Accessible Home Design | Friendly Wheels | Issue 49

Posted on Tuesday March 13, 2012

Making Life Easier

Friendly Wheels, Issue 49
March 2012

Featuring Amigo owner Shelley Peterman Schwarz.

Shelley Peterman Schwarz, a longtime Amigo owner and friend, has never let multiple sclerosis hold her back. A graduate of the University of Wiconsin-Milwaukee, Shelley got her start as a teacher of the hearing impaired, a job she enjoyed for 13 years. Shortly after her MS diagnosis in 1979, mobility restrictions forced her to retire from teaching.

Since “retiring,” Shelley has gone on to become a motivational speaker, award-winning author and TV personality. Her “Making Life Easier” series includes seven books, all filled with helpful information for people with disabilities.

Though Shelley lives with multiple sclerosis, she writes tips to help with a variety of illnesses and disabilities, and many tips she offers could be useful to anyone who is hoping to simplify their life.

Shelley’s most recent book, Home Accessibility: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier, is filled with helpful tips and resources for creating a comfortable and accessible home.

Shelley shares a few tips from her new book:

  • Hard, smooth surfaces are easier to maneuver than carpet. Wood floors are attractive and durable, and non-slip tile or stone are best in wet areas such as the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and entryways.
  • Replace round knobs with lever handles that can be operated without gripping and turning. If replacing knobs is not an option, wrap a few rubber bands around the knob to give you a better grasp.
  • Purchase side-hinged appliances. A side-hinged oven will take up less space in the kitchen and is safer to use since there is no bending or reaching over a hot oven door.
  • Store dishes vertically and within easy reach. Instead of stacking heavy dishes, stand them on end by adding small dowels to create a space to stand plates.
  • Open up bathroom closets and cabinets. Removing doors from closets and replacing cabinets with open shelves will give you a few extra inches to maneuver while making storage areas more accessible.
  • A low-cost way to access clothing in a tall closet is to purchase or make your own garment hook (a pole with a hook on the end) like they use in boutiques.
  • An alternating air pressure mattress helps those at risk for pressure sores or with circulatory problems.These devices have air pockets and fill alternate chambers with air causing them to rise and fall, eliminating long-term pressure on any one body part. Consult your physician to see if you would benefit from one of these special devices.
  • Speaker phones let you talk on the phone while leaving your hands free. This makes it easier to take notes and is more comfortable for those with arthritis, weak grip or other hand challenges.


Shelley plans to continue to find new ways to make life easier and provide solutions to those with disabilities.


“There’s really no right answer to the question, ‘Why me?'”Shelley said. “But writing these books helps me answer it. I got my start as a teacher, and now I have a much larger classroom.”


Shelley’s books are available for purchase on, and you can learn more about her by visiting her website,

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