Charitable Choices: Diane Hall of The Ability Workshop Society

The Ability Workshop Society in Calgary aims to make life a little easier for those with disabilities. They have spent the last 30 years designing and building innovative solutions to help people with disabilities live a fuller life. We connected with volunteer coordinator Diane Hall to learn more.

The Ability Workshop Society

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

AWS is a charity that for 30 years has been committed to designing and building safe, economical, innovative solutions that promote independent living, healthy recreation, inclusive play and self-sufficiency for people with disabilities. Our team comprises skilled volunteers e.g. structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, woodworkers, welders, occupational therapists, teachers, doctors, dentists, administrators, computer technicians etc.

Ability Workshop Society started out as the Calgary chapter of the Tetra Society of North America in 1994.  In 2021, we became a fully independent organization with a new name: Ability Workshop Society.

The main hub of our activity is The Ron Marshall Centre, a fully equipped machine shop where, since 2012, our ‘solutionists’ have gathered to collaborate, share their expertise and access materials used to create and innovate. Ron Marshall, a machinist and long-time volunteer, donated much of the metalworking equipment which ultimately inspired the establishment of the workshop.

What problem does it aim to solve?

They are many and varied. Each disability is different and each need is unique to the individual. Commercially available solutions can be impossible to secure. That’s where we can assist. Our speciality is enabling a richer lifestyle through custom-built innovation for citizens with a disability.

The process is simple, a client fills out a request for assistance form on our website. Sometimes it may be a small problem with a solution that can make a big difference. A client required extensions on the brakes of their wheelchair. New extensions were designed and made so that they were easy to reach and use.

And other times, a new device is not as functional as hoped. A client had two switches that lay in his lap, but due to limited mobility and the fact that the switches moved around too much, they were difficult to use. A new switch was developed using a 3D printer and the assembly was rewired so it could be operated with his chin. The client used this switch to control his power wheelchair. This allows the client a secure, reliable life of independence. Adaptations such as this truly illustrate our name and commitment to the disabled community.

Some projects are innovative! A power wheelchair trainer was built to allow a safe way for a child with a disability to learn how to drive a power wheelchair independently. This will allow independence for a child for the rest of their life!

That’s the ability we can put into the life of a client.

A trainer was built for the University of Calgary that is now being fitted with brain interface electronics. A second trainer is being built for the University of Alberta. We were thrilled that Fritz Peyerl, a long-time volunteer, was selected as the recipient of the 2023 Accessibility Award for Transportation & Mobility by the City of Calgary’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility, for his development of power wheelchair trainers for children. While Fritz won the award, he credits the team of volunteers helping him for the success of those projects.

If a person with a disability has a dream of something that would change their life for the better, then AWS will try and make that dream come true. AWS is a ‘Purveyor Of Possibilities’ We like to collect the apostrophe and ‘t’ and turn can’t into CAN.

What is truly amazing is that in all these innovative, customized life-changing projects, whether it takes a couple of hours to complete or hundreds of hours there is never a charge for labour! We only charge for any materials used.

The Ability Workshop Society
Power Wheelchair Trainer

When did you start/join it?

I joined AWS in the Fall of 2022.

What made you want to get involved?

During my career as a resource teacher, specialising in assistive technology with complex needs students, AWS made several unique custom-designed activities for the classroom which allowed my students to be active and engaged participants e.g. switch activated musical instruments. Using switches attached to a tambourine, drum and triangle, students were able to play the instruments independently.

What intrigued you about this charity that made you want to join?

Being a recipient of their amazing ability to design and create equipment for children with disabilities, the generosity of their time and skills excited me to want to be part of this organization. AWS volunteers emitted a warm, kind and inviting atmosphere.

How has it changed since you joined?

2024 marks AWS’s 30th Anniversary, a milestone achievement in assisting children and adults with a disability in the community. Last year a record 140 requests for assistance were received.

The board is larger, and advocacy increased. A larger number of requests continue to flow in. Connections with other agencies are stronger and the interaction has resulted a growth in community involvement i.e. attending community resource fairs, teachers’ conventions, International Persons With Disabilities Resource Fair.

What more needs to be done?

As with most charities, funding and community awareness are challenges front and centre. We are always seeking opportunities to inform the community of our work.

We do not have a permanent shop space which makes it difficult to secure grants.

Our current space donated to us since 2012, will soon not be available so the search for an affordable location is a priority.

How can our readers help?

Community Citizens:

– Fill in a request for assistance through our website
– Inform those persons with a disability of our ability to help them with creative solutions to everyday challenges.
– Volunteer your skills and expertise
– Donate funds to keep us operating


– Donate materials (wood, plastic, metal, etc.)
– Donate funds to keep us operating
– Help us find a cost-effective workshop space

Donations gratefully received.


Cheque to Ability Workshop, 65 Lynnwood Dr S.E. Calgary, Alberta, T2C 0S5

Donate at

Where can we follow you?

Website | Facebook

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

CP Kids and Families. We have designed and created many unique items over the years for CP (Cerebral Palsy) Kids and Families e.g. specialized adapted sleds and unique sensory activity boards. They are a family-focused community leader that provides support, resources, and opportunities to children and families living with physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy, throughout their life journey.