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Reinventing the wheel for those with special needs

By From page A1 | July 07, 2013

Mike Inchausti, a special education instructor at Holmes Junior High, helps Adam Olivas steer a bike adapted to youths and adults with special needs. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

Bicycles are synonymous with Davis. It’s almost as if just living inside the city limits would give a person the ability to ride a bike.

However, for some Davis residents, riding a bike requires a bit of a helping hand. Lending their hands are Mike Inchausti, a special education instructor at Holmes Junior High, and Willie Hawkins, who’s made the endeavor his Eagle Scout project.

“I learned of a special project program that Mike Inchausti was wanting to develop,” said Hawkins, who has been tinkering with bicycles, unicycles, skateboards and off-road boards since a young age.

“He wanted to have bicycles modified to assist children and adults with developmental, cognitive and physical disabilities to learn to ride a bike. … I liked the idea and I thought I could provide Mike with what he wanted.”

Children in the summer school program at Holmes were the first to test-ride specially designed bikes on Tuesday. As part of a potential bike-riding program by Team Davis, these bikes have been modified to help children and adults with various mental and physical disabilities learn to ride a bike.

“I was a bit nervous watching the students ride my modified bikes for the first time on Tuesday,” Hawkins said. “I had tested them out, but the bikes had not really been tested by others.

“I was happy to see them in use, to learn what additional modifications I need to make to them and to see the students having fun. For some of the students, it was their first time on a bike, which was rewarding to see.”

Inchausti began developing the bike-riding program in collaboration with Hawkins, who produced a variety of bike designs that factored in stability, such as foot-propelled bikes and bikes with large front tires. Some bikes include a balance-assist device that aides can use to help riders find their balance.

“I tried a variety of design concepts over several months, several of which failed,” Hawkins said. “However, at this point, I believe I have provided Mike with a fleet of modified bikes that will allow him to get his program started.”

These designs were tested Tuesday morning to evaluate the efficiency of various designs and the feasibility of creating a new bike program. If the results are successful, Inchausti will look into starting a Team Davis bike program to teach members how to ride a bike.

Team Davis is a local nonprofit organization that provides athletic, social and recreational opportunities for individuals with mental or physical disabilities. The organization includes more than 125 individuals and serves as Davis’ Special Olympics team. To learn more, visit www.team-davis.org.

Bike donations came from Lisa Arvin, Mercedes deLeon, Dave and Keri Hawkins, Kurt Schmidl, Yi Sun and Allen and Barbara Tangaan.

Volunteers who helped fix and test bikes included Andrew Borchers, Chris Garrison, Aidan Prien, James Shafer, Emily Talbot, Derek Tully and Mike Inchausti, plus his staff and students.

Enterprise staff

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