Monday, November 29, 2010

The Importance of Field Testing

Heading out to test the Renegade wheelchair at Mt. Tom.
This month I've been involved in field testing a variety of adaptive recreation equipment to better understand what items we're considering for purchase in DCR's Universal Access Program. Over the years I've learned that it is vital to test equipment prior to purchase and observe people with disabilities testing products and get their feedback. Products can seem like the perfect solution at first glance, but may not always work well for everyone. This post offers a few insights into the process and three products we've been field testing, as mentioned in recent posts.

It is harder for some people to adjust to a different way of doing something familiar that new equipment entails. This alone can be an obstacle to success. Plan to spend some time just getting used to new motions the body may need to make to adapt, in an easy environment before expecting instant results. Some may get the hang of it immediately, take off, and really be able to test the equipment. Many will find starting slowly and getting some good instruction by someone who really knows the equipment most productive. In some cases having such an instructor also using the equipment so that they can demonstrate technique is essential.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It Is Never Too Late To Re-Create Yourself

Rich Ramos back at home on the water.
Photo by Kitty Mears.
I first met Richard Ramos a year ago at our first REC Connect Power Chairs On Ice program. Rich came nearly every month through spring 2010 and joined us on the ice again this month in Revere for our second season. I was intrigued to discover at that recent program that Rich has been expanding his recreation activities, so I called him up to find out more.
Rich grew up on Nantucket, infused by the sea, and developed an early love of sailing ships and birds, two things that represent freedom to him. "I was in love with nature", he said with ease, "and had a deep intimate connection to bogs, ponds and the seashore." When he was 12, he learned to sail, and got a boat for his birthday. When he was 16, he broke his neck.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The BuddyBike - An Alternative Tandem Bicycle

I tested the BuddyBike last week, in my ongoing quest for potential bike purchases for our adaptive cycling program. The BuddyBike is a two-wheel tandem designed to support a front rider who needs a little extra balance support while riding, either in an ongoing fashion or to transition to riding a two-wheel bike independently. Wide handlebars allow the rear rider to steer the bike and give the front rider a chance to experience biking at the front of the ride versus behind the lead rider as on a conventional tandem.

I first tried this bike quite a few years ago, when it was an earlier incarnation known as the Love Bike. At that time I didn't get much time with it and never quite got the hang of it. I was especially interested  to see how user friendly it would feel this time. I was pleased to discover it took me, as an average adult cyclist, just a minute or so to get the feel of riding the BuddyBike. I test rode it with 6 year old Nate Coleman, then in both in back and front with Nate's mom Kerri, who is a sales rep for, a regional distributor of the Florida-based BuddyBikes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Dzialo Family Blazes a New Trail

Adam Dzialo enjoys the Shining Sea Bike
Path in Falmouth, MA near where  he lives.
I remember the day that 12 year old Adam Dzialo nearly drowned in the Deerfield River. It was the summer of 1998 and I was 3 years deep into my current career of recreation program coordinator. As I gazed at the headline on the front page of the Greenfield Recorder, my heart sank into my stomach. Something had gone terribly wrong in an outdoor recreation program in our community. It was a program coordinator's worst nightmare, but this gut wrenching fact was irrelevant compared to the incomprehensible agony of Adam and his family.

Now, twelve years later, the story of the accident and the ongoing recovery of Adam and his family are now available in a new book called Ceramic to Clay, by his mother Sharon Dzialo. It is so new off the press, I don't have a copy yet, but plan to give it my full attention soon. You can find it on Amazon or at the link above. Adam's father Phil has recently started a blog called Healing, Empowering and Thriving, which chronicles the many aspects of this family's unique approach to supporting their son's recovery to the fullest extent possible. Their story is a raw and tender journey we should all know and respect. Their model is a true guide for others who strive for solutions outside the box and want to keep and care for their loved ones at home beyond the realm of typical institutional care.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

FreeWheeling in November

I am finally getting the hang of the FreeWheel, an adaptive accessory for manual wheelchair users. Despite my lack of wheelchair skills and savvy - I plunged merrily through puddles in my zeal to test the product and naturally got soaked - it was a thrill to be able to wheel with ease over soggy grass, irregular hardpacked surfaces, and debris on the ground. I found the effort to propel the chair and the strain on my upper body amazingly reduced with the use of the FreeWheel compared to without it. I could travel in places I otherwise couldn't and get much farther with dramatically reduced effort. Wow! It seems well suited to this time of year too.