How To Be A Prepper With A Disability

how to be a prepper with a disability

by W. D. Sultemeier – The Wheelchair Prepper

When MD asked for readers’ help I responded with a suggestion for an article about and for the prepper who finds himself in a handicapped situation. I really meant the suggestion for MD to take the ball and run with it but he turned the table and challenged me to prepare a guest post.

I was diagnosed with a syrinx on my thoracic spinal cord in 1996. I was a teacher/coach at the time at a local public school and due to a stroke suffered by my dad in ’93, I was also operating the family cow/calf business. I was while having earned a pair of college degrees, someone who preferred a physical, outdoor lifestyle.

The prospect of spinal surgery was frightening, to say the least but the option was limited. The cyst was removed but the damage to the spinal cord was already done due to its lack of elasticity. Thus began a slow debilitation.

Let me say I seek no sympathy and have looked at this episode as a challenge. Pain management is the biggest part of my altered life. A gradual change in my mobility required an “adjustment” to my lifestyle. I went from a limp to a cane, to crutches and walker, to finally a wheelchair.

I had time to make some preparations for the changes that were coming. Those who find themselves faced with an abrupt physical change have a daunting but do-able task before them.

Making the structural changes necessary will challenge many depending on the individual’s situation. I was able to make my surroundings more easily manageable due to the length of time involved. Construction of ramps(not ADA approved), installation of handicap bars in the shower and at the toilet, making room to access the bed and closet space, were all things I was able to deal with.

Early on I was able to build and improve pathways around my house, shop, and barns, using hard-packed granite gravel from sources from the ranch. I was fortunate to have access to equipment and even unto this day have some ability to operate that machinery. I have to remind myself daily what can be done or should not be attempted, with safety being paramount.

I never leave the house without my cell phone. I sometimes feel a slave to that concession to my wife. I am very lucky that I have access to a battery-powered scooter and a power chair. These are used at the house and around the place. I do not take off out into the pastures with the scooter ( even though I would love to ) but do use it in the yard and to the shop and barns.

When we go somewhere, i.e. church, doctor, store, etc., I use a handed down traditional wheelchair for ease of handling into and out of the vehicles.

Like any of you, my wife and I stockpile canned and dry foods, store potable water, maintain first aid supplies, add to the ammunition stores, and do many of the things we have learned from MD’s blog. The point of this missive is to make one see that preparing can be done regardless of one’s physical abilities. Contributions can be made by pretty much anyone.

I come from a very tall family. I stand 6’5”, the wife is 5’10”, son is 6’8” and my daughter and her husband are both over 6’. Our house was built with that in mind 20 years ago with cabinets and pantry shelves reflecting our stature.

Today I need a “grabber” to reach some of the items and a careful balance to get others. We raised the kitchen table (hand-made by my grandfather) to allow me access in my power chair. Since my wife still works off-farm, I do the meal preps and try to keep the house (not very good at that). Because I can get to the table to help cut up meat, process fruit and vegetables, we have been able to keep our freezers full.

Gardening has been a tough one for me. I grew up with a seasonal garden at least a half acre in size. I would still love to get out into the middle of one but riding a scooter into a plowed garden would not be too simple. This year I had my son plow strips with space for packed ground to drive between rows. I have been keeping my hands dirty by container gardening.

Because I cannot get out among the cattle easily or safely to feed them, I began feeding them using 250# tubs of molasses lick. When empty, with perforated bottoms, these tubs make great container beds and are a good, easily accessible height.

I have gone from a short hoe to tractor and tiller, back to a short hoe for my gardening tool of choice. This past spring-summer I grew okra, beans, squash, tomatoes, peppers. I still have various herbs and shallots growing in these tubs.

After reading ONE SECOND AFTER, my wife became more supportive of the idea and efforts of being prepared for different situations (she recently broke her right arm). My adult children are like-minded and contribute as they can, be it with the butchering, vegetables, or keeping a good supply of firewood up to the house. Of course, they help with the regular ranch work as much as they can since they have been exposed to this life from the time they were little and not afraid to get a bit dirty.

We put together a rig for me to haul firewood to the house by pulling it with my scooter. I have moved my target range closer to the house so I can practice shooting. My kids are both shooters and better shots than I.

These days the practice is mostly with 22’s but the occasional feral hog still meets the business end of my .357 magnum. I am still proficient with my other pistols, rifles, and shotguns.

I don’t really foresee myself clearing the house at night with my wheelchair and Glock 21 but it would not be wise to enter our house uninvited. I have not thought too much about renewing my CCW permit, but I am determined to do so.

For those who think there is little hope or usefulness left to them due to a handicap…they are wrong. I have and continue to acquire source material on many topics covered in this blog. When TSHTF providing information will be a major contribution to keep you and yours safe and prepared.

Being a keeper of knowledge (sharer of knowledge) is and always has been a revered place in society. One can still work in one’s shop, doing projects, limited only by one’s imagination. After making room to navigate around the workbench and various tools, I recently began working on a Vertical Axis Wind Turbine using the heavy lids from the same feed tubs as the wings.

Getting power to make our lives easier when TSHTF is now a bigger concern. I will need something to charge my mobility batteries when the grid goes down. Solar panels and a bank of batteries are on the “someday” list. Money is always a factor for most of us.

The concept of bugging out is a bit more difficult in a wheelchair situation. I still have bags for my wife and myself in case we have to get out in a hurry. Preparations have been made setting up a site away from the house if the need arises.

The thing that disturbs me is being able to get back home if something catastrophic occurs while away. I keep emergency bags and firearms in each vehicle that sees time away from home. My fear is making a 30 to 60 mile trip in a wheelchair. I cannot jog but do try to keep the upper body fit.

There are assuredly many things I have omitted and others’ situations will be different, but one must remember that just because one is in a wheelchair or is in some way handicapped, one must still do what he can to prepare and help himself and his loved ones survive.

If you have tips, advice or survive with a disability I would love to hear from you in the comments below…

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  1. WDS, good for you, never give in or up. I think you should obtain a guard dog to help with protecting your family. Just my observation, they are always alert…..

  2. I commend you and your ability to carry on. Mind set is one of the biggest problems a person can face. One thinks I can still do that. Yea, right. After an indecent and surgery I lost 50% use of my dominate wrist. Years later, a four level lower back, 14 hour surgery with rods, screws, cage, and bone graph made from a chunk of my hip has limited my ability to do things. Pain is the prevalent problem. Next is the amount of weight I am able to handle. Time and duration, prolong sitting and standing. It took me along time to understand. Now I find easier ways even if it takes longer to do. Take more breaks as needed.
    Recoil sends more than shivers down the back, so even hunting is problematic at times. No more tree stands. Ground blinds now.
    Maintenance whether vehical, heating, plumbing, yard, etc is usually an issue. If I over stretch my limits I can be down a day or two. I seldom use my cane, but should use it somewhat more. Mostly I just keep on going. That’s a mindset thing I’m still working on. A trade off for still trying to keep fit.
    Disabilities no matter what they may be, we need to be able to cope and handle things. God and family are our support. Those of us with disabilities, we decide what will happen next. Like I said, mindset.

  3. WDB, yep!

    *good article and simply yep!*

  4. This is a great motivating article! Many of us just break down with age, but disease, accidents, and heredity can be root causes. I know folks in their 80s who are more active than I am; but I also know folks in their 40s who are struggling with physical weakness. The author is a good example of mind over matter. Thanks!

  5. Thank you for writing this article. I’m not yet in your condition, but if required to run, it would not happen. A fast walk with a limp, maybe. Wonderful incite. Best of luck into your future.

    • SARAH here from SEATTLE,WA. I like to say too “THANK YOU ” ! there is not much said about us “DISABLE” I have a walker and a cane I cant walk very far but I try to walk with my son (HE IS MY CAREGIVER) shopping at the store I cant I have to sit down my damn brain says one thing and my body say something different ! BUT I do as much as I can In food and meds and equipment and firearms

  6. Great article! My wife and I are in the middle of building a small house on our homestead. We are setting everything up for wheelchair access. Even though we do not need it yet . 2 years ago I needed 2 lower back surgeries and now have degenerative disc desease, and bulging disc’s that will eventually need more surgeries to keep me moving. Time to plan as we are going is great for us. Would be a nightmare if this was brought on all of the sudden.

  7. W.D., I admire how you’ve learned to live with your physical limits. Some of us, including myself, may have gotten discouraged & given up. Your re-learning to do so many things, is a tremendous inspiration. Thank you for your article on a topic that was so needed. Your article is the highlight of my day!

  8. I am disabled, living in a small townhome with a HOA that bans gardening in their land, but I can do container gardening. I did try container gardening but the veggies I CAN eat did not do well.

    Solution: Take the container 1 and cut out the bottom. Duck tape it to Container 2 so that its a deeper container for the carrots. This is the “I can’t afford wood solution.”

    Storage: Create storage under the stairs and inside walls that are not load bearing walls.

    On a tight budget and can’t afford to prep? Buy a little extra with every grocery shopping buying food that is good for over a year. I also suggest not having the wrong food allergies. 😉

    What do I do? ROFL I try for the having food that will last a year approach and buy 50 lbs of white rice. Yes brown rice is better, but I buy white because I like it better (taste) and it will last forever with proper storage. Buying the stuff (see someone else’s post) so that you can pack your own prepper’s bucket is worth it.


  10. Good article.
    My experience on container gardening.. Instead of putting drainage in bottom of those containers, put the holes 2-3 inches up so always have a small residual of water/moist soil there..Plants seem less stressed if I miss a day of watering…
    also…. raised beds! such a blessing and also help keep out some critters.
    I am not disabled, but with injuries and weight limitations on lifting, have had to seek alternate ways to do a lot of normal chores. Our home is a work in progress , doors have been widened, handicapped shower in progress, one level…trying to work on closet solutions…

  11. Excellent article and very motivating. after two strokes and two back surgeries with constant pain I understand the problems but I also understand the motivation of being a prepper. Thank you

  12. Way to go! The mindset is very important and you are way ahead of many!! Keep the faith!!

  13. Kytriya, I grew a bumper crop of carrots in a window box last summer. Need to buy a short variety, plant the seeds close. The seed packets will say to plant every six inches or so, but I planted mine just about the width of what the mature carrot would be. I was truly amazed by the yield. And they were delicious.

    • MaineBrain – once we get our act in gear and find a window we can use, I will grow carrots as that is one thing that seems to work the best. I am also planning on waiting until my life is a little less crazy so that I have time to work on the garden. I just feel that next year is going to be too busy with things I have absolutely no control over.

  14. I am on meds that I would die without & have to be weaned off of, so for me it’s critical to have a stock pile. At one time they switched dosages & pharmacies at the same time & I was able to keep filling both perscriptions & on occasion I miss a dose (which is not recommended & impossible in some cases) but it has netted me a few months worth to give me time to figure out a new source.

    • YES I know the felling about MEDS I wish I could stop them AND I hope I can change over to “CBD OIL” I belive it better and “NONE ” of the side effect

  15. I know the felling about the meds ! I hate taking them But I know I need them I am slowly convert to “CBD” OIL works just as good and no side effect !

  16. I lost my leg 50 years ago, and wore a prosthetic up until I took a fall that damaged my good knee 3 years ago and landed me in a wheelchair. I have been “prepping” for this eventuality for all that time, so planned and had built my house on 120 acres with that in mind. Ramps (one ADA, one not), no stairs, single story, wide doorways, ADA toilet, etc. I have an 8’x8’ closet I call my “vault.” It contains dried, canned food, extra ammo, canning and drying supplies, and back-ups of the important stuff. Shelves on 3 walls, and wheelchair accessible. My place is in the mountains so flat land is non-existant, but I have handled it well. I built raised beds in the garden while mobile. I can not get to at the moment – need to hire someone to create access for me, but turned my front deck into a very successful container garden for vegetables this past summer. Hope to build my back deck twice as big this next year, and also set that up for container gardening. I am solar, with the exception of my water pump, so need to convert that. Still a few things to do, but better prepared than most and stay as active as my disability allows – lots of upper body.