The Rolling Reviewer- A Few of My Favorite Things

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By Janelle Eckardt

January
1, 2008 (San Diego) —
 There is no denying that the oversaturation
of bright lights, holiday music, and the overabundance of sales successfully
lures us into shopping every year for that one special thing we may have written
off as excessive two months ago, but that is suddenly now budding into a necessity.
And while that glorious gadget that will simultaneously style your hair and
reorganize your PDA is still out-of-stock in January, you may consider marrying
your urge to boost the economy with the interest to provide a true necessity
for someone special in your life. Whether you're shopping for someone you know
or for yourself this year, it pays to be on top of all the new and exciting
adaptive technology coming out daily. So look out Burp-Me-Elmo, I'm highlighting
some of the best sources and products sure to bring lasting smiles long after
the holiday season.

The saying goes that necessity is the mother of all invention; what this fine
adage leaves out, however, is that necessity also tends to bear Einstein's
genius level of frustration in us all, as well. For many people with particular
and often times highly individualized needs, it can be incredibly challenging
to access the tools to meet even the simplest daily requirements. It is for
that very reason that a brain trust of sorts has developed across the country
and world, fueled by "inventors" acting out of necessity to make lives more
vibrant for everyone. Luckily for me, I was born into a family of such inventors
-- strangely enough, many of them only stumbled into their lab coats and bifocals
after my sister and I joined the clan. Our parents understood that while my
sister and I may face limitations and obstacles, we would not sit idly by and
miss out on enjoying ourselves. When commercial children's swim equipment didn't
work, my mom devised air tubes we could sit in that supported our posture and
still let us splash around. My uncle built a swing set we could drive our electric
wheelchairs on after he saw one that another family had ingeniously developed
for their kids. And at a time when ventilators were not widely accepted as
being portable, we had wooden trays attached to carry our equipment and batteries.

For anyone who has jury-rigged, modified, concocted, or reverse engineered
any form of adaptive equipment my stories are hardly remarkable. Every person
with unique circumstances has come up against a wall that required a unique
explosion to knock it down. Though, it seems many of us are so accustomed to
addressing our own needs that we're unaware of all the innovations that have
finally been mainstreamed into the commercial market. Accommodations for the
hearing-impaired, sight-impaired, mobility-impaired, and the patience-impaired
can now be found in large varieties and qualities online. Thousands of products
have been designed with specific conditions in mind, and are backed by professionals
who at last understand the customer's needs and concerns. 

After spending much time researching the latest online venues for everything
adaptive equipment-related, and after considering the devices that have helped
me the most, I've put together a list of products and resources that is in
no way complete, but one I hope will lead anyone interested in the right direction
of finding that one special thing to make his or her life a little better –
if only to give our inventors a little time off.

The New York based web company, adaptivemall.com,
caters primarily to children with special needs and their families. Adaptivemall
offers a well rounded selection of products intended to stimulate and support
children at their highest functioning level. Specialty strollers, pushchairs,
classroom equipment, therapeutic toys, bicycles, car seats, lifts, mobile standers,
and even adaptive swings are only some of the categories covered. Shoppers
will be relieved to know that licensed occupational and physical therapists
directly handle each step of the ordering process, and personally ensure each
product is properly sized for the customer. Considering the high price tag
that is usually directly proportionate to the quality of adaptive equipment,
there is the small consolation of knowing your order of $100 or more will be
shipped for free. Did I mention most products come with a 30-day trial period,
so you won't be plagued by buyer's remorse? Adaptivemall's thoughtful and comprehensive
selection is impressive, but I was particularly struck by the "Bus Transport"
section that offers crash tested strollers and wheelchairs--an obvious safety
concern that was largely ignored when I was bus-riding age.

maxiaids.com, another web supply company
based in New York, offers an astounding array of adaptive devises suited for
multiple disabilities and lifestyles. Products are organized into six main
categories: Blind and Low Vision, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Mobility, Medical
and Health, Household, and Technology. MaxiAids is a one-stop-shop for anything
and everything you've ever considered tinkering with--thousands of talking
watches are offered in both men's and women's styles for folk with limited
eyesight; various styles of eating utensils shaped and weighted for those with
limited hand and arm strength and/or mobility; and grooming tools designed
for safety and convenience. And just like Adaptivemall, MaxiAids provides free
shipping on all land orders costing more than $100. Lastly, gift card denominations
cap off at $1,000...just in case you were wondering.        

The most important thing to remember when picking a gift that influences how
someone interacts with their surroundings is that you don't have to spend a
ridiculous amount or search out a rare find to make that difference. In fact,
many things we all use for one function each day have great hidden potential.
My sister, the texting queen of California, discovered untouched territory
of obsession once she programmed her phone to complete words from only a couple
letters typed. One of my favorite home accessories is a personal-sized wooden
Lady Suzan on my kitchen table that allows me to access my food, drink, and
anything else I please simply by turning it. Whether it comes from a website,
magazine, or your own imagination, the freedom your gift affords is truly priceless.
So look around, humor the inventor within, and pick a gift not only worthy
of receiving, but worthy of giving too.

Janelle graduated last year from UCSD
with a BA in English literature. She is currently feeling out her place in
"the real world," while simultaneously devising a formula for Guinness-flavored
lip gloss. Janelle is a native of this most beautiful of counties, and is absolutely
bent on showing it off to the world: bumpy sidewalks and all. And if she knows
anything, it is this: bucket lists are for procrastinators--live as though you
are...living.