Tag Archives: Tiffiny Carlson

Getting an Adapted (and Inexpensive) Workout at Home

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdcsocialmedia/8230763940/sizes/n/in/photolist-dxjPn7-apnw9k-apqf1N-apnw76-apqeyQ-apqeCA-9j8bLE-dxemEK-dxjPMm-dxjPxY-dxjPCj-gi9kgc-gi9rrQ-fDENjH-abx217-8YnDJP-abxekN-abtPdV-akxhYa-4sqkV4-edPApz-edVguq-edVi3Y-edPCBe-edVfsh-edVix1-edVj9J-edVhjj-edPz6k-edVhMW-edVgas-Ygx9K-e6vN1C-5xvx29-cyugf7-b1f5LK-agQSmh-a74gr9-4QHUsQ-cvAwvh-a71oEr-chGZLf-5sNXsM-5NKm19-h55ENB-fuxqEr-dZqRqJ-9dsWAG-KX7Z3-7MGsPr-7MGtfg/Let’s face it, it’s not easy getting a workout when you have limited mobility. It’s not like you can just buy an old pair of running shoes and become a marathoner out of the blue. Ummm not that easy…

And on top of that, many of us could never afford one of those expensive adapted workout machines. Vitaglide, those beautiful universal gyms for wheelchair-users, a $2,000 handbike….they all sound great, if you’re loaded that is. This is why I’m a huge fan of getting my workout at home. There is no way I could ever afford any of these prices.

Even if could afford the equipment, I would have nowhere to put it in my tiny place. What are we supposed to do then? It’s not like a mainstream workout club offers everything we need.

So since I refused the “no option” option, I figured out some smart ways to get a workout at home without wasting a boatload of money. It wasn’t easy, but I now have a few solid go-to’s. Check them out below.

Adapted workout DVDs

One of the first things that came to mind on my quest of working out at home on the cheap was of course the stand by – workout videos. All I could picture though were Jane Fonda and Billy Blank’s Tae-Bo videos….were there any videos for people with disabilities? After a quick search online I found out in fact that yes there were, and they were amazing.

I was thrilled. There are in fact severaladapted workout videos out there for people with disabilities, and featured a variety of workout styles . And even better, many of these are available for free on YouTube. A quick “wheelchair workout video” search will uncover dozens.

There are also several more you can purchase on Amazon.com. I am in one of them in fact. It’s called Beyond Disability, an at-home yoga practice DVD showing how to do yoga in your wheelchair. This video was produced by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and was created by the yoga studio I go to (founded by paraplegic Matthew Sanford), Mind Body Solutions.

This DVD gives you an hour-long yoga workout. It’s much cheaper than going to an adapted yoga class, especially if there are non any available near you anyways. There are also several workout DVDs for people disabilities on other workouts like aerobics, cross-fit, weight lifting and Zumba.

Wii Boxing

A heck of a lot cheaper than going to boxing classes, buying a used Wii for around $50 – $75 dollars is one of the best things you can buy to get a workout at home.  Every Wii should come with the default Sports game, and this is the game you want because it includes the boxing game.

It also has bowling, baseball, tennis and a few others. When you play the boxing game, even a five minute session can make you start huffing and puffing. Who knew boxing was such a good workout?  If you really want to get a cardio workout, just play the boxing game for an hour and you’ll burn around 680 calories.

Seated Aerobics

You can also make up your own seated aerobics and do it at home. I actually do this quite often, however I would never have the guts to do it in front of anybody (lol). I just turn up my favorite music and start to jam out. My aerobics definitely tend to be more on the “dancey” side, and that’s just find too. Whenever it takes to get you to move your body. I always find myself doing a lot of arm punches.

Yoga

Even if you don’t buy the yoga DVD, you can just make up your own yoga poses at home.  Don’t go crazy and stretch your body in weird ways, but also do what feels good. Yoga is very much that. Or…you can go to a few class, learn some poses, then you can confidently begin your at-home practice.  If you aren’t sure you can do it alone, have your PCAs or a friend help you hold your poses.

Arm Biking

The one piece of adapted workout equipment that’s actually pretty affordable is everyone’s favorite – the classic arm bike, such as the Mini Pedal Exerciser Bike FitnessExercise Cycle Leg/Arm with LCD Display.

All you need to do is put this on a table, pull up to it and begin peddling.You will get a great cardio workout from this too, burning around 500 calories in an hour.

So there you have it. You don’t have to be drowning in extra money to get the workout you deserve. With a little bit of digging and smart thinking, you really can work out at home in spite of a disability. See, the workout Gods can be kind; you just got to work with them.

Are you disabled? How do you get a great workout at home?

Amazing Disability Garage Sale and Craigslist Finds

Like any true Midwest girl, I go crazy for a good garage sale. Tables lined up with treasures just waiting to be discovered, musky garages deep with God knows what, nothing makes me happier than dedicating a morning or a afternoon to garage saleing. Well almost nothing; scoring a deal on Craigslist comes in a close second.

And these cheap shopping venues become a million times better when you find something you really need – an item related to your disability. Yes, finding a deal on a product manufacturers would otherwise love to stick it to you on feels good. We all know upcharges abound on medical products.
From wheelchairs to automatic beds, you can go house-poor just getting what you need. Here are four items I’ve either bought or sold on Craigslist or at garage sales that have completely improved my life as a person with a disability.
Rolling overbed table: You know these tables well if you’ve spent any time in a hospital, rolling bedside/overbed tables are lifesavers when you’re in the hospital, but they’re also pretty great when you’re at home and have a mobility disability.  Nothing beats having everything you need on a rolling table right by your bed. 
I would be lost without mine, and I wouldn’t even have it in the first place if it wasn’t for a garage sale I went to nearly 18 years ago (a person with a significant disability died down the street from my family and their family had a garage sale). When we went, this is where we found the rolling overbed table. 
We got it for $5 and I’ve been using it every night since (I don’t think I’ve spend $5 on anything better in my whole life). 
Trapeze bar: Not as cool as the circus trapeze, a bed trapeze is one of those must-have items if you need it – it helps people sit up in bed when they can’t move their torso muscles. This is a great thing for people like myself who can still move their arms, but not their torso muscles.
A trapeze is basically the cheapest alternative you can find to purchasing an automatic bed. While it’s not as cool and definitely not as easy to use, it gets the job done. And we found this at the same neighbor’s garage sale mentioned above too. We got it for $10, and since they’re made of steel, they last forever. 
I don’t you use mine anymore since I upgraded to an automatic bed, but we still have it just in case. 
Automatic bed: Back in college I made one of my biggest used disability equipment purchase – a full-sized automatic bed. I had been wanting one for awhile, but could never afford it. I was still using a twin hospital bed my sophomore year at Augsburg College. So I finally I got smart and looked online, Craigslist of course, and found a used bed that was just in my price range and exactly what I was looking for – a full-sized automatic bed for $399. Something bigger than a twin, but not too big for my britches.
That bed served me well for almost 7 years and it was extremely comfortable. Sure, it probably came from someone who had died (let’s just hope not in it lol), but it was a huge life enhancer. Sigh…I still miss that bed. So comfy.
Hoyer lift: Now we’re talking an extremely important piece of equipment for millions of people with disabilities – the Hoyer lift. This is literally the bridge for people when getting from their bed to their wheelchairs (and vice versa). I had a Hoyer lift I no longer needed and felt I should send it back into the world and sell it on Craigslist.
So that’s exactly what I did, selling it to a middle aged couple who were taking care of an elderly parent. I was more than willing to give them a deal and pass along the good juju vibes.
So the next time you’re about to stress out because you need to buy medical equipment you just can’t afford, pause the freak out session and check out both Craigslist and garage sales to see what you can find instead. And when all else fails, remember to visit DisabledDealer.com; a not too shabby site that can sometimes lead to some pretty interesting used disability equipment finds too.
What awesome deals have you scored on disability equipment?
Products Mentioned
– Hoyer Manual Hydraulic Lift

Photo courtesy of Vivmilano

In-Bed Computing Safety: Laptop Coolers

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Having a mobility disability often times forces you to do things that aren’t quite that safe – balancing a hot coffee on your armrest, using your mouth to open a beer bottle – but sometimes you just gotta do what you got to do.  We hate asking for help as much as the next guy. And one of the biggest of these you may not even realize is unsafe is using your laptop in bed.

It may seem completely harmless, watching Netflix in bed, playing your favorite game, but your laptop needs air to breathe so it doesn’t overheat.  It has vents to keep it cool and a fan; the vents are located underneath your laptop, but when you set your laptop on your comforter, it instantly plugs up these vents, causing major heat buildup in your precious machine.  All it takes is 20 minutes and before you know it, your laptop will be burning your lap.

If you continue using your laptop in bed like this, it will be the end of your laptop before you know it. A laptop has so many components squeezed into a small case that it can’t take being swallowed up by fabric. The hard drive will overheat and seriously limit the lifespan of your laptop.

For years, whenever I used my laptop in bed I would just put a book underneath it to protect my lap. I used my old Brian Froud sketchbook from the movie, Labyrinth, and it worked great. I never thought about it again either until a few months ago when my condominium building had a sign in the lobby on the fancy coffee tables that said, “Please use laptop coolers under laptops to protect both the table and your PC.”

When I saw this sign, my ears definitely perked up. “What is this laptop cooler of which they speak? It sounds like something I need!” So I Googled “laptop coolers” and lo and behold I found out what they were – a cool plastic or aluminum “coaster” for your laptop with a built-in fan that runs off your USB port, making sure your laptop stays around 72°. Sweet!

And the best part about these, if you have decreased sensation you don’t have to worry about your lap overheating and not knowing it anymore.  They were great. The cooler makes you safe, as well as your laptop, 24/7. To get one, I looked around online but ended up purchasing one from Target (didn’t feel like paying for shipping), and I actually found a decent one – a Belkin Cooling Pad.

I also discovered another cool bonus of using a laptop cooler – it raises my laptop up a few inches from the table, making it easier to reach. Gotta love that. It keeps both my lap cool and makes it easier to type…. I think I may be in love.

Do you swear by your laptop cooler? Which brand you like?

Products Mentioned

– Belkin Laptop Cooling Pad – Black

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

Creating Wheelchair-User Costumes On the Cheap

Each year I like to talk about costumes for wheelchair-users, and I’ve found some pretty cool ones over the years.  From Amelia Earhart, with her wheelchair transformed into a plane, to being Indiana Jones with the wheelchair transformed into a Jeep, you can do some really cool stuff with a wheelchair in the picture.

The thing about a lot of these costumes however – they all cost a pretty penny to create.  Who has $100 to drop on a Halloween costume?  For a lot of people with disabilities, we just don’t have that kind of free money to throw at such extravagances.  So this year I decided to come up with some costume ideas for wheelchair-users that are both fabulous and cost nearly nothing to make.  I think a lot of people can relate to this need, even myself.

If you’re going out for Halloween this year, you still don’t know what you’re wearing and you don’t have a ton of money to spend money on a costume, here are a few awesome costume stand-by’s if you use a wheelchair.

Gypsy

What I was a kid, my mom always would always make herself a gypsy on Halloween when she didn’t have time to put into a new impressive costume.  She always had elements of that costume by default in her closet, as do most women still.  A big skirt, a puffy blouse, a vest, scarves (wrapped around your waist and your head), as much jewelry as you can possibly wear (don’t forget the wrist bangles and multiple rings), a pair of hoop earrings, a funny accent, and you’re all set.

And if you have a softball lying around and some tin foil, you can even make your own “crystal” ball and put it somewhere on your chair in front of you, as if you’re sitting at a table and about to give someone their fortune.This is a great idea for parties if you want to meet new people.

Royalty

If you’re a guy or girl, pulling off being either a king or queen is really easy without spending a dime.  All you need is a fancy dress or a regal looking suit, a velvet throw put under you so you look like you’re sitting on a throne and a cardboard crown (leftover catheter boxes work great for this) that’s painted silver or gold.

To get some velvet cheap, the fabric shop is a great place to cut a big rectangle of it. And when people ask which land do you rule?You can say the Isle of Misfits.  That’s always good for a laugh. If they don’t get the reference, just tell them you always wanted to be a dentist.

Paralyzed Kitty Cat

For a costume that will make people laugh, you can dress up as a cat and say you’re the paralyzed cat from Florida who just got fined for being out in the park without a leash. An easy laugh? Yes, and it’s also a really easy costume to make.  All you need is some black eyeliner to draw whiskers on your face, a black shirt and top and some cat ears. And if you don’t have cat ears, you can use cardboard to create them, cut them out then paint them up. Also, if you have an extra headband lying around you can tape or glue your new ears to that.

Mummy

If you like scaring people, an easy “baddie” is a good old fashioned mummy.  As a wheelchair-user, you can totally work your wheelchair into the costume by dressing it up as a sarcophagus. For your costume, all you need is some toilet paper and make sure you wear white clothing underneath, and to make your chair look like a sarcophagus, bling it out with whatever sparkly things (Michael’s has super cheap fake jewels) you have lying around and glue it on using super glue.

Alrighty, that’s all I got this year for cheap costumes on the fly.  Hopefully you realized you don’t have to spend money to come up with a cool costume.  It just takes a lot of creativity and some time to think about it. Costumes are often times waiting for us right under our noses.

Which cheap costume ideas do you love for wheelchair-users?

What I Learned from Not Being Able to Drive for Two Months

In early August, I experienced my first major joint injury since becoming paralyzed, which I’ve blogged about previously. It was my shoulder, it’s been a long healing process and to top it all off, it put the kibosh on me being able to drive my van.

Reverting back to my old 25 year old self, of not being able to drive and relying on others to take me where I needed to, was a rude wakeup call. I had completely forgotten how frustrating the lifestyle of constantly looking for a ride, a driver for my vehicle or scheduling a cab can be. I think I might have put it out of my memory because I hated it so much (memories of being entirely dependent are never a pleasant).

Luckily, my caregivers were competent enough to drive my van and help me run my errands the past couple months – groceries, the bank, therapy appointments, the mall – everything mundane that needed to be done, they helped me get there.  It was an odd feeling reverting back in function though Is this what it would feel like if could magically walk for a day, and then had to go back to using a wheelchair?

It’s so easy to forget the tough times. Who wants to remember bad things? Those two months of not being able to drive were a huge life lesson; the lesson of being grateful for what you have in whatever moment you’re currently in.  You just never know when things will take a turn for the worse.

So I also learned how to be patient, even more so than I already am. It seems every year there’s another big lesson to learn as a quadriplegic; it’s a constant personality enhancing process, folks. Let’s just hope there is really something after we die, otherwise all the lessons we learned in this life will go vamoosh once we’re gone. Sadness.

Luckily, I was able to reclaim my driving ability, but it cost $1800 to make it a reality.  We improved the already-there zero-effort steering in my van, making it at least 70% easier to steer, and thankfully that was enough of a solution. I am now utterly broke though, but I can drive. Maybe now I can drive to score some free grub somewhere?

All I know is that it’s never easy having to ask people for help when you already do in so many other areas. That was the toughest lesson in all of this. In the disability life – you never know what is gonna happen next. You just need to be patient with whatever comes at you, and deal with it with as much grace as possible.

Has an injury set you back for a spell? How did you deal with the temporary loss of independence?

Products Mentioned

– Zero-effort steering from Drive Master

Moving Ain’t Easy When You Use a Wheelchair

Two months ago I had big news arrive on my doorstep – “Tiffiny, it’s time to move.”  The place I live in is actually owned by my brother; a man who likes to invest wherever he can, and my place is currently losing money left and right.  To sum up – the taxes are too high, so, a new place must be found.

Ever since becoming a wheelchair-user however I’ve found that using a wheelchair and moving can be a stressful combination. Big time stressful. And the reason it’s so stressful – you can’t help as much as you want to.  We’re used to this every day of our lives, but when it’s coupled with moving our personal belongings, it can be really hard to deal with.

For me, the biggest thing is not being able to physically organize my things the way I’d like to.  I can observe my PCA and tell her where to put things in boxes, but I can’t with my mother. She on the other hand will not listen to me.  This is a battle we all face though, us mothers and daughters of the world.  Not being able to really get a hands-on control of the situation and having to relent, and let others be in control.

But dang is it hard when you’re moving.

There’s relenting however, and then there’s just being bulldozed, and that is sort of happening between me and my mother right now; having to just let her do her thing so to not make waves.  And that’s the thing with moving. You just have to learn to let go.  If you don’t, then the moving process will certainly drive you mad.

There are however a few things you can do to make it a bit easier when you can’t physically help the way you’d like when moving.  The first, make a list of everything you need to do so you can keep a solid control of the situation. And foldable, plastic moving containers for your clothes.  Get a bunch of those.  These are amazing for storing a ton of things in small spaces.

When packing, try to have people you get along with the best help you; anyone you know who will respect your wishes and let you be the conductor of the move; the only way to keep sane when you can’t jump in and do it all yourself.  Hiring movers is usually a great idea.  But watch out.  Some places have employees that are lacking.  I’ve also heard great things about moving pods; cheap and flexible with time.

Above all however, just remember that moving never goes as planned.  Always prepare for the worst, and you’ll be ready no matter what crazy sitcom-worthy moment occurs. As for me, wish me luck.  My move will be happening before the snow flies.

Address changes, new checks, getting cable and internet hooked up; bleh, no moving is not fun at all. Gosh I feel like an old lady, but I really hate change.

What tips do you have for moving?

Products Mentioned

– Foldable moving containers

– Moving PODS

– Moving checklist from Martha Stewart

How to Wear a Coat in a Wheelchair Without Looking Like an Inflatable Beach Ball

The art of wearing winter clothes from a wheelchair is exactly that; a talent, and it can take some time and patience to learn.  From trying your hardest to not look like Violet Beauregard from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when she blows up into a blueberry when you put on a winter coat to making sure you can still move in whichever coat you buy, it can be tricky finding a coat that works when you use a wheelchair.

I’m from Minnesota so having a solid winter coat is a must.  When I was first injured I was a teenager and Starter jackets were all the rage – those ugly puffy sports team jackets everyone seemed to have. I had one too; a Charlotte Hornet’s jacket, replete with black, purple and teal, and I would wear it all day long. Gross.

The thing about dressing for the cold however is that when you use a wheelchair, it’s not that easy to do.  Jacket’s can be too long, too puffy and plain unflattering when you’re sitting down.  They should feel like a hug and make you look great. You have to really study how you look in the mirror to figure out which type a coat looks best before purchasing. Always use a full-length mirror too.

And for some people no matter their size, it can be a tougher search. Always start by looking for coats that have been specifically made for wheelchair-users, and there are several, otherwise get ready to pay a seamstress to modify any new jacket you purchase. One of my favorite adaptive clothing companies is IZ Adaptive by Izzy Camilleri, designer of beautiful adapted coats and lots of other pretty stuff.

Izzy designs everything from chic dresses and jeggings, but her coats is where it’s really at. They’re high quality and I absolutely love her for using a wheelchair mannequin (Mannequal, purchased from artist and paraplegic Sophie Morgan) for the shots of her clothing on her site.  Maybe it’s a passion of hers because she’s from Canada, but her coats truly can’t be beat. They’re perfectly adapted, stylish, comfortable and yes, they keep you warm.

When choosing a jacket that looks best on you, if you don’t want go through an adaptive clothing site or a seamstress and you’d rather keep things simple, you can always do what I do – find mainstream versions of clothing, like at Forever 21, that contain the fashion elements you need.

This takes a lot more “leg” and Google search work, but it will save you a few bucks. Look for high back jackets, generous arm space, not too long of sleeves, and an overall flattering cut.

So remember, look for jackets that aren’t tight and puffy or hide the best parts of your body.  Nothing too long and bulky is a must for the ladies. Belts are also a great way to show off your figure while wearing a jacket sitting down, as well as cropped jackets and adapted bomber jackets.

Just remember to always layer up before putting on your winter coat.  Layering is one of the best ways for someone with a spinal cord injury to adjust their body’s temperature.  Stay warm, and happy shopping.

Check out IZ Adaptive

What winter coat have you found works best as a wc-user?

Products Recommended

– Wool Bleached Trench Coat for wheelchair-users

– Mannequal for stores everywhere

The Dreaded Bum Shoulders: Every Wheelchair-User’s Worst Nightmare

Every wheelchair-user hears the same foreboding warnings – don’t eat too much or you’ll get overweight, be careful of drinking and driving in your wheelchair (yes really) and the big one – don’t over-work your shoulders, because if you do, you’ll be totally and utterly screwed. And smarty-pants me made the big mistake of not following warning #3 last month, and let me say, dumbest mistake ever.

It happened on a bachelorette party bus.  I had to sit on the bench instead of staying in my wheelchair, and there were no side supports to speak of. And being that I have no torso balance at all, I had to hold myself up entirely using my shoulders, straining my arms behind me to hold myself upright. And I did this for about 2 hours straight, also attempting to chair dance at same time.

What happened here is a classic case of not respecting ones physical limitations.  I wanted to have fun like everybody else, I didn’t want to be a hassle and ask for extra help. Simply put, I didn’t want anybody to know I was struggling.  And that was the worst mistake of the night.  I seriously strained old of my rotating cuffs and shoulder blades.

The funny thing is I didn’t even know what happened until a few days later.  Five days after the fact while I was driving myself home from the mall, I suddenly couldn’t steer my wheel to the left or right. It was as if my arms had become more paralyzed than they already were.  I had to pull off and ask for help, and I haven’t been able to drive independently since that day.  It has been a long 1 ½ months.

Now to rehab in a sore shoulder is no easy affair.  In a perfect world, you’d stop using your shoulders completely until they got better, but that’s not quite possible when all you can use is your upper-body.  How can you heal something and still use it?  This is the tough situation every wheelchair-user finds themselves in when their shoulders finally go.  I’ve been struggling so hard to not use my shoulder – I don’t cook, drive or type using my hand, but it still has a long ways to go.

But the good news is that it is slightly better, and it only got this way because I finally got smart and readjusted my computer set-up, where I work all day, to lessen the strain on my shoulders.  I purchased a Trackball and put in front of me instead of using a mouse to the right side of my computer.  I also upgraded my headset to a Logitech.

The most important thing I did however is finally see a neuro occupational therapist starting last week; a very unique kind of therapist who specializes in muscle manipulation.  During my first visit with her she covered my entire shoulder and arm area in Kinesio tape did, the miracle tape that helps hold your muscles where they belong.  Your upper-body really does feel amazingly better after this application.

I have 15 more sessions with her, and about seven more weeks of healing to go too.  She was honest with me as well – she told me some people never get better from this injury.  My only hope is to not use my shoulders as much as possible.  We are only born with two shoulders and we don’t get new ones, so I must make this happen.

It’s so important to take care of your shoulders as a wheelchair-user.  Baby them, and learn from my mistake.

Have you injured your shoulders after years of wheelchair-use?  How did you rehab them? 

Products Recommended

– Kinesio Tape

– Kennsington Trackball Mouse

– Logitech ClearChat Headset

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.

Having Both an OCD Cleaning Streak and Quadriplegia

You’re either born with the cleaning gene or you’re not. In my case, I definitely was, and I got it from my mother.  There’s no doubt about that out.  My father is definitely not known for his peerless cleaning skills; that so much is sure.

And so as a kid, every weekend I helped my mom clean the house. I began to love the methodical nature of it.  The smells, seeing instant results from your hard work; cleaning became a very satisfying experience in my world.  I absolutely loved it.  My grandparents even used to tease me for my incessant patio sweeping.

So when my spinal cord injury occurred and I went home, it began to dawn on me how much I wouldn’t be able to do anymore, and cleaning was one of those things that seemed impossible to do from a wheelchair.  It made me so sad too. I thought I’d never be able to clean independently anymore.

This is what I thought when I first became disabled.  It came so hard though, just sitting there…looking at messes, and even worse – not being able to do anything about them. I had to do something. I had to figure out a way to still be able to clean a little.  And so after some creative thinking, I found I could still clean. Maybe not like a hired housekeeper anymore, but I did find there were a handful of things I could still do.

One of the first things I discovered I could do was surfaces. Sure, that’s the easy part of cleaning, but when you can only move your biceps and parts of your wrists, just wiping surfaces can be tricky. Try reaching the end of the counter when you’re triceps don’t work. Not easy. But after some trial and error, I discovered that with a sturdy washcloth under my hand and some homemade cleaning spray (a half and half mixture of liquid dish soap and white vinegar; love this cleaner), it was more than possible.

Pulling back on the nozzle to spray cleaner however is not easy to do.  When you don’t have any finger movement you have to get creative.  You can either open the bottle and pour some on the washcloth, or you can do what I do (because you like the “spray” effect) is to hold the cleaner in your mouth and I use your hand/fist to pull it back.  It’s certainly not pretty but it works.  You definitely have to take your ego out of it when cleaning as a quad.

Another cleaning chore I found I could still do was vacuuming. How glamorous heh. But I gotta say – figuring out this one made me giddy.  Since a vacuum was too heavy to use anymore, I bought a Dust Buster and that my friends was the ultimate vacuum-roadblock solution.  Sure, you can’t use a Dust Buster to vacuum your entire place, but being able to vacuum up “something” if I spill anything is awesome.

It can be hard to hold it firmly, but I can use it for a minute or so and get the job done.  It’s always a good idea to get a Dust Buster with a longer handle if you have dexterity problems, if you can find one that is.  I really like anything from Black & Decker.

Dusting is another cleaning activity I’ve figured out how to do. I use Swiffer Sweeper Dusters – that plastic handheld dusting device you insert dusting “cloths” into. The reason I love this little thingamajiger so much is because the handles are easy to hold for people with closed hands like me – skinny and sturdy.  You can just push the handle into your fist and it’ll stay. Every week I go around my condo dusting without any issues thanks to these.

It’s funny. Who would’ve thought cleaning would bring so much joy to quadriplegic?   It’s the little things my friends….the little things. Now, time to get your creative cleaning on.  And remember, think outside the box as much as you can.

What cleaning products and tricks have you found that work good awesomely in spite of limited mobility?

Products Recommended

– Black & Decker Dust Buster

– Swiffer Sweeper Dusters

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

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.

Online Dating: When to Disclose Your Disability

Since I became single recently, I’ve been thinking of trying online dating again.  But finding a mate online when you have a disability can be rather tricky. There’s always the big question when filling out your profile – do I or don’t I say I have a disability?

I always thought I knew the answer to this question.  Back in my early days of online dating, I always mentioned that I had a disability; usually in the first paragraph to get it out of the way.  I did this because I learned the lesson of rejection based on withholding the fact that I was disabled the hard way.  And boy did it hurt.

When I was 17, the first guy I talked to online was from somewhere in Europe, and I never told him I used a wheelchair.  When I finally told him, which was about five months into our online relationship, he was so shocked that he never talked to me again.  Needless to say I still have a bit of PTSD from this rejection.  Ever since that day, I made sure to always tell every guy I talked to that I was a wheelchair-user.

But now several years later I find I’m changing my tune.  Match.com has been good to me before, so back I go. And after watching Push Girls, the reality show on the Sundance channel profiling four fabulous woman who use wheelchairs in L.A, I found that not every girl who uses a wheelchair discloses her disability in her dating profile.

What they do is write out an ad minus the fact that they’re disabled, then when they first talk with someone they mention it then.  The reason they do this – they feel if they say they’re disabled in their profile, they may attract the wrong type of guy.  And I Gotta say, it’s a legitimate concern.

The very first guy I was intimate with who I met online was a secret fetishist of women who used wheelchairs.  He looked online for women who were disabled.  So when he found my profile, I was easy bait.  I had no idea these guys existed at that time, so when I eventually found out who he really was, it was a really tough blow.

At the end of the day though, I’m not quite sure if there’s a right or wrong answer.  It’s really up to your personal comfort level and what you’re OK with sharing online, and the risk that may entail.

Online dating is a fabulous thing.  It’s helped form millions of loving relationships.  Just don’t think you have to say everything in your profile.  Tell them soon enough, but just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you have to be a completely open book.

What do you feel is the right thing to do? Disclose or not disclose in a profile?

Navigating Crowds from a Wheelchair

There are a lot of things difficult about using a wheelchair – old inaccessible buildings, narrow bathroom stalls, doors that open the wrong way – but one of the most difficult things by far is navigating massive crowds from a wheelchair.  When you’re at butt level, people just don’t see you.

This is the main reason why navigating crowds is so hard. People won’t move when they don’t realize they’re in the way. They need to be alerted they need to move, and that brings up the other issue – getting their attention. When you have limited arm strength like me, as well as a voice that can’t project very loudly, trying to get someone’s attention in a crowd is really hard; especially if the atmosphere is loud (concerts I’m looking at you).

I’ve honed my skills of getting someone’s attention down pat. I do the reach-and-pat-their-leg move, preferably the thigh, to get them to look my way so they realize they are in the way. This generally works 90% of time. There are some people however that just can’t seem to feel might tap. Maybe they have lowered nerve sensation in their legs or maybe their pans are just really tight; whenever it is these people are the ones that give me the biggest headache.

To get the attention of these particularly stubborn people I will then try to get the attention of other people nearby who will shake that person’s shoulder so they finally realize they’re in the way. This works, even if it’s pretty annoying to have to go through these steps. By the way, I do have a horn on my wheelchair, but it’s only a tiny beeping noise, nothing long enough to hear in a booming crowd.  Speaking of, while it’s not my style, some wheelchair-users have found a solution by putting a bullhorn on their wheelchair.  But me, I’m way too shy to be that brash.

I have another solution that works even better than a bullhorn.  I put my wheelchair in elevator mode; an elevated state that brings my chair up 6 1/2 inches, making me sit at about 5’1 and much more visible to the average person who doesn’t think about watching out for wheelchairs (and sadly, most people are this way).  When I’m elevated, people notice me rolling their way at least 40% more.

And if all else fails in getting their attention, a can of silly spray may be your only option. That or bringing a bodyguard with you wherever you hit the throngs.  Sometimes though you can’t always be prepared for crowds, and you have no choice but to go through them solo. When navigating crowds deftly from a wheelchair, look for holes and routes around the thickest part, and try to get behind a moving group to give yourself a better path.  These are just a few of the tricks I’ve learned in my 20 years of using a wheelchair.

Crowds may suck, but super fun events should not be avoided because of them.  Instead, learn how to get through them, have your tricks ready and still get out there. Other then Mardi Gras and a few other crazy big events where you might get trampled, wheelchair-users should always try to venture out and make it through.  Life is an adventure, no one said it’s easy, and the risk, especially when it comes to crowds, is usually always worth it.

What are your tricks for getting through a crowd in a wheelchair?

Products mentioned

– Wheelchair horn

– Wheelchair bullhorn

– Elevator seat from Invacare

Photo courtesy of Luluw

Insomnia Essentials When You’re Literally Stuck in Bed

Over the last eight years I’ve developed a bad case of insomnia, and lately it’s worse because my arms are weaker and adjusting myself in bed is more difficult.  Definitely not fun. And when I get in bed, I’m there until someone comes in the morning to get me back out.

It all started because of a big move. I moved downtown where it’s inevitably louder on a daily basis. 30% of time there’s construction going on right outside your window, car alarms, and people yelling at one another on the sidewalk.  Quietness is definitely not an attribute to use when talking about my neighborhood.

I quickly discovered of course that getting solid interrupted sleep when you live in the city takes some getting used to, or if you’re like me, you never get used to it and find a few essential items help you fall asleep instead.  And I’m not talking about Ambien either.  While I still rarely get 8 hours of sleep, I can still get great sleep, but only if I have my must-haves.

If you’re suffering from insomnia and have a disability, check out my must-have items to help me fall asleep.

Silk eye mask

An eye mask is a huge must, but not all eye masks are created equal.  Fabric is key when choosing an eye mask. Silk eye masks are smooth and great for the skin because they won’t anger your pores.  Avoid terrycloth eye masks because they can be too itchy. Also, I sleep on my back every night because of limited mobility, and the one bonus of this position is that I can “wear” my eye mask by setting it on my face, nixing the strap  Having an eye mask strap on all night can give many people, including me, a wicked headache.

Ear plugs

Ear plugs are another must for beating insomnia. While some people like to hear white noise or even a television when trying to fall asleep, I like to hear absolutely nothing, and that means no sirens, no late night bar stranglers, nothing but perfect quietness.  My fingers are paralyzed however and the average pair of ear plugs won’t work for me. What I found on Amazon.com however was a pair of ear plugs made for swimming that have tiny quarter inch nubs on each end, making them perfect for grabbing with my thumb and forefinger; the two fingers I can still sort-of use.

Melatonin

This is a natural supplement, mimicking a chemical found in the brain that helps us feel sleepy.  About a year ago I bought a bottle of melatonin and have been taking it since.  I love how I can pop a pill that’s not a crazy drug and get sleepy. But please, be wary of how much you take each night.  3 to 5 mg is just enough. Try taking anything more and it may help you fall sleep, but you may develop some mouth sores in the process. Stick to the lower doses and see how your body responds.

Take your sleepy meds at night

Another smart thing you can do to make yourself tired is to take any medicines that you take on a daily basis that cause sleepiness right before going to bed.  This can be one of the best ways to get sleep without having to resort to stronger drugs.  I take 20 mg of Baclofen and 5 mg of Oxybutynin and I make sure I take them at night. Holy cow do these medicines help me get sleepy.

There you have it – how a quad falls asleep when battling insomnia, and I can’t forgot one more thing that helps me fall asleep: House Hunters International.  There’s something awesome about watching people move overseas into beautiful homes that makes me want to fall asleep and dream.

Do you experience insomnia?  How you fall asleep?

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