Wheelchair Prep for Airplane

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So recently we took a trip cross country for John’s Make-A-Wish.  We were very nervous about flying since we read that nearly 2,000 wheelchairs were damaged over a 3 month period!!!  (See this article) 

So, we tried to come up with a solution we felt comfortable with to protect the wheelchair.  Here is what we did…

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A — We have a Permobil.  Along the side of the seat is a rail that you can attach to.  Just slide a nut into the rail and you can screw a bolt into the nut.  As you can see in the picture, we attached an L-bracket to the rail.  (Note, the holes in the L-bracket didn’t line up with the rail, so we had to drill a hole through the L-bracket.)  So, we attached 2 L-brackets front and back and then we attached a 2×4 onto the two L-brackets.

B — We used bungy cords to keep the footrests in an upright position.

C — The cable to the joystick didn’t easily unplug.  So what we did was pull the joystick off the armrest and put it inside a shoebox.  We put bubble wrap all around the joystick.  Then we used the seatbelt to hold it in place.

D — Here’s where the magic happens.  We went to a place that makes iron railings and asked them to bend two bars for us.  They also cut a straight piece for us to join the rods together.  We bolted the bars onto the 2×4’s.  We figured these would act as roll bars to help protect the wheelchair.

E — On the permobil, you can lift off the seat back easily.  We lifted it off and took it into the plane with us.  Then in our case, the wheelchair couldn’t be higher than 33″, so we tilted the back until it fit the regulations.

F — We also took off the seat cushion and brought it into the plane with us.

After we got everything in place, we put a cover over the whole thing to protect it from weather.  (I just made the cover out of garbage bags that I duct-taped into the right size and shape.)

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As far as procedure goes… John stayed in his wheelchair until we got to the gate.  We carried everything we needed to work on the wheelchair.  So, we had to send the wood, the metal bars, tools, nuts/bolts through security which was interesting.  When we explained what it was for they let us through.

At the gate, we sat John in another chair and worked on taking the wheelchair apart.  We definitely had to leave ample time to check in, get through security, and take the wheelchair apart.  We had instructions on the chair for common things they asked about — battery type, weight, and how to unlock/lock the wheels.  We talked with a technician about how to move the wheelchair and they took it away to load it on the plane.  I think they liked the way we packaged the wheelchair because they felt it was safer and they didn’t have to worry about not damaging it.

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All in all, we are very pleased.  We traveled across the country and back and there was no damage to the wheelchair — which was the plan !!

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The Amazing Zipper Pants

 

This past winter John’s back began hurting.  Every time we would lift him it would hurt.  I could no longer transfer him myself from his bed or bath chair to his wheelchair.  I had to start using a lift.  I also could not lift him over my leg anymore to pull up his pants.  Getting dressed and going to the bathroom became a much longer task.  I had to use a lift to go from wheelchair to bed.  From the bed, I had to roll him back and forth while pulling down his pants.  Then use the lift to go from bed to bath chair.  After he used the toilet, I reversed the process to get back in the wheelchair.  His school didn’t have the resources set up to be able to handle this change, so for several months, we were picking him up from school and taking him home whenever he had to go to the bathroom.

I found a friend, Terry,  who sews and initially asked if she could put a long zipper in some pants with an elastic waist that we already owned with the thought that we could try to use a urinal instead of transferring out of the chair every time.  It didn’t work as well as we hoped.  There just wasn’t enough space to maneuver.  We went back and forth playing around with different ideas until we discovered the benefits of having a separating zipper down each side of the pants.

Our life changed dramatically!  For real.  We can now open up the pants and sit them on the wheelchair.  We can use the lift to sit John on the pants.  Then we just zip the pants up.  Amazing.  We don’t have to lie him on the bed and flip him from side to side while trying to yank up the pants.  And I’m sure this is much safer than when I used to lift him up and rest him over my leg while I pulled his pants up.  This has been such a timesaver for school.  He doesn’t need to transfer over to a toilet since he has plenty of access to use a urinal.  This has been such a help for when we are away from home, too.  Even if we have to transfer to a toilet, we still don’t have to worry about pulling pants up and down.   Because we worked from scratch we were able to add in a couple additional features.  The back of the pants are higher than the front.  It was hard to find pants that covered all of John’s behind.  I don’t know if it’s his body shape, or if it’s just because he’s always in a sitting position, but these pants cover everything they need to J  Also, it was helpful to make the pants lower in the front.  We found this to be more comfortable for him and it stays clear of his G-tube.

Visit instructables ( zipper pants ) for directions on how to make these pants.  There are two sections.  One for getting the pattern in the correct size and one for sewing the pants together once you have the pattern.  Thank you to Terry for providing the instructions on how to sew the pants together!!  I recognize that not everybody can simply run a python script to get a pattern, so if you are interested in making the pants, but don’t know how to run python, contact me and I can run the script and send a PDF of the pattern to you.  After that, if you don’t know how to sew, hopefully with the instructions and the pattern you can hire someone to make them for you.

Heated jacket liner thingy

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Continuing in the quest to keep John warm, I made this carbon fiber heated cloth.  I have found it difficult to modify a warm coat that I can actually put on him due to contractures in his elbows.  I do have a coat I can get on, but it’s not that warm.  (Actually I also have a warm coat – but it’s sooo puffy that he can barely drive the wheelchair.)  So, the idea is to put this liner on first, then put on the jacket.  It is heated using a lithium battery that is used for power tools.

After I made it, I tested it out on myself while taking the dog out for walks in 36 degree weather.  Ahh!  toasty warm.  It sucks the battery up pretty quickly, though.  I’m thinking I’ll just keep a couple in his backpack and switch them out if we’re out for long periods (which isn’t often).

Today instead of putting it over his head, I laid it on his wheelchair seat before putting him in it.  He had a nice and toasty bum — kind of similar to a heated car seat.

For details on how to make it :   https://www.instructables.com/id/Carbon-Fiber-Heated-Liner/

Updated – Jacket Modification

I posted awhile back an attempt to make a winter jacket more accessible.  I put a zipper down the back with the idea that it would open wider and be easier to bring around the back of John.  Well, it was only a minor improvement.  Here is my second attempt on a light jacket.  This time I effectively made the arm-holes much bigger so that we didn’t have to try to contort John’s arm into a small arm-hole.  This, so far, seems to be working much better.  See here for more details…

Updated Alexa controlled door

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I’ve made some major advancements in figuring out voice control.  Initially, I was using an independent module — but I’ve discovered the WEMO micro-processor which has made it easy to communicate with an Alexa echo.  Now you can give the Alexa a command which it sends to the WEMO — and the WEMO can then control all kinds of sensors, motors, lights, etc.

Here are instructions for how to use a WEMO to control a garage door remote.  For us, we have a garage door remote to control the front door.  So, by giving Alexa a simple command we can open and close the front door.

Fold Down Counter

 

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I was walking down an aisle in Home Depot recently and I saw this folding shelf bracket.  It looked like it could be something useful, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it — I bought it anyway in hopes that I’d think of something.  Not too long after, I wanted to make something in the kitchen with John and was reminded how difficult it was to find a place he could easily reach a bowl.  Aha!  The folding shelf bracket to the rescue.  I attached the bracket to the counter using bolts (not screws, so it’s removable) to the end of our counter.  It’s great because it can fold flat against the counter when not in use.  I screwed a scrap piece of wood to the top of the bracket — although, I think I’ll put some laminate on the top so messes are easy to wipe up.  Someday.  I made the width narrower than the width of his armrests so that he can drive up close.  And the depth is long enough that his feet don’t bump into the counter when he drives all the way in.  I’m very happy with the way it’s working out.

Voice Activated Remote Control

I’m on a roll.  Working on the voice activated accessible shelf helped me enter into the world of ARDUINO.  And I’ve got a whole new set of ideas I’m working on.  While taking a shower (because that’s where I do my best thinking) — I thought about how many buttons and remote controls John uses.  And it got me thinking that if I could hack them and use an arduino to control them then John could have everything he needs in one place and access it all with a voice command.

This is step one in making that happen.

Take a look at this instructable to get an idea of how to control a remote control by voice.  And stay tuned, because this is just one step and there is much more to follow !!