Tuscaloosa girl gets life-changing Christmas gift

Rachel Williams Wheelchair Lift

By WVUA 23 News Reporter A’Leeyah Ponder

Most engineering students at the University of Alabama don’t see how their senior projects impact others, but this group is seeing firsthand how much of a life-changer their work is for a local 10-year-old girl 

Thanks to these five students, Rachel Williams has a new wheelchair lift that grants her far more mobility than she ever thought she’d have. On Dec. 15, she got her first taste of the new lift.

“I didn’t really think I was going to be that excited about it, but now that it’s actually finally here it’s really exciting,” Rachel said. 

Rachel is paraplegic and cannot feel or move her legs. Sometimes, her loss of sensation travels into her lower abdomen, too. That means she needs help getting into and out of bed and assistance with daily tasks. Until now, that’s been coming from her parents. And as she gets older, it’s becoming more difficult.

“It’s been easy for me but it’s been harder on my parents lifting me as I get older,” said Rachel. 

This lift is nothing short of a dream come true for the Williams family, said Chris Williams, Rachel’s dad. He’s still in awe of the work done by the mechanical engineering students.

“I was worried because I didn’t want to get my hopes up because I didn’t know if it would work out,” Williams said. “It’s such a tall order for something to be made to do what they’ve made it to do. It was like asking for something that you’d never really get for Christmas and then getting it for Christmas.”

Rachel and her family met the students who made the magic happen at their home on Wednesday when they came to set up the lift and provide instructions on how the equipment works.

“It’s an unbelievable accomplishment that college students were able to take our ideas and Rachel’s needs and build something from scratch that from start to finish is just life-changing for our family,” said Rachel’s mom Melissa Williams.

Mechanical design coordinator Mason James said it’s not often a senior design project gets built and put into use so quickly.

“It’s really cool because I think a lot of people get into engineering to help people who need it,” James said.

It’s certainly a Christmas Rachel and her family will never forget.

“It’s definitely the best Christmas gift I’ve ever had,” said Rachel. 

The wheelchair lift helps Rachel move around her home easier, and the Williams family said they’re incredibly grateful for the students who managed to make it possible.

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