HOW CAN YOU KNOW WHAT YOU NEED UNTIL YOU FIDDLE WITH IT YOURSELF?

Sales exhibitions give us an opportunity to fiddle with things—Máiríde Woods reports on what she saw at two recent shows in Dublin.

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It’s getting easier to see those cumbrous items known as ‘assistive devices’ in the flesh—or in the upholstery and metal. Last October in the RDS Dublin, CARE Ireland held an exhibition of aids, appliances and items which can bring a bypassing of disability. A somewhat similar exhibition took place the following month—the Access and Mobility Exhibition at the National Show Centre near Dublin Airport. Until you are faced with technology in action, it can be difficult to assess its possibilities. Nowadays technology can transform life for people with physical disabilities—if they can afford it, that is, and if they get matched with the right device. And you can’t beat being able to touch and try something out for yourself-

The display stands included the latest in car conversions—Fiats mainly—with ramps and hoists, which look more streamlined than conversions of yore. AUTO MOBILITY were the firm doing the display. The Jacuzzi Movement has also come to disability—Hydrotherapy Ireland showed a system which could be installed in your average small bathroom, and which could help with aches and pains as well as adding to the sensory experience of those with severe disabilities.

The Perfect Chair was my favourite—maybe, some Christmas, Santa might bring me one—though there’s no way it would fit down the chimney. You can change your position by pressing a button and in zero gravity position it can elevate your legs above your heart. Apparently that’s the healthiest way to sit—well, that’s what the man said. The same company produces a massage chair which can combine ‘rolling, kneading and tapping’ massage—without the need to call on a masseuse. The REAL MASSAGE CO. are the people to call. Massage beds were also on offer from ADJUSTAMATIC BEDS IRELAND.

I also liked the neater type of hoist, called a Molift quick raiser, although it is only suitable for people who have some upper body strength. Another neat-looking device was the Aerolet toilet lift that allows people with some upper-body strength to use the toilet independently. Still in the bathroom, CREATIVE HEALTHCARE LTD displayed a clever system for adjusting the bathroom floor when a walk-in or wheel-in shower is needed. This system—finished in non-slip material—was placed over the original floor to provide the necessary ‘fall’ to allow water to drain away.

Smaller items which caught my eye were security devices and reminder alarms for those of us who have mislaid our memories (Remind me to order one.). While aimed at the grey panther market, they could also be useful for people with learning disabilities who live independently and need to remember to take tablets at certain times.

Those fiendishly clever computers were also whirring away on various stands, and they have revolutionised life for people with visual impairments. One man demonstrated the Voice Diary which uses voice-recognition technology, includes a Notepad and a phonebook, and can be connected to the telephone. Such items could be useful to people with some learning disabilities or with limited hand movements.

The exhibition wasn’t exclusively about aids—for instance, the Calvert Trust from the North of England had a stand advertising ‘Great holidays for people of all abilities’. These ranged from self-catering in log chalets, activity holidays ( including sailing, canoeing, archery), to Care Package Holidays which include 24-hour care and support, all meals and daily activities. Not part of a Bord Fáilte package , I’m afraid, but someday, maybe?

In theory, a good occupational therapist should be able to point you in the direction of the technical aids you need. But because everyone’s needs are individual and because seeing such devices enlarges one’s ideas of what is possible, it’s a good idea to visit exhibitions like these to become an informed and demanding customer!

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