Making your Home Wheelchair Friendly

Nearly 2 million Americans living outside an institution use a wheelchair or a scooter for mobility. When addressing various ways home interiors can be modified to improve independence for people who are mobility-challenged, it is important to note the difference between two terms used frequently, especially within the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Accessibility refers to a building, a facility, or a site into which a physically-disabled person may enter. Adaptability means how flexible interior elements of the home, for example, kitchen sinks, bath and shower areas, even closets, can be modified depending on the resident’s degree of disability.

An average adult wheelchair, according to ANSI (American National Standards Institute), can be up to 50 inches long and up to 32 inches wide. The average seat is 20 inches high, and the armrests are about 30 inches from the floor. There are wheelchairs made for sport usage; the seat is slightly lower and wider than the average wheelchair. Consequently, the reach capacity above the head is lower than the average model.

The adult wheelchair requires 60 inches of space to make a 360-degree turn. A minimum of 36 inches is required for clear hallway passage, and at least 32 inches for doorways. The doorway threshold should be less than 1/4″ off the floor. Where door handles must be pulled to open a door, there should be at least 18″ of clear space. Door handles should be no higher than 48″ from floor or ground level. They should be operable with closed fists, which is why a popular choice is a lever-type handle. If door mats are present at doorways, they should be no higher than ½-inch, and all edges should be securely fastened to the floor.

Toilet seats should be no higher than 19 inches, and bars for grabbing and lifting should be no higher than 36 inches both behind and next to the toilet. Sink rims should not exceed 34 inches high, and again, a closed fist should have no trouble turning the faucet on or off. Bathroom, and for that matter, ALL mirrors should be hung with the bottom edge at no higher than 40 inches. Bathrooms and halls must have a minimum of 36 inches width, free from all obstructions, and should include a circle, or “T” that is 5 feet in diameter to that the individual in the wheelchair is able to make a 180-degree turn. Hardwood floors are ideal but if there is carpet, it should be a low pile, tight-weave type.

Light switches and other wall-mounted controls should be no higher than 54 inches for a sideways reach; if accessed by a forward reach, controls should not exceed 48 inches in height. Table and counter tops should be between 28 and 34 inches in height. The area for knee placement should be a minimum of 27 inches in height, at least 30 inches in width, and a depth of 19 inches.

Such modifications may add to the cost of a new home construction; according to ADA, it should add between 3 and 10 percent.

Most homes will require a ramp for access from the outside. A ramp must be at least 36 inches wide, and grade is written in this manner- 1:12, which means that for every inch of incline, or decline, there needs to be 12 inches of length. The ramp must have hand rails that do not exceed 34 inches from the ramp’s surface. The hand rails must extend at least one foot beyond the end of the ramp, and the hand rail ends must be rounded, or designed so that they curve downward and reach the floor. At every 30’ length, a flat ramp is required for a resting point. The ramp should resist weather and be covered with a material that is both non-slipping, but also does not create difficulty.

For a shower to be accessible by a wheelchair it should be no less than 3 sq. ft. and there should not be a “lip” or curb to hinder entering. In the bathroom and shower, the floor should be an anti-slip material. Safety thermostat devices should be placed on the faucet to prevent sudden, drastic water temperature changes. A hand-held shower head should be installed, and at a level and location that can be easily reached. Grab bars should be present around the entire shower interior.

Living independently includes being able to maintain, even in an emergency situation such as a sustained power outage, or hurricane, etc. If a disaster requires the person in a wheelchair to exit the home quickly, there should be more than one exit, especially if one becomes obstructed. Emergency phone numbers should be kept close to telephones; make arrangements for either neighbors or relatives to check in periodically during extreme situations.

The links that follow provide helpful information and advice on what changes are necessary for accommodating a wheelchair in the home, as well as tips for planning ahead for a disaster.

Disaster Preparedness for people with Disabilities

This gives the individual all the things to think about and how to plan ahead for potential disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, etc.

U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Here is a list of specifications necessary for wheelchair ramps and for showers to have wheelchair access.

Motorhome Modifications

This site discusses modifications one can make to a motor home to make it more accessible.

Preparing for an Emergency

Especially for those with mobility challenges, this is a checklist for planning for an emergency.

Widening Doorways

On this web page, one of the needs of individuals who use a wheelchair is wider halls and doorways for a wheelchair.

Plan Ahead

Additional tips are found here for being prepared in the event of an actual emergency.

Dimensions

This is a brochure that lists minimum dimensions for hallways, and the diameter of space required to make a turn in a wheelchair.

Remodeling

This site gives step-by-step instruction on how to coordinate a remodeling of a home in order for the mobility-challenged resident to maintain independence.

Rebuilding Together

This is a checklist to note where there are accessibility challenges in the home so that changes can be made.

Accessible Home Design

This site provides some design plans for making a home more accessible for a wheelchair.

Home Modifications

Here is a list of questions to ask in determining whether home modifications are needed to improve accessibility.

Home Changes

This page discusses home modifications that would make a home more wheelchair accessible.

Adaptations for the Home

This provides a thorough look at recommendations for home interior design that make it accessible for wheelchairs.

Everything including the kitchen sink

Here is a site from an individual who requires accessible housing; there are photos with explanations of different features that improve quality of life at home.

Before & After Modifications

This presentation illustrates different types of accessibility modifications that can be made to any home.

A Guide To Assistive Technologies

When defined, assistive technology includes any piece of equipment or device that helps to increase the independence of a disabled person. While assistive technology is not new, it is an ever changing and growing type of technology.

The distinction between assistive technologies for disabled people and adaptive technologies for the nondisabled are blurred at times. Some assistive technology inventions have been proven to be ergonomically sound and therefore they have been incoporated as standard features for the disabled and nondisabled. An example of one of those features would be the on/off switch on a keyboard which was originally developed so that disabled people did not have to reach the back of the machine.

Assistive technology has helped to enormously increase the ability of disabled people to lead more independent lives. Assistive technology devices enable disabled people to do all sorts of tasks such as turning on lights and appliances and opening doors while in a wheelchair, speak through synthetic speech systems, and read when they cannot see. The technology is intended to help people have the ability to see, hear, speak, learn, and move about freely, and there are always new items being developed to help with these areas of functioning.

Kinds of Assistive Technology

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) use electronic sensors that are connected to alarm systems to help vulnerable people who want to stay at home and be independent. PERS include such items as fall detectors for the elderly, thermometers, and various sensors (generally for people with dementia). Many systems can be customized for the user’s particular risks.

Accessible computer input technology reduces the strain of sitting at a desk with a keyboard and amouse. There are various ergonomic accessories such as footrests, arm supports, and adjustable furniture to ensure the correct posture. There are also chorded keyboards that have a handful of keys (one per finger per hand) to type chords which produce different keys and letters. Large print keyboards are another type of assistive computer input technology that can help disabled people. There are also many sophisticated accessible computer input products that can replace normal functioning computer parts. These include joysticks, touchpads, foot mice, speech recognition software, and even eye trackers.

Access and environmental controls are devices that allow someone increased control of things in their environment. These controls include things like remote controls, special keyboards and mice, switches, ramps, and Braille signs.

Aids to daily living include special tools for activities like eating, dressing, and brushing ones teeth. Some aids to daily living are specially designed shower stalls and toilet seats, and adapted plates, cups, and utensils.

Augmentative communication can support a person who cannot talk, or whose speech is not easily understood. There are many types of communication software and computers, picture boards, and voice output communication devices available for these types of disabilities.

Assisted listening can help support someone who has either hearing loss or is completely deaf. Assistive listening devices inclde typing telephones, amplifiers, hearing aids, and captions on television. There are various types of products available depending on the type of hearing loss one is suffering.

Assistive technology has proven a great tool in helping people with disablities live a more independent life. From products for the blind and visually impaired, the deaf, people with learning disabilities, and more there are many resources for individuals with disabilities. While some forms of assistive technology have been around for a long time, there are always new and more sophisticated products emerging.

What is Assistive Technology? – An in-depth but easy to understand description of assistive technology

Assistive Technology Training – information on assistive technology for elementary students with disabilities

AbleData – a database with information on assistive technology and other types of rehabilitation equipment that is available in the United States

ATA – The website of the Alliance for Technology Access which provides support services and information to people with disabilities

Types of Assistive Technology – a list of the different types of assistive technology with examples

K-12 Assistive Technology – a table of the most common assistive technologies and how they can help in the classroom

Assistive Technology Devices – a comprehensive list of assistive technology devices and how they are used

AbilityHub – a website for people with disabilities featuring a directory of adaptive equipment and information on alternative methods of accessing computers

Muscular Dystrophy (MD) Information

Muscular Dystrophy (MD), is a rare genetic disease that affects persons of all races around the world and is characterized by weakness and wasting of muscle tissue; in some cases this may also include the heart. There are nine types of this disease, some of which affect one or both genders at varying stages of life. The different types of this disease are: Becker, Duchenne, congenital, distal, Emery-Dreifuss, facioscapulohumeral, limb-girdle, myotonic, and oculopharyngeal. MD is an inherited disease usually caused by an abnormal gene that can be passed on to children by either one or both parents. Duchenne MD and Becker MD, for example, are both passed on by an X chromosome from the mother, while oculopharyngeal MD and limb-girdle MD are passed on by both the mother and father. Although most of the varying forms of the disease are slow to progress and will worsen in time, those who suffer from them in most cases will have a normal life expectancy. Children who suffer from Duchenne MD and congenital MD, however, may have a higher mortality rate.

Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD)

Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD) is a form of MD that is characterized by a gradual weakening of the lower body muscles. Depending on the rate of deterioration, some men may eventually need the assistance of a wheelchair or cane as they get older. BMD is an inherited disease that occurs predominately in males, with an average onset around the age of 12 years old. Similar to Duchenne MD, BMD is caused by an abnormal gene on the X-chromosome that causes a decreased production of the protein dystrophin.

  • Neuromuscular Diseases Information: An overview of diagnostic tests and treatments, including links to outside criteria and a resource guide to the disability.
  • American Academy of Neurology: Information on BMD as well as DMD. This page also includes a link to view a report based on a study of new treatment alternatives.
  • Medline Plus: An easy to understand, yet in depth, review of BMD that covers information from the cause of the disease to when one should contact a physician.

Congenital Muscular Dystrophy (CMD)

As a congenital disease, CMD is present at birth and can affect both male and female infants. It is characterized by muscle weakness and contractures that can cause joint problems and deformities. Often children with CMD develop learning disabilities, brain abnormalities and even seizures. Depending on the type, a shortened lifespan may be indicated.

  • Gene Reviews: A detailed overview of CMD by the University of Washington, that applies genetic testing to the diagnosis, counseling and management of patients.
  • Cure CMD: Information on research, conferences, events and news as related to CMD. The resources page offers numerous links to therapy, equipment, support groups, and advocacy.

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD)

DMD is the most recognized type of muscular dystrophy in children. Males are generally the only ones afflicted with the disease, however, it is females who carry the defective gene and will have a 50% chance of passing it on to her children. If a male child is affected he will usually show signs of the disease no later than seven or eight years old and will likely require the use of a wheelchair by the age of 12. Like BMD, there is weakening and wasting of the muscles, starting with those of the lower body. Eventually all muscles including the heart will be affected. There is no cure at this time and survival beyond the age of 30 is rare.

  • Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne: The foundation offers a list of links to websites and organizations that provide research, support and other useful information to patients and their families. The website also includes the latest news, events, and donation opportunities.
  • Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy: A website providing health, research, and care information to parents of children with DMD.
  • University of Maryland Medicine: Provides an explanation of what DMD is and gives signs, symptoms, and a short list of available treatment options.

Distal Muscular Dystrophy (DD)

Perhaps the least severe of the forms of Muscular Dystrophy, DD affects the hands, feet, lower legs, and forearms. There are several different forms of this disorder that are caused by different gene abnormalities. The onset for DD is usually later in life, occurring around the ages of 40 to 60 and is slow progressing. Both men and women are affected by this disease.

  • Muscular Dystrophy Association: A description of DD types, causes and treatments including a diagram of areas normally affected by the disease. Information regarding resources, research and other forms of Muscular Dystrophy, are also available for those who suffer from the disease and their families.
  • Cleveland Clinic: The website is for the non-profit medical center, which provides information on inheritance and treatment methods.

Emery-Dreifuss Muscular Dystrophy (EDMD)

This is a slow progressing form of MD with outward signs developing around the age of 10. Some of the first noticeable indications are stiffness in the heels and difficulty in bending the arms at the elbows. Cardiac problems are quite common and will usually manifest in early adulthood. While the progression of muscle weakness is slow, cardiac problems can be life threatening and often result in treatment with medications or in some cases a pacemaker is required.

  • AARP Health Encyclopedia: A six page, in depth overview of EDMD that covers all basic information on the disease as well as, demographics, autosomal dominant forms, autosomal recessive forms and contractures.
  • Quest Magazine for MDA.org: The online magazine for the muscular dystrophy association provides research updates on EDMD and other forms MD.

Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD)

FSHD is the third most common form of MD in children and adults. It is characterized by a progressive weakening of the upper body, usually starting with the facial muscles. It is a disorder that affects roughly 5 out of 100,000 people, both men and women. Although those who suffer from FSHD may experience complications such as decreased hearing or mobility, the long term prognosis is generally good.

  • FSH Society: A network consisting of research activists and patients that provides the latest information, advances in research, news, events, and a other relevant resources for patients and scientists.
  • John Hopkins Neurology and Neurosurgery: Information on the diagnosis and treatment of Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy.
  • Penn State Hershey Medical Center An encyclopedia entry from Penn State University that reviews the causes, signs, and symptoms of Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy.

Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy (LGMD)

LGMD is the name given to 18 different types of Muscular Dystrophy. Persons affected by this disease will first notice muscle weakness of the hips and shoulders. Generally, the abnormal gene which results in LGMD is passed by both the mother and father. There is currently no known cure and treatment is generally the management of symptoms.

Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy (MMD)

MMD is a late-onset form of Muscular Dystrophy, usually occurring as a teenager or adult. There are two types of this disease caused by a repeated section of DNA on one of two chromosomes. Type 1, or MMD1, is a result of a defect in chromosome 19 and is the most common. Type 2, or MMD2, is a result of an abnormal chromosome 3 and is both less common and less severe. Some of the symptoms include weakness, muscle wasting, and delayed muscle relaxation

Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy (OPMD)

A slow progressing form of Muscular Dystrophy that usually begins in the 40’s or 50’s. OPMD can be inherited by one or both parents and is caused by a faulty gene which causes the formation of clumps in the muscle cells. The first signs of the disease are a weakness in the throat and the lids of the eyes. There is, at this time, no treatments for the OPMD and management is primarily for the symptoms of drooping eyelids and difficulty swallowing.

  • Muscular Dystrophy Campaign: A fact sheet provided by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign that also covers common definitions, symptoms, and signs associated with OPMD.
  • University of New Mexico School of Medicine: A review of the regional history, cause, testing and treatment options for Oculopharyneal Muscular Dystrophy. This site also includes links to faculty publications.

The Amputation Help and Resource Guide

Amputation is a surgical procedure that is performed to remove all or part of a limb or extremity. There are several causes as to why amputation must be performed, such as trauma; illness, such as diabetes; or infection at a distal site. The process of amputation is complex and typically involves rehabilitation therapy and potential prosthetic devices. While it is a complicated medical process that has affected millions, amputation has not stopped many people from continuing to live active and healthy lives.

Amputation History                                                                                                                                                                      

The process of amputation has dated back for centuries, when removal of a limb was a necessary procedure due to illness or injury. Unfortunately, many patients did not survive long after an amputation due to a lack of aseptic techniques or practices to reduce infection. Prosthetic devices began to be developed in the 15th century, although they were heavy and crudely formed. Technology and procedures continued to evolve and by the 19th century, amputations were performed more frequently, particularly during the Civil War. Today, amputations are a specialized medical procedure and prosthetic devices have advanced as technology continues to progress.

Types of Amputations

Amputations are classified as being either minor or major. Minor amputations are those that involve a digit, such as a toe or finger, or a minor part of the body being removed, such as a small part of the foot. Major amputations include removal of all or part of an extremity, such as removal of an arm or hand, or the portion of the leg below the knee. Major amputations are extensive operations that have greater possibilities of infections or complications following the procedure. Major amputations typically also require rehabilitation therapy and the amputee may be a candidate for a prosthetic device.

Reasons for Amputation

There are various reasons why an amputation must be performed, and the decision to remove a limb is something that must be thoroughly discussed with a physician. Some illnesses, such as diabetes, reduce the amount of blood flow to distal extremities and the lack of circulation can cause damage. For example, an untreated wound in the foot of a diabetic can lead to gangrene, causing a need for amputation. Other illnesses, such as cancer, cause a tumor on a bone or part of the body that invades the surrounding tissue. To treat the cancer, the tumor and the surrounding limb must be removed for healing. The major cause of amputation is due to injury, such as a crushing force that destroys the ability to use a part of the body. For these reasons, amputation is typically a difficult but necessary decision to make.

Effects of Amputation

Because amputation is a major event, the reactions to the surgery vary as much as those who are involved with it. Amputation can cause an emotional response from some people due to the loss of a limb or body part. Some people continue to experience physical pain, called phantom limb pain, where their limb used to be. For those managing the emotional, psychological and physical effects of amputation, help and resources are available by physicians and professionals who can provide support.

  • Mental Effects of Amputation: A discussion of some emotional reactions to limb loss. The article is several years old, but the information remains applicable.
  • Phantom Limb Syndrome: A resource guide for patients who have experienced amputation and are suffering from phantom limb pain.

Famous Amputees

There are several people that are famous not only for their accomplishments, but also because of the fact they are amputees. Famous amputees are musicians, athletes, models, and many others that are well-known because of their abilities. For many amputees, their disability has not slowed them down in their goal of achieving their dreams. These people provide a role model and a source of encouragement for others who are also facing a limb disability.

  • Amputee Online: A list of several well-known amputees that are athletes or involved in sports.
  • Disabled World: A directory of many famous people that are amputees.
  • Tom Whittaker: Homepage of the mountaineer amputee who climbed Mt. Everest.
  • Heather Mills: Website of the famous amputee, providing links and information for those affected by limb loss.

Resources for Parents of Child Amputees

For the parent of a child amputee, there may be difficulties with managing the care and support of their child. Many parents feel isolated because of their child’s disability and feel they cannot connect with others who do not share similar circumstances. Other parents have questions or face financial complications and do not know who to contact. For parents of child amputees, there are numerous networks and resources available for information and support in the care of their child.

General Amputation Resources

Amputees or those facing the possibility of surgery may have questions or uncertainties about their situation. They may not be aware of what their options are when facing surgery, rehabilitation, or prosthetic treatment. There are a number of support groups and publications available to educate those who have questions about amputation. For those that are looking for help and guidance, there are numerous resources available.

Associations and Organizations for Amputees

Various organizations are available whose purpose is to educate others about amputation. These associations provide education through articles and research in the areas of technology and development. They are also a medium for professionals working in the areas of therapy and rehabilitation to gain useful educational credits and learning experiences. Associations and organizations for amputees are useful resources for those seeking help and support.

  • Amputee Coalition of America: An organization empowering those with limb loss to achieve their full potential through education, support, and advocacy.
  • Limbless Association: A leading UK charity for those affected by limb loss, their families, and the professionals who care for them.
  • Wiggle Your Toes: An association providing information and community involvement for those affected by limb loss.
  • Amputee Resource Foundation: Distributing information and providing research to improve the quality of life for amputees.

Newsgroups and Communities for Amputees

Newsgroups and communities that are available for amputees are places that help those affected by limb loss to meet and connect with others in similar circumstances. They are useful outlets of support and bonding with others through possibly difficult situations. Newsgroups can teach those affected about new and upcoming therapies in the field of rehabilitation and prosthetics. They are a valuable resource for those affected by limb loss and amputation.

A New Life on Wheels… How to Cope With Your Loss, and Move On

Facing Disabilities

A person can become disabled through an unexpected illness, deteriorating medical condition, or in an accident. This sudden change will dramatically alter the life they once led. Everything will be different, even the sense of self. Losing control of bodily functions or dealing with limited mobility can cause depression and a severe feeling of grief. These are all normal emotions and they must be examined and dealt with in order to accept a new way of life. The truth of the matter is that things will be different but different doesn’t have to mean bad. Accepting the loss and meeting the challenges head on can ensure a positive and healthy outlook. A strong support network and organizations are there to help individuals adjust to their circumstances.

Dealing with Grief and Loss

Losing a part of yourself is a frightening and overwhelming experience. It is perfectly natural to feel a great deal of grief and anger in your experience. You are mourning the life you once had and you are forced to deal with new changes which can make you angry. These feelings will be intense and strong, allow yourself to feel them. These sorts of changes force people to change their self-image which isn’t easy. A support system is vital to healing; seek the help of a licensed counselor, doctor, or friends and family.

Every situation is different. But disability can bring on a variety of concerns for the future. Financial questions must be addressed: Will you receive disability? Can you continue working? Do you have medical care? Medical expenses? It is important that you discuss these important questions with your support system. There are organizations that will help you and your family make decisions about the future. As you look forward it is important that you set realistic goals for yourself. Focus on the things you can do and begin adjusting to your new life tools (walkers, wheelchairs, conversion vans, ramps). Understand your new limitations and work on ways to manage daily activities. An occupational therapist can help you adapt to your new situation which can provide you with a sense of independence and freedom.

Changes to Expect

Disabilities and handicaps require home and lifestyle accommodations. It is imperative that the home be safe and accessible. There are a few important home factors to consider when preparing for a newly disabled or handicap person.

A wheelchair does not fit through a standard door size. Standard doors are usually 28 to 32 inches wide. A wheelchair and some walkers usually need at least 36 inches of space. Switching out door hinges for hinges designed for wheelchairs can give you an extra few inches. If you need more space talk to a licensed contractor. Switch out any standard door knobs for levers which will be easier for someone with limited hand mobility. Examine the home, if there are any steps or stairs it is crucial that you install ramps. Examine the flooring of your home. Thick carpet can be difficult for wheelchairs, consider changing out carpets for wood, laminate, or tile flooring.

Disabled or handicap individuals will have an easier time showering if a walk-in shower is installed. If this is not financially possible, install a shower chair. It is also helpful if you replace all standard toilets with handicap toilets.

Depending upon the disability, the use of a mobility aid might be necessary. Walkers, canes, or wheelchairs will all help to improve mobility and function. Discuss with your doctor which aid is better for your particular situation.

Being disabled doesn’t mean you are confined to your home. You can still have the added freedom of driving. There are plenty of handicap accessible vans, all with equipment designed for you to drive. There are a plethora of options depending on your particular disability.

Moving Forward

Being disabled or handicapped is a difficult challenge for anyone. Talk to others, there are occupational therapists, counselors, doctors, friends, and family who will all help you to rediscover your life and happiness. Do not isolate yourself. Focus on adapting to new tools, whether it be mobility aids, a conversion van, and ramps. All of these accommodations will make your life easier. Make sure to take time to care for yourself emotionally. Focus on your spiritual, mental and physical health. Express your emotions to your support system and seek out the help of different organizations.

The following links can serve as resource guides for dealing with disability.

Adjusting to Disability – Information on how to cope emotionally when dealing with a disability.

Masters in Counseling – Top 100 counseling resources on the web

How to Deal with Paralysis – Information on dealing with paralysis and the loss of muscle power.

Financing An Accessible Home – How to retrofit a home to be accessible while staying within a budget.

Emotional Adjustment – How to adjust emotionally when having to use adaptive equipment.

The American Association of People with Disabilities – Support and information for people with disabilities.

Designing Accessible Communities – A nonprofit organization that promotes education about accessibility.

Disabilities – A website connecting the disabled community to opportunities and information.

Disability Resources – Resources on numerous topics including conferences, assistive technology, and more.

Disabled American Veterans – A nonprofit organization dedicated to building better lives for disabled veterans.

Independent Living – A website promoting the self-determination of people with disabilities.

The National Organization on Disabilities – Promotes the participation of Americans with disabilities in every aspect of life.

Through the Looking Glass – A nonprofit organization that offers training and services for families dealing with disabilities.

World Institute on Disability – An organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to social integration and increase employment.

National Dissemination Center – Information on disabilities in infants, toddlers, children, and youth.

The Impact of Childhood Disability (PDF)– Information for parents struggling with children suffering from disabilities.

Coping With Disability: A Challenge At All Ages – An article discussing how to cope with disabilities regardless of age.

Stigma of Disability – An article on understanding and coping with the stigma that comes along with disabilities.

Dealing With Disability – A day by day guide to dealing with a disability.

Traveling With Disabled People

Traveling with individuals with disabilities can be challenging for the travelers, traveling companions and for the travel providers. While individuals with disabilities are usually quick to adapt to their surroundings, it is important for all parties involved to make the travel as easy as possible. Not only is it advisable to make accommodations for disabled travelers, but in many instances, travel providers are bound by law to comply with the accommodations.

The needs of the disabled travelers can range from special seating arrangements on planes, trains or automobiles to special needs for hotel or motel rooms. Depending on the disability, the arrangements can be simple or more complex. For example, if a travel is vision impaired it may be necessary for a working dog to travel with the individual. Arrangements for travel and hotel will need to be made to accommodate the dog. Or, if the traveler is wheelchair bound, the transportation provider needs to accommodate the wheelchair and the hotel needs to provide a wheelchair accessible room.

Depending on the disability and the limitations they have will indicate what type of assistance and planning will be required. The disabled traveler, any traveling companion and travel companies are all responsible for making travel planning as smooth as possible for the disabled traveler.

To assist disabled travelers in planning and executing travel arrangements, we have gathered a collection of resources. We hope they will be helpful in traveling with individuals with disabilities:

Traveling Canada by Train: A History

With modern-day air travel, most people haven’t experienced the wonder of train travel. Canada offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, and a first-rate way to see it is to take a train ride. Trains offer riders a chance to sit back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful scenery without the worries of driving or the hassle of flying. Whether the trip is a quick jaunt between cities, or a tour of the entire country, the Canadian rail systems present numerous travel options for those wanting to get around this friendly North American country. Riders can imagine themselves back in time, when train travel was chic, and everyone waited for their cue from the conductor: All aboard!

History of Canadian Railroad

Canada is a country that was built on its railway system. Because the country boasts some of the toughest terrain in the world, settlers could only establish themselves in areas where, at first water travel, and then train travel allowed them. Canada incorporated its first railway system in 1832. This incorporation was a venture between Champlain and St. Lawrence railroads, and construction of the rail system was completed in 1836. Numerous other railroad projects followed suit, some even connecting with northern U.S. railway systems. Unfortunately, these railway systems were shoddily constructed and managed, and the Canadian government took over the failing systems after WWI. Fortunately, the Canadian citizens understand the importance of Canada’s railway system and pay additional tax to keep them afloat.

The History of Canadian Railroad

Significant Dates in Canadian Railway History

Major Canadian Railways

The two major Canadian railways are the Canadian National Railway Company, which runs its trains on 14,096 miles worth of track, and the Canadian Pacific Rail Company, which runs trains on 7,961 miles of track. The remaining Canadian railways are referred to as regional or shortline railways. These trains run smaller routes and some offer localized services. Tourist trains travel on all tracks throughout the country.

The Atlas of Canada’s Rail Transportation Infrastructure

Canadian National Railway Company

Canadian Pacific Rail Company

Major Train Stations

The major cities in each Canadian province have centralized train stations to facilitate the passengers who use the railway system daily. Visitors to British Columbia will find major train stations in Vancouver, Victoria, Courtenay, Prince Rupert, and Prince George. Alberta travelers will find the major stations in Edmonton and Jasper. The aptly named Saskatoon Station is the Saskatoon province’s primary train station. Manitoba boasts major stations in Winnipeg and Churchill. Those visiting Ontario will find stations in Toronto, Ottawa, and Niagara Falls, among others. The French-speaking province of Quebec houses larger train stations in Montreal and Quebec City. Those visiting the Atlantic side of the country will stop in Moncton and Halifax. Canada also has numerous smaller station stops in between the major ones.

Primary Canadian Train Station List

Canada by Rail Train Station Map

Canadian Railway and Tourism

Modern-day commerce has flourished on the train tracks, and Canadian tourist trains offer visitors the chance to see the entire country in ways they never imagined. These tourist trains offer packages for just about any occasion. Travelers wanting to see Canada from coast-to-coast can book a scenic train route across the country. There are weekend getaways for those just taking a few days from the real world, and, yes, this is Canada, so ice hockey train packages are available that take fans from one game to the next.

Canadian Tourism Website Train Information

Canadian Rockies by Rail; Jim Gullo — CBS News

Canadian Vacations by Rail

Trains and Disabilities

Travelers with disabilities shouldn’t fret; Canadian trains are prepared to accommodate visitors with special needs. This includes travelers who require mobility assistance, special meals, and those traveling with companion animals. Each train company is different, so travelers should discuss their needs with the service provider prior to making reservations. It is not likely, however, that a visitor with special needs will not be accommodated.

Rail Assistance for Travelers With Special Needs

Rail Adapted Transport Information

Kids and Trains

Kids who love train rides will also enjoy traveling Canada by train. Kids can learn about the very trains they are riding in, the tracks they are riding on, and the scenery they are viewing from the train all while enjoying the trip. Many tourist trains offer children’s videos, literature, and games that kids can play during the train ride. Most trains also have Wi-Fi access, so children can play interactive games to learn about trains on the computer while en route. Children can also learn about the variety of animals they will be able to see from the train’s windows, including elk and bears.

Rail Safety and Kids

The Kids Site of Canadian Trains

Play The Adventure Train Canadian Train Game

Modern Wheelchair Inventions

Life in a wheelchair can be challenging and tough. There are areas that one can’t go to and things that one may not be able to do. However, with advances in science, technology and engineering, several modern inventions have made using and living in a wheelchair more convenient and comfortable. For instance, a wheelchair that can help one climb the stairs will make visiting areas with no ramps possible and easy. Similarly, a bicycle wheelchair will help enjoy the pleasures of cycling. Here is more information about useful modern inventions that make life more comfortable for wheelchair users.

Electric Car for Wheelchair Users

Electric cars for wheelchair users make driving easy and convenient, as well as eco-friendly. These battery-powered cars are low-speed and come equipped with safety requirements, such as headlamps, safety belts, safety glass windshield, mirror, turn signals and taillights. Charging the battery is easy and convenient and models come equipped with onboard chargers that can be plugged into a standard 110-volt outlet.

Entering and exiting the electric car is also easy for a wheelchair user. Some models, like the AMKAR, have a wheelchair accessible ramp that can be opened or closed at the push of a button while others like the Kenguru have a flip-open back and the wheelchair user can wheel himself right inside and the wheelchair locks into position. Controls for maneuvering the car are easy-to-access and within reach of the wheelchair user.

Most importantly, these cars are eco-friendly and make living and moving around the neighborhood easy and convenient for a wheelchair user.

  • Using an Electric Car: Photos and description of the Kenguru electric car for wheelchair users.
  • The Kenguru Electric Car: Detailed information about the specifications and cost of the Kenguru electric car.
  • Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicles: Information about AMKAR, a battery-powered car that makes moving around in neighborhoods, colleges and other areas possible for a wheelchair user.

Wheelchair Bicycle

A wheelchair bicycle is a modern invention in which either a bicycle wheel or a bicycle is attached to the wheelchair allowing the user greater speed and accessibility when moving around in areas like malls or airports while remaining stable, safe and secure. There are several models and types available.

The wheelchair bicycles offered by Frank Mobility, have low-geared three and seven speeds, a low center of gravity for the wheelchair to increase stability, a quick release coupling system and several standard features such as luggage rack, brakes, chain guard, adjustable foot rest, parking brakes for the wheelchair, folding seat with 3 angles and a lot more. Plus, these tandem bicycles can be used by kids and adults, making mobility and maneuverability much easier for a wheelchair user.

  • Wheelchair Bicycle: Learn more about a wheelchair user who invented a wheelchair bicycle to make moving around easy and convenient.
  • The Wheelchair Bicycle Tandem: A wheelchair bicycle that allows a wheelchair user to enjoy the pleasures of cycling with an assistant.

Solar Powered Wheelchair

a solar powered wheelchair is an eco-friendly and useful invention that makes charging a power wheelchair simple and easy. All one has to do is charge the battery for the wheelchair using solar panels that are attached to the top of the wheelchair. Solar power reduces the wheelchair users’ worry about power supply for charging the wheelchair and increases the distance that they can travel on a fully-charged wheelchair.

Stair Climbing Wheelchair

Climbing stairs is not the easiest task for a wheelchair user. Unfortunately, there are still many places where ramps are not available and so, it becomes really tough for a user, however a stair climbing wheelchair overcomes this challenge with ease. The stair climbing wheelchair makes ascending and descending steps possible for a wheelchair user. The modern-day version of this invention, the Topchair, senses the first step using infrared sensors and extends the climbing mechanism and then, automatically senses the last step and retracts the mechanism.

The stair climbing wheelchair has 4 wheels, 2 rubber tracks to move across steps and curbs easily and a microprocessor that makes driving easy and secure. The wheelchair can move up 300 steps on a fully charged battery and users can switch from “flat” mode to “step” mode by just pressing a button.

  • The First Stair Climbing Wheelchair: Information about the iBOt, the first wheelchair that made climbing stairs possible for wheelchair users. Was discontinued later due to high costs.
  • Stair Climbing Wheelchairs Today: Details about Topchair, a powered wheelchair that allows users to climb and descend stairs easily.
  • More about the Topchair: Official website and information on the Topchair. Includes links to specifications, history and photos of the invention in use.

Dog Wheelchair

Pet lovers feel awful when their much-loved dogs are diagnosed with a health problem that impacts mobility. Dogs, after all, love moving around, going for walks with their owners or watching kids play at the park. Dogs with conditions like arthritis, cervical, spinal or disk problems, hip dysplasia or other neurological problems often have their mobility hindered. Dog wheelchairs or dog carts can be a real blessing for these canines.

A dog wheelchair consists of a frame, wheels, a harness and a saddle. Some dog wheelchairs may also have stirrups, foot slings or counterweights for adding balance and stability. While it is possible to buy a readymade wheelchair for a handicapped dog, it is also possible to get one customized to suit a pet’s measurement and handicap. Most dog wheelchairs cost upwards of $200.

Wheelchairs of the Past

Modern wheelchairs are very different from the ancient counterparts. According to Rory A. Cooper in Wheelchair Selection and Configuration, the earliest use of a wheelchair can be traced back to the sixth century AD. However, it was during the Renaissance that a movable, “rolling chair” came into existence and during the 16th century, King Philip II of Spain who suffered from gout had one made for him with luxurious upholstery and adjustable leg rests and back rests. Louis XIV also used a wheelchair or roulette to move around after an operation that restricted his movements. The roulette gained popularity, and according to Cooper, in 1700 the Palace of Versailles had nearly 20 of these historical wheelchairs.

The wheelchair as we know it today was developed only in the 18th century and had two large wooden wheels in the front and a caster wheel at the rear. These wheelchairs were decorative, heavy and difficult to operate without a lot of assistance. The amputees of the Civil War and World War I received lighter wheelchairs than these but even then, the chairs weighed nearly 50-pounds and didn’t enable mobility and independence.

The modern wheelchair, light and practical, was developed by a paraplegic, Herbert Everest and his engineer friend, Harry Jennings. This wheelchair was foldable and made of aircraft-steel which made it durable and usable. The two formed the E&J Company which still makes wheelchairs. It was their company that supplied WWII veterans with chrome wheelchairs.

However, even then, the wheelchairs were not customized to the user and didn’t facilitate a great deal of mobility. It was only when wheelchair users began using their chairs to participate in sports, thanks to the efforts of Sir Ludwig Guttmann and others, that manufacturers began creating chairs that were comfortable, durable, aesthetically pleasing and most importantly, practical.

The wheelchair with its many modern avatars makes mobility convenient and easy for its users. Inventions, like the wheelchair bicycle and stair climbing wheelchair, enable users to enjoy life to the fullest and go just about anywhere their heart desires. Using a wheelchair no longer means being confined to a single room or house. These modern inventions surely make life easier and better for all wheelchair users.