Category Archives: Access all Areas

water warfare for everyone…

As luck would have it Mac attended a classmates birthday party where the ‘order of the day’ was a water pistol fight.

I knew someday Mac would absolutely NEED a water pistol, truth be told he should have had one years ago… he’s 11 for crying out loud.

It’s not that I haven’t been looking… it’s just finding the perfect combination of battery powered pistol, ease of switch adapting, wheelchair “mountability” and being able to actually buy it when I found it didn’t come together until late last year.

We were traveling overseas and so I did some “retail research” for those few elusive, but sought after, items.

And. There. It. Was.

Courtesy of quick trip into Cerritos Walmart, CA – it looked to be perfect option.

And. It. Is.

Mac gave as good as he got today at the party, he was drenched but delighted.  The kids were stoked with his ‘water pistol weapon of choice’, quite a few of these guys were in his class for the “macifications” two years ago so were also interested in how the gun actually worked and was tweaked.

SO WHAT IS IT… AND WHAT DID WE DO WITH IT?

The Fuze Cyclone Water Blaster from FUZE UK.
Image showing teenage boy riding a bmx bike with water pistol mounted on the handle bars (head & shoulder shot).  Inset pics show close up of the button control unit to press with your thumb to operate the water pistol, mounted next to the hand grip.  Additional closeup of the water pistol firing water.Designed for mounting on your bike handlebars it was a great choice for a wheelchair because:

  • it already had mounting options,
  • it already had the three key operational functions assigned to buttons,
  • it was battery operated.

Mac’s Pa undertook ‘hacking duties’ once again and got it switch adapted it for him.  He used three plugs coming out from the handlebar attachment.  Mac used a head activated switch for the fire option, his left and right options were attached to a joystick but most often maneuvered by his “wheelchair pusher”.

It was a little bit tricky to get the button component apart as it had been glued closed, but, once open and adapted it had the option to screw it back together… a nice surprise.

close up of the button firing unit with the three plugs coming out the side ready for plugging  switches into.  Small grey component with blue directional buttons and an orange fire buttonIt would be great if the Fuze team considered the option to build in some disability access as standard – they really be world leaders if they went down that path. I generally joke that switch access for toys costs three cents at build stage, three dollars if you do it yourself or three hundred dollars if you get a disability organisation involved, sadly, it’s not really a joke.

Interestingly, Fuze have quite a few products that could intersect with the youth wheelchair market.  The fact they don’t cost a fortune is a welcome relief from the usual slamming people with disabilities get around prices of products they need.

One thing to note with this particular product is many kids will find the standard buttons suitable for use without any hacking required.

Check out the FUZE UK range on the above link, there are some cool wheel lights and even a speaker and mount for your phone or media device which just might suit some wheelchairs out there.

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Filed under Access all Areas, friends, The 'mod' squad, things that make me go "glll"

go away…

It was lunch time and Mac, having just finished eating, was heading out to the playground.

“Go away,” they said, as Miss M and Mac approached the group of boys.

For a moment, Miss M was worried – these were Mac’s fellow Grade 6 boys.

“Buuuttt,” she started, about to say ‘It’s Mac’ when they quickly clarified.

“Oh, not Mac, he’s with us, we just don’t need you.”

“Fine,” she said, feigning indignation, but secretly thrilled at their autonomy and independence.  Clearly no adults and certainly no ‘female adults’ are needed in their midst.

I was relieved to hear it.  Mac was a little upset on the second day of sixth grade, thinking he wouldn’t have any friends in his class and what that might mean.  This year is a big change for him –  it’s his first new teacher in three years.

He knew he wasn’t going to get in the same class as one of his best mates. They completely outwit/outplay/outmaneuver the teachers and don’t do any work at all… all the while looking “very busy”.  He was ok with that, he said.  But for some reason he thought all the other kids were allowed to pick a friend and he wasn’t.  I don’t think that was the case, and after actually getting his class placement, he realised he has some great kids in there and he is much happier.

It’s hard to balance the “sticking with who you know” approach in class friendships or embracing the “new kids mean new opportunities”.  Every year I have a moment of a panic – worried that he might not maintain those relationships he formed in the prior year… so far, that has been misdirected worry.

It was great to hear Miss M report back that, on the first morning after being placed in their classes, lots of the kids said: “Right, when do we get to learn how to work with Mac.” Learning about Mac’s technology, working with him is still a revered role.  If he stuck with the same kids all the time, those new kids would miss out and so would he… you just never know what allies are around the corner.

So the first week of Grade Six has been OK, here’s to a wonderful final year of primary school.

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

lightness + joy

They do go together… there’s scientific evidence – and now there’s SunSprite.  We first came across SunSprite on Indiegogo in their crowd funding phase.

screenshot of SunSprite website

CLICK IMAGE TO VISIT SUNSPRITE.COM

SunSprite is the first solar-powered wearable device that measures and tracks the amount of sun and light that a person is receiving. In its most basic form, it reminds you to get outside and absorb bright light, which wakes up your brain and makes you healthier!

I thought it was a great way for Mac to start thinking about managing his health (at least one portion of it) and what a great option for people in aged care or those with mobility issues in general who maybe aren’t getting access to the ‘right light’ to optimise their health.

A shot of Mac sitting in the distance in front of our giant Moreton Bay Fig tree in our garden, dappled light coming through, school uniform, black converse high tops.  Blended into the corner of the pic is a close up of his shoes and the small sunsprite device attached to his shoelaces on his left foot.

Dappled light under our gorgeous Fig Tree at the bottom of the garden.

I commented on their campaign and they asked for more information.  We Skyped about how and why a kid like Mac, with significant physical disabilities and who isn’t yet in control of his own mobility, could benefit from something like this.

As a thank you from the team, for helping them out in their development phase, Mac received his very own SunSprite when they shipped this month.  He’s now worn it for nine days and has hit his 100% mark by midday on almost every day.  Mostly he’s been wearing it on his shoes as it’s easy to remember on school days but it would perhaps be more appropriate up on his wheelchair headrest or collar – it is working ok for now though.

SunSprite also syncs with its mobile app, for us, we have it synced to Mac’s iPad. Where it will be useful is for Mac to think about how he can use the data to see if he needs to make changes in his life (with us now, but on his own when he is older).  For now school life pretty much ensures he is getting out and about with enough light each day.  But in the future, when he is responsible for directing his own support staff/personal assistants etc, this will hopefully have been a good way for him to start thinking about how he needs to be in the ‘driver’s seat’, how he should be the one making decisions based on his own data and/or experience.

Congrats to the SunSprite team… this is a great little device.

You can read more about it on their website by clicking the image below.

Image showing how Sunsprite helps you be healthier... Screengrab from Sunsprite website, click image to visit their page

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Filed under Access all Areas, the big picture

le Tour de Fun…

The Student Representative Council held a ‘bike day’ for all students today.  It was one of our Education Week celebrations.

Top pic kids on bikes, vibrant colours, bike helmets, bright blue school uniforms prevail, Mac in his jogger in the midst of it all.  bottom pic kids in the distance, Mac and his mate riding up to meet the crowd.

In the lead up I talked to Mac about how he might be involved. He likes being on the back of a bike in his bike trailer… we don’t do it very often, we don’t own good bikes and his bike trailer/jogger is generally left at school as it is hard to transport with the wheelchair.

But, here was a great opportunity for his mates to learn how to ride with his jogger on the back.  Our village always has groups of kids riding around the streets… it would be cool if Mac could tag along for the ride without adults needing to always be with them.

Mac and I talked to the ‘lads’ at school.  What kind of bike should we get?

I know we could have borrowed one… as I said, there’s tonnes of bikes in the village.   However, if Mac “owns the bike” it’s always available for his trailer.  We will know it’s in good condition, safe and confident it will have brakes (so often considered “optional”).

The lads knew exactly what we neeeded… a 24″ geared bike, probably mountain bike style.

Off shopping I went.  Our trusty local bike shop so often repairing Mac’s wheelchair and servicing his jogger was my one stop shop.  They had a great little bike, super light weight, they cut me a deal – we were sorted.

Mac now owns a bike!

And the kids now know they can head off with him at any stage for a ride (their leg muscles permitting).

There was not a smile bigger than Mac’s today – he was loving life sitting back while his mates did all the work.

What a fantastic day… here’s a sneak peek of what went down.

One of the kids remarked… “he’s not that heavy, it’s more your energy gets used up listening too him laughing behind you”… I guess he might be a bit distracting.

Thanks to the SRC, you put on a great day.

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

why bother, indeed…

“Why would you even bother” her statement was more matter of fact than argument “he’s gonna get places quicker and have more fun if we’re pushing him in his chair”.

“Yeah, it wouldn’t be, like, easy, it’d be hard and you’d still need help” came another observation from one of the boys.

You see the question had been posed from a classmate:
“Will Mac ever be able to walk?”

Mac’s first response (with his switches) to that question was a swift “no”, and on further enquiry as to whether this “bothered him” another clear “no” response.

More comments, more discussion … the consensus was that, ultimately, “walking really isn’t all that important” the important thing was getting where you want with who you want (aka mobility).

If only more people would listen to the wisdom of 10 and 11 year olds.  How great for Mac to be involved in a discussion that ultimately determines that his way of existing is not only OK, it is totally authentic and not considered ‘less’.

Sure, there was some talk about Mac getting to drive his own wheelchair, what might be needed, how they can help that happen, what needs to be invented to make it better (of course robotics came up 😉 ) … but all that is about Mac being empowered, it’s not ‘dissing’ his current mode of mobility.

It is so refreshing to see these kids really think through what it is they are talking about, really think.

So much of our society can be quite superficial about these things, like walking is some amazingly necessary skill, or a prerequisite for a worthwhile life.

Mainstream media and social media got all excited about the opening ceremony of the Football World Cup having a paralysed man use an exoskeleton to walk and kick a ball – it was all a bit weird and ‘icky’ – I am glad Mac and his mates say “why bother?”

Sure, there may be some people out there who are unable to walk and really want to, I respect that.  I just don’t think we need to perpetuate a damaging message that walking is some sort of ‘Holy Grail’ for all people who use wheelchairs.

I don’t hate the technological advances that come of these ventures – who knows what may come of them?  We may finally end up building better wheelchairs where steps, gutters and raised thresholds soon become no obstacle.  Chairs might be able to become more compact, more comfortable and well, while you’re at it … could we perhaps make them ‘hover’?

In the meantime, I’ll continue to listen to the wisdom of kids.

As I was digging around for a suitable image to use in this post, I came across Red Nicholson’s post over at Attitude Live.

Red nails it – have a read.
http://attitudelive.com/blog/red-nicholson/opinion-why-obsession-walking

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Filed under Access all Areas, Inclusion... straight up!, Technology - things that help

making the world more ALLsome

You might remember me mentioning that the “Handball Machine” was the catalyst for those “Macifications” (mods to Mac’s wheelchair) his classmates worked on last year?

The kids (Mac included) just decided one day Mac needed a way to play handball.  Their idea was to have something mounted at the front of Mac’s jogger to allow him to “play” without getting hurt.

For days, I would turn up at school with them telling me what they had tried, asking me to bring in more items to test, giving me the results on their experimentation.

Some of the failures included:

  • bin lids (too hard to mount and metal)
  • tennis racquets (too much chance Mac could get hit if they didn’t aim well enough)
  • plastic container lids (too flimsy)
  • various wheelchair trays (too big, too little, absorbed the bounce of the handball too much)

Until …

Someone came up with the excellent idea of a Crazy Catch (a ball sport reflex/catching trainer).  I was dispatched immediately to purchase one for the ongoing experiment (cost … inconsequential 😉 according to the kids)

The feedback following their ‘first trial run’ was that they felt a customised size was necessary.  Followed up by a simple “could I make that for them” (hooray for hacksaws).  A couple of cheap golf buggy umbrella holders to help hold the Crazy Catch arms in place and the odd piece of velcro was all it took to make their invention a reality.

This year their “hack” has moved onto the football field.  The net angle gets reduced a little, Flag Football tags (AusTag here in Oz) are attached on the side of the jogger to allow Mac to be ‘tackled’.  Their next planned mod includes a pouch on the front of the net to allow the ball to be passed (with a degree of skill including reverse spin or perfect placement) to allow it to roll into the pouch.

I love watching these ideas come to fruition and then evolve.

Mac loves being in the midst of it all and considers himself “quite good at handball”.  Although i’m not sure the speed and chaos of the football field won’t win him over.  Time will tell.

It is very ALLsome.

 


 

VIDEO AUDIO DESCRIPTION & SCRIPT
So, it's not that cool when you can't play handball with your mates.  But with mates like Mac's it's 'way cool'. At our school the kids invent mac-ifications.  That is, modifications to Mac's wheelchair so they can all do more things.  Like this handball machine.  All they needed was a bike jogger, a Crazy Catch, two umbrella holders and some velcro.  (video footage of the kids playing with the ball bouncing off the front net).  Pretty awesome don't you think?    Just goes to show... when ALL means ALL, we make the world more ALLsome.

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Filed under Access all Areas, friends, Inclusion... straight up!, The 'mod' squad, things that make me go "glll"

swim like you’ve never swum before …

School’s in for 2014 which means swimming carnivals are on the agenda across the district.

As per last year, I braved the pool to help Mac with his “Macstroke” races, so he could get some points for his sports house.  Together we swam the 11-year-boys breaststroke, backstroke & freestyle events…

then this happened!

Two of his mates decided they wanted to swim with him in the last race of the day and negotiated with me to resign my position on Team Mac.  With Mac now in 5th grade, I am guessing there’s a very good chance I won’t get a ‘look in’ next year, if today’s success is any indication.

There was also significant desire from Mac’s sports house Captain to include him in the relays, but with a few too many kids making themselves available we opted for the free swim at the end of the day. After all, he’d already competed in every other event possible.

What a wonderful day, what a wonderful sight to watch Mac and his two mates compete as a team.

Who’d want it any other way?

 

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Filed under Access all Areas, friends, Inclusion... straight up!, things that make me go "glll"