Lucky school kids meet Paralympian

Nine lucky pupils from Brookfields Special School in Tilehurst were invited to the opening of the new Gowrings Mobility factory by Paralympic silver medallist Karen Darke.

Last Thursday, Karen arrived in a Gowrings Mobility Doblo SpacePlusTM wheelchair accessible vehicle and was greeted by the excited children and photographers. Office and factory staff were delighted to see Karen arrive and also stopped work to join in with the official plaque unveiling. John Newman, owner of the Newship group that own Gowrings said a few words:  “As the original inventors of wheelchair accessible vehicles, the company has a strong heritage and an excellent reputation for customer service and quality conversions and now a new facility for the future so that the vehicles supplied by Gowrings Mobility can continue to make a huge difference to the lives of wheelchair users and their carers.”

After lots of photographs with Karen and her medal, the children were shown inside the factory and given the opportunity to try out a hand cycle, kindly loaned by local manufacturer Otto Bock. Karen helped the children to use the bike’s controls and the smooth surface in the factory provided an excellent cycle track! Hand cyclist Karen revelled in this connection and said afterwards: “I loved their enthusiasm towards the Paralympics, the medal and the handbike. They seemed a really positive and happy set of individuals and it was fantastic that they were up for having a go on the handbike. I wonder if there are any budding new cyclists there?”

At the end of the day, the children visiting the factory wrote about their experience at Gowrings and meeting Paralympian Karen, showing just how inspirational and important the company is. Scott Bedwell wrote: “On Thursday 27th September we went to Gowrings we met Karen Darke. It was FUN. It was good looking at the cars and around the factory. The Paralympian was really nice and always smiled and that made me really happy. She was friendly and talked to me a lot. I learnt that I find it hard to take in a lot of information in one day but it was fun. My best bit was meeting Karen Darke.”

As well as meeting the kids, Karen was given the opportunity to learn about what goes on behind the scenes at Gowrings. The new permanent Gowrings factory, based in Thatcham, will help the company to convert even more vehicles to meet access standards for wheelchair users. Chief Engineer Dan Warner and Conversion Engineer Tak Kan showed Karen how the Doblo SpacePlusTM conversion she had been travelling in during the day is converted. This model has the largest wheelchair space of any vehicle in its class. They also demonstrated the four point wheelchair tie-down system and discussed the extensive testing that goes into ensuring these vehicles are both comfortable and safe for the wheelchair passenger.

As Karen left the factory, she said: “It was a pleasure to meet the Gowrings team, from management to hands-on roles and to see how customers and good customer service drives this business. Thank you for a great day!”

Find out more about Gowrings Mobility at

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