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Retired custodian designs snow shovel for seniors made of ‘junk’ lying around B.C. school

Southwest B.C.’s first big snowstorm of the year brought with it the usual grumbles and moans about cleaning sidewalks.

But for those with accessibility concerns, shovelling snow can present a major challenge.

For one Vancouver man, necessity became the mother of invention. Paul Rebucal says he created a snow shovel that he could use as he gets older.

“I need to do that because I have to save my back,” Rebucal told CBC News. “I’m already a senior, so I’m very prone to accidents.”

WATCH | Paul Rebucal demonstrates his snow shovel for seniors: 

retired custodian designs snow shovel for seniors made of junk lying around b c school

Retired school custodian designs snow shovel for seniors

3 days ago

Duration 4:44

Paul Rebucal shows CBC’s Steve Zhang his prototype for what he describes as a snow shovel for seniors, which Rebucal designed to help make his job safer, faster — and more fun.

The shovel, made almost entirely with recycled materials, is the latest brainchild of Rebucal, who recently retired from his job as a building custodian at John Norquay Elementary in Vancouver.

The wheeled shovel has users push down on a roller-style handlebar to scoop up snow. They can then roll it to the side of the sidewalk or road and use a lever attachment to dump the snow out.

The device reduces the amount of brute force needed to operate a snow shovel, as there is very little lifting and upper arm strength needed.

An older East Asian man is pictured outside with snowy conditions behind him.
Paul Rebucal, who recently retired as a school custodian in Vancouver, has designed a snow shovel that aims to help seniors with mobility issues. (CBC)

He says he built the shovel largely out of repurposed objects he found lying around the school where he worked. The metal handle was taken from an electrician who didn’t need it and the shovel’s scoop consists of a hand-moulded garbage can lid.

“I just buy the cable,” he said of an item needed for the lever attachment. “It’s mostly junk.”

“This is like a prototype — it’s not, like, actually [a] working model, but I can still improve it.”

For those with mobility issues, piled-up snow can be more than an occasional nuisance, it can also pose a safety risk.

WATCH | Accessibility consultant talks of challenges to physically disabled during snowstorms: 

retired custodian designs snow shovel for seniors made of junk lying around b c school 2

How are snow and ice on sidewalks affecting people with mobility challenges in southwest B.C.?

3 days ago

Duration 2:09

Tanelle Bolt, a design and accessibility consultant based in Langford, B.C., speaks to BC Today host Michelle Eliot about using her wheelchair on snowy sidewalks — and the frustrating challenges it brings.

Tanelle Bolt, a design and accessibility consultant based in Langford, B.C., says that municipalities should do more to enforce fines for those who do not shovel snow, and step up snow-plowing efforts.

“Physical movement is very important to your overall well-being and having a social network and the ability to go and be social and enjoy the outdoors,” she told BC Today host Michelle Eliot on Thursday.

Serial inventor

The shovel is just the latest invention from  Rebucal, who is originally from the Philippines.

Among his other inventions is a lunch table lifter, which uses hockey sticks and a large lever to make it easier and safer to fold school lunch tables.

A man pushes down on a lever attached to two hockey sticks, which are lifting a folding table and folding it from the centre.
Rebucal says his invention, which hooks underneath lunch tables and helps lift them from afar, makes his work safer. (CBC)

“It’s a hobby for me,” Rebucal said. “It motivates me to go to work every day. It’s like going to work and playing [with] my toys.

“When I was a kid, I [didn’t] have the luxury of buying that. I make my own toys back home when I was a boy.”

An East Asian man rides a bicycle with a parasol on it in a black-and-white, aged photo.
Rebucal patented a folding bicycle, seen here with a parasol, in the Philippines. (Submitted by Paul Rebucal)

He says in 1982 he was the first person in the Philippines to patent a folding bicycle, which helped him get around traffic congestion more easily.

Another invention is the “duster buster,” a vacuum tube that helps clean off ceiling dusters.

An old newspaper advertisement for 'Known for its lifetime usefulness Esperenza Folding Bicycle'. Underneath a diagram of a bicycle is the words 'A. Rebucal, Inventor'.
An advertisement for the folding bicycle in Manila. Rebucal is listed as the inventor. (Submitted by Paul Rebucal)

“My inventions, my creativity within the school, helps me to maintain my sanity,” the retired custodian said. “Work is … custodial and janitorial and sometimes it’s not fun. But because of my invention, I have fun.”

Rebucal retired on Dec. 29, but not before he had the opportunity to speak to students about his inventions and the importance of creativity.

“Make always the world a better place than when you started,” he said.

A man holds a ceiling duster to a vacuum tube in the ground.
The ‘duster buster’ is a vacuum attachment that helps clean dirty ceiling dusters so they’re ready to use immediately, according to Rebucal. (CBC)

This article is from from cbc.ca (CBS NEWS)

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