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A Few Tips for Wheelchair Users

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

  My Kind Of Pen
When I went through rehabilitation back in 1993, I never quite got the hang of writing with the special writing splints that were introduced to me at the time. Several months later, while trying to make a list of things to do, I decided to put a pen in my mouth and see if I could write legibly. To my surprise, not only could I write, but I could actually read my writing!

After years of trying different types of pens, I've found the Pilot Precise Deluxe pens to glide the smoothest. Cursive writing is much easier and smoother than print because the pen stays on the page for each word. The only thing I would caution against is to keep your work away from water. The ink bleeds like crazy. A pack of three pens sells for $17.99 at Office Depot.

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No More Tap Dancing
It isn't often that I get dressed up. Unfortunately, last week I had to attend a funeral and needed to dress appropriately, which means no tennis shoes or hiking boots. When I wear my dress shoes, the slippery bottoms slide all over my footrest and eventually I need to pull my foot back up on the plate. Sometimes in doing this, I completely lose my shoe. That's not quite what I want to focus on at a funeral. A friend suggested that I put gaffer tape between the bottom of my shoes and the footrest. I tried it and it worked beautifully! When tears trickled down my cheeks, it wasn't from my slippery shoes driving me crazy!

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Ladder Strap
The ladder strap was introduced to me during my rehabilitation days following my diving injury. It's a strap that resembles a ladder with rungs. When tied underneath the foot of the bed, it enables me to walk my way up the ladder rungs with my hands, until I'm in the sitting position. Since I can't hold on by grabbing with my fingers, I hook my wrist around the rungs. I can also use it to adjust or move my legs. It is made of several round circles of webbing sewn together.

To find out more or to purchase the ladder webbing, click here.

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Don't Turn Your Back
One of my loyal readers, Jeanne Marie, shared an incident that happened literally right behind her back. She and a friend walked/rolled to a convenience store. She decided to stay outside by the pay phones and people watch while her friend went in. Soon, a bus pulled up and the driver got out to use the pay phone. Out of the corner of her eye, Jeanne Marie saw a man whom she had noticed earlier using the pay phone pull a knife on the bus driver while he was talking on the phone. Fortunately, the attacker was apprehended and eventually hauled off by the police.

This incident really shook Jeanne Marie up. She asked me to warn all of you wheelchair users to never let your guard down. People who are sick enough to steal from and hurt innocent people don't care whether you use a chair or not. Always be aware of your surroundings and guard your valuables. However, if ever the target of a robber, give the bad guy whatever it is he wants. No material thing is worth losing your life over.

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Universal Design
The idea behind universal design is to meet the architectural needs of every person -- regardless of differences in size, age, or ability. For example, if you want to cook but can't get close enough to the stove because your feet get in the way, that's no longer an excuse. There are now companies who make stovetops that lower and raise to accommodate someone who uses a chair, as well as for walkie-talkies (persons who aren't mobility impaired). The same goes for sinks -- Haven't you just been aching to do the dishes? Now you can have those dishpan hands you've been dreaming of. I'll warn you though, this modified equipment isn't cheap -- but it sure is practical!

Click here to read more about Universal Design -- and see a few examples, courtesy of The Center for Universal Design.

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AAA Does More Than Change Tires
Being an AAA Plus member has been a blessing to me on numerous occasions. Whenever my vehicle has broken down, a tow truck has always rescued me -- usually within a half-hour of my call.

My specialty van's rear hydraulics fail when my battery is dead. When this happens, the van is stuck in the kneeling position and it must be towed on a flat bed truck. Fortunately, AAA has no problem with that.

There are many other benefits to being an AAA member, such as prescription discounts, specials on car rentals and airfares, to name a few. The price is affordable at about $50/year for a regular membership, and an additional $25 - $30 for AAA Plus members (dues depend on location). It's worth the price of the dues to know you won't ever be completely stranded!

Click here to access the AAA Web site.

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Emergency Email Network
Growing up in central Florida the last thirty years has involved my being in the middle of some pretty intense hurricanes and lightning storms. Fortunately, we live in the electronic age, when automatic weather reports in your local area can be delivered to your email box whenever rough weather is approaching. These warnings have been a great help to me recently. The email alerts me when lightning storms are coming, and I know I'll soon need to unplug my electronics, or be aware that an attendant may be running late due to weather conditions.

Click here for more info on the weather updates.

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Thumb Loops Come In Handy!
Last week, I thought of a great idea that would benefit me and anyone else with minimal finger use. When I sit in my wheelchair and wiggle around, as I often do, my shirt likes to ride up over my tummy. Since I can't grasp it to pull it down, I am forced to ask someone to help me, which is sometimes embarrassing and gets old fast!

Instead of feeling like a nag because you have to keep asking for help, sew or have sewn a loop made of shoelaces on each side at the bottom of your shirt. Then, whenever your shirt begins to ride up, hook your thumbs around the makeshift handles and pull your shirt back into place.

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Getting Loopy
The 16-ounce leg bag I wear requires some dexterity to open the flip flow valve. In order for me to live independently, I had to figure out a way to successfully empty my bag on my own.

Friends taught me to tie a string through the valve and create a loop. Then, when it's time to drain the bag, I simply slip my thumb through the loop and pull it open. I've tried different kinds of strings and found that shoelaces work the best for me.

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Wheelchair Foundation
The Wheelchair Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to deliver a wheelchair anywhere in the world, to any man, woman, or child who needs one. Their ultimate goal is to deliver one million chairs in five years. It is estimated that 20 million of the world's citizens are deprived of mobility for one reason or another. A mere $150.00 buys someone the gift of freedom. To learn more about their mission, contact the Wheelchair Foundation at (877) 378-3839 or visit their Web site.

Click here for more info or to donate to this worthwhile organization.

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Tie The Knot Once
This tip is for the gentlemen out there who are on a roll. It's also for the men suffering from painful arthritic fingers. It's even for those walkie-talkies who suffer from nothing more than hate-to-tie-ties-itis. When taking your tie off at the end of the day, loosen it just enough to slip over your head. Hang it on a hanger so the next time you decide to wear it, all you'll have to do is just slip it back over your head and tighten the knot.

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Throw Rugs
Throw rugs look great, but as I have learned from experience, they love dancing the tango with my wheels. Initially, I tried using a thin, flimsy rug then eventually experimented with a heavier, thicker rug. Unfortunately, both rugs lifted up as my wheels rolled over their edges, immobilizing my chair on several occasions.

To solve this dilemma, purchase double-sided tape that will securely hold every edge of the rug down. Most department stores also carry thin rubber matting that's made to go under throw rugs and hold them in place. You just cut to size, place under your rugs, and no more dancing wheels.

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Reasonable Accommodations
When you're leasing an apartment, federal and state laws provide that a potential tenant may not be treated differently because she/he uses a wheelchair. Landlords may not deny the use of -- or charge any deposit for -- a guide or service animal. They must also make reasonable accommodations in rules, practices, and procedures to accommodate those with disabilities, such as providing accessible parking near the entrance to the tenant's dwelling.

The law also requires that all landlords allow a disabled tenant, at his/her own expense, to make reasonable structural changes, such as widening doorways or installing grab bars, in the disabled tenant's apartment. These changes enable the chair user to have full enjoyment of the property.

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Flight Layovers
Changing planes during a connecting flight sometimes requires a layover. If this happens to you, request that your own chair be brought to you instead of a generic airline wheelchair. This ensures your comfort and independence during an extended layover -- and also reduces the risk of your chair becoming lost or damaged. It would be disastrous if the airline misplaced your chair, since the loss is much more than an inconvenience to a wheelchair user.

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Hook Me Up
A trick for catheter wearers to avoid constant bladder infections is to keep things as clean as possible. It's extremely important to keep the area where your drainage bags are stored ultra clean. With this in mind, I visited a nearby discount store, where I purchased an adhesive hook that mounts onto flat surfaces. I secured this hook onto the back of my shower wall. Now, after my attendant thoroughly cleans out my drainage bag, she hangs the bag on the hook where it won't pick up and spread any new bacteria.

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Nature's Miracle
Nature's Miracle is a product found in most pet stores. It was originally designed to alleviate your allergic reaction to your pets by eliminating the antigens that cause itchy eyes and sneezing. However, I recently read about another use for this product -- to remove urine stains and odors. It's worth a try, since urine stains are extremely difficult to rid of. A 12-ounce bottle of Nature's Miracle is $5.99.

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Toys For Tots
If you have a child in your life who uses a wheelchair, keep him/her entertained by using a shoestring to tie a toy or a helium balloon to the wheelchair. This way, the child can retrieve the toy by pulling on the string, and/or make the balloon bob up and down by tugging on the attached string. Another idea for simple entertainment is to put sweatbands on the child's wrist, then attach ribbons and strings in bright colors for the child to watch and play with.

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Cutting Back The Sweats
I had several sweatshirts that I almost threw out. Instead, I decided to cut off the sleeves and neckline and use them as shirts to wear around the house in the summer. The armpits drape open quite a bit, so I wear a sports bra with them. They are loose enough for me to put on and take off unassisted, despite the fact that I have no use of my fingers. The fact that they are loose also allows air to flow in and out, which keeps my body cool.

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Makeshift Bib
Some wheelers have difficulty feeding themselves. In any case, it's a good idea to have a protective bib on hand at all times in order to keep your clothing from becoming soiled with food.

The next time you're at the dentist's office, ask if you can purchase one of those alligator clips that dentists use to clip a paper bib around the necks of their patients. Use this clip attached to a thin towel to create a makeshift bib you can use at home, or attach the clip to your napkin when you're dining in a restaurant.

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Home Ec Help
If you're having difficulty finding someone who will sew custom adaptations to your clothing or other items that assist you in your daily activities, call a nearby high school. Ask to speak to the director of their home economics department (if the school has one). Explain your predicament to him/her and see if s/he can assist you. If not, maybe s/he can direct you to someone who can.

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Night Riding
Driving my chair at night is a huge thrill for me. I love to put it in high gear and feel the breeze sift through my hair. I often feel as though I'm somewhat incognito, since not everyone can easily see me. However, the fact that I'm not easily seen can be dangerous when I'm cruising in a high traffic area.

If you like night wheeling, a smart thing to do is to mount bicycle reflectors on your chair. Also, wear light colored clothing to make you more visible to oncoming automobile drivers

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Incontinence On Our Continent
An estimated 15 million people in the United States must deal with the problem of incontinence. As a result, there are many products available on the market for specific needs. In fact, many grocery stores devote a lot of shelf space to these products.
Folks from all walks and rolls of life deal with this sensitive problem, and yet are able to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. Fortunately, there's an Internet Web site that provides information about the condition of incontinence, specials on adult diapers, and various incontinence products. You can discretely have your products delivered directly to your door.

Click here to access the site.

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Ingrown Toenails
Ingrown toenails are a common problem for people with limited mobility, whose feet frequently swell. Ingrown nails can become infected -- and sometimes even need to be surgically removed. When you first suspect you're developing an ingrown nail, roll a tiny piece of cotton into a ball and place it between the corner of the nail and the skin it's growing into. If you must wear shoes during this time, wear loose-fitting ones to allow the infected nail room to breathe, and keep your foot elevated to minimize swelling.

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Trim Those Nails
Many people who use a wheelchair suffer from edema in their feet and ankles, since lack of movement causes blood to pool in these appendages. Your toes can quickly become plump as little sausages! It's very important to properly trim your toenails to keep them from becoming ingrown -- which they can do easily when the surrounding tissue is so swollen.

When trimming your nails, make sure to cut straight across the nail and don't trim down too far into the nail bed. If you can't perform this task on your own, check your local Yellow Pages for a podiatrist. Some may even make house calls.

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Don't Move!
I have a nightstand next to my bed that I call control central. On it, I have a control for my telephone, the front door remote, a television remote, a bed remote, and a light switch. These items used to slide around on my table, which can be dangerous -- especially if I happen to drop the controller switch to my front door. At first, I tried taping these items down, but the tape residue builds up over time and isn't very pretty.

Velcro turned out to be the answer for me. There is a variety of extremely strong Velcro on the market that actually snaps together. In fact, it's so strong I can't pry it apart!

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Does It Blanch?
When I get back into bed after sitting in my wheelchair for an extended period of time, I have my attendant inspect my skin for any reddened areas. Red areas can quickly form when not enough oxygen gets to the skin, causing the tissue to die; the result is a pressure sore.

While I was in rehabilitation after breaking my neck, I learned how to determine whether my skin is in the first stage of dying. If you press on a reddened area, skin that is still healthy will turn white (blanch) as the blood is being forced away. When the skin is receiving pressure and doesn't turn white, it's on its way to dying.

The word "blanch" means literally to take the color out of something. If you find any reddened areas of skin, check the skin's health using the blanch test, then keep the area completely free from pressure -- especially if your skin didn't pass the blanch test. This may mean staying in bed on your side if necessary. Pressure sores are nasty and can, in some instances, be life threatening.

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Visit the Library of Congress
Those with impaired vision or whose physical limitations make it difficult or impossible to hold books open are eligible to sign up for The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Disabled. This free Library of Congress service offers books in Braille and on audiotape. You can also order music tapes and technical journals! The tapes or books of your choice are delivered to you via the U.S. Postal Service. (When I signed up seven years ago, I was even provided with a tape recorder.)

Once I finish with the tapes, I simply mail them back at the government's expense and place an order for my next batch. This is a wonderful way for me to keep up with what's going on in the literary and music worlds!

Click here for more information or to get your first batch of books or tapes.

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Pipe Up!
On a couple of occasions when I've been dining out with friends, our server has asked one of my friends for my order. I'm not quite sure why some folks automatically assume that I have a cognitive deficit when they see my wheelchair, but sometimes they do. Of course my friends informed the wait staff that they need to ask ME for my order. Hopefully, those servers learned from the experience and were more likely to treat future guests in wheelchairs as capable of ordering for themselves.

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Head Mouse
The Tracer, a head mouse for people who lack hand control, uses a small gyroscope that senses the user's movement. The device communicates wirelessly with the computer via radio frequency instead of infrared, which tends to not work in all lighting situations. The Tracer is ready-to-use right out of the box -- there isn't even any software to install! The price is $795. For more information, call Boost Technologies at 1-866-266-7843 or visit their Web site.

Click here to link.

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Killing The Greasies
If you're unable to shampoo your hair regularly, try sprinkling a little baby powder or cornstarch on your scalp between shampoos. Once you apply the powder, rub your scalp vigorously to work the excess powder into your hair. This treatment will make your hair softer, fluffier, and more manageable.

Try applying these powders when you have a skin rash. They definitely lessen the itch.

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Planning A Road Trip?
The Department of Transportation features a listing of travel links for all 50 states; some of the state sites offer important information regarding road conditions as well as other topics.

Although every state's site is unique, most do contain valuable information on highway construction, road closures, and rest areas; they also feature area and state maps. Before you venture out into unfamiliar territory, check into what you're going to be dealing with before you get your wheels on the road.

Click here to access the DOT site.

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Breathe Easy
Since I'm paralyzed from the chest down, I find coughing extremely difficult. Therefore, getting a chest cold is dangerous. So, whenever I feel congestion coming on, I take quick action. I call my doctor and have him prescribe an antibiotic. He then calls my home health agency to give them orders to begin administering breathing treatments.

I found a company who delivers the necessary nebulizer and medications to my door. This works out well for me, as I can begin treating my symptoms immediately. I qualify for Medicare, so there is no cost to me. Ah, I can take a deep breath and relax! You can too by calling Med4Home at 1-800-804-2084.

Click here to link.

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Makeshift Ramp
One of my attendants told me about a way she and her husband create a makeshift ramp. A young man with quadriplegia was a frequent visitor at their house. Since she had no ramp and a small step at the front door, she experimented by rolling up her doormat to use as a "bridge"; this gave the chair just the amount of support it needed to get up the step. If you're ever in a similar situation, try this technique using a heavy mat or a rolled up piece of carpeting.

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Weighing In
One thing that irritates me is not knowing for certain how much I weigh. Since I can't stand up, I can't very well hop on a scale. I only recall being weighed three times in the eight years I've been using a wheelchair. Each of those times occurred in a hospital setting. If I'm healthy and stay out of the hospital, I'll never know my weight.

After some research, I found a scale that's small enough for home use. By rolling onto the platform in your wheelchair, the total weight of you and your chair is calibrated. Simply subtract the weight of the chair, and voila! The guessing game is over.

Click here for more information

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Free Internet Long Distance
If you're reading this, you obviously have access to a computer. And a computer with a microphone is all you need to be able to place a free long distance call via PhoneFree.com.

My mother lives in Maine and I live in Florida. Every now and then, she'll call me or I'll call her, and we talk up a storm for free. Go to the PhoneFree Web site and download the software. You may begin placing calls immediately.

Click here to link.

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Drive-Thru Car Wash
Most of the soft-cloth car washes require you to get out of your vehicle. The vehicle then travels through the washer via a track that automatically moves it along until it reaches the end. At that point, one of the employees hops in and drives the vehicle off to the side, where the interior and windows are cleaned. Since I drive from my wheelchair, no one else can drive my van; otherwise, s/he would have to stand while driving.

I called around to my local soft cloth car washes to see if they would allow me to stay in my vehicle. I located a car wash not far from my home that had no problem with me remaining in the vehicle. They all know me now, and it's a pleasant experience each time I go to have my van shined up.

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You're The Boss
Whenever I need help getting up a curb, a step, or a flight of stairs, people who are not familiar with my wheelchair tend to grab any part of it they can get their hands on. What they don't realize is that many of the chair parts are detachable -- and may come off with a tug or grasp. Always instruct your helpers as to which parts are safe to grab. This will avoid possible injury both to you and to them.

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Mood Control
No one likes to be around someone who is negative and constantly complains. I have learned from past experience that the way I react to an event has a big impact on the way people around me react. When an attendant, friend, or family member helps you transfer into your chair, or perform another task, and the result is less than perfect, don't chew his/her head off. Realize that s/he truly wants to help you. If you remain pleasant, even in not-so-ideal situations, life for everyone involved is less stressful.

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A Helping Hand
There are so many chores in our daily lives that we need to take care of, such as laundry, grocery shopping, keeping up with paying bills on time, and cleaning. It would be impossible for me to accomplish all of these tasks by myself. Fortunately, my local Center For Independent Living (CIL) offers a Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program. So, when I need to hire someone to help me with my daily tasks, I call my CIL and they provide me with several names and numbers of people who have signed up with them.

The rate of pay, work schedule, and tasks I need done are negotiated directly between me and the person I hire. To ease your mind, CIL will run a background check on individuals upon request.

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Wipe Your Wheels, Please!
Now that my condominium is tiled, I don't have to worry about getting stains in my carpet. However, some residue from my tires inevitably gets tracked in each time I enter my home. Instead of placing a plastic or straw doormat inside the front door, I use an absorbing bath mat, which does a better job of drying off my tires (after my tire-wash job mentioned in a previous tip) and grabbing any remaining particles still clinging to my wheels. Whenever my friends who also use chairs come by to visit, I make sure they also "wipe their wheels"!

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Hose Off
After being outside and collecting dirt and debris on your tires, you definitely don't want to track that junk through your home. Leave a pitcher filled with water, or a hose near your front door. Wash off your wheels, then slowly roll forward several inches in the water puddle to clean the entire surface of your wheels.

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Messy Soup No More
Every year, I manage to catch a bad cold that lingers a long while due to my lack of mobility. My itinerary over the last two weeks has consisted of nursing this year's annual head and chest cold. When I'm feeling lousy like this, I seem to lose my appetite, yet I understand the importance of nutrition and hydration. However, soup is the only thing I really want, since I usually lose my sense of taste and have a sore throat, as well.

Unfortunately, being fed soup while you're in bed can be extremely messy, as well as dangerous. So after I let the broth cool a bit, I sip the broth through a straw, leaving the chunks to be shoveled in with a spoon. No mess, no burns. Although the soup helps to hydrate me, I also remember to drink lots of water to flush the sick bugs out of my body.

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Handcycle Chairs
Summer will be here before you know it. Wouldn't it feel great to be outside in the fresh air while you exercise on a bicycle chair? As I researched available wheelchair handcycles (you use your hands -- not your feet -- to turn the pedals of the chair), I was blown away by the various makes and models, not to mention the wide range in prices. The l east expensive model I located is made by Quickie, and retails for $825. For the serious competitor, New Halls offers a slick looking model for $3,825.00.

I first rode one of these cycles while I was in rehab back in 1993. The feeling was kind of scary at first, but it was definitely an exhilarating experience! After I win the lottery, I'd like to own one!

Click here to link

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Voice Activated TV Remote
As I was shopping in JC Penney's a few weeks ago, I came across a voice-activated remote control device. It featured control of up to four entertainment devices such as TV, VCR, cable box, satellite, plus an auxiliary system, all operated by voice command or button press. It seemed as though a higher power led me to this product, knowing I would tell my readers about it. This remote control box recognizes up to 54 commands, by up to four different users. You'll find this product at JC Penney, Hammacher Schlemmer, and Brookstone for only $29.99.

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Tilt Back Independently
In a prior tip, I stressed the importance of doing weight shifts as you're seated in a wheelchair so you can avoid pressure sores. One way to shift your weight is to have someone tip your chair back onto a couch, using pillows to support your head.

However, as a result of my travels in cyberspace, I've stumbled upon a machine that actually tilts your chair back independently. Called the VersaTilt, this gadget fits any standard wheelchair, and has a back/head rest for support -- ideal for someone who doesn't want a bulky reclining wheelchair, but still wishes to have the benefits of reclining.

Click here for more information

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Camcorder Fun
Last week, my boyfriend and I went to Lake Eola, a local lake in downtown Orlando. The lake is surrounded by a large walkway, and is a favorite spot for the locals to visit. We took his new digital camcorder that he received for his birthday.

He amazed me with his wonderful idea of placing the camcorder on my footrest, between my feet. He pressed "record" and off I went, capturing my every move forever. I even spun in a full circle and the camera didn't budge. Later that day, we watched what we had recorded, and I have to say I honestly like the view from my wheelchair height better than from my boyfriend's perspective. I felt a little more grounded. If you never thought you'd make a good videographer because you're a low rider, think again!

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Space Saver
A wonderful way to expand your floor space is to use your walls. Instead of sitting a TV or VCR on top of a dresser or table, mount it on the wall with a bracket designed to securely hold it. A wall-mounted TV allows for several more feet of rolling space for your chair -- or room for another piece of furniture or equipment. Spiegel features a mount that holds a 13" to 17" TV set for $59.00.

Click here to link.

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On Your Knees
As a seasoned wheelchair cruiser, I've been around long enough to experience owning different makes and models of vans. Nothing beats the feel of my minivan, which hugs the road tightly as it wraps around curves and twists.

Fortunately, if you're unable to drive, you can still enjoy the smooth ride of a minivan. The KneelVan is a rear entry minivan for transporting a wheeler, and has ample room to comfortably fit most wheelchairs. The van's hydraulic system gently lowers the vehicle to the ground, minimizing the steepness of the ramp. Since the ramp doesn't open on the side, the van can be parked in any parking spot. For more information, call Freedom Motors USA Inc. at 1-888-62-KNEEL or visit their Web site.

Click here to link.

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Protective Floor Mat
Over the years, the floor of my van has gotten really soiled with grease and dirt. Had I gone to an office supply store and purchased a protective floor mat when my van was new, I wouldn't be dealing with this problem today. I suggest purchasing a large mat and cutting it so that it molds to the shape of your vehicle floor. Choose a mat that's thick and it won't get caught up in your wheels.

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Forget The Trip To The Lab
Many doctors' offices these days want lab work done on their patients, but no longer handle retrieving specimens and delivering them to the lab from their offices. Instead, they make their patients go to the lab themselves. For wheelchair users, this is totally impractical. When looking for a doctor, find one who will work with you to keep your life as uncomplicated as possible. Doctors should earn the money they get for a simple 10-minute visit!

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Automatic Sliding Door System
This nifty system will work on any sliding door. With no more than a press of a button, the door slides open, remains open for a specified period, then closes again. The door automatically retracts when an obstruction is in the way. An optional sensor is available that detects your pet standing in its path, waiting to go out. It has a self-charging battery back-up that ensures it will work during a power outage. The price is $299.95 -- and well worth it.

Click here for info or to purchase.

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Avoiding Pressure Sores
Pressure sores, a.k.a. decubitus ulcers, are common among people with decreased sensation and those in wheelchairs. Educating yourself on ways to prevent these nasty things can help cut back on their occurrences.

Sitting or lying in the same position for even short periods of time will begin to cut off the flow of blood to that area, blocking oxygen and vital nutrients from maintaining healthy tissue. After the tissue is starved of nutrients for too long a period of time, it begins to die and a pressure sore will start to form.

To minimize your chances of developing a pressure sore:
- Avoid clothing that is too tight
- Regularly shift your weight over your bony prominences (shoulders, elbows, heels, buttocks)
- Maintain a well-balanced diet
- Use the proper wheelchair cushion for you
- Never remain in wet clothes
- Check your skin regularly for red marks (A red spot is the first stage in the development of a pressure ulcer.)
- Finally, keep your skin clean!

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Listen To The Sound Of My Voice
The Katalavox is a multi-functional speech recognition program used to control electric functions in automobiles and surgical microscopes, and also to control power wheelchairs and an individual's environments. A throat microphone picks up vibrations when the user verbalizes commands. Sometimes a headset microphone is also needed. The first time someone used a voice recognition program to move her power chair was back in 1984. Imagine the technical advances made since then!

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Maintain The Look Of Your Ride
The condition a person keeps his/her chair in says a lot about the person. Your chair is one of the first things someone notices when s/he looks at you. A nasty, old, beat up pair of shoes is never pleasant, and the same goes for wheelchairs.

Keep your chair clean and fresh looking. Call your wheelchair dealer and order a small bottle of touch up paint. If you manage to bang into something and chip the paint, then just touch it up. If your wheelchair dealer doesn't carry this item, call a car dealership and ask for a color sample chart. Match your chair paint as closely as you can, and purchase one of their tiny bottles of touch-up paint. After all, "wheels is wheels"!

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Call Ahead
Before I venture out to anywhere new, I map out my game plan. Say for example I visit a new doctor. When I call to schedule an appointment, I ask if their facility is wheelchair accessible. I let them know I don't have use of my fingers and have difficulty opening heavy doors or doors with round handles. I ask if the exam room is wide enough to fit my wheelchair, and ask if I can stay in my chair, or will I need to transfer to a table?

One of my doctors has an entrance door that is entirely too heavy for me to open. When I arrive at her office for a scheduled appointment, I call on my cell phone and someone comes out to assist me. Call ahead to make your life less hectic!

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Backup Chair
As a power chair user who drives with the assistance of hand controls, I try to think of every possible scenario when I'm out by myself on the road. I decided as a safety precaution to carry a manual chair in my vehicle in case my power chair malfunctions. Also, I wanted to be prepared in case someone wanted to take me up a flight of stairs. It's much easier to transport a manual chair up a flight of stairs than a power chair.

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May I Help You?
When I begin a new relationship with an able bodied (AB) friend, whether a love interest or simply a buddy, there comes a point when s/he questions how much is doing too much for me. People are considerate enough to not want to cross the line by not letting me do anything for myself. At the same time, they hate to see me struggle.

When this subject comes up, I tell my new friend that if I need help, I'll ask for it. I really appreciate knowing that people respect me enough to think of asking about my thoughts on this subject. I thank my new pal for keeping the lines of communication open. It means she's/he's a friend worth keeping!

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Swing Away Joystick
My first power chair was much wider than my current chair. When ordering my current chair, I tried to choose one as narrow as possible so I could fit through most doorways. The sales representative from the company where I purchased my chair told me of a swing away joystick, which would make the chair about two inches narrower. When I need to fit through a tight squeeze, I push my joystick control box forward, where it stays until I retract it. The hardware to convert your joystick into a swing-away model should be available at most DME (Durable Medical Equipment) dealers.

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Take It Off
I reside in a two-bedroom condominium, where I've converted the front bedroom into an office. When I moved in, I didn't anticipate using the front bedroom, and didn't have the doorway widened. Since I don't use the door, I had a friend completely remove it from its hinges, which gives the doorway about two extra inches for clearance so I don't damage anything with the wheelchair. Believe me, before I had it removed, I invested heavily in spackling compound to fill in my indentions.

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Go Greyhound!
Wheelchair accessible bus travel is available through Greyhound Bus Lines. However, you need to call at least 48 hours prior to your departure; they'll make every effort to provide a bus with a hydraulic lift. If buses with lifts are not available, they have a device similar to an airline aisle chair, called a Scalamobile.

The passenger has the option to transfer to a regular seat or stay in his/her wheelchair. Tie down restraints are available. One attendant is permitted to accompany the disabled traveler free of charge. Service animals are also allowed. Call Greyhound's Disability Assistance Line toll free at (800) 752-4841.

Click here to access the Greyhound Web site.


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