Category Archives: User Friendly

An Asset For Improving Your Life

The Amazon Echo is one of those products made for able-bodied people, that has the potential to improve the lives of thousands in the disabled community. The Echo is available in 3 three different models and I assume more features are found in the larger sizes. The Echo Dot is the smallest and least expensive at $50 yet it provides everything most would want. Once plugged in, connected to your Wi-Fi and programmed the Dot becomes a tremendous asset. In order to set it up you must download the Amazon Alexa App, which is free, to your iPhone or iPad. Then, verbally you can speak to Alexa the Echo’s voice and she will perform many simple daily tasks. She can give you the local weather, a news update, play any kind of music you may be interested in, but her abilities far exceed those simple chores. She is able to read any book found on Kindle or Audible. You can have her wake you up every morning to either an alarm or music. Alexa can play soft music while you fall asleep and then shut herself off at a predetermined time. She can also be used as a timer by telling her the time duration you want her to set up. You can make shopping and to-do lists and then transfer them to your iPhone. You can even order directly from Amazon. While, I have not used it, it is my understanding that the Echo also enables you to call and speak with other individuals who also have an Echo.

Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot

However, for one with a disability, the Echo’s most useful features is the ability to turn your home into a Smart Home. A variety of Smart equipment is available, at very reasonable costs, which will allow you to take control of most of your appliances and devices verbally. I now have the ability, through Alexa, to turn off and on my CPAP machine as well as the lights in the bedroom. There are Smart Plug-in Outlets, Smart Wall Switches, Smart Door Locks, Smart Thermostats and even accessories that will let you control your television with Alexa. For those of us with range of motion issues, poor dexterity or limited mobility the Echo Dot provides an inexpensive yet simple, convenient way for many to take greater control of their home environment with only your voice.

Amazon is constantly increasing the ability of the Echo to perform tasks. These improvements, unlike those with computers, do not have to be downloaded into the unit itself. Instead the new program is uploaded to the Cloud and is instantly available to your Echo.

What Do You See?

The Dress
More than likely you are aware of the great dress debate which captured the public’s attention for a couple days last month. Some people saw the dress as gold and white (left) and others saw it as black and blue (right). The fashion police finally identified the dress as black and blue. What people saw, if I have it correct, was determined by light and certain sensory receptors in the perceiver’s brain.

It always amazes me how two people can look at the same object and see two different things. This happens quite a bit between my son Mark and me. As a result of his engineering training he usually has a different perspective than me. Fortunately, my disability has changed what I see. I’ll give you a challenge. Look at the picture below and tell yourself what you see.
Broom & Dustpan
Now this is a perfect example of how what I see has changed since my accident. Pre-injury I would have seen only a slightly different type of broom and dustpan. However, when I saw it a month or so ago I saw, a multi-purpose tool which had nothing to do with sweeping the floor. I did notice it was pretty inexpensive so, I ordered it!
When it arrived I was pleasantly surprise how well made it was. After some minor adaptions I had myself an extremely useful multipurpose tool which enables me to do something I’ve been trying to figure out a way to do for 16 years.

Just below you can see the adaptions I made and one of my new uses of the dustpan. It works better that anything I have made for picking up larger objects. Adapted DustpanHowever, the job I bought it for was as a tool which would allow me to feed the dogs when my wife is gone. A challenge I have been trying to solve since my injury. My nurse fills the dog dishes, before she leaves, and places them on the microwave. I am able to get them down on the kitchen counter and slide them onto the dustpan and then lower the dish to the ground. I feel smug every time I do it.

Looking at an object and seeing more than the obvious is a real asset. Oh, I can also use it to sweep the floor.

A Point of Qualification

The other day, while home alone, I dropped a bottle of diet Mountain Dew on the floor trying to get it out of the refrigerator door. Fortunately, it had a top on it; Marge sometimes removes them before she leaves. Many times I have dropped bottles and rarely have trouble picking them up. The Rope & Hook I normally use was unavailable so I got another one. Try as I might I could not get the hook around the neck of the bottle. After awhile I got frustrated and stopped. A lesson learned over time. Later, I tried again with the same result. I continued trying on and off for several hours but was still unable to retrieve the bottle off the floor. In time it dawned on me that the hook, though identical to the hook I usually use, must have had a smaller opening. I placed it in my vise and attempted to hit it with a hammer in an effort to widen the opening. Finally, I hit it enough to open the “mouth” of the S- hook. When I tried again it hooked the bottle neck right away.

This incident reminded me of a similar occurrence with the Casting Catch on my fishing pole. After buying a new pole a new casting catch was placed on the rod but it would not work. Over a period of a week or more all type of modifications were tried unsuccessfully. The length of the dowel was changed; the size of the slit was made wider, narrower, deeper and shallower to no avail. Even the knot in the fish line was changed and the catch was moved up and down on the pole. I even went so far as to take the catch off the original pole but nothing worked.

What was going on here? The answer was simple yet complicated. There are several lessons to be learned here. First, none of these adaptions work all the time and should not be expected to. Minor differences can be very significant when it comes to a “tool” functioning correctly. The problem with the casting catch was its location on the rod from the fishing reel and the angle of attachment. Only by refusing to give up were these problems finally realized. Another amazing thought is what would one do if these adaptions had not worked to begin with? Give up! I guess persistence has its own reward. There is a lot of food for thought in just these two conundrums.

Inclusive Recreation Resource Center Web Survey

The State University of New York at Cortland has a widely recognized Recreation and Leisure Studies Department with a large number of therapeutic recreation majors. They are in the process of updating their Inclusive Recreation Resource Center which is maintained by the colleges Recreation Department. They have contacted me and asked me to pass on their information survey form which will be used as a tool to help update the website.

Invitation to participate in the Inclusive Recreation Resource Center Web Survey


Working with SUNY Cortland, the Inclusive Recreation Resource Center is completing a survey to get your input on our website and online recreation database. Prior to completing the survey, please visit and explore our website at Also, while on the Center’s website, be sure to visit the online recreation database. You can find it by choosing “Resource Center” in the navigation bar or “Find Recreation” button on the right-side navigation. Please take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the database and the information it contains to best answer some of the following questions.
The survey link is provided below.

Could you take a few minutes to complete the survey? The survey will ask you to evaluate our website and provide your feedback on improving our website and online recreation database.

We ask that an adult at least 18 years or older complete the survey. The survey should take about 15-30 minutes of your time. To assure anonymity, please do not place any names or personal information on the survey. Your participation is completely voluntary. You may end the survey at any time you wish not to participate. By completing the survey, you have given your informed consent to participate.

The link to the survey is: “

Once you have completed the survey, please choose the “DONE” button on the bottom of the survey.

Please complete the survey by December 7, 2012.

We would like to thank you for taking your time to complete the survey. Your participation will help us gather the information we need to improve our website and database.

If you have any questions about the survey, feel free to contact Dr. Lynn Anderson, Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department at SUNY Cortland (607)-753-4942.

Thank you so much for helping the Inclusive Recreation Resource Center to shape our website, allowing us to best meet the needs of the community.

The Inclusive Recreation Resource Center

Let’s Talk About Frustration

Extreme 4×4

If you read my last blog you know last Saturday evening I missed the opportunity for a shot at a nice buck because my trigger mechanism didn’t work correctly. As soon as I could, I made adjustments to my rifle and the firing mechanism. After I tested the changes very carefully using snap caps I was ready to return hunting. Because of scheduling issues I wasn’t able to get out until Wednesday. It was a sunny, beautiful day with the temperature in the high 30s. The blind where I went allowed me to bask in the sun until late in the afternoon. I love watching the shadows crawl across the field and I never tire of being in this beautiful setting. Obviously, as the sun disappeared I began to get cold.

Because of my tremendous desire to return to the out of doors after my injury I purchased the wheelchair called an Extreme 4 x 4 which was originally manufactured in Australia but became available in the United States around 2001. I purchased mine late in 2002 and I’ve loved it ever since. It is a rugged, well-made piece of equipment. Companies are finally starting to realize not every individual who needs a wheelchair wants to be in a shopping mall. We are seeing more and more wheelchairs available for individuals who wish to travel on nontraditional terrain. Many of these new wheelchairs are even available in camouflage colors. Over the years I have fine-tuned mine so it is an extension of me and specialized for the things I wish to do.

As dusk settled in I realized that no deer were going to show up. Before total darkness had settled in Marge showed up to walk home with me. We headed out of the field onto a deserted farm road which connects to an abandoned town road that is occasionally used by the local highway department to dump stuff such as downed trees. All of a sudden, as we were moving along, my wheelchair came to an abrupt halt and gave off a burning electrical smell. Quickly, it became obvious that we were not going to be able to get the wheelchair running again. Recently, I had switched from using a walkie-talkie to communicate, while outdoors, to using a voice activated cell phone which is strapped on my wrist. I was able to call my neighbor Mike, who is one of my guardian angels, and he said he would be there as quickly as possible. Marge went home to meet Mike and to help him get any equipment he might need. Fortunately, I had placed a small but very bright flashlight on the post that supports my rifle so I didn’t have to sit there in the dark. But as dusk turned to night the temperature continued to drop. After about 30 to 40 minutes I could hear something driving toward me and could see a light bobbing and weaving across the field. The abandoned road that I was stuck on connects to a trail that leads across another very large field and ultimately to Mike’s driveway. Whatever it was that was coming to rescue me turned onto the road I was on and continued toward me. As it drew closer I realized it was Mike on a riding lawnmower. He had come to my rescue as he has many of times. After hooking me up he towed me about a half a mile to my house.

I called the manufacturer of the chair today, Innovation in Motion, to find out if parts were still available because they no longer make my model of the Extreme. They have a very similar chair I believe it’s called the X8 Extreme. Much to my relief they ensured me than any of the parts that will be needed for repair are available and will be shipped promptly. I sure hope so because hunting season goes until December 4.

What Keeps Us Going?

Few, if any of us in the disability community, have easy days. Most are filled with challenges, frustration, and reminders of how our disability affects our daily lives. That raises the question of what keeps us going. I realize I can’t speak for all disabled individuals, nor do I want to, but I’ll venture a guess as to some of the answers they may give to that question if asked. Answers might include terms like fortitude, strength, courage, perseverance, beliefs, determination, attitude, or even anger. I know in my own life the thoughtfulness of others is an important factor, simple acts of kindness like holding a door open or a passing smile from a stranger. I’d be a millionaire if I had a dollar for each time someone has touched my shoulder to convey their empathy.

Several weeks ago I was reminded of the impact of kindness when invited to go fishing by a local fishing guide. On Monday July 23, 2012 Dean Meckes of Dean Meckes Charters, my son Mark and I went fishing on the St. Lawrence River. People at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York offered their lift to get me into the boat. Volunteers came in an hour before the museum opened just to transfer me from my power chair into my manual chair which had been placed in the boat’s cockpit. Once we were completely ready we headed out onto the St. Lawrence River.

The day was magical, a beautiful warm sunny day, a blue placid river and anticipation of an adventure to come. I had made a number of adaptions to my manual wheelchair and fishing tackle to help make me more independent, and I was anxious to see how they would perform. I didn’t have long to wait. I hooked a bass, by myself, shortly after we arrived at the first location. Reeling it in was no problem at all. From watching, Dean told me that I would be able to reel in a “big one.”

Dean was quick to try different areas of the river. At first, he drove slowly over concern as to how I would handle the jarring of the boat. Once we realized that was no problem, if there was no action where we were, we moved more quickly to another spot. We fished for several hours. My son and I caught a number of fish, which by the way, were all returned to the river. But I had caught way more than fish that day. I caught hours of serenity being on the river; concentrating on the tip of my pole watching for movement left little time to think about anything else and, in the end, I had hours when I even forgot I was in a wheelchair. There is no greater gift for me than that, which I received because of the generous act of kindness that day by our guide, Dean Meckes.

Have I Got An App For You

Lose ItLose It is an app that is available free on iTunes and can be used with iPhone, iPod Touch or an iPad. It is located in the Health and Nutrition category and is designed to help people lose weight. While it is set up for the general population, it lends itself to easy adaptation for any individual with a disability. Prior to my accident I was 6’4″ tall and weighed 215 pounds. Now, 13 years later, even with major dietary adjustments, I weigh close to 260 pounds. Being a quadriplegic, weighing oneself is difficult, and using a scale designed to weigh individuals in a sling, can be costly. I have found an inexpensive solution to this problem. I use a Big Buck scale that can be purchased at Cabela’s for $45. It is intended for weighing deer but still is surprisingly accurate.

The following description of Lose It is taken from iTunes:

“Succeed at weight loss with Lose It! Set goals and establish a daily calorie budget that enables you to meet them. Stay on track each day by recording your food and exercise and staying within your budget. The average active Lose It user has lost more than 12 pounds and more than 85% of our active users have lost weight. Lose It is completely free — get started losing weight with Lose It today.”

Lose It is simple and easy to use. It has a large database of food and exercise which can be easily added to. After entering a food or exercise once, it becomes part of your personal database and can be selected the next time with a simple click. What lends itself so nicely to adaptation is the fact that you can add both foods and exercises to the program. In the exercise category I was able to add Hand cycling and several other modified activities with the amount of time I do them and the number of calories I burn. Existing categories within the exercise section can be manipulated to reflect your level of participation.

For those of us who have specialized dietary considerations in addition to keeping track of calories, Lose It can be set up to monitor Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium, Carbohydrates, Sugar, Fiber and Protein in our daily diets. It also has a bar code scanner for packaged products to make entering specific nutritional information easier. Lose It has an extensive menu of foods from both the supermarket and many well-known food chains. Simple, user-friendly, adaptable and free: what more could you ask for? Give it a try; you have nothing to lose but weight!! Available now for your computer at

Summer Before the Accident

Thirteen Years Later