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Mark E. Smith

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.

November 17, 2016

Honoring Caregivers during National Family Caregivers month

Family caregiver month

 

In honoring caregivers, let us not only be thankful for the care we may receive, but likewise be thankful for those who care.

Family caregivers know this first hand. It is said that we never realize how loved we are until times of need. There’s truth to that – a wonderful truth. However, there’s a second truth: we don’t know how deeply we can love until we give of ourselves to someone in need.

When adversity strikes our health, it’s astounding how so many caregivers rise in our most vulnerable times, with grace and dignity that doesn’t just physically help us, but also emotionally heals us. It can be as simple as a neighbor who brings a home-cooked meal every eve, or as complex as a spouse who must help bathe us. Sometimes it’s a paid, skilled professional, with a heart of gold, who goes beyond a job description to address not just the patient, but also the person. Indeed, caregivers are diverse, varying based on the situation.

Yet, they share one common trait: they put one in need before oneself. Caregivers don’t just care – they give of themselves, selflessly, in an authentic way that reveals the purest humanity.

The philosopher, Laozi, said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” So many caregivers exhibit such courage, where they give of themselves in even the most harrowing of circumstances, often in ways no one ever sees or knows. It’s the husband who helps his wife bathe and dress for church, where he does her hair and makeup so perfectly that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t deter her Sunday’s best. It’s the mother who was up all night consoling her son who doesn’t sleep well due to autism, then goes to work in the morning, smiling. And, it’s the adult son who ensures every aspect of his mother’s care, all while caring for his own family. These are the types of caregivers who love and give and serve with little recognition, and dare to love deeply, with courage, sometimes alone in their efforts.family caregivers month

As we honor caregivers, let us not only be thankful for the care we ourselves, receive, but likewise be thankful for those who care. Let us acknowledge the selflessness that caregivers exhibit simply because they love deeply, with humanity and courage, where the reciprocity of caregiving ultimately gives to us all.

October 27, 2016

How to transport a power wheelchair: Valuable expert advice

Once upon a time, to transport a power wheelchair your only option was a wheelchair-accessible van.

While accessible vans remain a popular choice, today there are other practical ways to transport a power wheelchair. Using your existing vehicle they are often very practical and affordable.

Conversion Vans

Van conversion transport a power wheelchair

The most historical way to transport a power wheelchair chair is a wheelchair conversion van. Nowadays conversion vans are usually minivans with lowered floors and power ramps. For those wishing to drive or ride from a power chair (which should be WC-19 crash test compliant, if occupied), a conversion van is a seamless solution. With a conversion van, you can roll right in, secure the power chair with tie-downs or a docking device, and off you go. However, conversion vans have two downsides. Firstly, they start around $45,000. And, secondly, you’re limited in vehicle choice. Nevertheless, conversion vans are literally a roll-in-and-go solution.

 

Vehicle Lifts

In recent years, vehicle lifts have dramatically changed the ways to transport a power wheelchair. Rather than needing an accessible van, as long as one can transfer to a driver’s or passenger seat, a vehicle lift allows a vast range of vehicles to transport a power chair at a remarkably affordable price. Put simply, a vehicle lift allows you to transport your power chair using your existing vehicle for between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on the lift.

 

Types of Vehicle Lifts for Power Chairs

Lifts come in two styles, “boom” and “platform.” Boom lifts resemble a crane that lifts the power chair up and into the vehicle via a reinforced strap. Platform lifts place the power chair on a platform at ground level, then it’s lifted upward like a miniature elevator. Either one is a great way to transport a power wheelchair.

 

Boom lifts are primarily an interior lift application (although they can be mounted in truck beds). This includes placement in the rear cargo areas of station wagons, minivans, and SUVs, as well as in a side-entry location on minivans. Further, boom lifts can be used in conjunction with trunks on large sedans. This is accomplished via a quick-release base where a compact power chair lifts into the trunk, then the boom is removed and stowed, allowing the trunk lid to close. This type of application requires the removal of the seat from the base of the power chair.

Transport a power wheelchair

To lift the power chair into the vehicle, a boom lift features a docking strap that clips on to a special mounting point on the power chair to maintain a level position as it rises in the air. Once the power chair is lifted, the boom is then manually or electrically rotated into the vehicle with the power chair attached, lowering it into its stowed position. A primary benefit of a boom lift is that it takes up minimal space in the vehicle, allowing cargo room when the power chair isn’t present.

transpoprt a power wheelchair

Platform lifts serve as a very practical means to transport a power whelchair, as you simply roll it onto the lift platform, secure it with tie-downs or a mechanical docking bracket, then lift the power chair with the push of a button.

 

Exterior platform lifts raise the power chair well off of the ground, to driving height, with plenty of ground clearance during transport.

Additionally, when not in use, most exterior platform lifts fold up against the rear of the vehicle to ease maneuvering and parking.

 

A variation of an exterior platform lift is a tilt rack, in which the platform serves as a “tilting ramp.” This allows the power chair to be rolled up onto it, where it then manually tilts into a stored, elevated position, ready for transport.

Transport a power wheelchair backpacker

Interior platform lifts allow you to place and secure the power chair onto the platform just like in an exterior lift application. At the touch of a button, it operates in two stages, lifting upward, then slides inward on tracks, stowing the power chair inside the vehicle. The power chair is secure within the vehicle and out of the weather. Interior platform lifts also have no equipment outside the vehicle, retaining the vehicle’s standard length and appearance.

 

Vehicle Lift Installation

No matter exterior or interior, most lifts are remarkably easy to install and some require no tools or modifications to the vehicle whatsoever. Exterior lifts plug into a corresponding hitch receiver. For power, the lift will come with a wiring harness, to connect directly to the cars battery. Some lifts are entirely self-contained -with a rechargeable battery pack that powers the lift, where a wiring to the vehicles battery is not needed.

 

Interior platform lifts are designed to be as unobtrusive as possible to vehicle interiors. They secure to existing seat mount locations or other preexisting mounting points in the minivan or SUV, so no holes are drilled in the vehicle. Power is most commonly supplied via a rechargeable battery pack, but some models connect to the vehicle’s electrical system, tying into an existing power port or wiring.

 

Boom lifts typically require minimal installation by bolting to the vehicle’s floor, with a rechargeable battery pack or vehicle wiring delivering power.

 

Although most lifts feature very practical do-it-yourself installation, many are also available with optional nation-wide installation.  A skilled technician will come to your residence to professionally install the lift for you.

 

Consumer’s Checklist to Selecting a Lift

  • Determine the desired location of the lift, and assess the vehicle’s compatibility
  • Determine the type of lift you want, boom or platform
  • Determine the power chair’s specifications, including length, width, height, and weight
  • Determine the vehicles specifications (hitch classification for exterior lift, or hatch/door opening dimensions for interior lifts)
  • Match the lift’s weight capacity, dimensions, and style to the power chair’s specifications
  • Confirm the lift, power chair, and vehicle compatibility with a sales representative, and discuss installation options

 

Transporting Your Power Chair

From van conversions to vehicle lifts, there are wonderful ways to transport your power chair. No matter a roll-in ready conversion van or an affordable vehicle lift, there are astounding options available today!

October 19, 2016

Bathroom Modifications: From Bathtubs to Roll-In Showers

Bathroom Safety Modifications

When it comes to both independence and safety, the bathroom is the most challenging room in a home for those with mobility limitations.

From slippery surfaces, to the need to step up and over, to varying fixture heights, the balance and dexterity to maneuver independently in a bathroom can waiver from harrowing to dangerous. Fortunately, bath safety has become a major industry unto itself, making products that range from as simple as a portable grab bar to as extensive as a roll-in shower.

Sometimes a Little Means a Lot

For many who need a little assistance, there are a host of inexpensive, of-the-shelf items that dramatically increase safety and independence. A raised commode seat helps with transfers; a bath bench makes transfers and bathing much safer; and, grab bars, of course, are a helping hand wherever needed. These are all wonderfully inexpensive, readily-available solutions for added safety and maintained independence.

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