Lending an extra hand

Anthony Bartl
Arm and leg movement is usually essential to play lawn bowls. I have no movement from the neck down. But I wasn't going to let this stop me from playing lawn bowls. I spoke to the group Technical Aid for the Disabled Victoria. They are a volunteer group that make individual technical equipment for people with a disability. After months of hard work volunteer Bill Dooley made me a mechanical bowling arm. I use the bowling arm by pressing down on my chin and turning my wheelchair. I went lawn bowling with my friends. And I won.
Posted by: 
Anthony Bartl on 20/08/2012
Anthony Bart and TADVIC volunteers at the lawn bowls club adjusting the mechanical arm.
A Bartl with TADVIC volunteers 4

TADVIC volunteers made it possible.

In readiness for a tilt at stopping a bowl closest to the jack or white ball, a lawn bowler grasps for a ball at their resident bowling club. On bended knee, their hand actions and releases the bowl forward and the ball trundles off along the green.

What I did to play lawn bowls

If you possess no arm or leg movement the above scene doesn't seem possible, right?

But for me, who has neither arm nor leg movement, it is.

After desiring my own glory in a sport I had jealously only seen friends play, I wanted my own lawn bowling success.

Thinking outside the square for a solution, I needed an organisation that thinks outside the square, one which has a flair for creativity and inventiveness. With a sudden brain wave I remembered. Years ago a job was done for me. When a piece of equipment wasn't readily available from a shop shelf I approached an organisation specialising in custom made and imaginative equipment solutions for people with disabilities.

The process

With the kind heartedness and generosity of volunteer Bill Dooley I had come to the right place. Bill is a former engineer and volunteers for Technical Aid for the Disabled Victoria (TADVIC).

Over several months of brainstorming ideas with fellow volunteers and road testing prototypes with me at a club, Bill fashioned a quadriplegic friendly bowling arm complete with chin controls.

How my bowling arm works

My bowling arm is mounted to my wheelchair driving control arm and resembles a mechanical part swinging like a pendulum. With a chin press of two buttons I have total control of it.

Firstly, by holding one button I can scroll through ascending numbers to determine a ball's thrust. Then, by swivelling my chair I can independently decide what angle a lawn bowl should approach the jack. And finally, by pressing another switch I can triumphantly release a lawn bowl down a lawn bowling green.

What's more, by remaining in one position and consistently choosing the same power of a ball I can replicate an identical bowl over and over. Perfect. I'd be carving them up at the Paralympics.

My first proper trial

Earlier this year and excited by my new found ability, I wanted to show this latest skill off to my friends. Instead of sitting idly by, watching mates play sport like usual, the tables had turned. I was no longer a frustrated bystander, wishing I was out there. I was now an active player.

Bowl after bowl my balls were stopping very near their target jack and game after game I was winning hands down. My buddies were amazed. Who would have thought that a quadriplegic with purely head movement could be better than those physically capable able-bods. A euphoric and liberating moment to say the least.


Within TADVIC's charter are its aims. They include improving the quality of life of clients, to increase their physical independence and provide them with the opportunities to do things they once may not have thought possible. Bill Dooley and TADVIC have done that in spades.

TADVIC, phone 9853 8655.

If anyone else out there has a piece of equipment that now enables them to have more ability DiVine would love to know.

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