Tag Archives: Assistive Technology

My Assistive Technology Dream Come True

Whenever I see back to school commercials that talk about laptops, tablets and cell phones, I feel really old. When I was going back to school, only adults had personal computers and only the really important ones had laptops; not a single one of my friends had a cell phone. And now, just 13 years after I graduated high school, most students have one or more of these devices on hand. As a person with a disability, I’m glad I was born at a time when technology was on the rise; I have seen this technology grow and change the lives of people with disabilities. Read here how to spend time effectively.

Thanks to technology, people without the ability to speak can talk, many of the people who want to hear are now able to, and those who cannot walk have more and more options for mobility. Everyday new technology is created that can improve a life, and you have to admit that is pretty cool. I have benefited from many of the new technologies out there, they have allowed me to be more independent and more productive. However, there is a part of me that still waits, hoping that someday technology will come up with something that will allow me to walk hands free.

I have Cerebral Palsy, and like everyone with C.P., my case is unique to me. I am able walk with assistive devices such as a walker or crutches; I can also walk around my house by holding onto the furniture or walls, and I have decent balance. However, despite multiple surgeries, countless hours of physical therapy, and multiple bribes from my parents, I cannot take more than one or two steps unassisted.

This is something that I have come to accept. However, I do wish that there was something out there that would allow me to walk hands free. Having my hands free for reaching items is one benefit I get from using a chair; but when I want, or need, to walk somewhere, my hands are tied up doing other things. They have plenty of handsfree walkers meant for children to help train their muscles for walking and balance; but these walkers are typically bulky and a have ton of straps for support As an adult who just needs that tiny bit of extra support, there seemed to be nothing that could help my cause. At least until I saw this walker.

I can’t help but be a little excited. It does not seem like a perfect solution, and it still seems quite new given the limited information on the site; but the fact that it even exists gives me some hope. Hope that technology is catching up to my needs. Hope that someday, in the nearish future, I might be able to walk down the street carrying a child, holding hands with my husband, pull multiple items out of the fridge in one trip, or grab gallon of milk from the store without needing to put it in a cart first.

Is there anything on your assistive technology wish list?

Rediscovering A Blast From My Past

Because I acquired my disability shortly after birth, I have spent my life using adaptive equipment and assistive technology. Some of these items I still use today, like my crutches and my bath chair. Other items, like my leg braces and adaptive writing utensils, I no longer use at all. Every once in a while though, one of those long ago items will become useful again and I then wonder why I ever stopped using it in the first place.

Recently, I have been struggling with things that slip; like my feet on the kitchen floor, the cutting board on the counter, my ruler on my cutting matt, my butt on the chair in my sewing room. All of these things are frustrating at the very least, and have the potential to be very dangerous. I’ve tried to come up with various solutions that didn’t involve spending a small fortune on non-slip rugs and rubber coated kitchen supplies. I have put blue tape on my ruler and my cutting board. I even considered the possibility of rubber cementing the bottoms of my most used kitchen supplies to see if that would help. Then I had a flashback to my first grade classroom, where my teacher, Ms. Hart used to put prices of blue rubber sheeting under my paper so it wouldn’t slip when I wrote.

All it took was one quick post to a CP forum I am part of to discover an item called dycem; big plus side is that it is available online. Dycem is great; it is tacky on both sides and will stick to nearly everything. It can be cut to any size so I can use it on the floor under my feet, on my chair under my butt, under my cutting mat and ever under my ruler when I am cutting fabric. I can even use it under fabric when I need to trace a template. But that’s not all, dycem is not only good at preventing all manners of slippage, is also great for adding grip to items. It can be used to open jars and bottles, or strips can be added to handles, pens or even a toothbrush to supply a better grip.

Dycem has a million possible uses. And it is not just for people with disabilities. Dycem can be useful to anyone who is sick of having their stuff slide around; I can even see it being a great tool for mothers with young children. Dycem is also reusable and washable, so one small roll can last quite a long time and be used for several different applications. If you find you are regularly putting Dycem under certain items regularly, it can be permanently adhered to any surface with a little superglue. I think I might glue some to the back of a clipboard so that I can finally carry papers around the office without them sliding off my lap. What do/would you use dycem for?

The Assistive Technology it Took Me 30 Years to Purchase

Sometimes, I have to laugh when I tell people that I write for a company that sells adaptive equipment. You see, despite having a disability and despite the wide variety of items in existence that help people just like me, I don’t usually buy these items. Sure I have a wheelchair, a pair of crutches and grab bars in my shower, but beyond that, my house is pretty much void of any disability- specific items.

See, I was raised in a household where if you could do it, you should do it, even if it is hard. This prevented me from getting a wheelchair until tenth grade; even as in adult it has kept me from purchasing certain items that would make daily tasks easier. I tell myself, “you don’t need that, you can do it the way you always have.” This is silly, especially since I have purchase plenty of non-disability specific items over the years that make things easier. The decision to NOT purchase certain items was subconscious, and it wasn’t until I got my new job that I even realized I was doing it.

When my job asked me if I need anything in the office to accommodate my disability, the only thing I mentioned was needing enough space for my chair. Then, one day after starting my job, I dropped a number of things and had to keep asking my boss to pick them up. After the sixth time of interrupting him to retrieve a dropped item, I realized that a reacher might be in order.

A reacher is one of those items I have never considered before, despite the fact that I drop things rather frequently. I drop things so often; in fact, I trained my dog to pick them up. However, I don’t bring my dog to work, so I requested a reacher. It was waiting on my desk when I returned the next day and within minutes I realized how completely silly it was that I had never bought one before.

Now that I have used a reacher at work, I decided I will purchase one for my home, There are plenty of things I drop at home that my dog cannot, or will not, retrieve; such as pins, blocks for my quilts, and silverware. A reacher would mean that I don’t have to get down onto my hands and knees or wait for my husband to help.

If there are any of you, like me, who have spent years actively avoiding purchasing adaptive equipment, whether it is because you are ashamed, convinced you do just fine without it, or any other reason, I urge you to reconsider. I am all about independence and keeping the mobility you have, but I’ve realized I have been wasting a lot of time and energy for no reason. Using a reacher, or any other assistive device, is not a failure, it does not make me less independent or self-reliant. In fact, it increases my independence.

So go ahead and try that item. Whether it is a reacher, a cane, an adapted cup or any other item that might help you in your day to day tasks, it won’t hurt to see how many new doors will open with your new found level of independence.

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