Monday, May 4, 2015

Think Twice Before Taking that Handicapped Spot in Russia

Last week I discussed Handicapped Parking Spaces and Placards.The irony of this video making its way into my presence into my newsfeed via Reddit, just a few days later, is quite remarkable. Without question some of the most effective anti-drinking and driving or anti-texting and driving advertisements are those that shock and surprise a person. After all, it's becoming more and more difficult to make an impact on people as we grow increasingly desensitized.

I don't have a problem with shocking advertisements in the safe situation such as watching TV or YouTube. However, as you will see in the video below, my concern is that the surprise my cause a driver to slam on the gas, instead of the brake. Watch for yourself.


I can't say that I have a problem with this strong approach. It's clever and makes people think. It may be Russian, Russian drivers may purportedly be less considered about leaving accessible spaces open to those needing them, but I'm pretty sure the message is transferable to just about anywhere in the world. I don't know if I like the shock it might cause a driver but maybe it would make them think twice and never forget what they saw. Still, face-to-face communication and a growing understanding is probably more long-lasting and encouraging but it's pretty difficult for us disabled people to connect with everyone we would like to educate.

Good on Russia for addressing the problem. A lot of blatant accessibility problems in Canada never get attention or looked at. I guess it takes somewhere with a little bit of courage to respond strongly enough to effect results.

Originally seen on Digital Synopsis.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Handicapped Parking and Placard

  Photograph Handicapped Parking Placard and Spaces by Jay Scott on 500px

There is a problem with that title, I know. I'm not entirely certain what the politically correct term is but I know it's not handicapped spaces. I'm not certain if it is accessible parking spaces or barrier free parking spaces. In Saskatoon and most of Saskatchewan those terms would be as literally incorrect as they are politically correct. I chose this title because, as outdated as it is, it is the most easily recognizable term that is understood by the most people.

Parking Spaces


It's not that we are not grateful for them because we are. It's that seldom are they wide enough to deploy a ramp or a lift and then still have enough room to exit the vehicle. Heaven help us if there is a median, as is common in the construction of current parking lots. Medians may protect vehicles from carts but they do not allow us adequate space to enter and exit our vehicles and they are the perfect place for snow to build up against, making the spot even smaller in winter. Often the only way is to park right on the driver's side line or park at an angle so we don't get blocked in. Far too many times I hear about peers of mine having notes put on their window, telling them what horrible drivers they are, because they were protecting their own interest and safety by parking at an angle. One more reason why I hope this site and this specific post reaches a few able-bodied people. This is one of the most public and visible struggles and adaptations to the average person.

This summer would you do us a favor and take a look at the lines in the parking lot? Try to remember how wide those spots are and, this winter, when you are desperately seeking that parking space a precious 10 feet closer to the door, remember we need that extra room and that spaces are designated as wider. If you are ever in a larger center in Alberta, British Columbia or Washington state, take a look around. Their spots are wide enough for both the vehicle and a ramp, and have designated marked off sections between each for a person to exit the vehicle, be it transferring into a wheelchair from the driver side, or exiting a ramp or lift on the passenger side.

Finally, regarding the parking spaces, to those who don't lose sleep over using them occasionally, I know you are just running in, but you might very well be taking up or blocking a critical spot for a vulnerable person who needs it or is trying to get back to their vehicle. We only wish we could just run in.

Placards and Permits


The second portion of this post is regarding the parking placard hanging from my mirror. Thankfully North America has standardized the format and any time you see a placard that size and that colour, regardless of where it is issued, you can know its purpose and so can parking enforcement officers.

On the front side is a sticker as issued by the city of Saskatoon which allows a person to park at any unreserved meter belonging to the city (this excludes the University campus or Innovation Place) for up to 36 hours. This is invaluable when we cannot easily come out to move our vehicle or when we quadriplegics have difficulty putting coins in the meter. Most the time, half of the coins end up in the gutter and parking costs us twice as much. Yes, the city is switching over to more automatic meters and they are uncertain how they will handle these stickers in the future. As of this writing this sticker system is the case. This I say to those who think we are getting a free ride, they do cost us $20 a year and I would gladly pay more for the convenience.

Finally, take a look online before you travel to a different city. Some places, like Seattle, allow free parking to anyone with an issued placard. This was great, convenient, and perfectly affordable during our visit some two years ago. However, that city has cracked down on the number of improperly issued permits. Too many people were using expired temporary ones or did not genuinely need the helping hand. I respect the City of Seattle for their decision to prevent abuse by those who would occupy a spot that could have been used by someone with a greater need.

Placard Source: Abilities Council or applications can be found online. A doctor's approval is likely necessary.

One final note about the photo. The pink in it is a tribute to the pink neon light I was so fond of in my old 1981 Chevy Scottsdale.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hill Climbers


Hill climbers, or hill stoppers, have been one of the best technological additions I have ever experienced. The particularly grippy Q-Grip push rims that I enjoy are a great help but they are still susceptible to wet conditions. If they get much moisture on them your grip was gone when it came to contact between them and The Gloves. These hill climbers, when properly adjusted, are unbelievably effective at digging their sharp teeth into the tread and preventing lost ground.

Even when the wheels and rims are caked with snow and moisture, these grippers allow you to take a rest, get a grip on either the wheel or a spoke, and inch your way up a slope. No rush to speedily give your chair a push and get your arms back in time to prevent losing ground from the slope. One of the worst circumstances is when you give a hard push and your hand slips off the rim due to lack of grip. In a case like that you not only lose your forward momentum but can often injure a finger and have difficulty regaining your grip to prevent losing ground or spinning entirely around to be going down the slope, headfirst. A situation like that happened to me out on a path down by the river, when I lost my grip and ended up being bent over with my head between my knees barreling down a hill. With no trunk muscles to sit me up, and my hands trying to slow me down, I thought for sure that I was going to end up on my face on the asphalt or in the grass. These hill climbers would have prevented that.

When they are not properly adjusted, or if your tires are low on pressure, they can let you down. We have found them to be the most effective when used very slowly and intentionally. That is, after engaging them ensure that they are doing their job, then slowly push forward up the slope followed by gently releasing your grip to ensure they are holding before taking another stroke of the push rims. If they are adjusted to be closer to the wheels, when engaged, they will wear down your tread and cause a lot of resistance for forward momentum. All the more reason they are best used only when climbing a slope, not for general wheeling.

They have certainly got me out of some sticky situations where there were no other people around to lend a hand and they got me safely into my van on a very cold and snowy day.

Source: Most ultralight wheelchair dealers and online. Installation was very easy and something easily done by someone capable of adjusting regular wheel locks.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Touch Lamp


Everybody needs a grope light. You know, that light that's easy to find and smack the switch when you need light in the middle of the night. Certainly there are plenty of lamps available with a nice easy rocker switch that serve this purpose but nothing is quite as easy for someone with paralyzed fingers than a touch lamp. Unfortunately, they are becoming a little bit harder to find and new bulb technology is causing them to function differently than they used to 10 years ago.

My favorite touch lamp, pictured above, still uses incandescent bulbs. Just a nice, small, 60 W chandelier bulb. The lamp is what controls the dim, medium and bright levels. Built into it is a relay that allows only so much wattage through at each of the three levels. Many touch lamps actually require special bulbs which contain three separate filaments and that is how the three levels of brightness is controlled. I understand that this is necessary for lamps of a higher maximum wattage but thankfully smaller bedside lamps do not need the special bulbs.

In most lamps like this CFL bulbs simply don't work. They only work with lamps that have on and off, not multiple levels of brightness. The bulbs that can either cause a malfunction or cause the lamp to no longer have three levels of brightness are LED bulbs. If you notice when you shop for either CFL or LED bulbs they give their ratings in two measurements, actual wattage and equivalent wattage. Eventually we will become accustomed to the amount of light put out by a 10 W LED bulb but for now most of us need to know that that is typically equivalent to the 60 W incandescent bulb that we all grew up with.

In the case of the touch lamp, where the settings are 20 W output for low, 40 W output for medium and 60 W for high, even on the low setting you have already exceeded the LED bulb's maximum draw. So, using that bulb in this lamp would give me high, high, high and off. There would be no low or medium settings. There is no danger in this case because the bulb will not draw more than it needs. The lamp is not going to try to push an extra 50 W of power through the bulb on what would normally be the brightest setting. However, some lamps that function differently have warnings about not using LED bulbs in them and some LED bulbs on IKEA's website indicate that they are not well-suited for all touch lamps. I used IKEA as an example because that is about the most affordable place to purchase LED bulbs.

I don't believe touch lamps are going to disappear forever but they have been becoming more difficult to find. It may simply be a matter of searching hard to find the right one and, before long, we may not enjoy the ease of waking up to a low or medium setting if on or off are our only options.

Source: Lamp – department stores and online.
Bulbs – most department stores but I have found the best deals at IKEA and dx.com.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lanyards and Mobile Phones

I'm fortunate to have enough dexterity to seldom need assistance using my mobile phone. As mentioned before, I have chosen cases that have features giving me a greater ability to securely hold the device. A phone from October of 2004, that I still have and is sitting right next to me on the desk as I write this, was one of the earlier phones with a built-in modem, very minimal Internet access and texting capabilities. I had it set up on a free phone plan provided by SaskTel to any member of the Canadian Paraplegic Association. I had to purchase the phone out right, which certainly brings to light how expensive cell phones are when you don't get them at a discount rate because of a contract. Since it has served me 11 years I think I got my money's worth.

That said, this was a flip phone before any type of Internet connectivity or advanced communication was available in a mobile device for your average consumer. It is a really nice compact, streamlined unit that fits in just about any pocket. Unfortunately, because of the smooth, round lines and perfectly fitting halves, it was pretty difficult for me to reliably hold on to or flip open when receiving a call. Unless I had somewhat long fingernails I had a difficult time prying open the phone to use it. At the time of its primary use, it was simply for emergency purposes so I seldom needed to get at it in a hurry.

Adding a lanyard to the built in bar, as seen in the photo below, made it easier to keep it nearby for immediate access, as well as one additional place to hold on to the phone while prying it open for use. For my purposes I found the lanyard to remove the streamlined nature of the phone and make it more difficult to put in or remove from a pocket when it was not around my neck. Because of this the lanyard did not stay attached to the quick connector for very long. It was nice to be able to leave a quick connector attached for the times I did want the lanyard on it.




Not everyone has the benefit of the dexterity that I enjoy while others have more dexterity. New phones tend not to have a place intended for a lanyard as the flip phone pictured above does. Not so long ago I saw a brilliant improvisation on Brenda's phone (she happens to work at the CPA) and on Delynne's phone (who also works at the CPA and brought the idea for last week's post regarding the adapted makeup brush). Their adaptation was simply to feed the lanyard around their case, looped from the headphone opening to the camera's opening. Ingenious and universal for just about any smart phone out there.



If you choose the right lanyard, with a very tough but thin cord as the one used on both of these phones (it's the same lanyard, switched from one phone to the next for demonstration purposes), it won't affect the fit of the phone in the case. One of the two that I saw even fit well with the legendary Otterbox case for an iPhone. By legendary I mean that they fit incredibly precisely, better than some of the knockoff cases I have seen and used.

I love simple, inexpensive solutions to make it easier to enjoy technology everyone else is enjoying, without a complicated custom-made adaptation. This lanyard came with a terrible a.m. radio in the shape of a Saskatchewan Roughriders helmet, attached as a prize to a bottle of Wiser's Deluxe. Wouldn't want to lose my radio while listening to a Rider game and drinking my whiskey.

Source: Discount stores and eBay are the best places to find a lanyard that best meets your needs.