Great Apps for Women Using Wheelchairs

By Gemma Fletcher

Why not use modern technology to add a touch of convenience to your daily routine? Here are some of the best apps for disabled women:

Stepping Stones

This app is ideal for women who have recovered from traumatic brain injuries, have epilepsy or other conditions that affect memory. Women (and men!) with short term memory loss or learning disabilities that make it more challenging to remember the sequence of events or follow instructions will find the Stepping Stones App an invaluable tool to assist them in their household or business tasks.

You can create your own visual guide using your own photographs as prompts. Disabled parents could also find this useful for parenting activities - for instance - by creating prompts for changing diapers or making lunch.
The app costs 99 cents.


Every wheelchair user understands the frustration of finding wheelchair-friendly restrooms and parking spaces on a day out. If you don't want a lack of facilities to spoil your social life, you could try the Wheelmate app. Wheelmate has more than 30,000 locations for toilets and parking spots across 45 different countries. Locate your nearest toilet or find out if a venue you want to visit is accessible before you set off.
The app is completely free to download.

Alternatively, if you'd also like to know which bars, restaurants, clubs and hotels are accessible, you could download the 'It's Accessible' app - a must before going on a date!

Commercial Breaks – Prime Time For People With Disabilities in 2016

By Amy Saffell

There’s no denying that there’s still a long way to go for fair representation of people with disabilities in American media, but the television commercials of the summer of 2016 mark a positive shift in the right direction. There are ample chances to catch people with disabilities on the small screen, as this summer’s ads show people with disabilities who are strong and capable individuals. In many cases, people with disabilities are shown alongside and in the same light as people without disabilities. It’s a far cry from negatively patronizing or sensationalizing people with disabilities as the media often portrays. Clearly, the Rio Paralympics have played a big part in people with disabilities getting more air time in commercials, but it wasn’t long ago that there wasn’t any mention in commercials of even world class Paralympic athletes at all. The Paralympic logo may have been displayed, potentially out of obligation, but there was no representation of who Paralympians truly were. And it’s not just Paralympians appearing in commercials this summer. There are examples of people with disabilities in commercials beyond Paralympic athletes, too. We just might be seeing true progress rather than a fleeting moment in time.

Important Link between Wheelchair Use and Diabetes

By Gemma Fletcher

There is an inexorable link between wheelchair use and diabetes. Paralysis (one the most common causes necessitating wheelchair use) increases one’s risk for developing diabetes, owing to many factors, including decreased physical activity and decreased control over food choices, though even those with only limited mobility can also be affected. Research shows that individuals whose mobility is severely limited have a threefold greater chance of developing diabetes, indicating that specific measures need to be taken to prevent and treat the problems associated with this disease. The relationship extends even further, since patients with diabetes also have a greater chance of developing disabilities that lead to wheelchair use.

Alter UR Ego, a Fashion Line with You in Mind

Heidi McKenzie, AUE Designer
Q & A with Heidi McKenzie

What led to the start of ALTER UR EGO? 

In 2007 I was in a car accident that left me a T4 paraplegic. Not long after, in 2012, I was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky, which opened so many doors...that were handicap accessible of course! I was an advocate for those in wheelchairs and I traveled the country sharing my story. I went on to compete in Ms. Wheelchair America and, though I didn't win, this was my first experience spending time with other girls in wheelchairs from other states. I found that we all struggled when it came to finding stylish functional clothing, so I decided to create my own line!

What makes this line of clothing unique for persons with disabilities? 

I have firsthand experience of our daily activities and the role that clothes that fit correctly play. I enjoy hearing thoughts and ideas from others with disabilities in order to incorporate them into the line. If I can make one thing easier for someone, when getting dressed, I will have done my job. My clothing line is designed for a seated body and has both a comfortable fit and stylish look. One feature that is quite helpful is the pockets located on the thighs for easy access of your phone, keys or anything else you don't want falling off your lap. The high-back waistline is also important so that nothing shows when you are bending over. We got you covered!

How can people purchase from your line? 

Visit and click on the shop page, You can also sign up for the newsletter to receive updates and discounts.
Have you always been involved in fashion? 

Yes, I have. I started picking out my clothes at a young age. I was studying Fashion Merchandising before my accident. After my accident I wasn't sure about being a part of the fashion industry as a girl in a wheelchair. But then I met others in chairs who also struggled to find stylish, functional clothing and so I gained the confidence I needed to design clothing that has someone like us in mind.

What are some things you wish mainstream fashion would consider regarding people with physical disabilities? 

I wish mainstream fashion was inclusive. I wish a model in a wheelchair could roll down the runway and it not be this life-changing, inspirational moment, but it be normal, just like someone walking down the runway.  Hopefully some famous designers will join the club and create more clothing options for those with physical disabilities.

What are your future plans for ALTER UR EGO?

I want to design a complete adaptable clothing line with shirts, shorts, jackets, dresses, skirts, vests, slacks, shoes, and even athletic clothing! This year we are working on expanding our jeans to kids, teens and plus sizes.

What's been one of your favorite moments since starting the line? 

When someone that has been in a wheelchair for years and not worn jeans had the opportunity and made them practical again.

What message do you have for others wanting to put something out there, as you have, but are intimidated to begin? 

If you believe in what you create, don't let anything discourage you from doing what you have to and be able to share it with others.
Can you tell us more about your background?

I was born and raised in Ohio. After my accident I moved to Eastern Kentucky and have been here for the past 9 years. I am a T4 paraplegic and enjoy adaptable sports such as sled hockey and kayaking. I am a board member of Build Inclusion formed by parents of children with varying abilities, who know that true inclusion must move beyond “awareness." We travel to elementary schools to educate kids about people with disabilities. I also am on the board of the Kentucky Congress on Spinal Cord Injury, a group of individuals with SCI who are dedicated to educate and legislate change for the disabled community.

If there's anything else you'd like to add, please do so:

AUE adaptable jeans are in the (dis)ABLED Beauty Show, an exhibition celebrating all-inclusive beauty and a deconstruction of the stigmatization of those living with various physical disabilities. July 29, 2016 – March 17, 2017 at Kent State University.

Fashion is for Every Body the 1st Inclusive Fashion Show in Nashville.  AUE adaptable jeans will make their debut! Promoting inclusion + body positivity. Fashion is for all of us! September 10, 2016.


Stay Safe While Staying Seated

By Amy Saffell

According to studies conducted by the Bureau of Justice, people with disabilities are as much as three times more likely to be a victim of a crime than those without disabilities. While the statistic is alarming, it shouldn’t be a reason for people with disabilities to shelter themselves from living a full, productive, and active life. It should, however, be a catalyst for people with disabilities to learn and practice safety. Traveling in packs in well-lit areas with your phone close by are practical safety tips for anyone, but there are other precautions that wheelchair users can take specifically.  Alena Chesser, a wheelchair user who is a self-defense instructor in Kentucky and a former deputy sheriff, and Rick Mirandette, martial arts instructor with experience in instructing people with disabilities, offer this advice:

  • Every wheelchair user has been in a situation where they need to seek the help of someone else in public, but don’t be too trusting of people who haven’t earned that trust.  Some criminals target and groom potential victims by waiting for the right opportunity to take advantage
  • Wheelchair users have a knack for setting up their environment and routines to make life easier, but don’t invite crimes of opportunity by leaving doors unlocked or purses on car seats, visiting ATM’s late at night alone or liquor stores late in the evening, or traveling deserted streets and alleyways where seedy people lurk.
  • If you drive, keep your keys in your hands when on your way to your car so that you don't have to take the time to look for them and become distracted from your surroundings. Your keys can also be used as a weapon, if needed.
  • Have a whistle or emergency noise alert with you. Even your keys to sound the car alarm work. Also, use your voice! If someone starts to follow you or catches you in a place where you don't feel safe, it is a true disruption of actions, if you can make enough noise to alert other people. Crime typically happens because of opportunity, so the key is to break the opportunity with noise or action. Practice what you would do or yell in an emergency so that you’ll be ready if the time ever comes to use your skills, in a real emergency.
  • Use your wheelchair to protect yourself. If it has a quick release arm rest or other detachable pieces large enough to use for self-defense, practice getting those pieces off of your chair quickly so that you’ll be familiar with the process in an emergency. Power chair users, in particular, can use their chairs to pin the attacker.
  • Because wheelchair users are lower to the ground in a crowd and often have a harder time turning around quickly compared to non-wheelchair users, it’s even more important to stay alert and be aware of who is around you. Lose the ear buds, and don’t be afraid to ask for security to escort you somewhere.
  • Avoid conflict when possible. We live in a world where people are easily enraged; don’t fuel their fire. If a person is trying to argue with you about something and the tone is turning unsafe, even though you may completely disagree with them, the trick is to make them think that they are right or that you are on their side. Speak softly so they will really have to listen to hear what you are saying, as this brings down the tension of an argument.
  • In terms of self-defense, there is a lot that a wheelchair user can do for protection. Inherently, sitting causes a lower center of gravity, which actually helps in a self-defense situation. Being lower allows you to strike a person in sensitive areas like the throat, chest, groin, or knees. Many people will be unaware that being lower assists in protection, meaning that you will be able to catch them off guard. The element of surprise is a great way to protect yourself.
  • The most powerful muscle in your body pound for pound is your jaw muscle.  Look for opportunities to BITE ANYTHING! This causes extreme pain, trauma, and often shock. 
  • Pepper spray is another great option to defend away attackers. The canisters can shoot 20 feet!
  • If someone gets too aggressive, ploys can be effective depending on the level of threat perceived.  Some sexual assaults have been avoided by the woman suggesting they meet the next day when she would be more willing to participate. Believe it or not (remembering that you are dealing with the male ego here!) the perp comes back the next day when, of course, police are waiting.
  • Lastly, most wheelchair users keep their belongings in a bag on the back of their chair. This is an easy target and could be taken without you even knowing. Look into finding a small bag that attaches to the inside of your arm rest, goes under your chair or is part of your cushion cover where you can keep important and valuable items like ID's, cash and credit cards.


    International Self Defense Association

   About the Author: 

  Columnist Amy Saffell lives in Nashville, TN and works in the music industry. She enjoys spending time with friends, concerts, and volunteering for a local youth wheelchair sports and independence group.