All Posts By

Mark E. Smith

December 29, 2016

Join with Us and Celebrate the True Spirit of the New Year

Celebrate the New YearIn modern times, New Year’s resolutions are goals for the coming year.

However, the New Year tradition dates back over 4,000 years, and was actually about reflecting on the prior year. Put simply, it was about looking back, as opposed to looking forward, and using that momentum to improve.

There’s a lot of empowerment in using the New Year to look back. After all, through the good times and the tough times of the past year, we made it!

It’s via this enlightened lens that New Year’s serves as an especially poignant annual milestone for those of us living with disability, illness or any adversity. We made it!

For those among us who made it through our first year of adversity, it’s a wonderful time to look back on the strengths and wisdom gained – maybe some we didn’t fathom we had until we drew it from deep within. Those among us who have faced years or a lifetime of adversity know it’s a fitting time to look back and remind ourselves how far we’ve traveled on this journey. For all of us, it’s an opportunity to realize that we made it with courage and tenacity through the year, and that, in itself, is something to celebrate.

Hardships are easy to look back upon, but the scars earned can be tough to appreciate. The fact is, no one chooses adversity. However, when adversity finds us, and we move through it, the scars become records of strength and courage – and that recognition is life-affirming.

We owe it to ourselves – and New Years is the perfect time – to look at all life has thrown our way, and say, “I made it, and I’m stronger because of it!”

Within all adversity resides opportunity, and nothing marks opportunity like the New Year. Let us all use what we’ve experienced as wind in our sails, moving with increased strength and wisdom into the New Year.

None of us can predict what the New Year will bring; but, we’ve already proven that whatever it is, we can handle it.

As author, Sarah Ban Breathnach, put it, “Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous new year by believing. Believe in yourself….”


December 14, 2016

The Ultimate Gift: Give the lasting Gift of Mobility


Looking for the ultimate gift?As we head into the holiday season, many wonder what to get the parent or grandparent who has it all.

If your family is like many of ours, we have aging relatives who could benefit from a mobility device – whether that’s a lift chair, scooter or portable power chair – but have been reluctant to pursue one on his or her own. Why not, then, consider giving your loved one the ultimate gift: the gift of mobility.

We surprised a grandfather in our family with the gift of mobility last year, and it’s turned out to be quite the gift. Like many as he aged, he saw slowing down as part of the process. He slowly spent more and more time in the house rather than outdoors doing what he loved. As family members, we brought up the topic of scooters in recent years, but he was resistant, not realizing the expanded mobility it would bring back to his life. As a result, on Christmas last year, we rolled in a red travel scooter with a red bow. To our joy, he took to it immediately, touched that we’d gotten him a true gift. See, as he drove the scooter up and down the block for the first time, he shared with us all of his thoughts of what he could do with his enhanced mobility.

And, his scooter has proved the ultimate gift. Over the past year he’s not just out-n-about more, but he went on a cruise and took his grandchildren to Disneyland. The scooter has been a gift to his wife and family, as well, in those ways.

This holiday season, as you think of what to get you loved one who has it all, think about what mobility needs he or she may have. After all, sometimes the gift of mobility is the ultimate gift.The ultimate Gift

December 9, 2016

Prioritizing Pressure Management: Reducing the Risks of Seated Pressure Sores

pressure management

Prioritizing Pressure Management: Reducing the Risks of Seated Pressure Sores

Why would we develop seated pressure sores, anyway? Here’s a simple physiological fact: as humans, our bodies aren’t designed to sit for long periods. As padded as some of our posteriors may seem, nature didn’t intend for them to handle concentrations of seated body weight indefinitely. And, unfortunately, for those of us with mobility impairments, remaining in a seated position for extended periods can lead to a very serious and debilitating condition called decubitus ulcers – more commonly called pressure sores.

Seated pressure sores occur when bony areas rub away at tissue. Many assume that pressure sores occur from the outside, in. however, it’s in fact bony areas pressing or rubbing against tissue, from the inside, out that causes pressure sores. And, this is among the reasons why they’re so dangerous – by the time we see a pressure sore, serious tissue damage has already occurred, often requiring surgery and months of bed rest.

So, as those often seated, how do we prevent pressure sores? This is where individual practices of pressure management come in.

It Starts With Seat and Back Cushions

It’s natural to think of a seat cushion simply as a padded surface to sit on. However, when it comes to pressure management, a cushion is truly a physiologically-engineered medical necessity. Pressure management cushions serve three foremost roles (and these apply to both seat and backrest cushions):

pressure management cushion for Seated Pressure Sores

Jay J3 cushion


  • Distributing weight as evenly as possible
  • Allowing pressure points, such as the sacrum/coccyx, to immerse (sink) into the cushion, reducing pressure
  • Reducing shearing (pulling of the skin and tissue

back cushion to prevent Seated Pressure Sores

The more evenly pressure is distributed across the seating surface, the less pressure is on any one point, thus decreasing the risk of a seated pressure sores developing. A cushion with immersion characteristics – commonly made of air cells, gel, or layers of memory foam – allow pressure points to sink in and reduce pressure. And, a low-shear (slick) cover reduces pulling on skin and tissue. When the three are combined, optimal pressure management occurs.

There are a range of seat and backrest cushions on the market, but looking for these three characteristics is key to pressure management.


You Must Shift Your Weight

A pressure management cushion and backrest is only half of the equation to preventing seated pressure sores. The other half is weight shifts. Weight shifts are just as they say – it’s shifting your weight off of pressure management areas. For example, lateral weight shifts involve leaning to each side to temporarily relieve pressure on areas of your posterior. Similarly, a forward lean takes pressure off of your back and tailbone region. For those wheelchair users who can’t perform manual pressure shifts, there is tilt and recline seating that shifts one’s weight. There are additional pressure relief methods, and all should be approved as safe and effective by your clinician or healthcare professional. Regardless of the method used, the clinical community recommends that those at risk of pressure sores perform weight shifts every 15 to 20 minutes. And, when our schedules allow, lying on our side on a bed for a bit to eliminate pressure altogether can be among the best forms of pressure management.

Shifting Our Priorities

For those of us who rely on mobility products, in seated positions, it’s vital that we make pressure management a priority. However, when done right – getting a pressure management seat and back cushion, as well as performing weight shifts – we can focus less on our posterior and more on our everyday lives with health and comfort.

November 30, 2016

Celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2016

In 1992, the United Nations founded the “International Day of Persons with Disabilities,” celebrated annually on December 3rd, around the world.

In 1992, the United Nations founded the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated annually on December 3rd, around the world.

The theme for 2016’s International Day is, “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want,” which draws attention to the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals that strive to create a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.

What’s inspiring about this year’s theme is that the “17 goals” don’t stem from merely those with disabilities, but they are literally the U.N.’s initiatives for all people around the world.

The goals range from ending hunger to quality education to gender equality to climate action, and so on. Truly, what this year’s theme says is that people with disabilities are… well… just people after all. That’s an empowering, inclusive world view.

See, among the foremost reasons those with disabilities have been historically disenfranchised around the globe is because their needs – read that, our needs, among those of us with disabilities – have been viewed as somehow different. Of course, there’s never truly been a difference. Those of us who have disabilities have always needed, wanted and deserved what everyone else needs, wants and deserves – that is, education, family, community and career, to name a few. Yet, over modern decades, in modern societies, our supposed needs have been noted as “different,” and in that well-meaning but skewed societal view, we’ve consequently been treated differently. For example, we were given “equal access” to architectural barriers, which often really meant a separate entrance, as opposed to “universal access,” where everyone has the same architectural access, walking, wheeling or otherwise.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

However, this year, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the U.N. has put a stake in the ground. The U.N. has proclaimed that the needs of those with disabilities are the needs of all people – there is no difference. And, let us hope that the U.N.’s 17 goals for mankind come to fruition because then we will simply have the International Day of People, a day that celebrates true equality for all.

November 23, 2016

Disability and Illness: Looking at the Positive Side

disability and illness

disability and illnessWhen it comes to disability and illness, no one wants or wishes it.

Yet, for many of us, they are a part of life. And, there within that phrase – it’s part of life – resides a key perspective. Yes, disability and illness can be challenging, harrowing and difficult. Yet, may I be bold enough to ask, might they also be life-affirming?

As one who’s had a severe disability for 45 years, works among those with disability and illness, and is immersed in disability culture, I’ve had unique insight into all of the ways disability and illness impact our lives – including for the better. I know it sounds counter-intuitive that disability and illness can positively impact our lives, but they truly can.

While it’s very clear how we’re adversely affected by disability and illness, the rewards are equally poignant. Disability and illness can bring astounding levels of humility and perspective to our lives, and allow us to sometimes see a kinder world, to experience the best in others, to realize what’s truly important. Yes, disability and illness can shine a light on that which is right in our lives, not just the tough stuff.

Roll up to a door in a mobility device in public, and it’s amazing how strangers scramble to open the door in kindness. See who sits by your bedside when you’re ill and experience true love. Realize your own astounding strength when facing challenges and grow in empowerment. Indeed, adversity opens us up to awe-inspiring aspects of life that we may not otherwise experience.

It’s understandable to see negatives in disability and illness; however, life is not one-dimensional. Disability and illness are a part of life. In fact, disability and illness prove to be many parts of our lives.Yes, difficult at times. Other times, indifferent. But, let us not overlook the positives, as well – that is, what disability and illness teach us, show us, and gift us.

Helen Keller wrote, “It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me.

Indeed, for all of us, regardless of plight, when we look at the other side of the coin, it, too, shows how much we’ve been given.