Into the Sling of Things

Robin Wearley ’08 invented a product that serves the disability community

By Ashley Marie Lardizabal, Office of Marketing Communications Posted Wed, 07/17/2019 - 11:14

Two years ago, a frequent flyer friend with a disability asked Robin Wearley ’08 how an airline crew would get him out of a plane in an emergency. Despite having been a flight attendant for 10 years, the only answer that Wearley could give was an airline procedure based on a 1977 FAA study done on an airplane, the Boeing 727, that no longer flies.

After a restless night spent worrying about her friend’s safety, Wearley got out her yoga mat, grabbed some rope, and fashioned the first prototype of A Disabled Passenger Transfer Sling, also known as ADAPTS. Wearley’s invention grew into a company that serves, and advocates for, the disability community.

How does your sling make air travel safer?

The current evacuation plan is to “grab and go,” which means the passenger with disabilities is held under the arms and behind the knees by crew members after all able-bodied passengers are deplaned. This plan doesn’t consider the difficulty of carrying passengers who may not have legs, like my friend who is a triple amputee. With ADAPTS, two rescuers simply lift the passenger up in one movement, as if in a hammock.

Is ADAPTS only for traveling?

It actually has a lot of applications that I hadn’t even thought about. When I created the sling I was focused on airplane evacuations, but now we’re marketing to office buildings, schools, arenas — anywhere a wheelchair could be stuck. We’ve heard about some of our customers using ADAPTS to get into a dentist chair and even an amusement park ride, so we created videos that explain how to use ADAPTS in different scenarios.

How else are you serving those with disabilities?

We’re working on legislation to update the ACAA’s (Air Carrier Access Act) emergency procedures for evacuating people with disabilities. It will be re-examined in the spring session of Congress and we hope to be a part of that revision as we update ADAPTS to be compliant for law enforcement and airline use.

How has USF helped you to be the CEO of ADAPTS?

I loved my management training at USF. I love that mind, body, and spirit are central to Jesuit education. I learned so much about management and corporate values that I’ve applied to founding ADAPTS and establishing our mission. At USF, I was also introduced to being mindful of what I do, really taking the time to “think on it” and consider the impact of our actions toward others and the planet. I try to embrace all these concepts with every decision I make as I move forward with ADAPTS.