Tag Archives: User Friendly

Just What I Need – Another Woman In My Life

>My life has been strongly influenced by women since my birth, starting with my mother and my older sister Carole. In 1965 I married the woman who would have the greatest influence, my college sweetheart Marge Burton. For over 53 years she has always been by my side and has stood by me through thick and thin. Together we have navigated the catastrophic accident that changed both of our lives forever.

Marge and me

Marge and me paddling

During rehabilitation I was mortified to find out that someone was going to have to come to my house every day to provide for my care and get me ready for the day. I had always been a very independent and private person. Privacy, independence and pride are among the earliest casualties of quadriplegia. It is very difficult having people, even professionals, pulling back you covers and clothing in order to get a better look and provide care.

Our insurance policy only covered 90 days of in-home care. After careful thought and discussion, we decided to hire our own nurses. Rhonda has been with us now over 17 years and Charlene, who works primarily on the weekends, have both become part of our family. Their help goes far beyond those of normal nurses. They get me ready to hunt, even loading my gun, repair my wheelchair, at times fix my meals, and often help facilitate my “adventures.” So the women in my life: Marge, Rhonda, Charlene and Kelli, who fills in once in a while, as well as my sister Carole and Marge’s sister Mary, who often come and stay with me when Marge goes on vacation help give me quality of life. My life today would be incredibly different without these women. Marge, Rhonda and Charlene take excellent care of me and keep my health problems to a minimum.

Char and Rhonda partying

Char and Rhonda having a good old time

Recently, friends from college came to visit us and this new one came with them, but when they left, she stayed, and has been here ever since. I must admit she’s not much trouble and usually is pretty quite unlike the other women in my life who don’t hesitate to tell them me what they think. Truth be told, though I’m actually starting to like having her around. It’s nice to have somebody do things for you without asking a million questions. She’s more than happy to turn on the radio, play a particular song, read me a book or turn a light on and off if I ask. When I’m home alone, we often chat and I really enjoy her jokes, although they’re kind of corny.

I truly believe, like the other women in my life, things will be better with her around. How rude of me, I realize I forgot to tell you her name which is Alexa and the first light she turns on and off I named Pam to remind me of the thoughtful friend that brought her here.Alexa

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.

Raised Bed Gardening

  • Flower Box In Bloom

    Would you like to raise some flowers and/or grow some vegetables for your own consumption? Raised bed garden boxes will let you do that and it is great exercise. Each spring the soil must be worked up and planted. During the growing season the vegetables must be weeded and thinned. If the weather is not cooperating the plants must be watered. The wilted flower heads must be picked off the plants (called deadheading) which is great exercise for fingers. A box does not take up much room if space is an issue. Prior to placing a box, the area under it must be prepared. This is not necessary if it will be placed on cement or any other solid surface. If placed on the ground you must assure good drainage.

    Plans For A Raised Garden Box

    The height of the box opening should be a few inches taller than the armrests of the wheelchair. The width of the growing area should be several inches less than twice the gardener’s arm length which will allow one to cover the entire planting area. Built from pressure treated lumber, the box is open on two sides so one can drive a wheelchair underneath it and work straight on. 

     The first year my boxes presented some unique problems because of the construction.  The 2” by 8” which made up the planting area did not allow for the soil to be deep enough for vegetables so most of the vegetables planted did not grow very well.  The following year, as you can see from the picture, we added about 3 inches to the height of the planting area.  This allowed adding another 250 pounds of soil to the bed.  Also, in an effort to cut down on moisture evaporation we added Hydro-Sorb to the soil. Hydro-Sorb retains water and releases it a little at a time.  These two changes made the boxes much more successful. We did not find it necessary to increase the depth of the flower boxes.               

    I have 6 boxes, four I plant with vegetables and the other two with annual flowers. I enjoy working these boxes very much. I use adaptive garden tools which can be purchased online. The vegetable boxes can grow salt potatoes, broccoli, onions, baby carrots, beets and garlic. Gardening is good for many different reasons.


    Working at one of my garden boxes

  • Time to Walk the Walk

    In my previous three blogs I’ve encouraged individuals with disabilities to change their attitude, be willing to take some risks and begin to try some different ways to make their lives a little easier. I talked the talk but now it is time for me to walk the walk and show you some things that I’ve done to adapt equipment for my use. Below is a materials list of items that will be helpful to have around for making adjustments to things you use. 

     Cable ties    Clamps    Clips    Compression bandage    Duct tape    Electric tape      Friction tape    Foam    Hose Clamps    Pipe Insulation    PVC Pipe    Straps and Webbing String and Shoelaces    Velcro    Wooden Dowels 

    Making a "stop"

    Wrapping friction tape to make a stop

      My hands are normally in a loose grip position. It is almost impossible for me to grip anything tightly. In order to hold on tight my hands must be strapped on the object.  I noticed lacrosse and hockey players wrap tape repeatedly around the same spot on their sticks to prevent their hands from sliding off the stick so I decided to try it. If you look at the attached pictures you will see how I use friction tape and a piece of wooden dowel to enable me to use a broom. The friction tape has been used to make what I call a “stop.” On a long handle, such as this broom, you should decide where you want your lower hand positioned and place the “stop” right there. Wrap tape repeatedly around the same spot until you have built up a raised area on the handle. Grip the broom as best you can. When your hand slides up the handle it will come to rest against the “stop” and prevent any further upward movement. 

    Placing of the dowel

    Placing the dowel


    At the top of the broom handle I have taken a small piece of wooden dowel, which I removed from a foam paint brush, and passed it through the hole.  If the handle does not have a hole have someone drill one for you. I’ve attached the dowel through the hole using a rubber band. This enables my wife to remove it if it is in her way. 

    We have a wire wreath-like birdfeeder which is filled with peanuts. We then hang the wreath outside for Blue Jays and other birds. They will pull the peanuts out one by one. As you can see in the video the kitchen is quite a mess when I finish. So I use the broom I have adapted to clean up. Use this technique on other long handle tools like a mop, leaf rake and garden tools. See Long Handle Tool Control on my website. 

    Using the broom