Speaking Out


Google Maps wheelchair option

Looking up wheelchair-accessible directions to where you’re going? This really works. From Google Maps:

View routes by wheelchair in select major cities with Google Maps. Just input your destination into Maps, tap “Directions” then select the public transportation icon. Then tap “Options” and under the Routes section, you will find “wheelchair accessible” as a new route type.

They’ll be rolling out more locations. But I’ll keep using Google Maps Street View to case out curb cutouts, threshold steps and the like. Even after phoning first, there’s been way too many surprises.

From Bowl to Belly: The Obi eating device guide to food

Find out What Works and What Doesn’t

Welcome to readers of the New Mobility review of the Obi eating device. While pricey, the Obi does an excellent job of restoring independence at mealtime. It can handle most types of foods, although you have to experiment because some dishes work better than others. After three years using Obi, these are the foods that work with the robot the best and worst:

– To fit in the spoon, you want chunks smaller than an inch.

– Long potato skins and stringy spaghettis are not so good, nor thick, glutinous masses like sticky mashed potatoes.

– Leafy salads and the Obi exist in different dimensions: the Obi scoops and scoops like Where’s my date? – while the salad sits there wondering if he’s ever going to show up.

– Thin soups, ironically, work great, while thicker ones like stews can get messy. It’s quicker to shoot the broth with a straw and then Obi and I go in to wipe out the surviving chunks.

– Applesauce works great after I throw in a handful of chia seeds to absorb some water. The same with one of my wife’s homemade chilis that sometimes turns out a little soupy: in goes Chia seeds or nutritional yeast, or even better, stir in a handful of crumbled tortilla chips to absorb liquid.

– Some meals go perfectly, while others you end up wearing on your sleeve quite literally. Don’t fill the first bowl to capacity, or it may flick your cornflakes back at you. In any case, you have to wear a dinner napkin. None of this is to scare you off though, because the Obi gets the job done. A couple of dropped bits on your lap napkin is nothing for what you get here.

About that price, I’ve not yet found the case where Medicare covers it, but Medicaid has covered at least one unit, in Missoula, Montana. Obi is listed with a federal GSA contract, to help get it to veterans. The manufacturer, Desin LLC, offers rental and lease-to-buy options, as well as other funding alternatives. My hope is that the more popular this quality device becomes, the more likely it gets picked up by Medicare, and once Medicare covers it, everyone will.

In the meantime, putting out the money for a relatively recent device is scary; it was for me. That’s why I wrote this review, to say that I took the step and found it worthwhile. I have no connection to the company, other than as happy customer.

This column is dedicated to the late, great David Hare, and his wonderful wife. I first saw the Obi at the 2016 Chicago Abilities Expo. It was also the day I met David, who passed away from ALS in 2017. Without use of his arms, David controlled the Obi with his feet. He showed me around the device, and assured me that if I did go ahead with the purchase, I would not regret it. We bonded as skydivers, but he’d accomplished so much more than me. He felt like a kindred spirit, though we only got to speak twice. I didn’t purchase the Obi until many months later, when my back was up against the wall, but you were right, David. Thanks, man.

Twice, the Hares journeyed quite a ways to Chicago and back, because they believed this was truly a device to help people. In their spirit, I write this review for you.

Article about Obi, featuring the late David Hare.

Why Are People Clamoring for Healthcare Reform?

In some notes, I saw that in 2011 we were paying $260 a month for my Medigap policy. Now, eight years later, we are paying $400 every month. That is a 65 percent increase. No way our income went up anywhere near that much. Just saying.

My insurer will keep cranking up the increases because at this point no one else will take me. At the rodeo the rider has to hold on for eight long seconds. We’ve got to hold on for 11 more years until I’m eligible to enter the federally protected open marketplace.

So, uh, not looking for free stuff. Rather, not wanting my wife to wind up destitute because of my trick nervous system. Got it?


Juan Cole
Robert Fisk
Glenn Greenwald
Chris Hedges
Michael Hiltzik
In These Times
Charles Pierce
Robert Reich
Matt Tiabbi
Tom Dispatch
Yves Smith
those meddling kids

Camp Adventure Tower, Denmark

From New Mobility, check out this 2,130-foot spiraling ramp that gives you 148 foot view atop the forest all around. Quick math in my head tells me that’s pretty much an 8 percent ADA grade. There is a 3,000-foot boardwalk leading through the forest to get you there. Award-winning, breathtaking.

(Mab says don’t stare at the picture too long or it starts moving!)

Visit campadventure.dk/en

Hoyer-friendly hotels: Comfort Inn, Stanton, Texas (West Texas)

Comfort Inn, 800 W. Interstate 20, Stanton, Texas, 432-756-1100, $135-172.

Very accessible Hoyer-friendly room in West Texas, a real stroke of luck because we were deposited here by tow truck. First the dude pulls us off a treacherous desert highway in 100°, free of charge (I told him, Who’da thunk our guardian angel has a bushy mustache?), but then he lets us off at a hotel where we were actually comfortable. There were only three in town to choose from. The cherry on the cake was that he set down the van in a disability space! From now on I’m going to have Dale pick all our hotels.

The room is called an ADA suite, but is a single newly updated and super-roomy space. The bed sits on a platform, but there is a pullout sofa bed that was good for the Hoyer. It is a little bit short for my 6 feet 2 inches but worked for me. I’ve got to point out too that I don’t have back problems and this thing was not the most supportive frame and mattress: my wife sat on one of the corners and almost fell through. Also, the pressed carpet was not easy rolling for the lift. But, bottom line, I slept soundly here and was ever so glad to get this room. It was the Garden of Eden after what we’d been through. They even gave us a room discount on the first night, owing to our circumstances.

Good-sized bathroom. The best cutout sink we’ve ever had: I could roll right underneath. Maneuvering around the sink to the toilet could be difficult with some Hoyer-type lifts. Standard bathtub with a bench. Probably not an issue for most, but the bathroom has a small speedbump type of entry.

Finally, the automatic doors at the hotel entrance were not recognizing me in my wheelchair. They adjusted them for me, but I still had to play around out there until they popped open.

Man do those air conditioners work! Maybe a little too much… But we weren’t complaining, not after being dragged off of a scorching desert road.