"The Wheel Closet"
Brenda liked to tinker with things.
She always had, even before
her accident, and her interest
had only grown since then.
Now she made pieces of
adaptive equipment since
the stores and catalogs
never seemed to have
everything she needed.
There was a length of
broom handle with a hook
on one end and nail tipped
with rubber on the other, for
reaching and pushing things.
She kept the current version
with her wheelchair, and the closet
held several of her earlier attempts.
Brenda had a whole collection
of lap trays -- rigid and padded,
smooth and segmented, made of
plastic or plexiglass, metal or wood.
Even her walker friends liked
to borrow those sometimes.
She had several portable ramps
for visiting friends with front steps.
Some were fancy folding models,
but her favorite was a simple one
cut from a sheet of plywood, with
handles and grip-strips on it.
In addition to tools, there were
also toys. Brenda always kept
doll wheelchairs for gifts, made
out of coathangers and craft foam.
No matter what challenge life
threw at her, she could usually
pull something suitable out of
the wheel closet to deal with it.
* * *
People who use wheelchairs have a wide range of abilities and limitations. However, one thing remains consistent: sitting in a chair puts you on a lower level and makes it harder to reach things, even if you can otherwise move well. Wheelers have therefore devised a wide range of tools to make their lives easier. Most of the things featured in this poem are things I've seen people using, and in many cases making their own because they couldn't find a commercial product to meet their needs. If you look online you can find many more examples. Be creative.
Among the most useful items is a stick with two different ends. A button hook is a small version, and a dressing hook is a large version. These can be used for much more than clothes. I think the first time I saw one in use was a homemade stick and it was used to push elevator buttons.
A lap tray or desk makes it easy to work on things at short range. You can even make one with interchangeable tops for different purposes.
Portable ramps help with navigating difficult terrain. A flat ramp is simple to make by cutting handles and adding grip strips to a piece of plywood. This will get a wheelchair over one or two steps, which drastically increases the number of buildings you can enter. You don't really need one -- we've hoofed a wheelchair over the two steps into our house without one -- but it makes the process much easier. Building a foldable ramp requires a bit more skill, but it is much more versatile and can surmount a higher destination.
On a smaller scale, DIY doll wheelchairs promote inclusivity. For the less crafty, consider looking for a standard doll chair and sticking wheels on it. To make a sporty wheelchair with a low back, you may want to start with a four-legged stool instead, then make a low lip around the seat and add wheels. In either case, you wind up with something like a dancing wheelchair which has a very steep drop at the front, so don't let anyone tell you the angle is all wrong.