Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wheelchair Rugby aka Murderball Overview

Unless you have seen the movie Murderball, you probably have never heard of this sport.  This is a clip showing a general overview of this sport.  If you want to find out more about this sport, go rent the movie Murderball and realize why this sport is becoming so popular.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bad Idea: Why Wheelchairs And Escalators Do Not Mix

The following Youtube clip is a clear explanation as to why someone on a wheelchair should NOT use an escalator. Luckily, no one was (physically) hurt in this clip.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Say No To Flab: Fitness And Disability

For people living with disabilities there are unique risks for weight gain. This doesn't mean that someone with a disability is more likely to battle obesity, but people with disabilities need to take additional issues into account when working to maintain a healthy weight. The unique risks for weight gain that people with disabilities face include the possibility of burning fewer calories due to reduced mobility and exercise, a slower metabolism due to medical issues or their treatment, eating out of boredom or depression, or relying on others who may not be knowledgeable about nutrition for grocery shopping and meal preparation.

Of course, advice about maintaining a healthy weight always seems easier in theory than practice: eat well and exercise. But how do you figure out what type of food choices and exercise plan is best for you? Not only do you have to navigate all the fads out there, but you need to find a plan that is actually acceptable enough to you that you're willing to stick with it. First, follow common sense. Don't overeat. To help you in this, be sure to drink plenty of water. Thirst can often feel like hunger to folks in the developed world who aren't used to understanding the true value of water intake. Staying hydrated can help you keep your portions to healthy sizes.

Remember that anything in excess has the potential to be bad. You don't need to ban all carbohydrates and fat from your diet. But you do need to eat lean meats and enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, don't rule out dessert entirely: diets that are about denial are hard to keep. Allowing yourself small tastes of "bad" foods will probably have more long-term success than denying yourself entirely. To avoid the feeling of being hungry, consider switching to eating more frequent but smaller meals in the course of the day.

Exercise is also critical. It will help you burn calories, speed your metabolism and increase muscle mass and tone. When looking for appropriate exercise options, it's important to find an activity you enjoy doing. Remember that many sports, activities and exercise routines have versions that have been adapted for people living with disabilities. These include everything from basketball to fencing. If you're not inclined towards sports but still need a good workout routine, investigate adaptive yoga or Pilates or look into water-based exercise programs. Exercise in water is often easier for people with disabilities because it eliminates much of the strain of gravity, while still providing a workout due to the resistance of water.

It is always important to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise plan. Additionally, your doctor can help you figure out what your ideal weight should be. People with disabilities often have different weight goals that are determined by their physical form. Standard Body Mass Index, or BMI, and ideal weight calculators located online won't always be helpful to someone living with a disability. Finally, if you're looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight already achieved, enlist the help of those around you. Find a workout buddy, educate family members on your nutritional goals and make sure the people involved with your life are on board with your health-conscious program.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Aaron Fotheringham's ESPN Clip

This is a Youtube clip of Aaron Fotheringham's clip that was on ESPN.  It is a short clip of how Aaron created the sport of Hardcore Sitting and managed to land the first wheelchair backflip. He is truly an example of someone who gives it all he has to overcome any obstacle that is in front of him.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fourcross: When You Need To Ride Over A Mountain

This YouTube clip is from a Fourcross group based in the UK.  What is Fourcross, you ask?  It's basically the mountain bike of wheelchairs and is designed for people in wheelchairs to tackle the same terrain as other mountain bikers.  The difference is that with the four wheels of a Fourcross chair, it is more stable in some situations than its two-wheeled counterparts.  Check out this clip of this group, known as the Rough Riderz, conquer some crazy backwood areas.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wheelchair-Fu: Self-Defense For The Disabled

There are many ways to look at self-defense, but in most cases an attacker or predator is looking to hang a victim tag on someone. One of our key focuses is not to be a victim. This is our strongest defense: “I WILL NOT BE A VICTIM!”
This has ramifications into every aspect of our lives. Seeing ourselves as empowered and capable, we send this same message to those around us. The predators of the world also take notice. A lion or jungle cat does not go after the strongest of the herd. It goes after the slowest, smallest, or weakest. Human predators do the same.

As people with disabilities, we overcome many challenges on a daily basis. We want to focus this inherent will and courage to resist being victimized. Our will to survive in a self-defense situation can be our strongest ally.  You need to factor in your strength, agility, coordination, physical limitations, mindset, and mental and emotional states when figuring out a self-defense system or method that is right for you. All of these elements can be improved on with proper training and dedication.  Do what you can do, and do it to the best of your ability. Even if you are very limited in any movement, keep reading.

Be aware of your surroundings. This may sound obvious, but every physical confrontation I experienced during my able-bodied days happened either in a bar, outside a bar, or while I was drinking. Be aware that if we feel compelled to be in these types of environments, the likelihood of an altercation is escalated.

If you have to be in an area of town that has crime problems or in unfamiliar territory late at night, you might ask one or more friends or co-workers to accompany you. The same is true if you leave work after hours. Unless someone is totally belligerent or has planned a mass attack, which will likely involve firearms, you are better off around other people than alone.

Do not underestimate the power of our voice. Even with moderate to extreme limitations in mobility, our voice is our first weapon of choice. We can think of any number of scenarios where we might encounter a conflict that could lead to possible bodily harm. Let’s use our imagination and take an opportunity to confront a bad dream or our worse nightmare.

Using your scenario, role play a victim in a passive response. Do this with a partner or small group. Take turns playing the victim role. Be really passive, avoid eye contact, keep your head down, and act scared. Notice any feelings that come up, and honor them. Next reverse roles. Note how effective a passive response is in remedying the scenario you have created. Does it give more fuel to the perpetrator? Does he feel more empowered to continue his line of behavior?

Now play out an overly aggressive response to your situation. This could even involve vulgar language, cussing, and swearing. Remember we are having fun with this, so let it fly. Feel real anger and aggressiveness. How did this feel? How did it make the other person feel? Did it seem to do more to escalate any conflict that was already occurring?

We need to find a balance between passive and aggressive. If someone comes up and asks, “Do you know what time it is?” We don’t want to say, “You dirty +@&%; get the @&%$ away from me.” But if someone sets off our personal alarms and asks inappropriate questions, we need to respond assertively.

First we should let the person know we are uncomfortable with his closeness, then ask him to back away. (Note: We have a right to our own personal space. If someone is within arm’s length of us, he is within reach of possibly harming us.) If the person doesn’t back off, we need to raise our tone of voice and forcefully say, “Back Away!” If he still doesn’t listen, make a bigger scene and yell, “BACK AWAY!”

The second “Back Away” should be done with a ‘Bad Dog’ voice we would use to scold a pet. The third “BACK AWAY,” if needed, should be done with a voice that will make everyone within shouting distance take notice. If we are still feeling threatened, we need to keep stating our boundaries and verbally backing the predator away. This continues even when we get to a level of physical conflict. The voice will allow us to use our full power. By yelling, we are actually breathing. When we stop breathing, we freeze; we can no longer respond assertively and at worst we become deer in the headlights.

Practice these scenarios. We have been raised in a society that taught us to be nice and polite. Raising our voices and yelling can make it seem like we are not being nice and are not playing by the rules. This may cause cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when two conflicting ideas compete for and scatter our attention. We need full focus of attention to deal with what is in front of us, not being concerned with whether or not we are nice. It takes training to overcome cognitive dissonance and the subconscious ideas we operate with.

Predators are also aware of the societal rules and are relying on us to play by them and be a victim. We may hear from them, “Be quiet and I won’t hurt you.” They are depending on our silence and cooperation with their game. Many people who faced attacks were able to dissuade their predators with verbal defense alone.

What if our disability prevents us from speaking or yelling? Building and car alarms are effective in preventing thefts; why can we not have our own personal alarms for safety? Air horns or sirens could be used on our chair or person. You may find these at boating or sporting goods stores. If you use a power chair or scooter, you can explore the possibility of rigging up a high-powered horn or alarm to the battery system. If you make enough noise to wake the dead, chances are no one will want to be around you. Many cars and vans have alarms or panic buttons. If you are near your vehicle when a situation arises, don’t be afraid to use this alarm.

Both power and manual chairs have their footplates at about the level of an able-bodied person’s ankles. If your safety is in jeopardy, roll over his foot and ankle with everything you have. If you are able to strike, hit vital targets like the groin, eyes, throat, and nose. Palm heel strikes are good, as they are less likely than a closed fist to break your wrist or knuckles. If a situation becomes physical, something has already gone wrong. Do not question why. Do what you need to do and fight. If someone is trying to take you to a second location, the time to fight is now. It will just get worse if you are taken somewhere else.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Powerchair Design: Five-Wheel Setup

The Youtube clip above is a prototype of a new powerchair developed by two engineers from Georgia Tech University.  The chair is described as a "sports powerchair" designed to be optimal in nearly any indoor and outdoor situation.  The unique thing about this chair is the ability to adjust its wheelbase to allow for more stability when driving at higher speeds when going outdoors or more maneuverability when driving indoors.  The single rear wheel (this chair has five wheels) provides stability at high speeds and when jumping curbs since the rear wheel arm is hinged.  Did I mention that the chair weighs only 103 lbs (44 kg)? It is an interesting and refreshingly original concept.  Check it out!

Friday, April 10, 2009

It Is That Time Of The Year, Again - Tax Deductions For The Disabled

People with disabilities often have a much greater range of potential expenses to deduct when tax time rolls around. As is the case for other taxpayers, expenses must exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI) to be deductible.  For starters, consider these medical expenses:
  • All expenses related to prosthetics
  • Braille books and magazines for the visually impaired 
  • Special equipment installed in the home (includes widening and moving stairways, special ramps for homes)
  • Special hand controls and other adaptive equipment for car if taxpayer has a disability
  • Chiropractor care
  • Contact lenses (including saline solution and enzyme cleaner)
  • Crutches 
  • Dental care
  • Diagnostic services
  • Service dogs and/or other animals (including training and maintenance) 
  • Health institutes (must have a statement from a doctor) 
  • Hearing aids 
  • Inpatient care 
  • Insurance premiums 
  • Lodging and meals at a hospital and/or institution 
  • Long term care 
  • Medical conferences that focus on information about a chronic illness 
  • Nursing homes 
  • Nursing services 
  • Oxygen 
  • Psychiatric care 
  • Psychologist 
  • Special educational expenses 
  • TTY and TDD equipment 
  • Cost of equipment for special televisions 
  • Therapy 
  • Mileage to and from treatment (at a rate of 20 cents/mile) 
  • Transplants 
  • Medical expenses for weight loss 
  • Wigs (purchased on the advice of a physician) 
  • Weight loss expenses related to a directive from your physician to lose weight 
  • Specific treatments for weight-related diseases diagnosed by a physician
In addition to these medical and dental expenses, you may also be able to deduct some home improvement expenses, under the following circumstances:
  • The main purpose of the home improvement must be for medical care
  • The cost of improvement is offset by the increased value of the home
And what about car deductions? The expenses incurred when retrofitting or adapting a vehicle can be substantial, so it is wise to pay attention to the tax impacts here.  Specifically, you may deduct: 
  • The difference between the cost of a regular car and a car designed to hold a wheelchair
  • Special hand controls and other special equipment
So, with all of the expenses that are deductible, what is not deductible?  A general rule of thumb is that if something is a necessary part of your life and the expense is recommended by a physician, it is a deductible expense.  Remember that it is a good idea to always keep and be able to produce all the documentation related to any deductible expense. You may need to provide this documentation during an audit; if you do not have your receipts and other documentation, the expense could be denied, resulting in having to repay the original amount deducted plus penalties and interest to the IRS.

Still unsure of what you can and cannot deduct? Then check out the IRS website at; the publication for medical expenses is Publication 502, found on the website under “Forms and Publications".

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Having A Disability Is The Best Filter

The title of this blog is quite true.  How?  Well, if you think about it, many people find it intimidating to talk to people with disabilities.  Why you ask?  They are afraid to offend or say something that could be hurtful.  Some are even scared to ask what our disability is.  I have had the luck of meeting and befriending many people from all over the place, disabled and non-disabled alike, and have friends that I have known for years who have never asked me once about my disability.  That is not to say that it is a bad thing.  It is not to say that they do not know what my condition is.  Some of them ask my other friends or look it up themselves.  Whenever one of my friends asks me about my disability, I know that it is a sign that they are comfortable with me and who I am.  Now I am not saying that those people who do not ask are people that I do not consider to be good friends - I think that one's disability can show who is comfortable and accepting of who you are.  In a way, it is a filter of who is genuinely comfortable with your disability.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

You Don't Need No Stinkin' Ramp! Access Unlimited Lift

Here is a clip of a lift that has been developed by Access Unlimited that provides a way to transfer a wheelchair-bound person into a car without the need of a ramp.  As you can see in the clip, it provides an easy way for the caretaker to transfer the user into the front passenger seat without difficulty. It appears to mount into a bracket on the floor of the car that will have to be installed but it is capable of being installed in any car.  It can also be used in other applications such as in the home or even on a portable mount which could replace a traditional Hoyer lift.