My personalized best products list is drawn from our culture at large — in the order that I discovered them. One notable exception will be my favorite wheelchair, which I will not mention. It seems everyone needs something different in a chair.
I drove my first hand-controlled car in the rehab parking lot. Soon I had reclaimed lost territory — road-tripping like any red-blooded American 20-year-old. My hero was the WWII vet who made these pre-1965 custom controls in his garage. You pushed a wooden handle attached to a rod connected to the brake pedal. The accelerator was a hybrid motorcycle design. A steel wire ran from a mini-lever on the brake handle to a pulley bolted to the floorboard and back up to the accelerator pedal. It lasted 14 years. When the wire broke I was in downtown Portland driving a 1978 Honda Civic that fit me like a surgeon’s glove. I was able to make it safely home by pulling the choke all the way out, cruising at 20 miles an hour on the busy city streets.
There have been plenty of improvements since then, but this was the first adaptive device that made me forget that I was paralyzed.
Next came the vehicle that re-opened the natural world for me — a Honda all-terrain cycle. The original three-wheeler was dangerous, but a thrill to ride. Before it came along, I was stuck at the campsite. Crashing through the woods, fording streams and climbing sand dunes were off limits. Just as hand controls put me back on the open road, my Honda three-wheeler made outdoor adventure possible again. And I never would ha