Last weekend we went to a really cool event called the Abilities Expo.  This event brings together equipment vendors, groups, and resources for disabled individuals to one venue where the people who need them can then view, try-out, and access these resources.  What an awesome idea!

We saw several different vehicles modified for wheelchair transport, a valuable thing for a family hoping to get a new vehicle in the next year, and not wanting to trek out to various vendors separately to see what’s available.  The one we liked the best was a Dodge mini-van with a fold out ramp in the rear.  It allows for 7 passengers including the wheelchair passenger.  This will make us much more valuable in the Cub Scout car pool.  Also, it allowed for Lizzie to be in the middle right behind the front seats, where either driver or passenger in front could access her easy.  Awesome, since I spend equal time in both seats.  We are excited about this being a mini-van, because the fuel economy on our E350 frankly is not very economical at all, and I would love to be able to park a much smaller vehicle on a regular basis.  The only thing I’m not sure about is getting a rear entry vehicle, as we’re used to side entry, but I guess we’ll get used to this as well.  I just wonder how parallel parking will work when someone parks on our tail.  Hmmmm.

Look at me!

I also learned of things that we did not know existed.  Lizzie tried out a special needs bicycle at the Creative Mobility booth, which her brother enjoyed pushing her around in very much.  It could work on Lizzie power or another person’s, allowing us to decide who had control.  I also loved seeing that there was a bicycle with a wheelchair-like seat on the front of it so I could ride and have her right there with me.  Something that would be good for both of us.  Unfortunately, as with most special needs equipment, both of these items were highly expensive, and will require either insurance approval or fund-raising on my behalf.

There were many different equipment displays.  We checked out rail lifts by several companies that would allow us to move Lizzie from one room to another.  We will probably need one of these in the next couple years as Lizzie gets older, bigger, and heavier.  We did find out that most insurances do not cover these, and I will be busy in the near future trying to figure out if ours will, or where we can go to get help with this.  Again I may need to look into how to fund raise on our own.

We also saw many booths of wheelchairs, including ones for sports, ones that lifted the user to a standing position, and just about every other need.  We saw wheelchair accessories.  There were spill proof trays, and bags and wallets made to fit walkers and crutches.  They also had tools for reaching, and grabbing items, opening jars and magnifying text.

There were walk-in bathtubs, adaptive showers, and assorted bath seats.  We especially liked the Aquatech Bathlift, that lowered the user into the water almost all the way, but raised up to the level of the tub to allow for easy removal from the tub.  This seemed more beneficial to Lizzie that she would be in the water instead of hovering just above it like in her bath chair now.

We also saw a cool line of greeting cards called CRIPmark.  They were all disability themed and featured people in wheelchairs, with crutches, with leg braces, etc.  I thought it was a wonderful idea.  They all had wonderful artwork, and a sense of humor, something we all need from time to time.  One of my favorites, was a simple card with LOVE spelled out in sign language, and a blank card inside.

In the final row, we came across an awesome booth of clothing called 3ELOVE.  Their name is explained by their mission statement, “Embrace Diversity.  Educate Your Community.  Empower Each Other.  Love Life. ” Their logo is a really simple wheelchair design, only instead of a familiar round wheel, there is a heart.  My favorite shirt, which I’m going to buy for Lizzie, says, “I love life”, substituting their logo for the word love.  I love it!  It is so true of my daughter.  No matter how much happens to her, Lizzie always rises above, and comes out smiling.

There were legal and service booths, offering advice and information.  And along with the useful information, there was also some entertainment by way of a demonstration of wheelchair rugby, and an all abilities climbing wall.  I am ashamed to say I could not even get half way up the “easy side”.  Proudly, my 10-year-old scaled the “difficult side” all the way to ring the bell, despite a missing hold.

I saw so many things I would have loved to buy at the Expo.  Many of which will have to wait until insurance is approved, or money is raised, but it’s nice to know they are available.  I am so glad we checked out this event, and definitely recommend it to anyone with special needs, or who loves someone with special needs.  It’s an event that will definitely grace our calendar next year, hopefully finding us in a better situation to get some of those items.