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An unexpected meeting
I only met Brad once, but the meeting, and he, left a lasting impression. I was at the gym in the middle of my workout, minding my own business. I saw him coming toward me down the hallway, accompanied by one of the personal trainers, along with a third person, a young woman in street clothes. He was in a wheelchair being pushed by his aid, the blond lady, and had significant trembling in his head and limbs. I watched without staring as he was assisted from the chair to a mat on the floor and was curious to see what rigors the trainer would put him through.
It became immediately apparent that Brad was not all that interested in his physical therapy. Almost upon contact with the mat, he asked my name, introduced himself and soon shared what certainly was one of the most significant and painful events of his life. He told me he had always been a bit of a hothead, was prone to acting on it and one night about five years earlier when he was in his early 20’s, after a few drinks, got into a bar fight with some random dude. He was caught off balance, and his head struck the ground.
Brad continued to chat happily about wanting to share his story so others wouldn’t act similarly, moved on to make a few jokes about this, that and the other thing, and—dare I say—even rolled out some pretty shameless flirting. The trainer and aid eventually coaxed Brad through all of his exercises then packed up and retreated back down the hallway. I had to laugh as I saw this young man stop along the way to chat up each and every female he encountered. As I said, shameless.
I couldn’t even tell you what my response was in hearing about Brad’s tragedy, but I do remember so clearly that he was absolutely matter-of-fact, almost upbeat in a way, if you can fathom it; I know I was floored. And humbled beyond words.
I realized in an instant I had made a ton of assumptions about Brad when I first laid eyes on him, jittering his way toward me. Yet I was presented with this bright, articulate, funny, thoroughly charming young man who kind of made my day and a lifetime impression in a few short minutes. It was an Aha moment, and I’m so happy we spoke.
The passing of ADA
I haven’t seen Brad since but found myself wondering about him this week as I read of the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) by President Bush in 1990. It has been called by some the single-most important piece of legislation protecting people with disabilities in this country and is meant to support their opportunity to participate in “major life activities,” such as going shopping at the mall, eating dinner out at a local restaurant or dropping some items off at the dry cleaners. Some of the law addresses anti-discrimination practices for employment, while a large portion provides the guidelines for improving physical barriers at a facility for accessibility.
The general consensus is that the passing of ADA has been monumental in improving the situations for many with disabilities. Sadly, there is also agreement that much more work is yet to be done. All these years later, for example, and many public or commercial buildings are still not compliant with even the basic requirements to ensure access. And that, to me, seems like the easier aspect to address—things like installing a ramp or widening an aisle—than getting knuckleheads like me to not make unfounded assumptions about someone’s abilities, physical or cognitive. Here is a guide for small businesses on ADA, one that I found to be more understandable and less legal mumbo-jumbo, in addition to our own guide to ADA specifications for wheelchair threshold ramps.
Becoming ADA compliant
I know I risk going a bit “commercial” at the expense of this exceptional person I met, Brad, and I don’t wish to cheapen the experience in any way. But if your facility has a need for ADA compliance, there are many simple, affordable options available for threshold ramps, landing ramps and modular wheelchair access ramp systems. So many years since the passing of ADA, it is truly time to take the those first few, simple steps to coming ADA compliance.
If you haven’t noticed, we are in full swing of “Dogs Hanging Their Heads Out of Car Windows” season. Ears flopping, tongue lolling, eyes like little, tiny slits. Oh, the exuberance! You have to admire the purity of it. But why do dogs carry on this way?
As would make sense, most experts link this behavior to a dog’s incredibly developed sense of smell. Some estimates say the canine olfactory system is a whopping 10,000 to 100,000 times more discerning than our own, thus creating a nasal smorgasbord of scintillating odors when they engage in their doggy version of wind surfing. Liken it to you noticing if a teaspoon of sugar is added to your cup of coffee. In dog terms, they could determine if a teaspoon of sugar was added to two Olympic-sized pools of water.
Pair these mad smelling skills with the simple opportunity of a road trip (with their beloved human!) after being cooped up inside all day, waiting for your return, perhaps, and it really gets them going.
Warning, Will Robinson!
But experts also caution against the dangers of indulging your dog’s “need for (airflow) speed.” Debris – dirt, sand or otherwise – can land in your dog’s eyes and ears as he’s joyously soaking in the sights, sounds and smells. Not only that, but there is a very real risk of your dog falling out the window if he’s not properly strapped in. You have to admit that it’s crossed your mind as being possible, but then another voice chimes in to tell you that would just never happen if you don’t have the windows lowered all the way. Well it has happened, and it is a real possibility.
Keeping Spot Safe
Of course, the best way to keep your pet safe from injury or worse while tooling around in the car is for the window to remain closed. But who can deny their faithful companion this rapture, this hallmark of dogdom? Their delight is your delight, after all. So here are some options to help reduce those risks.
Dog Harness A dog harness fits across your pet’s chest and shoulders, creating secure points that won’t press against his throat or obstruct breathing as a traditional collar might do. These tie down points of the pet harness can be clicked into the existing seat belt in your vehicle to really stabilize your dog and limit how close he can get to the window. If this puts you on a shame spiral because it’s too limiting and raining on doggy’s parade, the pet harness may be used in tandem with some other straps to free him up a bit. Read on.
Dog Belt Best used along with the aforementioned dog harnesses, a dog seat belt is an extension to the the car, truck or SUV seat belt. While it limits how far your dog can reach out the car window, a good seat belt for dogs will also be easily adjusted to find just the right length for your dear furry friend.
Dog Zip Line If you really want to provide Spot with the best of all worlds as he is chauffeured about, a zip line for your back seat is the way to go. Again, it’s ideally used with a pet harness, but a strap that extends between both windows in your back seat gives your dog the freedom to move from one side of the vehicle to the other.
Pet Barriers For some, using a barrier to keep your animal within a certain area of the vehicle (like the back seat or the cargo area in the rear of an SUV) is the best option. While this doesn’t provide the stability of securing a pet with a belt, it does improve the safety factor while driving to prevent the dog from jumping back and forth from one seat to another or even onto your lap.
There are several different styles of pet barriers for cars, depending on your make of vehicle and needs. Some, for example, are a flexible mesh design and roll up for easy storage. Others are adjustable wire mesh or even a heavier steel construction to block your dog’s access to the car or van’s rear or front seats. A vehicle pet barrier that fits bucket seats is yet another option.
One final note. Quite literally as this is being written, a car drove by with a tiny, furry face peering from the open window on the driver’s side, e.g., standing in her human’s lap. NOT cool! We need to keep those animals safe! Are you guilty of letting your pet loose in your vehicle? Would you admit to it??
When I pulled into a parking spot at the store the other day, I had to do a double-take at the car next to me. I don’t really make it habit to peer into other peoples’ cars – honest, I don’t – but you can’t help but notice a kayak inside a car, bow resting on the dashboard and stern reaching through to somewhere in the trunk with the seats folded down. It’s a bit of a crazy sight, and I wondered for a second how in the world they got that thing in there. After all, wouldn’t a kayak carrier be much, much easier than stuffing a boat down the entire passenger side of a four-door car? Some peoples’ kids…
A boat loaded inside a vehicle certainly is an exception, and most of the kayaks I see (if I do spot them out of water), are, in fact, cradled in some type of rooftop rack on a vehicle. But kayaks seem to be everywhere these days compared to when I was a kid, when I thought it was a sport reserved just for the thrill-seekers of the world. Turns out, it’s not just my impression that kayak-sightings are more common these days because some studies show that the sport has, indeed, grown dramatically over the last few years. And the fact that it’s not the territory of daredevils alone has quite a bit to do with it.
A report called “Outdoor Recreation Participation” published by the Outdoor Foundation in 2012 shows that, out of ten popular recreational activities, participation in kayaking had the single-greatest increase at 27% between 2010 and 2011. Industry professionals attribute that spike in popularity to several factors:
- Kayaking is a great way to relax. Being out on the water is peaceful and can be done solo or with others as a group. Some even combine two of their favorite hobbies, and go kayak fishing.
- Kayaking is easy to learn. Most people, from kids to adults, and many different athletic abilities, can kayak with ease. The paddling motion is fairly intuitive, and once you get a feel for it, it doesn’t take most people too long to figure out the basics of steering and maneuvering.
- There are many beautiful places to go kayaking. People often start out on water they know will be relatively calm, like a smaller lake, until they get the feel of the boat. But changing up your venue from various lakes to rivers can provide very different (and fun) experiences, and you don’t even necessarily have to find a location with a boat launch, though that can make getting in and out a bit simpler.
- Kayaking is a good form of exercise. The constant paddling and resistance of the water is a terrific workout, without being overly taxing.
- Kayaking is a relatively inexpensive form of recreation. In a bad economy when everyone is watching their spending so carefully, kayaking is a lot of fun for the money. It doesn’t require expensive equipment in order to enjoy it, and once you’ve made that initial investment, there aren’t many maintenance costs along the way. Registration requirements vary by state, so it’s best to check with your local DMV on that. But otherwise, no gas, repairs or anything of that sort, and it’s great for families who are opting for “stay-cations” to save a little while money is tight. In fact, for many kayakers, their next investment tends to be an upgrade in the kayak itself when they realize how much they enjoy the activity.
- A person can load and carry their kayak solo. Even if you aren’t going on a group or family outing, most people can easily lift a kayak to get it loaded onto a rooftop carrier by themselves. No trailer needed! Or if muscling the kayak all the way from your car to the water’s edge is just a bit further than you care for, there are specialized dollies available to make that part of the outing a little easier.
What Equipment is Needed to Kayak?
The equipment needed to kayak is pretty minimal. Obviously, there’s the kayak itself, with which the professionals at a good recreational outlet will be able to advise. They can also help you out with a paddle and life vest, which you should always have with you when out on the water. Other than that, you will need a means of transporting and securing your kayak, and there are lots of options for kayak carriers available.
A T-Rack Carrier is one of the most popular styles of kayak racks because it’s not only simple to load, the semi-vertical position of the kayak allows enough room for a second carrier to haul a second kayak. There are also other similar, vertical-style carriers or cradle-style kayak racks if only one boat is being transported.
Fasten the kayak to the carrier itself with some quality tie down straps, and also secure the bow and stern of the boat to your vehicle to prevent any updrafts from lifting the kayak and causing damage. These tie downs should always be made at a metal contact point on the vehicle. If your vehicle does not have metal tie down points in the locations you need, hood loop straps are also available to create the points needed. Several good ratcheting pulley boat tie downs will greatly simplify this entire process. It’s so easy, in fact, here is a video that demonstrates all the steps you’ll need to know in tying down a kayak for transport. It is recommended to stop periodically along your drive to test the tie downs for any loosening or if the boat has shifted, particularly if the straps are wet.
One last note regarding storage. It’s not recommended to store a kayak on the boat’s bottom, as that can result in a flat spot. Instead, you may want to invest in a kayak hoist to store your boat overhead when not in use. The pulley system prevents any damage to your kayak and also frees up valuable garage space.
A poll conducted a few years back by the folks at Harris Interactive shows that “Made in the USA” is pretty important for most Americans in their buying decisions, as it influences about 3 in 5 of us. That number begins to vary slightly, however, when you drill it down further by age and region, with it being a factor of greater importance for U.S. adults age 55+. It also tends to play a bigger role for people living in the Midwest as opposed to the east coast and the South, or on the west coast, where it carries the least weight. In general, though, if we can find the product we need AND it is manufactured domestically, most Americans view that as a very big positive.
Since everybody’s feeling all patriotic and full of national pride with Independence Day having just been celebrated, we thought we’d do a Product Roundup of just a few of the U.S.-made products we have available.
Big Boy II Motorcycle Ramp
Whatever kind of bike you ride, whether it’s a cruiser, sport bike or even any of your other toys, this 2-piece motorcycle ramp system is perfect for loading onto a trailer or pickup truck. These deluxe ramps for motorcycles and other equipment have tons of features to make the process safe and seamless and allow you to load your motorcycle either by riding or walking it on board.
Hitch Cargo Box
ATV Drop Basket Carrier
If you’re headed out into the woods or field on your quad, you’ll have plenty of room to carry extra gear, tools, clothing or other supplies with this four-wheeler rear rack. It’s made of lightweight aluminum.
Threshold Ramp for Wheelchairs and Walkers
A quality wheelchair ramp constructed of recycled polymers helps make the transition through a doorway much smoother for those using a walker, power scooter or power chair.
Bed Pet Stairs
If your pet is getting on in years and struggles with climbing into bed each night, these wooden dog stairs are just the thing. The dog step is available in multiple 2- and 3-step configurations, with several finishes to match your decor.
Aluminum Truck Rack
If you’ve ever broken the rear window of your pickup from hauling ladders, lumber, rakes or shovels in the bed, you know how frustrating and expensive it can be! Rugged Rack truck racks protect the back window and also prevent dents and scratches.
So…How strong of an influence does that “Made in USA” label have for you?