Everyday Gear Games/Recreation High Tech Public Accessibility Travel Wheelchairs

Segway Scooter as an Assistive Device

A group called DRAFT (Disabililty Rights Advocates for Technology) distributes Segway scooters through its Segs4Vets program, matching Segways with veterans with a wide variety of disabilities. Segway scooters have a very small ‘footprint’, with a turning radius that is much smaller than that of a power chair. For most users they represent a less-fatiguing, more versatile means of ‘walking’ — as well as one that accommodates a wide variety of terrain.

Best of all, say users, a Segway, unlike a wheelchair, allows face-to-face interaction.

Sounds like a great, feel-good post doesn’t it? Maybe — but it turns out that the obstacles these vets face aren’t the ones you’d expect. Because Segways go much faster than a power chair and appear to represent a greater threat to pedestrians, many cities (liberal, people-loving San Francisco, among them) have banned them. So have other venues: Disney World and at least one Barnes and Noble store in Arizona, among them.

Disney’s argument seems to be that the scooters haven’t been certified as ADA assistive devices; it’s unclear how retailer objections will play out. A Segway disability-use permit — like the parking placards issued by every state — would seem to be a simple, logical solution to the question of identifying scooter drivers with a disability, but hey, I’m only thinking logically here. While the world sorts this out, riders might want to pack a doctor’s note and see if some courteous information exchange can get them to that latte.

Segways aren’s for everyone with a disability. Though they can be modified in various ways, their use depends on considerable motor skills, along with a dose of good judgment. (Speed is increased or decreased by leaning forward or back; forgetting this can have serious consequences.) Those who use them particularly cite the advantages of being able to travel upright for longer periods of time, and the ease of getting where power chairs just don’t like to go. There’s a certain cool factor, too. Unlike a power chair, they’re likely to inspire some admiring glances; this assistive device is coveted by people without disabilities, as well.

Segway image from Flickr

Everyday Gear Wheelchairs

Wheelchair Canopy for Sun or Rain

shade.jpgSpring rain is falling with a vengeance in many parts of the country, and soon we’ll be contending with the sun of summer. If you use a scooter or wheelchair outdoors frequently, you may be interested in these canopies sold by Diestco. There are three models: one that’s all solid fabric; one that has mesh on the sides and rear; and a third one, just like the second, but with drop-down plastic curtains. (Each available in five colors, for the fashionistas among us.)

Initial installation takes about 20 minutes, according to the website. Mounting methods for several common wheelchair styles are shown, but if your scooter or chair differs, Diestco invites you to describe your needs when you order.

Diestco also offers a variety of armrest bags that look thoughtfully designed, and cupholders for scooters, power, and manual chairs, along with many other accessories.

Everyday Gear Gifts Wheelchairs

Accessory Bags for Wheelchairs, Walkers, Scooters and More

Managing the ‘things’ of everyday life is complicated if a wheelchair, walker, crutches or the like are also part of life. Where do you put the stuff you want, or like, to have with you as you during the day? I’ve seen a lot of bags that are theoretically mobility equipment friendly; most are poor adaptations of ordinary bags and neither well designed nor well made.

These accessories, from Adaptable Designs, are different. They seem to have been made by people who really understand how they’ll be used. Here’s a sampling of what Adaptable has to offer.

sidepouch.gif The “Sidekick Wheelchair Pouch” is meant to attach just below the seat of a manual wheelchair, on the inside of a manual wheelchair armrest, or on the outside of a power chair armrest. One pocket is fleece lined for glasses; there’s an open bellows pocket for bulkier items, and a zippered pocket for smaller items or for privacy. The zipper has a ring pull for easier use.

pouch.gifAdaptable’s “Versa Crutch Pack” would make even a six-weeks’ tour with crutches much more pleasant. If you’ve ever tried to handle a purse, a cell phone or a planner while swinging through life on crutches, you’ll see the utility of this bag. According to the website, this pouch’s

roomy main zippered compartment fits wallet, checkbook, comb/brush, medicine, etc. — even an occasional sandwich.

This one’s for standard crutches, forearm crutches, some power chairs and some scooters. In a typical thoughtful Adaptive Designs touch, there’s a strap to stabilize the pouch, so it doesn’t develop a rhythm of its own while you’re moving.

armorg.gifIf a backpack is overkill, and something like the Sidekick Pouch isn’t quite big enough, the “Just Right! Organizer” might be perfect. Like the bags above, it uses hook and loop straps to attach to

the inside armrest of manual wheelchairs; the inside or outside of scooter and power chair armrest; scooter tillers; [and] bedrails.

Whew. Here’s a partial description:

Fold-over zippered flap pocket is an ideal place for keeping checkbook, wallet and other valuables. Ring-type zipper pull is particularly helpful for those with limited hand dexterity. Keep the flap out to “hide” the contents of the outer bellowed pockets. Tuck the flap inside the main compartment if open access if preferred — the zippered pocket is still easily accessible.

There’s much more! Adaptable’s website is particularly user-friendly; you’ll find lots of information about which kind of equipment works best with which accessory, and specific size information, too.


DIY – Covers and Pouches for Mobility Aids

DIY – A Simple Cupholder for a Wheelchair

Pockets for a Wheelchair

Travel Wheelchairs

Securing Wheelchairs in Vehicles

tie-down.gifIf you travel in a wheelchair, or care for someone who does, you might want to take a look at this website, run by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. You’ll find recommendations for best practices, other suggestions, and detailed information about how to use tie-down straps and locking devices.

There’s also an “Other Factors” page with specifics covering basic information that otherwise might get learned the hard way. (Securing loose items, how to deal with trays, head and neck support, etc..)

Especially useful for those who are new to wheelchair transport, this website is also an excellent refresher course for the old pro. (Or for anyone relying on the incomprehensible leaflets that come with new straps.) A glossary page demystifies some of the jargon, and there’s a useful resources page, too.

DIY Kids Wheelchairs

DIY – Halloween Costumes

The Bridge School, in Hillsborough, California has a specific mission:

The Bridge School is an internationally recognized leader in the education of children who use augmentative and alternative communication and has developed unique programs and trained highly skilled professionals in the use of state of the art assistive technology.

flying-carpet.jpgLaudable enough, but there’s something on their website of particular interest to GearAbility readers who care for children who use wheelchairs or walkers. The nifty images you see in this post are costumes cleverly adapted to those devices — just in time for Halloween.

drummer.jpgIn addition to Aladdin (upper left) and the Punk Rock Drummer (to the right), there are instructions for George of the Jungle, a Flower Garden, a Bulldozer and (many) more.

The page is full of helpful suggestions; click on the images for instructions for each costume. There’s also a .pdf handbook available (though registration is required to access the download).

The Bridge School’s Halloween Costume Page

At Home Nursing Home Travel Wheelchairs

Simple Two-Person Transfer Sling

Image of a Gimpgear Personal Transfer SlingPreviously, I’ve written about the hydraulic lift I used to transfer my dad from his wheelchair onto the seat of a car. It’s a great device, but cumbersome and requires installation in whatever vehicle is being used.

The sling in the picture above (left) is quite similar to the one my dad’s automatic lift. The difference is that the Comfort Carrier doesn’t require a mechanical arm. If you’re in situations where there are usually two people available to help with a transfer, this is a far simpler — and much less expensive — solution.


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.

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.