One of Our Chairs is Missing!

English: Lightning over St-Laurent River by a ...

English: Lightning over St-Laurent River by a stormy night in Quebec. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a dark and stormy night, you’re car’s stopped working and the storm is too severe to even consider walking. What do you do?

For most it is a simple call with their cellphone and help is on it’s way.

There is a certain arm of society that face something like that even on warm Spring days. Consider life in a wheelchair.

English: Controller of electric-powered wheelc...

English: Controller of electric-powered wheelchair Belize. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wheelchairs are intended to be very dependable. Perhaps that explains why a manual wheelchair can cost more than a decent bicycle. However there is more to go wrong in an electric wheelchair. It can be merely an inconvenience for someone in a care facility of some sort, so long as there’s always someone attending.

However the people I know that are in electric “chairs” are not homebodies. They want to get out in the world and that can mean travelling blocks or even miles from home to go shopping, sightseeing, to medical appointments, to visit friends, etc.

English: Wheelchair brake (scissors)

English: Wheelchair brake (scissors) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While some might be able to crawl to someone’s doorstep and ask for health, there are others that do not even have that option. It’s not like they have the option to get out and check the battery cables.

That’s where a cellphone would really come in handy. I’m sure a call or two would bring help if your chair were to fail you and stop operating.

Picture of a Cell Phone

Picture of a Cell Phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know that in many areas, people that are “at risk” or unable to afford one can get a phone with very modest service for emergency calls. Something like that could help many folks who use chairs. But there are also many in chairs that would have problems operating a typical cellphone or smart phone.

I believe there are specialty cellphones with a limited keyboard. I recall one for children that didn’t have a regular numeric keypad, but instead had 6 buttons. Each button was preprogrammed with 6 phone numbers. Perhaps it might be very limiting to have a cellphone that could only dial a half-dozen number — but if you have only one hand you can use and it has only limited function — such a phone could be a godsend.

There are also cellphones with large buttons and basic functions intended for seniors. Not all seniors need them, by any means, but they can be helpful for many.

I believe that some sort of allowance should be made so that those folks requiring an electric wheelchair to function should have a cellphone they can operate for emergency purposes.

Magellan Blazer12 GPS Receiver.

Magellan Blazer12 GPS Receiver. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Built-in GPS might be useful, but folks that already have limited privacy might not want there to be a GPS device that could always track them down.

I think we have solutions and some don’t even require any/much special equipment.

While they are at it they can make sure that the chairs have some place to support and hold a cellphone/GPS device so a person could still use it if they had limited dexterity.



A Crippled Generation? — part 4 of 3

Everywhere I look I see a crippled generation. I don’t mean people with actual physical or mental disabilities, but those people who are crippling themselves. This issue might actually be crippling people.

Continued from “A Crippled Generation? — part 3 of 3
A Crippled Generation? — part 2 of 3
A Crippled Generation? — part 1 of 3

I wrote about how people are essentially handicapping themselves with fashions, technology, and the choices they make. But this “4th” article is about something that not only might affect a person while using it, but also might affect their future.

young-woman-with-cell-phone 2 800I mentioned in part 1 of 3 about smart phones and how the way many use them essentially ties up one hand all the time. There is another issue to do with them, and a once prominent device, the mp3 player, like the iPods.

Many people put in their ear-buds or put on their headphones intent on blocking out the outside world. Some even have noise cancelling headphones to create an excellent environment for listening to their music… or language course, or news channel.

This creates an issue for some where they are oblivious to the things going on around them.

350px-headphones_1Did you know that a young man was actually killed when he was struck by a helicopter that was making a crash landing? Apparently he couldn’t hear it because he was listening to “his tunes”.

That example is a bit extreme, but there have also been people struck by trains, cars, trucks…. I haven’t heard of anyone run down by a submarine though.

There can be two issues, one is having your ears covered or having the ear-buds in the ear and impeding outside sounds from getting in. The other is the volume at which the music is being played. I know from personal experience that if you play music at a modest volume, you can hear what is going on around you.

A stack of the iPods I now own... included are...

A stack of the iPods I now own… included are the 1Gb iPod shuffle (2nd Gen), iPod nano Product(RED) 4Gb (2nd Gen), iPod mini 4Gb, iPod 20Gb (4th Gen), and iPod video 80Gb (5.5 Gen). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I am listening to my iPod, other people can’t hear the music, but very often even from a half-dozen feet away I can hear other folks’ music filtering out of their headphones or ear-buds — sometimes quite loudly. I figure it isn’t so much the ear-buds or headphones causing people to be oblivious to the outside world but the sheer volume… loudness of the music.

They have laws in some places that place some restrictions on the usage of headphones and ear-buds. Here, you can only have one of the two ear-buds in your ear while operating a motor vehicle. I imagine that headphones aren’t allowed.


Very similarly to the issue with personal music players (smart phone or mp3 player) are “boom cars“. These are the vehicles where the driver’s music is played at such a sound level you can hear it from many car-lengths away. Not only is this noise pollution annoying, but for the occupants of the car the results over time is deafening.

Behind the ear aid

Behind the ear aid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I mean that playing music that loud in a vehicle or with a personal music player, you are damaging your hearing.

I figure it is quite sad that some of the people who get the greatest enjoyment from music are causing themselves to slowly go deaf.

Taken as a whole, Cell phone in hand, wide temple glasses, hoodie on, pants down to the knees, and high platform shoes, makes for a very crippling ensemble. You can add personal music player and boom cars to that list.  Some would refer to it with this one word:


Here is one more look at the topic. I hope you have had a chance to check out the cartoon: The New Handicap — Wheel Tales of Willow City

The New Handicap

The New Handicap by DWPenner


A Crippled Generation? — part 3 of 3

Everywhere I look I see a crippled generation. I don’t mean people with actual physical or mental disabilities, but those people who are crippling themselves.

Continued from “A Crippled Generation? — part 2 of 3
A Crippled Generation? — part 1 of 3

A postcard (circa 1911) depicting a man and a ...

A postcard (circa 1911) depicting a man and a women dressed in the fashion of the era. Woman wears a hobble skirt, man points to her with his thumb. Caption: The Hobble Skirt “What’s that? It’s the speed-limit skirt!”  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There used to be a garment called a “hobble skirt“. They were long skirts… to the calf at least …that were tight around the knees and produced an effect not unlike hobbles used to keep horses from moving far. They are also used on prisoners so they can’t run.

The days of the hobble skirt are long passed, but both men and women are hobbling themselves.

Men are wearing pants where the waist is worn at the hip or lower and the crotch of the pants is at the knees. I haven’t a clue where this style came from, though suspect Rap or some other genre.

I think they are called saggy pants?

A number of times watching “Cops” and similar shows where police are chasing suspects that are wearing such trousers, the suspect is at an extreme disadvantage. If the pants stay in place it hinders their running, and often the waist slips down. The pants now with the belt around their knees hobbles them. Sometimes even sliding to the ankles and they are running like someone with their pants around their ankles.

A man walking with saggy pants in Paris.

A man walking with saggy pants in Paris. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am personally reminded of the pants for toddlers with extra room for the diaper and snaps between the legs for easier changes. I wonder if the wearers of these saggy rapper pants realize what they look like?

Regardless of whether it is a “style choice” and not a statement of some sort, they sure do a great job of hobbling a person.

Men aren’t the only ones hobbling themselves. I noticed a lot of women who had an odd gait. They just didn’t look like they were walking right. Then I noticed their shoes. Some had very high stiletto heels, others had chunky clog like soles. High Heels 800Regardless they looked almost camel-like as they walked. If they ever had to walk far or fast they’d have to get out of those shoes.

I know some things are fashion trends, but are we really a society that needs to be hobbled?

Actually, I am rather fond of fashion, even high fashion or couture, but on the street rather than at a night-club or fancy dress ball, it seems rather silly and crippling.

Taken as a whole, Cell phone in hand, wide temple glasses, hoodie on, pants down to the knees, and high platform shoes, makes for a very crippling ensemble. Or as some would put it:


This is the end of the three part article. Well… there is one more thing on the subject to come next Tuesday. In the mean-time have a look at a cartoon I did that is related: The New Handicap — Wheel Tales of Willow City

The New Handicap

The New Handicap by DWPenner


A Crippled Generation? — part 2 of 3

Everywhere I look I see a crippled generation. I don’t mean people with actual physical or mental disabilities, but those people who are crippling themselves.

Continued from “A Crippled Generation? — part 1 of 3

eyeglasses on white 800Eyeglasses have been around for centuries. The purpose of course is to improve vision one way or another. (Though for some the purpose is style.) Reading glasses, driving glasses, sunglasses, and just plain eyeglasses have frames that come in many different styles. Over the years new styles have come up and old ones relegated to nostalgia shops.

eyeglasses-166417_1280 1000I’ve noted a disturbing trend in many eyeglass frame. Those are glasses that have very wide “temples”. Temple is the proper term used for the “arms” of the frame.

They look stylish and some even have a purpose. However, they also act like the “blinders” a race horse or draft horse might wear to help them focus on the track/road ahead. It stops the horse from being distracted. Of course the jockey or wagoner/driver has a clear view to the sides. This is unlike the wearers of these fashionable frames.

glasses 01 1000Perhaps the wearer doesn’t like distraction so they can focus on the road ahead or their phone. The frames do play havoc with the peripheral vision. That means you are less likely to notice a person or motor vehicle approaching from the side.

Sunglasses 800There are some sunglasses where the temples help protect the eyes from light entering from the sides. The sunglasses like these most often don’t have solid temples, they have clear sections consisting of the same material the lenses are.

SignsProtection0004_1_SThere are also protective glasses that protect the eyes from debris caused by grinding or other manufacturing sorts of processes. Lab techs might also where glasses with side protection. In those cases they also have transparent temples beside the eyes. These protective pieces of eye-wear are often for times when full lab goggles aren’t considered necessary. People doing sports like racquetball and some other sports also have such protective glasses. Some don’t even have lenses, but have narrow enough openings that a ball can’t enter.

hoodie 03 800Of course that’s not the only way people are putting blinders on…

Hoods are useful, they can keep the Sun or rain off your head; they keep you warm; they can give you a feeling of anonymity; they can help you go incognito. Hoodies are prevalent among today’s youth and young adults.

hoodie 01 800Hoodies have many good things going for them. Of course they also allow you to focus on what is directly ahead of you and allow you to avoid distractions to either side.

Distractions like approaching cars; distractions like people to either side…

Each to their own I guess… but hoodies can act like blinders too.

See part three this coming Saturday. In the mean-time have a look at a cartoon I did that is related: The New Handicap — Wheel Tales of Willow City

The New Handicap

The New Handicap by DWPenner


A Crippled Generation? — part 1 of 3

Everywhere I look I see a crippled generation. I don’t mean people with actual physical or mental disabilities, but those people who are crippling themselves.

young-woman-with-cell-phone 2 800I think that we’ve all seen young people with their smart phone grafted to their hand. They don’t seem to put it down for any reason, even when they are fumbling to accomplish some complicated task with only one hand, a shoulder, their feet — complicated tasks like opening a door.

They remind me of “The Ood” from Dr Who. The “Ood” are a species of aliens always have a sphere in their right hand which translated languages for them. They acted a servants and workers during one time period in the future on various planets. It seemed very odd to me that the Ood would handicap themselves by always having that sphere in one hand.

handicapping smart phone 1 800People in our society don’t need to keep that hand occupied by a smart phone. There are cases, pouches, and many other places to tuck that telephone.

Of course, in part the issue is that these smart phone users simply want to stay in contact with their friends via text messages or talking on that phone. “Texting” actually takes two hands to write messages, though to read them only one.

They also want to be be entertained. So they have music, videos, games and more there in their hands.

living_with_a_cell_phone_08 800What cripples them is that they want to stay in touch and be entertained all the time. I’ve seen a young mother walking across a cross-walk at a fairly busy intersection pushing a stroller, walking a dog, and texting, or simply holding her smart phone. (image is not of that lady) Can you imagine taking care of a toddler and being in control of a dog, all with one hand?

It’s quite sad really. That is especially when there are people who would dearly love to have a second hand they can use, but only have the use of one hand — not because they are holding a phone.

See part two this coming Thursday. In the mean-time have a look at a cartoon I did that is related: The New Handicap — Wheel Tales of Willow City

The New Handicap

The New Handicap by DWPenner


A Step Back

Ford E-Series photographed in New Westminster,...

Ford E-Series photographed in New Westminster, British Coumbia, Canada. Category:Ford E-Series busesCategory:TransLink (British Columbia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

British Columbia’s Metro Vancouver public transit system is run by Translink; and they announced recently, that they are going to scrap a system by which people entitled to “HandyDART” access — which is a door-to-door minibus service that seniors and disabled folks can book — can  buy coupons to pay for 50% of taxi fares to supplement the service.


HandyDART (Photo credit: paulkimo90)

Translink feels that improvements to the HandyDART service — increasing it to 18 hours a day which includes evening until midnight — as well as the fact that nearly all public transit buses as well as other modes of transit are “accessible”, renders the TaxiSaver program unnecessary. The money saved by scrapping the program will be used to increase usage of taxis used to supplement the HandyDART service. Taxis are used when HandyDART vans aren’t available and using a taxi won’t compromise client care.

They expect to save $1.1 Million over the next 3 years and will be reinvesting $200,000 into the supplementary taxi service. (Facts from The Vancouver Courier)

Columbia Station

Columbia Station (Photo credit: DennisSylvesterHurd)

This might seem reasonable at first. A person in a wheelchair or using a walker can book a ride on the HandyDART to travel from doorstep to doorstep with an attendant for the price of bus-fare basically. They also can ride any transit bus and all the elevated rapid transit trains — SkyTrain — or cross harbour passenger ferry — Seabus — or the commuter rail — West Coast Express — as they are all “accessable” now. Of course I guess taxis are still an option, though at full price.

English: SeaBus crossing Burrard Inlet. ‪中文(繁體...

English: SeaBus crossing Burrard Inlet. ‪中文(繁體)‬: 海上巴士橫渡布勒内灣。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the other hand…

As I am led to understand, you can only take the bag or two you can carry when on the HandyDART. On public transit of course you might take a two wheeled grocery cart, if you can manage it with your wheelchair, mobility scooter, walker, or cane. Mind you, There is limited space on those accessible buses for scooters and chairs … and strollers, walkers… and once those are taken, there is no more room. The buses I take often have those spots filled. A driver might not take on someone with a grocery cart when someone on board has a baby stroller.

English: TransLink West Coast Express trains a...

English: TransLink West Coast Express trains at Waterfront Station in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even then, a person can only put so much in a two wheeled grocery cart. When you take a taxi you might do two or three weeks grocery shopping. That means only one trip every two or three weeks which makes a difference to a person who can’t get out much.When you are taking the bus things just might not work out — you might not be able to get from here to there.

For instance, you might walk 250 metres to the bus stop and take a bus 500 metres before transferring to another bus. which will take you 1 or 2 more km to where you get off and walk another 250 or so metres to the store. Then you still have to get the groceries before reversing the process on transit — With the groceries in that two wheeled cart. Of course since you can only get 1 week of groceries — if you can fit in a weeks worth or carry that much — you have to do it again each week. This is not so easy when to start with you have health issues and probably stamina issues.

TransLink Bus

TransLink Bus (Photo credit: nathanpachal)

The HandyDART won’t allow you to take enough on to do your groceries You also can’t bring other larger purchases that might fit into a cab. Public transit also just won’t work for many due to stamina issues and the complexity of handling a cart or grocery bags on a bus. Taxis are expensive and the TaxiSavers helped a lot. What else is there really?

Then there is the issue of needing to book the HandyDART in advance. Some things are just not bookable. Also from what I hear, people are unable to book rides because HandyDART is overbooked already. Perhaps the influx of more money might help, but then also there will be more need.

The TaxiSavers only paid half of the Cab-fare. The client paid the other half — so I figure it likely wasn’t abused.

Removing it seems a step back.

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