Camping for Wheelchair Users

Blog: Camping for Wheelchair Users

When the weather’s hot, being out in the forest is one of the best places to commune with nature. In fact, says Wild Learning, “the shade provided by trees can reduce our physiologically equivalent temperature between 7 and 15°C, depending on our latitude.”

That’s just one reason why July is a great month to take a camping trip. Other reasons include reduced levels of stress, depression and anxiety; improved mood and sense of wellbeing; lower blood pressure; better immune function; heart and lung health; and the chance to unplug from electronics and your regular routines.

Being a wheelchair user shouldn’t keep you from enjoying the joys of camping. With a little pre-trip planning, a vacation in the great outdoors is in your future!

1. Location, location, location
Location is always key to a successful vacation. But when you use a wheelchair, it’s even more important. While the Americans with Disabilities Act has made many campgrounds accessible to individuals with disabilities, not every accessible campground is created equal. If you’re interested in camping in a national park, check out individual park websites to learn about each one’s accessibility. For further reference, this blogpost from BraunAbility provides a list of the 9 most accessible campgrounds.

 2. Get an Access Pass
An access pass from the National Park Service permits free lifetime access to national parks and other federally managed national forests and grasslands. The pass also provides discounts on camping fees, tours and boating. For more information, visit outsidepulse.com.

3. Choose the right tent
A tent that is roomy enough to store your wheelchair and has a wide and flat entryway is critical to a comfortable, safe and restful trip. There are also tents especially designed for wheelchair users. For example, check out the Eureka Freedom Tent.

4. Sleep comfortably
Sleeping under the stars doesn’t have to be a dream, with the right set-up. Consider sleeping on a cot rather than roughing it on the ground. This will make it easier to transfer from your wheelchair and will likely be more comfortable – especially if you bring along a mattress pad. Likewise, a backpacking quilt without cumbersome zippers is lighter than a sleeping bag. See these top backpacking quilts to find one that best suits your needs.

5. Have a backup plan for hygiene
Most likely, you’ve chosen a campground with ADA compliant rest rooms and showers. But you never know what you will find once you reach your destination. Be on the safe side by packing a privacy tent, portable shower and fold-up commode.

6. Be prepared for unexpected medical needs
You’ll feel more confident knowing where you can go in the event of a medical emergency. Before you set out, know where the nearest hospital and urgent care clinic is located. Likewise, bring extra medication and medical supplies.

 7. Don’t forget to bring:
High SPF sunscreen, heavy duty bug spray, flashlights and extra batteries, maps, spare phone charger, and clothing for rain and unexpectedly cold temperatures.

Have a blast!

Products mentioned in this article are the results of our own research. We’re not endorsing any product, nor do we have any relationship with their manufacturers, nor do we profit from the sales of any of the products mentioned in this article.

Mock Airplane Cabin Takes the Stress Out of Air Travel

Blog: Mock Airplane Cabin

Recently, we reported on the “Microsoft Flight Simulator,” a series of flight simulator programs for Microsoft Windows operating systems that give wheelchair users the exciting sensation of flying an airplane.

But that’s not the only aeronautic innovation that benefits disabled individuals to make headlines this spring/summer travel season.

A mock aircraft cabin in the Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) International Airport’s main terminal is helping passengers with disabilities and anyone else who may find air travel stressful, to practice boarding procedures before they fly.

Part of The Travel Confidently MSP Education Center, the cabin was formerly used to train Delta employees in Atlanta, Georgia. The 33-foot cabin, equipped with 42 seats, is useful for people with sensory, cognitive and physical disabilities and people traveling with service dogs. The cabin will also be used to train public safety and airline crews.

Individuals who enter the cabin will find opportunities to practice getting luggage into overhead bins and buckling their safety belts. They will also learn protocols for flying with a wheelchair and be able to orient their service dogs to an airplane before taking them on a flight.

“This unique facility will be a hallmark for MSP’s programs that support equitable and inclusive travel,” Brian Ryks, executive director and CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), said in a press release.

“Thanks to a generous donation from Delta Air Lines, we can provide a life-like training environment without the use of an actual aircraft, which will build confidence in air travel for more people in our community.”

Other funding for the mock airplane was provided by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and Airport Foundation MSP.

“We are always looking for ways to build travel equity,” said Rick King, MAC chair. “It’s easy to take air travel for granted, but for many it presents unique challenges and requires different resources. The Travel Confidently MSP Education Center is one more way we can provide resources to the community and lower the barriers to flying for as many people as possible.”

Another feature that makes the mock aircraft unique is that it features artwork by four emerging artists from Minneapolis-based Juxtaposition Arts, a non-profit youth art and design education center, gallery, retail shop, and artists’ studio space.

So, if you weren’t planning a trip to Minneapolis-Saint Paul, this summer, you may want to reconsider your travel plans!

Here’s hoping that more airports will eventually offer “travel confidently education centers!”

Five Reasons Why Therapeutic Horseback Riding Could be for You!

Blog: Horseback Riding Benefits

Spring is a wonderful time to saddle up – especially for people with disabilities.

Indeed, a great many studies have shown that therapeutic horseback riding, which includes both equine-assisted therapy and hippotherapy, benefits individuals with a range of physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities in a variety of ways.

The term “equine-assisted therapy” describes a range of programs that involve horses and horse care for clients with different needs. Hippotherapy, on the other hand, is a distinct type of therapy that is prescribed by a physician and conducted by an occupational, physical or speech-language therapist who has been trained and certified by the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH).  Many studies have found that equine-assisted therapy and hippotherapy can benefit individuals both physically and emotionally. For example, therapeutic riding:

1. Improves motor skills in children with cerebral palsy, autism (ASD) and ADHD

A study published in the journal Neurologia found that “therapeutic horseback riding improved motor skills and reduced spasticity in children with CP.” Likewise, a 2016 study in the Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics journal found that “hippotherapy provided by a trained therapist who applies an intense and graded session for 10 weeks can improve body functions and performance of gross motor and fine motor activities in children with cerebral palsy.”

Another study showed that children with ASD and ADHD who took part in equine-assisted therapy combined with brain exercises showed improvement in motor skills such as “manual dexterity, upper-limb coordination and strength tests.” Additionally, “their caregivers … reported improvements in coping skills, balance, posture [and] social and academic performance,” according to researchers.

2. Improves communication skills and the ability to form relationships in children with autism spectrum disorder

Some children on the spectrum have difficulty forming bonds with others. According to Spark For Autism, therapeutic riding improves their ability to do so because “the bond that riders often form with their horses can be a bridge to better social or communication skills for people on the autism spectrum.”

For example, a 2021 study in which 42 children with ASD participated in a 16-week therapeutic horseback riding program while another 42 took part in other activities, found that the group that received hippotherapy “demonstrated a significant improvement in social interaction and communication skills compared to the participants in the control group.”

3. Therapeutic riding increases sensory awareness

When an individual rides or interacts with a horse, its movements provide sensory input to the vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile and visual senses. A 2021 study in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found that an 8-week trial of equine-assisted OT improved sensory integration in children with autism.

4. Therapeutic riding helps build the skills needed for walking

As Janice Anderson, a clinical leader at Manes & Motions, a therapeutic riding school in Middletown, Connecticut, told the Hartford Courant, “as a person’s pelvis sways on horseback, it is actually simulating the walking motion and serving as physical therapy.” Anderson said she “has seen wounded veterans and others go from walkers to crutches as they gain strength and mobility, and their gait improves.”

5. Therapeutic riding builds confidence and patience

After participating in an 8-week therapeutic horseback riding program, combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder reported “greater confidence, gratitude and hope as well as increased patience” according to Beth A, Lanning, Ph.D. associate chair and associate professor of public health at Baylor University.

For more information and to find a PATH Certified therapist near you, visit pathintl.org.

Longview School Uses Assistive Technology to Prepare Students for Independence 

Blog: Longview School

Thanks to educators with the know-how to make the most of assistive technology and augmentative communication tools, the sky’s the limit for students at the Longview School.

Longview, a public special education school in Montgomery County, Maryland, serves youngsters ages 5-21, with severe to profound intellectual and/or multiple disabilities. Despite their disabilities, Longview School Principal Sarah Starr says that her students “learn every day. They are all capable of becoming more independent and they can all enjoy a good quality of life.” Adds Transition Specialist Adriana Friedman: “At Longview, we are truly committed to seeing ability, not disability, in every student.”

With that philosophy in mind, Longview transition-aged students ages 14 to 21 all participate in the Secondary Program’s work-based learning instruction. The program uses work-based learning to prepare students for life after school and to provide them with the skills they need to take part in the labor force post-graduation. Assistive technology and augmentative communication devices from Enabling Devices are a critical part of helping students to engage in the tasks that go into building a business.

For example, students use a variety of Enabling Devices’ switches, the company’s switch-activated pouring cups and adapted battery operated scissors in the transition program’s artisan soap making business. Enabling’s adapted garden spray lets students water the plants they grow and sell as part of Flower Power, the program’s plant business.

“Roar Dash” a snack delivery service based on Door Dash, is another transition program business. Using Enabling’s Bright Red Switch, which lights up and vibrates, a student with visual impairment was able to activate his speech generating device, which made it possible for him to become more involved in running the business, says Principal Starr.

The work-based learning program’s greeting card business has been especially successful. Students created art for their greeting cards using various assistive technologies and augmentative communication systems to choose painting techniques and materials. One student used a head switch connected to a paintbrush to create the art for his card. Another student used a communication builder with pictures to choose their paint colors and textures.

Once the greeting card art was completed, designs were sent to the school system’s print shop. After they were printed, students worked on filling orders and delivering cards internally and through the U.S. Postal Service.

In addition to learning to build and run their businesses, Friedman says students also use their work experiences to practice academic and soft skills—such as interviewing, teamwork and professionalism—that will help them get hired for jobs in the community or possibly decide to start a business.

Some students have opportunities for internships in the community. Principal Starr says student businesses and internships “are a great way for the community to learn about our students and the school. The community can see the greatness our students bring and ensure their dignity.”

They also show Longview parents “what kids can do with assistive technology and support from the team,” says the principal. “Assistive technology has opened the door for that. Students can do this work when they have the tools. In fact, we couldn’t run our school without them.”

Yet, the tools are only as good as the educators and therapists who know how and when to use them says Principal Starr. Staff development teacher, Courtney Fike, has implemented a parent and staff web page for training on best practices infusing assistive technology in the home, school, and community. Longview is using the SETT framework to best match assistive technology with our students.

“We can have a ton of devices but until we work with the student and figure out what they need, what will work for them, we can’t make the most of the devices,” Principal Starr says. “Enabling Devices has an excellent selection of different types of switches. Once the right switch is matched appropriately to the person who needs it, it’s magic.”

Learn more about Longview and their student-led businesses at the Longview Family Resource website.

Inclusive Spring Adventures

Blog: Inclusive Spring Flings

With the arrival of April, it’s a wonderful time to start planning for spring and summer day trips and excursions.

Though individuals with disabilities and their families still face obstacles when it comes to the accessibility of recreational facilities, arts and culture venues, and dining establishments, the landscape is slowly changing. For example, while still few and far between, inclusive playgrounds, amusement parks and sensory friendly theater performances are becoming more common.

These are just a sampling of the inclusive and accessible recreational facilities and arts and cultural programs across the country to try this spring and summer.

1. Sesame Place
Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, was the first theme park to become a Certified Autism Center in 2018. The designation set forth by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) means that at least 80% of employees of Sesame Place in Pennsylvania are trained “in the areas of sensory awareness, environment, communication, motor and social skills, program development, and emotional awareness.” Employees receive additional training every two years and must even pass an exam to work at the park. Sesame Place San Diego, which just opened in March, is also a recipient of the IBCCES certification. Now West Coast families and tourists can also enjoy an autism friendly experience.

2. Earl Reservoir Park 
Woodbury, New York, is the home of a new sensory park located within Earl Reservoir Park. The park includes wheelchair accessible equipment as well as flooring that can accommodate the weight of wheelchairs. Additionally, there are musical instruments and adaptive swings.

3. Savage Park
Savage, Maryland, in Howard County has a new inclusive playground with all sorts of bells and whistles. The playground “was designed to increase interaction and promote language skills for children ages 2 to 12,” says the Howard County, Maryland, website. The playground includes a nonverbal communication board; musical stations; and a sensory panel; as well as play choices for children of all different stages of physical and cognitive abilities.

4. Autism Nature Trail
Located in Letchworth State Park in Castile, New York, this new ADA compliant attraction is the “first of its kind” nature experience especially for individuals on the autism spectrum. The trail is one mile long and includes different stations that provide a variety of sensory experiences. For example, the Reflection Knoll is a quiet place for relaxing in nature; the Meadow Run & Climb is for active play; and the Sunshine Slope, has a “gentle maze with a viewing platform and three cuddle swings, and an ‘Alone Zone’.”

5. Legoland Peppa Pig Theme Park
Like Sesame Place, Peppa Pig’s park also received certification from IBCCES last year. The park opened next to Legoland in Winter Haven, Florida, in February 2022, ready to accommodate families with members on the spectrum. According to Disability Scoop, Peppa Pig also added a new vehicle that’s accessible for wheelchair users.

6. Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., offers performances especially designed for people with disabilities. Accessibility features include ASL interpreters, a sensory friendly environment, audio description, and cued speech. Check the website to find out which performances are designated for disabled audiences.

7. Children’s Theatre Company
Based in Minneapolis, this company offers fully wheelchair accessible spaces, ASL interpretation, assistive listening devices, audio description, large print programs, sensory tours, and sensory friendly performances.

8. Northlight Theatre
This Skokie, Illinois-based venue recently expanded its accessibility options to include open captioned, audio described, and “relaxed” performances. Relaxed performances “include changes to better support individuals with autism and/or those with sensory sensitivities,” according to the theatre’s website.

9. Disabled Spectator
Rather than focusing on one venue, Disabled Spectator is a new company that works with Ticketmaster to find accessible seating to sporting events and performances. So far, the company finds tickets to events at Dodger Stadium and the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and Oracle Park in San Francisco. Disabled Spectators’ website says the company promises to add more venues in the future.

10. Angela’s Accessible Trail
This mile-long wheelchair accessible section of the Cross Rivendell Trail in Orford, New Hampshire, just opened to the public. Named for a little girl named Angela, the trail was the brainchild of Maggie Stoudnour, the former School Trail Programs Coordinator for the local school district. She realized that her son, who has muscular dystrophy, would not be able to participate in the hikes that other students could. Nor could other students with disabilities, including Angela, for whom the trail is named. Through Stoudnour’s efforts, the school district was awarded a grant from the New Hampshire Recreational Trails Program to construct the wheelchair accessible trail.

10 Must-Have Items for Spring!

Blog: Spring break at home

If you’re feeling energized by the coming of spring, you’re not alone. Warmer weather, more daylight, the return of birds, flowers and greenery are just some of the things that motivate us to get outdoors in spring — the season of renewal.

What to do when you get out there?
Enabling Devices has put together a list of toys, and other products that will make your time in the sun, brighter than ever!

1. Big Water Toy #9000
Big Water Toy is great fun and provides a wonderful tactile sensory experience in any season, but when you can take it outdoors, you get all the fun without the mess!

2. Pouring Cups #20
Pouring Cups aren’t just for cooking. Take them outside and experiment with different materials—sand, water, pebbles, flour, sugar—whatever strikes your fancy.

3. Misting Fan #2134
This switch adapted fan emits a fine mist of water to keep youngsters cool, while increasing sensory stimulation and teaching cause and effect.

4. Minnie Mouse Bubble Blower #2331
This bubble blower will be a huge favorite with Minnie lovers and anyone who loves bubble play! Minnie has a surprise in her basket of flowers! Press your capability switch or the button on her back and bubbles float out of her basket.

5. Laugh & Learn Camping Fun Lantern #1479
It may or may not be warm enough where you live to actually go camping, but you can pretend inside or out. Make a tent with blankets, sheets or other fabric and bring this lantern along for fun and learning. This switch-adapted camping lantern plays more than a dozen songs, tunes and phrases, teaching users counting, colors, opposites and animals.

6. Weighted Blanket #3941W
Spring weather can be unpredictable. Take along one of our weighted blankets to stay warm while your child also benefits from the sensory integration, increased attention and focus that this special blanket provides.

7. Block Jam LED Illuminator #9238
It’s time for a dance party! The Block Jam turns any day or night into a party. LED lights illuminate the night, turning all the colors of the rainbow. It connects with any Bluetooth device for just the right music for the mood—jazzy, quiet, rock and roll—your choice!

8. Portable CD Player #3414
Outings to the park, beach or pool are even better when you bring along your favorite tunes. Our portable CD and radio player can be activated with a capability switch.

9. Space Shuttle R/C #5060
Blast off with this replica of the NASA space shuttle, adapted with an easy-to-grab, easy-to-use joystick remote for out-of-this-world fun and learning.

10. Adapted Garden Spray #9083
Spring brings out the gardener in almost everyone. Our Adapted Garden Spray is designed with a wand that’s easy to attach your wheelchair.

Happy Spring!

9 Places for Adaptive Winter Sports

Blog: Winter Sports

If the weather outside is frightful, it might be the right time to try adaptive winter sports such as Alpine (downhill) and Nordic (cross-country) skiing; snowboarding; and snowshoeing.

Adaptive winter sports originated in the 1940s when German and Austrian soldiers used skiing as a means of rehabilitation for their injuries. In 1976, the sport became part of the winter Paralympics scheduled this year from March 4 to March 13.

In recent years, adaptive winter sports have become increasingly popular and adapted ski and snowboarding instruction is available at many ski resorts. Adapted skiing and snowboarding use a variety of specialized equipment to give skiers and snowboarders with disabilities the support they need to enjoy the thrill of the sports.

Winter sports can be expensive but don’t let cost be a deterrent. There are many organizations such as the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the Double H Ranch willing to foot the bill if you qualify.

Here’s a rundown of what’s available in various parts of country. Note: All these programs observe COVID-19 safety precautions.

1. New England Disabled Sports (NEDS)
With locations at Loon Mountain Ski Resort in Lincoln, New Hampshire, and at the Bretton Woods Ski Resort at Omni Mount Washington Resort, NEDS is a nonprofit organization founded in 1987. The organization has grown by leaps and bounds (pun intended) and offers instruction in Alpine and Nordic skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing for children and adults with cognitive and physical disabilities. Rental equipment is available and lessons are by appointment.

2. Double H Ranch
Founded by actor Paul Newman and philanthropist Charles R. Wood, Double H is a free adaptive ski and snowboarding program for children ages 6-16 with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, located in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Candidates must apply online and although it’s too late for this season, why not investigate this awesome opportunity for winter 2023?

3. United States Adaptive Recreation Center
Located at Bear Mountain, California, in the San Bernardino State Forest, USARC offers individualized instruction in adaptive skiing and snowboarding. Prior to beginning their instruction, each student is assessed by a highly trained teacher who determines what type of adaptive skiing or snowboarding is appropriate for the student and then outfits them with the appropriate gear to ensure safety.

4. Achieve Tahoe
At Achieve Tahoe, individuals of all ages and abilities can learn to ski and snowboard. The program is located at Alpine Meadows Resort in Alpine Meadows, California. Individuals who can demonstrate financial need may receive scholarships through Achieve Tahoe’s Katherine Hayes Rodriguez Scholarship Fund.

5. Beaver Creek Adaptive Program
Part of the Vail Resort company located in the Colorado Rockies, Beaver Creek offers individualized lessons with professional instructors. Partial scholarships are available through the nonprofit organization accessunbound.org.

6. Telluride Adaptive Sports Program
Telluride offers adaptive skiing and snowboarding lessons for individuals with all types of disabilities. The program also has special weeklong camps for people with disabilities, including the Disabled Veterans Winter Adventure Week from January 31 to February 4; and the Expand Your Horizons Ski Camp from February 28 to March 4.

7. Liberty Mountain
Located on the Pennsylvania/Maryland border, Liberty Mountain ski resort has been the host site for the Blue Ridge Adaptive Snow Sports (BRASS) program for many years. BRASS’s mission is to enhance life for individuals with disabilities through winter sports.

8. National Ability Center
At the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah, you can enjoy downhill and cross-country adapted skiing as well as adapted sled hockey, rock climbing, equestrian, aquatics, archery and cycling. Prices are reasonable but you must become a member — it’s $20 for an individual and $50 for a family. Since NAC is a nonprofit, additional costs are relatively inexpensive and scholarships are available.

9. Sunday River Resort in Bethel, Maine, is host to Maine Adaptive, a program that provides over 1,800 free standard and adaptive lessons in skiing, snowboarding and snow shoeing every season. The program, open to adults and children with disabilities ages 4 and up, also offers skiers with disabilities who need it – free weather appropriate clothing and equipment. Instruction is provided by specially trained volunteers.

How COVID Has Changed Work for Individuals with Disabilities

Blog: Working during COVID

As the pandemic rages on, it becomes harder and harder to find silver linings.

Yet, the health crisis has yielded certain unexpected opportunities for working-age adults living with disabilities.

Individuals with disabilities have long lobbied for employers to allow them to work from home. Remote work eliminates problems such as transportation barriers, inaccessible offices, rigid work schedules, physical and emotional stress, and the stigma some face at their workplaces.

But in many cases, employers have balked, believing that remote workers will be less productive. Their experiences with remote work during the pandemic have disproven that theory and many workers—disabled and not disabled—have found their quality of life dramatically improved by the flexibility and comfort offered by remote work.

While individuals with disabilities are grateful for the opportunity to work from home, many are frustrated that they faced so much resistance to this practice before the pandemic.

“One of the hardest things for me during this whole time has been seeing something that disabled people have been asking for for so long and told it’s not possible,” Shelby Hintze, a wheelchair user, told CNN in August. “All of a sudden, when everybody needs it, we move heaven and earth to make it happen.”

Individuals with disabilities have also pushed for more online accessibility features.

As Cnet.com reports: “Over the past year, Jennison Asuncion has seen apps like Zoom, a lifeline during the pandemic, expand accessibility features like automatic closed captioning. Messaging app Slack, another critical communications tool, has also become more compatible with his screen reader, which speaks aloud what’s on his phone or computer. Now Asuncion, who is blind, can more easily access his messages.”

People living with disabilities are hopeful that accommodations such as remote work and expanded accessibility features will be available long after the pandemic runs its course.

Workers with disabilities also stand to benefit from what’s being called “the Great Resignation.” With so many Americans leaving the workforce, employers are finally recognizing that people with disabilities represent an enormous and untapped talent pool. Jonathan Bennett, head of Employee Benefits at The Hartford, says the Great Resignation offers opportunities to change American work culture for the better.

“As employers across the U.S. consider the ‘new normal’ of the American workplace, they have a historic opportunity to address the barriers that too often exclude people with disabilities from the workforce. In fact, new data from The Hartford shows that an inclusive workplace culture may help retain employees of all abilities,” says Bennett.

And in more good news:

Andrew Houtenville, Ph.D., professor of economics and the research director of the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability, tells us that “the employment of people with disabilities is pushing past historic levels, as well as pre-pandemic levels.”

According to Houtenville, “the October 2021 employment-to-population ratio of 36.8 percent exceeds the September 2008 employment-to-population ratio of 32.7 percent, which is when the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] first started to officially report employment figures for people with disabilities.”

Granted, these numbers are nothing to write home about—unemployment among the disabled is still ridiculously high. Still, these employment numbers are heartening since early in the pandemic, people with disabilities were losing jobs in record numbers. That trend appears to be reversing.

Could it be that more employers are recognizing the value of an inclusive workplace? We hope so!

6 Ways to Stay Occupied During the Latest COVID Surge

Blog.6 Ways to Stay

This week’s blog was supposed be about accessible restaurants. But with the omicron variant of COVID-19 surging, we can’t in good conscience, advise anyone to eat at an indoor restaurant. With any luck, omicron will prove less dangerous than previous variants, and we’ll soon return to some semblance of normalcy. But for now, cozying up with our loved ones at home is probably the safest way to go.

In that vein, this week’s blog post will offer suggestions for using our toys, sensory items and electronics for family fun.

1. Game Night
Game night, or game day for that matter, is a great way to stay occupied. Enabling Devices’ adaptive games make it possible for everyone in the family to play. Some of our favorites include: Bingo; Adapted Pie Face; and Matching Picture Lotto Bingo.

2. Dance Party
Turn your home into a discotheque and take turns playing DJ. Our portable CD playerCD Boom Box; and Adapted Sony Boom Box with AC Adapter are all great options depending on your family’s particular needs. Or opt for live entertainment performed by family members using our Band Jam or Musical Snail. Our Lighted Musical Tambourine  makes it possible for anybody to join the band and doubles as a capability switch.

 3. Plan a Sensory Room
Talk about a fun project!  As described in previous Enabling Devices blog posts, Sensory rooms are spaces where children and adults can explore their environments through visual, auditory and tactile experiences.”

The sky’s the limit when it comes to developing a sensory space. That being said, you don’t have to have a ton of room or a ton of money to create a sensational sensory space in your home. When planning the space, start by considering the needs of your family and remember — everybody can find something beneficial in a well thought out sensory space.

A sensory space must be comfortable, so consider purchasing one of our Pea Pods or Beanless Bag Chairs. An Aura LED Projector will provide fabulous visual sensory experience. Light-up toys, like Charley Chameleon and Twinkle Buddy the Dragon, create a soothing atmosphere while the Fish Play Mat offers a wonderful tactile experience. Need some guidance? Enabling Devices’ staff are members are happy to help. You’ll find more information here.

4. Bake Cookies
There’s nothing like homemade cookies on a cold winter day. Everyone can help using our switch-activated Pouring Cups.

5. Water Play
Water activities offer terrific tactile experiences while also providing oceans of fun. Our Big Water Toy is a great way to play!

6. Arts and Crafts
Painting is a wonderful family activity. With our Swirl Art and Musical Swirl Art Kits everyone in the family can make a masterpiece. Our Creative Art Bundle provides even more possibilities for expressing creativity.

Morgan’s Wonderland Opens Two New Attractions

Morgan Camp

In the past, the Enabling Devices blog has reported on fully accessible and inclusive attractions Morgan’s Wonderland theme park and Morgan’s Inspiration Island water park. Both located in San Antonio, Texas, the parks were envisioned and developed by philanthropist Gordan Hartman, who wanted intellectually and physically disabled children like his daughter Morgan—now 28 years old—to enjoy amusement and water parks just like their peers.

This year, Hartman continued to honor his daughter with the opening of both Morgan’s Wonderland Sports and Morgan’s Wonderland Camp. Morgan’s Wonderland Sports is a fully inclusive sports complex that accommodates adapted basketball, volleyball, softball, baseball, football, pickleball and tennis teams. The 8,000 square-foot complex and stage will also host performances and fundraisers. Additionally, the facility will be administrative headquarters for Special Olympics Texas’ annual games.

Soon, Morgan’s Wonderland Sports will launch adaptive programs for wounded veterans, open playtime sessions and an inclusive sports program for athletes with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Morgan’s Wonderland Camp is the first of its kind, providing children with disabilities and their families the opportunity to have authentic camp experiences in an environment designed to meet all their needs. The 102-acre San Antonio property will accommodate 525 campers and staff members beginning in 2022.

Unlike traditional summer camps, Hartman’s camp will operate year-round. The camp will offer family weekends and be available for use by partner nonprofit organizations and for company retreats on weekdays. Early registration is highly recommended as sessions fill up quickly. Since Morgan’s Wonderland Camp is nonprofit, individuals with disabilities who register directly through the camp will receive free tuition. Other family members pay just $150 per person/per weekend.

“Morgan’s Wonderland Camp constitutes another of the world’s greatest places for inclusive, barrier-free recreation” said Hartman in a press release. “It features more than 20 major elements including ziplines and a challenge course like none other. Special adaptations enable those with special needs to enjoy these thrilling attractions just like everyone else.”

The Morgan’s Wonderland Camp property is outfitted with 20 fully accessible cabins with bathtubs, shower stalls and refrigerators. Its water features include “a large activity pool with beachfront entry, a warmed pool for hydrotherapy; a splash pad with a water tower; and a river.”

Other attractions include two accessible ziplines; a nature center; horse stables; a sports pavilion for basketball and volleyball; an arts and crafts center; wheelchair accessible bicycle trails; climbing walls and much more.

Best of all, campers and families can feel secure knowing that Morgan’s Wonderland Camp has a 4,500 square-foot medical facility that operates 24 hours a day.

For more information and to register for Morgan’s Wonderland Camp, visit Morganswonderlandcamp.com. For more information about Morgan’s Wonderland Sports, visit Morganswonderlandsports.com.

Pilates for Spinal Cord Injuries

Blog Pilates for Spinal Cord Injuries

Perhaps you’ve heard of Pilates. It’s a system of exercises intended to strengthen the mind and body using specially designed equipment. Created by Joseph Pilates, a German athlete, the system was introduced in Great Britain and the U.S. in the early 20th century.  At first, Pilates was practiced mostly by professional dancers, but the technique went mainstream in the 1990s and has become increasingly popular in the 2000s.

Recently, physical therapists and some Pilates instructors have discovered that the system has distinct advantages for individuals with spinal cord injuries.  These advantages include “improved stability, flexibility, core strength, shoulder, spinal and pelvic stability, a more balanced musculature, improved motivation and self-confidence/esteem,” write physical therapists Allison Cabot, Dawn-Marie Ickes and Gabrielle Shier in the Summer 2008 Balanced Body Pilates COREterly.

Emily Hagen of Baltimore couldn’t agree more. Some years after her husband Drew suffered a devastating car accident that left him unable to walk, talk, sit up or feed himself, Emily decided to become a Pilates instructor to help Drew build strength and regain function.

“I started realizing that some of the exercises we were doing might be helpful to Drew,” Emily recalls.

As she learned Pilates teaching techniques, Emily was able to adapt the exercises for Drew. She rigged a therapy table in their home to create a makeshift Pilates tower. She worked with Drew on core strength, trunk control, back strength and chest openers.

“Drew has too much roundness in his upper back,” notes Emily. “The Pilates Cadillac’s rollback bar helps to stretch his chest muscles to promote more openness in his front body and more of a natural curve in his upper back. It also helps with Drew’s body alignment. He needs to move both hands at the same time and that gives him resistance to work against. It’s like a guide to help his brain know he has to use more control.”

When Emily places a Pilates playground ball between Drew’s thighs, he’s learned to press his legs toward the center of his body. The movement activates his core and keeps his buttocks muscles engaged. “He loves the single leg stretch,” says Emily.

“After doing the instructor training, I’m able to cue him to make sure his muscles are firing in the right pattern. I’ve learned better touch technique and can envision what props will work best.”

These days, Drew is able to sit up and can take a few steps with support. He can type on an iPad, is mostly able to feed himself and can drink from a cup. He can navigate his power chair outside and has even learned to find his way home when he’s out and about in the neighborhood. “That’s really encouraging because he’s starting to program new memories,” said Emily.

Though Emily doesn’t credit Pilates with all of Drew’s progress, she’s certain Pilates exercises have contributed to his recovery.  “We try very hard to live as normally as possible,” said Emily, who says they attend rock concerts, have friends over, take walks and do household errands together. Though he’s still unable to talk, Drew is able to communicate his needs as well as his deep affection for Emily.

“It is what it is. I’m so blessed to have him here and for him to recognize me as his wife and still love me.”

Best Vacation Spots With Excellent Accessibility

best vacation spots for handicap accessibility

Going on vacation always requires a good deal of planning. You need to arrange flights, drive highways and book accommodations. The process isn’t simple, and the logistics become more complex when you or one of your travel companions is living with a disability.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Unfortunately, there are many places that are not compliant and do not provide accessible options for wheelchair users and those with other disabilities. After weeks or months of anticipation, few things are worse than getting to your destination and finding that they can’t accommodate a disability. For that reason, we’ve rounded up the best accessible travel destinations in America.

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Accessible Amusement Parks

There’s nothing quite like the wonder and thrill of an amusement park. With large crowds and attractions at every turn, it’s important to pick an amusement park that has something to offer for those with differing abilities. The following are some of the best accessible places to vacation.

1. Disneyland & Disney World

There’s a lot to love about the wonderful world of Disney, whether you’re visiting the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., or the original Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Calif. Both parks have a variety of accommodations for guests with disabilities, including parking.

Disney World features separate accessible parking lots for people with personal wheelchairs or other mobility devices. These lots are available throughout the four parks at the resort, although courtesy trams don’t stop there. Both Disneyland and Disney World require a valid accessible parking permit and have standard parking rates.

handicap accessible rides at Disney

When it comes to wheelchair-friendly attractions, Disney World is unmatched. Guests can choose from more than 40, at three levels of access:

  • Must transfer from wheelchair or electric conveyance vehicle (ECV) to ride
  • Must transfer from ECV to a wheelchair to ride
  • Must transfer from ECV to a wheelchair, then from a wheelchair to ride

The attractions which allow guests to stay in a wheelchair or ECV are found in these areas of the park:

  • Magic Kingdom Park
  • Epcot
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park
  • Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park

Disneyland also has an extensive list of wheelchair-accessible attractions located all over the park as well as other services for guests with mobility disabilities.

Both Disney World and Disneyland both have a comprehensive host of services that cater to multiple disabilities. Their services for guests on the autism spectrum and other cognitive disabilities are particularly robust, including:

  • Advance ticket purchase
  • Stroller, wheelchair and ECV rental
  • Quiet break areas
  • Companion restrooms
  • Dietary accommodations

Both of the parks’ Disability Access Services (DAS) allow guests to schedule their visits to rides and attractions so they don’t have to wait in a long queue that could cause distress. With DAS, guests can spend the intervening time exploring the park, enjoying entertainment or even checking out a different attraction while they wait. Other services are available to assist those with:

  • Visual disabilities
  • Hearing disabilities
  • Light sensitivity

Service animals are welcome for those who need them. For visual information on Disneyland’s accessibility and what to expect in the park, you can view the Park Guide for Guests With Disabilities. Disney World offers four guides to different sections.

2. Sesame Place

Located in Philadelphia, Sesame Place is a theme and water park based on the beloved kids’ show Sesame Street. It also happens to be one of the best vacation spots for wheelchairs. In keeping with the show’s reputation for ever-expanding inclusivity, Sesame Place has a robust accessibility program that makes it one of the best East Coast accessible vacation spots. They are the first theme park in the world to receive designation as a Certified Autism Center (CAC).

sesame place certified autism center

The park has partnered with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to ensure guests on the autism spectrum can enjoy the park and have their particular needs met. The staff is specially trained in the following areas:

  • Autism overview
  • Sensory awareness
  • Motor skills
  • Program development
  • Social skills
  • Communication
  • Environment
  • Emotional awareness

In addition to a highly-trained cast of team members, Sesame Place has a Ride Accessibility Program (RAP). This unique feature uses a questionnaire to match the abilities of individual guests to each ride. After completing the questionnaire, you can bring it to the park’s Welcome Center and receive a personalized list of the rides and attractions that meet your or your companion’s special needs. Some of the park’s other accessibility services include:

  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Low-sensory areas
  • Low-sensory parade seating
  • Show scripts
  • Sign language interpretation
  • Wheelchair rentals
  • Wheelchair parade seating

Sesame Places’ Dedicated Sensory Rooms

If you have a child with special needs who may become overstimulated, you can take advantage of two brand new sensory rooms to help them calm down and enjoy the rest of the day. Enabling Devices was proud to partner with Sesame Place in the creation of these rooms and provided many products designed to soothe and engage kids.

3. Morgan’s Wonderland

While other theme parks may provide excellent accommodations for guests with disabilities, Morgan’s Wonderland was designed for accessibility from the ground up. This non-profit “oasis of inclusion” is situated on 25 acres in San Antonio, Texas.

The founder, Gordon Hartman, was inspired by his daughter, Morgan. Her physical and cognitive challenges were the basis for Gordon’s mission to provide a place for special needs people of all ages to experience wonder and joy. The result is a 100% wheelchair-accessible Wonderland.

The success of this ultra-inclusive theme park gave rise to a sister water park, Morgan’s Inspiration Island, complete with waterproof wheelchairs available for rental. If you want a completely accessible park, Morgan’s Wonderland is the amusement park for you.

Accessible Cruises

There’s nothing quite like a cruise to bring on deep relaxation and stoke your sense of adventure. However, navigating a cruise ship with a mobility-based disability can be a bit of a headache if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Here are three cruises to consider.

1. Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas

The Symphony of the Seas is the place to be if you want to enjoy gorgeous views, gourmet food and stunning shows. It’s also an excellent cruise option for those with mobility disabilities. The ship has 46 accessible cabins, which feature:

  • Doors at least 32 inches wide
  • No doorsill to get into the room
  • Ramped bathroom thresholds
  • Grab bars in the bathroom
  • Lowered sinks
  • Roll-in showers
  • Fold-down shower benches
  • Hand-held showerheads
  • Lowered safes

The accessibility of the staterooms is essential, but you don’t want to spend your whole vacation in your room. The recreational facilities have several accessibility perks, including:

  • Lifts at the main pool and whirlpool
  • Lowered playing tables at the casino
  • Wheelchair seating in front and back of the Royal Theater, Studio B and Aqua Theater
  • Braille deck and stateroom numbers
  • Assistive listening systems in theaters
  • Amplified phones

royal Caribbean cruise with sign language interpreter

If a sign language interpreter is required, this cruise will provide one as long as you provide at least 60 days’ notice before the cruise departs.

2. Disney Cruise Line: Fantasy

You can surround yourself with the trademark magic of Disney by booking a cruise on the Fantasy. This cruise is all about immersing yourself in fun and fantasy and offers some standard disability accommodations. In addition to the same ADA specifications for 25 wheelchair-friendly staterooms and bathrooms inside them, this Disney cruise ship offers a variety of other accommodations, including:

  • Sign Language Interpretation: The sign language service interprets live theater performances and other shows for the first dinner seating and the late performance in the Walt Disney Theater.
  • Assistive Listening Devices: For a refundable deposit, guests with mild to moderate hearing loss can use amplified receivers at multiple stations around the ship.
  • Room Service Texting: Guests can use their phones to text for room service, rather than calling in.
  • Stateroom Communication Kit: This kit includes an alarm clock, bed shaker notification, alerts for the doorbell and phone, and a smoke detector that uses a strobe light.
  • Audio Description: You can experience movies in the Buena Vista Theatre with audio description by picking up a receiver at guest services.

Disney cruise accessibility accommodations

One of the unique features of this cruise line is Castaway Cay. This private Disney island is packed full of adventure and excitement. The island has its own tram for transportation, as well as an accessible cabana. One of the most enticing features is the availability of sand wheelchairs for rental. This opens up a world of possibilities that most other cruises don’t offer.

Note that if you require sign language interpretation or the use of a pull lift, you’ll have to request these services before you book your cruise.

3. Carnival Horizon

The Carnival Horizon takes a unique approach to staterooms for guests by offering three different tiers of accessible rooms:

  • Fully Accessible Cabins: These rooms are designed for guests with highly limited mobility. To meet the needs of those who need wheelchairs or scooters, these rooms feature turning space, accessible routes through the room and an accessible restroom.
  • Single Side Approach Cabins: These rooms feature the same accessible bathroom, but offer an accessible route and clear space for only one side of the bed. In rooms with two beds, one side of each bed is accessible.
  • Ambulatory Accessible Cabins: These rooms are designed for guests who have some limitations in mobility but who don’t use a scooter or wheelchair. They have features such as grab bars to help with balance.

There are 65 accessible rooms altogether. All rooms are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis, so it’s a good idea to reserve your accessible room as far in advance as possible.

Carnival Horizon Cruise wheelchair accessible

As for the rest of the ship, wheelchair users have plenty of freedom to roam. The ship’s dining areas, bars and the main theater all have wheelchair seating. For those with other types of disabilities, Carnival offers these services:

  • Visual-tactile cabin alert system
  • Teletypewriter to communicate with Guest Services
  • Amplifying headsets
  • Sign language interpreters
  • Braille signage
  • Large print format on some publications

Those with working service dogs are permitted to bring them aboard, but you should review all policies and procedures to ensure the dog is up to date on all veterinary requirements.

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Accessible Beaches

Beaches are one of the classic places for summer vacations, but beach travel destinations with wheelchair access can be hard to locate. The following summer destinations with wheelchair access are some of the best places to have fun in the sun.

1. San Diego, California

San Diego is known for being one of the most accessible cities for beach-goers with disabilities. Many of the beaches have sand wheelchairs available for free rental, whether powered or manual. The thing to remember is that there’s often no reservation for the chairs, and it’s first-come-first-served. On some of the more popular, crowded beaches, this can mean having to wait a while for your turn. Here are three of the best San Diego beaches with wheelchair access:

  • Mission Beach: This is an extremely popular beach where there’s always something going on. The most active sections feature people cycling, rollerblading, skateboarding and more. The south end of the beach is quieter, but its parking and bathrooms are not always fully accessible.
  • La Jolla Shores: This beach is very family-friendly and located a short drive north of downtown. There is a wide paved walkway between the beach and nearby Kellog Park, as well as an accessible bathroom and parking lot.
  • Imperial Beach: If you’re concerned about the chair rental process, Imperial Beach is one of the few that requires a reservation. They have two power chairs available for use on the beautiful beach, and manual chairs you can use with no reservation.

San Diego Wheelchair Accessible Beaches

2. Key Largo, Florida

If you’re looking for summer destinations with wheelchair access, consider heading on down to Florida to experience Tranquil Adventures. This not-for-profit organization was founded more than 30 years ago by Captain Mick Nealy with the mission of providing accessible boat tours for people with disabilities. As a survivor of polio, Captain Nealy has a unique understanding of what makes an experience magical for people with disabilities.

The dock and both boats are completely accessible to wheelchairs. Equipped with Coast Guard-approved safety measures, each boat can fit four people in wheelchairs and a total of 10 individuals. It doesn’t get much more family-friendly than these boat outings. Here are a few of the possible destinations on a Tranquil Adventures tour:

  • Key Largo Bay
  • Everglades National Park
  • Pennekamp State Park
  • Blackwater Sound

Participants can go fishing or snorkeling, try out island hopping, visit a beach party or stop off at a tiki bar. The combinations are nearly endless, making for a valuable repeat experience.

These tours cost $350 for a four-hour half-day and $500 if you want to make a full eight-hour day of it. As wheelchair-accessible travel destinations go, Tranquil Adventures tours get top marks.

3. Hanauma Bay, Hawaii

Vacationers with a taste for adventure will love Hanauma Bay State Park. This nature preserve has a gorgeous crescent-shaped beach and the very unique appeal of being formed by the crater of a dormant volcano. The soft white sands are both picturesque and ideal for those who need to rent a wheelchair to traverse the beach. The balloon-tired beach chairs are available free of charge from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. all year.

handicap accessible beaches hawaii hanauma bay

A tram takes visitors to and from the beach area, and it has a ramp to accommodate wheelchairs. Additionally, city buses have kneeling capabilities so you’re not limited to the beach in your exploration. All of the Bay’s facilities have been designed with accessibility in mind.

Activities are not in short supply at Hanauma Bay. Some of the things to do include:

  • Snorkeling
  • Catamaran tours
  • Wild dolphin watching
  • Island tours
  • Luaus
  • Sunset dinner cruises
  • Helicopter tours

This is hands down one of the most accessible travel destinations, and a perfect spot for family fun.

Accessible National Parks

Many people assume that they’ll have to cross national parks off the list of accessible destinations since they often require a lot of hiking and other activities unsuitable for those with disabilities. However, several national parks make great accessible vacation spots. Additionally, if you’re a U.S. citizen and permanently disabled, you can get an Interagency Access Pass for lifetime free admission. The three parks below are definitely worth a visit.

1. Grand Canyon National Park

Arizona’s Grand Canyon is undoubtedly a destination worth seeing in your lifetime, and the park has made it easy for wheelchair users to plan an unforgettable trip. The park has a variety of accessible facilities including:

  • ATMs
  • Bookstores
  • Restrooms
  • Gift shops
  • Dining areas
  • Lodging and campgrounds
  • Shuttle buses
  • Teletypewriter

If you need a sign language interpreter, give the park at least three weeks’ notice and one will be provided. The park also offers a cell phone tour and has wheelchairs available for rental at both the North and South Rim.

The park has several wheelchair-accessible trails and multiple scenic drives where you can take in a gorgeous vista without leaving your vehicle. Scenic drive accessibility permits are available for visitors with mobility issues. You can enjoy a variety of activities such as a wheelchair-accessible tour of an ancestral Puebloan village or a visit to the Yavapai Geology Museum. To get the details on which trails and facilities are accessible, as well as rules for bringing a service animal, check out the park’s Accessibility Guide.

2. Zion National Park

Located in Utah, Zion National Park makes camping and immersing yourself in nature easier. There are multiple campsites set aside for visitors with disabilities, and service dogs are permitted throughout the park as long as they are leashed. The ranger program schedule indicates which programs are accessible, and you can reserve assistive listening devices for any program.

The park has multiple trails suitable for wheelchair users, with the Pa’rus Trail being the most accessible. The trail is fairly short at 1.5 miles long and has a smoothly-paved width of 8 feet so wheelchairs can roll right alongside walking visitors. The Riverside Walk is also a good option, as the first 0.4 miles are accessible. In addition to the trails, these other park attractions all offer some degree of accessibility:

  • Canyon Visitor Center
  • Human History Museum
  • Kolob Canyons Visitor Center
  • Canyon Transportation
  • Zion Lodge
  • Picnic areas
  • Watchman Campground

Zion National Park is an excellent option if you’re looking to immerse yourself in Utah’s natural beauty.

handicap accessibility Zion National Park

3. Everglades National Park

At a whopping 1.5 million square acres of tropical and subtropical habitat, the sheer size of the Everglades National Park means some parts of it are inaccessible. However, plenty of sites and trails are available for those with mobility disabilities.

The Royal Palm Visitor Center is the best place to start. From clearly marked spots with accessible parking to trailheads and a store accessible by curb ramp, this part of the park is one of the best accessible vacation spots. This area has two accessible trails:

  • Anhinga Trail: This trail is 0.8 miles long round-trip, making it ideal for those who prefer a short jaunt into nature. The abundance of wildlife, from alligators to anhingas, makes this a popular destination.
  • Gumbo Limbo Trail: This trail is even shorter at 0.4 miles round trip. It is paved and meanders through a shady covering of gumbo limbo trees.

These paved paths do sometimes have mild to moderate cracks in them, but they are not disruptive enough to prevent the average wheelchair user from enjoying the trails.

If you’d like to venture into the heart of the park, Shark Valley is the place to do so. The road here is flat and paved, and there is a wheelchair overlook along the path. It’s also home to the Bobcat Boardwalk, a sensational place to get views of the marsh.

Enhance Your Vacation With Enabling Devices

If you’re traveling with a child or other individual who has special needs, accessibility is just the beginning. Enabling Devices is committed to providing a huge selection of products for people with disabilities, from communication devices to sensory products. If you need adapted toys, games or other devices to make your vacation time easier and more engaging for a disabled individual, we invite you to browse our selection of products and learn more about our services.

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