May 2010

New Paragliding Wheelchair Introduced

paraglider-wheelchair1

ABLE Pilot, a chapter of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, and the University of Utah, Department of Mechanical Engineering, have joined together to develop a paragliding wheelchair that allows people with spinal cord injuries and paralysis to fly alone with minimal assistance.  The Phoenix 1 Paraglider Wheelchair is set to be unveiled on May 29th, 2010 – on the US’s Hang Gliding and Paragliding Day.

Mark Gaskill, an advanced paragliding and tandem instructor, and Vice President of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, has been doing tandem paragliding with wheelchair users.  The decision to make an accessible single user paragliding wheelchair came after having to tell too many people that the technology did not exist in order for them to fly solo after the introductory course.  Now, that is about to be changed.

Step in some mechanical engineering students from the University of Utah led by Dr. Donald Bloswick.  Joined together, they have created the first solo paragliding device to allow people to get out of the wheelchair and into the air.  Once in the air, disabled pilots are on equal footing with all other pilots.  This is an opportunity rarely seen in other adaptive sports.

ABLE Pilot is a chapter of the United States Hang gliding & Paragliding Association (USHPA), whose aims are to help people with disabilities to safely experience the freedom, joy and sense of accomplishment that paragliding offers.

Counting Blessings As They Happen

One Saturday morning as I sat by the fountain at the corner of East Innes and Depot, I praised God again for “Free at Last.” In case you don’t remember from another story, that is the name of my new handicapped conversion van.

I’ve been thanking God a lot lately for our little city of Salisbury. I love sitting in the various lovely parks watching as people come and go. This particular morning I watched as a variety of antique cars passed by, and I remembered that there was a car show going on in Spencer at the Transportation Museum. My conversion van is a 2005 and certainly not an antique, but probably about as expensive, and certainly as special to me, as these antique cars are to their owners.

One of the blessings I enjoyed this particular morning was that I finally got to go to the Farmer’s Market downtown. Previously, I couldn’t go because my Rita van days were either Monday and Tuesday or Tuesday and Friday. I believe the market is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Other folks have brought me produce out of their gardens, but I had really wanted to see this market ever since it was moved downtown.

The other blessing was getting to see a girl I used to know who has myasthenia gravis. To see her still able to help at the flower stand reminded me what myasthenia gravis took from me. But, hey, she and I are survivors!

Several times since I got my wheels, I have gone to breakfast at College Barbecue. I noticed on their rug that they have been there since 1965. This was ironic because that was part of the time my husband and I were dating and we used to enjoy curb service there.

I remembered how Joe nicknamed me “Wimpy” because I loved hamburgers. He used to kid me about being a “cheap date” because all I ever wanted was a hamburger and, of course, a Cheerwine. I believe those two items were less than a dollar back then.

After Joe died, my oldest daughter found one of the little stuffed “Wimpy” dolls and gave it to me in remembrance of her dad.

As I sat watching the fountain and listening to traffic going and coming, I wondered if citizens of Rowan County ever park and visit Salisbury’s peaceful places.
That is one blessing about being disabled, I have time (or take time) to stop and enjoy what life I have left.

It was such a perfect day and reluctantly, I decided it was time to move on. I had made plans to visit one of my disabled friends. Since we met a couple of years ago, Judy wished I could visit in her home, and finally I had transportation to do just that. Later we took our scooters to visit another friend with multiple sclerosis and we all had lunch at “Our Place” in Spencer. The little deli has kind of become a hangout place for my sister and brother, and me on Tuesdays. The food is good and the prices are reasonable.

After lunch, Judy and I decided to ride our scooters over to the Transportation Museum. Unfortunately, the car show was over. We were both amazed at how much the museum has grown since we toured it some years ago. Most of it is handicapped accessible and if you have never been there, I encourage you to visit and enjoy all the educational things that are available.

Judy returned home and I moseyed on over to see my brother, Michael. He lives in an apartment in Spencer since his stroke, and it is not handicapped accessible so I’ve never been able to visit him. We sat out in the shade and talked. He and I used to do a lot together, but with his health problems, he can no longer drive out to pick me up and take me places. And that’s just another blessing with this van; now, from time to time, I can go get him and take him places he needs, or wants, to go.

Let me tell you, folks, when I count my blessings, Michael and my sister, Mary, are at the top of the list. But right now, next to family and friends, my handicapped conversion van is my “best friend.” When I left Mike’s, it was time for me to return home. I was rather tired, but what “a day of rejoicing” it had been. That song always reminds me how good God is when we give him a little of our time!

Man Fined for Speeding on Wheelchair

fast-wheelchair

Police in Brazil fined a man for speeding down a busy highway on his motorized wheelchair.  The man replied that he ‘simply wanted to test his new invention’.

Though his actual speed was not known, it was noted that he sped past cars and trucks on the highway.  The elderly disabled man created the motorized wheelchair himself.  He has had both legs and one arm amputated.

Police fined and detained the man for breaking the law.  His charge?  Driving a vehicle of unknown type without relevant permission, as noted by the police press service.

Stopping by a New Park

I’ve often wondered how many folks have driven through Granite Quarry on Hwy. 52 and never stopped at the nice little park? Because it has been so long since I’ve driven, I can’t count the times I’ve wanted to stop there. I got the handicapped accessible van at 2:00 pm on Friday, August 21, 2009 and I was on the road running errands before 3:00 pm.

On Saturday I had an errand in Granite Quarry, and I decided it was time to visit the park. I’ve got a lot to learn about the van so it seemed it was a good place to practice opening the door, letting the ramp down, entering and exiting the van, and transferring to the driver’s seat.

The park is lovely and easy to use the scooter except one hill was a little steep going up, so I backed up and went around the lake. My memories of Granite Lake go back to my teenage years. I never got to go there a lot and since I was scared of water in those days, I mostly toasted in the sun and “flirted with the boys.” Yeah, I was guilty!

The one special time I remember there, however, was when my young husband and I came home on a visit from Indiana. We had been married about a year and only been to different lakes a few times since we met. We went to Granite Lake with some friends, and Joe dozed off to sleep in the sun. Since I tan so easily, I didn’t realize that he was lying there getting too much sun.

When he woke up, his back and legs were “cooked” and he fussed at me for letting him go to sleep. I really had thought I was doing him a favor since we had driven twelve hours the night before after working all week. He began hurting so much that we thought he would be unable to ride home. He had to lie on his stomach in the back seat and I had to drive us all the way back to Indiana. Isn’t it strange the things we remember after forty-three years?

I had been without Cheerwine (my hometown favorite soda) for most of the week, so I was delighted that there was a drink machine under the shelter. There was a child’s birthday party taking place, and they had grilled hot dogs. Once I could tell that they were finished eating, I offered to buy a hot dog. I thought that might be easier than stopping at a restaurant, plus I love picnics. They insisted I have a free one; just as I had figured the left over ones were going to be thrown in the trash anyway.

When our daughters were young, my husband loved for us to go on picnics so once again I was reminded of him, and I knew at times we had given left-over food away. It was ironic that I had on the necklace and ring that I had written a story about just before the second book, “The Event-filled Life,” was published. I sat once again toying with the wedding bell and wedding ring hanging around my neck, and thought about the story I had written, “The Jewelry.” It was one of those “pieces of fluff,” but several people have told me how much they enjoyed the sentimental value. It is times like these when it is important for me to remember how much Joe loved me and the good times we had together for twenty-seven years until we were parted due to his death.

But I knew Joe would be very proud to see me on the road again. I could just hear him telling me how to do this or not to do that with the van. After all, he taught me to drive when I was his sweet sixteen.

New Off-Road Wheelchair – The Mountain Trike

off-road-wheelchair

A new wheelchair is being developed that allows people to get off the pavement and out into the country.  This new off road wheelchair, dubbed the Mountain Trike, is being developed by two engineers from the University of Bath in England. Tim Morgan and John Wardle have set up a company to market their device, and the wheelchair will be launched this fall at the Rehacare disability exhibition in Dusseldorf.  This will be the first off-road wheelchair on the market.

The Mountain Trike comes complete with 2 large wheels and one smaller one in the back for stability and steering control along with two fail-safe wheels in the front to keep the user from toppling over.  There is a fully independent air-sprung suspension system to handle the bumpy trails.  The chair has hand levers for the user to pull in order to go forward with minimum effort.   An intuitive steering system allows the rider to pull the right or left lever to maneuver the chair in different directions.  The trike also contains mechanical assistance similar to mountain bikes that allows the user to climb steep hills, snowy grounds, and even city curbs.  The brakes allow the user to brake gradually which allows control unlike any other wheelchair.

Their hope is to potentially create a new off-road sporting event for wheelchair users including long-distance and indoor events.  One wheelchair user has tried it out in muddy conditions and was impressed.  Many feel as though the Mountain Trike will be great for non-disabled people as well. To see this wheelchair in action, watch the video below.

I Need a Sign

It didn’t take me long to realize that as a handicapped conversion van owner, I was going to need a sign. I owned my van less than a week and even though I picked my parking spaces carefully, I got blocked in three times. I had plenty of room getting out of the van, but each time I came back, someone had crossed the lines beside me. My four-wheel scooter would not make the turn up on the ramp because it has a raised edging on each side. Fortunately, I was not in an emergency situation and was able to get help backing the van out of the space.

As soon as I could, I looked in the phone book and found a shop called Graphic Signs near Rockwell. The owner was very helpful so my van, “Free at Last,” now has a sign on the ramp side. It reads, “Ramp Van, Allow 8′ Clearance.” Well, on Sunday, in spite of the sign, I got blocked in again. I had been told the rear entry vans would keep this from happening, but for other reasons I preferred the side entry wheelchair vans. It looks like I might as well get used to this happening.

The van is a 2005 black Dodge Grand Caravan and will not be so pretty with the sign on it, but hey folks, handicapped people have emergencies from time to time. I guess this is a good time to mention handicapped bathrooms. Nothing is much more frustrating than to desperately need to go to the bathroom and find the only wheelchair/scooter accessible toilet filled with children, or teenager girls primping and laughing. Over a lifetime of disability, you would be amazed what I have seen come out of handicapped toilets. My daughters are concerned that someday someone is going to hurt me because I speak up instead of “keeping my mouth shut.”

I am very much aware that all handicaps are not visible and it sometimes appears a vehicle shouldn’t even be in a handicapped parking space. Back in my younger days with myasthenia gravis, the muscle weakness could come on so quickly that my appearance could suddenly change and confuse people. That was just about the time handicapped parking spaces and bathrooms became a requirement in public places. Those of us who are disabled have to be thankful for the American Disability Act and those who helped recognize the needs. And those of you who are not disabled may someday learn the hard way.

This is also an opportunity to talk about the stores that indicate disabled folks should ask for help when needed. I used to hate doing that, but I know now that most people are happy to help when asked.When I shop at “Wally-world” on my personal scooter, I have to ask the greeter to get a cart and set it in a certain place so I can make trips back and forth with my groceries. I could get someone to push a buggy for me, but then I would feel like I had to hurry instead of browsing.

The grocery stores are willing for someone to shop with me and I do get in and out rather quickly. If you are disabled, don’t hesitate to ask for help anywhere and if you do not get the assistance you need, take a minute to fill out the suggestion forms or ask to speak to the manager. One of the reasons that there are more handicapped carts now is because several of us spoke up when there were only two available in the old store.

As usual, I’m off “chasing rabbits” and have gotten away from my discussion about needing a sign. The owner put the sign on the window in white letters and it looks very professional. Two days later I got blocked in again! Please folks, follow the instructions!

The Healing Touch

I’ve never had a desire to be a nurse, doctor, or anything else in the medical field. I’ve had a few friends through the years that said I should have been a counselor. Doctors and nurses all over the state of North Carolina have taken care of me during numerous health problems and I admire their dedication and devotion to their patients.

There are times when sick people, and even their caregivers, need to remember that God is the Great Physician of all times and, contrary to the doctors in today’s world, He still makes house calls. God helped these physicians and nurses make the necessary choices to acquire their education and helped them find their employment. Just as God had plans for these folks, He also has work plans for disabled folks like me.

Once again, on a low day spiritually, I heard my favorite preacher discuss “Living Life as a Healer.” Immediately God got my attention and I saw myself in this sermon.

Once upon a time I was a secretary but when I became physically unable to work professionally, I became a volunteer. I didn’t realize at that time, but God knew He was providing my education during those years when I was a volunteer 4-H leader. Standing up as a leader in front of a bunch of children was my public education.
When my daughters picked public speaking as their main project area, I never suspected that someday the Lord would call me to practice the business of “The Great Commission.” (Matthew 28:18-20) He removed the butterflies from my stomach and I traveled for six years talking to women about The Plan of Salvation and guided many to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior.

And then along came my college education in the School of Hard Knocks. A major multiple sclerosis attack resulted in eight years of physical pain, depression, fear and anxiety which has enabled me to emphasize with those who need healing.

This sermon seemed to be speaking directly to my heart and I remembered a pastor putting himself in a conversation with God. I listened as the preacher gave me further education in talking (or better yet, listening) to God’s instruction.

“Linda, God can use you as a healer. You can take healing wherever you go; you are a healer. Go ahead; smile and talk to strangers; initiate a conversation. Linda, you can exhibit healing in your hands and voice. You can pray for others; you can help them wipe away their tears and depression.”

By the time this sermon was over, I knew that I do have a divine appointment. I can put myself in the shoes of other troubled or handicapped people. I can encourage the discouraged by listening with my heart. Knowing that I have helped in the emotional healing of some readers, I have been encouraged to travel with my book to speak with support groups. I realize the possibility of more health problems when traveling, and I know there are some risk factors. But I refuse to live in fear. I believe that God has plans for me to get “back into the world” to share with others His power to heal.

I’m sure there are probably some scoffers who think I give myself too much credit, but it is God himself who has given me the events to write about and the opportunities to share His word. Now I just have to trust Him to make the arrangements necessary for me to travel.

Six years of being unable to get to church except occasional visits with friends had been an opportunity for me to read Christian literature, watch televangelists, and study the Bible on my own. Once when I had visited a church I liked several times, the Pastor said, “We’ve got to find a way to get you to church.” I replied, “Pastor, when it is the Lord’s will for me to be back in church, He will provide the way.” Several weeks later when I drove my van to church the first time, the Pastor looked out the door at the van, shook my hand and said, “Ms. Beck, you told me God would make a way and He truly has, hasn’t He?”

To God be the glory for my handicapped accessible conversion van and the courage to take the risk to travel telling others about Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord.

Free At Last

When my grandson turned sixteen and got his Mustang, I had hoped he could take me some places. When he was a little fellow, I took him riding on my scooter and then in 1996 when I bought my car, he went with me a lot.

Billy was born in April 1993 after my husband died in February. In 1992, I had four major multiple sclerosis attacks and was not well myself when Billy was born. I felt part of me had died with my husband, and I was alone for the first time in my life. When they first laid Billy in my arms, I wondered what I was supposed to feel. My husband had wanted a son, and I felt like he would be missing so much. It took no time at all until Billy began to fill the hole in my heart, and sometime later he was joined by his brother, Hobie. While they were little guys, they consumed my life”¦they were my life!

Now they are seventeen and fifteen and are very busy with school, church, work, etc. My health changed and nothing will ever be the same, except I’ll always love them and their little sister, Hallie Renee.

Right after Billy got his car, I just rode up the street with him. I was proud of how he backed out of my driveway. Some folks have a hard time backing straight out because it is on an angle. I think he was proud because I bragged about his driving.

On the day of the Woodleaf Tomato Festival, Billy came to take me; he was driving his sister’s car and we loaded and unloaded just fine. When he returned to bring me home, he had his own car and we had a problem. Since his car is a two-door and the trunk is small, the only way we could get the scooter in was for me to hold the seat in my lap. Since it was only a couple of miles that wasn’t so bad, except that the seat was very heavy!

Billy felt bad, but I told him not to worry about me. It has been pretty hard for me to get in and out of his parent’s suburban. My other daughter has a vehicle large enough for her and her husband to lift the scooter up and in without breaking it down. Like with some of my friends, however, I am afraid eventually this will injure their backs.

So once again the need for the handicapped accessible conversion van began to weigh heavy on my heart. I didn’t feel like I could afford it, but I decided to take a leap of faith. I prayed about it and started shopping, of all places on the internet! If you are disabled (particularly at a young age), start researching the possibility of owning one for the rest of your life. Looking on the internet taught me a lesson about the availability of these used vans. If one is unable to drive, it would still be good to own one for family and friends to take you to doctors, shopping, vacations, etc.

When the van arrived, I was more than ready to be on the road again. One of my first adventures with the van, once again, revolved around Billy. He had asked me before to attend a football game so I could watch him play drums. I had explained to him how I couldn’t stay for a whole game as I would get too cold, and I had no transportation to get there anyway. Well, I got the van in August and it was warm, so I decided to surprise him by going just once to watch the band during intermission. Billy is a tall good looking young man and it’s hard to believe this is the little guy who used to tell everyone that he was “Nana’s boy.”

But of all the different modes of transportation I have had to use since 1989, my conversion van has given me a new sense of freedom and I hope I can share that freedom with those who need my help. My friend, Elaine, said we needed a name for the wheelchair van. I told her the van named itself, “Free at Last.”

“Free at Last”
Free at last to be me, buzzing around like a busy bee.
Free at last to be me, able to drive to watch the sea.
Free at last to let others see when and where Jesus wants me to be.

Bill Passed to Allow Pregnant Women to Use Handicapped Parking in Oklahoma

handicapped-parking

Legislators in Oklahoma recently passed a bill that will allow pregnant women to get a temporary handicapped parking placard for handicapped parking spaces.

There is much debate about the bill that was brought about by a lady who was seven and a half months pregnant with twins. She complained that she had so many challenges such as trouble walking and lack of sleep that she was unable to go to the grocery store and most places anymore.

As a result, a bill was passed in Oklahoma that will allow all pregnant women the option of getting a doctor’s note and applying for a temporary handicapped parking permit.

This is causing concern for some disabled citizens that say there are already too many people parking in the handicapped parking spaces, and being pregnant is not a disability.

Right now the law only applies to Oklahoma.