This is what I’ve been talking about.

I’ve been away from this blog for quite some time, dealing with some complicated shit. More about that later. But for now:

This is what I’ve been talking about. Ordinary people, doing ordinary things. Ordinary people who happen to be in wheelchairs, featured in commercials. Better they should be in mainstream TV shows and movies, but I’ll take what I can get.

  • The wheelchairs are not the focus of the story, they’re not even important to the story. This little screenplay could have been acted out equally as powerfully were the actors not in wheelchairs.
  • I love the fact that this drama shows people in wheelchairs being physical, active athletes, able to give and take on the court. I love the fact that this is not about people in wheelchairs. This is not about disability.
  • I love the fact that it proves that wheelchair users are not “bound” to their chairs. Just as we are moving towards more inclusive “person first” language we have to move away from the image of people in wheelchairs being dependent and stuck or trapped. For these men, like for everybody else who uses a wheelchair, the chair is a vehicle for liberation.
  • I love that the story empowers the men in the wheelchairs.
  • I love the fact that the kids are fully included in the father’s life and accepting of his disability, perhaps not even seeing it anymore.
  • I love the fact that Toyota stands aside, and can promote their message and their product (I still don’t know what model vehicle is being promoted, but, like the wheelchairs, it doesn’t matter.) without having to shout.
  • I love seeing myself, or someone who looks like me, portrayed this way in a mainstream commercial. Perhaps only marginalized people will understand this. (A topic for a further and lengthy, discussion.)

In the end, what makes this a really great commercial is that the product (some sort of car, I think…) is only a vehicle (pardon the pun) for the drama of a group of men playing a very physical game of basketball, ending the day without holding grudges.

I hope this film can lead the way toward more fully inclusive roles for people with disabilities.

Did I mention that I love this little film? What do you think?

It’s a thin line…

I saw a cartoon many years ago of some character saying, “I love hate, and I hate everything else.” While I lean towards the inverse of that sentiment, it is a thin line between love and hate. There are things surrounding my experience of multiple sclerosis that I hate, but all of them carry with them the opportunity to be grateful, thankful and appreciative.

  • I hate my wheelchairs – an electric one for around the house, and a manual one for out-and-about. I hate them both. Every single time I sit in either of them, I feel a sense of defeat, of giving up. When I use the out-and-about chair, due to my lack of strength/endurance, I need to have someone along with me to push.
  • BUT: I am endlessly appreciative to have not just one but two wheelchairs. I am endlessly fortunate to have such things, and thankful that they were so easily acquired. I am endlessly appreciative of the people who load and unload my travel chair and push me around in it, none of whom give any hint that they object to having to do it.
  • Similarly, I hate my walkers. Like the wheelchairs, I have two – upstairs and downstairs. Like the wheelchairs, I feel old and feeble when I use them.
  • BUT: like the wheelchairs, I am very fortunate to have them, and I can appreciate them as tools and assistive devices.
  • I hate taking all these meds every day. Pills to control high blood pressure, pills to control muscle cramps, pills to help with my…lower digestive functions, pills to (hopefully) keep the progression of MS down to a slow crawl, pills to control pains and headaches, pills to help me sleep.
  • BUT: I am deeply appreciative that I have access to essentially any medications I might need. And I am very thankful to have easy access to doctors, physical therapists, nurses and the facilities in which they work.
  • I hate my stair lift. Like the wheelchairs, every time I ride up or down the stairs, I feel defeated and like I am taking the easy way out. I find it very embarrassing if anyone sees me riding the stupid thing. I feel old and feeble.
  • BUT: I am deeply appreciative to have such a thing in my house. I can walk up and down the stairs on my own, but doing so is dangerous and exhausting. Having the stairlift makes my life a little bit safer and easier. I am endlessly thankful to my parents who paid for it, and to John who installed it.
  • I hate having to ask for help. I hate having to be accommodated. I hate that I cannot go out anywhere on my own, but have to rely on others to get me there and back again. I hate that I can only go places that are wheelchair accessible.
  • BUT: I am endlessly thankful that the majority of places I go are accessible, and that there always seems to be someone to hold a door or help me over a curb or move tables and chairs in a restaurant. I am deeply appreciative of the people who drive me places and push my wheelchair: my wife Alison, my kids Benzo and Robin, Kathleen (and Diane before her) and for countless airline employees who have assisted me through airports, onto and off of airplanes.
  • I hate the fact there are so many little things – cooking, house cleaning, doing laundry, etc. – that I either cannot do or that are increasingly difficult. I have always valued independence very highly, and I hate watching my independence fade away.
  • BUT: I am endlessly thankful that there are so many people willing and able to help me: again, major props to my wife Alison, and to my kids, and any others who step up and step in when they see me attempting or struggling with something.
  • My house is surrounded by a few acres of forest. Wandering around in, and caring for, my little patch of the planet was one of my greatest joys. I hate the fact that I have not been out into the woods in years, and probably never will again. It kills me.
  • BUT: I am endlessly appreciative of the fact that I live out in the middle of the woods. It is a bit isolating, but it is beautiful. And I am equally appreciative to live in such a beautiful house – warm and dry and comfortable.
  • Finally, I hate multiple sclerosis. I hate everything about it. Disability might have given me more opportunity for humility and thankfulness. But I would gladly trade that to be able to walk, or drive a car. The expression “you don’t miss your water ’til your well runs dry,” is absolutely true.

I am well aware that most people in the world do not have access, like I do, to the medications, doctors, assistive equipment and people to help me get through my day. I know that many people do not have anything close to the resources I have. I am an astonishingly lucky person. When ever I fall into the “poor me” pity party, I stop and remind myself of just how astonishingly lucky I am.

(A special shout out to those who responded to my pathetic cry for validation, and left comments for me. Thanks!)

The Rough Rider: No excuses!

I’m a wheelchair-user. A wheeler. A rider. And, like performance car or motorcycle enthusiasts, I often search the web for new and interesting wheelchairs. I’ve come across quite a number of innovative chairs, like the Luggie (actually a scooter), high-style chairs, like the Icon and the Marvel M1 and the Genny, specialized machines, like the Tank Chair, and the everyday chair, which can be found almost anywhere, such as Spinlife, Invacare and Quckie. Powerchairs, manual chairs, pediatric and bariatric chairs – they are everywhere and not hard to come by. They can range in price from a few hundred to several thousands of dollars.

But in all my wanderings through the internet, I’ve never come across anything quite like the Rough Rider. I was hooked when I first saw it – stylish, simple, durable. The deeper I looked into the web site, the deeper sank the hook. The Rough Rider is carefully and thoughtfully designed to solve quite a few of the common challenges that every rider faces. With it’s innovative “WideFlex” front casters to it’s long wheelbase and mountain bike style tires, the Rough Rider can easily maneuver over curbs, through pot holes and across uneven sidewalks and roads, even through grass and other off-road situations. It is fully adjustable – the seat back tension can be adjusted to meet the needs of riders of almost any size, and the 5 rear axle positions allow the user to find the perfect center of gravity. It folds to fit into the trunk or back seat of a private car, a taxi or for airplane travel. As if all of that were not enough, the Rough Rider is inexpensive, retailing for well under $1000. And it looks snazzy:

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And as if THAT were not enough, Whirlwind Wheelchair International, who designed and market the Rough Rider, is, according to their website, “a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities in the developing world while also promoting sustainable local economic development in the process.”  To that end, Whirlwind offers a unique “BOGO” program – for every rough Rider sold, Whirlwind will donate a chair. They work closely with local, independent factories around the world to build and maintain their product.

I have pored over their website, and spoken with a representative on the phone, and even though I have not actually seen a Rough Rider, I cannot say enough good things about these people and their mission. When it comes time to replace my belived Karma chair, I know exactly where I will be shopping. I encourage you to visit their website, and spend some time reading up on this innovative product and company.