‘Tis the season for holiday gift lists.
For about eight years after my injury in 1985, I was bothered by annual variations of “gift ideas for wheelchair users,” and I couldn’t figure out why. I’d learned to live and thrive as an adventurous T10 para, and would have been thrilled with a gift of, say, a new race chair. Heck, I would have been thrilled with a pair of wheelchair racing gloves. So why the resistance to lists?
Finally, I decided to solve my befuddlement. This meant visiting the dark corner of my mind where the remains of my “life turned upside down” — that sense of loss and confusion over my injury — were kept under lock and key.
I realized that bits and pieces of the locked-away feelings had escaped and crossed synapses with my “little kid” understanding of a “gift.” When I was young, I would ask for gifts that were related to my latest interest or passion — first drumming, then oceanography, then skiing. I certainly never had a passion to be a wheelchair user. … Aha! So that was what was creating the confusion.
As simple as it sounds, it took some serious introspection to unwind the various feelings and sort them into their proper place and become OK with this.
In the end, it was a gift of UGG sheepskin boots from my parents that helped me to finally embrace “Holiday Gift Ideas for Wheelchair Users.” In the winter my feet and calves get cold, which didn’t bother me during the day, but about an hour after I went to bed all that cold blood would circulate up to my body and I would end up freezing. At the time UGGs were only popular with hardcore surfers, an added “cool factor” in my book. Talk about a thoughtful gift! They look cool, are easy to slide on and off, and keep my feet and calves toasty warm. I still have them 20 years later, and they have become even more important — over the years the skin on my feet has become very tender and the soft wool lining provides excellent skin protection. Better yet, my daughter Sarah thinks they are cool! All this because my folks wanted to give me a gift that would help keep my feet warm.
Here then, are 12 ideas for cool Holiday Gifts for Wheelchair Users with prices ranging from free to, umm, pricey:
Gifts for Everyday Use
1. UGG boots: UGGs do a great job keeping feet and calves warmer, are easy to slip on and off, and the wool lining offers great skin protection. Price range: $140-$200.
2. Lap Trays: In John Hockenberry’s book, Moving Violations, he tells a horrifying tale of a severe burn from a porcelain dish that was cool on the handles but scalding hot on the bottom — which he didn’t realize when he placed it on his lap. And how his grandfather, determined to never let this happen again, lovingly crafted a wooden cutting board/lap tray. Dont’ have time to make your own? Check out the Organize It Tray or Amazon.com’s bean bag lap trays. This one is good for cooking, cutting, and chopping. Price range $11-60.
3. Summer and Winter Gloves: After 20 years of searching, I’ve found what I consider the perfect gloves for wheeling, made by Atlas Fit Gloves. Price Range: $5-$9. Atlas Fit 300 is a cotton/polyester glove with a puncture and tear resistant blue latex coating on the palm and fingers. They keep hands warm and dry when pushing through deep slush. For summer, Atlas Nitrile Touch Garden Glove has a breathable nylon liner and a tough waterproof nitrile coating that is flexible, ultra thin and lasts much longer than leather. Atlas gloves are available at most hardware stores and larger grocery stores as well as online retailers including Amazon.com
4. FreeWheel Wheelchair Attachment. The FreeWheel has a quick-connect that instantly attaches your chair’s footplate and lifts the front casters so you are wheeling on a 12-inch pneumatic bicycle wheel, which easily cruises over gravel, grass, sand, snow and rough urban surfaces. Price: $599.
5. Vicair Allrounder cushion: From sailing and camping, to sitting on the floor playing with the dog or your kids, the Allrounder is a cushion that straps onto your butt, similar to a canyoneering harness, and provides skin protection when you are out of your chair. Available through the Comfort Company for $473.
6. Headlamp: Headlamps are cool and useful. They fit in a glovebox or day pack and offer hands-free light for wheeling in the dark and a great way to be seen by motorists. They also come in handy trying to find that item in the storage shed late at night. Price range: $15-60. Type “Headlamp” in www.Amazon.com, www.rei.com or www.sierratradingpost.com.
The Gift of Adventure
7. Ski Lessons: Adaptive skiing has evolved to the point where if you can move your head, you can use a bi-ski (adaptive sit ski with two skis). Mono-skiing, which enables anybody from a low quad on down to ski independently, is also available. Many ski resorts have adaptive ski programs, so call for availability and prices. Also check out Achieve Tahoe.
8. Cross Country Skiing: This is another sport that is low-quad friendly. Pushing a sit-ski bucket with poles sounds difficult, but it’s super easy and enables you to glide across Mother Nature’s blanket of accessible snow to places that are inaccessible by wheelchair in the warmer months. The sit-ski bucket is that is stable and balanced on two cross-country skis. Learn more at Disabled Sports USA.
9. Adaptive Scuba Lessons: The world of innerspace is fascinating, weightless and very accessible! If you can breathe on your own, you can probably scuba dive. Handicap Scuba Association is a good site to explore.
10. Adaptive Sailing Lessons: Another quad friendly sport; sailboats can be sailed and raced with any level of movement with different types of controls, including sip-n-puff. A Google search with “adaptive sailing program” will likely bring up a program in your area. A good start is the national sailing program Sail To Prevail.
11. The Gift of Flight: Sailplane (glider) flying is another quad-friendly sport; a hand-control replaces the foot pedal rudder control. And anybody that can sit upright can enjoy an amazing ride using the same techniques to stay aloft as eagles and other large raptors, by riding invisible rising currents in the sky. Rides and introductory lessons start in the range of $100-$150. Better yet, one organization, Freedom’s Wings International offers FREE introductory rides for people with disabilities, and deep discounts on lessons, usually just the cost of the plane to tow you aloft.
For glider rides in your area as well as a list of schools that offer gliders with hand controls, contact:
The Best of Both Worlds?
12. New Mobility magazine. Hey, we had to make it come out to 12, right? Seriously, NM is adventurous AND practical — and at prices that range from FREE to $1.25 per issue, the price is right. Check out your options here.