Protecting Your Body from Hazards Around the Home

Upper Body Protective Technique

If you learn to use the following Upper Body Protective Technique correctly, your forearm will act as a “bumper” to protect your head and the upper part of your body from hanging plants, open cupboard doors, and room doors that are partially ajar. You can also use this technique when bending down to pick up objects or checking a chair seat before sitting down. Even if you have some usable vision and think you are safe, don’t take the risk–never bend over without using this safety technique.

It’s important to remember that this technique will only partially protect your shoulder and chest area and will not protect you below the waist or warn you about approaching drop-offs, such as steps and stairs. You should use upper and lower body protective techniques and/or a long white cane for maximum protection.

Ten Steps to Follow:

  1. Raise your stronger arm to shoulder height and extend it out in front of your body as if you were pointing straight ahead.
  2. Bend your arm so your forearm is across your chest, and touch your opposite shoulder with your fingertips.
  3. Move your hand approximately 10-12 inches away from your shoulder.
  4. You can estimate this distance by visualizing a shoe box or ruler placed lengthwise between your shoulder and your hand.
  5. Curl your fingers, spread them slightly apart, and keep your wrist straight as you turn your palm outward so that it faces away from your body.
  6. Keep your elbow chest high while you raise the forearm diagonally across the body until your hand is about ten inches in front of your face.
  7. Turn your palm outward with your fingers pointing at a slight angle back toward your face to protect them from injury and allow the forearm to serve as a buffer. It is important to maintain your hand and arm in this position so that your upper body is partially protected.
  8. Initially, you may be able to hold this position for only a minute or two. Still, with repeated practice, you will be able to maintain this position for more extended periods. If your hand and arm are “floppy,” they will not be as effective in protecting your head and upper body.
  9. If your arm tires, you can switch and use your other arm, repeating the previous steps to maintain the correct position.
  10. If you cannot raise your arm due to arthritis, stroke, or Parkinson’s, try wearing a visor to protect your face.

The Lower Body Protective Technique

If you learn to use the following Lower Body Protective Technique correctly, your arm will act as a “bumper” to protect the lower part of your body from kitchen counters, table edges, nightstands, and the backs of chairs.

It’s important to remember that this technique will only partially protect your stomach or groin area, and it will not warn you about approaching drop-offs, such as steps, stairs, and ramps. For maximum protection, you should use upper and lower body protective techniques and/or a long white cane, guide dog, or human guide.

Eight Steps to Follow:

  1. Position your stronger arm downward as if you were pointing at the floor.
  2. Position your hand with your palm in front of and facing the opposite thigh, approximately 10-12 inches from your body.
  3. You can estimate this distance by visualizing a shoebox or ruler placed lengthwise between your thigh and your palm.
  4. Curl your fingers, spread them slightly apart, and keep your wrist straight with your palm facing your body so that the back of your hand will contact any object you encounter.
  5. Try to keep your fingers relaxed while walking.
  6. Keep your hand and arm in this position to protect your lower body.
  7. Initially, you may be able to hold this position for only a minute or two. Still, with repeated practice, you can maintain this position for more extended periods.
  8. If your arm tires, you can switch and use your other arm, repeating the previous steps to maintain the correct position.

The Trailing Technique

The Trailing Technique can help you locate a door, walk in a straight line, or detect the position of objects in front of you on the same side of your body as your extended arm.

This technique can provide you with useful information about everyday objects, obstacles, and potential hazards that you may encounter as you move about your home.

It can also provide you with a feeling of security while you walk, by allowing you to remain in contact with walls, countertops, desks, tables, or other types of stationary surfaces.

It’s important to remember that this technique will not warn you about approaching drop-offs, such as steps and stairs. For maximum protection, you should use the trailing technique combined with the upper or lower body protective technique, depending upon your needs in a particular environment.

Ten Steps to Follow:

  1. Begin along a straight stretch of wall in an uncluttered area. Stand with the side of your body about 6 inches from the wall.
  2. Extend your hand in front of you at approximately hip level and angled downward toward the floor, about 12 inches from your body.
  3. The back of your hand should be in contact with the wall, with your fingers slightly cupped toward your palm.
  4. This will prevent you from injuring your fingers if they come into contact with an object. Your fingers will also act as “bumpers” to warn you about objects you may encounter.
  5. Walk forward slowly while holding your arm in this position, keeping the backs of your fingers, especially the knuckles of your ring and “pinky” fingers, in contact with the wall.
  6. Ensure that the back of your hand is always in contact with a surface while moving.
  7. When you make contact with or locate an object, take a few moments to examine and identify it.
  8. If you come to a doorway, walk across the opening and resume trailing on the other side.
  9. For maximum protection when crossing the door opening, it is recommended that you use either the Upper Body Protective Technique or Lower Body Protective Technique, depending upon the particular environment.
  10. Initially, you may be able to hold this position for only a minute or two. Still, with repeated practice, you will be able to maintain this position for more extended periods.

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