Thursday, August 28, 2008

Capabilities Makes a Difference: Day 4 at the DNC

8:00 a.m.
Dave and I comment that we are becoming pros at this mobile set up. We can pop that canopy tent in a few minutes now and get our things arranged in half the time. We are curious about this last day, as everyone begins to focus on the big event at Invesco Field later tonight. I try my best to snag some tickets, putting out more calls and inquiries about availability.

10:30 a.m.
We muse on the week so far, on the people we have met and seen. I am most impressed by how many people we have introduced to some of this equipment. The RollerAid has by far drawn the most interest. This knee walker, designed for those with foot and ankle problems, replaces crutches for most activities. This brand, we believe, is by far the most advanced, providing convenient steering along with a number of basic comfort features, such as a holder for a water bottle! I can’t tell you how many people see it and want to sit on it like a tricycle. We have great fun explaining this amazing piece of equipment. Dave has done a number of demonstrations in the street during this week.

The other big draw is the Nexus walker. As I have written before in my blog, this walker not only is one of the lightest weight walkers available today, its unique design offers portability and stowage unlike any other. Our model is without cables, too, making it an even better bet for older folks, in particular, who often snag the cables as they make their way through sometimes tight spaces. While no one bought one of these on Stout St., we felt great about introducing it to a whole new population.

3:00 p.m.
The crowd thins considerably now at this end of town. Invesco Field opened around 1 p.m. to begin accommodating the tens of thousands scheduled to attend. Dave and I compare some notes again on people watching. We talk about the vet returned from Afghanistan without his legs who came by every day to talk and purchase something. Today he bought his wife some Caren lotion! His views on this political week are intense and passionate. His visit underscores our role in this business as listeners. I am struck again and again about how much more helpful we are at Capabilities when we listen fully. Solutions emerge when you have a bigger picture of the real need. And, we comment that there are many needs we can never fill, of course. I admire Dave’s ability to stay humble as he solves major mobility problems every day.

4:00 p.m.
As we wind down this week on the street in the Capabilities mobile wheelchair repair unit, I see a man in his 40s or so on crutches. One leg has been amputated. He smiles over at us; I point to the electric scooter. “Na,” he says. “I have figured these things out,” looking almost lovingly at his crutches, “and can make some good headway for now.” I had already packed the Capabilities crutch covers away, but I am sure he would not have stopped long enough to look at them.

5:30 p.m.
As we push the last of our products and equipment into the van, Pam and I decide we are going to stay downtown. The energy and excitement of the week culminates this night at Invesco, and even though we did not succeed in getting tickets, we will crowd around some television in a hotel bar to watch the crowds as this amazing week comes to an end.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Capabilities to the Rescue: Day 3 at the DNC

9:00 a.m.
We feel the energy building today, already this early in the day. More traffic, more people, more buzz. Folks stream past us on Stout St., stop and inquire, take cards, buy some products. There are many who are starting to worry a bit about the big Thursday night speech at Invesco Field, otherwise, called Mile High Stadium to those of us who remember its original name. We have a number of scooter rentals and transport wheelchair rentals. A transport wheelchair weighs less and is easier to push through crowds. You cannot actually self-propel in a transport chair, so it is only a good solution if you have someone with you to push. Under those circumstances, however, it is ideal if you are on your way to Invesco tomorrow since we hear there are still a few gaps in the transportation process for those with disabilities.

11:30 a.m.
We get a call that a volunteer in from Gallaudet University, a university founded by and for those with hearing impairments, is in trouble at the Convention Center. His power wheelchair won’t move after a wild taxi ride. He has no way to travel the two blocks to our mobile station, so Dave packs up some tools and goes to him. He troubleshoots as much as he can, but decides he needs to work on the chair in a serious way. He helps push the young man to our site on Stout St. A companion is with him who helps translate through sign language. Thank goodness we brought our loaner power wheelchair! He transfers into ours and goes onto a full day of volunteering at the Pepsi Center.
Dave brings his talents, first at assessing the problem and quickly fixing it. Even without his workshop of tools, he gets to the root of the matter and within an hour has Andrew’s chair as good as new. Andrew cannot come back, though, until Thursday morning. His chair becomes a curiosity for passersby as it has the overall look of a manual wheelchair with all the power of a power chair. Dave explains how this type of wheelchair works to those who stop and inquire throughout the afternoon.

3:00 p.m.
I walk along the 16th St. Mall, handing out our cards and looking for photo ops. I have seen a few famous faces, mostly journalists, in these days so far. I am eager for a sighting of someone really famous. I hear George Clooney and Oprah are in town! What I come upon instead is the hilarious moment I captured in this video clip. A belly dancer emerges from the crowd to present herself to the stand of riot police standing guard. She promises them a moment they won’t forget. See how each policeman looks somewhere else! Suddenly confronted with something that could be a diversionary tactic, and noting quickly just how many of us, including a TV camera, turn on this funny scene, the police officers are a bit perplexed on how to manage the situation. They most surely enjoy seeing this beautiful woman wiggling in front of them, yet they cannot appear distracted, but they are distracted in their efforts to appear unmoved by all this. A couple of them smile at the irony of it all. A truly terrific scene and one of so many where the police, all ready for the worst, actually joined in with the crowds in a friendly and unassuming way.

5:30 p.m
As we pack up this evening, I am already feeling a bit melancholy knowing that Thursday is the culmination. On the other hand, the long list of “to do” items back at the store grows for both me and Dave, so we are eager to get back and begin handling those things.
A delegate from Illinois stopped by earlier on a bike to chat about a power scooter for his 93-year old uncle who wants to go to listen to Obama’s speech on Thursday. He was frustrated not to have found us earlier. He says he will rent one on Thursday, assuming he can get a ticket for his uncle. He then went on to talk about the conflict he felt being a delegate for Senator Clinton, that is, until she visited their delegation early in the day to say that she is fully behind Senator Obama. By this point in the day, of course, she had called for his nomination by acclimation. The man on the bike was living history!

8:00 p.m.
I am always aware of the role we play providing equipment and products for independence and mobility. There is something, however, being on the streets, encountering people in these large numbers, some of whom do not have the means or the information they need to acquire some of these products, that moves me even more. I wonder again about the road that had led me here, and while I cannot explain it all, I end this day grateful for the chance to be on it. This experience will live inside me a very long time!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Capabilities In The Heart of Denver: Day 2 at the DNC

1:00 a.m.
We just returned from our incredible evening with the Make Mine a Million $ Business folks. What a night of encouragement! We soar with the memories of the thousand plus crowd cheering us on as we spoke about Capabilities and our mission of bringing relevant and appropriate solutions for comfort and mobility to millions. We also had the privilege of standing very nearby as Hillary Clinton delivered her supportive speech in praise of women business owners and entrepreneurs as part of the long legacy of women making a difference in our country. She quoted Harriet Tubman who played such a critical role in keeping the Underground Railroad alive. “If you want to taste freedom, keep going!” We take this message very personally. We are fueled for another long distance run.

8:00 a.m.
The set up is already a bit easier today. Dave and I have more of a rhythm as we pull our cargo out of the van, pop the open air canope, so generously loaned to us by DJ and Bob, family friends, and arrange our rental equipment in full view of the crowds streaming across the 16th St. Mall. We figured out a better way to hang our sign, for example, for more visibility. I am making notes about what kind of signage we ultimately need to create to take our store mobile more often.

Dave and I share our notes from all the people watching we are doing. He is also tinkering with scooters and wheelchairs as passersby stop more frequently to check us out. The pattern is clear: not much traffic on Stout St. in the morning. We learn from area businesses that many of their employees have taken the week off or are working from home. One of the local fast food places says business is actually less than normal at the moment because the regulars are not there. Even the RTD light rail train is infrequent these mornings.
3:00 p.m.
I just returned from a few hours at the Convention Center. The public can enter this center unlike the Pepsi Center which requires credentials and clearance. Security is still intense as we pass through metal detectors and long lines. While there I visit with so many people, including volunteers welcoming the delegates. Adrenaline runs thick in this city these days, as we locals try to put our best foot forward and offer as much help and hospitality as possible.

While there, I attended the Disabilities Caucus. The theme of freedom and independence, high on the agenda for both attendees and the Obama campaign, charged with running this meeting. For two hours voices from both local communities and those from around the country spoke, clarifying the needs and wants of those with disabilities, sometimes tearfully, sometimes angrily, most often with passion and convincing arguments. One of the most notable things was to arrive in an empty ballroom filled with chairs. Of course, it soon was clear that more than half the chairs would have to go since people in power wheelchairs and manual wheelchairs need plenty of room for their equipment. An obvious faux pas on the part of the organizers!

How much more we all have to do to hold in mind what kinds of changes are needed to make the world a friendlier and more easily navigable place for those with disabilities! I find myself thinking about times when I have forgotten simple things, like making enough space in our conference room for those with wheelchairs. And this happens, even with my daily immersion in a business that introduces me to people with temporary and permanent disabilities every day. Sitting in that meeting, I am proud and delighted that we offered this idea of providing a mobile unit to rent and repair mobility equipment at the DNC. I spread the word of our service to everyone in the room.

5:00 p.m.
As we pack up, a group of teens approach. “Hey,” one shouts, “let me test drive one for my grandma!” “Yeah, sure,” we smile. “Come on,” he urges. “Do you have any money?” we ask. “Nope,” as he and the pack move on, smiling, realizing they need a better line next time. Dave says that earlier in the day, though, a couple of young folks spent time asking real questions about the scooters and power chairs on behalf of their grandmother who is having a harder and harder time moving about. They wanted enough information to talk with her and the rest of the family about investing in grandma’s mobility. It turns out we are not only the curious ones as we live this amazing experience! We are a source of curiosity and real education for many who have never seen this stuff before, or only from afar.

7:00 p.m.
As I watch the political speeches on television, I read through the position paper given me at the Disabilities Caucus. Senator Obama has a number of provisions in his plans to bring equality to those with disabilities in employment, for example, and funding for those who cannot work because of their disabilities. I look for something on McCain’s website about disabilities, but am unsuccessful in finding it, at least tonight.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Capabilities Mobile Unit: Day 1 at the DNC

7:30 a.m.
I arrive very early at our two parking spots on Stout St. I somehow did not believe that the bags on the meters would prevent others from snagging those two prime spots. Good thing! Any number of cars try to pull in while I was unpacking the van. Some argue, but as soon as I mention our “mobile wheelchair repair unit,” they smile nicely and move on. As I pull tables, scooters and products from the back of the van, I pause frequently to take in the idea that we are about to enter four amazingly historic days from a completely different vantage point than so many in Denver for the DNC. What would this be all about? Would we actually make a difference with our idea of providing such a service in the heart of town? This is going to be quite the experience, no matter what!

How strange to maneuver in two parking spaces aligned vertically! Of course, we conclude quickly that we had brought too much with us! Dave and I work for about an hour, unloading, setting up, arranging and re-arranging to create a warm and welcoming look and feel so typical of Capabilities. You can see from our photos that the only thing we did not bring was a rug to throw over the oil stains on the street!

11:30 a.m.
Lisa Cope, delegate from Texas, stops by. She had contacted us early to rent a scooter, having found us through the offices of David Kennedy, Disabilities Coordinator with the Denver Host Committee. So happy to have electric power to maneuver through the crowd, Lisa tells us about some of her experiences this early in the process. She has already told many others about our rental and repair service. Suddenly, an enormous roar comes around the corner from the 16th St. Mall. Protestors, lots of them, approach on our side of the street. Right along side them are SWAT teams of police with riot gear, on foot, on horseback, on bicycle. Cameras, reporters, shouting hoards swarm around us. Lisa exchanges words with a few of the protestors who are in no mood for pleasant conversation. Dave gets on the phone trying to call the store and let the others in on our excitement. We are quickly in the middle of one part of the action that will excite and worry Denver all week. This is surely one way to get some attention for the Capabilities mobile wheelchair repair unit very fast! Onlookers and passersby hang out a bit with us after the protestors and police moved up the street and around the corner.

1:00 p.m.
Another delegate, Patricia, calls, breathless and worried that her plans for an electric scooter obtained from a different source have fallen through. Can we help her? Our incredible team at the store hustled one into the van and Pam rushed to deliver it to her hotel on the other side of town in time for Patricia to make her meetings at the Convention Center.

3:00 p.m.
The streets bulge with traffic and people. We watch, mesmerized at the diversity. And we see, in a unique way, just how many of those folks are in wheelchairs, in power vehicles, on crutches and walkers, and using service dogs. There is a lot of curiosity about our makeshift street shop!

6:30 p.m.
Pam and I, along with daughter, Sarah, are participating in a reception featuring Hillary Clinton tonight. Count Me In, the organization behind the Make Mine a Million $ Business Award that we won last year, is hosting the reception in honor of the 88th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the right to vote as a full citizen. We will speak briefly about our journey as part of an introductory theater piece honoring the women who have gone before. We thrill to be in the middle of it all, and to be playing a small part ourselves! See us here at our "rehearsal" the night before with the real actors, Director, Billie McBride, and Hilary Blair, who conceived the piece.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kathryn Blogs at the DNC

We are so excited to be part of this historic week in Denver, the site of the Democratic National Convention.  Dave, our service guru, and I will have quite a view of this incredible city and all the goings on next week from our Capabilities Mobile Unit at the SE corner of Stout St. and 16th St. Mall.  You can guess that I am going to write about it.  Check our blog for notes on what we are seeing, people we are meeting, and opportunities for helping visitors and residents alike stay mobile and on the go while they are in town.  

Dave has spent part of the time this week gathering tools, buying a few new ones to take on the road (a portable drill and portable air compressor, for example), and tuning up a few power chairs and scooters to have on site in case folks have underestimated the effects of high altitude and are looking for a rental.  The idea of our fleet zipping around Denver all week makes us smile and feel very proud of our business.

I have been focused on the details.  For example, how can we make two parking spaces feel warm and welcoming?  But we do have a canopy tent to protect us and folks from the heat and rare moments of rain that might happen.  And, chairs.  It’s important to take a moment to sit, especially if you are waiting for us to repair your trusty mobility equipment. Pam has had to stop me from moving a lift chair into the space!  We’ll have some water and snacks, too.  I drove to our assigned parking spaces on Friday to check out the surroundings.  How thrilling to realize that starting Monday we will have the chance to take it all in.  I have spent a lot of time on figuring out what types of products will people really need while they are making their way through the city.  Our staff has some great ideas; so do our customers.  You will find the usual things you might expect from a service designed specifically for this event to repair and service mobility equipment, batteries, bags and related accessories.  We’ve added cushions and seats that anyone can take with them to Convention Center and later on to the Pepsi Center and Investco Field, especially if you are one of the folks in the peanut gallery!  Magnifiers, eyeglass repair kits, oxygen tubing and cannulas.  Don’t miss the seat canes!  You can easily carry this thing while you walk, but when you need to get a load off, just flip it open and relax.  Nice!  

So, stay tuned as Dave and I take Capabilities on the road to downtown Denver.  We’ll even have a city map with us to give directions to our many visitors.  We are ready to do our part to show off Denver and the West during this, at least for us, once in a lifetime experience.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Choosing Tubs

Pam and I are pleased to introduce you this week to our Featured Product, the Sanspa Walk-In Tub. We recently decided to add this tub to our collection at Capabilities. We would like to share some of our thinking about this decision.

Some of you know that we have featured walk in tubs since we opened our doors three years ago. We watch for new products all the time and we stay open to bringing different brands on board. A category like this is considered a specialty product. In other words, not everyone is in the market for a walk-in tub the way many might be for some of our other products. For example, nearly everyone can use or will use a bath bench or a pillow or back support of some kind. When it comes to the bathroom, many are reluctant to consider a new tub because all they can imagine is the cost of remodeling.

We always have (at least) three things under consideration as we purchase products for Capabilities:
Is this product relevant in some way to our customers?
Does this product have a price point that we believe is manageable to our customers?
Does this product fit with our overall plan for managing our business?

We know walk-in tubs are the way of the future. So many people are examining all the options for staying at home. Transforming the bathroom is key to this plan.

The cost of updating bathroom is perceived as prohibitive to some. We find that often folks are missing valuable information about how to make their bathrooms safer and more pleasant.

We believe that the costs can be manageable if you make the right decisions. We love this tub because it is practical and beautiful. It fits nearly perfectly in the place of your current tub. So, the much feared muss and fuss of a bathroom makeover are virtually non-existent. We also offer a basic installation fee of $1500 which pretty much covers most situations. Of course, we will do a free in-home assessment to be sure there aren’t some extremely difficult situations to maneuver through that would increase the cost.

So, one big feature for us was finding a tub for which we could quote a basic installation price. We also have the person-power to be sure we can make your experience with buying and installing this tub seamless.

The biggest seller for us on this tub, however, is its look and design. The profile of this tub is a bit bigger than others we have sold. After much feedback from customers, many of whom are Boomers who are looking for a soaker tub that satisfies aesthetics first, we are attracted to this tub for its spaciousness. It measures 51 inches long, 32 inches deep, and 42.5 inches wide (slightly less than a standard tub). With massage jets, comfort armrests and a build in pillow, this tub becomes your own personal spa!

Ultimately, it offers not only a wonderful bathing and soaking experience, but safety in the tub. With an easy access door that swings out, built in grab bars and an ADA standard 17 inch seat, you will feel comfortable and independent as you take your long relaxing bath. This tub holds up to 40 gallons and has a safety thermostatic valve to prevent scalding and comes complete with a handheld shower.

After shopping around, we believe this tub offers many of the features we have heard our customers ask for. And, at $4999, this tub compares more favorably with many of the popular brands found in magazines and touted by TV personalities.

As you plan for your future, think about something that you will also enjoy now. We talk to people every day who are planning ahead, who recognize that pleasures like soaking in a tub disappear all too quickly as age and ability levels change. The bathroom becomes one of the most dangerous places in our homes before we know it.

Stop by and step into our display tub. We’ll give you 5% off one item in our store just for trying it out and finding out more about the Walk-In Tub. If you are not in the Denver area, take a closer look at the tub here. Contact us for more information. If you are anywhere nearby, we can set up an in-home assessment to see if this tub could be right for you or your loved ones.

If you have a favorite product that you think we should carry at Capabilities, please let us know. We are open always to checking out the latest and greatest. We also do quite a bit of research if you have an idea of something you need, but have not found it yet. Email us your ideas or request and we will be in touch.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blogging also on Disaboom was founded by Dr. J. Glen House, a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation who is also a quadriplegic. His firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and those whose lives they touch has driven the mission: to create the first comprehensive, evolving source of information, insight, and personal engagement for the disability community.

And now Kathryn is blogging there. Read her first article on Disaboom and be sure to catch her continuing posts.