Six people at a wheelchair repair workshop. The instructor is repairing a manual wheelchair. One of the students is using a wheelchair.
TechOWL will use a $500,000 grant to open a new community space that will further develop its services and create new assistive technology opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Courtesy of Kim Singleton

Temple University has a long-standing history of providing a variety of programs, events and initiatives to support and uplift our North Philadelphia neighborhood. This story is one example of many that illustrates the work we do in our community.

TechOWL (Technology for Our Whole Lives), a Temple-based program focused on supporting Philadelphians with disabilities, has been awarded a $500,000 grant to create a community space in North Philadelphia to expand its services. This funding is a stateĀ initiative opportunity introduced by Pennsylvania Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, KLN '12.

As Pennsylvania's designated Assistive Technology Act Program, TechOWL receives state and federal aid to help Pennsylvanians of any age and disability get the technology and tools they need. Its central goals are to support individuals with disabilities and to promote the use of assistive technology. The program is part of the larger Institute on Disabilities in Temple's College of Education and Human Development. This new center will allow TechOWL to expand its facilities which, in turn, will allow the organization to expand the reach of its existing initiatives. One such initiative is the reuse project, which collects used equipment such as walkers and wheelchairs, sanitizes them and gives them to those in need.

TechOWL's new community space will better support its other services as well, like the wheeled repair alliance and its 3D fabrication program. The wheeled repair alliance connects wheelchair users with bike shops that can maintain or fix their wheelchairs and also encourages wheelchair users to teach others about wheelchair maintenance and repair. TechOWL's 3D fabrication program makes tools and gadgets such as can holders and key helpers that people with disabilities in Pennsylvania can request through the program's catalog. The program will eventually expand to teach disabled Pennsylvanians to 3D print their own unique solutions to address their needs.

TechOWL can also use the new community space for hybrid and in-person continuing education classes. It provides classes, presentations, and a two-week summer session for people who are nonspeaking and use augmentative and alternative communication.

Other plans for this grant include creating an undergraduate certificate in assistive technology and hiring a courier who can collect and deliver items around the city as part of the reuse project.Ā 

"I see this as a space where disabled voices are lifted," said Kim Singleton, senior director of assistive technology at the Institute on Disabilities. "This grant significantly benefits Temple in terms of its relationship with our North Philadelphia community. It makes us available in a nonacademic way and allows us to meet the real needs of folks who live in the area. We're honored to get this funding."

Prior to this grant, the Institute on Disabilities received a $6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Pennsylvania Department of Health. TechOWL received a large portion of this grant to run the Connect with Tech initiative, which provided free tablets, tech support and internet access to marginalized communities. Since its inception in January 2022, the initiative has distributed about 4,000 tablets across Pennsylvania.

TechOWL is also celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, just in time for the opening of the new center. "The TechOWL community lab is an actualization of our collective vision for the future," said Singleton. "We deliberately welcome Pennsylvanians with disabilities to teach others, and to learn about and find the tools and technology they need to live their best lives."

Check out TechOWL on TikTok, which highlights its assistive technology services and tools.

Interested in learning more about the work Temple University does in the North Philadelphia community? Here's a list of our recent community engagement stories!