Tag Archives: wheelchair

7 Accessible Bathroom Modification Tips

Working together with disability in the bathroom.

The right bathroom design is an essential part of living with a physical disability. This is where your most complex and potentially risky self-care activities take place. The bathroom is where we all want to be the most independent. Of course, most bathrooms are not initially designed for wheelchair safety or access. If you’re looking to make a bathroom more wheelchair accessible, we’ve put together a helpful collection of tips.

Room to Roll

Spacing is incredibly important for an accessible bathroom, especially for wheelchair accessibility. The ADA has some great guidelines for how many inches are needed between bathroom fixtures to allow a wheelchair to get around. Grab your tape measure and find out if your bathroom as-is is big enough for wheelchair accessibility or if there are a few renovations that can make it more accessibly spaced.

In addition, you should also think about picking things up off the floor like hampers and bathmats that might serve as obstructions to wheelchair mobility in the bathroom.

Wheel-Friendly Bathmats

Normal fluffy bathmats are not wheelchair-friendly, as you may have already discovered. That fluff tends to catch on wheels and sometimes stop rolling entirely. Fortunately, there are more rollable alternatives to traditional bathmats. Firm rubber bathmats with holes allow the watershed from a bath or shower to evaporate without a mess while making it easier for a wheelchair to roll across the bathroom.

Lowered Floating Sink

floating sink is a sink that has no cabinet underneath, so it looks like it is ‘floating’ against the wall. Crafted properly, the plumbing is tucked behind the drywall or inside much smaller cabinetry. Indeed, without cabinetry in the way, the sink becomes much more accessible to those in a wheelchair. Floating sinks make it easier for handwashing, tooth brushing, hair styling, and other sink-based activities to be done from a seated position with the knees comfortably under the sink basin.

Grab Bars Around the Toilet

Most wheelchair users can lift themselves between chair and toilet as long as there is sufficient grab-bars to support them. Installing grab bars ad the right height around a toilet can be essential. For toilets that are not in a nook, installing a second bar on the other side can add additional support and ease for the transition from wheelchair to toilet and back again with full independence.

Curbless Shower Stall (or Gated Tub)

It’s well-known that shower stalls are more wheelchair-friendly than tubs, but not all shower stalls are equally accessible. What you need is a curbless shower stall, one without a small ledge between the drain-surface and the floor. This way, a wheelchair can roll directly into the shower without having to be pushed over the lip or threshold.

However, for those who need a bath-tub for physical therapy reasons, some people choose to go with a gated tub instead. The outer wall of a gated tub is a water-tight door that swings open that a physically disabled person can step carefully into the tub without having to climb.

Dual-Mount Handheld Showerhead

An essential piece of wheelchair-accessible bathing is the handheld showerhead. The hook-and-hose design involves a shower head at the end of a flexible hose. Thus, bathers can bring the water down to their level and focus the spray anywhere it is needed. To make the shower versatile and welcoming to all, consider installing two mounts for the showerhead. One in a reachable position for someone in a wheelchair, and one in the usual raised position for someone standing to shower.

Shower Chair or Seat

Not every wheelchair user bathes in a chair. Though they may need to be seated, many leave their wheelchair. For this reason, having a foldable shower chair is a great addition to an accessible bathroom. A foldable shower chair can be tucked into a corner when not in use. Further, it provides a convenient seat for those who cannot comfortably stand through the bathing process. Many luxury-designed showers also include a foldable shower seat, often of bamboo or teak, that folds down from the wall for a relaxing/accessible seated shower.

Conclusion

Building an accessible bathroom can be a complete transformation or just a few small adjustments. For more great insights on how to increase accessibility in your home or facility, contact us today!

Giving Thanks Series: The Many Benefits of Practicing an Attitude of Gratitude

giving thanks at thanksgiving and sharing gratitude

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we gather together with our friends and family for a feast. There’s a popular tradition where everyone seated at the table takes turns expressing their gratitude about someone or something in our lives.  Whether it’s something as simple as having plenty of good food to eat, a roof over our heads or assistance that allows us to maintain our independence with a disability, there are actually many benefits to living with an attitude of gratitude throughout our daily lives.

According to experts, recognizing our thankfulness and expressing this gratitude offers many health benefits to those who vocalize their thanks. “It literally breathes new life into us,” stated Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California Davis and the founder of a research lab that studies the effects of grateful living. “It recharges and it rejuvenates,” continued Dr. Emmons.

Benefits of Appreciation in Relationships

Openly showing our gratitude was linked to lowering blood pressure, improving immune functions and decreases stress. Dr. Emmon further suggests our gratitude should go deeper into our family’s roots when he shared, “I think that a reflection of how our lives have been made so much more comfortable by the sacrifices of those who have come before us down through the generations should be the focus of how Thanksgiving should be observed.”

In our current relationships, Sara Algoe, associate professor of social psychology at the University of North Carolina adds, “When couples express gratitude for frequently and descriptively to each other, they are happier in their relationship.” Professor Algoe also delves deeper when she suggests, “It’s putting the ‘you’ in ‘thank you’ that really matters, it’s the little pat where you’re really calling out the person for the thing they did.”

Post Holidays and More

During November, we also show our gratefulness to our servicemen and women on Veteran’s Day. However, we shouldn’t be expressing our thanks during just this short period of time. Dr. Emmons’ study found those who took time weekly to reflect on what they’re thankful for had less physical illnesses and spent more time focusing on their health.

Being grateful doesn’t necessarily mean sharing our thanks verbally, it may also take on a written form that we can reflect on later in life. Author, philanthropist and television personality Oprah Winfrey recommends keeping a gratitude journal and writing in it daily. At one time in her life, the celebrity wondered why she “No longer felt the joy of simple moments.”

Writing and Delighting

At a time in her life when she had accumulated more of almost everything, wealth, possessions, opportunities, it seemed everything had grown exponentially except for her happiness. After returning viewing and writing in her thankful journal daily after a lengthy departure from this practice, she shared the positive aspects she had found. “I just made gratitude a daily priority,” Oprah shared, “I went through the day looking for things to be grateful for, and something always showed up.”

When following Winfrey’s line of thinking, whenever you recognize a grateful moment in your life be sure to jot it down whether it’s on paper or electronically. “You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.”

Daily Recognition

If writing things down either daily or weekly simply isn’t in your wheelhouse, there are still ways to be grateful, recognize and offer thanks on a regular basis. Perhaps you could make a general list of all the things you’re grateful for and reviewing it often. If you’re struggling to find things to be thankful for, consider:

  • Joining a social media group grounded in gratefulness
  • Buying a book of daily or weekly positive, thankful affirmations
  • Signing up on a video channel that delivers these messages daily

Getting Inspiration From RAK

The act of performing RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness) has been exploding with popularity on social media sites and other broadcasting channels. There’s even a non-profit with a website (randomactsofkindness.org), encouraging everyone to spread the cheer with unsolicited ways people show compassion in simple unexpected acts.

Performing random acts of gratuity or thankfulness (RAG or RAT) is wonderful. There are many suggestions on ways to keep RAK alive. Further, there’s one way that I have instituted RAG and RAT practices into my life. For example, when I’m at the grocery store, post office, or other outlet and I see someone who is:

  • A first responder in uniform including police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers, etc.
  • A doctor, physician with a smock or person wearing scrubs
  • Dressed in a military uniform or wearing a full set of fatigues and boots
  • Wearing a cap or T-shirt with an insignia indicating they served in a specific branch of the military, etc.

I simply walk up to them and say, “Excuse me, I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you for everything you do and want you to know it’s greatly appreciated”. Most often I shake their hand. Then, they respond by saying something like, “I’m just doing my job”. However, it always makes me feel better knowing that I’ve acknowledged them for their service.

Conclusion

In conclusion, think about the many different ways you can live your life with an attitude of gratitude. You’ll be happier and healthier in the long run. Finally, from everyone at AMS Vans, here’s wishing you, your family, and friends a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude. Happy holiday season along with a prosperous New Year. Thank YOU for reading this post!

woman in a wheelchair being pushed in an airport

Tips for Airline Travel With a Wheelchair This Holiday Season

The holiday season is almost upon us – and for many, that means some holiday travel. If you or a loved one uses a wheelchair and plan on airline travel, it’s helpful to know what to expect. To make your experience easier and more enjoyable, keep these tips in mind.

Preparation and Packing Tips

Managing Luggage

While it’s important to be prepared, the least amount of luggage you’re able to travel with, the easier things will be – especially if you’re traveling independently. Suitcases with wheels can be pushed by a wheelchair user (similar to a shopping cart) or “towed” behind the chair with some sort of strap or bungee cord. A duffle bag can also be a good option when carried in the lap or secured to the front of the legs with a strap.

Pro Tip: You can bring all the medical supplies you need on your trip, which, unfortunately, can increase the amount of luggage you’ll need to bring along. If you’re forced to check a bag or bring an additional suitcase for medical supplies, be sure to let the agent know when you’re checking your bag. Some airlines will wave the bag fee!!

Come Prepared

Plan to bring a carry-on, such as a backpack, with essential items. Pack your carry-on with anything you may need for the flight, including snacks and drinks (which must be purchased in the airport, after going through security), medication, and entertainment. If you get cold easily, bringing a small blanket or wrap along can come in handy, as it can sometimes get chilly on the plane. Remember that you’ll be first to board and last to disembark, so books and phone games can help pass the time while you wait.

It’s easy to get dehydrated in flight, so be sure to hydrate in the days leading up to the trip. Also, keep in mind that using the restroom on the plane can be pretty challenging, so try to use the restroom before boarding.

mom in wheelchair and daughter with a suitcase inside van

Arrival and Boarding Tips

Arrive Early

Using a wheelchair can make your airport experience take a little longer than usual, so it’s best to plan ahead and arrive at least 1.5 to 2 hours early. This gives you time to find wheelchair accessible parking (which can be extremely limited), get through security, use the restroom, manage logistics, and arrive at your gate in time for early boarding. If you’re not familiar with the airport you’re flying out of, even more extra time is recommended.

The TSA gives some information about disability and security screening procedures here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures 

Request an Aisle Chair if Needed

It’s pretty rare for even a small wheelchair to fit down the aisles of the airplane, so if you aren’t able to walk on to the airplane, you’ll need to request a “transport chair” or an “aisle chair.” You’ll transfer to a narrow chair and airport agents will assist you on to the plane and into your seat. One of these is stored on the plane, too, in case the restroom is needed in flight.

Be sure to ask for the aisle chair when you check-in and get your tickets. Then, ask again at the gate if the chair is ready because sometimes the request can be overlooked. If the aisle chair and agents aren’t on hand to assist when preboarding starts, you’ll have to wait until last to board, which can be awkward with a plane full of passengers.

Prepare Your Chair

When you trasnfer to the aisle chair to board the plane, your personal wheelchair will be stowed under the plane with the luggage. Don’t forget to grab your seat cushion, armrests, bags, and any fragile or removable accessories so they aren’t broken or lost on the trip. Also, consider taking a photo of your wheelchair before they take it away to use as a reference in case there is damage done during the flight.

airplane being loaded with luggage

Throughout the Trip Tips

Communicate Your Needs

Every step of the way, be prepared to be vocal about your needs and comfort level. If at any time you aren’t able to do what an agent asks, you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, just say so in a clear and respectful manner. When going through security, for example, passengers that aren’t able to walk through the metal detector will have to have a physical pat-down by a TSA agent. They should offer you a private screening as well as avoid any sensitive areas on your body during the inspection, however, if they don’t offer those things, it’s perfectly within your rights to ask.

Have Your Airline’s Disability Number On-Hand

Just in case the airline staff aren’t prepared or don’t know how to help, call up the airline. Most airlines have a number dedicated to travelers with disabilities, so having this number on hand is very useful. Often the wait times for this number are much, much less than the general phone number. Also, if you have a bad experience with your airline, be sure to reach out to them after the trip to report the incident. Some airlines will compensate travelers with points or vouchers to keep their business.

Airline travel in a wheelchair may not always be easy, but it can be done. If you are prepared and know what to expect, the experience can be far more like an adventure then a hassle! Whether you’re traveling to the next state or across an ocean, your holiday airline travel can be made much smoother by keeping these tips in mind. Don’t miss out on all the awesome things this world has in store to see and do!

view from a person's seat on an airplane of passengers and flight attendant

Renting a Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle for Your Holiday

Don’t forget about accessible ground transportation when you arrive at your destination! If you’re traveling by airplane, that means you left your wheelchair accessible vehicle at home. At AMS Vans, we offer short- and long-term wheelchair accessible vehicle rentals. Plus, if you happen to be in the market for a mobility vehicle, spending some time in a specific model can help you determine if it’s a good fit!

Learn more here or call 800-775-8267 to reserve. 

Diverse & Inclusive Toys for Kids Who Roll

Lego boy in wheelchair playing ball with his friends in the park as disability-friendly toys.

Lego boy in wheelchair playing ball with his friends in the park

Playing is one of the most important parts of any child’s healthy development. In the past, kids with special needs didn’t have access to many toys or heroes that represented disabilities – and that can impact a young person’s self image. Thankfully, it’s now much easier to find inclusive toys that represent people with disabilities as major toy manufacturers begin to think more inclusively.

We put together a list of cool, inclusive toys and books for kids who roll! #AMSVans #SpecialNeedsKids Click To Tweet

Hot Wheels Wheelie Chair

This cool chair was created to resemble extreme adaptive athlete Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham‘s WCMX wheelchair. You may already know, Aaron Fotheringham is an extreme wheelchair athlete with spina bifida who was the pioneer of WCMX riding, in which people perform tricks and flips with their wheelchairs, similar to the way a skateboarder uses his board.  Aaron travels the globe with groups like Nitro Circus – and has landed amazing tricks, including the world’s first double backflip in a wheelchair. If you get this toy for a kid you know, be sure to pull up some YouTube videos of Aaron doing his thing! But, be sure to mention not to try this at home (at least, not without proper instruction and gear)!

hotwheels wcmx wheelie chair

Photos of the Hotwheels Wheelie Chair in action, courtesy of Aaron Fotheringham.

Lego Wheelchair Minifigure

What kids doesn’t love legos? Fans celebrated in the summer of 2016, when Lego introduced a minifigure in a wheelchair as part of its City line. The tiny figure features a detachable wheelchair in the same style as other Lego accessories. The achievement was in response to an online petition by Toy Like Me, which had over 20,000 signatures and encouraged toy companies to represent more diversity. The petition urged many toy companies to start creating disability-friendly, inclusive toys.

Wheelchair Barbie

Amidst lots of hype from the media, Mattel has plans in June, to introduce a barbie in a wheelchair and a Barbie with a prosthetic leg. Although Mattel has sold wheelchair Barbies in the past, such as Becky Barbie, there are none currently being sold. This summer, these dolls should be available everywhere to promote inclusiveness and raise the visibility of people with disabilities. Kids can expect the traditional Barbie look that they’v grown to love, with long hair and large eyes – but with the diversity we’ve been missing.

barbies fashionistas line including barbie in wheelchair

Soon, Barbies will represent better diversity! Image: Mattel

American Girl

These classic dolls, which are based on the equally popular American Girl books, can represent a wide range of disabilities. American Girl dolls are fully customizable, so you can get a doll that looks just like your child. Then, you can choose from a number of accessories associated with disabilities, including a wheelchair, crutches, hearing aids, diabetes kits, glasses and a walking stick for kids that have seeing impairments. American Girl has long been cherished as a company that provides inclusive toys with diverse representation. The books are also fun, too. They’re full of adventures featuring girls from all over the world and many time periods.

Books for Kids in the Disability Community

In addition to inclusive toys, there are quite a few children’s books about characters with disabilities. A popular one for kids who roll is called Don’t Call me Special: A First Look at Disability. Some other good ones include Meet ClaraBelle Blue by Adiba Nelson, about a little girl living with cerebral palsy, or Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher, about having a parent who uses a wheelchair. This is just the tip of the iceberg for diverse children’s books. For more, search Google or ask your librarian!

mother and baby reading

There are tons of children’s books out there featuring characters with disabilities!

 

Do you have a favorite inclusive toy or children’s book celebrating disability that we missed? Let us know and we’ll include it in a future blog!!