Mobility 101: How to Safely Use Wheelchair Lifts for Vans

By guest blogger Chris Miller, The Mobility Resource
wheelchair lifts for vans
Wheelchair lifts for vans are a great option for maintaining or increasing your mobility, independence and participation in your family and community. It’s essential that you and your caregivers know how to keep safe while traveling in your wheelchair, though.

Generally, it’s recommended that people transfer out of their wheelchair into a vehicle seat and that they use the standard seat belt system. Since you use a lift, this may not be an option for you (at least not all the time). So, make sure to follow proper safety procedures.
Wheelchair Lifts for Vans Come with Detailed Instructions
The manufacturer carefully spells out usage directions, proper safety measures and relevant precautionary statements for its
wheelchair lifts for vans. It’s impossible to give detailed instructions here, as they vary by make, model and style. Review the owner’s manual in its entirety, and have your caregivers do the same.

Also, when you purchase or rent a handicap vehicle, the dealer should provide clear and thorough directions for safe operation of the accessibility equipment. You’ve presumably worked with a driving rehabilitation specialist, too, so he or she can also answer many of your safety questions.
Follow Proper Safety Procedures After Using Wheelchair Lifts for Vans
Once passengers have gotten into their vehicles via wheelchair lifts for vans, the most important safety steps remain. You and your wheelchair must be appropriately restrained. Always face the wheelchair forward and use every part of your vehicle’s wheelchair tie-down and occupant restraint system.

Attach all the tie-down straps as instructed. Never attach them to moving, removable or adjustable parts on the wheelchair. Once the chair is safely secured, make sure you yourself are securely held in place in the wheelchair. Use a seat belt that crosses your lap and diagonally over your chest.

Take the time to learn the proper procedures for using wheelchair lifts in your adaptive vehicle. It could safe your life.

Top 10 Holiday Gifts Ideas for People With Disabilities

It’s that time of year again! Let the holiday merry-making begin! But first, let us help you check off everyone on your “nice” list with our top 10 gift ideas for people living with physical limitations…

1. Keep the kids and adults warm in an adaptive coat from Koolway Sports. Ross Daniel Adaptive ApparelHalf back eliminates excess fabric. Side zippers run from the cuffs to the bottom of the side seam. Zippered front blanket goes from lap to ankles. Coats come in fun colors and various fabric weights for winter or spring use. $360 kids/$425 adults at Ross Daniel Adaptive Apparel (914-234-7853)

2. With Dragon Speech Recognition software, you talk and it types. Give voice commands to create and edit documents or emails, launch apps, open files, control your mouse, and more. For Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, iTouch. $49.99 and up at Nuance

See and Be Safe3. The GRIP™ Board with Drink Holder is a rigid, non-slip, multi-use pad that’s perfect for transporting items like heated foods, drinks, electronics, work materials, etc., used while performing ADLs. Fits on your lap or in your hand. Provided by See and Be Safe, available at Bussani Mobility for $42.99.

Cool Hubcaps4. Dress up and personalize your wheelchair with Spoke Guards. Large, colorful plastic wheel covers are lightweight and attach with Velcro straps. Slightly domed to fit all types of wheels. Themes include flags, sports, hubcaps, nature, animals, art, formal wear, holiday, custom made, and more. $125-$150 Cool Hubcaps (888-414-7061)

5. Who doesn’t love a good, inspiring book? Some suggestions: Inspiring book“Unstoppable: The Incredible Power of Faith in Action” (Nick Vujicic); “Believe: My Faith and the Tackle That Changed My Life” (Eric LeGrand); “Imperfect: An Improbable Life” (Jim Abbott); “Thunder Dog” (Michael Hingson); “Until Tuesday” (Luis Carlos); and the “Wendy on Wheels” series for kids. Available at bookstores and online.

6. Maddadapt UBend-It Forks and Soup Spoons can be easily bent to the Maddak Ablewareleft, right or any angle in between that’s comfortable for the user. A great help in enjoying holiday meals for people with weak grasps or other hand limitations. $9 Maddak Ableware

Adaptive Adventures7. Send your loved one on an Adaptive Adventure of a lifetime. Alpine skiing, snowboarding, cycling, kayaking, water-skiing, whitewater rafting. For children, adults and veterans with physical disabilities and their families. Prices vary. Adaptive Adventures (877-679-2770)

8. Now this is just downright cool (and practical, too) for all of you dog lovers Blue Zone Enterprisesout there…the Hound-a-bout™ hands-free dog walking system. A mast attaches to the empty receiver of your wheelchair’s swing-away, tubular arm rest. Your pooch gets 360 degrees of roaming, and everyone’s happy with the adventure of a walk. $120 Blue Zone Enterprises (612-309-0031)

Ross Daniel Adaptive Apparel9. A great stocking stuffer…Ross Daniel’s “Cool Clothes for Toes” sock line is fashionable, seamless and comfortable for AFO wearers. Children, teen and adult sizes. $9.95 Ross Daniel Adaptive Apparel (914-234-7853)
10. For a gift experience they’ll remember forever, let them take to the sky on Freedom’s Wings Internationala specially adapted sailplane, either as a passenger or as a member of the flight training program. Prices vary. Freedom’s Wings International (800-382-1197)

2 People, 2 Dogs, 1 Love Story

Frank and Emily in Newsday
November 20, 2012 by JAN TYLER / Special to Newsday
Frank and Emily in NewsdayFolklore pictures Cupid as a chubby little matchmaker who shoots love arrows from a fancy bow. But for one couple, the messenger of love took the form of a bowless but savvy woman acting on instinct.

“I had a hunch that they’d hit it off,” said Judy Carey, who introduced Emily Costanza and Frank Sciaretta about a year ago.
And they did. Costanza, 37, of Bay Shore, and Sciaretta, 49, of Levittown, both of whom have spinal disorders that have confined them to wheelchairs, are engaged to be married and plan to tie the knot in September.

“There are so many details, like working out everyone’s schedules,” Costanza said, “and we’re still looking for a catering facility that’s completely handicapped-accessible where we could hold the wedding ceremony and the reception; four of our friends are also in wheelchairs. Plus, I’ll need a custom-made gown, and we’ll need both a pastor and a priest because Frank is Catholic and I’m a born-again Christian.”
They spend as much time together as they can, meeting for lunch, going to movies, shopping and to church. They often drive Sciaretta’s retrofitted Toyota Sienna minivan.

As Costanza showed off her diamond engagement ring, Sciaretta held tight to her right hand. They both beamed with joy.
“She’s a blessing,” he said. “She’s brought so much happiness into my life.”

Matched with dogs
The couple had been accepted, separately, as recipients of support dogs at Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a nationwide nonprofit with a campus in Medford. CCI donates service dogs that have been bred for intelligence and docility and are specially trained to assist disabled children and adults in their daily lives.

Dogs and their human partners are matched in terms of the recipient’s needs. CCI dogs can open drawers and doors, turn light switches off and on, retrieve and pick up fallen objects and alert caregivers to an emergency with their partners. The service is free, and candidates have to show they can care for the dogs, according to the CCI website.

Sciaretta and his black Labrador retriever, Bastien, have been together since 2007. Each day, Bastien accompanies Sciaretta to his job as a computer systems manager in Melville.

Costanza was diagnosed 10 years ago with a rare condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), which weakens connective tissue in skin, bones and other organs. She and her companion, Carmel, also a black Labrador retriever, were paired in 2010.

“My family thought I was crazy,” she said. “They said I couldn’t take care of a dog, that it would be too much for me to handle. But these dogs are so well trained, they’re so devoted and obedient, it’s like having a loving friend with you all the time.” As she caressed Carmel’s silky coat, Costanza recalled that she “had the oddest feeling that something wonderful would come from my connection with CCI, that it was absolutely the best thing for me to do, and I was so right.”

Costanza met Carey, a volunteer puppy raiser for CCI who lives in Massapequa, during orientations at the Medford campus, and they became friends. “I began visiting Emily at her home,” Carey said. “And it just broke my heart to know she was alone when she’s so pretty and full of life; I wanted to change that for her.”

Carey knew Sciaretta from events at CCI. “I knew him to be a great guy, and my matchmaking instincts started to heat up,” she said. “I admired the spunk and hopeful outlook they both have.

“I invited them to lunch, and it was really funny to see the looks on the waiters’ faces when they saw all three of our dogs, which, by the way, are very well behaved. But the restaurant was very nice about it.

“Frank came in with a rose for Emily and one for me; a very romantic gesture. I could tell they were taken with each other, and before the end of the meal they were exchanging phone numbers. I couldn’t have been more delighted.”

Magical’ relationship
“That night,” Costanza said, “he called, and we talked for hours. We started to date and the attraction grew; it was magical. We knew we’d found our life partner.”

There are other bright spots in the couple’s future. Costanza, a professional vocalist with a bluesy, light-contralto delivery, said, “I’m lined up with Sony Music Entertainment as backup for an album featuring Gordon Bahary, a retro-pop singer, and I’m really excited about it.”

Although Costanza is planning to stay in her Bay Shore apartment until after the wedding, the couple is looking forward to living together in the remodeled Levittown house her fiance grew up in with his four siblings. His father, Frank Sr., has died, and he shares the home with his mother, Rita.

Built at ground level, the house needed no entry ramps. With contractors making the improvements based on Sciaretta’s designs, several interior walls in the public rooms were removed, creating a spacious and barrier-free living, dining and kitchen space. Some countertops and sinks were lowered for easy access.

“Over the years we made changes that helped me get around, first on crutches and then in the wheelchair,” said Sciaretta, who was born with spina bifida, a condition in which the vertebrae aren’t fully connected. “It’s now totally handicapped-accessible, and I know Emily will be very comfortable here.”

But the couple’s happy engagement is only part of their story. Cupid’s arrows seem to have found their marks in Bastien and Carmel as well. During visits, the dogs carry on a lovefest of their own.

“They run to greet each other and rub noses and do all the usual doggy hellos,” Costanza said. “They cuddle and play together; they love to wrestle and pull each other around the floor. Sometimes it gets a little rambunctious, but it’s such fun to watch them.”

Contacting CCI
Volunteer puppy raisers are urgently needed at Canine Companions for Independence in Medford. To learn more, contact the organization at 631-561-0231 or