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:


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