Help my friend call for help this winter
November 21, 2008 1:57 AM   Subscribe

I have a friend who uses a wheelchair and I'd like to help make her winter commute safer by allowing her to call for help easily. Any ideas?

I have a friend who has cerebral palsy and gets around in a motorized wheelchair. She has a job and gets to and from her job by taking the bus as well as driving along the sidewalks. Unfortunately we live in Wisconsin and the winter gets rough. People are jerks about not shoveling their sidewalks and she often gets stuck. Last year she even tipped over in an effort to drive around a snow drift, and fell off the sidewalk and was laying in the street. Luckily I was with her and was able to flag down a few people to lift her and her wheelchair back onto the sidewalk, but the experience really shook her up.

This winter I'd like to find something that would make it easier for her to call for help when needed. The perfect thing would be a cell phone with just one huge button that called 911, but I'm sure that doesn't exist. But something cell phone sized that we could attach to the inside of her arm rest would be great. Also, whatever it is shouldn't require a great deal of manual dexterity, since her fine motor skills are not great.

posted by christinetheslp to Grab Bag (9 answers total)
There are devices like this (UK site, although I'm sure they're available elsewhere).
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:23 AM on November 21, 2008

I know that it's had a legacy of ridicule due to its advertising, but Life Alert was made for exactly this.
posted by ignignokt at 2:27 AM on November 21, 2008

Actually, yes, there are all kinds of cellular medical alarms, in fact, so many of them that I have no idea how you figure out which ones are legit and reasonable. They are the next-gen "I've fallen and I can't get up" alarms, with GPS locators, but you're paying for a monitoring service. On the other hand, it means they can call 911 with a location, where a cell call straight to 911 is not going to immediately provide that information.

There's also phones like the Jitterbug and Firefly Glowphone.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:40 AM on November 21, 2008

As a wheelchair user living in New England, I feel you. I generally have decentish dexterity, but my wheeled friends who don't love Bluetooth. If your friend has a reasonably clear voice (which I know can vary with CP), and enough dexterity to hit the one button most bluetooth headsets have, she could voice dial whomever - you, another friend, emergency services. (That also probably requires being willing to leave a bluetooth headset on all day, which may be a deal breaker.)
posted by spaceman_spiff at 2:56 AM on November 21, 2008

The latest issue of Make Magazine had an article on this very issue. I only skimmed it but this guy built a device for his daughter's chair that would call 911 and a couple of other numbers for her. I don't know how technical an article was but it might be enough to get you started.
posted by bondcliff at 5:49 AM on November 21, 2008

Hey, it's on-line! Here's a link to the article.

Again, it looks like it might be a bit technical.
posted by bondcliff at 5:51 AM on November 21, 2008

There is also this phone that has one large button the pack which I believe can be programmed to do a number of things including sending an automated text message to up to 5 people.
posted by kasperj74 at 5:55 AM on November 21, 2008

There's this, but it's seriously pricey. (As is everything for the disabled...)
posted by Soliloquy at 10:29 AM on November 21, 2008

I never ever thought of Bluetooth - how dumb of me! But it would be about perfect...thanks!
posted by christinetheslp at 5:17 PM on November 21, 2008

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