which came with $10,000 and is what inspired Lineberger to elevate Wheel Pad from idea to reality.
The Norwich Model, the prototype that Payne-Meyers will be using, was built using that prize money and a wide range of donated materials and services.
The Norwich Model is being installed a few feet from Payne-Meyer’s home, and a hallway is being constructed to attach the unit to the house. Payne-Meyer’s husband Rod is a landscaper and the family wanted to preserve the gardens on their property, so the siting of Wheel Pad to the house needed to be specific.
The hallway will be a heated space. In explaining it, project manager Thomas Cincotta, who oversees the connection of each Wheel Pad to a house, said, “Normally,” starting to explain how he had originally envisioned Wheel Pad being more closely connected to a home. He stops himself.
“There is no normal, actually,” Cincotta says. “With Wheel Pad, we never know what the application is going to be. There is no normal.”