Protect The Chair! Making Waterproof Wheelchair Covers for Swimming (for under £20!)

Swimming is the best excercise when you have pain everywhere, but swimming in a wheelchair can be a pain in the arse (clearly not in the chair, but using the chaur before & after).

So I made myself some covers.

The towel was an important factor here, and I used a Turkish Beach Towel as it’s smooth cotton on one side so it’s not scratchy once it’s dried, but has terry on the other side to make it absorbant.

My 1st job was to cut the edges from the mattress protector. This had two advantages – firstly, it makes it easier to work with, and secondly it has built in elastic which I could use later instead of buying extra!

I measured my seat cushion by placing the lining & towel under my cushion & cutting a square around it, making sure that I’d left enough to go around the sides plus an extra 2 inches so the finished cover would wrap underneath like a fitted sheet.

I also cut tassels off plus 2″ of towel to make ties for the backrest cover. This was another excellent reason for the Turkish Beach towel – the finshed thing with it’s ties looks like I’m ready to go on holiday instead of hospital!

Once I’d cut same shape of mattress cover that I had for the towel, I lined them both up with the towel faced down & cover faced up* and trimmed any edges that were wonky (remember I was measuring around an oddly shaped Jay cushion with crap hands weilding scissors!).

*this is important as you’ll want them to match up when you sew them together.

Next, I placed my seat cushion back on, making sure that it was in the middle of the fabric & cut out squares from each corner. These went to 1cm away from the cushion.

Now I was ready to place the towel & cover with right sides facing in and sew together – it’s important to remember that you only sew the outside edges and don’t sew the corners! Otherwise you can’t turn it right ride out.

Next, I sewed the elastic that I salvaged from the mattress protector onto the straght edges that I’d just sewn (not the corners).

Once the elastic was in, I turned the fabric right way to create what can only be described as a giant showercap! With the right side of the towel together, I sewed corners together.

I’m sure there’s a neater way to do this as you can totally see the seams on the inside, but it’s a functional cover…

Making the back was a similar process. If you have a square back, then it’s identical albeit with no elastic.

If like me, you have a moulded/ fitted back, you’ll need to cut the shape of your back from the towel & mattress protector (this can be the rough shape plus 2 – 3 inches seam allowance). With a moulded back, it’s useful to add elastic at the too & bottom to help the cover “wrap” over.

Once I’d cut out the cover pieces (before sewing them together), I cut the tassled edges into 4 equal lengths then folded over the cut edges of the ties & sew along the edges to keep them from fraying. I attached the ties to back piece by sewing the top two to the inside of the corners and the bottom two in the middle. I then tucked them in as I sewed the seams.

(For a square back, sew the ties to each corner).

And this is the finished cover:

And from side (any reason to take a photo of my wheels!)

And from back – I’ve tied the straps in diagonals because it keeps the back cover more secure.

I promptly tested how well the cover worked with a day at the local pool & bubbles. Not a drop of water on my cusions even after some git sprayed with the shower (joys of tinypants helping me get showered).

Since then, I’ve used the cover weekly for swimming and we’ll be taking it on holiday. It’s doing exactly what I needed it to do and is as simple as chucking in the washing machine, or just hanging up like a towel to dry (just don’t tumble dry as it has plastic backing!!!).

What’s the one product that you resorted to making for your chair?

* This post contains affiliate links. I don’t recommend products unless I genuinely think they’re worth buying. By clicking / purchasing you are heloing me to maintain this site and my professional site over at www.TeachAllAboutIT.school

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The Paralympic IPC Says I’m Not Disabled

Please forgive the rage that is about to ensue. This post is purely a “get it out of your head quickly” post.

This year I discovered wheelchair racing as a means to defy my enormous decline in physical health. I’ve blogged about this before & how it is the first sport that has not caused me excruciating pain. About how I finally felt able to participate in something physical. About how the inclusive nature of my team mates boosted my mental health immensely. I have my 1st post-holiday training session tomorrow evening & right now, for the first time ever I don’t want to go. Why?

Fast forward to tonight where I happened to stumble upon a twitter conversation about disabled sport classification by the IPC (in oder to take part in “real” races, you must be classified). They have released a statement specifically excluding Ehlers Danlos Syndrome as a qualifying disability for disabled sport. What this means for me is being treated as an able bodied athlete (you can stop laughing now…. seriously, stop it.) and as such can only participate in open races with no chance of joining my friends on the track for races against people similarly matched to my own actual ability.
Ok, I was never destined for anything other than local competitions & having fun, but I have rarely wished my genetics on anyone, however I’ll make an exception here. Especially after this news story. I am more than a little bit gutted. Any visions of progression in my one physical outlet (no matter how far fetched they may be) have been dashed because someone decided that one type of disability was “better” than another. 

How dare they exclude genuinely disabled athletes because they don’t fit into a neat little tick box?! You are a professional body and as such have an obligation (if not legally, then morally) to pick up a goddamn book and read about conditions that cause a spectrum of disability. If you ever wondered why  Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is considered an Invisible Illness, here is you prime example at the very highest level.

What does your not disabled look like?

It looks like a full time wheelchair user

It looks like someone who fights with their racing chair & dislocates joints and keeps going.

It looks like chronic pain that eats away at you & makes you question at 2am exactly why you keep going.

It looks like more medication than I can count on two hands.

It looks like my husband having to cook for me, and help me wash & dress myself. 

It looks like strapping myself with physio tape to keep joints in place. And when that doesn’t work, biting my cheek to stop myself crying from pain in front of the kids I train with.

It looks like being lifted from my racing chair into my day chair due to no sensation in my lower legs because my spine is slowly curving & compressing my nerves.

Now tell me how perfectly able I am.

F*** you IPC and the bureaucratic horse you rode in on.

#YesICan or Can I?

Channel 4 has just released its advert for the 2016 Paralympic coverage with an emotive advert. 

https://youtu.be/IocLkk3aYlk

Following this, I read a blog post from the Crippled Scholar that made me react in a way I wasn’t expecting. She raised some very legitimate concerns about the advert & yet I felt instantly defensive. Why?  I’m the least sporty person on the planet… or am I? Perhaps it’s because I know one of the athletes in the advert, or because more recently sport has impacted on the way I view my own disability. So rather than try to tweet a response, I thought I’d lay out a stream of consciousness here.

One criticism is the use of the term superhumans. In the context of it being disabled people achieving everyday activities and met with applause, then yes, take your ableism and insert it into yourself in whichever orifice you choose. But when it comes to athletes, some of these people are just shy of X-men. At our local Race for Life 5k, Lizzie beat every single runner by finishing 1st place in 17 minutes by propelling herself in a racing wheelchair. It doesn’t take anything away from her to acknowledge her disability & say that she’s bloody awesome.

On the flip side, there is the potential for making a big fuss of disability sports to create that god awful motivation crap with the “the only disability is a bad attitude” slogan. (I’m still smiling at those stairs Stella). The author of that poster ought to read what the definition of disability is.

I think the major tell here is to look at how other adverts describe the able bodied athletes. 

In the P&G advert, they are portrayed as oddly traumatised & moulded by their mothers – this does show how hard they work, but rather suggests that Dads aren’t as important and that you need some sort of adversity in order to be a winner.

The BBC advert is just a bit weird with a sloth doing gymnastics & an anteater on the shot put. No suggestion of being superhuman, but there’s that whole rippling muscles theme.

https://youtu.be/CKcEySuuUuE

I think from all of these, the only message is that advertisers are playing to an agenda and won’t please everyone. Based on the adverts I’ve found, despite initial grumbling, I’ve found myself agreeing with the Scholar & the raised eyebrow at the Superhuman term is probably valid as it hasn’t been used equally for the able bodied athletes who also deserve the same recognition for being a little bit amazing.

The second concern is one I feel much more qualified to answer. The ‘yes I can’ song was initially a bit cringey & the scene with the school saying no you can’t even more so. But actually, there’s a message here on a number of levels:

To individuals- don’t feel that because you have a disability, it’s game over (especially when those who believe they know best tell you to give up). I spent my entire life avoiding physical anything because of chronic pain and continual injury. Earlier this year I tried going to a local gym & cried with frustration having been wheeled past the bins to meet an instructor that couldn’t comprehend not using a treadmill despite being in a wheelchair… It would’ve been easy (and perfectly acceptable) to give in, but our school is all about Grit & Zest & Growth Mindset & other ones… whatever – I’m a stubborn old bat who won’t give up (Also known as gritty). Later, when I announced that I was going to try wheelchair basketball, family & friends were horrified. It turned out that no, that wasn’t the sport for me – the risk (and reality) of dislocation was too much. But then I discovered wheelchair racing & everything changed. After 36 years, I found my sport. I still dislocate most sessions, but rarely a major joint, and I’m building strength & stamina in my upper body that has a knock on effect on my dysautonomia. Mentally, I’m in a much better place because I’m told twice a week that I’m a racer & doing great.

The reality is that I’m still dragging myself around and finishing so exhausted that I want to vomit & my arms are constantly sporting the bruises that come from pushing smaller rims  (racers badges of honour). I may look like a wheezy flintstones car, but in my head I feel like a superhero.

To parents / partners /friends: the loss of mobility doesn’t prohibit your loved one from trying something new. Please don’t hold them back in case people stare or laugh. Yes, the gym bunnies look at me like I’m an alien when I rock up in the (new) gym in my wheelchair & use the handcycle, but when I arrive to chair racing with my fellow wobblies, I have never known a more supportive atmosphere. Our coach is a volunteer and does it because he’s passionate. The guy deserves a medal (and beer) himself for keeping us in line. One of the upsides of camaraderie is improved mental health – the downside for our poor coach is that we giggle & hare about the track like naughty schoolkids.

Finally, and probably most importantly, the “Yes I Can” message from the advert sends a very clear message to local Athletics clubs that sport is sport able or disabled. Worthing Harriers is an athletics club, we just happen to be the wheelchair division. The club owns a set of chairs for us to use & as we get into the sport, then we can choose to buy our own chairs (and even then, the contacts through the club help with finding 2nd hand chairs or fundraising for custom built kit). The whole thing started with one child contacting the club and asking why he couldn’t train with them. 3 years on & we’re growing in numbers.

Many people working in sports fields need to hear the Yes I Can message. There is still a huge stereotype within society that disability means you just stop & if you don’t, then you must be faking it. So the more disability sports is shown on TV, the more normalised it becomes. If it’s normalised, then sports clubs will begin to assume that accessible clubs are just the norm and include them as standard… prices come down… they’re no longer superhumans because it’s normalised. Job done.

I made it sound so easy! 

So yes, I agree that the advert isn’t quite how I’d want to be portrayed, but it is playing on the vibe left after invictus to make able bodied people sit up and take notice that people with disabilities are actually out there doing more than spending their taxes (oh yes, I’ve heard that line). We’re working, we’re having families, we’re learning, we’re pushing ourselves to our mental & physical limits. Just. Like. You.