The city of Bellevue recently became the latest Washington city to install power wheelchair charging stations in key locations throughout the community.
The six charging stations are designed to connect to the charging ports on power wheelchairs and mobility scooters, giving users the ability to access nearby power if they are in the city and find their batteries running low. The connections also are intended to serve as a critical power resource during disaster events or widespread power outages.
Blayne Amson, Bellevue’s ADA/Title VI Administrator, spearheaded the project.
As an accessibility advocate and powerchair user, he said installing charging stations will help power mobility device users in everyday situations.
“Imagine leaving your house without charging your phone and how much that would affect your day,” Amson said. “Now imagine if that meant you couldn’t move.”
He said the wheelchair charging stations will grant users more freedom.
“If a powerchair user in Bellevue needs to work late or wants to have dinner or attend meetings in the evening, this technology gives them the freedom to do that at a moment’s notice and further engage with the community,” Amson said.
While the topic of installing the wheelchair charging stations has been ongoing for some time, Amson said it took off in early summer.
The charging locations are available at City Hall, Crossroads Community Center, Highland Community Center, North Bellevue Community Center, South Bellevue Community Center and the Northwest Arts Center.
Most of the locations are near transit service and known gathering centers for the community. Since community centers will be natural places for the public to go during an emergency or disaster, locating the charging stations there provides public access for any situation Amson said. Community centers are equipped with generators and will be able to provide energy stability even during a power outage.
The chargers include a 24-volt, 5-amp standard charger for wheelchairs and scooters. Users with specialty chairs should be able to use their own adapter cables to connect their device to the standard charging station cables, Amson said.
There is a separate USB port so users, and the general public, can charge their phone or tablet at the same time the station is charging a chair or scooter.
The purchase of the charging stations was made possible in part by a grant for emergency operations, since the charging stations can serve as a critical power source during outages. The charging stations cost less than $600 to purchase and install, Amson said.
“We were able to create all this change for pennies,” he said. “The city recognizes diversity and equity and want people with disabilities to be heard and seen and represented.”
“The city of Bellevue celebrates and supports the contributions of all residents, so removing barriers to community engagement is an important part of our mission,” Mayor John Chelminiak said in a press release. “Wheelchair charging stations promote community by making it a little easier to spend time out and about in our city and serving as a vital lifeline during power outages.”