The A.T Gallery and Trials with Technology Part II

Jun 03, 2011
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Read part I of this post here: http://blog.ncpad.org/2011/06/01/the-a-t-galler…hnology-part-i/

During these times, I would be thankful that people came on scene to assist and at the same time I would be infuriated.  My anger would be self-directed for not having the right “backup plan” or for not being able to solve the problem independently.   My anger would also be directed toward the equipment manufacturer for not making the battery life longer or making the technology more durable.

My newest adventure with A.T. equipment was finding Walking or Nordic Walking poles.  The devices look like ski poles and are used for stability.  I had to try four different brands before I found the right type of poles to fit my needs.  My trials with the devices mirrored the experience I had with the scooter in college in some ways.   Since the height of the poles was adjustable, I would end up breaking the mechanism that locked the height of the poles with some of the brands.  I broke the gear because of the weight that I had to bare on the device with my upper body in order to move.

When the poles broke, I needed to have a contingency plan.  The plan was an emergency visit to the local retailer of the poles.  I would purchase two sets of poles – a primary set and a spare set when one of the poles would break.

The next lesson was that there were no replacement parts made for the internal gears that adjusted the pole height.  I would wear out my poles after about six to eight months because I was using the poles in a way that they were not designed to be used.

After using four different brands of poles, I knew that I needed a hybrid version of the store bought poles.   I needed poles that were customized to fit to my height from the start.  I needed poles that were light-weight but had a certain type of hand grip.  Attempting to find a manufacturer to produce my custom poles was hard.

I was introduced to a gentleman who was an engineer.  He manufactured Nordic poles and other medical technology.  He agreed to work with me to produce the poles that I needed.   In many ways, A.T. for people with disabilities is like making a “one- of a- kind” dress.  In my experience, there are few who have the skill to craft a product with such key specifications.

My custom poles were produced.  I had a light weight pair of poles, customized to my height, with the perfect handgrip.  I used the poles without incident for over a year until one February day.   I was on a bus less than a mile from home.  A woman rushed past me.  Her bag hit me and knocked one of the poles out of my hand.  There was an audible crack.  A murmur started within the bus as a stranger handed me the pole.  It was broken into two pieces.  The woman had unintentionally stepped on it.

The murmur of voices and suggested solutions was a replay of the lectures I had heard in college so many times.  “Why weren’t you better prepared?”  I was prepared.  An extra set of poles sat in my basement ready for use when events like this occurred.  The problem was I was a mile away from home and had to cross a two-lane highway with one pole.   What kind of contingency plan could I have dreamed up to avoid this?  Fate was on my side this particular day.  A friend was present on the bus and witnessed the incident.  My friend drove me home where I descended into my basement gallery to get the second set of poles.

People with disabilities learn to be problem-solvers.  Technology can fail even with the best contingency plans in place.   I am sure I am not the only person who has a gallery of tried, used, and failed technology in their basement.  I am sure there are many like me who are thankful for the A.T. mechanics, maintenance crews, engineers, and strangers who try to assist when A.T. and established contingency plans fail.

Assistive Technology Resources:

AbleData – Provides objective information about assistive technology products and rehabilitation equipment  http://www.abledata.com

Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT) Program – Provides protection and advocacy services to help individuals with disabilities acquire, utilize, and maintain Assistive Technology services or devices. To identify your state’s program, visit: http://www.adap.net/palist/pas.html

Author: Kerry