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A Few Tips for Wheelchair Users

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

 

Health- and Disability-Related Mailing Lists
Observing and listening to other people in your same physical predicament is the best way to learn new things. At the Family Village Web site, you can read about specific groups and find one or more to join. Topics are broken down by disability and an email address is provided so you can email the list leaders and request membership. They will then give you instructions on how to join. Who better to discuss your specific problems and concerns with than people who can relate to you, and help answer your questions?

Click here to link.

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Dis 'Ability' Equipment
As we "more seasoned" riders know, eventually it becomes time to trade in our wheels for a newer model. In the past, I had no clue what to do with my old equipment, and I wound up donating it to a charity. That is a wonderful thing to do, but with a fixed income and tight budget, every penny counts. So I discovered I could sell my old stuff online--and so can you. The Dis"Ability" Equipment Web site is a state-by-state, classified ads list for used disability-friendly equipment..

Click here to link to this neat site.

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Neck Wraps
Neck wraps that feature a gel pack allow you to forget about heating pads and ice packs. You can either microwave or freeze the gel pack, then placed it in the included sleeve. An elasticized band and a strip of Velcro hold the wrap securely around your neck. It's great on cold nights and hot summer days! For your total body comfort, back, shoulder, and knee wraps are also available.

Click here for more information.

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May I Help You?
There have been and will continue to be people who want to help me do everything. Many times someone will offer help, but doesn't want to keep asking and thus get on my nerves. I usually tell the person that if I need his/her assistance, I will tell him/her. This way, my friends and acquaintances don't feel as though they're taking away from things I can and want do for myself. Quite often I like the challenge of struggling with something, just so that I can feel the triumph when I overcome the difficulty, and know I did it for myself.

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Hand Shaking Etiquette
I've noticed that upon meeting someone for the first time, or saying good-bye, people often don't know whether or not they should extend a hand to shake mine. Sometimes they will look at my hand, other times, just grab it. Occasionally, I'll get one of those "buddy" taps on the shoulder instead. I try to spare people the discomfort and go ahead and extend mine. Sure, it's a little different shaking the paw of this quad! It's still very nice!

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Ramp Rule
When building a custom ramp, whether portable, or permanent for a home, it's important to have the proper incline. Measure the height of the area that the ramp will be leading to. For every inch in the height of the step, the ramp must be one foot long. For example, say I'm building a ramp for a step that is three inches high - my ramp will need to be at least three feet long.

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Inspection Mirror
impaired sensory perception, an inspection mirror is a must! Early detection is vital in preventing pressure sores. With the assistance of an inspection mirror, detecting areas that are receiving too much constant pressure is easy. These convenient mirrors are mounted on a flexible aluminum shaft, allowing the mirrors to adjust and curve. Prices are in the $20 range, and worth every penny.

Click here to purchase

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Mail Call
After moving into the condominium complex where I currently reside, I realized I couldn't access my mailbox. The community mailboxes are located on a mailbox island with no curb cut. I called my local post office to discuss my options. They mailed me a form, which I filled out, signed, and sent to my doctor for his signature, to prove I'm unable to walk. My mail is now delivered directly to my door, where I have a mesh bag to place it in. The mail is easy to retrieve and I can see through the bag, so I know right away when I receive something besides bills.

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No Pressure Air Bed
Designed by doctors, the Turnsoft System provides continual pressure relief by turning the occupant. It automatically positions the occupant in 30-degree lateral positions, at infrequent intervals. It can benefit people with pulmonary, renal, and mobility/sensory impairments. Relying on others to turn you throughout the night is no fun and gets old! With one of these beds, you turn automatically. For information, call 1-800-944-8876, or visit their Web site.

Click here for information

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All Purpose Tray
Let's face it, the entire world isn't wheelchair friendly. Just because a restaurant has accessible parking and wide doors doesn't mean the tables are high enough to get my chair under. However, I have a solution for the low table blues: a portable tray that I can rest on my armrests. The tray has Velcro straps to securely hold it in place. It also doubles as a handy desk! These trays are very pricey (see the link below), so I suggest you have a handy friend make one for you.

Click here to see one or to purchase

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Oven/Stove Mirror
Cooking from a wheelchair is quite a task, especially if you can't monitor the things on the stove. Have a friend place a mirror at an angle over your stove for easy viewing of your gourmet dishes. The mirror will also help you know when someone is trying to sneak up behind you to see what's cookin'! Remember, when installing your new mirror, don't cover up your exhaust vent.

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Wheelchair Umbrella
Protect yourself from the rain and sun with a nifty 48-inch umbrella that mounts on a wheelchair or scooter frame. The height and angle are adjustable, and the stainless steel stem weighs only two pounds. It collapses for easy storage. The price is just $19.99.

Click here to link

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Join A Liszt
There is a very large directory that lists thousands of Internet discussion groups, message boards, and chat channels. Once at this Web site, scroll to the bottom and click on the "About Liszt" link. Every single topic you can imagine is there. You'll find several support groups for people with disabilities under the "Health" category. The lists I signed up for are my number one source of new information about my paralysis and anything pertaining to it. It helps to realize you are never alone.

Click here to link

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Four-In-One Soap Dispenser
Having convenient access to soap, shampoo, and conditioner when you're in the shower is very important for everyone. But the wheelchair user can't easily reach a shower caddy, especially if it hangs from the showerhead. Fingerhut has a four-in-one soap dispenser that conveniently stores four different soaps and conditioners. Each product is released by pushing a button on the unit itself. The dispensers (Item #LK3330010) run $39.99 (plus shipping and handling).

Click here to link to Fingerhut's site!

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Target Shopping Bags
One of my loyal readers writes, "I like to use Target shopping bags for carrying things, whether it's fast food or other things like mail, etc. These bags are fairly strong and I always tell the folks when I shop at Target what great use I get out of them! Thought you would find this to be of interest to your readers who are like me, and still have a measure of ambulation and mobility."

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Always Be Prepared
Keep a telephone handy, even when you're in the bathroom. A friend of mine, who has quadriplegia and lives alone, learned this the hard way. He fell out of his shower chair and onto the bathroom floor. He instantly went into survival mode and realized he had to get help or he would be lying there for days before anyone would realize something was wrong. Somehow, he was able to drag his paralyzed limbs from the bathroom, through the hall, and into the bedroom where the phone was. He spent the following weeks doctoring the raw areas on his elbows and front side from rug burn.

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Personal Connection
Personal Care Aide Connection is an online service, which lists classified ads for people with disabilities and/or the elderly. Caregivers can browse a list of people who need assistance, and people with caretaking needs can browse a list of attendants looking for work. Simply specify the region you live in and which county. Amen for the Internet!

Click here to link

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It's Your Life... Access It!
Accesslife.com is a disability-based Web community, providing information, products, and services for disabled individuals. Recently, the management at Accesslife.com launched a new section, devoted to personal Web pages for disabled net surfers. I sent my homepage URL to the following email address: news@accesslife.com. If you send yours, we can get to know one another! I'd love to know how many of you actually do read and learn from my tips. My email is ImMisha@aol.com. Let me know what you think!

Click here to access

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Drink Aide
Someone with limited or no upper body strength must rely on help for tasks as simple as getting a drink of water. Freedom and independence can be gained through the assistance of a Drink Aide, an insulated water bottle equipped with a drinking tube and a universal clamp. The drink tube bends and contorts to your desired position and maintains that form. The clamp fastens the bottle onto a wheelchair or the side of a bed. Staying adequately hydrated is an important factor in decreasing urinary tract infections (UTIs), lowering body temperature, and keeping moisture in your skin.

Click here to link.

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On A Roll
"On A Roll" is a weekly talk radio show featuring information on life and disabilities. The show is currently heard in eighteen (18) different markets, as well as on the 'Net. You can hear host and Founder Greg Smith live on Sundays from 9 - 11 p.m. EST. All past shows are archived on the Web site. Listen to my recent discussion with Greg on the September 17 show, where I talk about my recent procedure to have permanent makeup applied to my skin.

To link, click here.

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Disability News Service
Keep yourself up to date on what's going on in the world by receiving an informative disability news and information online. Go to the Web site (www.disabilitynews.com). Once there, click "Please join our mail list", enter your email address, and check the box marked "Subscribe." You will then be instructed to fill in a brief demographic questionnaire. This newsletter has been in existence for three years. All of the past reports are archived on the site for your convenience.

Click here to access.

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There's Smooth Sailing Ahead
Holland America Cruise Line has installed the industry's first system to provide a safe, comfortable transfer between ship, tender, and pier, for passengers who roll. In addition, the cruise line also has available TDD equipment, amplified telephones, visual alert alarms, bed vibrating alarms, closed caption decoders on televisions, and flashing light door buzzers. Their four newest ships were built with a closed loop listening system. To contact Holland America Lines, call (800) 637-5029 or visit their Web site.

Click here to visit the Holland America Web site.

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An All-Terrain Wheelchair
Johnson and Johnson is awaiting FDA approval on their highly sophisticated, all terrain wheelchair. The Independence 3000 IBOT Transporter can operate on four wheels, as well as two, and maintain the balance of the rider. It is designed to climb stairs, and traverse uneven and hilly terrain, such as sand, grass, and rocky pathways. Once approved by the FDA, this product will be available by prescription only. Starting price expected to be around $20,000.

For details, click here to go to the product site.

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Head Controlled Point-And-Click
Origin Instruments Corporation has designed a wireless optical sensor, The "HeadMouse," that translates the movement of a user's head. The mouse on the screen moves in the direction you tell it to as you turn your head toward where you want it to go. This may be a practical solution for individuals who cannot use their hands but need or want to use a computer. Used in conjunction with other compatible applications available at Origins, a user can fully operate Windows, handsfree!

Visit Origin Instruments by clicking here.

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Wash It Down
My quadriplegic friend, who devised a way to independently get to his medication as described in the previous tip, also rigged a way to have a supply of unlimited water available, even while he's in bed. He places a clean, five-quart Igloo cooler next to his bed, using bungee cords to secure the cooler to the mattress. He has a three-foot long extension straw that he obtained during his stay in rehabilitation that he places into the water. The straws are made of a thick plastic, and thus aren't too flimsy. When he needs a drink, his straw is always right by his face. Call SammonsPreston at 800 323-5547 for information.

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Electric Bag Opener
Several of my friends have become more independent with the assistance of an electric bag opener. No longer do they have to limit their liquid intake, or be concerned that no one is there to help them drain their leg bags. With a simple flip of a switch, a tiny valve connected to the bottom of the bag allows urine to flow freely. A puff switch is also available. Prices start at roughly $250.

Click here to find out more.

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The Mistral Cape
As a wheelchair driver, I know how difficult it is to try to get from point A to point B in a rainstorm without getting soaked. I also know how it feels to be cold and want to wrap myself up in a blanket to keep warm. While searching the Internet one day, I stumbled upon The Mistral Cape. With its machine washable, shortened-back design, it keeps the elements out and the warmth in. The front of the cape is weighted down to prevent it from flying up. A detachable fleece liner is optional. These wonderful capes are available in various colors and sizes.

See a picture and decide for yourself. Click here to link.

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Hydrogen Peroxide
In the not so distant past, I've tossed numerous garments that I assumed were ruined because they were soiled with blood. Fortunately, I ran across a solution that belied that assumption: hydrogen peroxide. As soon as you detect blood on your clothing, bedding, or towels, soak the spot with peroxide. Rub the area vigorously, and repeat. Wash the item with warm, soapy water to thoroughly clean any residual marks.

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Cleaning A Foley Drainage Bag
Cleaning the bags your catheters drain into is extremely important to the health of your bladder. When maintained properly, the level of bacteria in the bag is decreased, which aids in fighting off urinary tract infections (UTIs).

To properly clean a Foley nighttime drainage bag, empty the contents into the commode, and shut the valve. Pour a solution of bleach and water (I use a 50/50 combination) -- approximately four tablespoons -- into the connector tip. Run very hot tap water into the bag, filling it a quarter of the way full. Shake vigorously so the solution washes all sides of the bag. Drain, and place an alcohol prep pad on top of the connector tip. Place the cover over the connector. Leave the valve open, and hang in the shower to dry.

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Cure The Bowling Ball Blues
If you like to bowl, but don't know how you'd manage to handle a heavy ball with dexterity-challenged fingers, you'll be happy to hear about a bowling ball that doesn't require you to slip your fingers into the holes in order to pick it up. Instead, this special ball comes equipped with a handle, which when released, retracts completely flush into the ball. These balls are available in weights of 6, 8, 10, or 12 pounds. The price is $159 plus shipping and handling. Spare yourself from being bored, and get out there and strike out! (My puns are sold separately!)

To order, call: (800) 634-4351.

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Video Game Joysticks
Video game joysticks have come a long way since I was a child. It used to be that you would have to grip your hand around the joystick itself, and press the fire buttons on the top or sides of the stick. Alas, those with little or no dexterity were exempt from playing. Fortunately, today's technology provides controllers, which perform the same tasks but have no joystick that need grasping. Instead, look for a specific model that requires only that you be able to press buttons. This type of joystick may not suit the needs of all dexterity-challenged individuals, but I'm sure some of you may benefit. Enjoy yourself, as you play ball or blow asteroids out of the sky with the best of them!

Check out some joysticks by clicking here. (Under "Search" type "Joysticks".)

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The Fisher Space Pen
Do you have trouble holding a pen at the usual angle necessary for writing? If so, I've got a great tip for you. Fisher Space Pens are pressurized with nitrogen and do not rely on gravity to make them work. Unlike most pens, which must be held with the tip facing downward in order for them to write, the Fisher pen can be held in any position -- and it's guaranteed to write.

NASA selected the Fisher Space Pen for use on all of the Apollo missions, and they're still used on all manned space flights, whether American or Russian. The estimated shelf life of these pens, whose retail price is $18, is 100 years.

Want to see or order one? Click here.

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I'm Right Behind You!
I picked up this tip (pun intended) when I was a waitress -- before I was injured, but it's helpful in many of life's situations. Since I've been a chair user, I've said these words (loudly) more than I did when I waited tables.

Whenever you must maneuver behind someone and there isn't much room, let the person know you are about to go behind him. He'll realize you're there, and he won't step back and fall over you. This tip has saved me from potential broken arms and legs at concerts, bars, restaurants, and in grocery aisles. Better yet, get a really obnoxious horn, such as a foghorn, and blow it so everyone knows you're coming!

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Parking Lot Maneuvers
A parking lot can be a very dangerous place to us low riders. Since we're seated, it's difficult for drivers to see us, especially when we're behind them. Always be extremely observant before maneuvering around cars or between them. When I see that somebody is in the driver's seat, and may potentially back up, I always try to make eye contact with the driver and let my presence be known. When you're rolling between cars, make sure the passengers in nearby vehicles see you, so one of them doesn't open a door and cut you off -- or even worse, hit you!

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Paper Or Plastic?
Whenever I go to the grocery store and they ask me if I'd like paper or plastic, I always opt for the plastic. I have many different uses for these lightweight bags; one of my favorite uses for them is to put foods in them that are difficult for me to get out of the refrigerator -- fruit, for example. The bags have handles, which makes it easy to slip a finger through and pull it toward me. I also have a hard time taking a loose can of soda from the fridge. Not anymore!

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Have Microphone, Will Sing!
One of my favorite passions is singing. My friends and I go to a pub near my home on a regular basis to sing karaoke. The first few times were awkward, as someone would have to hold the microphone for me since I have no use of my fingers. However, I have a microphone and amplifier at home, and decided I would take my own mike with an adaptive telephone cuff wrapped around it. This way, when it's my turn to sing, the person running the karaoke can simply switch the power chord from their mike to mine. This works like a charm! Now I just need to get them to build a ramp up to the stage!

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Petite Top Shopping
Nice fitting blouses can be difficult to find for women wheelers. If they're too long, the material bunches up in the lower back. If the sleeves are too wide, they get in the way, or can get dragged through your dinner plate. Petite clothing stores, such as Petite Sophisticate, has clothing that is designed to fit females of the shorter/thinner nature. I am by no means short at 5'10", but I have found that their blouses fit me very comfortably. The bottoms of the blouses are cropped a little shorter, which allows the material to lay nicely and not bunch up around my waist.

To visit their Web site or to order, click here

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Pitcher Power
When emptying a night drainage bag, some people may choose to disconnect the bag from the catheter and clamp the catheter off. This can be a messy task, as there is great potential for urine to escape onto the bed. A much more practical solution is to keep a plastic pitcher or portable urinal nearby. Drain the contents of the bag into the pitcher, empty the pitcher, rinse, and store in the shower - or behind the commode.

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A Comfortable Ride
Whenever I travel on an airplane, I make sure to take my padded Roho cushion on board. The air chambers make for a much softer ride than the firm airline seat cushion. Before I transfer from the airline aisle chair to my designated airline seat, I have one of the flight attendants place my wheelchair seat cushion on my seat. It is much more comfortable -- and protective to my hind quarters as well.

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A Higher Ground
I spent several years lying on my back, straining to see my television whenever I wanted to watch a program. My TV sat on top of my dresser, which was at the foot of my bed. Even though the head of my bed elevates, I still struggled to see the entire screen. During a visit from my father, he noticed my straining to adequately see the entire screen. He mentioned that I should place one of my end tables on top of my dresser, and put my television on top of the end table. I tried it and haven't strained to see the screen in years.

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Always Be Prepared
Getting food out of the refrigerator can often be a catastrophe for the dexterity-challenged. After dropping a prepared meal or two in the past, I've learned to always keep a backup dish on hand within my reach. At all times, I make sure that there is an extra meal prepared and within my grasp, just in case I drop my "main course" on the floor. My backup plan usually consists of a can of ravioli or something frozen. This way, my attendant isn't stuck in the kitchen preparing two meals, and can focus on other tasks.

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Thirsty, Anyone?
During times I'm alone, being a quadriplegic means that I need to make sure I can access the necessities on my own. One of the most important things I need, and one that is vital to every human, is water. Every day I make sure that my attendant fills three sports bottles with water and leaves them on the counter. They are always within my reach, and only twice in seven years have I gone through all three bottles.

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Online Banking
Online banking is a convenience to some folks. It has become a way of life for me. Once setup through your bank's local branch, your online account can handle paying all of your bills regularly. A checking or savings account and a routing number are all that is needed. Your entire account activity can be monitored from the convenience of your PC.

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No Pressure!
There is an area around my tailbone that periodically becomes tender due to a genetic condition. I began to wonder whether a specific area had more pressure protruding into my wheelchair cushion than other parts of my body. I turned to my Durable Medical Equipment (DME) vendor for answers. They brought a Roho cushion expert who had me sit on a "pressure mapping" pad. This pad was hooked up to a computer that showed any areas that need pressure relief. There were none! But at least I know.

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Go Go Juice
Before you leave for that appointment across town or that trip to the state park, make sure your gas tank is filled. Remember to be prepared for a traffic jam or any other type of delay that would cause your vehicle to use extra gas. This is ultra important for those of you who need assistance at the pump. Make sure you're safe rather than sorry. Tow trucks usually aren't wheelchair accessible!

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Sexual Tips
Several people have suggested that I write some tips on sex for the mobility impaired. I have chosen to leave this sensitive subject to the experts, or "Sexperts." The Sexual Health Network provides the most informative resources for people with disabilities. They are trying to end the silence and suffering by making information available for the general and disabled population at the click of a mouse. Check out their site for yourself.

Click here to link.

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Keeping Up With Current Events
Keeping current with disability-related events is extremely important to me. I've found that many disability-oriented publications are available through mail order or online. My personal favorite is called New Mobility. It offers a plethora of resources, information, current events, message boards, and classifieds. A one-year subscription is $27.95, two years is $41.95, and three years is $62.95. A bargain at any price!

Click here to visit the site.

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Designer Clothing For Wheelers
Certain styles or cuts of clothing are definitely more becoming to an individual whose career takes place from his/her wheelchair. Some companies have taken the guesswork out of determining what looks best on you. One such company is called Rolli-Moden. Their clothing is geared toward the active professional on a roll. Go to the main page on their Web site, and sign up to receive the newest catalogue. It will be sent to you via U.S. mail.

Click here for Rolli-Moden

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Handcuffs For Warmth
I've found a new definition of handcuffs! Handcuffs are sweatshirts with built-in gloves for warmth. The gloves are designed like a fingerless quad push glove, and provide both warmth and flexibility. The garments are made of durable heavy fleece, and are available in three styles and colors. (Children's sizes are also available.) Adult prices range from $36 to $46.

You can buy these handcuffs online. Click here to link.

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Grocery Store Elves
For those wheelers who are not able to grab things off of shelves, there is an answer: Grocery stores have elves, but not many people know about them. When you arrive at your store, go to the service counter and ask if one of their elves could assist you with shopping. The manager will likely be unfamiliar with the term "elves" as this term is typically referred to only in Santa's workshop. Tell the person at the counter you mean their helpers.

In actuality, these helpers are Santa's elves in disguise, but the regular employees don't know this. Be sure you don't let the secret out. Your personal elf will be happy to assist you load up your cart and survive the dreaded checkout process with a smile on his face. (Hint: These elves like cookies, too!)

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Walt Disney World Accessibility
All four of the Disney theme parks are very wheelchair friendly. Accessibility is excellent at almost every attraction. When lines are too narrow to accommodate a chair, auxiliary entrances are available. The chair rider, along with up to five people in her party, may use these special entrances. In addition, service animals are allowed in the parks. All of Disney's hotels are wheelchair accessible and most all bus lines are equipped to transport different styles of chairs.

Power and manual wheelchair rentals are available on a first come, first serve basis. However, rentals may not be transferred from park to park. For specific questions, call (407) 939-8707 voice, or (407) 939-7670 (TTY).

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