All Posts By

Mark E. Smith

August 4, 2016

Accessibility and America’s National Parks: Top 5 Picks

Half dome reflection in yosemite national park is accessible

As the U.S. National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary, there’s never been a better time for those who use mobility products to visit and enjoy our national parks.

Even more, now in the 26th year of the ADA, access to our national parks is more prevalent than ever. From the stunning granite-lined valley of Yosemite National Park to the poignant history of the Statue of Liberty, our national parks provide breathtaking access for all. And, importantly, don’t forget your Access Pass!

No matter if you choose one of these terrific national parks or any other of the 58 national parks, don’t forget to check in at the Visitors Center and fill out the simple form to receive a National Park Access Pass. The Access Pass allows anyone with a permanent disability to receive free admission to any of the national parks.

 

So, what are our top five picks? Well, that’s a tough one, as there’s so many stunning national parks from coast to coast. However, here are five that particularly rise above others when it comes to placing those with mobility needs in the middle of our nation’s best.

 

Yosemite National Park

Based in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite was the inspiration of naturalist John Muir, a significant figure in the founding of our national parks. Among the absolute most stunning accessible nature paths and destinations in the country is Yosemite’s Mirror Lake. In the shadow of Half Dome, Mirror Lake is a seasonal lake on Tenaya Creek, A one‐mile road leads to the lake and is easy to access due to its paved surface. At its culmination is a breathtaking mountain lake scattered with granite boulders.

 

Mammoth Cave National Park

An extraordinary national treasure based in Kentucky, Mammoth Cave National Park is the world’s longest known cave system at over 400 miles. Although Mammoth Cave has been off limits to mobility users for over a decade, this summer (2016) has ushered in all new accessibility, allowing a mind-blowing view of the cave for all. What’s more, Mammoth Cave features a beautiful, accessible boardwalk to the Sand Cave opening, which offers a fantastic view of the surrounding nature.Mammoth cave is an accessible national parks

 

Yellowstone National Park

Spanning 3,500 square miles between Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone is best known for its geysers. For those using mobility products, there’s an extraordinary ADA 1.5-mile path leading to the Morning Glory Hot Springs. The Hot Springs are named after the Morning Glory flower, both of which feature stunning colors. It’s among nature’s rarest sights.

Yellowstone National Parks is wheelchair accessible

Yellowstone National Park

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July 29, 2016

How to choose between a 3 or 4-wheel scooter? Ask Mark!

Victory 4 wheel scooter

 How to choose between a 3 or 4-wheel scooter? Let’s ask Mark….

I’m currently shopping for a scooter and I see that many models come in either 3 or 4-wheel versions. Can you explain the difference and why I might choose one over the other? Thank you in advance. – Gerry

Gerry, your question is the most common consumer question in the scooter market. As you suggest, it is difficult to decide between 3- or 4-wheel options, especially when it’s the same model, simply available in either configuration. So, let’s look at why the two configurations are offered and the benefits of each.

Firstly, it’s important to note that both 3- and 4-wheel scooters go through the same safety testing process. Therefore, no matter which configuration you choose they are thoroughly tested from a safety standpoint. Each style, however has its strengths.

Let’s start with the benefits of a 3-wheel scooter. Three-wheel scooters feature two wheels in the rear and one in the front, like a tricycle. Because 3-wheel scooters feature a narrow front end with a single front wheel, they offer optimal maneuverability. Put simply, they turn in smaller spaces. Furthermore, because of the compact front end, 3-wheel scooters are easier to transport. They take up less space and are a little lighter than 4-wheel scooters.

The downside of a three wheel scooter is stability. If you are traveling at speed, and cut the front wheel sharply to the right or left, centrifugal force will turn you right over. Likewise, when travelling up or down a steep incline or hill, you must use real caution to keep from turning a three wheel scooter over. You have to use good scooter driving skills at all times.

Some three wheel scooters offer extended foot boards, such as the Golden Literider 3-Wheel, allowing you to stretch your legs out straight on both sides of the tiller for comfort.

Golden LiteRider Three Wheel

Golden LiteRider Three Wheel

 

4-wheel scooters offer a larger overall footprint, which can enhance outdoor performance. 4-wheel scooters feature two wheels on the rear and two on the front, similar to a car. Due to the wide front end, 4-wheel scooters offer wider foot room. Often 4-wheel scooters allow two leg positions – your legs straight down or your legs stretch forward a bit resting against the wheel-wells.. When it comes to taller users the extra foot room of a 4-wheel scooter can be beneficial, but you are resting your feet up on the front fenders as you travel. Some people find that position uncomfortable over time.

Great Outdoor Performance

Afikim C-4 Great Outdoor Performance

Buzzaround 3-Wheel Travel Scooter by Golden

Golden Buzzaround 3-Wheel Travel Scooter for great maneuverability

Once you understand the benefits of each scooter configuration, you may still be wondering how to choose which is best for you? There are three primary considerations: comfort, maneuverability, and portability. If you are seeking optimal maneuverability and transportability, a 3-wheel scooter such as the Golden Buzzaround 3-Wheel may best meet your needs. If you’re a taller individual wishing to use the scooter outdoors, and have means to transport it via a lift, a 4-wheel scooter may suit you best. Check out the outdoor performance of the new Afiscooter C-4 for great outdoor features.

 

When it comes to selecting a scooter, the primary features and performance capabilities are of course vital considerations. Understanding which scooter to choose – 3- or 4-wheel – is ultimately your decision to make. Fortunately, by using the aforementioned pros of each, you can decide which is best for your life style. Most importantly, though, no matter if 3- or 4-wheel works best for you, your mobility will be optimized. Enjoy!

 

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July 21, 2016

Long-Distance Caregiving, a new American reality

For those of us not yet at retirement age, many of us face an increasingly-common family dynamic: long distance caregiving.

Statistically, as caregivers, not only are we not alone, but long distance caregiving is becoming more common every day. Currently, 19 million Americans are over the age of 75, and by 2020, that number climbs to 23 million. Furthermore, 66% of those who reach 65 have at least one chronic condition, and 20% have 5 or more chronic conditions.

With these realities, caregiving is part of more and more of our lives. However, here’s a secondary situation facing many: how can we provide caregiving from a distance? After all, aspects like careers or economics can prevent loved ones from moving close together.

Fortunately, ingenuity and technology are making caregiving possible from across town or across the country. Let’s look at ways we can effectively care for our loved ones over distance.

long distance caregiving

Caring for loved ones long distance is a new American reality

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July 14, 2016

How to Improve the Comfort of Your Ultralight Wheelchair

This reader wonders how to improve the comfort of your ultralight? Let’s ask Mark.

I have an ultralight wheelchair that I love. It fits perfectly and it meets all of my needs. My only wish is that it could be a little more comfortable. When I say comfortable, I don’t mean “medically,” but just from a normal comfort viewpoint. How do you improve the comfort of your ultralight?

Thanks in advance.

Donald

Adding comfort to your ultralight

TiLite Aero Z Series 2

Donald,

Indeed, when it comes to using an ultralight wheelchair, as you note, there really are two aspects to “comfort.” One is medical comfort, such as a pressure management cushion that prevents pressure sores, and the other is everyday comfort, such as aspects like posture and shock absorption.

In the realm of everyday comfort, there are two primary goals: one is to create a seated environment where you are just that, comfortable. Secondly, the goal with everyday comfort is to reduce fatigue on the body. Both of these obviously make using your ultralight wheelchair far more “comfortable,” and thereby functional.

Let’s look at three ways that you can optimize everyday comfort:

 

 

Add comfort to your ultralight wheelchair

Jay Union Cushion

Comfort In Your Cushion

While seat cushions have medical benefits, such as pressure management, they also play a vital role in everyday comfort. A thicker, softer cushion provides more shock absorption from lumps and bumps as you propel than a thinner, harder cushion. Additionally, a cushion can provide a contoured surface that helps with positioning and balance, reducing fatigue. In this way, looking at a seat cushion not just from a medical perspective but also from an everyday comfort perspective can help improve the comfort of your ultralight wheelchair.

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July 7, 2016

True Equal Access Means Full Social Inclusion

As we near the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a question remains; just how inclusive have we truly become as a country towards those with disabilities? The answer is a complex one.

On the one hand, we’ve come remarkably far toward equal rights and acceptance of those with disabilities, from employment to transportation. However, if we are to be candid, we still have a long way to go when it comes to full social inclusion of those with disabilities.

Full Social Inclusion

Interestingly, as a country, the major barriers that remain toward full social inclusion are, in large part, physical. The fact is, while the ADA seeks to ensure architectural access for those who use power and manual wheelchairs, as well as scooters, access remains a barrier in both large and small cities alike. From county courthouses to mom-and-pop businesses, as little as a single step still prevents many who use mobility products from accessing businesses and services vital to full inclusion. From entering a county building to obtain a marriage license, to eating at a local restaurant, many public and private businesses still deny those with mobility needs equal access. The question then becomes, if we are to achieve full social inclusion of those who rely on mobility products, how can that occur without ensuring equal architectural access for all?

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