January 2011

New York City Sued for Lack of Wheelchair Accessible Taxis

NYC cab

Disability Rights Advocates, a non-profit law firm, have filed a federal class action lawsuit stating that there is a lack of wheelchair accessible taxicabs in New York City, which violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuit was placed against the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC). The disability rights group was not pleased with their failure to require that taxis be accessible to people with disabilities and also state that their actions are violating multiple civil rights laws. Citing the fact that out of 13,000 taxicabs in New York City, only 231 of those cabs are accessible to people with disabilities, the Disability Rights Advocates assert that the TLC ignores the needs of the disabled.

TLC believes they consider wheelchair accessibility a priority, however the lawsuits base lacks support. “We have made tremendous strides over the years in improving transportation options for persons with disabilities, which we continue to prioritize. At the same time, no federal or local law requires that taxicabs be accessible to people with wheelchairs, and in fact, the ADA specifically exempts taxicabs from the requirement,” says the spokesman for TLC Allan J. Fromberg.

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Chris Noel served as co-chair of the Taxis For All Campaign and states the use of taxis is an essential aspect of what he does. “Before I became disabled I was able to use taxis all the time; now I can’t even get one to stop for me. In marketing, you need to be on time no matter what – you need to be early, so cabs are the best way to get around. I still pay taxes, but now can’t get a taxi.”

The attorney for the advocates, Kara Werner, says the commission is mistaken, “The ADA exemption applies only to private entities, not government entities like the TLC. The TLC regulates the vehicles and has a responsibility to ensure that all New Yorkers can use taxicabs.”

The complainants believe that if New York City gets a fleet of wheelchair accessible taxis one can work almost anywhere, which seems only fair considering New York City has the most cabs in the nation. The group does not want any money, just a rule set to require that all current taxis be replaced with fully accessible taxis. Apparently, the TLC is currently looking into replacing all cabs with the Taxi of Tomorrow.

Disabled Pet Wheelchair Rat

Wheelchairs for Pets and Animals

The idea of wheelchairs for pets was designed so that elderly, handicapped, and injured pets can live life to the fullest.  Wheelchairs made for animals give them hope to live sufficient lives, and they give owners another option they might have not been aware of. There are many different products designed to suit your pet’s specific needs.

A wheelchair can enable your animal to run, play, exercise, and lead a healthy life. The product is designed to help animals with hip and leg problems, degenerative myelopathy (MD), hip dysplasia, arthritis, paralysis, slipped disc, soreness, spinal and neurological problems, surgical recovery, and so much more.

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When opting for a wheelchair for your pet there are many different angles you need to consider such as your pet’s measurements, weight and lifestyle, activity level, and terrain your pet plays on. The wheelchair is  also designed to allow your pet to urinate and defecate normally and easily.

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Wheelchairs are not only restricted to smaller animals, some have been designed for animals weighing over 250 pounds. The variety of pets with different disabilities able to use this type of product are hardly limited. There have been chairs made for canines, felines, goats, bunnies, ferrets, guinea pigs, rats, deer, miniature horses, alpacas, sheep, pigs and other exotic pets. The wheelchairs are designed with your pets comfort first and foremost. There are also additional support systems such as Belly Straps that help animals with additional mid-back/abdomen injuries.

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Pneumatic wheel tires are air filled and sealed with a maintenance-free bearing cartridge to give your pet the most comfortable transportation available. Also, they allow your pet the option of maneuvering over multiple types of terrains such as, grass, gravel, sand, pavement, and rocky, or unbalanced terrain. Stirrups are for pets without complete or no use of their hind legs. If the pet doesn’t have completely functional hind legs they can still move their legs back and forth for extra exercise, however if the pet cannot operate their hind legs sufficiently they can rest their hind legs comfortably.

A walking axle allows the pet to have their legs down while operating the wheel chair instead of resting them on the stirrup. A Front Harness keeps the wheelchair moving in sync with your pet, also making his movements more comfortable. There are also chairs made with weight adjustments designed to balance your pets weight. This prevents pressure from being applied to your pets forelimbs, making sure the wheelchair is meeting it’s full potential.

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4 Little Known Extreme Wheelchair Sports

There are many different activities for people in wheelchairs, especially in the extreme sports categories. These sports show just how capable people with disabilities really are. Not only do these sports take extreme strength and guts, they also require a wheelchair.

1. UK Four Cross Downhill Mountain Biking: There are 4 wheel mountain bikes to enjoy off-roading. The club is known as the Rough Riderz in the UK. The members have been in touch with various organizations and hope to spread positive news about the new, emerging sport for people with disabilities as well as able-bodied people.

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2. Tank Chair – Extreme Off- Roading: This isn’t truly known as a sport, however some might agree that off-roading is in fact a sport. The tank chair allows people with disabilities the opportunity to go anywhere desired in the outdoors conquering mud, streams, snow, sand, gravel, and even climbing up and down stairs. People who are paralyzed chest down are perfect candidate because they are able to go up and down steep slopes without fear of falling out.

tank-chair

 

3. SitSki: Adaptive Skiing is used to bypass any limitations and adapt yourself with training and special equipment to go on the slopes. There are two different types of skis for people with disabilities. The mono-ski was developed for skiers who have good upper body strength. The bi-ski was developed for individuals who might have multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, etc, who prefer to ski in a sitting position.

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4. Wheelchair Skateboarding: Also known as “Hardcore Sitting,” wheelchair skateboarding is done by using a manual wheelchair due to the lightweight materials. The key factor for using a manual chair for skateboarding is gaining momentum. A significant distance between your chair and the first jump gives you time to pump your arms and gain speed. Make sure to prepare appropriate safety precautions before attempting to wheelchair skateboard. Your attire should include gloves and a bicycle helmet.

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These four extreme wheelchair sports listed above are just few of many sports for people with disabilities. Many combine people with disabilities and the able-bodied, bringing them together and spreading awareness. People with disabilities have proven all over the world that their disabilities don’t hold them back – They only push them harder to encourage others and prove that they are just as capable as the rest of us.

Larger than Life Wheelchair Sculpture Created

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A significant wheelchair sculpture utilized as a bench was created as a tribute to Ron Caplinger, who passed away in 2008. He was the President of Galloway Creek Greenway Trail where the sculpture is located just south of Southern Hills Boulevard in Springfield, Missouri.

Some people found it inappropriate to contribute a wheelchair sculpture for Greenway, considering he never let his polio affect him or his lifestyle. However, his wife Nancy agreed a wheelchair was perfect for his memorial and said, “Using a wheelchair at times was one way her husband could enjoy the trails.” Wheelchairs made the trails easier to migrate for people with disabilities.

The art piece was directed by Gene McKeen. Others involved gave him credit for seeing the project through. The wheelchair is very complex, made of stainless steel cut, using high-tech water jet equipment. The machine used granite dust and water pressurized at 50,000 pounds per square inch to cut the metal. The same equipment was used to engrave the motto which states, “To the Stars Through Difficulty,” which is located on the chair’s back rest.

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The team of technicians was made of Terry Brumley and Lonnie Snodgrass, whom have also helped Mckeen in the past cut and form his Bonneville Salt Flats race cars. The wheelchair is 1.6 times larger than an actual size wheelchair, weighing 400 lbs and about 5 feet high at the handles. The creators wanted to make sure the chair resembled a true-to-life wheelchair as close as possible.

Nancy Caplinger and her son Matt have expressed how pleased they are with the outcome of the wheelchair sculpture. They both hope the sculpture will help onlookers become more acquainted with wheelchairs. A formal dedication of the piece for Ron is being planned for next spring.

Amtrak and Celebrity Cruise Lines Focus on Wheelchair Accessibility

amtrak

Over the last year, the Open Doors Organization has been creating a training program for airline ground crews. Now Amtrak and Open Doors have signed an agreement to train close to 8000 employees throughout 17 different cities in the U.S.

The program has collaborated with the Mobility Shop to make sure the Amtrak employees get the most out of their training. The extensive program covers how to handle wheelchairs and mobility equipment safely without causing any damage. Craig has been one of the main trainers for the course and has seen some great progress and feedback. Upon hearing of such positive feedback, most national and some international airlines are now requiring their staff to participate in this training. This curriculum has taken on a larger group of employees that ODO has ever taken on.

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Recently the ODO also began working with the Celebrity Cruise lines on analyzing their ships to make sure they are properly wheelchair accessible and distributing a program suitable for their employees. Their goal is to one day cover all the basis of travel to make traveling less of a hassle for those with disabilities.

Article re-written through original post by Access Anything

How to Accessorize Your Wheelchair with Little to No Money

decorated-wheelchair

People set themselves apart from the masses with original takes on clothing, hair styles, tattoos, body modification, and accessories. Personalizing a wheelchair allows a person to make a statement about their personal flair to become more of an extension of who they are.

Here are a few ways to personalize your wheelchair for little to no money:

  • Cut the sleeves off a t-shirt with a favorite band or slogan and pull it over the back of the chair.
  • Create interesting spoke designs for your wheelchair by interlacing different colored ribbons in a cool pattern.
  • Sew patches into the back of your wheelchair.
  • Wrap your chair in fancifully colored yarn. Rather than paint, yarn can be easily changed to suit your mood.
  • Make your own pair of wheelchair wheel covers. Wheel covers can be made with a few measurements and sewing elastic onto both sides. Use any upholstery weight fabric to match your personality, or buy a heavy backing fabric and attach it to the fabric of your choice with iron-on adhesive. The wheelchair tire covers are great for saving your carpet by putting them over your wheels indoors.
  • Buy regular or decal stickers and attach them to your wheelchair. Glow in the dark stickers are great for night events and parties.
  • Attach a battery-operated black light, or attach rope lighting under your seat.
  • Pimp out your wheelchair with bedazzled jewels, pyramid studs, or spikes. A simple leather punch can be bought from leather stores or a craft store for under ten dollars

The possibilities are endless when creating and finding low cost accessories to add to your wheelchair.  What ideas do you have, or what wheelchair designs have you seen that stand out?

wheelchair-lights

Promote Disability Awareness – International Day of Acceptance

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Spreading disability awareness has been an ongoing journey to help able-bodied people be aware, understand, and relate with people whom have disabilities. In many situations, able-bodied people almost feel uncomfortable approaching a person with disabilities fearing that person may feel like they are staring or judging them. People with differences need to be taught how to communicate and understand one another more sufficiently.

Naturally people intend to avoid those whom have dissimilarities, based on not knowing how to act or trying to steer clear of hurting someone’s feelings. This can be stressful on both parties knowing no one wants to be treated differently, no matter what their condition might be. Especially when it comes to younger people, many thoughts can scramble through their heads; What if he can’t shake my hand and I hurt his feelings by attempting; What if I say something offensive and don’t realize it? In most cases, people would rather leave you be than make you feel uncomfortable or themselves. We all need to be understanding of each person’s situation and find a way to meet in the middle by relating with one another on levels we both can understand and appreciate.

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Many believe a good start is by targeting youth education and teaching them how to communicate appropriately. Sometimes people assume that compassion is embedded in us at a young age, but some need to be taught. Students need to learn how to walk in another person’s shoes and have a better understanding of people’s differences.

Isabelle St. Onge is a special education teacher at Taos High School in Taos, N.M. and says, “Over the years of working with inclusion on a high school level, I’ve really seen changes that happen to the general education population when they get to meet students with severe and profound disabilities, and learn lessons of compassion and tolerance. They’re better people when they go out into the world after graduating, and they’ve already learned to accept someone as different as my students.” Helping younger people understand the difficulties of everyday challenges by imagining themselves as a person with disabilities allows them to  have a greater understanding and an astounding amount of respect for those with disabilities.

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Single mom, Kimberly Carnevale, has multiple disabilities and uses a service dog to assist her in every day life. She says her daughter once told a passerby who attempted to pet the service dog, “You can’t pet Dawson; he’s working.” Her daughter was three at the time.

You may be surprised at how willing and actually eager grown and young people are to learn about people who have disabilities. Children are the future by integrating these kinds of thought patterns, and it helps ensure a more sensitive understanding that all people are equal despite their differences. Let them know that no matter the difference in size, shape, color, abilities; inside we are all very much the same. We should all make a greater effort to include everyone in everyday activities and society.

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According to Congressional Committee findings for ADA, 54 million are disabled. Based on these figures, almost 1 out of 5 persons have disabilities. Other sources show even higher statistics. Out of 45 million, 15 million of them are seniors. There are hundreds of different kinds of disabilities, most of them come later in life. Fewer than 15% were born with their disability. There are over 1 million wheelchair users, 1 out of 250. Over 10,000 people every year injure their spinal cord resulting in severe long term injuries, 82% of these spinal injuries are male, 307,000 under age 44 use wheelchairs. (US Dept of Health)

With that said, most people with disabilities do not want anyone to feel sorry for them or have pity towards them.  They simply want understanding of their situation and awareness of how it affects their everyday lives. They want to be treated like any other, though they might require a bit of assistance, they are just like the rest of whom do not have disabilities.

Help spread awareness.

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What are Disability Aids?

Disability aids are a wider range of assistive technology designed to assist any area of difficulty as the result of a disability or injury. Everyday tasks such as reaching a dish off the top shelf or using silverware can prove impossible to a disabled person to do independently without disability aids. These aids assist the disabled in every aspect of life from activities of daily living to driving.

Mobility aids are the largest genre of disability aids. These aids range from a simple cane to high tech power wheelchairs that can move in any direction. Some examples of mobility aids are canes, crutches, walkers, power chairs, manual wheelchairs, mobility scooters, walkers with resting seats, forearm crutches, transport chairs, standers assistance poles, standers bed standing assist and couch assist, lift chairs, powered chair seat lifts, and car assist bars. You can look at our list of the top ten gifts for wheelchair users for ideas about the kinds of disability aids available.

Mobility aids also include wheelchair vans. Wheelchair docks that secure the wheelchair in place, hand controls allowing wheelchair users to drive, wheelchair straps, power and manual wheelchair lifts, transfer seats, and wheelchair ramps.

Tasks around the home are more easily accomplished for a disabled person with disability aids like foam tubing that can be attached to silverware, pots and pans, and anything a disabled person has trouble grasping. “Reachers” act as an extension of a wheelchair user’s arm with a claw on one end controlled by a lever at the end the user is holding to grasp items that would otherwise be out of reach.

The bathroom can be a world of challenges for a disabled person. Items like raised toilet seats, walk in showers, non slip flooring, and transfer systems that use a sling style seat that runs on a track installed on the ceiling to move a person directly from the wheelchair into the bath or shower help a disabled person accomplish tasks able bodied people take for granted. Metal bars bolted to the wall beside the toilet assist a mobility-challenged individual to lower onto and get up from the toilet and lowered sinks with extended bowls allow a wheelchair user to do tasks such as wash their hands and brush their teeth directly from their wheelchair.

Disability aids are essential for the independent disabled individual to function throughout the day. Assistive technology continues to be a ground breaking field with continued research and development from modern power wheelchairs that allow the user to reach a semi standing position to a simple grip that fits in your pocket that will bear the weight of a person to assist them in entering and exiting a vehicle.

International Day of Acceptance: Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve Jan 20th

International Day of Acceptance

January 20th is International Day of Acceptance. This day of celebration and advocacy was created by the people at 3E Love in order to achieve social acceptance of disability. Disability pride awareness focuses on the abilities, not disabilities, of each person.

3E Love's Annie and Stevie Hopkins

3E Love was established by sibling co-founders Stevie and Annie Hopkins as a “social entrepreneurial experiment to change the perception of disability.” Annie said the 3E Love name stands for, “Embrace diversity. Educate your community. Empower each other. Love life.”

3E Love's Annie Hopkins

They believe you should tell the world that you embrace who you are: a person with social rights, who has an opinion, who has interests, who has goals, and who loves life; a person who is empowered to make a difference in the world and not be without a voice in society. You are not living disabled; you are living. As parents, siblings, relatives, spouses, children, lovers, coworkers, teachers, personal assistants, friends – tell the world that you are accepting of people with disabilities. You impact the future by demonstrating your acceptance to others today.

Annie Hopkins's 3E Love tattoo

Annie also designed and trademarked the company’s logo, a twist on the International Symbol of Access that replaces the wheel of the wheelchair symbol with a heart. 3E Love calls it the “International Symbol of Acceptance.”

Sadly, Annie passed away on January 20, 2009 at age 24 due to complications from a surgery. She was an advocate, entrepreneur, artist, student, and she demonstrated what is possible when you love life. Though she used a wheelchair most of her life, Annie pursued a doctoral degree and started her own company, 3E Love.

“Annie was a beautiful, vibrant woman with an unmatched sense of humor,” said Katie Arnold, Annie’s life-long best friend. “She taught me so much about independence, acceptance of others, and always striving to do the best for yourself, your body, your friends, family and community.”

Annie’s accomplishments in her academic, social, and family life were vast and will be remembered dearly, but her spirit and message can live on forever through the work she left for others to finish.

3E Love's Stevie Hopkins

It was in honor of her memory that her brother Stevie Hopkins picked up the reigns of 3E Love and created the International Day of Acceptance. Stevie is 3E Love’s “Director of Awesome” and works tirelessly to promote awareness of people’s abilities, regardless of any so-called disability.

“3E Love is more than living disabled but is simply about living.” says the website. “Everyone has the freedom to live their life.”

3E Love

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Start the conversation on January 20th with the International Symbol of Acceptance: Wear a t-shirt. Use a bag. Pin a button to your jacket. Put a sticker on your chair back or backpack. Get a tattoo like Annie’s! Or draw one on if you prefer. Ask your friends to join us as well. For a final touch, change your profile picture on Facebook to the symbol. Get people talking!

Jill at AMS Vans for International Day of Acceptance

Sources:
3elove.com
dayofacceptance.com
facebook.com/3elove

Share a Smile Becky Wheelchair Barbie Doll

Wheelchair Barbie Dolls Were Not So Accessible

In 1997, Mattel produced a wheelchair-using Barbie doll called “Share a Smile Becky.” The doll was a unique way to intertwine Barbie dolls and people with disabilities, making sure no one was left out in the Barbie world. Unfortunately, the doll was eventually discontinued due to ongoing design problems.

The original Becky could not fit through the Barbie Dream House front door, and her hair was also so long that it would get caught in the wheelchairs wheels. Attempting to make the doll as real-life as possible, Mattel did some adjustments to Becky making her wheelchair smaller and her hair shorter. The new and improved Barbie was wanted in high demand and flew off the shelves in less than two weeks.

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Despite the reworked Becky Barbie doll, 17-year-old Kjersti Johnson discovered that Becky could not fit into the Dream House’s elevator. Johnson, a high school student with cerebral palsy, complained about the issue stating, “This is what we live with every day… how ironic and true…housing for people with disabilities that is not accessible!”

Mattell stated in the future they intended on making changes to the Barbie house designs, but instead they later rejected the doll and discontinued Becky along with wheelchair-racing Paralympic Becky.

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Morgan, who uses a wheelchair, asked her mother, “Aren’t handicapped people pretty enough to be Barbie dolls?”  The question prompted her mother, Angela Floyd, to go searching for a doll with disabilities. She ended up getting a hold of a Mattel representative who would not state why the doll was discontinued, however they did send her a doll from the archives. Morgan said upon receiving the doll, “Mommy, it looks like me. It’s me, Mommy!”

Many believe that the company discontinued the wheelchair Barbie doll because it would be much easier to take her off the shelves than redesign the whole Barbie community such as housing, cars, and various accessories. A spokesperson stated the company, “might recreate another wheelchair-using doll in the future, but has no definite plans to do so.”