Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Chair - Putting a Child Within Reach

As a mother of twin infants I constantly sought out every foreseeable parenting shortcut or life hack to make my new life a little bit easier and help things run a whole lot smoother.  I quickly discovered that it was worth seeking out zippered onesies, because no one wants to secure buttons on a wriggling infant at 3AM and that the only thing my manual breast pump was accomplishing was a workout that was quickly turning my forearms into “guns” that would rival Popeye’s: clearly it was time to move from acoustic to electric.

I never thought much about mobility and wheelchair accessibility until after I had children.  All of a sudden destination planning included a double stroller that was roughly the size of an adult wheelchair.  If I couldn’t fit through the doorway, or onto the elevator alongside my stroller, I wasn’t going in, period.  I found myself actively boycotting businesses that failed to meet wheelchair accessibility codes.  Another twin mom I knew had started an email campaign where she’d contact businesses to point out their failure to comply with basic accommodations for wheelchairs (or double strollers), as a major flaw in customer service and citing the infraction as the reason as to why they’d no longer receive her business.

Some of my fondest memories from the early months and years of my children’s lives come from the long morning strolls we’d go on together. The rhythm of my walking would soothe them to sleep or calm contentment and in turn I was rewarded with sweet silence and the ability to look down at my babies lovingly.  I wouldn’t trade that part of our routine for anything.

As a first-time expecting mother, 35 year old Sharina Jones was concerned about whether she’d be able to use a stroller while in a wheelchair.  Thanks to a special design program at University of Detroit Jesuit High School, Jones was paired with high school senior Alden Kain who designed a functional and affordable stroller attachment that met her needs.  The collaborative project resulted in Kain’s design of a portable attachment that uses a simple quick release system to connect with her wheelchair, holds a diaper bag and connects safely with a traditional car seat.

This program shows that one person can make a difference and that by participating in projects that create solutions together we can do amazing things.  Whether it’s providing people in wheelchairs access to trending fashionable clothing, and education provided by groups such as Think Beyond the Chair we can make positive change. How has parenting expanded your perspective?

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1 comment:

  1. In my disability studies program, we had a woman come into to talk to us who had a spinal cord injury that left her in a wheel chair, and then decided to have a child. She explained all of the barriers she experienced to taking care of her own child at home and eventually outside of the house, and the clever methods she came up with to change, pick up, and play with her daughter all from her wheelchair. It was also really cool to hear how her infant daughter naturally adapted to her mother's "different" way of changing or feeding her and would instinctively move her little infant body into the right positions for the 'atypical' caregiving methods.