Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Vaccinating For The Holidays

A man in a black shirt, and wearing a blue hospital mask,has his right sleeve rolled up. He looks down as a medical professional, positioned in the left side of the frame, applies a Band Aid to his exposed shoulder. She is facing away from the camera, but is wearing a white lab coat, a blue hospital mask, and has long, brown hair.
From cooking, to dressing, to working, to even caring for my dog, life as a wheelchair user requires
so much preparation. Whether I’m at home or going to hang out with friends, accessibility dictates the way that I, and other disabled people, have to live our lives. These feelings can be overwhelming. Trust me when I tell you that the holidays can cause us more stress than we usually experience, especially when it comes to accessibility-related anxiety. For example, whenever I go to somebody’s home, my mind frantically tumbles through a checklist. Can I get my wheelchair into the house for Thanksgiving dinner? Once I’m inside, do I fit at the kitchen table? Can I make my way around the globs of people and furniture, into the sitting area to talk with my family and friends? Sweat starts to bead across my temple as I wonder: Will my wheelchair fit into the bathroom?

In the past, we’ve written pieces about the physical accessibility of homes, and how to accommodate wheelchair users for holidays and other events. This year, we’re taking a slightly different approach. At this point, I know that you’re probably sick of reading and/or hearing about COVID-19. As a disabled person who loves spending time with my family during the holiday season, I am inclined to go over a few key details regarding measures that I’m taking to ensure my own health and safety.
Kyle sits in his wheelchair in the right side of the frame. He is wearing a black, collared shirt and a black face mask. The seat of his wheelchair in its downward positioned, only a few inches from the floor. Five masked students look at him as he talks about the seat functions of his wheelchair.

For those who may not know, I’m a quad-amputee. While I’m not technically immunocompromised, my body holds significantly less fluid than those of you with your arms and legs. Other than my lack of limbs, and though I’ve had some pesky allergies creep up over the years, I’m actually in very good health. Curse you, dust and pollen! Unlike myself, there are a lot of disabled people who are immunocompromised, and have other conditions that make it easier for them to get sick. When we’re talking about COVID-19, how do you think their conditions have affected the way that they live their lives? How do you think it’ll impact the way that they spend the holidays.

COVID-19 has obviously changed the way that we live. Who would’ve thought that we’d ever have to wear a mask into a grocery store, or stay six feet away from people in line? I certainly wasn’t prepared for this reality, and will be the first to tell you that it absolutely sucks. Because of the pandemic, I’ve had to pay particularly close attention to the way that I live my life. I’ve also had to be really careful about the people that I’m around, especially those who I’m around on a regular basis. I certainly can’t afford to occupy space with people who have not been vaccinated.

To top things off, I have to pay very close attention to the way that I handle myself in public. Since I don’t have hands, I usually use my mouth to pick up my phone or access my car keys. If I’m by myself, I feel extreme pressure to make sure that I don’t drop anything. Whenever I drop anything while I’m out and about, people are very nice about helping me retrieve the item I’ve lost. Usually, I’m super thankful for their help. However, and in lieu of COVID-19, I’m not keen on strangers retrieving things like my dropped phone or car keys.

When you’re around others, it’s also important to wear a face mask. In the spirit of this blog post, let me issue you a challenge: try to put on your face mask without using your hands. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Remember how I use my face to access my phone or car keys? Both of those become increasingly difficult while I’m wearing a face mask.

Since all of these precautions seem like such a pain, you may ask yourself, “Why does he bother?” To put simply, I care deeply about the lives of other people. Currently, I’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19, have received my booster, and regularly wear a face mask. None of these experiences have been enjoyable. Regardless of how I may feel, or how inconvenient it may be for me, I do whatever I need to in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Taking these precautions ensures that I keep my grandparents safe, as well as my aunts, uncles, cousins, mom, dad, and brother, all of whom assist me with my daily care. There are also a number of disabled people who, due to health complications, don’t have the luxury of getting vaccinated. We need to do everything we can to make sure that individuals like these are protected. That means: if you can get vaccinated, doing so will prevent immunocompromised people from getting sick and further spreading the virus.

Getting vaccinated, maintaining social distance, and wearing a mask in public are all very important ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With variants on the rise, including the newly identified Omicron, maintaining these safety measures is more important than ever. For the health and safety of disabled people, it’s even more important that we follow this protocol. Remember that disability comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you never know who may be immunocompromised, and therefore might not be able to get vaccinated for COVID-19. By protecting yourself, you’ll protect the rest of us.

Author & Producer:
Kyle Romano

Kyle and his boss Scott are shown together, behind a green Custom Mobility table cloth. Scott is on the right side of the frame, with his arm around Kyle's shoulders. Scott is wearing a royal blue collared shirt and Kyle is wearing a black, collared shirt, both of which have the Custom Mobility logo. Both are also wearing black face masks.

Friday, October 22, 2021

🎃 Having A Happy & Accessible Halloween 🎃

Whenever I think about Halloween, I’m immediately transported back to my childhood. I can feel the golden sunlight paint my forehead and the cool breeze brush against my cheeks. My brother and I are playing in the cul de sac, dressed as Michelangelo and Donatello from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, while one of our friends is dressed up as a zombie, and our other friend wears a Power Ranger costume. This scene seems pretty typical, right? In your mind, does it change at all when I tell you that I was zooming around the street in my power wheelchair?

Halloween is fun for children with and without disabilities. My friends never treated me differently, and helped me work around areas that weren’t accessible. If there was a car blocking the walkway to the front door, I’d wait on the sidewalk where the owner of the house could see me. I’d sit patiently, a smile blooming across my face, as my brother approached the front door and rang the doorbell. Whenever the door opened, my brother would point in my direction and mouth something that I couldn’t hear. Then he’d mosey down the driveway, the adults following just behind. I would tell them “Trick-or-Treat!” and they’d drop a few pieces of candy in my bag.

Regardless of their disabilities, we want our children to enjoy this holiday as much as possible. Unlike my experiences, many children have sensory sensitivity, especially those with autism or other types of cognitive disabilities. To make sure that these trick-or-treaters feel as comfortable and safe as possible, it can be helpful to slowly introduce them to Halloween-themed decorations and costumes. And just in case you need a few pointers, here are some tips to help you get ready for the spookiest day of the year.


If your child has sensory aversions, try to be as careful as possible, and mindful of any triggers that they might have. Here is some advice for teaching them in a patient, accepting, and safe environment.

  • Spiderwebs, ghouls, and shrieking goblins: As decorations begin popping up around town and in school, telling stories from your own childhood may help to alleviate some tension. Make sure not to expose your child too quickly, or to too many of these at once, since that could result in something like sensory overload. It may not seem like it, but be mindful that this can actually be painful for autistic people.
  • Superman, monsters, witches: By visiting stores with costumes on display, by browsing catalogs filled with Halloween characters, or by playing dress-up at home, you can learn about your child’s preferences, what they like, what makes them uncomfortable, and how to help them navigate that space. It might help to explain that costumes are made up of clothing and props, and that they don’t involve magic or don’t have to be scary.
  • Masks: Halloween masks can also make children uncomfortable. If your child feels uncomfortable either wearing a mask, or being around people who are wearing them, they might be afraid because they no longer recognize their family and friends. As you can imagine, this can be not only terrifying, but also disorienting. Try to look for masks that your child is comfortable wearing. You can even have him/her test out their mask and costume by looking at themselves in a mirror, and by making sure that they know you’re there. For some children, a simple game of peek-a-boo with a mask can also help them feel more  comfortable. If your kid enjoys art, helping them to create their own masks can also help.
  • Finding an accessible Halloween costume: If you’re searching for an accessible costume for your little trick-or-treater, it’s important to pay attention to any sensory aversions that they have, as well as any adaptive equipment that they use. There are actually some great accessible costume lines, some of which even transform wheelchairs into fantastic props, such as a spaceship or a car. Other costumes have pockets or cutouts that will still allow you to access feeding tubes and other equipment. These designs are also tag-free, and made from materials that are less abrasive to children with sensory sensitivities. Target and Disney even offer accessible costumes that feature popular characters, such as Disney princesses and characters from their popular movie “The Incredibles.”

Click here to see some great, and sometimes funny, DIY costume ideas for people with disabilities!

Plan Ahead

1. Is It OK To Avoid Crowds? – Of course! Crowds aren’t everybody’s favorite or ideal situation, and may be especially triggering for people with disabilities. For kids with a variety of disabilities, crowds can be loud and overwhelming. Noisy, unfamiliar events can be overstimulating for autistic children, which can be extremely painful, uncomfortable, and impossible for them to endure. To help your child have a great time, in a way that accommodates their needs, here are a few ideas:

Instead of participating in trick-or-treating areas that have a lot of traffic, it may help to travel to areas that aren’t as busy. If your child and their friends would be open to starting earlier, this may cut down on the amount of traffic that you’ll have.

Search for Sensory Friendly events, either online or through friends and other parents. If you don’t have any near you, maybe you and some other parents could even start your own!

You can avoid the crowds by staying home, watching fun Halloween movies, and even making your own, Halloween themed desserts.

It’s also an option to allow your child to give out candy from home. That way, they can experience the holiday at their own pace, and might help to familiarize them with Halloween from a distance, in an environment that is already comfortable.

2. The Perfect Amount of Time – Too many events, or events that are too long, might be incredibly overwhelming for some children with disabilities. What are some ways you can enjoy the holiday, that aren’t over-stimulating?

Haunted houses can be a lot for anybody, but can be especially stressful for people with disabilities. Some more accessible options can include less-stimulating activities like corn mazes, hayrides, or even a trip to a Halloween store. And if possible, as mentioned in our other examples, to avoid crowds, plan to go during a time that is less busy.

Depending on the type of event, you may want to ask some questions before RSVPing “Yes” to a Halloween party or event. You can ask about the number of guests, whether music will be played, or even about things like strobing lights.

3. Be Patient With Your Child And Yourself – Sometimes special needs children won’t enjoy dressing up and participating in the event you have planned. Be patient and come up with alternative costume options or start new traditions that are more comfortable for your child.

 As much as you want them be actively involved,  remember that Halloween might just be too much. Keep your child comfortable by allowing them to have a voice and tell you what they like or don’t like.

Try to find good ways to connect with your child. If something about the event might spark some interest for a short amount of time, it might be easier for you to enjoy the event with them.

It doesn’t all have to go as planned or the way you imagined. Having a special needs child doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy Halloween, you just have to come up with different ways to enjoy it with your child in a way that is comfortable.

4. Mapping Out a Trick-Or-Treating Plan

Role-play- Acting things out can help your child prepare for Trick-Or-Treating, may even be fun in the process. By using a door in your house, you can practice things like how to knock on a door or ring a doorbell, what to say when a door is opened, how to thank the person, as well as the correct time to say goodbye and leave.

Discuss the language your child may encounter- Since we don't go around yelling “Trick-Or-Treat!” during any other time of the year, talking about it could help them adjust to this new phrase. After all, people only Trick-Or-Treat on Halloween, so it might help to point that out to your child.

Create an itinerary beforehand- Some children, especially those on the spectrum, feel much more comfortable when they have a schedule to follow. If they aren’t keen on Trick-Or-Treating planning to go out for a few minutes, just to visit a few places, could be a great place to start.

Do a walk-through of the neighborhood ahead of time- This part can also be fun, and can give your child a sense of security and control. By choosing which houses you’ll visit, it may alleviate any uncertainty or anxiety that your child is feeling. It could also help to speak with your neighbors before visiting their houses. If they don’t know about your child’s disability, this may offer a great opportunity to speak with them about it.

These tips are a great starting place for any parent, who has a child or children with disabilities. Hopefully, they help you to have a more inclusive holiday that your child will love.

Click here for a few more tips!


SYNERGY HomeCare from a blog post written in 2018 "Celebrate Halloween In An Accessible Way"


Mary Carol Peterson

Kyle Romano

Editing & Production

Kyle Romano

Friday, August 20, 2021

2020 Summper Paralympic Games - Part 2

The Tokyo Paralympic Games will be held from August 24 – September 5, 2021. These events will feature six broad Paralympics categories: amputee, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, wheelchair, vision impairment, and “other."
For a list of the 22 Paralympic sports featured this year, check out part one of this blog post. Competitors will use racing wheelchairs for events that traditionally involve “running,” including the wheelchair division for athletes competing in athletics and triathlon. For para-cycling, there are divisions that use custom, adaptive cycles. These competitions are reserved for competitors who are either unable to use their legs, or who experience lower limb loss. There are a few other sports that require sport-specific wheelchairs, including: wheelchair basketball, tennis, fencing, and rugby.

Athletes use different kinds of sport-specific wheelchairs and hand cycles, depending on the sport. These include:

  • Racing wheelchairs are used for track and marathon competitions, as well as the “running” portion of the triathlon.

  • Custom arm-powered handcycles are used for both the para-cycling event, and the cycling portion of the triathlon. There are two designs, recumbent and kneeling, which are designed to maximize the different abilities of each athlete.

  • Fencing wheelchairs are locked into place and have certain armrest requirements. Competitors wear the same safety equipment as Olympic fencers, and use the same electronic scoring system. And based on their functional ability, athletes compete in either Category A or B.

  • Tennis wheelchairs have a lot of maneuverability, which means that they’re quick, and that they can turn fast. These design choices are important for the athletes to get to the ball as quickly as possible, while propelling and holding a tennis racket at the same time!

  • Basketball wheelchairs are also built for speed. Since it is a team sport, players must be able to maneuver in tight areas, especially near the basket.

  • Rugby wheelchairs are built for wheelchair-to-wheelchair contact. Depending on the athletes’ classification, and whether they play offense or defense, the wheelchair designs can differ.

  • Customization: Whether it is for an individual sport competition, or for a team-based sport, each wheelchair is custom-built to maximize athletic performance and physical ability.

About the sports:

Track (Athletics): Athletes will be competing in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m on the track, and also be running the marathon. Click here for the full schedule.

: These athletes are divided into separate categories: visually impaired, upper and lower limb loss, coordination deficits, and those with lower extremity, leg paralysis, or limb loss.

    Cyclists with visual impairment race on tandem cycles, with a sighted cycler seated in front.

    Athletes, who can use a “standard” bicycle, compete in five sport classes: C1-C5. The lower the class number, the more the athlete experiences mobility limitations in their lower and/or upper limbs.

    Tricycle athletes are divided into two classes, T1 and T2. The lower the class number, the more the athletes experience significant coordination impairments. 

    Handcycling has five classifications: H1-5, where lower numbers indicate restrictions in both upper and lower limbs, and higher numbers indicate restrictions only in lower limbs. Hand cycles. used in the H1-4 divisions, feature a reclining or lay-down position. H5 athletes use a handcycle in the kneeling position because they have less impairment and have more trunk musculature.

Wheelchair Tennis: Wheelchair tennis has an Open Men’s Division, Open Women’s Division and a Quad Division. They play singles and doubles matches, which follow the same rules as stand-up tennis. However, players get two bounces to return the ball, instead of one.

Wheelchair basketball: Wheelchair basketball is a fast-paced game, played by teams of five players. Like stand-up basketball, the object is to shoot the ball into the opposing team’s basket.

In addition to the five players on the court, each team also has seven substitutes. The match takes place over four periods, which are ten minutes long.  Players are assigned points as their classification, ranging from 1-4. There are also 0.5 classes for “exceptional” cases, reserved for athletes who don’t easily fit into one class. The 4.5 category is reserved for players with the least amount of limitations. Classification is based on the players’ ability to perform certain actions that are required to play the sport, such as: pushing, pivoting, shooting, rebounding, dribbling, passing, and catching.

The points system was designed to keep this competition fair and balanced. At any time, 14.0 is the maximum number of total points that is allowed on court. This number includes the total number points of all five, active players, combined. If a coach allows the team to have over 14.0 points, that team will incur a technical foul on the bench.

Wheelchair rugby: Wheelchair rugby is similar to wheelchair basketball because it also uses a point system. The sport was originally named murderball, but is now called quad rugby in the United States. This name is based on a requirement: all wheelchair rugby players must have disabilities that include some loss of function, in at least three limbs. Although most players have spinal cord injuries, players can play if they have multiple amputations, neurological disorders, or other medical conditions. Players are assigned a functional level in points, and each team’s total can’t be higher than eight points.

Wheelchair rugby is played indoors on a hardwood court, and physical contact between wheelchairs is an integral part of the game. The rules include elements from wheelchair basketball, ice hockey, handball, and rugby union.

Where to watch?

The schedule:

NBC Universal will air a record 1,200 hours of Paralympic coverage from the Tokyo Games, including the first NBC primetime broadcasts in history. Coverage presented by Toyota includes more than 200 TV hours between NBC, NBCSN, and the Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. It’ll also be streamed on Peacock, as well as NBC Sports digital platforms, totaling more than 1,000 hours.

NBC’s primetime coverage will feature top stories and moments from competition, plus athlete profiles and interviews with a focus on Team USA.

NBCSN airs the Opening Ceremony and Closing Ceremony live, plus daily coverage from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. ET from Tokyo, which will be 13 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern time.

The Olympic Channel will show live coverage, and will also air extensive replays., the NBC Sports app, and Peacock will live stream all TV coverage. and the NBC Sports app will also show: archery, badminton, boccia, canoe, cycling, equestrian, goalball, judo, marathons, rowing, shooting, sitting volleyball, soccer, swimming, table tennis, track and field, triathlon, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis.

Peacock will air medal round competition, including men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball, and women’s sitting volleyball. These events, as well as wheelchair rugby and marathon races, were won by the U.S. in Rio in 2016.

Team USA

Track and Field:

17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden is on the hunt to qualify for her sixth Paralympic Games. Currently, she holds the record for most track and field gold medals by an American woman, both Olympic and Paralympic. On the men's side, look for Aaron Pike and Josh George! Click here to learn more.

Para Cycling:

Among the six athletes going to Tokyo, five of the U.S. Paralympians are returning from the previous competition. 

Will Groulx (MH2) goes into Tokyo with four Paralympics under his belt. Though he competed in wheelchair rugby for his first three appearances, he won the road race in 2016. Not to mention that he also placed 2nd in the time trial and team relay.

Alicia Dana (WH3) also returned from Rio with some hardware, winning a silver medal in the time trial. She upgraded that to a gold medal from the most recent world championships, in 2019, where she also took second in the road race. Tokyo will be the third Paralympics for the 52-year-old.

After a dominating performance at the Team USA trials in June, Army veteran Tom Davis (MH4) is heading back to the Paralympics. He boasts the top time of any athlete, relative to their respective Tokyo qualification standard.

Four years ago in Rio, Oksana Masters (WH5) fell just short of the podium, finishing fourth in the road race and fifth in the time trial. The multi-sport star, who has won a combined eight Paralympic medals as a rower and Nordic skier will now have her opportunity to add to that in Tokyo.

After finishing fourth in the road race in Rio, Freddy de los Santos (MH5-kneeling division) is headed back to the Paralympics with something to prove. De los Santos joined the Army after 9/11, losing his leg and sustaining a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle was attacked in Afghanistan. After struggling with depression and substance abuse, he discovered Para-cycling and now, at age 51, is headed to his second Paralympics.

Tokyo will be the first Paralympic games for para cyclist Ryan Pinney (MH3). After a pair of wins at April’s U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open, and his first world cup medal at a May event in Belgium, you could say that he’s coming in hot. Pinney is known for his flashy hand cycle, painted magenta and grey. It also features the initials of his daughter Addison’s, among other decorations. For more information on the U.S. team's cyclers, click here.

Wheelchair Tennis:

David Wagner, a four-time Paralympian and eight-time Paralympic medalist, has been one of the top names in the sport for close to 20 years. Wagner has earned a medal in singles and doubles events in the quad division, at each of his last four Paralympic Games. Click here for more info.

Wagner will team up again with Nick Taylor, his doubles partner for the last four Games. Because he can’t propel a manual tennis wheelchair, Nick competes in a power wheelchair. In fact, he’s the only power wheelchair athlete in the sport. Each of these quad athletes secures their tennis rackets to their arms by using a special kind of tape.

Wheelchair Basketball:

The U.S. mens and womens teams travel to Tokyo as the defending gold medalists from Rio. In the mens quest for Paralympic gold, key players will include returning gold medalists Steve Serio, Matt Scott, Jake Williams and Josh Turek. Click here to learn more.

Trooper Johnson, the U.S. womens national team head coach, believes this years team is one of the strongest squads ever. The USA’s women’s team for wheelchair basketball will include first-time Paralympians Rose Hollermann and Abby Dunkin. Both have had time to develop and mesh with veteran players like Becca Murray and Natalie Schneider. Click here to meet the members of the U.S. Women's Basketball Team.

Paul Schulte will be a featured commentator for wheelchair basketball. He played in multiple competitions for the USA’s Paralympic men's wheelchair basketball team, and now lives in our home state of Florida.

Wheelchair rugby: The U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby Team has just one thing to focus on: Getting back on top of the medal stand.Team USA has the most wheelchair rugby gold medals since the sports Paralympic debut in 1996, but is seeking its first championship since the Paralympic Games Beijing 2008. Click here to meet the team.

Athlete highlights: click here to find your favorite athletes

Detailed Classification information for track and field:

You may be wondering: what do all of the letters and numbers mean in track and field?

Classes are given a number. Each number is prefixed with either a T, which stands for track, or an Ffor field.

  Impairments are split into groups. For example, visually impaired athletes are in the tens (T11, T12 and T13), and athletes with coordination impairments are in the thirties (T31-38).

  These numbers also represent every athlete’s level of impairment. The lower the number is within each impairment type, the more severe the impairment.

Running and jumping (16 classes)

  T11-13 (Visual impairment)

  T20 (Intellectual impairment)

  T35-38 (Co-ordination impairments)

  T40-41 (Short stature)

  T42-44 (Lower limb affected by limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement)

  T45-47 (Upper limbs affected by limb deficiency, impaired muscle power or impaired range of movement)

Wheelchair racing and field events (7 classes): ’T, which stands for track, or an Ffor field.

  T-34 (Co-ordination impairments)

  T51-54 (Limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power, or impaired range of movement)

Field Standing throws (15 classes)

  F11-13 (Visual impairment)

  F20 (Intellectual impairment)

  F35-38 (Coordination impairments)

  F40-41 (Short stature)

  F42-44 (Lower limb(s) deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power, or impaired range of motion)

  F45-46 (Upper limb(s) deficiency, impaired muscle power, or impaired range of motion

Field Seated throws (11 classes)

  F31-34 (Coordination impairments)

  F51-57 (Limb deficiency, leg length difference, impaired muscle power, or impaired range of motion)

Mary Carol Peterson

Vaccinating For The Holidays

From cooking, to dressing, to working, to even caring for my dog, life as a wheelchair user requires so much preparation. Whether I’m at ho...