Meet Wheelchair Man, the brainchild of Afghanistan-born Boston resident Mohammad Sayed who is bringing his story of “wheel life” heroism to the pages of a brand new comic series in hopes of empowering children with disabilities.
“Wheelchair Man is based on my real life story,” says Sayed. “He is the first Afghan American Superhero. His mission is one of hope and peace. He can make a criminal see the consequence of their crimes before they’re committed, and he has the power to not use violence. It’s more than just a comic book character. Wheelchair Man is hope, motivation and peace. I was one of those kids who never gave up. I want to pay it forward and inspire children around the world to triumph over tragedy.”
Sayed is no stranger to overcoming tragedy. Growing up in Afghanistan, he lost his mother to cancer when he was 5. Just days later, a bomb blast hit his home paralyzing him from the chest down. His father rushed him to a hospital in Kabul and never returned for him.
“I had to figure out how to survive,” he says. “In those times, the two things you need are hope and a strong faith.”
Living in a non-governmental organization hospital for seven years, Sayed repaired staffers’ cellphones and took photo IDs as a way to earn a living. In 2009 he was adopted by Maria Pia-Sanchez, an American public health nurse from Boston and started a new life in the U.S.
Now at just 20 years old, Sayed is the founder of Rimpower, a nonprofit that provides various assistive technology devices, most of which Sayed invented himself. His adaptive innovations got him all the way to the White House Science Fair in 2015 where he had a private audience with President Obama.
After launching a crowd fundraising page last year and utilizing the assistance of graphic designers, Wheelchair Man was born. While most superheroes provide help to those in need, Sayed says he modeled Wheelchair Man after his own journey and wants him to be a symbol of rising above the odds with his tagline exclaiming, “Hope is on the way.”
With an official launch party late January, Sayed’s goal is to not just have copies of the comic book in every hospital and rehab center in the U.S., but to also have it spread throughout the developing world where those with physical disabilities are treated as exiles.
“The goal is to empower people who use wheelchairs,” says Sayed. “So imagine you’re in a hospital. You just ended up in a wheelchair, and then all of a sudden, you look up at the TV screen and you see Wheelchair Man. Right there, if you are 6 years old, you say, oh, my life is not over. Here is a superhero.”