About a month ago I read a review of the Abilities Expo that was held in New Jersey. It peaked my interest because there were a number of providers there showing the latest in assistive technology as well as converted vans for wheelchairs, and the company that makes Kade’s wheelchair was there. I quickly looked up the website of Abilities Expo and found that they were coming to Chicago in early July. Annette and I decided since it was close and we could visit Amy and Tony, that we would make the trip.
We started making plans and I ended up with a killer hotel deal thanks to priceline. I was able to book the Double Tree in Schaumburg for $45/night! While I was at work Friday Annette and Jackson packed up the van. I got home, grabbed my camera bag and put it in the van. I noticed the van was sitting a bit low, and I thought “I know we are not taking THAT much luggage”. I looked at the right rear tire, it was ok. I looked at the left rear tire, FLAT. Long story short, the valve stem broke, had to be replaced but parts had to be ordered. So we packed all our stuff, including Kade’s wheelchair in my Buick LeSabre (yes I drive an old man car). Surprisingly everything fit, and we hit the road. We rolled into town about 2 hours later than expected and headed straight for IKEA to do some shopping.
Saturday morning we went to IKEA for breakfast and then we headed over to the Expo. We got registered and immediately started seeing products we thought Kade could use. The first booth we visited was a company that made custom very “cushy” chairs for Special Needs kids. Kade seemed to like sitting up in the chair, and of course Jackson had to try a few of them out. We also got to meet with the Otto Bock reps. They let Kade try out a new stander and it seemed to fit him rather well. When we were putting back in his wheelchair the rep said “umm you do know that his headrest is on upside down right?”. Yeah that made us feel like great parents. We had NO CLUE the head rest was on upside down!
We also saw a guy that had turned a standard 42” LCD tv into a touch screen computer. It was pretty cool because the tv was mounted on hydraulics that could raise and tilt the screen to a desired level and angle. The salesman told me that they are selling a good number of them to VA hospitals for therapy purposes.
We saw a number of converted vans for sale as well. We were very impressed by the newer conversion styles of the rear entry vans. All of the rear entry vans we had seen up until now, the person in the wheelchair had to ride in the “back back” of the van. Now these companies are customizing the middles captain seats to allow the wheelchair rider to sit in the middle of the van rather than the back. Fully loaded the van could hold 7 people including the person in the wheelchair. It was really neat
By far the coolest thing I saw was a product that a man that lost his legs in a tragic accident invented. He took a wheelchair seat, and put it on the base for the Segway. Rather than using their hands to move the wheelchair, the person riding just has to lean forward or back to move the wheelchair. It was really cool to watch person after person try it out and be amazed at the convenience of it.
We also got to meet representatives from FamilyNetworkTV.com. Susan and Tara are two really funny ladies, and they interviewed us about our experience at the Expo. They also let Jackson play cameraman for a bit. Family Network TV is an WebTV and radio station that hosts shows for and about the Special Needs Community. Their goal is to connect families so they know they are not the only ones “fighting the fight”. More on FamilyNetworkTV later.
To finish off the day we went to Moretti’s for some Chicago style pizza and they did not disappoint. Sunday morning we woke up early, went by Amy and Tony’s house for breakfast and then drove the rest of the way home. The car was even more packed (thanks to 3 trips to IKEA), but we made it.
If you find out that an Abilities Expo is coming to your area, GO, it was a great time.