\n \n \nLee Tempest glances down a sunny hallway at UPMC Mercy. He has a few obstacles in his way.\nFirst, he needs to weave through a half-dozen orange plastic cones, pushing a shopping cart as he moves. He\u2019ll grab a few things along the way \u2014 an empty cereal box and a tomato sauce can \u2014 and toss them on the cart.\nMidway, he reaches for a vacuum, which he uses to sweep up scattered pieces of paper. At the end, there\u2019s a plywood curb to maneuver.\nHe clocks in at a time of 5 minutes and 21 seconds. The crowd erupts in cheers.\nThe wheelchair skills clinic at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC Mercy is held the third Thursday of every month from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Call 412-822-3674 for more information.\nTempest, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, has been in a wheelchair for 25 years, and he helps lead a free manual wheelchair skills clinic at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute at UPMC Mercy.\n\u201cHaving that set of wheelchair skills allows you to just feel more confident in getting around the community,\u201d Tempest said.\nThe UPMC Rehabilitation Institute hosts a free monthly clinic in the hospital\u2019s spinal cord unit. It\u2019s open to anyone who uses a manual wheelchair \u2014 hospital patients and the public alike are welcome to attend.\nClinic participants make their way through an obstacle course designed to promote agility, rooting each other on through each task. When the last person arrives at the end, the group breaks out into individualized skill sections.\nThose who attend come with a variety of conditions, ranging from spinal cord injuries to cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis. The classes are goal-oriented \u2014 a team of physical therapists from UPMC Centers for Rehab Services is on hand to help participants hone their skills, from handling curbs and grocery shopping to navigating Pittsburgh\u2019s potholed landscape.\nLearn more about the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute\u00a0and Centers for Rehab Services\nJoseph Leckenby is attending his second clinic. At the last session, he learned how to tilt his chair backward to get himself onto a sidewalk.\n\u201cI\u2019ve only been in a wheelchair for five years,\u201d he said, just a few moments before beginning the course. \u201cSo this is still new to me. I want to learn how to use it properly.\u201d\nEach participant arrives at the clinic with their own skillset \u2014 and areas for improvement. Some are new to life in a wheelchair, while others have been at it for a few decades.\nLynn Worobey, a physical therapist and research professor at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, helps one woman learn how to ease into a wheelie.\n\u201cIt\u2019s really nice because they can learn from each other,\u201d Worobey said. \u201cThey can learn that the wheelie isn\u2019t a party trick, that there are gravel and grass and hills and ruts, and you can fall out of your chair.\u201d\nClinic participant Bryan McCormick demonstrates a wheelie\u2014relax your shoulders and keep your hands at 12 o\u2019clock. It\u2019s all in your hands, he says.\n\u201cSometimes you need to know how to get up or down an escalator,\u201d said McCormick, who leads a spinal cord injury peer support group at UPMC Mercy with Tempest. \u201cSometimes there are no elevators and you need to know the safest procedure.\u201d\nHe said the supportive atmosphere of the clinic helps promote both everyday wheelchair skills and a sense of community.\n\u201cIt\u2019s like anything else \u2013 if you turn it into something fun and challenging, it turns into a whole different experience,\u201d McCormick said.