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A Few Tips for Wheelchair Users

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

 

Folding Pan Holder
The folding pan holder keeps your pot or pan from turning while you stir. The sturdy plated steel frame has a 7.5" holder, and can hold up to two quarts. It holds the contents of the pan still with suction cups at the base of the frame. It folds away for easy storage. The price is $15.99.

Click here, then click Aids to Daily Living, Kitchen and Cooking Supplies to order.

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Ergonomic Adaptive Cookware
Here is a set of lightweight, stainless steel cookware, which requires only minimal strength and dexterity. The set includes a frying pan and two pots, featuring a heat resistant handle on both sides of each piece, allowing for the weight to be evenly distributed. The price for the set is $119.00. Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart!

Click here, then click Aids to Daily Living, Kitchen and Cooking Supplies to order.

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Hand Held Blender
Not too many kitchen items are adapted or ideal for people who sit for a living. Blenders are heavy and very tall, making it difficult to reach from a chair. Braun's Hand Held Blender is the answer to my personal blending prayers. It's lightweight and compact in size and ideal for individuals with limited mobility. It's small and convenient on road trips, and is priced at just $39.99.

Click here, then click Aids to Daily Living--Kitchen and Cooking Supplies to order.

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Mini Massager
Even the smallest muscles or areas of scar tissue can be isolated and penetrated with this unique 5 1/4-inch mini massager. Don't let the mini massager's small size fool you: the massager's three rubber heads rotate at more than 5,500 cycles per minute. Massaging edematous areas will help redistribute the pooling blood and help reduce any swelling. And the massager's small size means it can go anywhere! It has an easy to grip handle, and requires only one "C" battery. The price is $17.99.

Click here, go to Personal Products to order

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Portable Speakerphone
Every time the phone rings, it's a race to see if I can answer it by the fourth ring, before it goes to voice mail. Since I don't have use of my fingers, speakerphones are a major convenience for me. I came across this portable phone with a speakerphone built into the handset. The base also has a speaker. Up to four handsets are compatible with one unit, and these also can serve as room-to-room radios. As soon as I can afford the $299.00 cost, I will own this phone!

Click here, then click Assistive Technology for more information or to order.

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Photo Phone
A telephone with a picture of the person you wish to call is now on the market. This is wonderful for small children, seniors who have trouble retaining phone numbers, and people with limited dexterity. Up to nine pictures/numbers can be programmed into the memory dialer. The price is $49.95 for this item, SKU number # AP-P300.

Click here, then do a search on Photo Phone, for more information.

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Clip On Mirror
One thing I have noticed since I've ridden in a wheelchair, is that there are no mirrors that I can easily get up to in order to see my face. I recently stumbled upon a mirror that clamps onto tables, bedrails and wheelchairs. The corners are rounded off for safe use. It is adjustable and flexible, and only costs $19.95.

Click here, then click Miscellaneous, for more information on the mirror--or to order

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Airport Parking
On a recent trip to the airport to pick up a friend, I got smart ahead of time. Parking is always next to nil in the close-up lot, unless you park in the parking garage. That's fine, but since I don't have use of my fingers, I can't pull the parking meter tickets from the machine, which lifts the gate to let me through. I called the gentleman in charge of monitoring the cameras that view the gates where the tickets are pulled. He agreed to have a guy meet me at the gate at a specified time. Sure enough, he was there and helped me. I then went on my merry way. My next project is to provide some accessible parking, at least at the Orlando International Airport.

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Companion Seat
The Braun Companion Seat is ideal for families who have one disabled member. It utilizes your passenger seat but adds a power base, allowing for more maneuverability. When not needed, it acts as a regular passenger seat. These seats are compatible with Plymouth Voyager, Dodge Caravan and Ford Windstar minivans.

Click here for more information on the companion seat.

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Pocketless Pants
After my paralyzing injury, I was educated on taking proper precautions to prevent my skin from breaking down. One suggestion was to wear pants without buttons, pockets, or thick seams. Since I can't feel normal sensations, I can't tell whether or not something is pressing into my skin and cutting off circulation. Once our flesh goes so long without oxygenated blood, it dies, resulting in a pressure sore. These sores should be taken very seriously, as they can be deadly.

When I shop for pants, I look for stretchy pants without pockets. I also prefer tighter-fitting pants, so that I don't have to worry about sitting on bunched up material--another cause of skin ulcers

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No Flaring Arms
When I lean over sideways from my wheelchair to reach for something, or to do a weight shift, I hook my wrist underneath my chair's push handle. I use the handle to pull myself back up to the upright position. Over the years, I have learned to buy long sleeved shirts with non-flaring arms, as opposed to bulky sleeves that get caught around the push handle. Sleeves that hang can also rub against the tires and get dirty.

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Disability Matchmaker Services
Let's face it, dating is hard for anyone. Throw a wheelchair into the equation, and not everyone wants to stick around. Fortunately for us, there are matchmaking Web sites on the net that assist in finding friends and love interests. Try it! If nothing else, you may gain a good friend or two. You can check out a few sites I'm familiar with:

Disabled Singles

Differently Abled Winner's Network (D.A.W.N.)

Note: You never want to send out your address, real name, or specific personal information. Just use normal caution when responding to anyone via the Net.

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Flight Tracker
A friend of mine flew down last week from New York. I was able to watch the coordinates of his flight from take off to landing through the Flight Tracker Web site. Simply click on the graphical version, using airline and flight number. An aerial map of the flight's location, an airplane icon, and three gauges indicating the plane's speed, altitude and direction, and estimated time of arrival are displayed. It sure beats having to continually call the airline.

Click here to link.

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Hello Operator!
There have been many times since my injury when I have been unable to dial phone numbers due to lack of lighting, or placement of the phone. In desperation one night when I couldn't control the light, I was able to turn on the speaker phone and dial 0 for the Operator. I asked her to dial a number for me, and she asked if I was having difficulty getting through to that number. After explaining that I don't have use of my hands, she gladly dialed for me. Now when I use this method, I tell them up front that I'm paralyzed and cannot use my hands. They never ask any questions.

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Power Chair Failure
As I was enjoying Christmas day with my family in my father's new home, I made a trip to the little girl's room. I turned off my chair, as I always do, so as to not hit it while taking care of business. When I went to turn it back on, my power switch was flaccid, and just wiggled around, rendering my chair useless. I yelled for help, and one of my brothers came to my rescue. He went to find some tools, and came back with a huge case of about 1,000 items. All he really needed to open up my control box was a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Had we not had any, I would have been in big trouble. All of the wheelchair repair shops were closed, but he was able to rig my chair so that I had power. The moral of this story: Always keep a pair of pliers either taped under the seat of your chair, or inside of your vehicle.

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Voice Activated Remote Control
Claiming to carry the only voice recognition remote control available, Hammacher Schlemmer carries a product that translates vocal commands into infrared remote control signals, controlling the TV, VCR, DVD, satellite dish and stereo. This device recognizes 54 commands from up to four users, and will control up to eight different components. The price is $69.95, item #60626

Click here for more info.

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Tip From A Loyal Reader
This month's tip from one of my readers comes from Michael Briggs. Michael is a SCUBA instructor for people with disabilities, and may be contacted at Mabriggs1@home.com. He writes: "I found this program on the net that's pretty cool. It displays the temperature (of an area participating school or weather station, only in the US) down by your clock on your task bar. When you click on it, it brings up a window with forecasts, high/low, wind speed/direction, and several other weather information (maps and radar) facts. I think it would probably work best for those of us with 'always on' connections, but it will work with dial up as well. Take a look at the home page for more information; you can link to download it for free."

Click here to link.

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Online Malls
Online malls are a convenient resource for the mobility-impaired population, as well as the general population. Conveniently linking you to central sites, malls also link you to smaller sites and specialty shops. Some malls even let patrons use one shopping cart throughout the variety stores, thus having to go through just one checkout process.

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Shop During Off-Peak Hours
Mall parking can be a bear anytime of the year, not just during the holidays. Plan your shopping trips for late morning or a couple of hours before rush hour to avoid maximum crowds. You will find that the counter clerks will be more willing to assist you when their shop traffic isn't so heavy. Plus, it's likely that all of the disabled parking spaces won't be spoken for early in the day.

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Slippers Instead Of Shoes
Being comfortable from head to toe makes a lot of sense, especially if your feet hurt when they're encased in shoes. A friend of mine who uses a wheelchair and has muscular dystrophy has a growing collection of fashionable house slippers. He even has slippers he wears with suits! Styles and colors come in wide varieties, so you can feel like the prince or Cinderella!

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Control Your Own Water Pressure
The Step-N-Flo Showerhead allows a person with limited range of motion to control the shower water pressure. With gentle pressure to the foot pedal, the motion-impaired individual controls a full flow or massage action while getting a shower. This will help save caregivers from getting drenched.

The Step-N-Flo will replace any showerhead. The hose measures 84"l x 1/2"w, and the pedal measures 5-1/2"l x 2-3/4"w. The cost is $30.50.

Click here for more info or to purchase. (Then, under Product Departments, select Easier Personal Care.)

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Guest Tip Of The Month
Last month, I sent a call out to you, my loyal readers, asking you to email me, to let me know how many of you are actually reading my tips. The response was overwhelming, to the point that I haven't yet personally written all of you back. But, I will. After reading your responses, I'm going to implement something new in these tips. Each month, I'll showcase a tip from one of you. Several of you have already shared your ideas with me, and I feel they will greatly benefit others..

This month's tip is from F.B. "Fil" Nutter Jr. He writes: "I leave a wide rubber band around the arm rest of my wheelchair and carry a plastic grocery bag in the back pouch, or side pocket. When it rains, I place the bag over the "Joystick Box" and secure it with the rubber band to protect it from the elements. The bag is clear enough to see the indicator lights and control buttons. It's flexible enough to operate the joystick and it's cheap, too." Thanks, Fil!

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The Ring Pen
I found this very unique ballpoint pen through a mail order catalogue and purchased it. This pen features a ring in the middle of its base so that you can slip one finger through it and rest it gently on a piece of paper. Its ergonomic design allows for a natural grasp. This pen eliminates problems such as the pen slipping out of your hand, or ruined notes because of tremors and muscle spasms. This would make a great gift for arthritic individuals, or anyone with decreased dexterity.

My fingers are contracted, as though my hands were in fists. So the pen didn't work for me, but I'm sure it will benefit others with all sorts of disabilities and ages. It even works for someone who writes with his feet. The price is $16.05.

Click here, then in the search bar, type Ring Pen for more information or to order.

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Wheelchair Bike
Bicycle riding is a fantastic form of exercise, and it's available for the proud riders of wheelchairs! The specific bike I am referring to is for those who have strength in the lower extremities, and who use manual chairs. Weighing in at a mere 16 pounds, the Wheelchair Bike is made of steel, and requires next to no maintenance. It comes standard with a lifetime guarantee, and is a cost-effective mode of transportation.

Click here for more info on this bike, which costs $299, including shipping.

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Sleeve Guards
Propelling the wheels on your manual wheelchair can wreak havoc on your sleeves, especially on rainy days! Keep your clothing clean by slipping Sleeve Guards over your wrists. These wrist covers will protect you from dirt and keep the tires from rubbing on your clothing. The sleeves can be slipped off and tucked away for future use. These 12-inch-long and 6-inch-wide sleeve covers are only $19.99 a pair.

Click here for more info or to order.

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That's What Friends Are For...
Being stranded in the emergency room without your wheelchair is no fun. Being stranded in the emergency room without your wheelchair OR your vehicle is even less fun. This predicament has been my reality on more than one occasion.

The first time I was stranded I had to verbalize to a friend how to change my hand-controlled van into one an able bodied driver could use. My frustration level was high, but there is a way to avoid this situation. Educate at least two friends or family members on how to engage and disengage your adaptive equipment. In the event you're whisked off by paramedics and need a friend to bring you your accessible vehicle, you will be one step ahead of the game, because you properly planned for this emergency situation in advance.

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Use Those Handles
I live next door to a grocery store and frequently stroll over to pick up a few items. When asked whether I prefer paper or plastic, I always opt for plastic. Once I've conquered the checkout routine, I slip the handles of the grocery bags over the push handles of my wheelchair. Using my handles to hold these and other items such as my purse and water bottle is part of my routine.

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Taking Home A Doggie Bag
Eating out at restaurants is one of my favorite pastimes. However, rarely will I put much of a dent in my meal, so I nearly always have leftovers that I want to take home. Handling a styrofoam container is difficult for me, so I got smart! Now when I go to dinner, I put a plastic grocery bag in my purse so I can place my leftover container into it. The handles are perfect to grab or slip my hand through, and the bag also protects my lap and my van seats from food spills.

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Automatic Plant Waterer
Whether you're planning a vacation, or simply have difficulty watering your houseplants, you don't need to worry any more! The Rain-Maid Automatic Plant Waterer will quench the thirst of your leafy friends for up to two weeks. All you do is fill the reservoir and place on top of the soil. Then, water is dispensed every three-and-a-half days -- for two weeks. Three sizes are available to accommodate your potted plants in sizes between four and 14 inches.

Prices for the waterers depend on size: $5.95 for small, $6.95 for medium, and $7.95 for large. There are no moving parts, and batteries are not required. For more information, call 616/243-2750.

Click here to visit the Rain-Maid Web site.

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Light Up My Life!
The DASHLIGHT flashlight acts as an in-home emergency light or as a light for your vehicle. You can recharge the light at home, or by plugging it into your vehicle lighter socket. The DASHLIGHT includes two flashlights, one recharger, and two spare bulbs. The complete unit is $34.95. Just the car flashlight is $12.95.

A few nights ago, I needed to see why my gas pedal continued to rev while I was idle. It was too dark to see whether something was pressing on it. I wished that I had a flashlight handy. Don't wait until you really need a light to be sorry you haven't purchased one.

Click here for more information or to order.

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Vari-Weights for Wrists and Ankles
To increase my muscle tone, I've been using strap-on weights around my wrists. The Vari-Weights allow you to increase the weight as you gain strength. Each three-pound Vari-Weight set contains ten 4.8 oz. ingots--that adjust from 4.8 oz. to 1.5 lb. for each half-pair--and costs $22.99. A five-pound pair (with 8-oz. ingots) runs $27.99. A 10 lb. pair (with 16-oz. ingots) costs $39.99. I get a great workout when I use the lighter wrist weight while doing my arm aerobics.

For more information or to order, click here.

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Emerson Tap Lights
Tap lights are those creative little lamps that you see on all the TV commercials. You just gently tap the light to turn it on. A set of six lights comes in each package and each runs on four AA batteries, not included. These handy lights work ideally in hallways, closets, and within reach of your bed. They are much safer than candles during power outages. They cost $14.99 a set at Bed Bath & Beyond.

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Fast Lock II Solar Tier Light
A cost effective way of lighting up an area in your driveway or porch is by using a solar powered tier lamp. Place this light in an area that receives direct exposure to sunlight. The device charges during the day and automatically turns on at dusk. It's a great idea for poorly lit outdoor ramps. These lights are $12.96 a piece at Walmart.

Click here for more info or to order.

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Holiday Utensils All Year Long
If you use an adaptive eating utensil, I'm sure that there have been occasions where you accidentally left it at home. This is especially unpleasant when you're celebrating a major holiday, but so easy to do with so many other things to remember.

Since I go to my father's home for most holidays, I purchased an extra adaptive cuff that I use to eat with. I just leave the extra cuff at his house year round, so even if I pop over for a surprise visit, I'm always prepared for a home-cooked meal.

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Freeze Holiday Leftovers
The holiday season always means plenty of get-togethers, which means lots of food! Store your yummy leftovers in single-serving sized plastic containers. Place the containers in the front of the freezer or on the door for convenient access from your chair. Labeling them with the date and contents will be helpful down the road, when you can't remember if the dish contains a slice of cake, or a serving of potpie.

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Saratoga Cycle
The Saratoga cycle is an arm bike that assists in giving the upper body a workout. Several different styles are available to choose from. Detachable grips are an option for those with limited-to-no dexterity. Foot plates can be attached in place of the hand grips, allowing for a lower body workout as well.

I own one of these machines, and can say that using it is a wonderful cardiovascular exercise. It's one of the only ways I can truly work out my arms without leaving the comfort of my home.

Click here for more information on the bike.

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The Oral-B Ultra Plaque Remover
The Braun Company sells an electronic toothbrush that's clinically proven to be more effective in fighting plaque buildup than a conventional toothbrush. This device is wonderful for anyone, but especially for those with a weak grasp or limited muscle usage. It comes with two Flexisoft brush heads. Additional brush heads may be purchased for $19.96, in packages of three. You can find the brush itself on amazon.com for $49.84 (model no. D 9525).

Click here for more info or to purchase.

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The Equalizer 6000 Series Accessible Gym
This specific piece of exercise equipment, which offers eight different exercises for the upper arms, was designed with the chair user in mind--but it's also great for able-bodied folks! Since the Equalizer is designed to accommodate chair users, transfers aren't necessary. However, the Equalizer is a bit pricey, starting at $2,625.00. Not many people have the money or the space for this machine, myself included.

I used to work out on one of these machines at a local wellness center and discovered that a nearby community college has one too. Call around your area to locate a facility that may already have one--and if not, ask them if they've ever heard of it. You might take information about the Equalizer to the manager of the club. Tell him or her that it is just as important, if not more so, for people with limited mobility to keep fit! Also, it's a great way to get disabled individuals to join their club, which in turn, generates revenue. That, my friends, is the bottom.

Click here for info on the Equalizer.

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Holiday Attendant Care
Well before traveling for the holiday, plan your attendant care. Home health agencies are sprinkled all over the globe. Ask the agency you use locally to recommend a reputable agency in your destination city. Most agencies require a doctor's note, and/or an assessment from one of their own registered nurses. The ones I have dealt with in the past all have initial fees -- usually in the $100 range.

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Gift Idea: Nerf Motorized Ballzooka!
A wonderful gift idea for the younger wheelers is a motorized toy ball shooter. The particular one I am referring to holds up to 15 Nerf balls. When the trigger is pulled, the motorized recommended for ages 8 and higher. The price is $29.96, and includes a shoulder strap.

For more info or to purchase, click here.

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Plan For Holiday Travel
Holiday flights are usually quite hectic and fairly crowded. To ensure a Merry Christmas, carry as many of your gifts with you on board the aircraft so you'll be prepared in case your luggage is lost or stolen. Do the same on your return leg on the journey, and carry the gifts from Santa in your carry-on bag. After all, you don't want your gifts of a special perfume or a hot bestseller to end up in the unclaimed luggage warehouse!

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Wheelchair Roller
A wheelchair roller is a piece of equipment that essentially allows your manual wheelchair to become a stationary bike. It is a great way to get an upper body workout without having to deal with traffic, uneven pavement/obstacles, natural elements like rain, snow, heat, etc. The equipment holds your chair in place, and allows your tires to rotate. The roller offers three resistance settings, making the tires easier or harder to turn. This would make a great gift for the holidays, as eating great food is a global holiday tradition, and you need a way to burn off the extra calories.

Click here for more information on the Wheelchair Roller.

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No Wrapping Paper Please!
My friends and family make gift-opening a breeze for me. As a person with no finger use as a result of a spinal cord injury, I find unwrapping gifts to be a struggle. Fortunately, my friends and family have simplified the unwrapping process for me by using a minimal amount of tape.

Gift bags are my favorite form of wrapping, though. Turning the bag upside down on my lap is a breeze, unless it's that Porsche 911 I asked Santa for.

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Non-Emergency 911
There are times when I need medical attention, but don't necessarily need an ambulance screaming across town to get me. A couple of months ago, I suffered a collapsed lung, secondary to pneumonia. I called 911 and explained that I had dealt with it for two days, so there was no need for me to be a priority transport. The dispatcher gave me a number to the fire department's non-emergency line. It was a more relaxed experience. My neighbors weren't all standing around wondering whether I'm OK. They never even knew all of those fire trucks and ambulances were there.

I suggest you call your local fire department and find out if this service is available in your area. In any health related emergency, don't hesitate to call 911.

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Abilities Expo
This is the sixteenth year for the Abilities Expo. This convention displays mobility products and services, along with in-home devices that can enhance the lives of people with disabilities, and seniors. The convention also caters to health care professionals.

I was able to attend the show in 1994, where I saw products there that I haven't seen anywhere since. The next show will be held in San Mateo, California in early December. Check out the Web site below for specific cities and dates of the tour.

Click here for more information.


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