All Posts By

Mark E. Smith

June 30, 2016

The Independence that Mobility Brings

When we celebrate Independence Day, we officially recognize our country’s liberation from Great Britain in 1776.

However, many – from those born with disabilities, to those with later-in-life injuries and conditions, to those who are aging – celebrate another, more personal type of independence day: The day they receive a new mobility product.

Mobility products for independence

 

Mobility products – albeit, a manual or power wheelchair, scooter, or even a lift chair – play remarkable roles in our lives. If we look at the history of mobility products, our understanding of them has profoundly, rightfully changed. Whereas decades ago, a wheelchair, for example, had a stigma attached, that’s no longer the case. Yes, societal changes have brought tremendous level of awareness, inclusion and acceptance surrounding disability and mobility products.

 

However, the real evolution has occurred with each of us who rely on mobility products. Every individual’s experience is different when it comes to making the transition to a mobility product – from a 4-year-old using a manual wheelchair to a 79-year-old using a scooter. Yet, the realization is the same: We go from knowing some form of confinement to a life of liberation through the use of a mobility product.

 

Happy July 4th from your friends at SpinLife!

Happy July 4th from your friends at SpinLife!

 

The desire for independence is universal, and the fact that mobility products contribute to our independence is profoundly life-changing.

 

 

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June 27, 2016

Need Affordable Home Accessibility? Let’s ask Mark

Six simple suggestions on affordable home accessibility from blogger Mark E. Smith.

affordable home accessibility

Dear Mark,

Unfortunately, it’s been determined that my mother can no longer live alone and must use a wheelchair full time. My wife and are moving her into our home on very short notice, and don’t have a lot of means to make our home accessible. One, what are the top aspects and equipment we should look at to make our home accessible. Two, how can it be done very economically? Thanks for your help. –Jim

Jim,

I’m sorry to hear about your mother, and it’s touching that you and your wife are there in this time of need. These transitions aren’t easy for anyone. However, as you suggest, having the right level of accessibility in vital areas of your home can make activities of daily living safer and easier for everyone in your family. And, with so many affordable products, you don’t have to break the bank in doing so.

Access

affordable home accessibility

Portable ramps come in many sizes

I like to start at the front door. Typically, if a home has three steps or less at the entry, a portable ramp  is a very economical access solution. Portable ramps commonly come in lengths from 2’ to 8’ (the higher the porch or entry, the longer the ramp needed), and are easily moved or permanently installed. The non-skid coatings and side lips on portable ramps likewise increase safety. Portable ramps also give you flexibility to take the ramp to a relative’s house or wherever access is needed. Lastly, portable ramps are extremely affordable, so they serve as a great immediate, inexpensive access solution.

Bath Safety Products

The bathroom can possess among the most difficulties for those with strength, balance, and coordination issues, so ensuring safety is vital. Whether you have a bathtub or a shower, a transfer bench is a must. A transfer bench – most of which are height adjustable – allows one to transfer from a wheelchair to a stable, seated surface in a tub or shower. Most transfer benches include a backrest and grab bar for even more safety. When not needed by other family members, the transfer bench is easily removed and set aside. Again, transfer benches are extremely inexpensive.

home accessibility

Transfer Bench

 

Also, while considering bathing, look at installing a hand-held shower nozzle – it’s a very easy, inexpensive do-it-yourself project that increases safety and independence.

The commode is another area of utmost safety and independence needs. If one can transfer to a standard toilet seat, a toilet safety frame (arm-height grab bars that are on each side of the toilet), is a great solution. Additionally, if one needs a taller transfer surface, a raised toilet seat  is beneficial, placing the toilet seat at wheelchair height, with some including side grab bars, as well. Both alternatives clamp or bolt onto the commode, at very little cost for added safety.

From the bathtub to the commode, additional grab bars can prove vital when strategically placed. While, traditional bolt-on, wall-mounted grab bars prove the ultimate in strength, several other non-permanent grab bar solutions can prove equally effective. For the bathtub, clamp-on grab bars attach to the outer edge, adding a handhold for entering and exiting. For shower interiors or on the wall next to the commode, suction cup grab bars are an immediate solution with no mechanical installation required.

affordable home accessibility

Suction Cup Grab Bar

Convenient, Affordable Home Accessibility

When we think of home accessibility for a loved one, it can seem like a daunting, costly endeavor. However, as noted here, if one’s needs are for fundamental home access and safety, a few strategic products can create an accessible, safer home that fosters independence, for less money than one may expect.

 

 

June 17, 2016

The Truest Meaning of Father’s Day

On this Father’s Day,  I think back 19 years. I had all of the trepidation of an expectant father, plus some.

What lessons would I teach my child? Would I be able to provide my child everything needed and deserved? And, would I be able to physically care for my child given the fact that I had severe cerebral palsy, using a power wheelchair? I was 27 and doing well in life, but are fathers ever really prepared for our first child, not knowing what to truly expect, especially with physical disability in the equation?

However, as the most fortunate of fathers have known, such trepidation and question are resolved in an instant. Moments after my daughter, Emily’s, birth, she was placed in my arms, my being the first to hold her. As my somewhat contorted arms cradled her on my lap in my wheelchair, Emily looked me straight in the eyes with the most reassuring look I’ve ever seen.

Sure, I know that newborns technically can’t see. However, the power of that first glance and my coinciding tears washed away any trepidation I had, albeit fatherly, disability-related or otherwise. That first lock of our eyes told me that Emily and I were in this life together, unconditionally. There was no room for trepidation, just love and understanding.

In the following weeks and months, that unique father-daughter bond proved itself in truly inexplicable ways. It’s as if Emily understood my situation. As with most babies, she fussed and squirmed whenever her mother or anyone changed her. Yet, when I lay her on the bed to change her – wheelchair height! – she was all smiles and still, allowing me to change her with one hand. Continue Reading

June 10, 2016

Beach and Pool Accessibility… Everybody in the Water!

beach and pool accessibility

Summer is here! It’s time for fun in the sun, and as the weather gets hotter, what’s cooler than time in or near the water?

Beach and Pool accessibility is important. Indeed, whether for recreation or therapeutic value, water is a great equalizer for many with mobility impairments. After all, due to buoyancy, we not only weigh dramatically less in water, but because water encapsulates the body evenly, it eliminates such issues as pressure points for those who may use wheelchairs or are frequently seated.

And, therapeutic value aside, simply cooling off in or near the water is a great way to spend a summer day.

However, for those with mobility impairments, both getting to the water and in the water can be a challenge. So, let’s look at some of the water-related mobility technologies available to help beach and pool accessibility.

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June 2, 2016

Adaptive Sports: Get Out There!

At one time, wheelchair sports were about… well… wheelchairs. However, today, while you may require specialized equipment, adaptive sports are more about inclusion than wheelchairs.

Nowadays, while formal wheelchair-based sports competition remain, the recreational market is where most of us enjoy adaptive sports, whether it’s a hand-cycle to ride with our children or a tennis chair to hit the court with our spouse.  So, let’s look at what’s hot, from a pick-up B-ball game in the park to road racing.

Court Sports

Adaptive Sports, Court wheelchair

Hammer by Colours

Playing tennis while using a wheelchair is a fantastic sport – and workout. Whether you play against another wheeler or an able-bodied opponent, tennis is a remarkably equalizing sport. In fact, tennis is so adaptable to those using wheelchairs, there’s only one rule change: wheelers are allowed two bounces of the ball before the return. Other than the “two-bounce” rule, tennis is game-on for all on the court. What’s also great about tennis is that to start, you don’t need to invest in a court chair – simply grab a racket and ball, roll out onto a local court and see how you like it. Interestingly, among some of the top wheelchair tennis pros over the years have been those using power chairs, so tennis is open to a vast range of disabilities.

 

Basketball is another great pick-up game, whether shooting hoops with your kids in the drive way, joining a game in the park with friends from the neighborhood, or participating in an all-wheelchair league.  Grab a ball, find a hoop, and see if you’re the next “Chair Jordan!”

When it comes to getting more serious about playing tennis, basketball, or both, you have several wheelchair options. If only one sport is your passion, invest in a tennis- or basketball-specific chair. With a wheelchair designed for your sport, it will up your game and your fun. However, if you find you enjoy multiple court sports, invest in an “all-court” chair – it’s one chair designed to go from sport to sport remarkably well.

Adaptive Sports Handcycle, wheelchair cycle

Top End Excelerator XLT

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