Friday, May 3, 2013

Recap: Abilites Expo 2013 Part 1

This was the third year in a row we made a visit to the Abilities Expo.  It seems that each year we have a reason to attend.  Year 1 - we were looking for a new wheelchair for Emma.  Year 2 - we were looking at power wheelchairs.  This year - we looked at wheelchair accessible minivans and some new standers and walkers.  Let's hope that if we go next year our focus is on getting cool 3E Love t-shirts and gear because that would be MUCH better for our budget!  :-)

The most wonderful thing about this Expo is that any piece of equipment you could dream up is likely there for you to see, touch and ask questions from the vendors about.  It can take months to get our local clinic to bring in a piece of equipment we want to test if they don't already have one but if we go to the expo we can see them all at the same time and notice the pros/cons of each in real time rather than relying on our memory of what it was like when it was in the clinic.  That means a lot to us since Emma's needs are generally NOT cookie cutter.  Usually equipment - even (especially?) special needs equipment - needs some modification to work for our little angel.

Like last year, Emma and I hit up the Expo by ourselves and while there we saw a few people we know.  We wheeled in and out of most of the cars on display and continue to think the rear entry wheelchair van is our preferred configuration.  There is an option for a long rear entry or a short rear entry.  The long rear entry changes the configuration of the middle row of seats in the car to allow the wheelchair to roll between the two middle seats.  You can then add an optional rear bench seat that can fold down for more passenger seating.  The short rear entry only cuts out the rear of the car and leaves the middle row intact.  The wheelchair will not roll between the row but it allows use of the regular bench seats and standard leg room for the passengers.  I'm not sure what style we will end up with but it will probably be chosen based on price and availability.  We will wait until we actually take possession of a power wheelchair before we will buy a van.  We are currently in the appeals process with insurance for them to agree to buy her a power wheelchair and let me just say it is NOT fun!  Fingers crossed they reverse their decision....

Our other top to do while there was visit the vendor for her mount.  Blue Sky Designs was there with the Mount 'n Mover mount system.  I have to say that this company continues to blow me away with their customer service!  I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact they are located in Minnesota?  When I travelled the USA for my sales job MN was always my favorite state to visit because I found the people there to be the friendliest of the 38+ states I've visited.  I've always thought if it wasn't so cold it might be a great place to put down roots.  Anyway......we wanted to see the iPad mounts.  I had emailed the company this week letting them know who we were and what we wanted to see while at the Expo and Nick responded to the email letting me know he would be at the booth and would look out for us.  When we got there Nick totally took care of Emma!  He noticed right away when that her mount wasn't incredibly secure on her chair and wouldn't even put the iPad mount on it until he gave it a free "tune up."  I knew it was in need of service because I lost a lot of the screws over the last 6 months and *substituted* them with different ones (don't judge, us Moms do what we have to do)....it was on my list of things to ask Nick but he addressed the issues before I brought it up.  He noticed it was a bit wobbly and immediately set about securing it.  He fixed the attachments with screws from his demo parts, adjusted the tension on one joint (and showed me how to do it for future reference), made a couple suggestions on post height changes and added screws to another part.  Now that everything is up and running correctly (I didn't know about locktite and some other items he showed me to take care of the issues we experienced) it shouldn't need any further adjustments for a while.  I think the mount is very durable and we are all set for years of use.  We found the iPad mount with the bungee system to be exactly what we wanted so Nick took down our information and will send us one when he returns to the office.  This mount is slightly different than the one shown on their website that uses velcro.  Velcro won't work for us as Emma is not known to be gentle!  Luckily the bungee mount seems Emma-proof and we can get a quick delivery.  After all that flurry of activity I thought I had a photo of the bungee iPad mount but I don't so you'll have to wait for a photo until ours is delivered.

Before we left we met two men from the Hip Hop/Rap group 4 Wheel City.  They were really great to talk with and even though Emma was sick today (I had no idea she would spike a fever while at the Expo!), and we met them right before we were heading home, she perked up at their booth and even smiled.  The duo 4 Wheel City uses hip-hop music to spread a positive motivational message to people with and without disabilities and gives presentations at schools and other venues to reinforce the message to stay in school and never give up.  They even created a song and PSA with Snoop Dogg!  We bought one of their CDs and are excited about their mission and success and hope the positive momentum they have developed continues to bring them new opportunities to spread such a positive message!  Emma posed for a photo with the guys known as "Rickfire" and "Tapwaterz".  See that smile?  It was one of the spare few she gave out today.  If you are that the Expo be sure to stop by and talk with Rickfire and Tapwaterz and be inspired!

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