Guest Author - Monica J. Foster
During the holidays, gift giving becomes a never-ending quest for something different from years past. While it’s not the gift itself that counts, there is something to be said for putting some thought into unique and helpful gifts for people with disabilities from one to 92. Don’t worry, though. Buying a gift for someone with a disability really isn’t as hard as it may seem. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you complete your shopping gift list.
Buying a gift for someone with a disability is not all that different from buying gifts for anyone else. Why not try online with AblePlay? I heard parents of special needs children I know say they’ve found great toys and games for their kids. At www.ableplay.com, they now feature a Top 10 list of their newest products. AblePlay is an initiative from the nonprofit National Lekotek Center, division of the nonprofit Anixter Center, and the leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities.
AblePlay’s website gives parents and professionals an easy tool to review and purchase some of the newest off-the-shelf toy offerings and relate them to children with physical, sensory, communicative and cognitive disabilities. AblePlay’s unique evaluation process provides product information categorized by disability to simplify the toy-buying experience.
Beyond considerations of the child’s challenges, consider that child’s interest just as you would any other child. Even toys and games bought from a typical store are nice and a child in a wheelchair may appreciate a toy that not only encourages their interest and expression, but can also be played with on a tabletop rather than forcing them into the awkward task of getting in the floor and back up again. Encourage creativity with art supplies, dress-up items and games that support inclusive play with other children with or without disabilities as well.
As for clothes, being able to put an item on is just as important as the style. Consider things like fabric selection, items that don’t move around too much and are comfortable. Fabrics that are too slick like silks and satins not only are hard to clean, but may be to slick for active wheelchair users who transfer many times during the day independently. Imagine trying to slide in and out of a chair in slacks or a skirt in a slippery fabric. Not only will a person not get much traction, but he or she could very well slide right out of their seat. This is not what was meant by fashion accident. Rough fabrics, by contrast, can cause raw skin. Consider the individual’s preferences, but breathable, easy to wash and wear fabrics are much better than a more expensive option.
Items that allow for enough movement are important to a wheelchair user or someone with a brace. Clothing that is too tight can make it difficult to get into and out of, not to mention constrict blood flow in unhealthy ways. Nobody wants to feel constricted or that their clothes are too baggy to be flattering. Having to make sure clothing stays in its place should be the least of the wearer’s worries.
Remember to look for options that are designed to foster independence, fit easily, are machine washable and dryable, and possibly have elastic bands or draw strings to adjust over sensitive skin, braces and orthotics comfortably.
You may want to consider adaptive clothing companies like Buck and Buck that specialize in adaptive clothing. Buck and Buck, based in Seattle, Washington can be found online at www.buckandbuck.com. They specialize in particular in senior-friendly clothing that promotes independence and easy of wearing for seniors with mobility and mental disabilities. For children, Special Clothes (www.special-clothes.com) features items with Velcro® closures, snap crotches, bib fronts, and G-tube access openings designed to be inconspicuous. Special Clothes’ merchandise provides the features a parent or caregiver needs while preserving the child's dignity, and boosting self-confidence. The clothing doesn’t scream, “I’m wearing special clothes.”
For wheelchair users who crave a little more personality beyond fashionable paint colors, why not consider buying wheelchair spoke guards? Bicyclists sometimes have clear plastic covers with sporting company logos on them. Wheelchairs can have something, too, for the person to express their true colors! At Wheels of Fun based in Texas, the wheelchair is a thing of beauty and unique personality, particularly for children, with several designs to choose from. And, they also welcome custom designs for a little bit extra. The spoke guards attach to spokes with Velcro straps and are washable. Shop with them online at www.wheelsoffun.com.
People who spend a lot of time in bed for health reasons may appreciate a new set of pajamas from PajamaGram at www.pajamagram.com, some pretty new bedding, books to read, or a mix of their favorite teas, coffees or chocolates. And who wouldn’t want a caddy for their books and remote while resting in bed to make it harder to lose them between the sheets? Easy to reach and organized items make being in bed less frustrating.
Beyond items that celebrate the unique needs of a person with a disability of any age, do remember to listen to hints for what to give a loved one. It may be that a gift card to a favorite store or restaurant, tickets to a show, simply offering to spend time with them crafting or helping them redecorate the house is what they really crave.