After years of experience I can still never say that I have arrived and know everything about disability or how to cope with or combat it.
One thing I have learnt is that disabilities vary vastly from person to person, even if diagnosed with the same disease, disability or condition (we won't pursue the other synonyms in this article. That is an article on its own.)
I was once told by a very wise doctor that the reason for my sudden and unexplained falling was that I was tripping over my own pride. You see pride was getting in the way of me using the numerous aids at my disposal in order to avoid these sudden mishaps. Once I overcame my pride and removed the perceived stigmas attached to these devices, I fell less often, until eventually I parked my stubborn backside in a wheelchair. Hey Presto - no more falling.
Some tips to help cope with disability:
- Ascertain the problem e.g. (can't open jars or bottles etc)
- Seek the solution on the net on sites for disabled and disabled aids and equipment or get someone to open the problem container for you, then decant the contents into manageable containers.
- Use an 8mm dowel stick approximately 1 meter or shorter in length with rubber cap on both ends (use thick rubber bands wrapped around and glued if necessary). Useful to get to light switches, TV buttons, front door bells, set alarms, stretch for papers on desks, pushing or pulling tool, back-scratcher. (NO it's too thick to serve as an ear bud for itchy ears). Anyway I was told never to put anything smaller than my elbow into my ears.
- Eating utensils too thin in the handle. Use short lengths of 12mm new garden hose to slip over the handle. Makes handle easier to hold. And can be removed for washing of both, utensil and hose. To avoid contamination soak handle in mild bleach solution.
- Bend the front of a fork or spoon to the left or right at 45 degrees, pending if left or right handed, makes for easier self feeding.
- Use a bowl instead of a plate. You won't have to "chase" your food around your plate so much.
- Can't pick up cups and glasses. Use clear PVC tubing of desired diameter (similar to medical tubing used in drips etc) also used by canoeists. Available at most hardware stores. Cut to desired length (longer than conventional straws) can be easily cleaned by washing and soaking in mild bleach and water solution. Can be carried in wheelchair bag.
- Wheelchair bag hanging on back of chair to carry equipment. I use a cloth bag from one of the supermarket chains. (wee bottle, eating utensils, drinking tube, change of undies, nappies if required, etc Each item in its own Ziploc bag to avoid contamination)
- A bag can also be hung under the seat behind the legs to hold things like cell phones, spectacles, tablets, medicine etc. if you can lean forward, or fit it somewhere else more suited to your requirements.
- Weights for exercising can be tins of food instead of barbells, socks filled with sand or beans to desired weight, bungee cord attached to chair or wall or door frame for neck, arm and leg exercises. I use one that was a luggage strap for my car.
- Extend your door handles with flat wood of appropriate width a length glued on with epoxy glue. The longer the handle the more leverage and less strength required. Also attach a loop of cord around handles for easier opening towards you as you reverse your chair. Vary the length to suit your needs. Cord loops are also handy for fridges, cupboards, drawers etc. Same can be done with window handles. Push with stick pull with loop. With a lot of useful aids the aesthetics go by the board unfortunately but I'd rather struggle less than have it pretty and useless.
- Fit a thin cord or string or even fishing line through the hole at the end of difficult zips. Loop to desired length. Tuck into the top of pants when the zip is closed.
- Thread elastic of correct thickness and color to shoes instead of shoe laces
- Men, make a small hole at back of the shoe and thread loop of strong thin cord through the hole. Tuck the thread into shoe once on. Sorry ladies nowhere to hide the thread for you. It shouldn't irritate you if you use a wheelchair.
- Raise a comfy chair by standing it on ash or cement blocks. It's easier to slide off the chair than get up from the lower position.
- Don't use a kettle to heat water for tea or coffee boil required amount in microwave. Quicker and lighter.
- When sitting in a wheelchair at a table. Try sitting at a corner with the table leg between your footrests and legs, and the point of the corner towards your stomach. You can get closer to your plate, cup or glass.
- Wrap and glue stiff paper around a favorite pen or pencil with surplus piece extending off the pen in a glued together flap. Now pinch flap between thumb and index finger and teach yourself to write all over again.
- Wear your glasses (spectacles) around your neck on a cord loop. Attach to glasses using rubber bands. Will be with you when you need them. Hands free.
- Attach a PVC pipe 50mm diameter or smaller, of desired length to the side of your chair once you've closed the bottom, (can use any strong plastic bag or packet and glue or elastic bands to do that). Use as a "quiver" for scratching pointing stick and other required long tools. Fix to chair with adjustable hose clamps.
- Attach a mobile alarm panic button to your chair or wear one around your neck, so that help can be summoned in case of emergency.
- Join disabled (or any other synonym) groups and ask questions. There are amazing people in the disabled fraternity with brilliant cheap workable ideas. Seek and you shall find. Don't, and you will forever struggle.