Tips for Travelling with a Wheelchair

This series is designed to help parents manage specific aspects of bringing up a child with a different learning path. We’ve chosen a slight variation this week, as the festive season approaches: travelling with a family member with limited mobility.

The festive season is almost upon us! Off we will go to those end of year get-togethers, where we’ll eat copious meals and of course, give and receive gifts. We will probably spend hours in transport to get there, alongside hundreds of millions of people around the world.  At Irisada, we wondered: how do families with wheelchair users cope?

We spoke with Pascale and Hervé, whose experience of physical disability is relatively recent. Hervé suffered a stroke four years ago and is now hemiplegic, with slowed mobility and frequent wheelchair use.

Ensuring the Destination is Accessible

Pascale is in charge of logistics. Her motto is to always prepare for whatever might go wrong. “Whenever we travel, book a room or even visit friends, my first thought is to understand if Hervé will be comfortable and able to move around. I always look at photos, and often call for more information,” says Pascal. The obvious reason, being to confirm how accessible the destination really is, the second being to limit the unknowns in the equation. “We can’t improvise anymore – unless we already know what might be problematic.”

16769-a-woman-in-a-wheelchair-getting-into-a-shower-or

It’s not always easy to find accessible bathrooms

“When renting, the most important rooms to look at are definitely the bathroom and the bedroom,” she explains. “The bathroom is the scariest place for people who aren’t steady on their feet. Especially when the floor is wet.” So Pascale always makes sure there’s enough space for Hervé to walk around comfortably, or even use his chair if he needs to. They also bring their own material: the invaluable shower stool, a portable shower bench, shower mats and a couple of suction grab bars for the shower.

As for the bedroom, the couple is most vigilant about how the bed is placed in the room. It can’t be too close to the wall, and height can be an issue.  “We recently travelled abroad, and found ourselves confronted with an unusually high bed, which was a big problem.” Hervé wasn’t as autonomous in those conditions, so they’ll be on the watch in the future. As they like to have breakfast in bed and Hervé spends a lot of time reading, they also bring an Invacare Backrest so he can sit up.

Choosing the Right Mode of Transport

So far the couple has tested travelling by car, train and plane. “At first we would only travel by car,” says Pascale, “because we felt more autonomous.” The first few trips were long, perhaps even too long. “I remember once we crossed the border and couldn’t find a place to stop for Hervé to use a bathroom. That was unnecessarily stressful.” They have got better at evaluating how long they can drive without wearing Hervé out. For them, driving is still the most convenient mode of transportation.

alibaba-wheelchair-traveler-branding-in-asia-magazine

Quan Peng’s inspiring travel story has been picked up in China (for more, see links section)

“We’ve only flown once since Hervé’s stroke,” says Pascale, “and it was not a satisfying experience.” The small awkward spaces, lack of adjustable seating and overall poor organisation did not make them eager to fly again. “I suppose we’ll try again in the future, but it will require more organisation.” Meanwhile, taking the train can be either a smooth ride or a bit of a fiasco. “So far”, says Pascale, “the TGV service in France has been amazing, but in the only other country we’ve taken the train, customer service was less than average.”

Making the Most of the Celebration

Once you get to your party or your holiday home and the room is buzzing with chatter, how do you make the most of the celebration? Both mentioned that in his case, he tires faster in noisy environments. Moreover, Hervé prefers to stand than sit in public, which is also physically tiring. “I like to know there’s a quiet place he can retreat to if it becomes too much,” adds Pascale.

One reason Hervé stands is to maintain eye contact and connect more. “When I sit, I prefer people to come down to my level – sit or bend – so I can see their faces,” says Hervé. “But if I’m in my chair, I don’t want my disabilities to become the centre of all my conversations.” Little things count.

Generally speaking, Hervé is conscious that his social interactions are still distorted by his handicap. “Sometimes people want to give me a hand, but they don’t know how, and that can stress me out,” he says. If a friend or stranger tries to help by holding his immobile side, they will unbalance Hervé. “It’s difficult to ask someone not to help you, or to do it some other way.” Similarly, he needs to draw a line. “Often I’ll say that I don’t need assistance with a certain task because otherwise, I’ll regress!”

And in the end, surrounded by family and friends, his stress and preoccupations evaporate. Good food, loving people and fun gifts have a way of doing that.

Additional Links

Looking for some of our sources? Here are a few we browed on the web. You can send us more by commenting below:

How to Keep Hearing Devices on Kids

This series is designed to help parents manage specific aspects of bringing up a child with a different learning path. We’ll be looking at what parents and specialists have to say on raising children who are deaf or are hard-of-hearing. The previous articles in this series can be found here (on diagnosis) and here (on playing sports).

Finding Helpful Solutions to Keep those Devices on Kids

Today’s area of focus is the logistics around hearing devices. Some of the ideas and products listed below are available on our platform, all have been tried and tested in the community. Reach out and comment if you have more to add.

Solution 1 – Babies: Scarves and Headbands

The first difficulty parents of kids with hearing devices run into, is the size and bulkiness of the aids compared with their bambino‘s head. For very young babies, this can be an issue during breastfeeding especially. As hearing aids can make very loud noises when they are shifted, some parents decide to avoid any discomfort for their child and remove the aids completely at feeding times. Another option can be to use baby sized scarves on their heads to prevent rubbing against the devices, such as these baby buffs.

As children grow, the very delicate and expensive pieces of equipment continue to sit awkwardly on a toddler. In many instances they are prone to flapping or even falling. Hence many parents’ nightmares about their kids losing them in sand pits or the neighbour’s garden. One solution that seems to work well is headbands, especially for babies and girls. Ai Sin Soh, mother to a profoundly deaf little girl, started making her own headbands.

Lynne's Collection

As you can see, not only are they snazzy and pretty, they perfectly hold the hearing devices into place. There are also options out there for all tastes and styles – yes even kids who hate bright and delicate apparel. A recurring comment we hear from parents is that the right kind of headband makes it easier for kids to accept their hearing devices, as they are less physically annoying and even cool.

Several of Ai Sin’s headbands are on sale on Irisada, including models with flowers and others without, glitter elastic versions as well as safety clips. We also have a second vendor called It’s raining bows and if none of our selection works for you, check out Etsy or other vendors like Hearing Aid Headbands (UK).

Solution 2 – Ear Gear, Protection for All Hearing Instruments

Mark Rosal founded Ear Gear in 2005, after many frustrating attempts to keep his little girl’s hearing aids in place. He designed sleeves that could protect hearing instruments from sweat, dirt, moisture, loss and wind noise, as well as protect the wearer from chafing and discomfort often associated with aids.

Interestingly, Mark says “the most popular choice of color has stayed consistent with beige which matches many skin tones. For people who want to conceal their hearing aid, beige is the best choice.” However, never fear, fashionistas, as he adds “for those wanting to make a fashion statement, we’ve got bright, fun colors and custom options to mix and match cords, clips, sleeves and more.”

irisida-product-photo

Ear Gear donates products to many groups around the world, like camps, hearing loss awareness walks or charities. Mark encourages organisations to get in touch at info@gearforears.com. His parting words were for parents: “it’s imperative that parents are persistent when keeping the hearing aids on the child. Hearing is an integral part of a child’s development and taking the hearing instruments off or losing them for extended periods of time can directly affect the success of your child.”

Ear Gear is available on Irisada.

Solution 3 – Time for a Swim

As mentioned in a previous post, there have been quite a few deaf olympic swimmers. Deaf and hard of hearing kids and adults can now swim more easily thanks to ListenLid. This short video perfectly sums up how ListenLid make pools more fun for their wearers (turn the sound up).

Alana Triscott designed ListenLid so her son would “enjoy his swimming school lessons and be able to blend in.” She recalls that “there were a few options, but they were either pretty unusual, blocked the acoustics or involved the device being housed in a shirt.” ListenLid is the exact opposite. As you can see below, the swim caps look pretty much the same as regular swimming caps. What’s more, Alana’s son even uses these caps under helmets when he goes skateboarding or biking.

Photo taken from the ListenLid look book on Facebook.

Photo taken from the ListenLid look book on Facebook.

These caps are to be used for the following devices: iPod®; MP3; Advanced Bionics® Neptune® cochlear implant (up to two devices can be accommodated) and the Naída cochlear implant with AquaCase® (one AquaCase® can be accommodated). ListenLid is also available on Irisada.

Parting Words

Irisada is always on the lookout for other products that could help parents, kids and adults lead their lives to the fullest, no matter their abilities Regarding deaf and hard of hearing needs, we also have batteries and Dry Briks, as well as a selection of toys and games. If you have suggestions, we’d love to hear them and see if we can add them to our inventory!

Additional Links

Some additional links for parents looking for more information. 

  • For more tips on head gear, check out this post on BC Hands and Voice.
  • Recently, books featuring deaf or hard of hearing kids, some with implants, have started coming out. Liam the Superhero is available on Irisada, and explains how cochlear implants works in fun rhyming ways. You may remember Bianca from previous posts, she co-authored Benjamin’s Girl, a four book series about the life of a little deaf girl through the eyes of her teddy bear. To find out more, contact her directly.

Assistive Tech Fair in Norway

This week, we were at an assistive tech fair in the far north of the world. So what is interesting over there (or here)?

Mobility and Sports

So the Scandinavians are big on getting out there and nothing can quite get in the way, definitely not a disability. The first section were different types of mobility equipment. There were a lot of unusual ones such as the ones in the picture below. They are much nearer to the ground, good for outdoors and skiing.

Outdoor wheelchairs

A picture with three outdoor purposed wheelchairs. Behind the wheelchairs, there are banners and a screen illustrating the use of the wheelchairs

This can be used on the beach. When not in use, it can float on water. This video shows how a man transferred from it quickly onto a canoe on a beach. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iShrnJOTDTg

Hippocampe

An outdoor 3-wheelchair with 2 big balloon rear wheels and a smaller front wheel. The seat is nearer to the ground than a regular wheelchair.

The outdoor wheelchair on the right is interesting as it is highly modifiable for different outdoor needs. A detachable shaft with a waist sling can be used so a parent can pull a child while hiking. Or parts of the frame can be removed and skis can be added to the base.

Fjellgiet

A picture with two outdoor wheelchairs. The one on the left has skis on. The one on the right is much bigger and has two fat bike wheels and a slightly smaller front wheel. The back of the larger wheelchair has two handlebars and what seem like brakes similar to bicycles.

Luis Gran is the first wheelchair user that crossed Besseggen. We have been there and we know that it is not an easy route, some parts of this ridge are pretty steep.

screen-shot-2017-05-12-at-00-07-11

A picture in the mountains. In the foreground, three persons are helping a person sitting on a outdoor wheelchair along the ridge. One person is in front with waist slings attached to the wheelchair. Two other persons are behind pushing or lifting.

Photo credits: Taken from Aktiv Hjelpemidler AS website

img_7155

Picture of a child sized doll standing in an exercise machine with full body support. There are gliders at the base of the foot, braces at the knee level and supports around the hips, waist, chest and head. There is a handlebar above the waist level with a tabletop mounted on it.

A children’s tricycle with a larger seat and supports around. There is a back bar (for mounting different supports), a push handlebar and a basket at the back of the tricycle.

 

The left picture is a children’s bike that has extra support on the back and neck. The picture beside it is an exercise machine with full body support.
The bottom left picture shows a stroller with additional back and neck support. The bottom right picture is a light weight frame that allows kids with severe physical disability to stand and walk. We asked if it can potentially be uncomfortable or not good physically for the person to be on this for long hours. The sales person said that it should not but not enough research has been done in this area but there are some undergoing right now.

img_7157

A stroller with supports on the seat and a inclined footpad.

A picture of a child sized doll standing support by a frame with 4 wheels. There are braces and supports around the child, a handlebar attached to the supports at the back of the child and what looks like brakes on the wheels.

¨

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The device on the left is a frame used to support a child during swimming.

img_7163

A tripod frame with a seat in the middle and 3 black buoy like objects around it.

The is an ergonomic wheelchair.

A children’s wheel chair with rounded cushions on the back and seat and foot pads on both sides of the seat.

This amazing bike allows parents to bring their kids out and get a work out too. It is roomy and provides ample support for the child’s head and neck.

img_7164

A tricycle with a big rounded cart at the front which can sit 2 children. One side of the cart has a child seat with supports.

Occupational/ Speech Therapy and Communication

These pads are a training system that responds to the touch of hands and feet. The light responds to the force or weight, allowing therapists to design a custom program to train the child’s motor skills and body awareness.

A lady standing on two different coloured pads that have lights in the front of the pads. Beside and in front of the pads, there are other similar pads of different colours placed near to them.

I like this wallet which has felt pages and symbol cards with velcro can be attached to it. Easy to bring around.

img_7154

There is a poster of symbols at the background of the picture. The foreground shows a ring note book with a symbol showing a person pointing to himself and words that says ‘meg selv’. Beside the notebook is a fabric wallet with fabric pages. On each page are cardboards of signs.

This is a beautiful series of books that talk about feelings and include symbols.

img_7152

6 colourful ring bounded books placed in a row overlapping. The first book is titled ‘forelskelse’ with a cartoon of a man with two hearts for eyes and smiling showing teeth

A ring bound book that is opened. The left page shows a heart with a man and a woman looking at each other with a heart between them. The right page shows a broken heart with a girl in tears. Below both pages there is a sentence and above the sentences there are symbols.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caregivers’ Aids    /  Household Aids
Support arms. The white ones are feeding robots while the black one, though is powered, requires one to use one’s own hand and it provides the additional push.

The bed on the left is a shower trolley, the middle equipment is a multipurpose hygiene chair and the one on the right is also a hygiene chair.

img_7145

The sales person is demonstrating how this equipment helps a person get up from a chair and be transferred somewhere else.

This is a simple share on the different solutions out there and is not an endorsement by Irisada on any of the products.