Inventions for Daily Living

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This is the least expensive, lowest tech gadget I have and I use it every day. Its simply a dowel rod with a coated hook screwed into the side of the top end. It works great for getting cups out of a high cupboard, digging out items from deep shelves and getting the ketchup from the top shelf of the refrigerator. (Its a good idea to buy plastic containers because this thing does a lousy job of mopping up)

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This is another extremely simple idea that has been very practical and a great tool. With quad hands, things can be difficult to pickup easily let alone manipulate like car keys. My van has exterior magnetic controls for the lift so I needed a fairly strong magnet anyway to operate the door and lift. I've taken a telescopic pen-like magnet sold in most auto parts stores (They're used mostly for getting nuts and screws out of tight areas.) and contained it within foam rubber tubing.  It gives me an extra foot of reach if I'm parked in an awkward situation and can't reach the magnetic controls by hand. Its also very convenient when picking up small metal objects off of the floor like tacks and other things you don't want to run over. Most pens have metal in the ball tip so they can be picked up easily too. Plus its a great toy to keep kids busy twirling spoons on the magnetic end!

The Dixon ZTR mower comes hand-controlled from the factory and has a weight sensor in the seat that shuts down the blades if you leave the seat. I do use a belt for added safety.

dixon.jpg (12449 bytes) I searched for a long while to find a mower that was reasonable in price, good quality cut, safe and relatively easy to modify. The Dixon mower worked out great. I modified the arm rest on the left side and made it into a swivel for easier access. The seat was covered to add cushion and reduce the chance of sliding too easily while driving. An old wheelchair tire is wrapped around the front bumper to hold my feet. I slip them under the tire to keep them from falling.
dixon2.jpg (12059 bytes) The transfer bench was the hardest part. Since the fenders are soft plastic and my strength isn't good enough to climb over, I needed a way to get there. The bench stays in place because the rear tire sits on part of the frame. This adds stability while transferring. Once on, I drive the mower away and the bench and chair wait for my return. Just keep an eye on your fuel, running out sucks!

The 60" cut Steiner Mower became necessary for my expanded yard care needs. It has a good cut and competes very closely with the John Deere series in comercial grade mowing. It is a work-horse.

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Getting on larger equipment from wheelchair height may seem like quite leap. The Steiner came with a formed deck cover for typical riders and controlls for the mower deck height. In looking at the frame under the deck cover, it didn't have any real obstructions to worry about. I had a new deck platform built out of aluminum that allowed me to wheel right up to the seat and make the transfer. The deck height adjustments were moved to positions beside the seat and a shoulder stap was added for safety. This is a good large area mower and the modifications can be easily done. (Click on pic)

Weightlifting adaptations were needed for me to get the control and leverage I wanted for a good work-out.

lifting.gif (25133 bytes) The first thing I needed was a strong and secure method of holding onto the cable of the weight stack. The wrist cuffs found in some disability magazines didn't have a wrist restraint that prevented the cuff from sliding down to your elbow when your arm was bent. I had nylon straps sewn together with padded leather and formed a loop that the
lifting2.gif (24424 bytes) thumb goes through. It also is adjustable around the wrist with Velcro to hold it in place. The force of the weight is placed on a thick metal ring sewn into the nylon strap and a mountain climbing J hook with the lock removed fits easily into the loop on the weight stacks cable. Complete range of motion and as much weight as you can stand is possible.
lifting3.gif (27058 bytes) The second thing I needed was a way to hook onto the cable without bending over my tire and risking injury to my ribs. I designed a cable extension holder. The extension allows me to get set comfortably beside the cable and hook on with full weight from the stack already on the cable. Once you hook on, lift the cable off of the holder and begin the workout. The holder was powder coated to match the Body Master cable pulley system so it blends in with the rest of the gym's equipment. It can be easily moved for another user since it is supported in place by the frame of the weight stack and the pressure of the cable. Simply remove the cable.

Vehicle Modifications can be very costly and the end result looks way too institutional or "handicapped." In a van, I recommend using a name brand lift and hand-controls. With a little creativity, you can create what works best for you at a reasonable cost and get the look you want. In most cases, less is better.

controls.jpg (15871 bytes) Since I have no real dexterity in my hands, twist knobs and the headlight pull knob can be a real challenge without assistance. We used a thick plastic and cut it to shape on a band saw to make both pieces. They can be removed without any damage to the original equipment. Bolts run through the end pieces to form a clamp. Since we were able to find raw material very similar in color to the original equipment, it doesn't have that "handicapped" look  and works great.
seatbase.jpg (16105 bytes) The van came stock with a six way power seat. I needed the seat to pivot 90 degrees into the van for transferring. A purchased power seat for the "handicapped" runs $1,500 and up. There was not a manual pivot on the market. I didn't want to have to be concerned with seat motor failures like I've had in the past. We cut down an after-market swivel base to match the factory height of the seat, built a new base and matched the bolt pattern to the stock holes for securing it. A detent was placed in the pivot base that locks at a
seadbase2.jpg (11735 bytes) 90 degree turn and straight forward. A lever peaks out of the left side just under the skirting for releasing the detents. The pivot was welded to the base offset from center to allow the back of the seat to clear the wall of the van. Once this was put together under the factory six way base, I had the factory installed mobility of positioning, a manual pivot and it looks like the seat was from the showroom floor not a rehab center all for about $200 in materials.

Honorable Mention:

Thanks to a good family friend and coworker, Kenni Hoffman, the ideas and needs expressed turned into great works of independence. His mechanical abilities and foresight let us put together new ways of doing things with less equipment, less cost and simplicity. If you have an idea that can improve your life or need something that doesn't exist, start asking. Once you find the right people, they'll move heaven and earth to make it happen. Just come to the table with a clear description of what you want to accomplish and communicate your needs and limitations. Then the fun begins.

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