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A Few Tips for Wheelchair Users

Tips gleaned from friends and from Michelle Hlavek of EMazing.com

 

Underwire Unnecessary
As a female with paralysis and impaired sensory perception, I have learned the hard way that's it's not a good idea to wear an underwire bra. As time goes on, the wire tends to shift. Since I use my arms for almost every daily task -- moving them around quite a bit -- the wire would tend to shift up and protrude into my breast, leaving a very deep and dark indention in my skin. Fortunately, I always noticed the marks before the wire did any permanent damage. I have since bought elasticized bras, without any underwires. For those occasions where extra support is need, I turn to a sports bra or Victoria's Secret's Push Up bra.

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The Makeover That Stays Put
Forget those makeup smears and lugging around cosmetics in your purse. A no fuss, way to achieve constant beauty is through permanent makeup. "It's the makeover that stays put!" I am personally having my eyeliner applied next week. The application is similar to that of a tattoo. Check out the Permamakeup Web site for further details.

Click here for Permamakeup

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Assistance Dogs
Assistance dogs are highly trained canines who have learned skills to assist disabled adults and children. The dogs go through training for the first two years of their lives. They are then matched up with a compatible disabled human. From that point on, the canine is loyal to his human until he is ready to retire. Obtaining the proper dog is a lengthy and meticulous process, but extremely rewarding. Two organizations to contact for information are Assistance Dogs of America, Inc. (http://www.adai.org), and Canine Companions For Independence (http://www.caninecompanions.org/)

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Handsfree Hair Dryer
Having both hands free to blow dry your hair is quite convenient. Thankfully, several styles of handsfree hairdryer holders are available and are fairly inexpensive. Go to www.sammonspreston.com. Under the "Easier Personal Care" section, look for the Handsfree Hairdryer Holder. They are $16.35 each. You can get a cheaper version by having a friend devise one out of a piece of PVC piping mounted onto a flat piece of plywood.

Click here to link.

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Register To Vote Online
Registering to vote online is now possible by visiting: http://www.beavoter.org. Simply fill out the quick registration form and click Send. Within two weeks, a printed voter registration card will arrive at your home via the U.S. Postal Service. Sign the form, place a stamp on the enclosed envelope, and voila! Consider yourself registered. There is an option to receive a reminder to vote a week in advance via email. If you think you need it, check it off.

Click here to link to voter site.

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Allergy Alert!
During my recent hospital stay, I must have been asked at least 10 times if I had any allergies. Since I am well informed of my known allergies, I was able to tell them. Had I not been coherent, I would not have been able to verbalize my allergies -- an extremely dangerous, if not deadly, situation. Keep a list of your known allergies in your wallet or purse, in your vehicle, and underneath your wheelchair seat cushion.

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No Wheels After Calling 911?
Last week, I was forced to call 911 when one of my lungs collapsed. When I was whisked off on a stretcher, I had to figure out how I would get home since I had no wheels. Fortunately, the hospital I was taken to provided a stretcher ride home in one of their ambulances. In the past, that hasn't always been the case. There are stretcher transport companies available in most major cities. Check into them before you are stranded with no ride!

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Toll Roads
Most toll roads have an advanced way of collecting toll charges from commuters. A small electronic device can be mounted on vehicles that regularly travel these roads. The commuter then simply drives through a designated lane. At the end of the month, the charges for the total usage of the roads are tallied and the commuter is then billed. This is an easy way to deal with paying tolls: no leaning required, no coins tossed on the ground, etc. Also, people with disabilities are sometimes exempt from paying many toll charges. Call your local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to find out if you qualify for such an exemption.

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Fountain Style Faucet
A fountain style water faucet works well for those wheelers who have difficulty turning knobs. The faucet is equipped with individual handles for hot and cold temperatures. With a simple tug, the water turns on. The opposite motion of an easy push turns the water flow off. These practical faucets are available in many styles and price ranges. Check out your local hardware store or Sears store.

Click here to visit Sears online.

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Miracle of Velcro
An alternative to worrying about fumbling with shoelaces is finding shoes with Velcro fasteners. The Velcro stays secure all day, whereas shoelaces tend to come loose after a time. If limited dexterity keeps you from unfastening the shoes, sew a thumb loop on the outer part of the Velcro flap, which will give you something to grab. Shoelaces make great thumb loops!

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Not Just For Babies!
When I adopted my puppy, I wasn't quite sure how I was going to leave my house without him following me, since I can't bend down and pick him up. So I bought a baby gate that mounts onto the wall with hinges. Now when I am ready to leave, I position my chair on the side of the gate closest to the front door. I then pull the gate closed, and voila! At this point my puppy is safely contained and I'm free to roll the earth.

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Bicycle Shop Stop
When you get a flat tire on your manual wheelchair, don't fret! Even if it's the weekend and the company who normally services your chair is closed, it's okay. Call your local bicycle repair shop. Most shops carry the standard 24" x 1 3/8" tires. They usually carry compatible tubes as well. Just remember that most wheelchair spokes are straight pull, and bicycles usually take bent spokes. Call your local shop for details.

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Lean On Me
Whenever I'm lying in bed on my side, I need something to support me to keep my body from rocking backwards. In the past, I have used foam wedges, which I purchased at my local medical supply store. Something that I have found to be just as practical, however, is a folded, thick towel. I place it in my lumbar region (lower back), and it provides just the support I need.

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Hot No More!
A simple solution that allows you to reach the cord on your ceiling fan is to add an extension to the existing cord. Tie a long piece of string to the fan's existing chain. Use a fancy colorful string if you wish! At the end of the string, make a loop you can slip your hand into. Another option is to attach a decorative knob to the end of the string. In the bedroom, tie the extension string to your headboard. This way it's always within your reach!

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Speakerphones
Some folks think speakerphones are convenient. I don't think I could live without one. Since my fingers no longer function because of my paralysis, holding the phone can sometimes be next to impossible. A large selection of speakerphones is available from Radio Shack. I have purchased several from them over the years. My favorite phone so far has been the Radio Shack brand speakerphone. The reception is so clear that nobody realizes I'm not holding the handset.

Click here to visit the Radio Shack online store

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Wheelchair Getaways
If you're searching for a great way to travel, check out the vehicles offered by Wheelchair Getaways. They offer a diversified fleet of full-size and lowered-floor minivans for wheelchair users. Rentals are available by the day, week, or month. Delivery and pickup are available in most areas. Contact the desired rental location for specific rates and availability. You can visit their Web site or phone them at 1-800-642-2042.

Click here to visit the site.

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Rx Delivery
In most major cities, there are pharmacies that will deliver medications to your home. Look in the yellow pages and ask around until you find the one that caters to your location. Take the pharmacy number with you on your doctor's visit. Once the prescription has been called in and filled, the pharmacy will then call you for directions and ask your method of payment. It wouldn't hurt to inquire about their policy on delivering over-the-counter items as well. Be aware that prices are generally higher in these smaller establishments due to limited quantities.

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Sheepskin Softness
Protect your bony areas while you're in bed by using a sheepskin pad. These special pads are about an inch and a half thick, and will fit a regular twin mattress. Place the pad flat, underneath the sheet. For comfort, I double up two pads for twice the thickness. In the many years I have been sleeping on these pads, I have yet to have any kind of breakdown or pressure sore.

I can finally sleep on my back all night in one position. It took me years to be able to sleep in one position all night, after my skin eventually built up a tolerance.

Please do not attempt to sleep in one position unless you have gradually built up your tolerance. The sheepskin pads are available at your local medical supply store. I highly recommend them.

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Try a Trackball
For those with limited or no dexterity, surfing the Internet is a breeze with a trackball instead of a regular mouse. A trackball sits stationary in its base. A ball, similar to a pool cue ball, is what controls the mouse. Sizes and prices vary depending on your specific needs. Kensington makes the least expensive trackball that I have found, starting at $29.99. The most expensive I have seen was Logitech's at $79.99. Visit your online office supply store to see some samples. Microspeed has a large trackball that works great with a mouthstick.

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Upper Body Support
If you have little or no upper body mobility, try using Velcro chest straps. These work great for individuals with limited abdominal strength.

I am paralyzed from my breasts down and use a chest strap whenever I drive. It keeps me upright when I brake and turn corners. Without the strap, I wouldn't even be able to drive. My shower chair is also equipped with a chest strap, allowing my arms to be freed up while keeping my upper body stable. Chest straps are really a boon for those of us in chairs.

- Michelle Hlavek

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Care For Your Chair
Wheelchairs are our tickets to freedom and must be properly maintained to ensure the highest level of performance. Just as vehicles need regular oil changes, chairs need to be adequately lubricated on a regular basis. Once a month, check the bearings and axles for any foreign objects that may have been picked up along the way. Clean any dirt away, and apply WD-40 sparingly.

Click here for more WD-40 info.

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Typing Aid For The Dexterity Challenged
Throw away those old mouth sticks you're used to typing with, and try a Slip-On Typing/Keyboard Aid; these are available at online from SammonsPreston. This specific splint slips on over your hand. The end has a non-slip rubber tip that assists you in being accurate. They are $16.05 each, and at this price, it's a good idea to order an extra one as a backup. They are also helpful in performing tasks such as turning pages, or adjusting the thermostat.

Click here to order.

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Slipping On Those Shoes
For the dexterity-impaired individuals, a simple task such as slipping on a pair of shoes can become a major challenge. I suggest sewing loops onto the tongues of each shoe. A shoestring makes a sturdy loop and lasts a long time. Slip your shoe over your foot, then use the loop to hook a finger around, and pull on the remainder of the way.

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Laterally Speaking
If holding yourself upright is difficult, make an appointment to have a seating evaluation with your doctor or physical therapist. Proper posture is important in maintaining overall good health. If you tend to lean to the sides, ask your medical professional if you're a good candidate for lateral supports. These devices mount on the backrest of your chair and slip under your armpits. They may just provide the support you need!

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Balancing Act
Some wheelchair riders have no tummy support and thus have difficulty with maintaining balance while sitting. This lack of abdominal support can also make it difficult to take a deep breath. Using an abdominal belt - a device similar to a lumbar supporting back brace - can help with both stability and breathing. Call your local medical supply store. The supports are usually available in small, medium, and large sizes. Prices vary, but usually run around $30.

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Insulate Your Transfers
When transferring in and out of your wheelchair, you need to take precautions to avoid hitting the tire. Pressure sores, bruises, and skin tears can result from improper transfers. Go to a hardware store and purchase two feet of electrical insulation. This is a tubular piece of foam and is hollow on the inside. Slice the piece down the entire length of the foam and place it over the tire. If a bony area comes in contact with the foam, it will soften the blow.

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Threading Catheters Through Pants
If you use an indwelling catheter, donning certain outfits can be tricky when you're trying to keep the tube from getting pinched or bent. Pants are a good example. One solution is to cut a hole on the side of the hip. Then, rip the stitch work on the seam to keep the garment from getting a run. (It's also advisable to stitch around the opening for reinforcement of the fabric.) Your pants are now ready to have your catheter threaded through the opening, and off you go! Beep beep!!

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Hide Your Baggage
Some individuals are catheterized and wear a leg bag that holds their urine. Keeping it tucked away and out of sight is the tasteful thing to do, especially in public. Fortunately, leg bags come in various sizes and can be hidden many ways. One way is to place the bag inside of a pouch that has a drawstring for easy access. Pouches can also be made to match those special occasion outfits.

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Free Grocery Delivery
If going to the grocery is a chore you hate, call around to local grocery stores in your area and ask if they deliver. One chain in Florida will deliver groceries to your door, whether or not you are disabled. Every store offering the service will have different delivery policies. Many have online ordering, as well as the old fashioned way of accepting orders over the phone or via facsimile.

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Suggest Accessibility. It's Your Right!
The Americans With Disabilities Act that was passed ten years ago allows those with disabilities to have equal access at work and public places of business. Many businesses have complied, but others have not. When you go to the store and can't open the front door or can't get between the narrow aisles, let the manager know. Give him/her suggestions, such as installing a mechanical door opener. It may be the first time anyone has brought the problem to management's attention.

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Who Better To Keep Fit?
Exercise is extremely important to everyone, wheels or no wheels. In fact, who better to keep fit than people with limited mobility? When you exercise, the blood gets pumped faster throughout your body, as it oxygenates your blood and filters impurities. This in turn will give you more energy and a healthy glow. Be careful though, you just might like the feeling you get from exercising -- and may want to do even more!

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Fiber Power
The inactivity of sitting in a wheelchair every day can cause the bowels to work slowly. To stay regular, make sure to include plenty of fiber in your diet. Citrucel is a bulk-forming fiber supplement that I used to take every night. It comes in regular or sugar-free. Taking it just before bedtime with lots of water worked well for me.

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Unexpected Travel Stops
When making an unexpected layover while traveling you may discover that the bed of the hotel, motel or inn is bolted flush to the floor. Bad news if you use a transfer device (hoyer, etc.). Ask for a roll-away bed. Your lift will fit nicely under it.

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People Are Curious About Your Disability
After meeting someone for the first time, my new friend may ask, "What's wrong with you?" Another popular question is, "Why are you in the wheelchair?" People truly are instinctively curious about things with which they aren't familiar. When somebody tries to strike up a conversation with you, keep the conversation flowing by volunteering information about your disability; doing so will help ease awkwardness for everyone. Plus, it's a great way to break the ice.

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Keeping Leftover Pizza Fresh
Ordering pizza when you live alone almost guarantees there'll be leftovers. My solution: while the leftovers are still warm, individually wrap each slice in plastic wrap and place in the freezer. The pizza will taste fresher this way than if it had been in the refrigerator for a day or two.

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Handy Dandy Pocket Towels
The other day I was shopping at Old Navy. At the checkout counter, there was a basket of little 2" x 2" towels, which once opened and soaked in water, expand to the size of a regular hand towel. They're tiny enough to carry in my purse for those times when there isn't a sink to roll under, and I need to splash water on my face.

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Special Eating Utensils
After my paralyzing injury in 1976, I had to relearn how to hold eating utensils. With the use of an adaptive cuff, I was back in business. These days, I carry a spare set at all times. You never know when you may need it!

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Salon Dilemma
For years, whenever I went to the salon, I'd have my hairdresser wet my hair with a spray bottle instead of shampooing my hair the regular way. I always thought I'd need to be lifted out of my wheelchair in order to get my hair shampooed. A friend mentioned that she leans sideways into the shampoo bowl, so I tried it myself. Voila! It works! I am once again able to experience those wonderful scalp massages.

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My Wheelchair, Granny's Walker
My grandmother is 85 years old, and not so stable when she walks. Whenever we go somewhere, I let her balance herself by holding onto the push handles on the back of my wheelchair. The chair acts as a rolling walker and gives her some stability. In addition, she feels that she is helping to push my chair.

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Summer Sun And Fun
While summertime can be filled with picnics and parks, and visits to the zoo, the sun can be dangerous unless you take some precautions. Plan ahead by taking along a high SPF (Sun Protection Factor) sunscreen -- SPF 30 is good -- that you apply generously to your face, arms, and legs if they're exposed. Reapply every hour, especially if you're fair-skinned or directly in the sun. Keep the lotion in your wheelchair tie-on bag for easy access.

Remember that hydration plays a major role in heat exhaustion. Carry along a bottle or two filled with water, and a spray bottle to help keep you cool. Also, to reduce your chances of getting overheated or sunburned, stay in the shade whenever possible.


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