Beach Options For People Who Use Wheelchairs

Image of a Bugaboo Stroller in Two-Wheel ModeIf you have a baby or toddler-aged child and about 800 spare (US) dollars, a Bugaboo stroller will take you across a beach with finesse (just pop those casters off and pull the buggy using only the fixed wheels). See, you don’t have to be status-crazy to own a Bug; if you live at the beach, this stroller is practicality incarnate!

If, on the other hand, you or your loved one require a larger rolling chair, and long for (accessible) time at the shore, the following options might be helpful — though you’ll (mostly) need an even larger bucket of dollars to acquire them:

Image of an ATI Beach WheelchairFor almost $1600 (USD) this Beach Wheelchair (umbrella, $60 more) will get you across those golden sands. The website claims it “[E]asily breaks down and disassembles for transport and storage”, which may be true, but it’s still huge even with the wheels removed. You’ll need another $30,000 for the van to carry it in — and a chase car if you’re taking a whole gang to the beach.

Is it just me, or is there actually some reason a PVC chair should cost this much?

Image of an ATI Beach Baby StrollerATI makes a stroller version, too ($775 USD — assembly services extra — oh, that Bug’s lookin’ good). Umbrella optional; weight capacity is 50 pounds, versus 45 pounds for the Bugaboo. (Note: The Bugaboo folds down to a genuinely totable size . . . )

Image of a Conversion Kit with Beach Wheels for a WheelchairAs an alternative, Hotshot Products offers a “Beach Econo Kit” — four wheels and two axles you attach to your existing wheelchair. They claim it “fits any existing wheelchair or stroller” which is probably not exactly accurate. My guess is that the kit will fit most manual wheelchairs, and some strollers. Best to check before you buy. At nearly $1000 USD, this “econo kit” isn’t cheap, but it’s probably less of a storage problem than a dedicated chair that doesn’t fold.

Hotshot does offer a separate conversion kit for wheelchairs for kids, at roughly the same price.

Image of a Landeez Beach WheelchairNatural Access offers the Landeez, and a switch on the Hotshot conversion kit — their kit contains street wheels. No prices on the website, though, which I find a bit off-putting. You can probably safely assume that they’re considerably higher than the competition — though this model uses quick release pins for assembly and dis-assembly without tools, a nice feature.

Image of a Trialo Beach Wheelchair on LandIf you’re going to pay the big bucks for a wheeled chair for the beach (and you’ve got storage at that spacious beach house), you might want to consider a Trialo. You not only get the all-terrain (or least ‘sand-terrain’) tires, but this chair floats. With you in it.

Image of a Trialo Beach Wheelchair FloatingBring a bigger bucket of money, though — this one’s $3500, including shipping (add a $50 surcharge if you pay with a credit card). Testimonials and photos galore on the website. Check out the rental contact page if you’re in, or plan to visit, Florida, California, Hawaii or St. Thomas.

Image of a Self-Propelled Wheelchair in Surf on a BeachI mentioned the beach stroller in a comment on Daddytypes yesterday, and Greg turned up some stainless steel beach wheelchairs himself. I’m guessing the cost is stratospheric, but you’ll have to contact the company to find out. This model pictured here is self-propelled using ratcheting arms. “[D]esigned for very strong paraplegics” as noted on the page.

Travel Wheelchairs

Accessible Hotel Rooms

Image of a Man in a Wheelchair Using an Accessible Sink in a Microtel InnSummer is travel time, and that also means it’s gambling time for people who use wheelchairs or who have other disabilities that make using a typical hotel room something of a pain. Travelers with ‘special needs’ might want to take a look at Microtel Inns. Last year, a representative of the company told me that Microtel intends to make all of its rooms ADA-compliant.

It looks as if they’ve gone a bit further than that. Their website implies that they’ve not only done the ADA thing but invoked intelligent design. Not the creationist kind — the kind of design that is intelligent. Clicking on Specialty Travel>Travelers With Disabilities>Room Types not only gets you to a list of accomodations, but floor plans and virtual tours of an accessible bathroom and a double room.

According to the website,

Microtel Inns & Suites ADA-Accessible hotel rooms incorporate features such as:

  • Two (2) peepholes on each door, one located 48″ above the floor, for our travelers who may use a wheelchair.
  • Door locks on guestroom doors that are no higher than 48″ above the floor.
  • Electronic door locks and door handles that can be operated with a closed fist.
  • Guestroom and guest bathroom doors that are a minimum of 36″ wide.
  • Closets with lowered clothes bar located at 48″ above the floor plus removable hangers.
  • Switches that are located 42″ above the finished floor.
  • Heavy-duty 8″ metal bed frames with heights not greater than 23″ from the floor.
  • Desks with a minimum of 27″ clearance space.
  • Remote equipped televisions with closed captioning for the hearing impaired.
  • Drapery wands with a ring attachment measuring 4″ in diameter mounted on the lower end of the baton.

The list of bathroom amenities is impressive, too, as are the photos. The accessible sink enjoyed by the gent above is only the beginning; the shower shown in the still photos would do any private home proud.

Both Microtel and their extended-stay partner Hawthorn also offer a “Short Stature Accessibility Kit” designed for use by Little People, including “a custom stepstool, ergonomic reach grabber, door security latch adapter, extension or ‘push-pull’ tool, and specially designed closet rod adapter”.

“Compliance alone” is not enough, according to Microtel’s website:

We are currently the only hotel chain to offer Opening Doors® training for disability etiquette to ALL staff at EVERY one of our hotels. The Opening Doors program teaches hospitality employees how to be friendly and helpful to travelers with disabilities and also teaches practical service skills covering customer relations, operational procedures, emergency and safety considerations, and an awareness of “people first” terminology.

I’m not thrilled that I can’t get any idea about rates on the website without providing my name and contact information, but Microtel is theoretically an economy/budget choice. That’s a small quibble, though, considering what’s on offer — but I would like to know what it all costs. There’s a 10% discount for travelers over 50.

And, oh, yes, the entire website’s available in Spanish — click on the link in the upper right hand corner.

Everyday Gear

Tool for Accessible Tooth-Flossing

Image of a Dental Flosser with a HandleTeeth. They’re kind of the neglected step-children of health. They need brushing; they need flossing. Brushing is less hard — flossing is, well, tricky for just about everybody. Any dentist worth talking to will tell you that flossing is what your gums and teeth need, every day, to stay as healthy as possible. You can tear off a bit of floss, wrap it around two fingers on two hands and then perform acrobatic contortions inside your mouth — or you can try using this flosser.

This neat little tool is designed to be used one-handed, and holds a short bit of floss taut between two little ‘posts’. You slip the floss between your teeth (and behind the very last upper and lower ones) and gently rub. Your dentist or hygienist can show you the exact technique, but it’s common sense: stick close to the surface of your teeth, be gentle, and don’t hurt your gums.

If you help someone else with oral hygiene, this device might make the job much simpler and nicer for everyone involved. The only tricky part? Replacing the little heads the floss is attached to, which either requires some extra dexterity or two hands.

I’ve found that the heads don’t need to be changed daily as long as the flosser is rinsed after use. If you have gum disease or other medical issues affecting your mouth, best to check with your doctor or dentist about replacement frequency, but I just replace mine when they fray or break from use — they’re surprisingly long-lasting.

Reach Access Daily Flosser: available just about anywhere you buy toothbrushes

At Home Everyday Gear

Food Storage Using One Hand

Image of a Lock & Lock Container With Two Removable TraysPlastic containers are probably the most useful food storage device in any kitchen, but if you have only one good hand to work with, opening and closing most of them can be nearly impossible. Lock & Lock makes containers that close with four locking flanges, each operated independently. It’s simple to place the heel of your hand on the top of the container, and use your fingers to open or close each flap.


Indidental Death in a Jail Cell

NOTE: The link in this story may not be work-safe, as it will take you to the website for NORML, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws.

In October, 2004, a 27-year-old man named Jonathan Magbie died in a Washington, D.C. jail while serving a ten day sentence for marijuana possession. From NORML’s site:

Magbie was sentenced to spend ten days in jail on September 20, 2004 after pleading guilty to one charge of marijuana possession. Though prosecutors had recommended probation, the judge in the case ordered Magbie to serve jail time – noting that the defendant had told pre-sentence investigators that he would continue using marijuana because it made him feel better.

At Home Everyday Gear Wheelchairs

Pull-Down Closet Rod

Image of a Closet Rod That Pulls Down for AccessibilityFew people have enough closet space, and getting to the higher reaches of any closet can be tricky for just about everyone. This hydraulic rod could essentially double the effective storage in a closet, while also making it simple to get to garments stored out of reach.

This closet rod features smooth hydraulic hinges, adjustable width for a custom fit in any closet, and a handle for easy access. The handle included in the kit measures 28″ from the rod to the end. 48″ extension handles are available for extra high hanging. The closet rod itself pulls out and down and stays there while you select or hang clothes. Once you have selected a garment, simply lift up on the bar and the hydraulic assisted hinges will lift the closet rod back into place.

Potentially wonderful for anyone who uses a wheelchair, and for anyone who uses a closet!

Available online at Organize-It

DIY Wheelchairs

DIY – A Simple Cupholder for a Wheelchair

Image of a Custom Cupholder on a Wheelchair ArmWhen my dad needed a beverage holder on his wheelchair for everyday use, I was a bit stymied. There are lots of beverage holders out there, like the excellent one made by Valco that I’ve reviewed previously, but the ones that work well tend to have a hardshell design. the Valco worked great when Dad had more control over his chair, but it isn’t a good option any longer — these days he’s way too fond of crashing into walls and other immutable objects. No hardshell can stand that kind of assault on such a regular basis.

High Tech

An Unusual Prosthetic Finger

Image of a Variety of Prothesis for Partial Finger AmputationsThese odd-seeming devices are partial finger prostheses, designed to fit over residual portions of amputated fingers. The mechanisms fit into a silicone casing to mimic natural fingers, and, according to the manufacturer, flex and extend naturally.

There’s no power source — the X-Finger is designed to move in response to activity in the residual finger:

The replaced phalanges will follow the natural bending pattern of a finger. Combined lateral and vertical flexion/extension movements can be independently and immediately restored.

Pretty impressive, what? But there’s more!

The X-Finger will allow the user to regain complete control of the articulation of the device simply by moving their residual finger. Benefits will include typing; playing a musical instrument or anything that requires the full dexterity of a hand.

Image of a Prosthetic Finger on a HandEach is custom made. Didrick Medical, purveyors of this wonderful device, will evaluate each person’s situation without charge, utilizing the charmingly low-tech technique of reviewing a faxed photocopy of the hand in question.

Read more at medGadget

Update 6/3/2007: Image with hand (without cosmetic silicone cover) added