Tetra recruits skilled volunteers – engineers and technicians – to create assistive devices for people with specific needs that cannot be met by commercial items. Everything created through Tetra is unique, custom made for one person’s particular needs. The work is all done by volunteers within the client’s own community.
The organization was founded in 1987 by a C4-C5 quadriplegic, Sam Sullivan, who required adaptations to regular household devices – not high-tech inventions, but devices that opened his living space and allowed him a measure of independence. Tetra’s first volunteer, Paul Cermak, undertook to create the low-tech adaptations to Sam’s apartment, inspiring him to form Tetra so that others could benefit.
As mayor of Vancouver, Sullivan received international media attention after he waved the Olympic and Paralympic flags the Closing Ceremony of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. A specially made flagholder,, created by a Tetra volunteer, made this a possibility. In February 2010, Sullivan was announced Canada’s 2010 Paralympic Winter Games ambassador, in recognition of his work to show the world what people with disabilities are capable of once barriers in the physical landscape have been overcome
Clients don’t have to be quadriplegic and projects don’t have to be daily living aids – many are about having fun or about work.
Tetra volunteers work with people with a wide range of medical conditions, ages, needs and interests. They also work closely with health professionals and caregivers, many of whom request Tetra’s assistance on behalf of their clients. Similarly, Tetra works hand-in-hand with family members, who can also submit requests for assistance.
Tetra’s focus is on quality of life - anything that overcomes a barrier of some sort or otherwise enhances someone’s ability to participate in all aspects of life, including work, family, community affairs and recreation.
However, please note that Tetra volunteers do not copy existing, commercially available devices (although these can often be tweaked to fit someone’s particular need) and are unlikely to install ramps. Chapters have installed ramps over the years, but these are exceptions to the rule, which is: If a carpenter or construction contractor can do it, then it’s not a good use of Tetra’s technical volunteers.
A common misconception is that Tetra can help fund the purchase of commercial assistive equipment – this is not the case.
And please do not think that Tetra aims to make things easy for people with disabilities – it’s true that each and every Tetra project allows someone to overcome a physical barrier, but this is to give that individual more independence and choice. The aim is to give clients greater involvement in their community and, ultimately, new opportunities.
More information about how to request assistance please click here.
Six volunteers worked on an interface that connects Kyle’s sip ‘n’ puff mouthpiece to the train set controller that regulates how much power is sent through to the tracks.