Ex GM-Holden engineer sewing to help seniors, disabled

Theo Van Deventer improves lives of people with disability, from his garage

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Theo Van Deventer has converted his garage into a workshop to make assistive technology that helps the aged and people living with a disability.


After a career working as an engineer at GM-Holden in Elizabeth, north of Adelaide, Theo Van Deventer turned his skills in retirement to improving the life of people living with disabilities.

Mr Van Deventer, 75, a resident at Stockland's Lightsview Retirement Village in Adelaide, has set up a workshop in one half of his two-car garage to work with disabled and aged people to design and manufacture bespoke equipment.

His workshop contains tools he has accumulated over the course of his working life, including two industrial sewing machines he bought at auction and which are used for making items as diverse as webbing or canvas goods.

Mr Van Deventer said after retiring he began using the practical skills he had gathered over his lifetime to help others.

Today, he is part of Technology for Ageing and Disability SA (TAD) a not-for-profit organisation that works to design equipment which makes life easier for the disabled and aged.

The work is voluntary and when possible, requires meeting with clients to understand the particular problem that needs solving, working out how this can be achieved and building it.

The costs of materials are reimbursed by the client with assistance from the board of TAD, but often Theo can use material already in his workshop to minimize expenses.

"The volunteers do not charge for their labour," he said. "The work is very rewarding and it can be very emotional when we hand over the completed equipment to the client. I think I get more back from it than they do."

He said the volunteers work together to contribute their expertise and often many people will work on the one piece of equipment.

"I tend to concentrate on any sewing," he said.

Solutions he has helped develop and produce include guards to prevent dresses being caught in wheelchairs, a height adjustable clothesline to help wheelchair bound clients hang out their washing, and a bouncer which enabled a 14-year-old bedbound girl to be taken outside with her family.

  • Contact Technology for Ageing and Disability SA HERE or phone 1300 663 243