This week in Wheelchairs

When I was a kid, I don’t remember ever seeing anyone in a wheelchair. I don’t know where all those people were – maybe it’s just that with improved medical care more people are surviving the kinds of accidents and illnesses that would land them in a chair. Before I was wheelchaired by MS, I never really thought about it. But now, and maybe this is just because I am hyper-aware of wheelchairs and wheelchair access, I seem to see them everywhere. And it’s not just people…

It is encouraging to see people from all “walks” of life breaking the barriers that being in a wheelchair might have once placed in their way. Jillian Mercado has made a name for herself in an industry that perhaps is especially resistant to disability. She is a premier fashion blogger and a life-time wheeler with muscular dystrophy who has worked her way up from merchandising courses at The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, to a coveted internship at Allure. She and her power-chair have become a fixture at New York’s Fashion Week, where she frequently winds up in the front row. She writes for several publications and her own blog, Manufactured 1987. “My passion is equal to yours,” writes Mercado. “I just come with a chair that moves.” Read more of Jillian’s story at The Daily Beast. (Note: she is not, as the article incorrectly states, “bound to a wheelchair.”)

Inspirational for a very different reason, 42-year-old Gabriel Cordell, paralyzed in a car accident when he was 22, is gearing up to wheelchair himself more than 3,000 miles from his home in Burbank, CA to his hometown, where his accident occurred, in West Hempstead, NY. Inspired by Michael King and his epic 5600 journey by wheelchair from Fairbanks, AK to Washington, DC, Cordell is currently raising funds to pay for an RV to carry his support team and documentary crew. You can read more of Gabriel’s story, and make a donation to his adventure, on his Roll With Me blog.

In international wheelchair news, Ecuador, of all places, has moved to the forefront in accessibility. Led by Vice President Lenin Moreno, a paraplegic and the highest ranking world official with a major disability, Ecuador is leading the way with a wheelchair revolution. As in other places, they are working to install ramps and other features to make the country more accessible, as well as creating programs to offer disabled citizens financial help. What is unique to Ecuador is a move to set aside 4% of jobs for disabled workers. Read more about how Ecuador is setting an example for the rest of the world at The Global Post.

When Adrian Westaway of the London design studio Vitamins set out to create a foldable wheel for folding bicycles, he had no idea that the wheel would wind up being so popular for riders of regular bikes. The real surprise came when wheelchair users began asking if the new foldable wheel could be adapted for wheelchair use. Read more about this remarkable invention at Fast Company

A couple of quick hits:

  • It might seem weird to lust after a wheelchair, but I’m hot for the Pronto® Air Personal Transporter
  • I am completely enjoying the new show on FX, Legit, with DJ Qualls as the quadriplegic Billy. Like Artie on Glee, he’s not really disabled, but the show treats him with very refreshing irreverence. Billy just wants to be treated like anyone else and have good time, and has a great sense of humor about his disability. As good as it is to see disabilities normalized like this, it’s too bad there still seem to be so few, if any, disabled actors playing disabled characters.
  • Silly? You decide. Chris P. Bacon, Wheelchair Pig. And an un-named fish in a “wheelchair.”
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