Madeline Hoffman, 11, of Warminster, Pennsylvania, enjoys helping others and making people feel better. When her grandmother taught her to sew, she decided to use her new talent to create Buddee Bags, handbags for people who use wheelchairs and walkers. She named the bags after her great-grandmother, Buddee, who used a wheelchair and a walker to get around.
Hoffman and her team of family and friends cut out the patterns for the bags, sew them, and then deliver them to people of all ages at senior centers and schools. People use them to hold books and other everyday items they may need. They have donated dozens of the bags since last July.
Hoffman recruited volunteers to help her create Buddee Bags at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service event that was held at Girard College in Philadelphia in January. They sewed dozens of cloth Buddee Bags. About 5,000 volunteers attended the event.
She has received a Disney “Friends for Change” grant. She is using the money to help fund her handbag creating efforts.
Hoffman has also received a grant from the Start a Snowball Foundation to help her grow Buddee Bags. She plans to use the money to send patterns and fabric to schools and organizations with sewing programs so that more children can get involved.
In addition, Hoffman receives donations that help her purchase materials and supplies. She plans to continue to produce as many Buddee Bags as she can and distribute them to those in need.
Here at HDS MEDALLION, we understand the need for walker and wheelchair bags for a wide range of people. Seniors who may be new to a mobility device may struggle to adjust to the fact that their former pocketbooks just don’t work on these devices. Disabled people have had to put up with drab, unisex bags for years. There’s lots of room for people who are working to help by producing colorful, attractive bags, especially a budding, caring entrepreneur like Madeline. We salute you!Read More
Winter storms can bring heavy snow that makes it difficult to travel by car and on foot. Snow can be even more of a challenge for people who use wheelchairs to get around, but with the right equipment and some determination, disabled people can also conquer the snow.
Chains are an inexpensive way to get a wheelchair through snow. However, chains cannot be used on a wheelchair inside a building.
The Ziesel is an extreme, all-terrain wheelchair that can get through snow. Its large size allows it to get over virtually any snow bank. It cannot be used indoors, which makes it somewhat impractical, but it can be helpful for someone who needs to get around outside in extreme weather.
A person who uses a regular wheelchair can also get around in the snow. Wheelblades are an add-on that can let the two front caster wheels glide through snow that is relatively deep. The blades are secured to the wheels with a clamp lock and work on the same principle as snowshoes. They spread the weight of a wheelchair over a greater surface area, which allows the wheelchair to float and guide instead of slipping and sinking. Two channels on the base of the ski compress the snow to increase stability.
Wheelblades can be installed in minutes by raising the wheelchair on its primary drive wheels, lowering the front wheels on top, and closing the clamp on the binding. The binding can fit wheels of a variety of sizes. Wheelblades can also be used with winter tires on the main wheels to make getting through snow even easier.
Swiss inventor Patrick Mayer, who became a quadriplegic after a snowboarding accident, designed Wheelblades after he found that it was difficult to get around in his wheelchair during the winter.
A person who uses a wheelchair can even help shovel snow. Many paraplegics and quadriplegics have posted videos on YouTube of themselves shoveling snow in their wheelchairs. Some people add a shovel to the front of a power wheelchair and push the snow, while others use a manual all-terrain wheelchair, such as the Renegade, to plow snow.
Let us know if you are aware of any additional aids that help in the snow so we can tell our readers. How do you conquer the snow?Read More
Wheelchair accessibility advocates filed a lawsuit in 2011 to increase the number of taxis in the city that could accommodate passengers with wheelchairs. Manhattan federal judge George Daniels approved a settlement in April requiring taxi passengers in New York City to pay a 30-cent surcharge to fund upgrades to make more of the city’s cabs wheelchair accessible. The new surcharge goes into effect this year.
Daniels said in issuing his ruling that this was a historic step. He compared it to Jackie Robinson’s breaking the “color barrier” when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. He said that decades from now, New Yorkers will take wheelchair accessible taxis for granted.
The city expects the surcharge to generate at least $50 million in revenue annually. The money will be used to fund upgrades of at least 7,500 of the city’s yellow cabs to make them wheelchair accessible by 2020. Cab owners who are chosen will receive $15,000 to upgrade their vehicles. Currently only about 600 of the city’s 13,000 taxis can accommodate wheelchairs.
The Taxis for All Campaign was one of the plaintiffs in the case. Sid Wolinsky, a lawyer with Disability Rights Advocates and another plaintiff, said the settlement would “vault” New York from having one of the least accessible taxi fleets to having one of the most accessible.
Daniels suggested that the city ask taxi drivers to volunteer to make their cabs wheelchair accessible, rather than using a lottery system and requiring those who are chosen to make the upgrades. He also encouraged the city to regularly review the surcharge to make sure that it is not charging passengers too much.
The Greater New York Taxi Association has expressed concerns about how the money will be spent and who will be held accountable.
Having spent two days in New York City in 2013 with Auti Angel of Push Girls, we are very pleased to see this ruling. Rolling with her opened our eyes to see what obstacles are present, and lack of adapted taxis was clearly one. We hope other cities follow suit.Read More
Exercise provides a host of benefits. It can increase strength and stamina, improve flexibility, reduce pain, help with weight loss, boost mood, and ease symptoms of depression. Even if a disability limits your mobility, you can still reap the benefits of exercise by developing a program that is tailored to your individual needs and abilities.
Exercise falls into three main categories: cardiovascular, strength training, and flexibility. No matter what type of disability or physical limitations you have, you can find ways to incorporate all of them into your fitness routine.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity cardiovascular exercise (or a combination of the two), with each workout lasting at least 10 minutes. You should also participate in at least two sessions per week of moderate or high intensity strength training exercises. If your disability makes you unable to meet these guidelines, do as much as you can.
Before you begin exercising, you should discuss it with your doctor or physical therapist. Ask how much exercise you can safely do every day and every week, what types of exercise you should do, what types of activities you should avoid, and whether you should adjust the times that you take any medications. Your doctor or physical therapist may be able to recommend a program, gym, or trainer specifically for someone with your condition.
Many people are self-conscious about their disabilities, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from exercising. Instead of focusing on things you can’t do, look for fun activities that you can. Congratulate yourself on your efforts, and seek support and encouragement from family and friends.
When you begin an exercise routine, start slowly with an activity you enjoy and gradually build up your endurance. Plan a specific time for exercise, and stick to your schedule. It will take about a month for exercising to become a habit. If you are unable to keep up with your schedule, don’t get discouraged; just start again.
If a disability makes you unable to use certain muscles, focus on exercising the muscles that you can control. Your doctor or physical therapist can recommend activities and techniques that you can try at a gym or at home.
If you are exercising in a wheelchair, keep your knees at a 90-degree angle. Sit up tall and use your abs to maintain good posture. Many exercises can be done in a wheelchair. Look for basketball, track and field, volleyball, weight lifting, or aerobics programs designed for people who use wheelchairs. You can also work with weights and resistance bands or play video games that incorporate physical activity. Water aerobics classes are another popular choice for people who use wheelchairs.
Warm up and stretch before exercising, and stretch and cool down at the end of your workout. Wear comfortable clothing, and drink plenty of water. To avoid injury, pay attention to your body. If you experience pain, discomfort, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, chest pain, an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, or clammy hands, stop exercising.
Need a little inspiration? Check out the reality show Pushgirls. Tiphany Adams is a certified fitness trainer. Mia Schaikewitz is back in the pool, her first love, in addition to adaptive sports. Auti Angel conducts wheelchair dancing workshops at Abilities Expos (as does Chelsie Hill), enters dance contests, and dances in at least one movie.Read More
Tami Martin, 44, who was paralyzed from the waist down following a car accident in 1999, stunned her family, friends, and future husband, Rob Dietrich, when she walked 69 feet down the aisle at their wedding at Disney World’s Wedding Pavilion. It was the first time she had walked in public in 15 years.
Martin was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the accident, but she had reclined her seat and was left with a broken back and crushed spine. She underwent 40 hours of physical therapy every week after the accident. Doctors had told her that she would never walk again, but she was determined to prove them wrong.
Martin had to lose weight as part of her recovery process. She managed to shed 192 pounds while she was wheelchair-bound through a surgical procedure, better nutrition, and exercising, which included zumba classes, scuba diving, and dancing, as well as support from her fiancé.
Prior to the wedding, Martin had undergone three weeks of intense physical therapy, in which she had stood up and taken a few steps. None of her physical therapists was available on the day of the wedding. She decided shortly before the ceremony that she would walk all the way down the aisle. Martin tucked a walker under her wedding gown to help her as she made her way to her future husband.
Martin has even bigger goals in mind. She hopes to start a family, walk longer distances without assistance, and possibly become a motivational speaker.
Dustin Shillcox was paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident in 2010 and was told he would never walk again. He is now using a pacemaker-like device that is bringing him closer to his goal of walking.
Shillcox received an epidural stimulator implant from the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center in January 2013. A box a little smaller than an iPhone was implanted in his stomach with a wire running from the box to his spinal cord.
When the system is engaged, the box sends electrical stimulation to his spine, which enables him to move certain muscles. He can only stand while holding onto something and cannot balance well, but he is hopeful that with further medical advances and more physical therapy he will continue to make progress.
Neuroworx, where Shillcox receives physical therapy, and the University of Louisville’s Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center are affiliated with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation that supports research to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.
In June, the Food and Drug Administration approved the ReWalk system, which consists of motorized braces that are controlled by a wearable computer. The technology enables paraplegics to stand up, sit down, and walk without assistance. The system can be purchased for home use. Similar devices have been used at rehabilitation centers across the United States.Read More
New York City has agreed to improve the way that it accommodates people with disabilities in its emergency preparedness plans.
A class-action lawsuit was filed in 2011 on behalf of New York’s estimated 900,000 disabled residents after Tropical Storm Irene revealed that the city had inadequate plans to shelter, transport, and evacuate residents with disabilities. The problems were even more serious after Hurricane Sandy, which caused widespread flooding and lengthy power outages and left many residents stranded in high-rise buildings.
A judge ruled last November that the city was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because it did not have adequate plans to help disabled residents in emergency situations. He said the shortcomings were not the result of intentional discrimination, but rather “benign neglect.” He directed the parties involved to work together to come up with solutions.
The mayor’s office, lawyers, and representatives of first responders were able to reach a settlement with the two firms representing the plaintiffs. City officials hope the changes will make New York a leader in emergency preparedness and provide people with disabilities with access to essential services during emergencies.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement, which requires the judge’s approval, within three years New York will make at least 60 shelters accessible and able to shelter approximately 120,000 residents with disabilities. The city intended to make eight to 14 of the shelters accessible by mid-October and able to accommodate 10,000 to 17,000 people. That is more space than was required after either Irene or Sandy.
The city agreed to conduct rapid canvassing operations following disasters that significantly affect more than 5,000 households in 48 hours. City personnel and volunteers will conduct door-to-door surveys to identify critical needs, such as food, water, power, medical care, and evacuation.
The city will also create a task force that will include Fire Department representatives to address how to evacuate disabled residents from high-rise buildings if elevators cannot function due to power outages.
At the 2013 Abilities Expo in Los Angeles, we were privileged to speak with the head of disaster planning for the disabled in Los Angeles. That city had already designated one of the halls of the convention center as reserved for disabled evacuees. He also described the issues they were still wrestling with in their evacuation planning. So it appears that large cities have unique issues relative to disaster plans for the disabled. HDS MEDALLION salutes these efforts.Read More