Learn all about how you can travel smartly with mobility this holiday season.
Traveling has always been an option for people through various modes of transportation, such as trains, planes, cars, buses, and public transit. In order to travel smartly with mobility, we must first understand what are the things that often stand in the way. Let’s talk about some of the common accessibility challenges for individuals with mobility needs when traveling.
Facilities around the world are required by law to meet local accessibility standards; however, not all the latest standards meet the actual needs of mobility users sufficiently. While some hotels and motels have wheelchair accessible rooms and bathrooms, as well as accessible parking spaces and entrances, other accommodations may be overlooked. Examples include visual cues for texture, depth, inclination, and elevation changes. Some facilities may lack updated accommodation and inclusion standards, such as wheelchair ramps, elevators, universal signage, or alternative methods of communications (Braille, voice commands, etc.). Refer to reviews, ratings, and pictures of the facilities as second opinions when selecting for the most inclusive facilities to visit.
Mobility traveler-friendly traveling methods:
The mode of transportation itself may pose barriers for individuals who use wheelchairs. Airlines may mishandle wheelchairs, leading to damage. Narrow spaces, like tunnels and tubes from the platform to the plane during boarding and vice versa, can be hard to navigate.
Most traditional escalators are not designed for wheelchair drivers to self navigate. Trips and falls on those escalators are be extremely dangerous. Always use the elevator if possible. And be extremely cautious with taking the escalators in wheelchairs. For even when it seems like the escalators are just wide enough for the device to fit, always remember that your device needs enough leeway to move around as it enters a surface in constant motion.
Restrooms on trains and airplanes may require navigating through narrow hallways and have too tight of a space inside for mobility users to move around. Wide-body airplanes tend to be a better option accessibility-wise since they provide more toilet and aisle spaces. Some airlines also have more accommodations than others. Uniform airport designs that lack in accessible signage can also make restroom identification difficult. Navigating crowded areas to reach restrooms can also be challenging.
Mobility device arrangements during travel:
Similar to baggage and luggage, mobility devices need to be stored with care for proper protection when in transit. In fact, scratches and bumps to mobility devices can easily cause more serious function-related damages that can singlehandedly hinder the rest of the trip. Avoiding unwanted surprises, make sure you are aware of the best storage option for your devices in transit as well as the related local regulations ahead of boarding time to make the necessary arrangements for assistance. Consider using tagging technology (e.g. AirTag) to help track your mobility device in the event that it is lost or misplaced in transit.
Emergency exits and evacuation routes can be hard to find in large busy places like airports and train stations. Individual mobility users can face difficulties accessing oxygen masks and inflatable slides during emergencies. Consider traveling during less crowded hours or days for less hassled environments.
Travel smartly with mobility:
- Plan in advance: Contact the transit companies for more accessibility-related information so you can make more informed choices on which airline/train/bus to book tickets from.
- Label Appropriately: Label mobility devices and associated adaptive devices for careful handling. Use bright colors for attention.
- Track your device: Tracking technology can help with locating lost or misplaced mobility devices.
- Arrive Earlier: Arriving early is always a good choice when traveling. It gives you more time to navigate the check-ins and baggage areas with ease.
- Legislation and Rights: Google local traveling legislation on accessibility and visitor’s rights. Remember to take photos/videos to document the devices’ condition before checking your devices in with third party caretakers during transit.
The above solutions for individual mobility users alone are not sufficient. We firmly believe in the transformative power of collective change. We need to raise awareness of the above challenges faced by mobility travelers nowadays so that everyone can understand the crucial role accessibility plays in making essential transit facilities truly inclusive around the world.Read More
Safety is a prevalent issue related to wheelchair use, with one study highlighting that 55% of wheelchair users reported experiencing at least one collision, and 17% reported experiencing two or more collisions within a three year period. You can read our earlier blog article on the prevalence of wheelchair collisions for additional statistics. Here is a quick view of the consequences of wheelchair collisions and accidents.
So why is it that individuals who have demonstrated their abilities sufficiently enough to be prescribed a wheelchair experience these challenges? At the other end, is it really the case that individuals who are currently being excluded from powered (motorized/electric) mobility device use are too “unsafe” to drive? As a researcher mainly working with individuals with cognitive impairment, I knew there was little research that offered insights into the skills required to use a powered wheelchair. There is even less research to support the misconception that those with cognitive impairment cannot use or learn how to use a powered wheelchair. Despite this, individuals, specifically with cognitive impairment, are given few opportunities to trial and learn how to use a powered wheelchair.
How can we be sure that we are giving everyone a fair chance at independent mobility? In addition, are we viewing mobility as not just a way to get from point A to point B, but also as a necessary tool for learning and development in general.
7 years ago, when I had just started my company Braze Mobility, I walked into the home of a potential client, Wade Watts, and was taken aback by the amount of damage in his home. While I had seen safety often being the reason cited for long-term care residents being denied access to powered wheelchairs, I was not aware of the prevalence of accidents in the community. Despite the fact that Wade is skilled enough to be able to navigate even the most challenging environments, I noticed baseboards had been ripped off many of his walls. He even had to remove a couple of doors because of the damage to his doorways.
In fact the more wheelchair users I spoke to, the more I realized how commonplace property and wheelchair damage are. One of my clients, Herman Witlox, is another wheelchair user who is extremely skilled at using his device, and explains “I can turn [my wheelchair] through a few millimeters of clearance…I can [drive] up two 2 by 4s into the side of the vehicle – that’s a pretty narrow path to keep on course”. Despite this, he shared that
“2 or 3 dents in the wall a day [was] normal. I just [learned] to live with it”.By Herman Witlox
Through my decade-plus-long research in the mobility space and more than 7 years of providing mobility solutions, I have witnessed a plethora of barriers in accessing and maintaining safe and independent mobility. Exploring these barriers in depth for each individual user can ensure that we identify solutions that address their specific needs.
When I get an inquiry from a therapist or a caregiver about a client who is “driving into things” and I ask the question “why?”, the reasons are often unclear or unknown. I have heard the phrase “they are just a terrible wheelchair driver”, many times from frustrated spouses or other family members who have had to pay for all the damage. However, in my experience, this reason is rarely true.
Most non-wheelchair users, including some therapists that prescribe the technology, don’t realize that operating a wheelchair, especially a powered one, can be extremely difficult. In this blog series, we break down the challenges in 3 areas: technology, environment, and client. By examining each of these individual areas, we aim to provide a more holistic view of safety-related pain points and barriers in wheelchair use. In this first article in the blog series, we highlight factors that are technology-specific.
Seating is of utmost importance in allowing the user to navigate effectively and comfortably. An individual can experience pain with wheelchair use, independent of their current diagnosis and functioning. When a comfortable, dynamic (movable) seating option is available and positioned correctly for the user, it can reduce the user’s pain by avoiding sliding, slipping, and sudden movements that can all cause injury. In addition, seating adjustments can improve safe and efficient operation of the wheelchair by ensuring that the drive control (the mechanism used to operate a powered wheelchair) is visible and within reach. A RESNA position paper provides insight on the seating-related challenges faced by wheelchair users and associated recommendations. Permobil provides a helpful seating and positioning guide. Additionally, Michelle Lange provides insight into some factors that come into play when considering seating in this Decision Making Tree.
Even when an optimal seating configuration is selected, the backrest of the wheelchair typically creates a massive “blind spot”. If you have never used a wheelchair and don’t believe me, try sitting in a regular office chair and try to look at the floor behind you (without turning the chair or the seat if you’re in a swivel chair). This is challenging if not impossible for just about anyone, regardless of your upper body mobility. So, it is not surprising that most wheelchair users cannot easily see what’s behind them.
Braze Blind Spot Sensors can be used as a tool to enhance spatial awareness in these blind spots around the wheelchair, and have helped clients like Wade, Herman and hundreds of other wheelchair users. In a recently published 3rd-party peer-reviewed study where existing powered wheelchair users were asked to detect objects in the rear using their standard methods (such as shoulder-checking), the participants detected low stationary (static) obstacles with only 44% accuracy. When participants used the Braze Blind Spot Sensors, their accuracy in detecting these obstacles increased significantly to 96% and they were able to do so in significantly less time. The sensors significantly increased the users’ accuracy in other scenarios as well including detection of higher and moving (dynamic) obstacles in the rear.
Power Wheelchairs Programming and Configurations
Powered wheelchairs can reach relatively high speeds, and if users are not familiar with their speed and acceleration capabilities, they may lose control, leading to collisions or tipping over. Rapid acceleration or sudden stops can catch users off guard and result in accidents, as the user’s entire body or parts of their body can make a jerk-like movement because of this change in speed. Appropriate adjustments can be programmed by a wheelchair provider or manufacturer rep in collaboration with the therapist to ensure user needs are met. The wheelchairjunkie provides information on various programming aspects such as speed of acceleration, deceleration, and turning, and how they impact the powered wheelchair driving experience.
In addition, certain wheelchair configurations can compromise the user’s rear, peripheral, and even front visibility. For example, a user who needs to be in a tilted position while driving will typically have an altered field-of-view that limits their ability to see objects that are lower to the ground. Accessories like oxygen tanks, backpacks, custom leg and footrests, and communication devices that increase the space taken up by the wheelchair can also block the user’s view of obstacles in their environment, making them more likely to have accidents. Bariatric wheelchairs (engineered with a heavier weight capacity and broader seats than standard wheelchairs) can pose additional challenges due to wider wheelchair dimensions, making navigation in tight spaces particularly challenging. Wheel drive configurations (front-, mid- and rear-wheel) can also have an impact on maneuverability, as explained in this article by Permobil. For example, certain types of wheel drive configurations are better for textured pathways while others are better in navigating tighter spaces.
Braze Blind Spot Sensors have helped clients in all of the above scenarios by providing feedback regarding the location and proximity of objects in the environment, thereby increasing spatial awareness in areas that are not directly visible to the client. They can also help new wheelchair users learn the extremities of their wheelchair as they figure out how to maneuver in various spaces with their wheel drive configuration.
Powered wheelchairs are typically driven using a joystick. However, some users might be unable to operate a wheelchair with a joystick and require the use of “alternative drive/access controls” or “specialty control interfaces”. Alternative drive controls allow a user to control and drive the wheelchair without a joystick, using other parts of the body such as the chin, tongue, mouth, for example. Numotion provides some details of these alternative drive controls. It might be necessary to trial various drive controls in order to find the best fit for the client that allows them to operate a powered wheelchair safely. Michelle Lange provides decision-making trees for joystick and non-joystick driving methods. Here is another resource from mo-vis that sheds light on how to find a good fit between the user and drive controls.
While alternative drive controls provide increased opportunities for independent mobility, devices such as head arrays, sip and puffs, and eye gaze require the user to face forward while driving, potentially limiting their spatial awareness. I once saw a client who is a skilled head array user, but certain environments required her to navigate doorways backwards. As she would try to back up through the door and shoulder-check to make sure she was centered, she would inadvertently activate her head array (which detected her head movements as designed) and zig zag through the doorway hitting the sides multiple times.
Braze Blind Spot Sensors can be used in conjunction with alternative drive controls to enhance spatial awareness of obstacles around the wheelchair. In addition, the multi-modal alerts (visual, audio, and vibration) can be used by clients to help center themselves in tight spaces like doorways and elevators to improve their navigation skills, even when moving backwards. This feature can greatly improve powered wheelchair usability, considering 40% of powered wheelchair users in a study reported difficulty with steering tasks, especially while navigating through doorways and elevators.
Challenges related to seating, programming/configurations, and drive controls can be addressed in various ways, including some of the suggestions in the references provided. It can be helpful to discuss these with the wheelchair provider and therapist when getting a new wheelchair in order to facilitate a better fit between these factors and the user. Some useful considerations when purchasing a new powered wheelchair can be found in our earlier blog article.
Braze Blind Spot Sensors are helpful smart wheelchair technology to help mitigate some of the challenges related to spatial awareness that are often exacerbated by seating, wheelchair configurations/accessories and drive controls.
This blog is related to challenges in wheelchair operation that relate specifically to the wheelchair user’s technology. There are also factors related to the environment and the user that can present safety issues, but I will go over these in the next articles.
Nilsson, L., & Kenyon, L. (2022). Assessment and Intervention for Tool-Use in Learning Powered Mobility Intervention: A Focus on Tyro Learners. Disabilities, 2(2), 304–316. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/disabilities2020022
Lange, M. L., Crane, B., Diamond, F. J., Eason, S., Presperin Pedersen, J., & Peek, G. (2021). RESNA position on the application of dynamic seating. Assistive technology : the official journal of RESNA, 1–11. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10400435.2021.1979383
Pellichero, A., Best, K. L., Routhier, F., Viswanathan, P., Wang, R. H., & Miller, W. C. (2021). Blind spot sensor systems for power wheelchairs: obstacle detection accuracy, cognitive task load, and perceived usefulness among older adults. Disability and rehabilitation. Assistive technology, 1–9. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/17483107.2021.1983654
Mortenson, W. B., Miller, W. C., & Hardy, T. (2009). Ready to roll? Wheelchair use in residential care. . Disability Health Research network: UBC Okanagan. http://www.dhrn.ca/page.php?pageID=181
Fehr, L., Langbein, W. E., & Skaar, S. B. (2000). Adequacy of power wheelchairsRead More
The COVID-19 pandemic presents a wealth of changes, challenges, and anxiety for everyone. While it may feel like we are all helpless in slowing and stopping the spread of the deadly disease, social distancing has been effective in “flattening the curve” of infection, and relieving the pressure on the already strained health care system. In these times, it feels good to know the simple act of maintaining 6 feet of distance from others and staying home is helping those we care about, and those fighting the disease at the front lines.
For those who have a disability or have challenges with mobility, staying 6 feet away from others is difficult, if not impossible to follow. Personal care requires contact with other people, and the use of mobility devices in crowded areas is already often a challenge to navigate safely without the added challenge of maintaining distance from others. The following list contains some ideas for social distancing while using a wheelchair, but we would love to hear how you are keeping safe during this pandemic. Leave a comment below!
1. Have help to monitor distance from others in your blind spots.
Trying to navigate in tight spaces like hallways and stores is difficult enough, let alone when people aren’t respectful of the space you need to keep yourself and others healthy. One way to let people know they are getting too close is to use the Braze Mobility Blind Spot Sensor system. Braze systems can be set to customized distances, and auditory feedback can be activated at the flip of a switch. Before leaving the house, simply set your Braze System to a 6’ threshold, turn the audio on, and make sure people know when they are getting too close to your wheelchair, without having to turn around!
2. Avoid going out with your mobility device by staying in.
Where possible, use this time as an opportunity to leverage your community and stay home! Avoid the lines, fist-fights over toilet paper and general mayhem that is happening at the grocery stores. Ask friends to pick up the things you need and drop them at your doorstep. This also gives the added bonus of having a socially-distanced visit with your friends while they drop the items off! There are also lots of delivery services that can get you the things you need from the comfort of your own home. Just be sure to properly clean anything that gets delivered. If you are unable to clean things yourself, consider leaving a container of disinfecting wipes and clean gloves out for your delivery-folks to wipe them down with (and maybe an extra tip for them!)
3. Plan your trips out.
Grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential stores often have times for people who have special considerations to shop at a quieter time. This is often in the mornings so if you are feeling like an early-bird give your local stores a call or an email and ask about what kind of considerations they have in place for shoppers that need some extra space or some assistance to maintain their social distance.
4. Foster a virtual social network.
One of the best parts of this time is that it has given me the chance to reconnect with friends that live far away. Apps like Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger and HouseParty are great for making the social-distancing time feel like a remote-socialising time! Reach out to some old friends, maybe someone who moved away a while ago, and reconnect- you might just find a silver lining in the COVID-19 stormcloud!
5. Encourage anyone you are unable to socially distance from to follow all regulations.
We all have to work together during this time, and wherever you are not able to socially distance, you must rely on the people you interact with to keep themselves healthy. Having those who you do interact with follow guidelines is an important step in keeping yourself and them safe. Be sure to remind people who enter your home to follow the WHO and local health department guidelines for limiting the spread of the disease, such as wearing the proper personal protective equipment, following hand washing guidelines, and keeping a distance from others. Keeping yourself up to date with the recommendation from the WHO and other health departments is a great way to ensure that you are passing on the correct information to those around you!
All of us at Braze Mobility wish you all the best during this difficult time. Stay safe and healthy!Read More
Blog by: Terri-Lynn Langdon
With the City of Toronto in a state of emergency due to the global COVID-19 crisis, these are especially challenging times for wheelchair users. As a wheelchair user and a sole-parent to an 18-month-old, my daughter and I both rely on Direct Funding for nurturing assistance and attendant care. As the situation worsened in Toronto, one of my attendants was worried about taking the the public transit. Another attendant had been traveling extensively and was required to self-isolate upon returning home. Since I have a limited amount of funding and hours support, and folks to support us, this predicament left my daughter and I in a tough spot. Having said that, I was able to plan to cover the shifts for the attendant in self-isolation, but not for the attendant who felt that taking public transit was not an option.
Recent conversations with my friends and colleagues on social media revealed that we were not alone in this issue. As a result, I sent out a short note to our support team. Hopefully sharing this communication can help others plan how to handle attendant care disruption during this time. My email stated the following points:
- Attendant care is an essential service and we rely on attendants/nurturing assistance for daily living needs. As such, coming to work is an essential expectation of the role. I shared that attendant care agencies across the province are in full swing.
- Individual homes and any work-related tasks under direct funding have Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) coverage for all staff, starting on their first day of work. The safety of the work environment is the responsibility of self-managers and this is an important worker protection. I assured all staff that I was doing more spot-cleaning and surface cleaning in our home. I also reminded everyone that we always have soap, hand sanitizer and gloves on hand.
- If people using attendants can’t do surface cleaning on their own or if there are some areas of your home that are challenging, let your staff know how you plan to address that (if that is a concern for anyone).
- I informed staff that as a self-manager in receipt of Direct Funding, we are not eligible for any other service as a result of qualifying under this program which is funded by the Ministry of Health.
- I also shared that as a self-manager, I could not personally address the challenges occurring with transit during a city-wide lockdown, however I would be open to helping folks access a taxi service in the city if needed.
- I opened up communication with our team inviting them to reach out if they had concerns.
Considering these multi-layered concerns and how they impact wheelchair users, it is important for those of us who use these essential supports to become advocates for the attendant care and nurturing assistant professions. As a group, wheelchair users can advocate for:
- Attendants to have job protection and benefits at work.
- A living wage for this profession.
- More visibility for the profession especially during states of emergency.
- Addressing gaps in services and existing policies for individuals with mobility impairment during a time such as this one.
In much of the communication I have seen so far, the disability community has been more broadly referred to as a ‘vulnerable group’ and the direction in these communications is that friends, family and professionals need to check-up on individuals with disability. However, this tone of communication is non-committal and often lacks references to specific resources. Unfortunately, it also does not speak to the specific actions or support that individuals with disability require during emergency situations.
Simply acknowledging attendants and nurturing assistance as an essential service may help for emergency measures communications. This recognition is crucial given the importance of the role that attendant care professionals play in the lives of those with disabilities. The state of emergency is challenging for everyone; however, if attendants don’t show up because of restrictions in emergency situations, the disability community will be in a persistent state of disadvantage. Such consequences are unacceptable in a community where assistance is required for basic and essential tasks of living and being.
*Some organizations have indeed provided specific resources which will be identified in a subsequent blog post.
Terri-Lynn Langdon is a feminist, disability studies and health equity scholar/ activist in Social Justice Education at The Ontario Institute for Studies In Education. She has over 11 years of experience in the Social Work field. Terri-Lynn is passionate about helping people to achieve the best possible health and a meaning-making life. She can assist service-users to figure out how best to address their own challenges and be their authentic selves.
Direct Funding Ontario (2020). Accessed Online: https://www.dfontario.ca/
Direct Funding (2017). Program Promoting Independence Grows Again. Accessed Online: https://www.dfontario.ca/info/announcements.html
Email communications from Councillor Krystin Wong-Tam and Councillor Paul Anslie, March 22, 2020
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (2020). Accessed online: https://www.wsib.ca/en/businesses/registration-and-coverage/do-you-need-register-usRead More
Finding the perfect gift is an art. It needs to be useful, unique and most importantly a personalized representation of your friendship. Choosing the right gift that your friend will actually use is challenging. Here is a list of ideas for gifts you can get for a friend who uses a wheelchair. For more ideas, check out our holiday gift guide here!
Cup Holders for Wheelchairs
Show your friend you care by keeping them hydrated! This cup holder available on Amazon is a good low-cost option for your friends birthday! Consider ordering it ahead of time and decorating it with paint or stickers for that personalised touch!
Patches to Decorate Backpack or Side Pouches (<$1)
Often, side pouches that are designed for use with a wheelchair are pretty boring (or an ideal backdrop for patches and pins!). You can find patches lots of different places on the internet, depending on what you are looking for. They are a low cost and highly personalized gift that symbolize important things in your friendship! Your friend can show their personality and friendship off to the world by rockin’ patches! If you are in Toronto, there is an entire expo dedicated to pins and patches!
Plan a Day Around the City ($0)
Who needs more things, really? Consider planning an entire day of fun exploring and doing all of your friend’s favourite things! This blog post has some ideas of things to do in Toronto if you need help brainstorming! To check how accessible places are during your planning, check out the AccessNow app or AccessTO!
Make a Golf Ball Joystick Handle ($2)
You can use nail polish to decorate a golf ball, and drill a hole in the bottom to make a low-cost gift for your friend! Alternatively, you could design and 3D print a custom joystick handle if you are feeling creative!
Wheelchair Gloves (~$20)
Find a cool pair of gloves for your friend! They don’t need to be specific for wheelchairs, try bike shops, sailing shops, outdoor rec stores, weight lifting equipment suppliers etc. Amazon has a wide selection of gloves that could be used for wheeling, such as these mesh gloves!
Fleximug makes mugs that are easy to drink hands free. The straws are positionable and come in various lengths, are dishwasher safe and leak proof!
Hands-Free Umbrella (~$60)
Rehadesign makes the Rayne Shield, an umbrella with extra head room, that can be mounted hands-free using the “Brella Buddy”. You can buy both the umbrella and mount (~$100), or just the mount, which fits any standard long-handled umbrella.
If your friend tends to have a bunch of bags hanging on the back of their wheelchair, a backpack is a good option for a gift! You can find one with a cool design, or get them a plain backpack and find patches to sew on it! If they love to travel maybe get a patch from everywhere you go together, or if they like sports or TV shows, there’s patches for everything!
Joystick Handle (>$70)
Ergojoystick makes joystick handles that are designed to reduce the strain on a driver, especially those with arthritis or those who fatigue easily. Their designs also look pretty cool!
Hands-Free IPad Mount (>$80)
MERU makes iPad mounts that can attach to wheelchairs and hold the device hands-free!
The Nike Flyease shoes were designed to easily zip on and off. These shoes may have difficulty fitting over AFOs or fitting orthotics, making them them not fully accessible. They are a step in the right direction though towards considering the abilities of everyone in design. They currently are unavailable on the Nike website.
Braze Blind Spot Sensors for Wheelchair Users
The Braze Hydra and Sentina are innovative products that can turn any wheelchair into a ‘smart’ wheelchair (cars have sensors, why can’t wheelchairs?!). These add-on devices are the first in the world that easily attach to any wheelchair and offer visual, audio, and vibrational feedback to wheelchair users regarding location and proximity of obstacles. They provide the freedom of improved maneuverability, increased spatial awareness, and increased safety.
TetraGear Lights ($200-$300)
TetraGear makes lights that can be installed on wheelchairs to increase visibility of wheelchairs in style. As we discussed, pedestrians who use wheelchairs are typically less visible to drivers, and adding lights can improve visibility! Give the gift of safety to your friend!
Wheel Covers! (~$200)
Izzy Wheels makes artistic spoke covers for manual wheelchairs that are designed by top artists. Their motto is if you can’t stand up, stand out and these spoke guards will definitely help your friend to stand out! There are many different designs, so you can find one that matches your friends style!Read More
Wheelchair collisions are very common, and can be extremely costly. As a result, safety concerns are a major reason for limiting access to independent power mobility (Mihailidis et al., 2011). This is a problem, as access to power mobility increases independence and quality of life by enabling people to interact with their surroundings (Bourret et al., 2002). The goal of anyone who prescribes or operates a power mobility device is to limit the risks while ensuring the device continues to provide maximum independence and mobility.
All strategies from this article are intended as ideas only, and should not replace the advice of a healthcare practitioner. If you are feel that some of these ideas could work for you, start a conversation with your therapist or doctor about ways you can reduce risk in driving! I would love to hear from you, about ways you have limited risks, so please comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
1. Have Rules of the Road or Hallway
In areas with many power wheelchair users, it is important that people’s actions are predictable to avoid collisions. Creating some rules of the hallways can ensure that safety is maintained. It could also be a great way to build community and trust between residents of a facility. If you are concerned about safety within your institution, consider gathering people to discuss some “traffic laws” that would make everyone living in the facility feel safer, including both wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users. This may include sectioning off the hallways into lanes, so people going one way stay on the right hand side and those going the opposite directions go on the left. Ensuring hallways are clear can also improve safety, as drivers will not be required to swerve or dodge to avoid collisions.
2. Timing of Power Wheelchair Use
Some medications may interact with driving ability, increasing reaction times and risk of collision. If this is the case, rather than removing access to power mobility completely, track exactly how long after taking medication symptoms are onset, and consider reducing power mobility use at those times until the effects of the medication are worn off**. If you notice that a certain medication makes you feel less alert, consider talking to your doctor about ways you can reduce the impact of the medication on your driving. If fatigue is experienced at certain times of day, consider reducing the use of your power wheelchair, or the speed with which the chair is used at those times, to ensure that drowsiness does not result in accidents.
**Always consult your therapist and/or doctor if unsure about the safety of wheelchair operation or effects of medication.
3. Eliminating Barriers
Navigating in a power chair in an enclosed space is very difficult, especially if there are multiple hazards in the way. This can be more difficult if the hazards are low to the ground, making them much more difficult to see, especially if they are behind the user. Where barriers cannot be eliminated, ensure that there is adequate lighting, or warning so that power wheelchair drivers have enough time to plan an avoidance route.
4. Increasing Spatial Awareness of the User Through Blind Spot Sensors
Seeing what is behind you without any sort of aid is difficult- driving a car with no mirrors or backup camera is unthinkable! Why are wheelchair users expected to drive without any sort of feedback? Braze Mobility makes blind spot sensors that provide 180 degrees of rear-view coverage, providing the user with feedback about obstacles in their environment. Other visual aids are also a possible solution to this problem.
5. Wheelchair Design
The most common type of wheelchair accident, for both manual and power users was found by Gaal et. al (1997) to be tips and falls. This group recommends changing wheelchair design to prevent tips and falls, such as lowering the centre of mass closer to the ground, adding castor wheels and modifying the suspension of the chair to accommodate bumps. Additionally, being careful on curbs and around objects that could result in a chair tip is a way you can avoid tips without modifying your chair.
6. Self-Driving Wheelchairs
In the future, self driving wheelchairs will likely begin to emerge onto the market. These chairs will be useful for avoiding collisions, and increasing access to power mobility for those who may otherwise be excluded for any reason. The high cost and low reliability of self-driving technology is currently preventing any fully autonomous smart wheelchair technology from being available on the market (Viswanathan et. al, 2017).
- Bourret, E. M., Bernick, L. G., Cott, C. A., and Kontos, P. C. (2002). The meaning of mobility for residents and staff in long-term care facilities. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 37(4), 338–345. http://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.2002.02104.x.
- Gaal, R. P., Rebholtz, N., Hotchkiss, R. D., & Pfaelzer, P. F. (1997). Wheelchair rider injuries: causes and consequences for wheelchair design and selection. Journal of rehabilitation research and development, 34(1), 58.
- Mihailidis, A., Wang, R., Dutta, T.& Fernie, G. (2011). Usability testing of multimodal feedback interface and simulated collision-avoidance power wheelchair for long-term-care home residents with cognitive impairments. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 48(7), 801.
- Viswanathan, P., Simpson, R. C., Foley, G., Sutcliffe, A., & Bell, J. (2017). Smart wheelchairs for assessment and mobility. In Robotic Assistive Technologies (pp. 161-194). CRC Press.
The summer is finally upon us, and it is time to embrace the sunshine and check out all the fun things there are to do in your city! It’s my first summer in Toronto, and I am determined to be as thorough of a tourist as possible. I have been brainstorming fun things to do, and thought I’d share some ideas. I would love to hear from you, about your favourite things to do and see!
Before we get started, check out some sites that track accessible things to do in Toronto to ensure nothing gets in the way of your plans. AccessTO is a great resource that can be used to determine if a place is accessible! And download the AccessNow app, for on-the-go information about accessibility!
Go for a Sail
Anchors away! The Disabled Sailing Association of Toronto can offers adaptable sailing to members and non members. A great way to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, and learn a new skill! An annual membership costs $50. Members pay only $15, non-members $30 for an hour and a half of sailing.
Hit the Beach
Both Woodbine Beach and the Centre Island Beach have water wheelchairs available for rent, and mats out to the water! Find out more on the City of Toronto website. Pack a picnic, slap on some sunscreen and enjoy the sunshine (we deserve it after that winter we just had!)
Climb the CN Tower
Accessibility information for the CN tower is available here. The views are spectacular, especially on a clear day! If you live in Toronto and have never been up the tower, maybe make this summer the one you finally cave in and climb the iconic landmark to see if the views live up to all the hype! If you’re a tourist, you can’t miss it.
Check Out the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)
Accessibility information is available here for the ROM. Friday nights at the ROM until the end of the month feature Friday Night Live for adults. Each week has a theme, with live music and general good times. If you aren’t into that, the general museum is a must-see anyways! Check out the featured fashion exhibit!
Explore a Brewery
As the weather heats up a nice cold beer on a patio is a great way to spend a few hours. Craft breweries have been sprouting up everywhere, and Toronto is no exception. If you and your friends like beer, consider organizing a beer tasting tour around Toronto, hitting a different brewery each weekend and ranking your favourites! Check AccessTO for a list of accessible breweries.
Embrace the Soccer Fever with a Toronto FC (TFC) Game!
While Canada always seems to be slightly excluded from the World Cup, with Toronto being such an diverse city the soccer fever will be intense this summer! Catch a TFC game at the accessible BMO field, to get in on the party!
Cheer on Some Other Teams
Shakespeare-It-Up in the Park
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Get classy and enjoy the theatre at Shakespeare in High Park. Bring a picnic, and spend some time in the sun with the Bard. If you call ahead, there are accessible seats available.
All of these places are accessible by transit. If you find the TTC difficult to manoeuvre, check out the Braze Sentina, which provides 180 degrees of rear-view blind spot coverage, making backing onto and off of busses, streetcars and subways much easier!
**I don’t use a wheelchair, so I relied on AccessTO and the destination’s website to determine accessible things to do in Toronto. If you have any suggestions or changes, please comment or email us at email@example.com!**Read More
Upon investigating the prevalence of wheelchair collisions, the amount of vehicle collisions with pedestrians using wheelchairs was shocking. According to Kraemer & Benton (2015), people who use wheelchairs are 36% more likely to die in a collision with a vehicle than other pedestrians. Additionally, reportedly in 2009, fatal vehicle accidents took the lives of 60 wheelchair users in the United States. This tragic statistic makes it clear the need for improved road safety for wheelchair users. Here are some ideas of ways to improve safety for navigating roads in a wheelchair.
1. Increase Your Visibility
The reason for the increased risk for pedestrians who use wheelchairs is speculated by Reuters (2015) to be due to decreased visibility of wheelchairs. This is supported by LaBan & Nabity (2010), who found that accidents between motor vehicles and wheelchairs were most likely to occur between dawn and dusk. Here are some easy (and low cost!) ways you can increase the visibility of your wheelchair.
Use a Flag
Sitting in a wheelchair may place you out of the field of view of car drivers, increasing your risk of being in a collision. You can increase your visibility by using a flag that sticks up from your chair. This is a very low cost solution. But be aware- these flags typically attach to the backrest of the chair, which makes them visible only when you are fully in the driver’s field of view.
Lights can be added to your chair when ordering, or can be added after. They can be expensive when purchased from wheelchair manufacturers, however low-cost stick on lights can be added. Tetra Gear offers light attachments designed specifically to increase visibility in wheelchairs. Alternatively, you can check out your local dollar store or hardware store for lights to attach to your wheelchair if you are feeling creative!
Wear Reflective Gear
Reflective gear may not be the highest fashion option, but safety is way cooler than fashion any day! When driving at night in areas you know aren’t well lit, you could use reflective vests or jackets, or attach reflective decals to your chair.
Make Eye Contact with Car Drivers Before you Cross the Road
No matter how visible your chair may seem, drivers of cars may not be paying attention, or looking for wheelchairs. When crossing the road, try taking an extra second to make eye contact with the driver of the car to ensure that they see you. When in doubt, wait for the car to pass (and give them a shaming look for failing to look out for wheelchairs)!
2. Follow All Traffic Laws
Anyone who uses a mobility device, including wheelchairs and mobility scooters must follow all laws for pedestrians under the Highway Traffic Act in Ontario. This includes driving on a sidewalk wherever possible, and returning to the sidewalk as soon as possible when no sidewalk is available. When driving on the road, you must drive facing oncoming traffic, on the left hand shoulder of the roadway. Jaywheeling is both illegal and dangerous. The extra 5 minutes that it takes to get to a crosswalk is worth it to stay safe!
Unfortunately, following the law is not a guarantee of safety. Approximately 47.6% of fatal collisions between cars and wheelchairs occurred in intersections, with 47.5% of pedestrians in wheelchairs using a crosswalk at the time of collision and 18.3% had no crosswalk available (Kraemer & Benton, 2015). In all of these cases, the pedestrian was likely following the law. Be cautious at all times
3. Be Prepared
In 2009, 20% of collisions between wheelchairs and cars were hit and runs (LaBan & Nabity, 2010). Make sure that you have access to a phone, and can call for help in case of an accident. If accessing your phone is difficult, check out the Tecla, which allows you to control a phone using an alternative access switch or wheelchair controller.
Plan Ahead of Time
This can include making sure that your battery is fully charged, or planning to use public transit or an alternative route in areas without sidewalks.
Properly Maintain your Wheelchair
Ensure that your chair is maintained properly to avoid preventable accidents, such as from faulty breaks or batteries. If something doesn’t seem right on your chair, have someone look at it. Trust your intuition, no one knows your chair better than you!
4. Be Aware of your Surroundings
In busy areas, it is important to know exactly what is going on around you to prevent being hit yourself, or running someone over. Most wheelchairs have large blind spots that can be difficult to monitor, especially in crowded areas. Braze Mobility makes a blind spot sensor system that monitors what is happening in your blind spots and makes navigating in tight spaces easier.
Thanks for joining us! If you have any safe driving tips that you think we missed, please comment below! Stay safe out there!
- Kraemer, J. D., & Benton, C. S. (2015). Disparities in road crash mortality among pedestrians using wheelchairs in the USA: results of a capture–recapture analysis. BMJ open, 5(11), e008396.
- LaBan, M. M., & Nabity Jr, T. S. (2010). Traffic collisions between electric mobility devices (wheelchairs) and motor vehicles: Accidents, hubris, or self-destructive behavior?. American journal of physical medicine & rehabilitation, 89(7), 557-560.
- Rapaport, L. (2015) Wheelchair users More likely to die in car crashes. Reuters.
The temperatures are falling, and Christmas music is being played on repeat. This can only mean one thing-the holiday season is upon us, and with it, the pressure to find the perfect gift is building. Everyone is in pursuit of the perfect gift for their family members and friends-something that is fun, useful and shows how much they care. Easier said than done! Below is a list of accessible gifts, perfect for people who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices.
Give the gift of cozy ears, and hands free mobile device control. Voice controlled bluetooth technology, built-in speaker and microphone all in a fashionable and warm hat. Various designs available on Amazon.com and the pictured hat is available at Robot Shop.
The Braze Sentina is a blind spot sensor system that can turn any wheelchair into a ‘smart’ wheelchair (cars have sensors, why can’t wheelchairs?!).
Benefits of Braze’s Blind Spot Sensors
These add-on devices are the first in the world that easily attach to any wheelchair and offer visual, audio, and vibrational feedback to wheelchair users regarding location and proximity of obstacles. They provide the freedom of improved maneuverability, increased spatial awareness, and increased safety.
These products have been available for purchase mainly by institutions, but anyone in Canada or the U.S. can now get the Braze Sentina. Contact us to find out more about this innovation solution for people who use wheelchairs!
Chairmelotte designs wheelchair couture, specifically designed to be comfortable and fashionable. Check out the Evening Collection and find the perfect outfit to work on New Year’s Eve! Available at Chair melotte. (Pictured: Dress Sophia, €248.00; Coat Roger, €565.00)
Having cold hands is never fun, but driving a wheelchair with cold hands is worse. This device protects hands from the cold, and allows the user to still have the control and visibility they need. It also protects the control panel from snow! A less bulky alternative could be tight fitting gloves. If you are feeling crafty, a similar design could be made with crochet or knitting skills. Available at Active Mobility Centre.
Homemade gifts are a great option, and truly show that you care. It also makes the gift customizable, and lets you show off your skills! This design for a water bottle holder is a quick, easy and practical gift. Available at Sew Can Do.
For those feeling less crafty, Etsy has some different designs for bottle holders, and sidebags, with a variety of different designs.
No holiday is complete without adding to one’s cozy sock collection, and for people with limited lower body mobility, cozy socks are essential to keeping feet warm. Canada’s Indigo sells many designs of reading socks, that keep feet and legs warm.
Sock Alternatives: Slippers or Leg Warmers
For people who may find it difficult to get long socks on, check out these slippers from Egli Farm, or a leg warmer designed for wheelchair users!
This speaker provides hands-free control of smart appliances. It can also control the lights, and heating in your house- all handsfree! Plus, the google assistant can book appointments, set alarms, Google things for you and play music! This is the perfect device for someone who has limited upper body mobility, giving them hands-free control of the house! Available at the Google Store.
Hands-free technology doesn’t have to be left behind when your friend/family member leaves their Google home system at home! The Tecla Shield connects with smart devices, providing hands-free control anywhere you go! Check it out at Adaptive Switch Laboratories (ASL).
As the days get shorter, a flashlight becomes more and more handy- no one can navigate in the dark! Pair this flashlight up with the Braze Sentina (gift #2) for the ultimate safe driving gift! This flashlight available on Amazon is designed to attach to mobility devices. Flashlight available on Amazon.
Don’t let a curb stand in the way of your plans! The world is slowly becoming more accessible, and apps like Accessnow can be used to find accessible hang outs. Unfortunately accessibility still has a long way to go. Bringing a ramp can help reduce the barriers faced during your adventures! Available at Wheelchair Friendly Solutions.
Looking for more Accessible Gift Ideas?
Thank you for reading about all of these gift ideas. Looking for more? Check out our birthday gift ideas here! Have any other suggestions? Please comment below! Have a very happy holiday!Read More