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


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 :

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


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



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 !!

Bipap mask

John uses a Wisp mask with his trilogy machine.  Unfortunately it’s been giving him some severe bruises.  He complained about the bruises, and I believed him — but it wasn’t until I gave him a shower, and I saw these red/blue painful looking spots on his head that I realized just how bad it was.  When you wear the same mask every night and it pushes on the same area you’re bound to get bruises.


John is a side sleeper, and you can see with the design of this mask how there is a big pressure point right near his temple where the harness doubles up.  Same thing right below the ear — this spot was creeping up and putting sores on his ear.

So, I tried to come up with a solution where there are no pressure points.  My idea was to use a skull cap as the base.  For my prototype, I’m using a men’s dri-fit athletic skull cap.  It says it wicks away sweat, plus being a men’s size I’m hoping it won’t squeeze his head too much.

Next, I got some elastic waist band with button holes (like the kind that’s in kids pants).  My plan was to sew it to the skull cap and somehow attach it to the mask.  We had an extra mask (because we’ve tried several – including a kids version).  It fits around the nose piece.  I was able to cut the mask on either side of the nose piece and save this to use for this project.

img_0968 Here’s a picture of the nose piece with the section of mask I cut off attached to it.  I sewed three buttons to it.  I’ll use the elastic with button holes to attach to the buttons on the nose piece.


Here’s a picture of the skull cap with the elastic sewn to it.  I picked the placement of the elastic after I put it on John’s head and tried to safety pin it in place.  I first had one strip on each side, but discovered when it was all connected up that the nose piece was being pulled down – so I also added the elastic to the top.  I bet it’s pretty difficult to get the angles all right so it’s pulling perfectly centered on the nose-piece.



Here’s a side shot of it all together.  Looks kind of like an alien, right?  Here’s hoping there are no more bruises !!