Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Car Seats & Strollers...Endless AT Choices!

by Christina Mills, Deputy Director of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers

As I’ve said in earlier blogs, my husband and I did a lot of research during our pregnancy. Part of our research included trying out a variety of car seats to see which ones we could both maneuver independently.  It was never about the latest and greatest on the market for us. In fact, the popular 3-in-1 car seat and stroller system was out of the question because they are bulky, weigh too much for me and sit too high when on a stroller. Not only was I unable to see over the stroller with the car seat on it, but also the weight of it made it very challenging for me to push it. We needed something portable, compact and, of course, safe. It took us a few back and forth trips to the store to try out everything they had available, but when it was all said and done we went with the Chicco KeyFit model because it was one of the lightest available. The Keyfit system makes it super easy for my husband and I to get the car seat both in and out of the base that it sits in, in the car as well as the one on the Caddy Stroller. KeyFit refers to the easy audible click and lock feature. The button you push to unlock the car seat is large, easy to identify by its bright orange coloring, and doesn’t take a lot of hand dexterity to release. It’s these types of details that would have been helpful to hear about from other parents with disabilities.

The Caddy Stroller works great for my husband and I. It’s made out of aluminum and can be folded with one hand. It’s also very compact, but my favorite feature is the height-adjustable handle bar. I can push it at one position; my husband can push it at another and if needed it goes to an even higher position for someone average height. You’re probably wondering how I push a stroller while pushing my own wheelchair and why I don’t just carry my daughter on my lap. I’ve heard of and seen lots of parents who use wheelchairs not use strollers to carry their children. There are harnesses and straps that wheeler parents like me can use to keep their child secured on their lap, but a stroller works best for my daughter and I. 

I found a picture on Facebook of a parent who uses a wheelchair pushing a stroller. She used a bracket attachment that went from the bottom front portion of her wheelchair frame to the bottom bar that held the two rear wheels of the stroller.  Fortunately I have many relatives that are handy and I was able to get one made for me. 
Bracket connecting stroller to wheelchair.

However, it didn’t work as well as I thought it would. It’s much easier for me to push the stroller with one hand while pushing my wheelchair with the other hand. I also have to point out that it’s made shopping much easier because I can use the bottom basket of the stroller to hold everything as where a grocery store shopping cart has always been much less convenient and my little lap has never been able to hold a basket sufficiently.  Plus, if I run out of room in the basket I have two “mommy hooks” on the stroller handlebar that allows me to attach an open bag and fill it up with items too.

Throughout our pregnancy and still today I think about all the other moms with disabilities in the world and how useful it would be if we had an updated online AT resource guide and peer support network made up of parents with disabilities. Don’t get me wrong - there are a few websites floating around and they’re good, but often times I find that they provide very limited information. That’s part of the reason why I agreed to contribute to the AT Network Blog. AT for parents with disabilities is critical and I hope that my family’s experiences motivate other parents with disabilities to share their parenting journey as well.  

Here’s a funny video that my husband took of me loading my daughter from her car seat/stroller into my car:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Be Aware and Prepare for Disasters Like Earthquakes

by Rosemarie Punzalan, Training Specialist

Earthquakes can happen at home, at work, at school, or even on vacation.  It is important that you, your loved ones, your pets, your co-workers and millions of others are prepared for any kind of disaster that could take place - especially an earthquake.

Last Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 10:18 AM PST millions of people participated the 2012 Great California Shakeout's Drop, Cover, and Hold On Drill . The purpose of the drill is to practice how to protect yourself during an earthquake.  Below is a Demonstration of Drop, Cover, and Hold On video by the Los Angeles County Firefighters.

Below are some more handy resources:

Is your office/home prepared for a disaster like an earthquake? Share these resources with your loved ones, co-workers, schools, and offices and develop your own disaster preparedness plans.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Scooter That Saved My L(W)ife

By Allan M. Friedman, CFILC's Technologies Manager

A wheelchair wasn't going to cut it.  It just wasn't going to work in our house. 

My wife sustained a severe injury to her right foot last summer.  She recently had surgery to repair it.  But the healing process takes a long time and she must be off her feet for most of it.  So we needed to find a way for her to get around in our house; our circa 1979, two-story, fully carpeted house. Unless, of course, she stayed in bed the entire time.  If you knew my wife you'd know that is out of the question.

She couldn't use crutches. We tried a walker but it proved to be too difficult as well.  She's not very strong.

Kaiser, in their usual one-size-fits-all way, would only provide a standard hospital wheelchair which doesn't work in our home.  Pushing a standard wheelchair on carpets is extremely difficult and besides, our interior doors are thirty inches wide and our hallway is forty-two inches wide.  The wheelchair is also thirty inches wide. Have you ever tried making a hard right turn in a confined space like that?

Fortunately, I was able to borrow a scooter from the California Assistive Technology Reuse Coalition (CATRC).  This scooter has been our savior.  Now my wife can move around the house quite easily. It gets into every room (on the ground floor). And with a couple of homemade ramps (plywood and two x fours) she was able to get over the two inch step to our front door and the four inch step at our back door.  This scooter allowed her to continue working right up to her surgery last month.

photo: http://kidsonroll.com/MobilityScooters/
Thanks to the scooter her frustration over the limitations of her injury are over.  She is so happy to be able to do things and go places. The only negative aspect is loading it into the car.  It's heavy!  I was glad when she stopped working so I didn't have to lift the scooter in and out of the car so much.

When she got home after the surgery we faced a new dilemma.  The scooter was a great solution while she had a cast on her foot and could sit normally, but now she has to keep her foot elevated.  We thought we'd try a wheelchair again but with her leg extended it was impossible to get into the bedrooms and bathroom.  The scooter solved that problem too.  A laundry basket on its base lets her keep her leg up and still navigate the house.

It will be many months before my wife is able to stand or walk.  We both work for non-profits and don't have the resources to buy something like this new. Thanks to CATRC we have been able to use this scooter to help her through this.  And I don't have to do laundry anymore!

photo: http://www.rootandscoot.com/index.html

Do you have an AT success story that you would like to share? Please use the comment box to let us know about your AT adventures.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Disability History Week 2012

By Kirk Aranda, CFILC’s Youth Organizing! Disabled and Proud Youth Advocate

It’s that time of the year again!   

It’s time to celebrate Disability History Week! This is a very exciting time where youth from all over California go to their local schools to present lesson plans on disability history topics to teachers and students.   

In 2009, a group of YO! (Youth Organizing!) Disabled and Proud members came together and decided that they wanted to make the teaching of disability history in all schools throughout California a priority.  The Disability History Week Campaign was established as a statewide youth-driven effort to educate students and teachers with and without disabilities about the significant contributions to civil rights made by people with disabilities. This campaign was successful and, in 2010, a resolution was passed by the California State Legislature designating the second week of October officially as Disability History Week.

Now every year in October, YO! volunteers and members go into schools  to present and educate students and teachers on disability history.  Each lesson plan includes various historical facts that are not yet generally taught in school’s history curriculum. How many Californians know about Ed Roberts or the Independent Living Movement?  How many know of Justin Dart's integral role in getting the Americans with Disabilities Act passed? Many Californians aren't even aware that their own state played a large role in the disability rights movement - or about the accomplished work  of Judy Heumann, among many others. Judy helped to organize massive sit-ins at the U.S. Department of Health Education, and Welfare offices in San Francisco and around the U.S. which ultimately resulted in the signing into effect the Rehabilitation Act's Section 504 regulations. 504 states that it is illegal for federal agencies, public universities and other public institutions receiving  federal funds to discriminate on the basis of disability. This protest lasted for twenty-five days and remains the longest occupation of a federal office in U.S. History.

Disability rights activists Judy Heumann and Kitty Cone in Washington, D.C. for a series of meetings and rallies – which ultimately resulted in HEW Secretary Joseph Califano signing the Rehabilitation Act’s Section 504 regulations.
Ed Roberts - A pioneering leader and disability rights activist
There are many important facts and ideas about disabilities and disability history that are not often addressed by teachers - often because they haven't been taught disability history themselves. This topic is important to everyone because, not only is knowledge empowering, unifying and the first step in creating awareness and respect for one another, but also because people with disabilities have been marginalized, ignored, and/or hidden from society for centuries.  There have been many great achievements made by leaders with disabilities that are important for people with and without disabilities to recognize. Teaching disability history in schools is the first step towards rectifying a past filled with discrimination and prejudice. Like all social justice movements, disability history needs to be taught alongside other civil rights movements. And now, thanks to YO! members and other youth leaders, anyone can have access a variety of age-specific disability history lesson plans that include PowerPoint presentations and interactive learning games such as a disability history Jeopardy game.
Justin Dart - Activist and advocate for people with disabilities. He helped to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 

Disability History Week brings much passion and excitement to everyone involved; more and more schools throughout California and the rest of the U.S. are participating and our goal now is to keep up this momentum.  Let's work together to ensure that this important week expands to all schools so that communities everywhere know about their important civil rights history.

Were you taught about disability history at your school? Please share your experiences with either teaching or learning about Disability History Week.