Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Accessible Pools

 by Shannon Coe, Program Coordinator for the AT Network

Summer is almost over and there are only a few weeks left to take a dip into a swimming pool.  For several reasons I have not been able to go swimming this year.    

One of the reasons I cannot swim this summer is because of my experience at the City of Davis public swimming pool.  

When I arrived at the pool, I asked the life guard if they had an accessible chair lift to help me get into the pool due to my physical disability. The lifeguard looked perplexed and said she had to check the storage room. She walked back to the storage room and found the accessible pool lift covered with dirt and dust.  It was obvious that the heavy hand-cranked chair lift had not been used for months.
The chair lift was big and bulky; it took many lifeguards to move it poolside.  In the process of moving the lift at a sloped angle, the lifeguards lost control of it and it landed on muddy grass at the bottom of a hill.  To unlodge the lift from the mud, it took several more lifeguards and bystanders.  As I watched them struggle with the chair lift, I was thinking this would not be an issue if the lift had been permanently installed by the pool.   

Furthermore, taking up more time, the lifeguards then had to figure out how to operate the chair lift.  It took over thirty minutes  for me to even get into the pool.  This was the last time I went swimming there. 
For many people with disabilities, trying to find an accessible pool is a challenge.  Disability rights activists are working on enforcing public and private entities to provide accessible swimming pools with permanent chair lifts.  Organizations such as ADAPT and AAPD are working hard to get hotels to install permanent pool lifts that would enable people with disabilities to have the freedom and independence to get in and out of the pool whenever they want.  In September 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice released new a legislation requiring swimming pools, wading pools, and spas to have mechanical lifts or sloped pool entries such as a ramp into the pool. Pool owners must comply with the new regulation by Jan. 31, 2013.  Next summer, I will try swimming at the City of Davis public pool again.
Photo courtesy of: phttp://www.swimming-pool-information.com/tion

You can learn more what ADAPT and AAPD are doing to push for accessible swimming pools by visiting: 

Other resources about accessible swimming pools:

What barriers have you encountered with inaccessible swimming pools? Have you found accessible pools in your community?  Please comment below this post and let us know about your experiences with accessible pools.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Creating An Accessible Crib For Parents With Disabilities

by Christina Mills, CFILC's Deputy Director

People with disabilities, especially those of us with genetic disabilities, are not often thought about as sexual beings, let alone parents. Over a year ago I was given the most exciting news in my life…I was pregnant! As a short stature wheelchair user with a genetic disability, I had thought long and hard about becoming a parent with a disability. My partner also has a genetic disability and finding a physician who would support us in expanding our family was no easy task. It took three long tries with lots of insurance hoops to go through until we finally found an open-minded, honest, forward thinking doctor who was willing to accept me as her patient.

My husband and I played it safe and waited to get pregnant until we had secured a doctor. We were able to develop a relationship with our new Family Practitioner before we became pregnant, which really helped us understand each others' perspectives on disability and quality of life. We were able to educate our doctor on our own individual disabilities, our positive perspective on potentially having a baby with one or both of our disabilities and connected her with specialists out of the area who she could consult with (if needed) during our pregnancy journey. Our story includes much more, but this blog is about Assistive Technology and I was asked to write about the AT my husband and I use as parents with disabilities. Our daughter is also disabled, which has impacted our AT decision-making.

We spent a significant amount of time researching nursery and transport items that were both safe and lightweight. After much Internet surfing and trips to various baby stores, during the third trimester of our pregnancy we finally began making our necessary purchases and equipment modifications.

Crib frames are made much differently than they were back in the '70s when I was kid. Not only are they larger and much more attractive, they are solid. They no longer come with that handy drop-down side gate feature. Even if the drop-down feature still existed, it would not likely work for us because the drop down would not be low enough. We had to come up with an alternative way to get our baby in and out of the crib. My husband doesn’t use a wheelchair, but is also short stature and lifting our daughter over the side gate would become challenging over time.

We found an accessible crib online that included a door, but it wasn’t within our budget. We asked our friends with disabilities what they were using and most people said they had regular store-bought cribs, but that they weren’t wheelchair user friendly. It was at that point that my husband and I began thinking of ways to modify a store-bought crib to meet our needs. Neither of us is very handy, but thankfully we have family members who are. After much thought and discussion, we developed a modification plan and recruited a handyman to turn our plan into reality. 

We purchased a regular 3-in-1 store bought crib which allows us to use it for a longer period of time because it converts into a toddler and full-size bed frame. We specifically went for this model because the base of it included an additional stabilizing frame along the bottom that we could bolt the locking system to. The hardware we purchased included a set of piano hinges, some sliding locks and screws to put it all together.
Fortunately, we had a saw and power drill, which made putting it together much easier. We sawed the front gate of the crib into two equal pieces then attached each piece to the two side gates (head and foot section of the crib) using piano hinges. The critical part of attaching each sawed piece to the side gates was to make sure that it lines up in the middle where it was cut so that there was no gap and our baby can’t get her hands or feet stuck in it. Once the frame was bolted and intact, we added two locks to the front gate which allowed us to open the crib like French doors and access our daughter directly from the crib mattress without lifting her over anything.

It’s a beautiful piece of AT that has worked well for us. Several of our average size non-disabled friends and family members have said how useful the French door gate opening is for them. They’ve said that it doesn’t strain their back and makes it easier to pick our daughter up without the frame of the crib being in the way. 

I’ve included a couple of modification pictures. This is what the crib looks like at the end. If you want to see the crib I found online that has a door on it you can go to Parents with Disabilities Online.

Stay tuned for our next Parents with Disabilities AT Blog post in mid-late September 2012! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Accessible Caribbean Cruise

By Bari Schlesinger, the Assistive Technology Services Coordinator for the California Department of Rehabilitation and a motorized wheelchair user.

I hear it all the time.

“I can’t travel because I am in wheelchair.”

“I can’t go on a cruise.”

But the reality is - YOU CAN! You would be amazed at how accessible cruises and ports are.

Recently, I traveled to the Western Caribbean on the Carnival Conquest. To be honest, the Conquest was not the most accessible ship, but my cabin was suitable. It had a roll-in shower that was perfect. However, later while sitting at the pool, there wasn’t an accessible restroom in sight. There are several other cruise lines that are very accessible such as Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

During my travels, I was pleasantly surprised that in Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico, there was accessible transportation either waiting right next to where the ship docked or had the capability to be there within minutes. The vans were full-sized and modern ones with lifts in the back at both places. They don't strap your wheelchair down like they do here, but that option is available and they are very cautious while driving.

In addition, Carnival had an accessible tender so that I was able to go off the ship in Grand Cayman. While the ship docked in the other ports, in Grand Cayman they anchor farther out from shore and use smaller boats to get to land. This small boat transfer system was very accessible and easy to use and allowed me to fully experience Grand Cayman.

If you are a wheelchair user and think that traveling isn't possible, I hope to help you realize that you can! Cruise Companies have made and are making much progress in accessibility.

Have you taken a cruise or have an experience to share that involves accessible travel?  Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and/or experiences.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Accessible Bathing Without Construction

by Rachel Anderson, Program Coordinator

If you have looked into making your bathroom accessible for a wheelchair user, you already know that this can be a very costly investment.  Whether you are looking to install a walk-in tub or a roll-in shower, equipment and installation costs can be upwards of tens of thousands of dollars.  If this is the route you are going, here are some handy sites to check out before you start pricing tubs and/or contractors:  

     1.  Walk-In Tub Guide

But what if you are renting, seeking a temporary bathing solution, or simply can’t afford a new accessible bathroom?  There are plenty of portable showers on the market but many have flimsy shower curtains that end up spraying water everywhere or they don’t allow a person to roll in and out and bathe independently if they are able to. Recently I had the opportunity to witness a demonstration of a sturdier portable shower called Shower Bay.

Shower Bay is a portable shower designed to give wheelchair users a true shower experience without requiring dangerous wet-environment transfers or expensive home renovations. The design allows for quick assembly in any room of the home, and no tools are required.  The unit snaps together, and connects to a standard household faucet.  As water enters the unit through a deluxe showerhead, the user can bathe comfortably with or without assistance.  The water is then pumped out of the unit to any nearby household drain. 

The following image shows Shower Bay assembled in a household bedroom: 

The primary advantage of Shower Bay is that a user can completely roll a wheelchair in and out of the unit.  Direct and full access to the shower enclosure provides the user with peace of mind that there will be no wet-environment transfers or slip-and-fall risks.  Check out this video to see how it works.

For more information on Shower Bay, visit their website: www.showerbay.com

The current price of the Shower Bay is $4,200. They also sell a compatible shower wheelchair for $250. They can ship the product anywhere in the continental US and if the buyer is in Northern CA, they will deliver and assemble Shower Bay free of charge.

Do you think Shower Bay is a good solution for wheelchair users seeking a safer bathing solution?  Let us know what you think of Shower Bay by providing your thoughts in the comments section below.