For Matthew Shapiro, weighing himself isn’t as simple as stepping out of the shower and onto the scale. It’s a multi-person effort that risks injury to himself and all involved.
Born 12 weeks premature, Matthew was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a very young age. He got his first wheelchair as a toddler, and spent elementary school in a manual chair. By middle school, he had graduated to an electric chair – and faced weight struggles for the first time.
“Wheeling around in the manual chair, I burned a lot of calories,” says Shapiro. But when he made the switch to the electric chair, he noticed he was gaining weight. “I was eating the same,” he says, “but I wasn’t getting as much exercise.”
Although cerebral palsy isn’t directly affected by weight, Shapiro says the extra weight didn’t help with his symptoms. Now 26, Shapiro tries to diet and exercise to help maintain his weight. He plays soccer twice a week in an adaptive sports program in Richmond, and hits the gym a few times a week. But watching his weight wasn’t as easy as taking daily measurements.
When it comes to weighing himself, Shapiro must rely on the kindness of a few friends – and a meat hook suspended from the ceiling – to lift him out of his chair and ascertain his weight.
“My mom found the meat scale in a slaughter house,” says Shapiro. To measure his weight, Shapiro must have help to lift him from his chair to the bed, where he is hooked up to the meat hook. He’s then hoisted up on the lift, his weight is measured by the meat scale, and the weight of the lift subtracted from the total. His set-up doesn’t have full clearance, so his volunteers must then help remove him from the lift and put him back onto the bed or into his chair. “It’s dangerous and unsafe for everyone,” he says.
Because of the risk and amount of effort required, Shapiro often goes six months or more between weigh sessions.
“The E-Scale is incredible,” he says. “It’s affordable and simple to use. It could change the shape of weight measurement for those of us with disabilities.” The E-Scale’s hockey-puck shaped sensors are simply placed under the load-bearing posts of a bed or chair and calibrated for the individual. Then weight can be measured every time the individual uses that piece of furniture. No extra help needed, and no more meat hook suspended from the ceiling.
“I can’t wait for the E-Scale to be available,” says Shapiro. “It can help so many people like me.”