SCI Life April 2013

Healing the World, One Video at a Time

Meg Johnson

Meg Johnson

At first glance, some might only notice her bright smile and wheelchair, but Meg Johnson, a 31-year-old C7 quad from Marriott-Slaterville, Utah, is multi-layered. She’s a wife to a spry half-time performer (a man she met in college before her injury), an author, motivational speaker and … she’s a YouTube sensation.

Johnson is the face of “Meg’s Movies,” a series of short two-minute videos showing how she does things around the house. From “How to set the table” and “How to make an omelet with leftover mushrooms” to “How to tie an apron in a chair,” she covers everything domestic. “We started the videos because we just wanted to motivate and uplift people of all abilities through short videos.” By “we,” she means herself and her husband, Whit, of course.

“We decided that in our fast-paced world, people needed short videos to get a healthy dose of inspiration in a short amount of time,” she explains. If you visit her YouTube channel, she has over 40 unique videos. Struggling with tying your shoes? She even has a trick for that.

And Johnson’s journey post-injury has also involved another passion: founding the Ms. Wheelchair Utah pageant. “I was searching for something to do with my new body after my injury. I was a very active person before and needed something to do. Before I was paralyzed, I danced and was at Latin dancing clubs every weekend.” Injured in a 2002 hiking accident, she founded the pageant after giving quad rugby a try — “It was super fun, but I wasn’t any good!” she laughs.

Now the Ms. Wheelchair Utah pageant is one of the biggest pageants of its kind in the country. “There are a lot of sports and outdoor activities available for people in wheelchairs, but not everyone in a wheelchair is outdoorsy and sporty,” she says. “Some of us like frou-frou dress up clothes and makeup. Bring on the ribbons and bows and tiaras!”

Visit megjohnsonspeaks.com.

Robots for Humanity
botRobots escaping factories? Sounds a bit sci-fi, but it’s also the goal of Kaijen Hsiao and Matei Ciocarlie, robotics researchers from Willow Garage, a robotics factory, who are hoping their “escape” will benefit disabled people. They’ve developed PR2, a $400,000 robot that weighs 400 pounds and is designed for people with limited arm movement.

The PR2 stands at average adult height and can do many of the things a caregiver does. One of its most useful features — articulating arms — are connected to movable wrists and pincer-like “hands.” And these hands can do a lot — fold laundry, sort socks, bring dishes to the table, even put the milk back in the fridge.

Currently, the PR2 is in prototype mode and is only available for purchase by other robotic researchers hoping to build upon it. Look for it to be available to the public in the near future.

Go to www.willowgarage.com.

Worldly Tip Treasure Trove
Sometimes even going back to your old occupational therapist can’t help. This is where Spinalistips comes in. They offer only user-submitted tips from people with spinal cord injuries around the world, and they have thousands of tips, with categories like Household Tasks, Traveling, and Carrying (and Moving and Handling) Objects.

See them at www.spinalistips.se.

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