Tag Archives: wheelchair


At the Independent Living equipment expo Mac and I attended we were very keen to catch up with the latest developments from the guys at Dynamic Controls from NZ.

I have been following their stuff for a while… Liz (Poppy’s mum) brought it to our attention back in 2009.

Mac and I had registered for a mini-seminar with them and, as they were just near the entrance of the expo, had the chance to catch up with them prior to the seminar.

WOW…  I am so impressed and excited by their ‘soon to be released’ iPortal.

They currently have an interface with the iPhone/iPad for your powerchair to assist with real-time management of your chair


with the iPortal upgrade

you can use your drive method (be it joystick, switch array etc) to control you iPhone, iPad. 

Watching it in action they had the phone in Voice Over mode and were simply using the joystick on the powerchair to move left and right (scan) through the apps then had a select movement (not sure if it was forwards or backwards) to select and open the app.

Mark (from Dynamic Controls) was quite interested to hear Mac is using his two foot switches for Morse Code as they have also added in Morse Code entry as an alternative to linear scanning through the iPhone’s QWERTY keyboard.  In their demo it was a left tap of the joystick for ‘dot’ and a right for ‘dash’ and it spoke each letter aloud as they typed them.

Of course, Mac managed to get himself an honourable mention in the seminar as a “morse coder” and potential user.  I think the guys were actually pretty chuffed their ‘gut feeling’ and decision to incorporate Morse as an access option was justified.

Check out the video… the really interesting stuff from an iDevice access perspective kicks in around the 1:30 min mark.

So now, I just need to convince them of the need for a bluetooth interface to ‘emulate’ a powerchair so Mac can access his iDevices with a switch array and any other user can do so not only from their powerchair but from any location (lounge/bed/car) they choose.

I admit to having a bit of a soft spot for New Zealand neighbours… they do tend to impress me constantly with their innovation and ability to think outside the square.

I am particularly in love with another NZ invention the YikeBike (and would love to see a wheelchair version… that would be sweet).


Filed under Access all Areas, Technology - things that help, the big picture

more specifically… which reindeer?

We were at a disability equipment expo.  Mac (in his mostly ‘home made’ wheelchair) and I were mooching around looking at what’s new, innovative, desirable and, of course, a pipe dream.  We were also lamenting most of what we really want isn’t yet invented.

There weren’t many other kids there – it was a school day afterall.  But one young girl and her parents made a bee line for us.

They wanted to know where we had got Mac’s spoke protectors from – they hadn’t seen any like that.  Mac had his aboriginal art covers on – made from wrapping paper and clear contact.  I explained how we made them to the Mum.

Then I spoke to Miss H (who had a neat little wheelchair with butterflies and flowers on her spoke protectors) and explained to her how she and her mum could easily change covers really regularly, she could think up great designs for different themed events  (yep,her mum was semi-glaring at me, slightly bemused and probably wishing they never introduced themselves).

I told her about Mac’s Xmas chair when he was “little” and how it had two reindeer on the front & flashing lights.  Mac was grinning at her and looking slightly ‘self-important’.

She checked a couple of facts – did the lights have batteries? how did the reindeer attach to the chair? and then “which reindeer where they?

Heh, I didn’t actually know which reindeer they were…

“We’ll have to ask Mac about that” I told her as I grabbed his yes/no switches.

“He’ll have to use his feet to answer yes & no”, I explained.

Mum:       Mac, Miss H wants to know which reindeer were on your chair – do you know?

Mac:          YES

Miss H:    Was one Comet?

Mac:           NO

Miss H:     What about Dasher?

Mac:            YES

Miss H:      Um, Dancer?

Mac:           NO

Miss H:     (with her Dad’s suggestion) Or Prancer?

Mac:           NO

Mum:        Oh, we forgot Rudolph? was the other one Rudolph?

Mac:          YES

Miss H:     Oh, so Dasher and Rudolph, huh cool.

It still amazes me what is important to kids.   I had NEVER considered what the names of those two toy reindeer were.  I also love the fact that had Mac not previously determined which reindeer they actually were he is able to just ‘makes stuff up’ like all kids do to suit the situation.

With that, we parted ways and Mac and I continued collating our mental wish list of equipment we may want/need/covet now and in the future.

I do look forward to the day Mac doesn’t need me to hold his foot switches, a day when he can be an independent communicator.

But, for now I enjoy that pretty much everyone accepts his method of communicating particularly when the conversation is natural and normal.  Sure I maneuver the convo around to get it in a format Mac can contribute, but then Miss H just naturally asked Yes/No questions without missing a beat.  It’s not that hard really.


Filed under things that make me go "glll"

my kid is a “cheater”

It is that time of year again.  Cross Country events are upon us.

As you know Mac has taken part for the last two years “running” in his ‘chariot’ jogger with an ‘able assistant’.

2009 X-Country
2010 X-Country

This year Mac and his aide ‘Ms M’ were teamed up for the  8 years Boys event.

The races are getting longer each year and this year took place at the Cross Country course proper (not the park near school).   The Cross Country course is next door to our property on my Uncle’s property so Mac was definitely in his ‘natural habitat’.

Shawn was in charge of drop off & collection for the day.  So, when Mac got home I asked how he went.

Shawn explained that, apparently, Mac came in first place…

“but there may have been a disqualification on the basis there was suggestion of a ‘short cut’.”

I asked Mac…  “did you do something sneaky?”

Gosh, whoever said “boys can’t lie to save themselves” was right (hey, maybe that was me that said that, it sounds very familiar).

Mac’s face was the sneakiest, cheekiest look you have ever seen.  He dips his head and tilts it to the side, his eyes shoot to the right with a slight squint, the arms come up and cross in front of his lap and his mouth is just the epitome of the ‘sly grin’.

Clearly – there had been some skullduggery afoot.

The next day Ms M was telling me how she and Mac had started out strong then found a cutting in the track suitable for ‘taking a break’.  She said they were killing themselves laughing at just how funny they were hiding from everyone and out of sight of the spectators.  They had found themselves particularly entertaining when they joined the front-runners as they came back around.  Ms M does a very good job of ‘winding Mac up’ into hysterics and I think he really enjoyed the sneakiness of their approach.

Thankfully we have a school of good sports no one seems to have cared that Mac cheated.

Mac has agreed that:

  • “YES”, he thought it was very funny to take a short cut, and
  • conceded that “YES”, it is OK he was disqualified under the circumstances, and
  • “NO” he doesn’t care he won’t compete at the next level.

I think it’s great for him and the other kids to see the fun side of these events.  It helps the other kids learn that it’s ok to be light-hearted and, let’s face it, when there is no way Mac is ever going to truly compete against them on level playing field – it’s ok for everyone to have a laugh along the way.

It all goes a long way in helping them to learn they don’t have to be ‘precious’ about disability – Mac’s not.


Filed under Uncategorized

windscreen wheels

After Mac’s “shoe wheels” last week his wheelchair wheels spent a day and a half ”naked” – it just didn’t seem right.

So we went in search of a replacement design – no fixed ideas in mind, just keen to see where the hunt would take us.

As it turned out we ended up at an Auto Shop and picked up one of those folding windscreen shades.

They cut up really easily, have heaps of cool patterns to choose from, are waterproof and really, really quick to install.

At only $9 they are pretty cheap too (considering how much time they save).

Mac chose the design – he said he would LOVE the wave and cabin design on his chair.  It is a pretty cool surfer design – his mates particularly like the “wave side”.

Now I have one more thing to keep an eye out for – just in case there is a fabulous design we “need”.

This design reminds me of my Uncles who were teenagers in the 70s and had fancy wheels on their Volkswagen Beetles and Combi vans.


Filed under The 'mod' squad

same same but different…

To borrow a ‘tinglish‘ phrase…

Mac and Shawn were out and about on the weekend just having a “Dad’n Lad day”.  So often is is either just Mac and I or all three of us so it is nice for them to just hang out on their own.

Shawn experienced one of those moments many parents of children with a disability often dread.  You know the one, when another child stops dead in their tracks, stares and points.

He said his initial feeling was a slightly uneasy ‘hmmm, OK then, how’s this going to go down?”

The little boy, now standing straddled over his own push bike, waited for his Dad to catch up to him, turned to him, pointing first to himself, then to Mac and declared…

“Look, same… Ben 10 bike… Ben 10 wheelchair”

That’s it.

Same same!


Filed under The 'mod' squad

mad as hell!

I have taken the pledge… have you?


This works for us because the mad as hell” campaign is not prescriptive.

Good disability policy is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution.  Control and choice needs to be in the hands of the people with disabilities and/or their families.  So much money is wasted under the current charity based model of disability support.

I know I want quite different things for Mac than the Government/bureacrats/Carers Association/Spastic Centre/ADHaC/DET…” think I want.

Chances are I probably want different things to other families of kids with disabilities.

This is the way it should be – we are individuals.

For example at this stage of Mac’s life I don’t want (or need) respite, I don’t want physiotherapy, I don’t want support for nappies only to be told ‘you can’t buy the ones you want (or need)’ and I don’t want to sit on waiting lists for years for technology or equipment Mac actually needs.

I wouldn’t mind some financial assistance to attend the odd conference to help Mac out and for me to learn more (instead of respite).  I do want to choose which therapists we want to use, I wouldn’t mind being able to use some respite money for getting some help with Mac while I do his physical therapy (or have someone help me do his physical therapy).  I want to be able to make sound choices for (and with) Mac and allow him to not be seen as a ‘charity case’ but allow him to thrive and reach his potential – none of which is easy under the current ‘broken’ system.

The Mad as Hell campaign was covered in The Australian today:


Filed under Inclusion... straight up!

Ben 10


Ben 10 wheels as requested by the ‘bossy’ speller…


  • 3 x Ben 10 party hats opened out and pasted around the wheel.
  • 1 x large Ben 10 sticker
  • 5 x small Ben 10 stickers
  • clear contact to cover
  • green cardboard as base template


Filed under The 'mod' squad

the love letter

I found this tucked down beside Mac in his chair today.

These pair have been as thick as thieves since pre-school.  Bronte is the ‘older woman’ being in Year 2.  When she started Kindy the year before Mac her Nanna used to pick her up one day a week so they could ‘race’ into town to Mac’s (and Bronte’s little sister’s) day care centre so Bronte could ‘catch a few minutes with Mac’.

It is nice to see the relationship hasn’t ‘waned’.  Bronte decreed to her Pop some years ago that ‘she has two boyfriends, but she will marry Mac’.

So sweet.


Filed under friends, Inclusion... straight up!

not even a horse…

Wheelchair Attendant training started for 1-2R (Mac’s class) on Friday.

Before we started there was a couple of questions from the students.

“We’re not allowed to touch Mac’s head are we”, asked Max.

Not sure what motivated the question I replied “yes, you can touch his head”, but remained a little puzzled.

I have heard of people thinking ‘brain injuries are catching’ or being over cautious with seemingly fragile children with disabilities.  In response I tend to err on the side of “NO caution”.

Thankfully, Mrs R was able to clear up the true intent of the question.

Apparently Mrs R had told the children they weren’t to “pat” Mac on the head like a pet or baby.  So we discussed it a little further.  Mrs R asked them “do they ‘pat‘ their other friends on the head?”… “noooo” was the resounding response.

“So, if Mac is just a kid like you, why would you ‘pat’ him on the head?” she queried.

“Well, he’s not a baby”, Jack observed.

“And he’s not a puppy or kitten”, added Max.

He’s NOT EVEN A HORSE!” Maddy proclaimed.

Head Patting 101 has been passed ‘with Honours’ by 1-2R… way to go, kids.


Filed under first grade here I come, friends, Inclusion... straight up!


OK, so it didn’t come as a written note, but it was a message passed on via the Teacher’s Aide from his ‘second break’ attendant.

These kids are way more conscientious than I would ever be – there’s a reason Mac should be with them and why they are with him.  There are so many learning opportunities for the children who take up the role of wheelchair attendant.

I must make sure to send in one of his bike pumps so that if need be the job can be taken care of right there and then.

I’d hate to get a real ‘road-worthiness infringement’ from the students.


Filed under Access all Areas

the fly swatter

School Assembly started, the ground was too wet from all the rain for the children to sit, so they remained standing.

Some were fidgeting, others wriggling, some almost at attention.

One young boy from Mac’s class, L, was wriggling and jiggling a little more than most.

His mother, standing along side me sighed, with a hint of despair. “He hasn’t been still once” she said shaking her head. “It’s not natural for children to be still” I tried to reassure her.   To be honest, I don’t think my approach worked.

fast forward six hours…

A similar group of parents were waiting for the bell to go to collect the same children who had started their day with a school Assembly.

The mum of the ‘wriggler’ came up to me, a twinkle in her eye. “You’ll never guess” she said laughing. “Mrs R overheard me scolding L, for not keeping still in assembly, as they were walking back to class”.  “She apologised for the confusion, and explained that she had asked L if he could shoo any flies out of Mac’s face during assembly”.

And so L did.  He was conscientious and committed to the task at hand.  He shooed and he flicked and he whooshed and he swiped.

It’s just really hard to be still when you are on fly swatting duty’.


Filed under first grade here I come, friends

what happened?

He couldn’t have been more than three years old.  I watched him as he discreetly looked out of the corner of his eye, checking, peeking, stealing another glance.

He sidled up to Mac, this time for a closer look, him standing, Mac sitting – they were almost nose to nose.  A perplexed look formed on his face, something was clearly amiss, he needed to know…

“What happened?” he asked me with wide eyes and hands upturned.

“Which bit?” I queried, let’s face it… it could have been so many things.

“He hasn’t got any teeth in the middle…” he said with concern in his voice.

“You know, you’re right”, I laughed.

It became clear, the wheelchair, the lack of mobility and independent movement, the not talking, the not seeing were all completely inconsequential and totally irrelevant, this three year old was simply fascinated by the fact he was missing his two front teeth.

I explained as basically as I could to this little boy how when you are about six or seven your first teeth get replaced by another bigger set.  I didn’t want to scare him so only touched on the strange tooth fairy who pays you money for your teeth when they fall out of your head.  Then his sister joined the conversation and showed her little brother how she had her new second teeth.

We have had two more youngsters querying the lack of teeth – I guess since Mac is at their eye level, they notice it a bit more.

I haven’t checked to see if ‘all Mac wants for Christmas is his two front teeth, his two front teeth…”


Filed under things that make me go "glll"

second meeting

The second meeting of the Wheelchair Attendant Licensing Group was held yesterday.  Once again we enjoyed good attendance with 25 students making the ‘return visit’.

Many excellent ideas and interesting discussions took place about the zones and safety rules.  They were very sincere when posing their questions and ideas – this was a serious task they were undertaking.  There was even forward planning and goal setting for Mac to one day be able to be dropped of at the “kiss and drop” zone at school where he would be met by a student to assist him.  We have decided this might be possible once Mac learns to ‘blow his Mum (me) a kiss’ (I would accept a raspberry) on drop off – which only cements the resolve of the students to teach him to blow a raspberry.

The majority of sixth graders didn’t return as they have just worked out since they are only at school for another two weeks they might miss out on getting their license – some are a little ‘miffed’.

Our Regional office of DET have offered to supply the ‘all important lanyards’ for the students getting their licenses.

The next step is for me to pull together all the feedback and information the students submitted into a format they can use for learning and design the questionnaire for the students to complete.  Of course I will try to develop this using Universal Design for Learning concepts so as to not make a hypocrite of myself and ensure all students can access the information in a format best suited to their style of learning.

We are planning on running the ‘First Assessment Program’ next Thursday for the Stage 3 students.  Thursday is International Day of People with Disabilities and all students agreed this was an appropriate day to start this process.

When we talked about IDoPWD one of the girls cheered “yay, my brother” another, “yay, my mother” and one of the boys, “yay, Mac” – it made me realise it is important to allow others the opportunity to celebrate their friends and family members and the diversity they bring to their lives – it gives them a chance to be ‘loud and proud’ with the backing of an internationally recognised day.  Sure it would be nice to get to the place where we no longer need to have IDoPWD but for now I can see the benefit for these kids.

Oh, and the obstacle course… still at the concept stage, I guess it will be sorted by Thursday – but water has been confirmed as a compulsory element to the practical test… of course!


Filed under Access all Areas, Inclusion... straight up!

wheels for every occasion

Today was the annual Book Fair at school.  The theme of the day was ‘safari’ and everyone was encouraged to dress up.  And so they did, there were lions and tigers and bears [oh my]!

Our new wheel covers in honour of the day…

More Wheels

Cute jungle animals running round one wheel and, on the other,
a fearsome tiger claw bursting through…
Mac was ‘fitted out’ in full khaki, pith helmet and the obligatory crocodile strung across the ‘bow’ of his wheelchair as a handy footrest.

He came home with a ‘haul’ of four new books courstesy of Mum’s credit card.  If only the publishers (all publishers) would make picture books available in TRUE eBook format so he could access them himself (ie with picture and text support, an option for adding your own audio and the ability to use ‘switch’ or ‘touchscreen’ technology to access them).


Filed under kindergarten at last

NAIDOC week ’09

NAIDOC celebrations are held around Australia in July each year to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  All schools have celebrations and events planned – this year’s theme was Honouring Our Elders, Nurturing Our Youth.  

Our school had a ‘doing things together’ day planned for the Thursday.  The kids were encouraged to dress in Red/Yellow/Black clothing to represent the colours on the Aboriginal flag.  That bit was easy, black skinny jeans, red raben shoes, yellow’n’red hoodie & a red vest… sorted (although we really should have sent Mac to school upside down in his chair as his colour scheme was the wrong way round for the flag).

However, while Mac’s wheelchair wheel covers are very cool – they represent the SIOUX indian tribe.  It seemed odd to have indigenous north american symbolism on his wheels during NAIDOC week. 

The solution… new temporary wheel covers.  

New Wheels

Dad and Pa were tasked with undertaking the transformation (I was away in Sydney) – they did a great job.  We had found Aboriginal Art wrapping paper which was then cut and covered in clear contact and attached to the wheels.

A huge success – apparently lots of the kids wished “they could have a wheelchair too so they could change the wheels”… ah, funny what you think is desirable when you are a kid.

We have retained the covers for the time being – they do look good.  I am sure I will be told by Mac’s peers when it is time for a change.


Filed under The 'mod' squad