Showing posts with label physical therapist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label physical therapist. Show all posts

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Adaptive Living – Adjusting Physically

Empowerment is the name of the game when you have experienced a total permanent disability.  You may not be able to change the fact that you are now living with a physical impairment, but you can (and must!) change the way you interact with the world to overcome, work around, or adapt to your new physical disability

Fortunately, there are myriad and amazing new technologies available to help enable the disabled.  For all the many types of physical disability, there are products on the market to make your life a little easier. Whether you are experiencing paralysis, failing eyesight, complete blindness, hearing disabilities, general immobility, or stroke-related impairments, resulting in speech or muscular disabilities, there are enabling gizmos and gadgets designed for you.

The internet is your friend

The Web is particularly valuable for those who need to adapt to a disability. The very fact that the products are available online and shipped directly to you is a wonderful benefit if you are experiencing problems with mobility. And the selection available online will inevitably be far superior to whatever a local store might have in stock. Of course, for some types of products, getting the right fit is critical. In those cases, do go to a local store or, more likely, you will work through your physical therapist or occupational therapist. But when a customized fit is not necessary, finding and ordering specialty items is where the Internet shines brightest.

To find an online store that specializes in products for the physically disabled, try using "products that help the disabled" in the search box of Google, Bing, or Yahoo. You will find more providers than you could ever need.  

Products for the physically disabled,
like this large print keyboard, make
it easier to live with a disability.
(Image from:

While site search tools make it easy to quickly find a particular mobility product, also try browsing a site. After the injury that left me with right-arm paralysis, I found it very helpful to simply browse the products that are out there on the market. There were many mobility products that I never thought to ask about – products I wouldn't have guessed existed – but that have since proven to be essential parts of my daily life.

Here are some fascinating examples of solutions and products design to enable the disabled:
A rocker knife for people with
mobility impairments helps you
stay independent.
(image from:
  • A chopping block designed for a person who has only one good hand. What makes it unique? The chopping block has guardrails on two sides, which allow you to "corner" the food you want to chop. It also has a spike sticking up in the center of the board, which allows you to skewer the food item you want to cut or chop, since you cannot use your other hand to hold the food steady.
  • A rocker knife, useful for cutting through meats with one hand. The knife's blade is curved – quarter-moon shaped, if you will – which allows you to cut the meat by rocking the knife back and forth through it.
  • Voice recognition software, such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking – which I'm using to "type" this article right now – allows you to speak words, phrases, and sentences aloud into a computer headset, and then the voice recognition software translates your spoken words into ordinary, editable text, just as if you had typed the text into your favorite software program. Anyone with hand mobility issues can benefit from voice recognition software. This technology is a good example of helping you do more than simply cope; with a reasonably powerful computer, a good quality headset, and a little practice at speaking clearly (pretend you're a newscaster, and you'll get great results), you can expect to get vocal "typing" speeds in excess of 100 words per minute and with an accuracy rate of 99.5%. That makes you virtually bionic: far more capable than the average typist!
  • The JAWS reader is a popular piece of computer hardware designed for those with blindness. It reads aloud from the computer any text from websites and computer programs to help the user navigate through software menus and websites.
Other mobility technologies include alternative computer keyboards that only require one hand, car and motorcycle adjustments that let you accelerate, change gears, and brake with your hands, and more.

Watch and learn

Beyond products, the Internet is a wonderful resource for learning how to adjust physically to a permanent disability. Many people with physical disabilities have posted how-to videos online, demonstrating how to function with limited mobility. For example, you can watch a demonstration of the JAWS reader, a demonstration on how to get back in the wheelchair from the floor or from tipping over the wheelchair when you have leg paralysis, how to go down a staircase in a wheelchair, how to do dog-walking from a wheelchair, how to make your home wheelchair accessible, how to get dressed with paralyzed legs, and more. You can even watch a video I created on how to tie your shoes with just one hand.  

Videos like these can help you to feel more mobile and capable, and without requiring the assistance of a physical or occupational therapist. Often the best mobility teachers are those who have a disability similar to your own.   

While nothing beats having your ability back, the fact is that you are living in a time when there is an endless array of accessibility products, accessibility laws, and accessibility online aids to help you regain your abilities.

Have you experienced an immobility and then benefited from adaptive living tools, techniques, or websites? If so, please use the comments tool below to share your experiences with us and our readers. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer