Winter is wimping out on us so far this season. Thank goodness we can always resort to ice skating indoors! Ice skating provides an amazingly fun way for everyone to play, despite any fears of cold or falling. With more attention on this activity, we are embellishing our techniques for supporting skaters with disabilities on the ice. Here are our favored methods:
One or more skilled ice skaters can easily assist a new skater with or without props. All Out Adventures shares some of their techniques on this video, which also shows skating on an ice sled.
This is a home-made item using PVC pipe, glue and sometimes even screws. It is meant to serve as a balance aid, not to support full weight all of the time. We like to see people wear helmets when using these and work towards independent use if possible. If you make your own skatewalker, we highly recommend 1" pipe. We find 1 1/4" to be less strong and more likely to break. Can be made at varying heights. Users should grip midway along the upper side sections to ensure stability.
Gait or Transfer Belt
This standard item is a great aid for stand skaters, especially anyone for whom falling is not recommended due to fragility or a previous injury. The transfer belt has handles all the way around, allowing quick assistance when needed without invading personal space. Multiple skaters can more easily support a skater to stay more upright.
Portable Folding Ramps and Carpet
One or two three foot ramps are incredibly helpful for wheelchair access to the ice. They can be screwed into the threshold for stability. We like to add a short length of carpet coming out from under the ramp to provide a stable transitional spot for anyone who needs it. The end of the carpet can be "glued down" with some water, which quickly freezes it to the ice. This set up allows people using power chairs especially to get enough traction to come back off the ice.
This is of course not technically skating. In some of our programs we invite people on the ice "as they are" from power chair users to non-skaters, creating a near totally inclusive environment. Where rinks allow street shoes, those who truly wish to avoid skates can - using slip-on Yak Trax or other ice gripping devices - while tending to family members or clients, and enjoying the play experience on the ice. The use of ice grippers provides vital support to people assisting individuals using ventilators who have other especially sensitive needs.
Look closely to see the anti-tippers on each sled.
Ice Sled anti-tippers
We get our ice sleds from Unique Inventions in Ontario, a small company that supplies sled hockey equipment. They will custom fabricate sleds to order. We set our blades wide apart for extra stability and add anti-tippers to the backs of the blades under the seat, to prevent sled users from tipping over backwards by accident. Its a piece of aluminum rod that extends back from the blade above the ice and acts as a brace.
Ice Sled seat add-on
A jacket serves as a cover for
a personal seating device strapped
to the ice sled.
Some wheelchair users can transfer their seating devices right onto the sled. This works especially well for kids who need their usual or custom seating support. A few extra straps can help secure such items to the sled. Pieces of foam can be taped on or simply inserted under the legs as shown to provide additional support and protection from the cold beneath. We also have extra "chest straps" available to provide additional torso support for those who may need it on sleds with higher seat backs.
Ice Sled outrigger prototype
We are in the process of developing an added piece to act as an outrigger to prevent tipping sideways. Although falling down is an expected part of ice skating, some sled skaters really need to not tip over.
Ice Sled grip sticks
For those who have difficulty with grip and can move their arms, we staple or bolt adjustable straps to the sled sticks. These allow the palm of the hand to be more secure against the stick and the heel of the hand a place to push down for self propulsion.