Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Adventures in Accessibility

Check out the interior-decoration scheme in the Reno VA's Prosthetics/OT/PT waiting room. I'm trying to decide if Martha Stewart would be delighted or appalled.

I took Dad there today so he could get his new walker, which has a handy holder for an oxygen tank. Our latest problem, though, is that his eyesight's so bad that he can't read the gauge on the oxygen tank -- even with his various nifty magnifying equipment -- which means that he can't tell if he's turned the valve enough to release O2, or how much is left, which effectively means that somebody else has to be with him whenever he ventures out of his apartment, even if he takes the handicapped bus (which may become more difficult anyway, since one of the responses being proposed to the state budget crisis is to raise the fare on that bus dramatically).

Well, okay, but surely he can't be the only person on oxygen who also has bad eyes, right? Somebody must already have addressed this problem, right?


I called his oxygen company, who called their main distributor, who'd never heard of oxygen regulators for the visually impaired. Neither had the folks at Stanford, the folks at the Reno VA, or the people I spoke to at the state agency that handles services for the blind and visually impaired. Everyone I talked to said, "Wow! That's a great idea!" as if I'm the first person to suggest such a thing, which I can't quite believe.

So: if any of you know of any way for somebody with really low vision to make sense of an oxygen regulator, please let me know.

And if you're handy with equipment and have a creative streak and want to make, like, a zillion bucks -- because there has to be a market for this thing -- invent a regulator for visually impaired people. I won't even ask for a cut: just send me a free prototype.

Thanks. And pass it on. Seriously. If you have inventor friends, or friends who are disability activists, or whatever, please let them know that there's a need for this kind of device.


  1. My husband and his partner are mechanical engineer designers. I've passed it along to them. Can't guarantee anything...
    Thanks for sharing your stories with us.

  2. Evaluating residences. I too am looking (though longer term) at care residences for my parents. I found this evaluation form. Thought you too might find it useful:


  3. does the state of nevada have a division of services for the blind or visually impaired? they might be able to help..i am always amazed at how businesses and agencies that SHOULD talk to each other, don't!

  4. Give a call into Ensight Skills Center


    They have many resources and the majority of the staff are occupational therapists who have visual impairment.

    I bet they can help you.

    Good luck.


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