Linzey Zoccola

At 31 years of age, Linzey is living a full life! In 2009, she founded a service dog training organization, Phoenix Assistance Dogs of Central PA (PAD). Linzey is PAD’s Director, and lives with 17 dogs, several of them in her training program. She also manages the training and care of another 11 dogs that live with volunteers and owner-trainers. Additionally, Linzey teaches pet dog training group classes, provides follow-up support to her service dog recipients, and all the while, still finds time to have an active social life with friends and family!

Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at age 2, Linzey’s life has developed into a quest to help others in the disability community find the independence and quality of life that she found with her first service dog. By necessity, this quest has involved using assistive technology in all aspects of her life.

Linzey poses in her adapted van with a lowered floor, ramp, and space for her wheelchair in the front passenger area.

“The most empowering thing about this van is the ability for me to ride in the front,” Linzey says.

For instance, Linzey takes notes on her iPad during training sessions because it’s easier to hold a tablet than a pen and paper. She stays in touch with friends, family, and clients by texting or video chatting because a phone is too heavy to hold up to her ear. Linzey’s home modifications include a paved path that leads to the training room in the basement as well as a track lift on the ceiling that helps make it possible for safe transfers from her wheelchair to her bed.

With a loan from PATF, Linzey and her family purchased an adapted van which she uses to visit friends, shop, and teach classes. Linzey points out that assistive technology doesn’t just allow her to get things done, but advances in technology are the difference between efficiency and empowerment. Her favorite aspect of her vehicle, for example, is that her wheelchair can be locked into the front passenger space. “There’s nothing like going on a date and having to sit in the back seat. The most empowering thing about this van is the ability for me to ride in the front.”

Linzey poses in a cafe with a red labrador retriever wearing a service dog vest.

Linzey and PAD service-dog-in-training, Siena.

And, while some of the devices Linzey uses are complex, others are very simple — such as the motion-activated stapler she uses in her home office. As Linzey says, assistive technology provides the support she needs so that she can devote her life to the things she cares about the most – her family and friends, her dogs and supporting her community.