Author Archives: Laura Hall

5 Tips for Accessible Summertime Recreation and Fitness


by MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Winter seems to be finally over, and after months of my mobility being hindered by the snow, ice and cold, I am itching for some fun in the sun (as I suspect are most people who use mobility equipment). Here are just a few tips for recreational and fitness activities that are accessible for everyone.

1. Recreation and Fitness All in One

Adaptive sports can be a great way to get fit and have fun at the same time.  Many local communities have adaptive clubs and leagues.  If you’re not sure where to start, check out Michigan Adaptive Sports.  Their summer program includes clinics for adaptive kayaking and water-skiing.

2. Know Your Access Rights

pool with a ramp for entry and exitThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) outlines compliance standards for places of public recreation,  like parks, trails, beaches, and sports fields) and state and local government locations.  You may not know that since 2013, “Title III of the ADA requires that places of public accommodation (e.g., hotels, resorts, swim clubs, and sites of events open to the public) remove physical barriers in existing pools to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so (i.e., easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense).”  Removing physical barriers means that pools and spas should have an accessible means of entry and exit.  Oftentimes, this means they must have a pool lift , but there are other ways to create accessible entry/exits from pools as  well.  If you have questions related to the ADA and recreation or fitness locations, you can call the ADA Information Hotline through the Department of Justice at 800-514-0301 and receive information specific to your situation.

3. Explore what the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Has to Offer

EZ Launch Transfer System for kayaks and canoes at the Brighton State Recreation Area

EZ Launch Transfer System for kayaks and canoes at the Brighton State Recreation Area

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has an Accessibility Page that offers a wealth of information about accessibility in our state parks, campgrounds,  fishing sites, beaches, and more.  Travelling somewhere specific?  The DNR Recreation Search Application allows you to search by activity, trail, park or location, or you can see all of the places with accessibility features.

4. What’s Happening in Your Own Backyard?

Many local communities have their own adaptive programs or inclusive events.  Many Centers for Independent Living offer classes on gardening, painting, theater, wheelchair basketball, etc. and some have assistive technology for recreation, like recumbent bikes and handcycles.  If cycling interests you, consider checking out Programs to Educate all Cyclists (PEAC).  PEAC offers various cycling programs including their “2 by 2” program for people who are blind or have low vision

Also, watch for picnics and special events, sponsored by your local Center for Independent living and other disability organizations.   ADA celebrations are often held in late July around the anniversary of the law’s passage.

5. Host your own inclusive event!

Sip and Puff Fishing Rod

Creating an inclusive, accessible event may sound daunting to some, but oftentimes it requires only minor modifications and accommodations.  Putting forth the intention and effort is what you need to get started and knowing your guests and including them in the planning will help you pull it off.  For more tips on hosting an inclusive event see our webinars “AT for your Accessible Picnic”, and blog post “Hosting an Epic Party: Inclusive Style”.  More ideas on assistive technology for outdoor sports and recreation can be found on our webinar “Increasing Access and Participation in Outdoor Recreation” presented by Kathleen Laurin, Ph.D. from the University of Montana Rural Institute.   Keep in mind that the Michigan Assistive Technology Loan Fund offers loans for recreational equipment as well as functional equipment,

How are you planning to spend this summer?  Will you use assistive technology for recreation and/or fitness?


Buy the AT you need, sell what you don’t with the ATXchange!


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Two blue stick figures with oppositional arrows between the,


Assistive technology (AT) has become so ingrained in my life that I found myself looking for it at various garage sales this past weekend.  If only I could find that perfect backup powerchair that fit me correctly and had all the supports and functions I needed…

I know the chances are really slim.  An even better place to find used AT equipment for sale or up for donation is the Michigan Assistive Technology Program’s website  Like a Craig’s List especially  disability-related equipment, the ATXchange allows you to search for AT by phrase, keyword, or category.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can also list an item as “wanted”.  Who knows?  Maybe another user of the site has that exact item!

Perhaps your child has outgrown their AT, a family member has passed, or, like all of us, you just have stuff lying around. Listing it on the ATXchange helps that people who actually need assistive technology find it.   Buying a used item (or finding a donated item) may enable someone to have assistive technology they could not otherwise afford.  Providing as much detail in your listing as possible, and including photos typically increases the number of views it receives.  Our article, Using the ATXchange: Buying and Selling Tips also has great information about buying and selling.

Just a few of the many items currently listed for sale include:

  • Pedlar Leg Exerciser
  • 2005 Chevy Express 1500 AWD High Top Wheelchair Van
  • Amtryke AM 12 (child tryke)
  • Leather Electric Lift Chair

Do you have a Beasy Transfer Board, a wheelchair ramp, or an Easy Stand 5000?  Check out these listings for people in search of these items.

Have you had success buying or selling an item on the ATXChange?  Let us know!


Pain and Anxiety Relief With Mindfulness and AT


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Drawing of a man and a dog with thought bubbles. The man's bubbled is cluttered while the dog's has only trees. Caption reads

There is often an inside joke among people that have Cerebral Palsy (CP) related to how often we get told by those in the medical profession to “just relax”.  It’s funny, because, with CP of the spastic type, it is very difficult, if not impossible to get you muscles to relax especially if you’re trying or anticipating something painful.  Personally, being cold, anxious, tired, excited, or even having a thought can make every muscle in my body tighten.  There is a definite mind body connection when it comes to CP.  This is why, when learning about techniques to help with anxiety, insomnia, and shame resilience, I’ve had a hard time understanding exactly how to be mindful.  Mindfulness involves intentionally focusing your attention on the present moment, feeling relaxed, and accepting all of your thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgement.  How do I stay in the present, remain relaxed, and accept my thoughts?   That’s like the doctor telling me to relax before they poke me with a needle!

Yet, I decided to give mindfulness another try when my doctor recommended it as we were discussing the pain in my neck and shoulders from spasticity (I tend to pull my shoulders to my ears, especially at night).   After researching apps, books, cd’s and websites (there are many to choose from) I decided to try an app called HeadSpace (also a website), aimed at beginners, that takes you through a 10 minute mindfulness exercise for 10 days.  These exercises are free, but you can also get additional content with a paid subscription.  The app is easy to use and provides funny animation tutorials before the exercise.  The exercises themselves are easy to understand, and make a point to discourage efforting to make yourself relax.  That’s when it hit me – I was trying too hard to make myself relax instead of letting it happen naturally.

Index finger tracing the hand.Mindfulness is still not easy for me, it involves practice.  I can say that I am starting to get it, feel more relaxed, and even fell asleep one night during an exercise!  I’ve had to modify things a bit to help me stay in the present moment.  For example, I trace my fingers as I breathe in and out as a sensory reminder.  Other people have used tapping or hugging themselves as a way to enhance their mindfulness.  Assistive technology like weighted blankets, adult coloring books or objects like a smooth rock, candle, soft fabric, beads, or a bracelet work for other people.  My colleague, Aimee, has blogged extensively on alternatives to medication for depression, anxiety, PTSD, and relaxation. Check out:

Mindfulness doesn’t require you to sit with your legs crossed, burn incense, or say “ohm”.  You don’t even necessarily have to have your eyes closed. It just requires intention and practice and there is really no wrong way to do it.

What relaxation or pain relief techniques do you use?


Hosting an Epic Party – Inclusive Style!


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

Summer written in the sand with multi-colored flip flops

Even though sometimes it feels as though we’re still waiting on spring, summer is right around the corner.  The time for barbeques, reunions, picnics, weddings, and graduation parties.  While it can be a fun and exciting time for some, it can be a source of stress and anxiety for people with disabilities.  Typically, concerns come down to the following questions:

Can I access the venue – completely?

A man in a wheelchair at the bottom of stairs looking up while a woman decends the stairs

As a wheelchair user, I know that feeling of driving up to a party location and feeling my heart sink.  Steps!  At this point, I have to make the decision about skipping the party altogether or being carried into the home.  Personally, I find being carried is humiliating, and have set a personal boundaries not to attend events where that would be the situation.  Yet, even if I did allow myself to be carried or were to access the party some other way, the most dreaded question still weigh’s heavy on my mind:  Will I be able to go to the bathroom?  I don’t know if people without disabilities think about this often, but is constantly on my mind, especially when going out in public,  to someone’s home, or to somewhere I’ve never been.  You can’t make assumptions that a bathroom, even if in public, is accessible no matter what the symbol on the door says.  Of course, there’s also the unhelpful reality that thinking about not being able to go to the bathroom probably will make you have to go more.

Suction cip grab bar with locking mechanismWhen it comes to parties or public events, what makes them inclusive is intentional planning.  Know who your guests are, and ask them in person or in writing to tell you about what they might need.  Even better – include them in on making decisions about how you’ll meet their accommodation needs.  For physical access it may involve moving the event to a different location, a public or private place that is already accessible.  Did you know the Department of Natural Resource’s recreation search engine indicates accessible design features for state parks, campgrounds, and trailways?  Alternatively could you build a ramp or place a portable ramp?  Can furniture be moved to create more room (especially in the bathroom)?  Does your bathroom have room for a personal assistant and room for a wheelchair to turn around?  If you’re one of the lucky ones, and have a large bathroom or just the right layout, you may be able to install grab bars. Some grab bars don’t require drilling, but have suction and a locking mechanism that can still provide good stability.  It is always a good idea to test these out (perhaps with your disabled guests), to ensure they are strong enough.

Will I be able to participate or will I be trapped in a corner?

Stand holding a jug of tea with spoutSometimes, when arriving a party, someone (usually intending to accommodate my wheelchair) informs me that they’ve saved a spot, especially for me, where a chair has been removed. Typically, my “spot” is somewhere in a corner without a path of access to the restroom, food, or activities.  I’m trapped there – for the rest of the night.  It’s important to think about things like space between tables and height of tables, exits, placement of food and eating utensils,  potential obstacles or safety hazards for people who are blind or have low vision, etc.  Most people would prefer to get their own food if they are able to do so.  Assistive technology (AT) like table risers, easy to pour beverage containers, and even paper plate holders, straws, and cups with handles can add to independence.

Large print playing cards in a card holderBeyond being able to eat and participate in conversation, you may also want to consider the appropriateness of your activities if you have guests with disabilities.  For example, a game of badmitten or Twister in the backyard may not be the best choice if you have guests with mobility or visual disabilities.  Someone who is neurodiverse may have trouble with word games or complex board games.  Recreational AT, like braille or large print playing cards, card holders, and picture or tactile based games may be a better choice depending on your guests.

For more tips on making your party inclusive for everyone, check out our  webinar, “AT for your Accessible Picnic“, as the content is relevant for any event.

In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine!