Living with a Disability: How Adaptive Equipment Needs Change

woman in a wheelchair typing on the computer

Meena Dhanjal Outlaw suffered a spinal cord injury 20 years ago that left her significantly paralyzed. She has worked hard to push past the challenges she has faced and hopes to inspire others with disabilities. Here, she shares some excellent information regarding living with a disability and some of the adaptive equipment she finds helpful in everyday life.

Living with a disability opens up many questions, especially if our ability to use our legs or arms is affected by completing regular daily tasks.  Yet, living in such a modern-day where technology and new inventions are always becoming available, we can find ourselves realizing adaptive equipment can help us with just about anything.

It can also become overwhelming because, let’s face it, we have many options now. It is essential for you to understand what you are looking at and if this is something that you need now.  In the experience of many that live with a disability, it is quickly determined that your needs change as you progress further into this new way of living.  Therefore, it’s probably not a good idea to purchase too many things, but only what you think will be the most useful to you.  Another thing to consider is where you live. You might live in an apartment, or a smaller house, which presents a problem if you don’t have the space to store your items. Considering the cost factor of adaptive items can vary in price depending on how custom or technical the product is.   That is why it is important to know what is essential and what you might be able to wait on.

If you see a physical or occupational therapist, it is good to ask them what items will be most useful to you.   As you age, your body changes, and therefore your adaptive needs will have to change along with it.  To help you, I have come up with a few items that I think might help you in the meantime.

Mobility Aids

Item #146-10302-6 McKesson CaneAdaptive equipment like a wheelchair, walker, cane, or crutches are mobility aids you will need to look at very seriously. It is absolutely in your best interest to go through a Mobility supply company and be evaluated by an adaptive technician. These specialists are trained to fit you correctly by taking measurements so that the item is customized to your specific shape, size, and height. For example, a wheelchair is not a one-size-fits-all piece of equipment. Having it fit your body well allows you to sit with comfort, have fewer chances of getting pressure sores and other skin-related issues. Additionally, it will alleviate any potential for aches and pains from not getting the correct postural support.

Grabber

Item #RMP60600 Carex Grabber Reaching AidA grabber is going to be one of your new favorite pieces of adaptive equipment. You will drop items. Now, you can purchase a foldable grabber. You can carry this reaching aid around with you wherever you go. It might even behoove you to keep one in your home and another one in your car.

Grab Bars

Item #RTL12036-ADJ Drive Steel Bathtub BarPhysical unsteadiness means you need to make sure there are no chances taken to you falling in vulnerable places, such as your bathroom. Good quality grab bars that are installed by a professional will prevent mishaps.  Be very careful when purchasing “quick and easy” grab bars at your local store that work by suction. They are not all equally stable, and you could lose your balance if you need to grab something sturdy so that you don’t fall off your commode or in your shower or bathtub.

Item #FGB153000000 Carex Bath Transfer BenchIn the shower, installing the grab bars with one in front of you and one to the side works best.  When thinking about your commode area, think about where you will reach first to stabilize yourself if you were to lose your balance.  For instance, you might find it helpful to have one bar behind your commode and then to the side if you transfer from your wheelchair independently.

Bathtub benches come with handlebars for added support, and shower wheelchairs will offer the same stability level.

Cupholder

If you use a wheelchair or a walker, you will find this item will come in handy, especially if you like hot beverages.  This item will help prevent unnecessary spills that could cause burns on your skin.

Also, having a place to keep your water bottle is just as essential as staying hydrated.

Echo Dot or Google Home Mini

Having ‘Alexa’ by Echo Dot or a Google Home Mini is an excellent addition to helping you. You can program the lights in your home, including lamps, your microwave oven, and your alarm system.  You can even call 911, control your air-conditioning or heating just by using voice commands. This handy little item can help you not have to fiddle with switches at different times, not to mention at different angles.

As a bonus, she can also read you a book or tell you your daily news. You will find this to be a very delightful addition to your accessible needs.

Pedal Exerciser

Item #01-8030 CanDo Peddle ExerciserIf you’ve gone through any physical rehabilitation, you have already been exposed to various adaptive equipment for exercise.  These items can be very costly, not to mention can take up precious space in your home.

Some insurance companies might cover some of the cost, while others will not cover these types of adaptive equipment at all.

A simple pedal exerciser is an easy way to exercise your upper and lower extremities while in a seated position. You can get your cardio exercises in with his little treadmill for less than $40. For added activity, throw in a couple of 1 to 2-pound dumbbells, and now you’ve got yourself a very accessible and feasible way to exercise at home.  The pedal exerciser is small and can be used on a tabletop if using your hands.  This adaptive equipment can be easily stored in a closet, along with your dumbbells.

Catheter Inserter

MTG Eagle BoardIf you self-catheterize to void your bladder, a catheter inserter is a handy piece of adaptive equipment to keep in your traveling pack, such as your purse or backpack. Sometimes after frequent use of our hands, they tend to cramp, sometimes presenting carpal tunnel syndrome and other rheumatoid type issues. Being prepared with a catheter inserter is another inexpensive aid available at a urological supply company online.

If you are a quadriplegic or have limited hand dexterity, the MTG Eagle Board manufactured by MTG (Medical Technologies of Georgia) can greatly assist with the process of catheterization. This unique piece of equipment has many features that can help male catheter users start to gain back some independence.

Wheelchair Gloves

If you wheel around a lot using your manual chair or use pressure on your hands while pushing your walker, it is good to keep wheelchair gloves in your bag. This item will prevent you from having abrasions, calluses, and other skin issues typically caused by over-usage.

All it can take is a rainy day and a slippery grip to cause an unnecessary loss of balance.  Wheelchair gloves will provide extra friction you will undoubtedly appreciate.

Nighttime Boot Splints and Hand and Wrist Brace

Item #79-95423 DJO MaxTrax Walker BootTo keep the paralyzed limbs of your body limber, it is essential to incorporate range of motion exercises into your daily routine. Without movement, the affected areas will eventually become stiff and tight.  Wearing boot splints at night will help this immensely and keep your feet and ankles flat and straight in your wheelchair.

Item #79-97015 ProCare Ambidextrous Elastic Wrist SplintThe hand and wrist brace will give you the same support. After prolonged usage, your hands will begin to feel discomfort if you don’t take care of them. The wrist hand brace is an excellent solution to preventing carpal tunnel syndrome and other rheumatoid symptoms. Hand and wrist braces are excellent pieces of adaptive equipment that could even save you from having surgery.

These are just a few ideas of the various kind of adaptive equipment available to help make life with a disability a little easier. I encourage you to go online to a mobility supply company and a urological supply company to explore the different available options. You will find that there is always a type of adaptive equipment that can fit your budget, size, and needs quite comfortably.

About the Author

On January 23, 2000, Meena suffered a spinal cord injury that left her a T12 paraplegic. She worked hard to grow and push past adversity and challenges and even went back to school for a four-year diploma in writing for teenagers and children.

Since then, she has begun writing memoirs, blogs, and a book series featuring a young girl named Mattie who is in a wheelchair. She has been featured in magazines, fashion shows, radio shows, and local news to speak about her life as a disabled woman, wife, and mother. Through her work, she hopes to inspire others with disabilities.

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