Lifestyle & Culture

Shoulders Need to be Your Best Friend

Welcome to Kakana’s monthly newsletter. A curation of important disability, accessibility, fitness, and anything else we think is relevant stories people are talking about. We will give our take, guests will give theirs, and we will add in some fun and interesting tidbits as well.

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Shoulders Need to be Your Best Friend

Wheelchair users often experience upper extremity injury and pain. Estimates are that upwards of 70 to 100% of individuals will experience upper extremity pain using their wheelchair at some point in their lives. These consequences become more likely the longer one uses a wheelchair. The effects occur in three main locations:

  • Wrist and carpal tunnel 40-66%
  • Elbow 5-16%
  • Shoulder 30-60%

Can I get the why and how to fix it? For most wheelchair users their shoulders become the primary loader for transferring. Using a wheelchair puts significant demands on the upper extremities due to some of the following:

  • Repetitive trauma and loading
  • Muscle imbalances
  • Poor seated posture (scoliosis, kyphosis) and shoulder function
  • An incorrect technique used during wheelchair ambulation

The magic pill is…you guessed it…exercise. Exercise and weight training on a regular basis help prevent injury, but it also helps reduce existing pain. Current guidelines suggest that adults should engage in at least 20 min of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity two times per week and strength training exercises two times per week. Integrate flexibility exercises into your fitness programs to maintain a normal range of motion in the upper body.

Get on the stretching train. Studies have shown a combination of regular stretching of the anterior upper body and strengthening exercise for the posterior upper body to treat and manage shoulder pain. It has been recommended that a home exercise program needs to be completed a minimum of 3 days a week for it to have a significant impact on improving shoulder health. We would be silly not to mention Jesi Stracham’s Functional Mobility class was created for shoulder health.

Some Bullet points in case you felt the copy above was too long and boring.

Stretching Benefits:

  • Reduces muscle tightness and soreness
  • Maintains good shoulder range of motion and mobility
  • Assists with correcting postural issues associated with sitting for prolonged hours (scoliosis, thoracic kyphosis)

Strengthening Benefits:

  • Increases muscular endurance and reduces the onset of fatigue
  • By strengthening the supporting muscles around the shoulder gives it greater support to decrease the risk of shoulder injuries
  • Help joint stabilization, power production for transfers, and wheelchair propulsion

Ride-Sharing Needs an Upgrade

“I think Lyft’s got to look into its own soul to see what’s best and what looks best.”

It’s never a good sign for a company’s cultural identity when a judge feels the need to make a statement like the one above. For the full article, here you go.

The Justice Department has been busy with the ride-sharing companies in the last 3 years. First Lyft was sued for violating the ADA. It settled with the Justice Department Under in 2019, the ride-sharing service will update its policies to ensure that people using foldable wheelchairs and walkers have equal access to rides.

Next up for the Justice Dept is Uber. The Justice Department sued Uber, accusing the company of discriminating against passengers with disabilities by charging them fees when they needed more time to enter the ride-hailing vehicles. This one is ongoing.

But this isn’t Uber’s first disability issue, it was ordered to pay a blind woman in San Francisco $1.1m after she was refused rides on 14 occasions. In the UK, Paralympic medallist Jack Hunter-Spivey said in September that Uber and other taxi drivers regularly drove off when they saw that he was a wheelchair user.

Are Electric Vehicles Driving With Disability in Mind 

Electric Vehicles, or EVs as we call them now, have been quite the talk of the town from conspiracy theories to clean environment arguments. Always being intrigued by EVs and searching for a new vehicle to buy, I took a chance and bought a BMW i3. This EV removes the need to go to a gas station (a big issue when using a wheelchair) which saves tremendous amounts of money and energy itself. (Gotta save up for that new TiLite, am I right?) But the performance? The instantaneous torque? The “never dragging my chair out at Sunoco to pump gas because the one attendant won’t answer the phone?” Priceless!

Putting aside the cost savings in Federal Tax Rebates, never buying gas again, incentives from your home electric and utility company, here was the ultimate win: “one-pedal driving.” Yes, you drive with one pedal. I’m a big fan of “portable hand controls” and most of the world is familiar with them now as Business Executives that need to travel and rent cars have really adopted their use. I also use permanent mount hand controls in cars I own outright or have a “throttle cable” at the intake as opposed to drive-by-wire technology. Whatever your choice maybe, in the world of EVs and One-Pedal Driving, it becomes an amazing experience for hand controls… pull equals go, “let-off” equals coast, and if you want to stop, just literally let go of the hand controls.

Now of course there’s still a brake pedal to push down on for that inevitable Deer in the woods or the idiot on the Long Island Expressway, but after an hour or so of driving my new EV, I have hit the brakes maybe twice in the past 1000 miles. Every trip is the easiest and cheapest drive I’ve ever taken. I enjoy driving. I enjoy saving money. I enjoy my independence. I enjoy the return of the suicide doors and clamshell vehicles. We don’t necessarily need “Wheelchair Vans” in the future — I’m looking at your mobility independent wheelchair users — but what we do need to do is to start saving money and enjoying freedom!

My experience is just one of many, my BMW i3 has no center console, no shift handles, and clamshell doors… the epitome of a wheelchair van in a sports car. The new Rivian Trucks will lower themselves, via remote control, to the ground for a wheelchair user to transfer into. Some Teslas also lack big center consoles and have clamshell doors on some of their vehicles. New EV Silverados and the new EV Hummer will have a pickup bed for the wheelchair hoist with plenty of power available in battery life. 

My conclusion…EVs make the future bright for disabled drivers and as less equipment to push and pull on evolves, along with autonomous driving and cost savings in our monthly budgets progress, our independence can really increase. Ease of use and saving money is one of the biggest challenges any physically disabled auto-buyer can experience. I’ve grown tired of it after 30 years and almost settled for a vehicle I didn’t really want. Going the EV way has opened my eyes while closing my wallet (until I go shopping for that all new high-performance Titanium Rigid Frame chair.)

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