Tag Archives: mobility disability

Electric Bicycles Improve Accessibility

Many new bicycles now have hybrid electric power. These offer support for people who might not have cycled because they didn’t have enough power to continue. Now, they will.

Old picture of a bicycle with a gas tank and motor added to make it like a motorcycle.
You don’t have to rig your bicycle up for power anymore! You can purchase an electric bicycle, already made! photo credit: William “”Bill”” Wheatley Collection Photo Electric bicycle via photopin (license)

At Houston’s recent Electric Bike Expo, more than 80 models were exhibited by 18 brands including: A2B, BESV, BULLS, Easy Motion, Focus, Gazelle, Haibike, IZIP, Kalkhoff, Polaris, Raleigh, Stromer, Tempo, Trek, Xtracycle, Yuba with the latest electric drive systems from Bosch, Yamaha, Shimano, and more!

You can link to the brands’ websites here.

The expo is part of a national roadshow sharing the new technology.

According to the main website: ““The first time you feel the power added to your pedal and the ability to tackle that incline is when you realize how this will change your love of cycling and take your return to riding to a whole new level.”

That additional power is the technology that will make cycling possible for more people of all abilities.

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Target Makes Move for Mobility

Target is investing in customers needing accessible shopping carts to assist families who want to shop and not have to push a wheelchair and shopping cart together, according to a report in Upworthy.

Target’s new shopping cart is called Caroline’s Cart, and is named after Drew Ann Long’s daughter, Caroline, who has special needs. According to the report, Long developed the cart and marketed it, and Target began testing it in its stores because of an employee who had a family member with special needs.

Line of red Target shopping carts
With Caroline’s Carts in Target stores, parents can push their family members in the carts without having to have a separate wheelchair. photo credit: Shopping Carts via photopin (license)

According to the report, one parent of a child with special needs, Adam Standiford, posted on the Target Facebook page: “Dear Target, I can’t express enough how happy my wife was to see this at our local Target today. We have a 6 year old handicap girl who either doesn’t fit in carts anymore or gets weird looks to as why she’s sitting in the basket and can’t walk like a normal child. This simple cart literally will change how we can shop, not having to worry as to how we are going to get her into a store. … I will forever be Target loyal! Sincerely, Every parent of a special needs kid.”

According to the Target website, “Beginning March 19, the vast majority of our stores (with the exception of a handful of our smallest stores where we don’t have full-size carts) will have at least one Caroline’s Cart, and many will have more, depending on their guests’ needs.”

According to the Upworthy report, “It may look like a pretty ordinary cart … but for the families who will use it, it’s extraordinary.”

Advocacy to Avoid Disability Discrimination Lawsuits

When people with disabilities encounter disability discrimination, they may think the only option is to sue. Or, they may let the issue go, thinking hiring a lawyer may be too expensive or time consuming.

Litigation in court costs money, and matters are resolved over a period of time–sometimes years. That’s too long to wait for a pressing need.

Gavel rests on top of desk with court room participants in distance
The courtroom is a place to solve problems as a last resort. photo credit: CA Supreme Court – 11 via photopin (license)

Other options are available to get access and inclusion.

Many businesses, organizations, and agencies understand that they should respect the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)  and other federal laws that protect Americans with disabilities . One way to raise awareness is to share the law with them.

When agencies, organizations, and businesses know the laws and don’t want to make accommodations or include people with disabilities, there are other remedies.

According to the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities’ (CTD) Messenger e-Newsletter, a lawsuit should come after other efforts have been made to see if a solution can be reached.

The CTD newsletter suggests three actions before seeking a lawyer:

Wheelchair ramp leads up to steps
Here’s a situation businesses could understand better once someone pulled their wheelchair up to this ramp. photo credit: Ramp to No where via photopin (license)
  • Talk to the business directly CTD recommends asking for the manager or the property manager. A CTD example shows that calling attention to access for one disability can benefit others: “CTD was approached by a group of taxi drivers who were concerned that the drop-off area [for Austin City Limits] was far from the entrance gates and required people with mobility impairments to traverse a ditch. CTD staff met with Festival organizers … By the next year, vehicles transporting people with disabilities were allowed to pull right up to the entrance gate. Plus, the Festival added accommodations such as an accessibility station and free rental wheelchairs, and ASL interpreters became permanent.”
  • Put it in writing An example where this worked: “Austin resident Julie Maloukis sent Maudie’s Tex Mex written notice about their inaccessible parking. Several weeks later, Maudie’s contacted Julie, thanking her for letting them know about the situation and to tell her the parking spaces were fixed.”
  • File a complaint with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, “which might be able to require a business to comply with ADA regulations.” What does the Department of Licensing and Regulation do? According to the agency’s website, they “ensure public safety and customer protection, and provide a fair and efficient licensing and regulatory environment at the lowest possible cost.” The department has influence over businesses, particularly if the business requires a license. Complaints can be filed against businesses that are unlicensed too.

Another way to educate others is to ask to schedule a demonstration of the lack of access or inclusion. When staff at businesses learn how the problem affects others, they are more willing to help.

For example, if a ramp is too steep at the entrance to business, offer to demonstrate for them why. Have someone to spot the wheelchair as you attempt to travel up or down the ramp, and keep safe.

Captions on bottom of TV screen showing news about Oprah and Australia.
Watching TV without sound or captions is a quick way to teach why captions are important to those with hearing loss or deafness. photo credit: NICOLE CHETTLE via photopin (license)

If you need communication access, demonstrate how the experience would be without sound or words. For example, if you need a video captioned, have them watch the video with you without any sound. Have them read a paper with their eyes closed or in the dark if you are requesting Braille and they don’t understand why.

Be creative with teaching others to understand. Misunderstandings lead to discrimination continuing. Once everyone is on the same page, it’s easier to find a reasonable solution.

In many cases, these steps will work with solving  discrimination situations.

If not, another option before filing a lawsuit is to ask a lawyer to draft a letter discussing their obligations under the law, so that they are aware of the seriousness of the situation.

Whether the person chooses to take a matter to court is his or her right. Each person needs to evaluate how severe the situation is, and if a possible solution can be reached without deciding to sue.

Disability Study Points to Important Factors for Employee Retention

A national British study involving major employers and employees determined two major factors related to the retention of employees with disabilities: organizational values and reasonable adjustments, or accommodations.

The research was conducted by the Business Disability Forum, which includes businesses that employ 20 percent of the United Kingdom workforce. The study involved 352 employees. It follows an earlier employees with disabilities study conducted with 145 businesses.

Woman wearing business suit and smiling.
According to the report, retaining each employee saves a company an average of the American dollar equivalent of $43,000 a year. photo credit: Happy businesswoman via photopin (license)

According to the report, retaining employees with disabilities saves money for businesses, because it’s cheaper to keep them than replace them: “…staff turnover in just 5 sectors cost UK business more than £4 billion each year and the average cost of replacing individual employees is estimated at £30,000[1]. The business case for investing in retention is a compelling one.”

Wheelchair ramp placed at bottom of stairs.
Sometimes, employers and employees have differing views on what accommodations are needed. While the ramp is an accommodation here, a wheelchair can’t roll over the stairs. photo credit: Ramp to No where via photopin (license)

One of the areas needing to be addressed were workplace accommodations. According to the study, employees with disabilities felt their employers knew their legal obligations to provide accommodations, while few employees knew where to get advice about them from within their place of work:

  • “Less than 7 in 10 employees with disabilities were ‘very’ or ‘mainly’ confident that their employer has the knowledge to manage legal obligations with respect to adjustments;” and
  • “Close to 3 in every 10 employees with disabilities indicated that they were ‘very’ or ‘mainly’ confident about where to source advice about adjustments from within their organization.”
Business people hold meeting with a man on video.
Advanced technology offers solutions for the needs of all employees. Sometimes, people don’t know the options they have to get the technology. photo credit: Skype panelist via photopin (license)

Existing programs could have provided accommodations for employees, but employees didn’t always know about the programs, according to the report. “Far fewer employees than employers report awareness of the Access to Work program which can assist with funding specific adjustments for individuals that would not reasonably be expected for all employers to fund.”

The Access to Work website says that employees can apply for grants to assist with accommodations.

In the U.S., Centers for Independent Living, resource centers for people with any disability, and vocational rehabilitation programs assist with accommodations for people with disabilities:

Human with a question mark
The study revealed that line managers need resources and support with employees with a disability. photo credit: question mark via photopin (license)

According to the report, organizational barrier to employee with disability retention involves what they refer to as “line managers”  most directly. Line managers need skill and confidence in addressing disability-related needs, and in some cases, employees said that line managers had negative attitudes toward disability.

Man with a cochlear implant
Does your company website include profiles of individuals with disabilities? photo credit: Cochlear Implant via photopin (license)

The report provides suggestions for employers, including:

  • giving visibility to disability, such as having employee testimonials on recruitment webpages and staff profiles, and having staff networks for employees with disabilities;
  • building the skills and confidence of line managers by providing “centrally stored, up-to-date advice and guidance on all aspects of how disability affects employers on the intranet” and providing support them when hiring new team members with accommodations needs;
  • having a “stand-alone disability-related absence policy and clear guidelines for line managers about how disability-related absence is managed;”
  • having a workplace adjustment process that involves employees in the accommodations process. Line managers need training and guidance with this, according to the report; and
  • “reviewing performance appraisal systems for unconscious biases that limit the progress of employees with disabilities.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] See: HR REVIEW (Feb 2014)

The report, State of the Nation: Retaining and developing employees with disabilities – Stage 2,

Wheelchair Users Address the Dangers of Snow

According to an article on the JJ’s List blog, a woman who uses a wheelchair asks us to spread the word about the need to clear sidewalks of snow for wheelchair users.

Wheelchair symbol on street with snow depicts person being thrown from wheelchair.
One of the most dangerous obstacles for wheelchair users is snow. With the risk of going off course, getting stranded, or being pitched in the snow, winter travel for those using wheelchairs can be life threatening. photo credit: ramp via photopin (license)

Blogger Nura Aly lives in Illinois and uses a wheelchair. Though a city ordinance mandates businesses and residents shovel paths 36 inches wide on their sidewalks and curb cuts, not many people do it.

The situation is complicated when street snow plows move snow off the roads and into curb cuts, which are essential sidewalk entry/exit points for wheelchair users.

After a snowstorm, Aly thought she could get to work two days after the snow, but her mother and a stranger had to assist her when she got stuck in an alley.

“On Friday, six days removed from the last major storm and after dozens of phone calls by me and my loved ones to the office of my alderman, the sidewalks were finally cleared,” Aly said.

A video shows how difficult wheelchair navigation over the snow for someone who uses a wheelchair. With snow a few inches deep, her wheelchair slides to the side and doesn’t follow a straight path, which could cause the wheelchair user to plow into a post, wall, or even off the sidewalk.

Large sofa sits on a sidwalk next to the curb cut
Assuming that a sofa wasn’t blocking sidewalk access for wheelchair users, snow could block access to this curb cut. photo credit: sofafree, lowrider via photopin (license)

The Realities of Wheelchairs and Snow Days

Another blogger, Anita Cameron, said, “Often, folks who use wheelchairs get stuck in the snow and must depend on the kindness of strangers to rescue them. This has happened to me and many of my friends countless times.”

“People sometimes make glib comments – ‘stay at home,’ ‘get a power chair,’ ‘use para-transit.’ Staying at home isn’t a good idea when you work and bills must be paid. Even the most empathetic boss is going to eventually get tired of the ‘snow excuse’ and you’ll find yourself disciplined or terminated. Contrary to popular belief, a power wheelchair won’t get through six inches of snow, ice or slush – the wheels will simply spin uselessly,” Cameron said.

Cameron said that para-transit is for people who can’t otherwise access a public bus. Since many buses are now accessible, para-transit wouldn’t apply unless they weren’t near a bus stop. Sometimes, access to the bus stop is also blocked by snow, forcing wheelchair users to wait in the street. Cameron said this has resulted in police stops to understand why she was in the street.

Snow plow shovels snow near man shoveling snow off sidewalk.
Snow plows can cause build up of snow around sidewalks. photo credit: Mine is Bigger via photopin (license)

Some people are training service animals to pull them out of the snow, according to a Daily Herald report.

Technology and Resources for the Snow

The Karman website has two technology recommendations for enhancing snow safety for wheelchair users.

One is a small set of anti-tipping wheels behind the other wheels. The other is a wheel blade that works like a snow plow. As with many items, for those on fixed budgets, additional wheelchair equipment may be beyond their budget or they may have to wait months for approval from insurance or rehabilitation sources.

According to the website, snow poses a significant risk for those using wheelchairs. “It can be a very dangerous situation if you are propelling your wheelchair on your own with no assistance. One little wheel slip and you lose balance, finding yourself face down in the snow. In some situations, you can start moving about in the snow, but after a while you will find yourself stuck in the snow you’ve been raking in front of the chair.”

The Smart Chair blog recommends snow tires for wheelchairs, a buddy system, backup power sources and planning for medicines and trips.

Creative Solutions

New Mobility Magazine, a publication for active wheelchair users, offers potential snow solutions in the form of specialized wheelchairs, additional equipment, snow chains, and homemade equipment. They provide links to videos showing the equipment.

Let’s not forget that people do what they are able and wish to do, and some people who use wheelchairs love snow and snow sports, such as adaptive skiing, snowboarding, hockey, and more.

Regardless of hobbies or abilities, sidewalks should be universally accessible to everyone, whether they use a wheelchair, are pushing a stroller or walker, are walking with a toddler holding each hand, riding a bicycle to work, or just enjoying the outdoors. At no point should sidewalks present a danger to life, as the bloggers shared.

Advocating for Public Safety

If you’d like to help, make sure that sidewalk areas and curb cuts near your home or place of business have at least 36 inches of access without snow.

If you observe areas of your hometown that have snow covered sidewalks and you live in the United States, let your City Council know. Locate your council through a link at the mayor’s office or directly. Type in the name of your city and City Council for search engine results.

If the problem continues, attend a council meeting and request that the issue be addressed. Meeting dates will be posted on their website, or you can call and ask. Look for or request the times when public comment will be taken, and then plan to share your input in 1-3 minutes.

For this topic, pictures would be useful for the council to review. Printed pictures would work best, as they could be passed to council members while you present your information.

Items brought to the council must be addressed in the future in some way, whether they seek more information, write an ordinance that the city must follow, or determine they can do nothing more.

You could also send an email or call your city’s disability coordinator, or if you can’t find one, then contact the council to address your concerns.

If you believe the issue isn’t being addressed properly, other resources are state and national representatives.

Contact Your Elected Officials

Find links to contact the president, vice president, U.S. senators and representatives, state governors, state senators and representative, and mayors. https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

San Antonio prepares for the world’s first accessible splash park

According to a recent press release, Morgan’s Wonderland officials have broken ground multi-million-dollar expansion to their theme park. The new addition, Morgan’s Inspiration Island, will be “the world’s first ultra-accessible splash park where guests of all ages and abilities can get wet and have fun together.”

Girl plays with water.
At Morgan’s Inspiration Island, some water features will be heated to accommodate guests with temperature sensitivities.

“In many ways, creating Morgan’s Inspiration Island feels a lot like it did when our team designed and built Morgan’s Wonderland with special-needs individuals in mind  – it’s never been done before,” said Gordon Hartman, CEO of The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation.

Morgan's Wonderland train
Morgan’s Wonderland’s train is accessible for wheelchairs.

Morgan’s Wonderland is a 25-acre fully accessible, non-profit theme park that opened in San Antonio, Texas in 2010. It’s completely wheelchair-accessible. In just six seasons, the park has welcomed more than 500,000 guests from 50 states, and visitors from 54 other countries.

Individuals of all ages with special needs receive free admission, as well as children under three. Prices for tickets range from $11 for children, seniors, and military personnel, to $17 for adults. Group rates are available.

According to the park’s website, it “features more than 25 elements and attractions including rides, playgrounds, gardens, an eight-acre catch-and-release fishing lake, 18,000-square-foot special-event center, 575-seat amphitheater, picnic area and rest areas throughout the park.”

The theme park was “inspired by their 21-year-old daughter, Morgan.  Her soaring spirit despite physical and cognitive challenges sparked within the Hartmans a deep desire to create Morgan’s Wonderland, a haven not only for those with special needs but also for their families, caregivers, friends and the general public,” according to the park’s website.

Morgan’s Wonderland has limited winter hours, but many events planned to celebrate the holidays, with rides open. Click here the park’s holiday schedule.