A major disability takes so much away from the individual. I’ve lost not only the things people normally associate with quadriplegia, but so much more; such as control of body temperature, intimacy, ability to act spontaneously to mention just a few. Why should we be deprived of any more of the other things we love to do? I often reflect on the words of Christopher Reeve:
“I refuse to allow a disability to determine how I will live my life. I don’t mean to be reckless, but setting a goal that seems a bit daunting actually is very helpful toward recovery.”
With these words in my mind, I faced my new life with quadriplegia. That was over 12 years ago, and a lot of things have changed since then. After my injury, I was shocked and outraged at the exorbitant pricing of articles sold specifically for individuals with disabilities. What really upset and perplexed me is that many of the online “stores”, promoting these products, were run by people with disabilities. Many individuals, especially those newly disabled, are often prevented from participating in activities because of this overpricing. My early “tool” development was an outgrowth of efforts not to let my situation prevent me from partaking in things I used to enjoy and not to pay the ridiculous prices. I created Handihelp.net with the idea of providing simple alternatives that are either inexpensive or costs little to be made.
Much of the interest on Handihelp centers on continuing activities that individuals enjoyed prior to their disability and principle among those activities is hunting. Many of the e-mails I get are similar to the following letter from Dan:
“I am a C-5 6 quadriplegic complete… . I broke my neck over 40 years ago, and have been trying to find a good wheelchair mounted gun holder and trigger mechanism. Before I got injured I was an avid hunter, fisherman, and son of a farmer. I have tried different mounts but they tend to get very pricey. I would love to be able to hunt Whitetail deer with my brothers and one great friend who has been through this with me from the beginning. I’m not well-off but I’m very happy. I have a Ruger .223 semi-automatic rifle that I would love to use as a groundhog gun. I have a bold action 30-06 that I bought the year before I got hurt never getting to use it. I don’t think I can use the bold action, so I would use it one shot at a time. I truly appreciate any help and guidance you can give me in obtaining this dream. This has been a dream of mine for the last 40 years. To be able to use my rifle and shotgun would be the coolest.”
Over the years my own efforts to “create” additional equipment became more ambitious. Letters like Dan’s helped me decide to try and find some relatively inexpensive equipment which could be easily modified for use by a person in a wheelchair. This, by far, would be my most challenging effort to date. My research led to Bog Gear in Fredricksburg Texas, who after hearing my story, donated several pieces of equipment for me to experiment with. After some minor modifications it became the Inexpensive Gun Mount (IGM) which cost about a $110 and can be purchased from Cabela’s.
I developed my Poor Man’s Trigger Adapter (PMTA) for my personal use and later I put it on my website. It can be made and placed on a weapon for less than $2. The final piece of apparatus was a chair mount to attach the gun mount to a wheelchair. With input from Andy Dahmen, a fellow quadriplegic hunter, Doug, of Colonial Welding and Don from Don’s Pro Shop we came up with a device we believe will be relatively inexpensive to make and can be placed on almost any wheelchair. Plans for the Universal Chair Mount (UCM) can now be downloaded from Handihelp and constructed by a craftsman in your area hopefully, further reducing the cost. You should be able to get the mount made for around $80. All of the equipment necessary to hunt should cost around $200.
The (UCM) is not to be limited to just gun use, any piece of equipment such as a camera, table, binoculars, fishing pole adapter, telescope etc. which is supported by a 5/8” post can be held by the UCM. Handihelp plans to work on additional pieces of equipment to be used with the UCM. As projects are created information will be placed on the website.
The fulfillment of this project far exceeds any ideas I had when I first started the website in January 2008. To help other quadriplegics, like Dan, return to the activities they love and to demonstrate to others what is possible when you free yourself of perceived limitations is very satisfying.
All these plans can be found on my website.