On first glance the idea of “planning for spontaneity” makes about as much sense as the latest guide to Medicare. In fact, “planned spontaneity” probably ranks right near the top of the list of most confusing oxymorons — right up there with “deafening silence” and “jumbo shrimp.”

But if you bring up the concept with any wheelchair user, it’s likely that their eyes will light up with the spark of understanding. Almost every chair user has had a much-anticipated adventure or excursion cut short by something as simple as an unexpected staircase, an impassable road or a sudden health need. Without a chair, they’d be minor obstacles. With the chair they can kill the moment and bring a quick end to what could have been an adventure.

Gabby Richards has worked as a reporter and an editor for the Washington Post and has traveled all over the world in her chair. In the 22 years since a car accident left her a C5-6 quadriplegic, she has learned the keys to planning for spontaneity. “It’s all about being able to plan but not boxing yourself in by that plan,” she says. “If you are able to plan for unexpected occurrences, then you