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 !!

Jacket Modification

It is getting ever harder to get John into a jacket. A bulky winter coat is even harder.  We bought a winter poncho that you can just put over his head.  It definitely has its benefits, but one of its problems is that he doesn’t have access to his hands.  Also, it has to go over his wheelchair controls and then he has to drive without seeing them.

I had a couple ideas to try and I had a hand-me-down jacket that I could try them on.  The way we put a jacket on John is that we first put in one arm.  We pull the coat around his back and then try to shove his other arm into the other arm hole.  But when you can’t bring the coat around very far, and when the arm is essentially stuck at a right angle, this doesn’t work very well.  My first idea was to put a zipper down the back of the coat so I could bring it around farther.  My second idea was stolen from an accessible coat I saw that cut out the back below the waist so it wouldn’t be quite so bulky and bunch up — since he’s sitting anyway.

Here’s a picture of the front and back of the jacket.  I bought a 9″ zipper for a couple bucks at Joann Fabrics.  I nervously cut down the back of the coat, slid the zipper in and sewed it back up.  All in all it only took me about 20 minutes.  A record considering my sewing ability.  I measured the length of John’s back to his waist, then cut out the extra material.  I sewed a quarter inch or so from the raw ends just to keep the jacket from falling apart.  This is definitely not fashion wear.

We haven’t had a lot of cold days yet to really test it out.  We only really have put it on/off to try it.  It’s better, you can pull it farther around his back with the zipper down – but it’s still not easy.  The arm holes are just too narrow still.

But this is a good start to play around with and maybe improve on.


Luke’s Beach Walker

I got a request for the spreadsheet so that Robyn could build a walker for her son before they went to the beach.  They were able to build the walker and here are the results from their trip…

Hi Jennifer. I have been meaning to send you these photos from our beach trip. It was great to have the beach walker and for Luke to have more freedom on the beach!! I didn’t get any really good photos sadly – I think we must have gotten sunscreen on the camera lens. But I wanted to at least share these with you and say a big thank you. We are so grateful for the resources you provided and for the wheels. We learned a lot with this “model” and will hopefully improve upon it for the future models. Luke has high tone and spasticity so he needs something very sturdy to support all of his weight. Next time we probably need to make it with bigger PVC (we used 3/4 this time) and larger wheels. When we do upgrade, we’ll be glad to send the wheels back to you.

Halloween Minion Costume


A lot of people were sending me posts of these really great wheelchair costumes.  It felt like a challenge to try to come up with something.  I honestly didn’t expect that it would turn out that great – knowing my artistic ability, but I’m very happy with the results.

I went to Sears and asked for a box.  They kindly unpackaged a washing machine for display on the spot and gave me the box.  I thought I’d have to build some kind of structure to hold the box up, but it rested perfectly on the footrests in the front and on the wheelchair frame in the back.

I was thinking I would paint the box, but my husband suggested using wrapping paper — and that was key in making it work.  I found a picture of a minion and just kept decorating until I thought it looked right.1