Category Archives: Accessible Fashion

Quad OCD-ness: Pant Seams and Hot Water

waterAh the life of a quadriplegic. Thanks to modern medicine, quadriplegics can now survive and almost reach the full life expectancy of an able-bodied individual, but just because we can survive doesn’t mean our bodies and brains happily go along with the whole paralysis package.

I firmly believe the human brain forever struggles with the massive disconnect of the brain to the body when you have a spinal cord injury. It never truly becomes 100% used to it, or adapted. I wish it would, but I’d been at this for over 20 years now and I can tell you my brain and body still don’t like it. Case in point – my bizarre OCD nature.

I don’t care if it’s a crumb on the floor or a crooked towel on the towel rack, if “small” things like that are happening in my home, as silly as it sounds it’s really bothers me. I just seem go can’t get over it, and I know this is a direct side effects of my spinal cord injury.

Since quads can’t control a lot physically and it can drive one bad, trying to recompense what we can no longer control with things we can, even if what we want is completely ridiculous, can feel great. For example, one of the biggest things many quadriplegics like to do is to double and triple check that the seams on their pants, or whenever they’re wearing for the day, are 100% straight.

I’m not sure why so many quadriplegics hate crooked seams, all I know is why I personally don’t like them – since I’m looking down at my lap all day, I see them a lot, and just looking at the crookedness can make me crabby since I can’t fix them. When I have them straightened, I feel this sense of relief.

There’s a lot of things in life I can’t control, but if I can control something like this, boy I feel better every time it is done. And I know is that I drive my caregivers crazy some days with my clothing placement, but (fortunately for them) they can’t understand what it’s like to be me, ie, live in and day out with extreme paralysis. If they did however, maybe they would learn to understand me better.

Another weird OCD tick of many quadriplegics is hot water – in that we absolutely must drink hot water whenever we drink water. Anything cold or even luke-warm can send ridiculous chills throughout our entire body; that’s how much we only like it. It can feel so soothing and make drinking water a lot easier to do, which is something we must do daily because of our bladder situations.

A new PCA gave me the inspiration for this blog post actually. I am her latest client, and the fourth quadriplegic she’s currently working with. She calls all of the people she works for “my quads” and last night while heating up my water, she mentioned, “All my quads do that too (drink called water),” and then proceeded to asked me why.

While I can’t speak for every quadriplegic on this planet, I know most of us who are quadriplegics love hot water because cold water makes us cold. And if it’s one thing we hate the most, it’s being cold. There is nothing sadder in the world than a shivering quadriplegic. I just find it fascinating how so many quadriplegics report the same OCD ticks. A study definitely needs to be done to investigate this further.

I’m ok living with my OCD ticks mind you as long as I’m paralyzed, I just hope more young people avoid such a fate.

Have you developed any weird OCD ticks due to your disability?

A Wheelchair-User’s Obsession: Shoes, Glorious Shoes

36431_442860467867_3795794_nI have a friend who’s a comedian who thought it’d be funny if he asked me one day why wheelchair-users wear shoes. He thought he was clever with that one, “Well, we don’t walk so what’s the need,” he joshed, but I have to admit I’ve found his joke dumb.

Shoes are much more function, they’re about the fashion; making a statement wherever we go, telling the world a little bit about who we are wherever we roll to.  And anyways, we may not be walking, but we need to protect our feet too. I mean come on, how often have you accidentally ran into something as a wheelchair-user? Your feet would get pretty busted up without shoes.

And over the years I’ve fallen in love with shoes. Accessories are such a great way to add a little panache to your look as a wheelchair-user, and shoes are my all-time favorite accessory. But not every pair of shoes will work if you use a wheelchair.  Heels can be worn don’t get me wrong, but the style of heel matters big time.

If you’re a wheelchair user and are wanting to look for new shoe options, here are my all-time favorite shoes styles.

Button-Down Boots

When I was 21 years old, I decided I finally wanted to try to wear boots as a wheelchair-user, but I bought the wrong kind. I bought a pair without any buttons or a side-zipper, making them nearly impossible to put on.  Those boots were returned mighty quick, and I returned home with a pair that had a zipper. With the zipper, you can fold down the length of the boot to make it easier to slide your foot in.  When you have paralyzed feet, this is a must.

Mary Jane Heels

While I love all styles of high heels, I have to be practical about the kind that I attempt to wear.  Many styles of heels will simply fall off my feet the second I lift my foot up from the foot plate, leaving me without a shoe on and looking rather ridiculous. To avoid this, I now only where Mary Jane high heels; the style of shoe that has a strap that goes over the foot. These heels can be hard to find, so I tend to go online to find them.

Pumas

While all styles of athletic shoes work ok as a wheelchair-user, I found Puma athletic shoes are some of the best. Their fashionable, comfortable on the feet and go well with a lot of different looks.They also have several pairs that come with Velcro straps, making them easy to put on and take off.

Moccasin Booties

Booties, an ankle-length version of a boot, are a great style of shoe to wear as a wheelchair-user, however my all time favorite booties are moccasins, beautiful leather shoes that are soft and easy to put on. You can go the expensive route and get a pair from Minnetonka moccasins, otherwise you can buy moccasin booties at most department stores.

For a lot of wheelchair-users shoes just aren’t a fun thing, but with a little bit of thinking and experimenting with different shoe styles, chances are you can wear more styles than you thought.  I can tell you one thing, I never in a million years thought I could a rock a pair of heels sitting down, but boy was I wrong. It’s one of the most empowering feeling I’ve had sitting down.

What kind of shoes do you prefer as a wheelchair-user?

Products mentioned

Minnetonka Moccasin Classic Fringe Ankle Boot

– Puma Athletic Shoes

No More Untied Shoes!

I love shoes. This is a little ironic because my CP severely limits the types of shoes that I can wear. I am envious of women that can wear hooker boots, sexy heels and strappy summer sandals. I will never be able to wear those types of shoes. In college I wore only sneakers; for some reason I was convinced that was the only type of shoe I could put on independently and have it stay on my feet.

Unfortunately, sneakers came with their own set of problems, mainly the laces. I did everything I could to avoid tying my shoes, including just leaving them untied which annoyed my college roommate to no end. If I had a quarter for every time that girl tied my shoes, I’d have enough money to buy my very own shoelace tying robot; which I need now that she doesn’t live close enough to tie my shoes anymore.

Shortly after college, angels descended from heaven and delivered unto the world cute, velcro- sneakers for grown-ups. I thought my life had been made, but then I found there were cute mary janes, flats with elastic sides and boots without laces. I no longer needed to struggle with laces, or ask my husband for help. My sneakers soon found themselves pushed into the deep recesses of my closet, shoved under the bed and forgotten, for the most part.

Except, this bounty of laceless shoes isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. They may be cute and easy to put on, but when I am walking for more than a few minutes at the mall, the grocery store or with my dog, they offer absolutely no support for my feet. This was fine when I was young and spry, but now, I often find myself uttering “oh my aching feet” like the grandma on an 80’s sitcom.

I tried to go back to sneakers for those longer walks, only to find that tying my shoes is even harder than it used to be. Seems that old phrase ‘use it or lose it’ definitely applies to my shoe tying ability. So, as I often do in times of trouble, I turned to the internet and discovered that many of my fellow Ceeps (that’s a person with CP, for all you non-Ceeps) were using something called Lock Laces to solve this dilemma. I decided to give it a try.

These laces are awesome and  relatively easy to put in your shoes. It took me a little more time than some; if you have trouble with fine motor skills you might have to employ your shoe tying robot for assistance, but once you get them in your shoes, that’s it! You will never need help tying your shoes again, and you can retrain your robot for another impossible task, like folding a fitted sheet.

Best New Year’s Resolution Ever: Buy More Clothes

tribal-leggingsWith 2014 commencing I decided to try a different kind of New Year’s resolution this year – buy more clothes. Yeah I know what you’re probably thinking, “Aren’t you that fashionista in a wheelchair?” I am, well I was rather until I let a little thing called a man into my life.

My ex was a strange egg. He didn’t like me putting effort into looking good. Whenever I tried he’d actually get upset with me. So, after a year into our relationship, I decided to see things from his perspective, “Maybe he’s right?” I thought, and thus began the great unfleecing of my fashion-obsessed persona.

You may be thinking, “Girrrl…you’re crazy for even considering this,” but you know how we women get around guys we love. We think they’re brilliant and have deep insight. We take their advice. The last thing I ever wanted was to become too into materialistic things. His heeding made me paranoid. Maybe I have become too vain?

Unfleecing my fashion-obsessed self began with putting a stop on buying any new clothes. I also went through my closet and removed a ton of stuff; clothes I hadn’t worn in years. I even (regrettably) threw out redundant items and items I was on the fence on. Before I knew it, I had a simplified “not trying too hard” wardrobe that seemed to be perfect, only it wasn’t.

I was with this anti-fashion man for 3 years. New trends arrived, and I had no idea how to wear them, but when I was with him I didn’t care. I stuck to my leggings, cotton skirts, boots, t-shirts and cardigans. It sounds cute, but this was all I wore. All the heels in my closet had collected dust, all my cute “sexy tops
were long gone, the notion of dressing sexy was a forgotten memory.

But suddenly 5 months ago I found myself single, and slowly after my tears dried, the anti-fashion haze also began to lift and holy cow was that not a happy moment – the moment I realized I had been brainwashed. It’s ok however. I’m not the first woman to fall prey to falling in love with the wrong man.

I’ve decided to look back at this bizarre dating experience as a huge life lesson, and even better, I can now use it as an excuse to completely replenish my wardrobe in 2014. But but but, I have not become rich. I have not been given a $5,000 gift card from What Not to Wear. Buying a ton of new clothes isn’t in my budget, buying cheap clothes online is.

My replenish-my-wardrobe savior has come in the form of SammyDress.com, a website my younger, shopping-obsessed PCA told me about, and holy cow you guys I’m in love. The clothes on here are cuter and cheaper than anything you’d get at Forever 21; it’s a miracle site for anyone on a strict shopping budget.

I got my first order last week and purchased 6 items for $66 dollars – funky tribal leggings, a polka dot silk blouse, a military silk blouse with shoulder pads, a hoodie dress, 3 pairs of earrings and one of those adorbs collar necklace that’s all the rage right now. It’s times like these I’m so glad I got the Mitroffanoff surgery to my belly button, allowing me to ditch indwelling catheters and drainage bags and opening me up to the world of leggings, jeggings, skirts, boots and dresses.

Replenishing my wardrobe however will definitely take some time. Getting all of the key items has never been my forte. I’m always easily distracted like a magpie, but at least I’ve made a great first step at cobbling back together some kind of respectable wardrobe.

Who knows where I’ll be a year from now? I know this for sure – I’ll be in a much better place fashion-wise, and definitely not the opposite.

What kind of fun New Year’s resolutions have you made?

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My Favorite Product Discoveries of 2013

newyearseveclock-main_fullI can’t believe it’s already the end of 2013. It feels just like yesterday I was ringing in the New Year, and now I’m about to do it again. Strangely, 2013 ended up being a year of big transitions.

A relationship I was in for 3 years ended, my sister got married (and also become pregnant a few months later), I found out I’m moving, I started liking mushrooms (crazy!) and job-wise, I started three new writing jobs, and blogging for the Unlimiters is one of them.  It’s been a crazy year, and it’s awesome sharing all the products I could never live without with the disability community.

So I thought, Why not create a list commemorating the most favorite products I profiled my first year of blogging for the Unlimiters? I’m always talking about the latest product I love on here anyways, now you can get a “Best of” overview; and that’s the best kind.

My4Hands

Given to me as a gift from inventor Dale Lehn, My4Hands is the ultimate tool for anyone with a small kitchen, is lacking counter space or if your lap simply isn’t flat enough. This sturdy hard plastic piece sits on your lap and can be used as a cold/ heat protectant too. What I love doing is using My4Hands for the prep and the setting of hot pans. And the best part, MyHands only costs $20.

Check it out: My4Hands

Camelbak Water Bottle

Coming from someone who has used the same drinking cup for years, the Camelbak water bottle is one of the smartest water bottle designs ever. I had a bum shoulder this year and needed an easier way to drink in bed without overreaching. In comes this sweet water bottle. It has a unique top that makes it impossible for the water to come back up through the straw. All you do is flip out the straw and suck.  You don’t have to lift the water bottle up at all to drink, making it a great option for anyone with limited arm mobility.

Check it out: Camelbak Eddy Water Bottle

Gorilla Tape

Move over duct tape. Made with Gorilla Glue, Gorilla Tape is a must for temporarily fixing mobility equipment. This tape can literally hold anything together, even the body of a car onto the frame. Personally, I use it for all kinds of things – holding down sticky mat to create cushioning on the sharp parts of my shower chair and even putting it under the ramp for my patio so it doesn’t slide on my new wood floors. I use this stuff all the time; no joke.

Check it out: Gorilla Tape

Ugg Boots

I’ve always known about Uggs, gorgeous oversized boots made out of soft leather and wool, but I never tried them until a couple of months ago. Reason being – I thought they would be too hard to put on with paralyzed feet (my toes always like to curl whenever I put on a boot that doesn’t have any buttons on the side; my PCAs can’t reach into fix them).

But finally Uggs has created a style with buttons on the side, making it finally easy to put on. Since buying these boots, my feet have never been more warm or relaxed after a day of being in my wheelchair. They feel so good I can almost feel them on my feet.

Check them out: Ugg Bailey Button Triplet Boots

BB Cream

For a girl who likes to look her best before leaving the house but has limited arm strength, BB cream (standing for “beauty balm”) has rocked my world. This stuff is your daily lotion, sunscreen and foundation in one, and several brands are making their own version of it. It’s really great for your 30’s on up…my age range; giving you coverage but not over done.

This stuff really works and the best part – it has eliminated several steps from my beauty routine, preserving my arm strength for more important things. I’ve tried a few different brands, but my favorite by far is L’Oreal’s BB Cream. It has illumination in it; great to hide fine lines.

Check it out: L’Oreal Magic Skin BB Cream

Reverse Osmosis Water

I’m supposed to drink water all of the time because of my neurogenic bladder, and I usually just drink tap water. I live in Minneapolis and the water here isn’t that bad. However after suffering from unexplained bladder issues over the last year, I decided to change the type of water I drank and started buying reverse osmosis water by the gallon from the grocery store.  Reverse osmosis water is the most filtered water you can buy, as all toxins are removed in the reverse filtering process.

I buy five gallons of reverse osmosis water for $2.00 by bringing in my old plastic containers, which I now do each week with my PCA. And the water? Yes it’s definitely improved my bladder function.

Learn more: Reverse osmosis water

F.Lux Monitor Light Adjuster

I work on the computer all day long and the older I get, the less my eyes like this routine. As a solution, one of my friends recommended free software called f.lux to help my eyes feel better. This awesome software detects the light in the room and adjusts the light of your monitor accordingly, making sure it’s always the right level and not too bright on your eyes. I think my favorite part is when the software adjusts the lighting at night to a warm orangey glow. So cool.

Check it out: f.lux software

Re-Discovered Product: Touch Lamps

I also rediscovered something I forgot that really makes my life easier – touch lamps.  I used to have one in the nineties and loved it. I ended up purchasing another one for $10 from Wal-Mart in a pinch this year when my bedside table lamp broke, and I was delighted all over again by how awesome it is to be able to touch a lamp anywhere and make it turn on. Just be careful when changing the light bulbs . The wrong bulb can break the “touch” ability of the lamp.

Check it out: Mainstays Touch Control Mini Dome Lamp

Yup, 2013 was a great year for product discoveries. Can’t wait for 2014.

What products did you discover in 2013 that blew you away?

Photo courtesy of The Romantic Vineyard

My Picks for Easy, Accessible Fashion

When I think about the people who design our clothing, I can’t help but picture some maniacal super villain, plotting my demise with zippers and buttons. He or she sits hunched over a sketchbook coming up with ways to make a pair of pants as complicated as possible. Then, they slap an arbitrary size label on those suckers and wait for me to try them on. It isn’t perverts with hidden cameras in the dressing room, but fashion designers. They watch with a sick sense of glee as I struggle and sweat while my self-esteem goes out the window.

There’s a long list of clothing that makes life harder, not just for people with disabilities, but for women in general. Fortunately, it isn’t all invisible zippers and tiny hooks. There are some articles of clothing that actually make life easier, and when I find one, I snap up as many as possible.

1.   Over the head dresses. These are those cute little dresses that don’t have any zippers or other complicated do-dads. You just throw them over your head and you’re good to go. If you want to get fancy, you can add a those wide belts or a cardigan.

2.   Leggings. Okay, we all know by now that leggings are not real pants, but I sure wish they were. These things are just so easy to wear. They are easy to put on and take off. Plus, they can be worn year round; in spring or summer with dresses and sandals; and in fall or winter with sweaters and boots.

3.   Sketchers© brand shoes. The designers of Sketchers© are the super heroes of the fashion world in my mind. I have never met a Sketcher© I didn’t love. They make everything from sneakers to dress shoes. Their shoes are amazing. They utilize Velcro, and even their dress shoes are durable enough to last for years (even if you drag your feet like I do). I even wore Sketchers© on my wedding day.

4.   Circle skirts. Circle skirts are similar to over the head dresses. There are no zippers or buttons, they just pull right up. These skirts look awesome on everyone because they flow nicely and are not fitted. They look great when you are sitting, making them perfect for those of us that use wheelchairs. As a bonus, they are super easy to make yourself if you like to sew.

5.   Cross body purses. Cross body purses are awesome. They have a long strap so you can wear it across your chest and it won’t fall off your shoulder. When I am in my chair, I like to wear it around my waist which keeps it secure without inhibiting my arms. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of designers that make cute cross body purses. Vera Bradley© is a designer who carries a lot of cross body purses in tons of colors and designs.

At UNlimiters, we’re always looking for products that help us live more independent and easier lives. Have you found a product that has improved your life? Let us know in the Shout section of our store and we’ll try to add it to our selection.

 

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