Accessibility Tweaks

Colin and I are constantly on the look-out for accessibility tweaks we can apply in our house. We start with ideas based on some others have used, an idea, or a need. Here are a few of ours so far:

Cord for Swing-away-arm
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Colin doesn’t have the strength to push the swing-away-arm of his chair out of the way with his hand in order to move under desks or tables. We came up with a twisted string cord that allows for easy separation of the cord so he can slip his hand in and pull it backwards with his whole arm. This has been a huge success, and given Colin the independence to sit at his desk or not, to go for a walk in the garden and come back to his desk on his own, with no help at all.

Hospital bed control
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Colin posted a video on Facebook some time ago on how he uses his bed control:

Camelbak drink backpack
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While Colin was still in rehab, one of the other patients there mentioned a camelbak as a potential idea. One of the things Colin was not very at yet was asking the nurses to help him get a drink of water. The camelbak changed that. The brand name product was quite expensive, but I found a no-name brand one that was less than a quarter of the price, and actually held more. It quickly became a big hit, and it allows Colin to have a sip any time he wants.

Webcam for facial mouse
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One of the things that Colin is trying is a facial mouse to operate his computer. It also has a microphone on it so he can use his voice software. He has not found a really good one yet, and the search continues.

Gate beeper
2017-09-29 15.52.00
Now that Colin is able to go for walks and use the little gate, he wants to be able to go out the main gate down to the shops. Even just 2 months ago, he was not able to press buttons with much strength or accuracy, but now he is able to press the gate remote button which we have stuck onto his wheel chair.

trackball mouse
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One of the first things we got for Colin in order to use his computer was a trackball mouse. This has been a huge hit.

Tablet stylus
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Even before the trackball mouse, we figured out a way to put the stylus in Colin’s splint so he could use his tablet. In this picture you can see that although this splint is made specially for pens and writing, it does not support the conductive stylus so he sticks it under the splint so he can use it.

Straw peg and band
2017-09-30 15.19.43
Colin needs to drink with a straw. We have a super long one from a local restaurant (the one we visited on one of his very first home weekends) which we have clamped with a peg and elastic band onto his glass. This way he can drink anytime, on his own, and the straw doesn’t move.

Catheter bag extender
Colin has a catheter and his leg bag needs to be emptied at the most, every 4 hours. This is a challenge at night because I am simply not able to wake up and do it, even if I set an alarm. It is vital that the bag is not full as the urine will back up in the bladder, and then back into the kidneys. This is not OK on a number of levels, and could cause any number of medical complications. The catheter bags are also meant only for single use, so it is not really suitable to use a new 2 litre bag every evening and then a new smaller leg bag every morning. This is simply not cost effective. What I do instead, is plug a really cheap 2 litre evening bag onto the bottom of the leg bag and open the latch so that it empties directly into the night bag. I have a wholesaler around the corner that sells cheap and nasty (but fully functional) night bags so that I can throw them away every morning, but still keep the proper and expensive leg bag with no ill effects. This also allows the full 2 litres of the night bag plus an overflow of 750 mls of the leg bag for the evening’s drainage.

Colin and I work very well together, and we have tried like crazy to come up with as many accessibility tweaks as possible, since it seems that you need to make or invent these things yourself, or go without. Locally available wheelchair accessories are not plentiful, and Colin’s needs are also quite specific. Each day it becomes clearer that EVERY SCI or disability, even if classified the same, is so different, and needs different assistive devices. Also, it takes time to realise what will and what won’t work.

We have a few things I wanted to highlight so that others can copy what we have done, take inspiration, and hopefully; be able to take our ideas (some from other’s ideas) and go even further. My Dad said right at the start of our journey: “You may not have been this way before, but others have. It will be a difficult journey, but not impossible. Follow what others have done that worked, and use their successes to build your own”.

If you want to, please leave a comment on what you have done, or what you would like to suggest so we can see if we can come up with something together.

Coming up in part 2:
> Colin’s command centre
> sheepskin arm sleeve
> gate string opener

have a lovely weekend, and see you soon.


  1. Tal

    Amazing Janis. I just don’t understand why they don’t make bigger bags for night time use? Glad you guys are coming up with solutions. And don’t forget the pool noodles!

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