Up and Doing: A Revolution for Adults with DD, By Melinda Harrison, Bakersfield ARC

July 11, 2009

Melinda is the Community Inclusion Specialist for BARC, and their clients are out in the town 70% of the time. Hardly a day goes by that doesn't bring tears to the eyes, tears of joy about accomplishments clients have made or their expressions of love. Melinda was going to be a physical education teacher, but found early on that she liked working in the special education field. She has been with BARC for 16 years, and had her first MOVE training 10 years ago.

At BARC we work with developmentally disabled people who are eighteen years and older. Our mission is to build a stronger community by helping people with developmental disabilities achieve individual goals for a better life. 

Our programming includes the MOVE (Mobility Opportunity Via Experience) curriculum and provides proactive community integrated activities to individuals with developmental disabilities. MOVE was originally created in the late 1980s by Linda Bidabe, a special education teacher working for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in Bakersfield California. The program was designed to meet the needs of students with severe physical disabilities in the public school system.  Studies have demonstrated that without a consistent, long-term program, students who grow older and larger often lose physical skills and develop deformities.

The MOVE curriculum encourages the “adult learners” to identify and seek functional and meaningful activities and enhance their personal lifestyle skills. The Rifton equipment enables  the individual to pursue personal wants, needs and desires. MOVE includes six steps for testing, setting goals, analyzing critical skills, providing and reducing “prompt support” and teaching skills like sitting, standing, walking and transferring.

SergiowalkinginPacerBy using the MOVE curriculum a whole new world of opportunities with real-life activities has opened up for our 44 adult learners. The key is getting them out of their wheelchairs and doing activities using the products made by Rifton. By using Rifton’s Pacer, SoloLift, and Support Station we have seen amazing progress and wish it could spread to other adult programs. 

Meaningful activities have a purpose and motivate continued learning. Every morning after our toileting routine we begin our activities. The SoloLift, Pacer, and Support Station are in constant use. Activities include gardening, painting, library skills, music, and dancing. Nails and hair get done in our beauty salon. Recreational activities like bowling and playing ball are favorites, and believe it or not, roller-skating. Everyone said it couldn’t be done, but they did it using the Pacer. We are giving them opportunities to stand and participate, looking at us eye-to-eye.


In the Rifton Pacer, our adult learners develop pride and self-confidence we haven’t seen before. They begin to socialize, and they want to walk to see their friends. One lady always kept her head down when sitting in her wheelchair. This changed when she stood in the Pacer; she has now become the social butterfly.

For many years people have been afraid to interact with our adult learners, and sometimes even overlook them when they are in wheelchairs. But when someone sees another person in an upright position, they more readily approach the adult learners with the desire to positively interact with them either individually or in a group. When we go roller-skating or to the mall, we take along the Pacers and the SoloLift for transfers, and it is noticeable that the community is curious to know what the equipment is all about. This helps break the ice, and it helps the public understand that our clients are people who share life with us.


Work-related back injuries from transferring clients into mobility devices and into upright postures have been a big concern for our staff. Rifton has removed this long-standing problem by developing safe and effective transfer equipment for adults.

That is why we love the SoloLift. By using the SoloLift we have avoided staff and client injuries. I tell everybody to go strictly with the SoloLift because it’s safe and better than a sling lift.

Previously, our staff complained that transfers were too hard to do, and they resisted getting clients up into equipment. Currently, when we use the SoloLift our staff argues about which learner will transfer next. Transferring and positioning in the Pacer or into adaptive positioning chairs is much easier. We feel it is the best piece of equipment made by Rifton. Our staff finds it simple for transfers, and it is in constant use during the day, whether it is utilized to toileting or transferring our adult learners into the Advancement Chair or the Pacer.

Support Station

KarenusingtheSupportStaIt was noticeable that when our adult learners were upright and in the Pacer, they began having regular bowel movements. We started using the Support Station and realized that given the opportunity, they can be continent.

I first saw the Support Station at another facility and was amazed at what was happening there. I then started talking about dignity for our own Adult Learners who for so many years have been put up on changing tables. We were not giving them the opportunity to use the commode for their normal functions.

The Support Station contributes to their dignity as well as making hygiene care easier. We are finding this process is quicker than putting them on a changing table. Now with the use of the Support Station, our adult learners are assisting with standing up, and our staff doesn’t have to lift the client. Additionally, our adult learners are becoming stronger with sit-to-stand, as their feet are placed on the floor to get up to the Support Station.


To date, many locations in adult care for the developmentally disabled have not been able to effectively address the issues of transfers and toileting. As a result, there has been a mindset of maintenance-only care, and low expectations for clients and staff.

Getting into safe, upright positioning, and getting out into the community to participate in meaningful life activities, is possible with equipment from Rifton. For us, it has been both exciting and wonderful to have this new approach to life with our developmentally disabled adults. 

For our staff, it was just a matter of training. Using the SoloLift and Support Station is more dignified, is easier, and even saves time. It’s a fact that whatever is easiest for the staff will be the method of follow-through.

One of the best aspects of this is that our adult learners are using equipment that encourages sit-to-stand functions. They are gaining strength and skills that help transfers in daily situations. This learning activity is part of the day’s routine, and makes them more independent while doing activities we had never imagined possible.

We’re ready to dream about tomorrow’s miracles.

MOVE for Adults

SergioSkateland8707054Bakersfield ARC uses the Adult MOVE Program. MOVE encourages the “adult learners” to identify meaningful activities and enhance their personal lifestyle skills. The Rifton equipment executes the individual’s incentive to pursue personal wants, needs and desires. People think that after age 21, our adult learners can no longer learn. With the Adult MOVE Program, we are discovering that adult learners can develop new skills, becoming more independent. This discovery opens up more possibilities without limits on expectations. Every activity practices and incorporates new skills, and motivation is strong because the activity is meaningful.

Our adult learners become more alert and have better physical health. Activity counteracts medical problems like weight gain, constipation, muscle contractures, and skin breakdown. There is even a difference in cognitive and social abilities, and a decrease in overall behavioral frustrations is evident.

Just as exciting is the fact that our staff has become re-invigorated about their work. They help us think about the impact that these increased skills and options will mean for our adult learners: Sit – to do what? Stand – to do what? Walk – to do what? We are talking about enriching lives.

I just can’t thank Rifton enough for all of your work. I mean WOW! Without you, we would not be seeing our adult learners benefit like this. They are really doing great things.

For more information about the Adult MOVE Program, contact MOVE International:



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