Editor’s Note: Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management and the Mobility Project, a free website for consumers, caregivers, family members, friends and anyone interested in some type of mobility-related challenge. One of the easiest, quickest and best ways to have any question answered, or to learn how other people with mobility challenges live full and rich lives is to explore the website at www.themobilityproject.com and go to their social media pages at Facebook https://www.facebook.com/themobilityproject, Twitter https://twitter.com/MobilityProj, and Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/themobilityproj. Wheel:Life and the Mobility Project share information as community partners. Wheel:Life talked with Watanabe to learn more.
Watanabe: Often, we only think of the wheelchair community when we hear the words,“individuals with mobility challenges.” However, the community is much bigger than that. It includes everyone from children who have been born with cerebral palsy or spina bifida, teenagers and young adults who may have spinal cord injuries, and adults who have been diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). This community of people also includes aging seniors with mobility challenges or problems with arthritis, joint replacements and other issues with strength, balance or mobility. The Mobility Project doesn’t stop there and also supplies information for the families, the caregivers and the people with whom these individuals work.
The Mobility Project is also for veterans who have sustained injuries while in the military, their families, their caregivers, their coworkers, their friends and their relatives. The Mobility Project is the sister website to Mobility Management http://mobilitymgmt.com. Mobility Management is a professional website for occupational and physical therapists and assistive technology service providers. These professionals work with individuals with mobility challenges and recommend and do the fittings for wheelchairs, braces and other types of equipment for people with mobility issues. These professionals were Mobility Management’s core audience for about the first 10 years of our company’s life. When we published articles on multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy or spinal cord injuries on the Mobility Management website, we’d receive a lot of questions from parents of children with those difficulties.
We realized quickly that we had no information to give to family, friends and caregivers on how to deal with issues like – what type of wheelchair did they need to consider, how could they make travel easier, how could they make getting in and out of vehicles easier, and the thousands and thousands of other questions that were asked that needed answers. These people were seeking information Mobility Management wasn’t providing, except on a one-on-one basis.
We realized we had clinical information that would help people, but we had no way of delivering that information to the people who wanted and needed it. So, Mobility Management launched the Mobility Project website to give people with mobility challenges a place to come to learn about new ways of solving problems other individuals might have had and already dealt with in various situations. Mobility Management recognized the information we were passing out contained so much medical jargon and technical words that some of our readers might have difficulty understanding it. Mobility Management had to take the information that the consumer wanted from an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, a physician or an assistive technology service specialist and make that information easier to understand and use in practical ways.
Finding out what type wheelchair a person might require was fairly easy to determine, but we felt consumers needed to know what else they could do with their wheelchairs, besides getting from point A to point B.
We wanted to share the information we had gathered and the information we’d learned from the professional medical community to a wider and bigger audience, free of charge. We also wanted to set up a network to let the millions of people with mobility issues have the opportunity to talk to each other and help each other solve problems. We developed very active social media platforms for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
By going to www.themobilityproject.com, you’ll see navigation bars there that include news, with the latest information for people with mobility issues. For instance, at this writing, our news for the day is about the New York City Transit Authority’s slowly improving the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles in their fleet. You’ll see a products and technology section, since many people come to the site looking for wheelchairs, standing equipment and cushions. We also have resources like events, videos and links to other related websites that provide information about mobility. We want our readers to be able of find the information they want quickly and easily.
Let’s Talk and Share Information for People with Mobility Issues through the Mobility Project
We realize that everyone who lives, works, goes to school with or comes in contact with individuals with mobility challenges wants to know information on how to treat and connect with mobility challenged people. They want to understand the etiquette, the type of equipment people require, and the reasons they need specific types of equipment for various mobility problems. People want to better understand the challenges with which people who have mobility problems have to deal.
Mobility Management decided we needed to provide information for the caregivers, family members, fellow students, friends and fellow workers to better understand the problems and the equipment related to mobility challenges.
Too, we wanted to provide information to increase the number of advocates that a person dealing with a mobility disability had in his or her support group.
The caregivers, we learned, were not getting the support or information they needed to better understand the challenges for people who couldn’t walk, run, climb or get around on their own. Although a person in a wheelchair, wearing some type of braces or using a cane or some other kind of mobility equipment was the primary individual dealing with that equipment, the caregivers had to know how to transport mobility equipment, how to care for and maintain it, and how to assist the person in using that equipment. We discovered that a caregiver often had a very lonely job and might feel that no one understood him or the challenges he had to deal with in providing the aid a friend or a loved one needed to be more mobile.
To help solve this problem, the Mobility Project has a Facebook page and a Twitter page where caregivers can talk to one another and share common problems, frustrations, information and solutions with other caregivers. Too, these sites also allow the people with the mobility issues talk to each other. We certainly want to promote everyone who’s involved with this type of disability being able to talk to each other, help each other and learn that he or she isn’t alone in the challenges he faces but are actually a part of a large army of people nationwide and worldwide with similar questions, problems, problem solving ideas and success stories.
Many times we’ll have people on our Facebook, Twitter and webpage asking about how to solve mobility issues. We’ll turn these questions over to our editorial staff, who are clinicians, doctors, therapists and other professionals accustomed to dealing with a wide range of different kinds of mobility issues. This large group of people can answer an individual’s questions from a wide range of experiences. This interaction with the professionals, caregivers and individuals with mobility issues is where we get many of the stories we post on the www.themobilityproject.com webpage.
For instance, if we are asked a question dealing with a pediatric problem, then I’ll go to several of the clinicians on my board who are specialists in pediatrics and have many years of experience working with pediatric mobility issues. Then we’ll get back to the person who has asked the question. If the question asked and the answer given is what we feel may be a common problem, we may write an article dealing with this question and answer to offer this information to our larger audience.
We really encourage the people who come to www.themobilityproject.com to ask questions and interact with us to get the best answers. We try and publish information on our website a couple times a week and post on our social media platforms like Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook several times a day. Since we want to always have new news and new features with clinical stories our social media platforms are constantly changing every day.
Sooner or Later Everyone Will Have a Need for the Information Available on the Mobility Project
When patients and caregivers go to the doctor, they usually have specific problems with which they need the doctor or the physical therapist to help. Often there is no time available to discuss problems that people with mobility issues have in their everyday lives. For instance, someone may say, “My child is in a wheelchair, he’s growing, and he’s starting to experience some bullying or has questions as to why he is in a wheelchair. These questions make him uncomfortable and make him not want to stay in the wheelchair all day.” Questions like these are some of those that the Mobility Project can supply answers for through our social media outlets and webpage. Other people who have dealt with the same problem can give you the answers that have worked for them. What the Mobility Project tries to do is not only have clinical people who can answer questions, but also have other people with similar problems and questions interact with each other and explain how they’ve solved a similar problem.
We’ve learned that life is not just about how to follow the instructions you get from your health care providers. Life is really about how to deal with everyday problems.
Although equipment helps you live your life better and easier, once you get past that point, the Mobility Project wants to provide information and help, so you can live your life as independently and as comfortably as possible. For instance, we not only want to explain what multiple sclerosis or any other medical problem is that will prevent you from being fully mobile. We also want to give you tips, advice and suggestions about multiple sclerosis to help you feel better, make life easier and help your day go more smoothly and be more enjoyable. We don’t want to leave you with only the definition of a condition.
We want to help you navigate within the parameters of your condition to aid you in accomplishing more each day. We often fail to realize how big the community of people with mobility issues is. Although millions of people around the world are in wheelchairs, just because your condition doesn’t require you to be in a wheelchair doesn’t mean that you don’t have mobility problems. One of the challenges we’ve had is bringing all people with mobility challenges together and determining how many there are, who they are, and how we can serve them. We feel that people with mobility issues banding together is so important because then we can positively affect legislation, government policies in health care and insurance funding.
The statistics we receive from organizations trying to determine the number of people with mobility problems tell us that one out of every two or three people has a mobility problem that impacts his or her everyday life.
If you include the caregiving community, I doubt there’s anybody in the United States who doesn’t know someone who has some type of mobility problem. Cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, arthritis and joint replacements are just a few of the reasons preventing people from being able to walk, run, climb or in some way be mobile. As we age, we won’t be nearly as mobile as we have been when we were younger. Revolutionary breakthroughs in medicine are allowing people to live longer now than ever before, so we have to find new and better ways to make the additional years we may have on this earth more active and productive. We’re really excited too about the new technology that’s allowing all of us to be more mobile, regardless of age, sickness or illness.
At themobilityproject.com we want to give our readers not only the newest and best clinical information we can. Too, we want to deliver that information, so that an individual can apply what he or she has learned on our website the same day they read the stories that we provide or the same day that their questions are answered on our social media network. Another message we try and communicate through our website and social media is that you are not alone. The group of people dealing with the same issues you are is continually growing in numbers as people are living longer. If you don’t know someone who has a mobility issue now, if you live long enough, that someone may be you.
To learn more, go to www.themobilityproject.com where our contact information is, including the physical address, the phone number, the email address and links to our social media platforms. We want to make your ability to get in contact with us as easy as possible. You also can leave us messages on Facebook, since our people monitor it daily.
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