Experiencing Equipment and Realizing New Options

By Amy Saffell

Me with Ann Eubank, VP of Community Initiatives for Users First

Like all technology these days, wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment are constantly evolving. There are now hundreds of companies out there with products to meet a variety of needs, and many of those products aren’t the same as what they were even a year ago. Even with an expert in the field to help you, which can also be hard to find especially in small towns, getting the right product for you can be a challenge. Even if you know that there must be something perfect out there, sometimes you just can’t find it because your community is limited in its resources, and the internet doesn’t always give you the amount of detail that you need to make an informed decision on something that will greatly impact your quality of life. It can be an uphill road to get what you need, but that road is made much easier when dozens of vendors are in the same room. It sounds like a dream come true, but thankfully it’s not as farfetched as it sounds. 
The ISS was home to over a hundred vendors

This year’s International Seating Symposium (ISS), sponsored by the University of Pittsburg’s Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, took place on March 6, 2013 in Nashville, TN, and other events like it are cropping up all over the country. The ISS “Wheelchair User Experience” was home to over 100 exhibitors including everything from manual and power wheelchairs, seat cushions, seating positioning aids, and pressure mapping technology. The show focused on products for all ages, pediatrics through senior adults, and people of all ability levels and needs. Those who are involved in the working with people with disabilities had opportunities to attend seminars to learn how to help their clients to obtain and use these products. Hundreds of people who have disabilities and their friends and family members, as well as professionals who work with people with disabilities, could make their way through the exhibit hall and talk to each company about their products and how they best fit a certain user’s needs. It’s possible to hear about products from durable medical vendors no matter where you live, but to be able to see and touch the products right in front of you, to have experts there from the companies, and to talk to other people at the show who have used the products provides invaluable information. Many of vendor representatives are also chair-users, so there is a lot of first hand knowledge and advice to go around. 

 With lack of product availability and knowledge in some communities, some people were seeing many of the basic products like wheelchairs and seat cushions for the first time and realizing just how many options were available. The show was especially important for those getting ready to purchase a new chair or other equipment because technology changes so frequently that what was available last time around has most likely totally changed.
Testing out the harness

I’ve been a chair user for a while, so I was familiar with many of the companies, but I, too, loved the opportunity to see products right there in front of me. I also got two unique experiences brand new to me, proving that the show had something for everyone. Max Mobility has the SmartDrive, a power assist that fits on to a manual chair. Without having to commit to a power chair, the user can easily turn on the Smart Drive to get a little boost going up a hill or through grass. It was easy to use and provides your shoulders a little relief from the wear and tear of pushing. I also got the opportunity to climb a rock wall at the show. Mark Wellman, the pioneer of adaptive climbing, and his crew set up the wall and had a variety of harnesses available so that people with a variety of disabilities could participate and get the support that their bodies needed. They could also change the resistance needed to pull, so someone with limited strength in their arms could still use it. I’d always wanted to try rock climbing, and I loved having a true expert there to teach me. I will definitely look for more rock climbing opportunities in the future.  
Climbing the rock wall
 The show was a perfect way to see just how many options chair users have for new equipment. I would strongly urge others to attend this or other events, which can be found through UsersFirst’s website, www.usersfirst.org, contacting your local durable medical equipment provider, or by doing a general search online. It truly makes a big difference to be knowledgeable and informed.


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