Month: May 2016

AccessABLE Travel And Doing Your Homework

download (60)A recent vacation taught me some valuable lessons about accessible travel I would like to share with you. My own temporary disability lasting only a few months presented me with valuable first hand experiences that will benefit our readers.

My several decade career, specializing as a Disability Insurance Advisor, gave me a unique perspective being actively involved with employees of client companies filing long term disability (LTD) claims. We essentially “counseled” disabled employees that were filing LTD claims who didn’t understand the claims process.

“Hitting the Wall”… At the point of becoming disabled, there’s the “shock” of we “cross the line” in a single moment. One minute we’re healthy, the next we’re disabled. It happens in the time it took you to read this paragraph.

The most obvious impact on their “psyche” began with the psychological impact of no longer being in excellent health without any limitations. When added to the instantaneous negative impact on their medical condition, its’ been likened to “walking into a wall”. In addition to the physical and emotional trauma of becoming disabled, then added impact of an immediate change in lifestyle can be overwhelming to the hardiest of souls.

How do we get to the bedroom on the second floor in a wheelchair? How will you get into the shower? Where do we buy grab rails for the bathroom? And who is going to install them? For seniors with arthritic hands, where do we find dress or shoes with velcro enclosures. They are most welcome benefits for seniors with arthritic fingers.

At the worst imaginable time, decisions on adapting to a completely new, very different lifestyle needs to be made.

As I was a month away from rotator cuff surgery, I couldn’t use one arm in a normal manner. Taking public transportation from de Gaulle Airport in Paris led us to the “tube” (the rapid transit system under the streets of London). Arriving at our stop downstairs from our hotel, we discovered there was no “lift” (an elevator to street level). After dragging two heavy suitcases with one arm, up very steep stairs, I was grateful for my “good” arm.

Upon returning home to the U.S., I went on-line and did my very first accessible travel search. My first task was to pull up a map of the London rapid transit system and a whole new world of opportunity appeared on my computer screen. There was a map of the entire London rapid transit system where I could see all the transit stations that had “lifts” (elevators).

I then might have searched for hotels and bed & breakfasts that were close to the stations with lifts. Were I disabled the next time around, I would simply do some accessible travel planning to enjoy a trip to London.

The key message here is to “do your homework” before embarking on your vacation travels. My guess is that future vacations will bring you more enjoyment then you might have imagined.

The next part of my accessible travel journey was an invitation to speak to a Parkinson’s support group. As I had created a handbook on accessible travel opportunities, a young lady had discovered my publication and bio on-line. She asked if I would be willing to speak on accessible travel to a group of 40 to 50 people that consisted of Parkinson patients and their caregivers.

What I learned next is probably the most valuable lesson I can offer anyone with any form of impairment or disability that used to travel but has stopped completely. My epiphany occurred when I simply asked if the members of the support group were having any difficulties with their travels. What I heard next was “yes”, it seems that everyone in the group had basically stopped traveling completely!

Since my work life involved helping people file disability claims, I discovered there were a multitude of variations in the severity of Parkinson’s. I learned there were folks with the symptom’s that initially lead to a specific (Parkinson’s) diagnosis all the way to those who were seriously impaired and totally disabled. It seems that with the initial diagnosis, that was a primary factor in stopping their travel. Possibly an assumption was made that continuing to travel would be too much to deal with.

In wondering what had transpired, there was no way to know whether a conscious or subconscious decision had been made. I wondered whether it was fear of the unknown, or possibly assuming “it” (travel) would be too much to handle. Was there possibly an apprehension about being away from their doctors or treatment facilities? Or was it just fearing the unknown?

Another option I pondered had to do with how many of us feel more comfortable with familiar surroundings. We’ve all heard the expression “creatures of habit”. For most people, we know that “home is where the heart is”. More than being heartfelt, our homes are where we’re most comfortable. Familiar surroundings bring us a sense of comfort.

Don’t we all have our favorite restaurants? I know for me that there’s at least three different routes I can take to drive to my office, all about the same distance yet I have to make a conscious effort to change my route.

Returning to my Parkinson’s support group experience, each member came with a spouse, parent or friend who were caregivers. I asked the audience for a show of hands of those who had Parkinson’s. I then asked if it was upsetting that the vacation trips had stopped. There was universal acknowledgement.

I fully understand it can be most upsetting watching a loved one facing a downturn health wise. There’s no way a healthy caregiver can fully appreciate the impact of diminishing health. The most relevant point I want to make is that you’re the one who is becoming more frail due to a compromised medical condition, please note the impact on your life partner who’s no longer joining you on vacations and acknowledge your awareness of their care and changes in lifestyle.

Treating Children’s Limb and Spine Deformities Through Pediatric Orthopedics

download (59)We are fortunate to have so many kinds of doctors who specialize in different areas, such as cardiologists, who specialize in the study and treatment of the heart, and neurologists, who work with the brain and determine treatments for illnesses such as Alzheimer’s. The field of pediatric orthopedics is specifically important because it treats disorders related to growth and development of the skeleton, muscles, and joints in children. Because their bodies are still growing, children have different reactions to injuries, infections, and disorders. Here are a few of the limb and spine deformities that doctors in the field of pediatric orthopedics treat.


Clubfoot is a deformity in which a baby’s foot is turned inward, sideways, or upward. Although clubfoot is not painful during infancy, if it is not treated, the child will not be able to walk normally as he or she ages. Most cases of clubfoot can be corrected successfully with a nonsurgical treatment in which specialists use gentle stretching and casting to gradually correct the deformity. In some severe cases, however, surgery may be necessary to adjust the ligaments, tendons, and joints in the foot and ankle in order to correct clubfoot.


A spine with scoliosis curves sideways instead of forming a straight line down the middle of the back. This condition is very common and is seen in many children and adolescents and is the most common form of scoliosis, idiopathic scoliosis, tends to be genetic. Treatment options for scoliosis include observation, bracing, and surgery. Children whose curves are mild will be observed to make sure that the condition does not worsen as they grow. Back braces are worn to prevent the enlarging of an existing curve as the child grows. Wearing the brace daily can prevent the curve from growing large enough to require surgery, however, in some cases the curve will continue to grow despite wearing the brace. In these cases, surgery is necessary to correct scoliosis.

Limb Length Discrepancy

Arms and legs that have differences in length are called limb length discrepancies. In most cases, arm length differences cause little to no difference in the function of the arms and the quality of life of the patient. However, extreme differences in leg length can greatly affect a patient’s health. Some causes of limb length discrepancies in the legs are previous injuries to the leg, bone infections during growth, and bone diseases. This condition can make walking extremely difficult or even impossible depending on the severity. If the condition is not severe, a shoe lift is recommended to help the patient be able to walk more comfortably. However, if the condition is extreme, surgery must be performed to correct the discrepancy.

Doctors in the field of pediatric orthopedics are superheroes to children who depend on their knowledge and expertise to increase their health and give them the quality of life they deserve.


Handicapped Is Not A Disability

images (20)Anything that impairs the success of an effort by a person is called as ‘a Handicap.’ In other words, it’s a condition that affects the performance of a person. The handicap might be of mental or physical nature or both. Many people think that having some problem in the body is the disability. The handicapped mind is the biggest defect one should worry, and not the physical disabilities like blindness, dumb, deaf, etc.

Many healthy and educated people tend to display the disability of different kinds. What else will you call the following misbehavior? Throwing the empty cola cans, cigar butts, and other wastes on the road, driving the car to the gym that is hardly 100 meters from the house, spitting in the public place, an unemployed person looking for a job to suit his educational level, terrorists killing the innocent people, politicians squandering the public money, and the restaurants throwing the unused food in the dustbins. Actually, these are the manifestations of the disabled and unsound minds. They actually symbolise the inabilities only.

In contrast to the above, the attitudes to convert even the challenges of life into the prospects deserve our appreciation. This latter quality is seen in many people who are less privileged by virtue of physical disability, but they mustered courage and determination to excel and contribute to the society.

A deaf and mute person sold his tiny land, designed and built a twin seat ultralight aircraft with the used parts and scrap materials. The small aircraft that sprayed the pesticide over the rubber plantations invoked him to pursue with the pilots who gave the materials and guidance. A couple, travelling in the train, conducted themselves in a more civilized way by closing the door of the coach without a thud and reaching their place safely. What is so special in this, you may think. The couple is a set of blind people.

Thomas Alva Edison, the father of numerous inventions, had a learning disability in the first 12 years of his life. John Milton, the noted English poet, became blind when he was 43 years old, but wrote the famous poem ‘Paradise Lost.’ Sudha Chandran, an Indian actress and dancer, had one leg amputated due to the negligent medical care after a road mishap. However, she is brave enough to resume her dance with a prosthetic foot.

Beethoven, the best music composer, ever known the world over, achieved many feats despite being completely deaf for the last 25 years of his life. Hellen Keller, an American author and political activist, was the first deaf and blind person to get a Bachelor of Arts degree, and she campaigned for women’s welfare and workers’ rights. Franklin Roosevelt, the ex-U.S. president, though confined to the wheelchair due to the paralysis of his body below the waist, successfully guided his nation through the Second World War.

Despite the inherent difficulties faced by the handicapped people, they put up a gallant show and win recognition and accolades. One common and amazing aspect found among them is the special skill displayed by them. In view of this uniqueness, such people are no more called as ‘ Disabled or Handicapped’ but as ‘Differently-Abled.’ Let’s appreciate and encourage the special talents of them, and NOT underestimate their worth. A Defective physique is acceptable, but not a Mind with filth and flaws.

Exercising In Your Wheelchair

download (58)If you are in a wheelchair you may think it is just too hard to exercise, as things you may be used to doing just won’t work now, but that just isn’t the case. In fact, you can do many things to exercise your body and reap the rewards that exercise brings to your life.

We have all head the benefits of exercise: it can reduce stress, it increases flexibility and mobility, it increases your body awareness and muscle strength and it helps to maintain a good fitness level. It is also great for circulation, can stop blood clots from forming and helps with spine stability and posture, and let’s face it, exercising just feels good and makes you feel good about yourself, mentally and physically.

Resistance training is used by athletes of the professional and not so professional levels alike and can be modified just a bit to work for those in a wheelchair as well. The best thing is that resistance bands come in a variety of strengths so you can start small and build up to the resistance you want. Simply tie one end to a doorknob or other stable object and you can do leg and arm extensions, lat pull downs, or rowing exercises quite easily, just make sure the brakes are on before you begin!

Wheelchair bound athletes can also take on strength training right from their chair, just make sure that you do a proper warm up of stretches before and a proper cool down after to avoid injury. If you are able, push-ups are possible from a chair. Simply use the arm rests to pull your body up and gently back down again in five repetition sets. You can increase the number of sets that you do as your tolerance for the exercise grows.

Another good exercise is overhead stretches where you sit straight and extend your arms up while taking in breath. Lock your fingers and turn those palms towards the ceiling while exhaling and push the hands slightly backwards. Hold for a few seconds and again, do in repetitions of five to start. You can always increase the number whenever you want, but start small.

Free weights for bicep curls and lateral raises are also great ideas for exercising in a wheelchair, again, start small and increase the weight as you see fit.

Never feel you can’t exercise just because you are in a wheelchair, with just a little modification you can do anything you put your mind to!