Spot-on reporting. Top shelf journalism.(“Beyond Inspiration: A New Narrative,” August 2019). As a lifelong writer and former daily journalist, this (sadly) IS the attitude of most mainstream editors and reporters. This article needed to be published — and I am sharing it on every platform I have.
The “I” Word
Ahhhhh, yes. The “I” word. Some people appreciate it because, through it, they get SOME form of positive attention. I’ve been involved with adaptive sports since I broke my back 18 years ago. One could argue that the adaptive sports scene is largely fueled by inspiration. There are countless grants and opportunities for people with limited abilities to participate in adaptive sports, but resources for those same individuals to start a small business or work to reach a higher standard of living are few and far between. I would MUCH rather be regarded as an equal, as opposed to being someone’s short-lived “inspiration.”
Mountain Out of a Molehill
I’m not exactly sure if I’ve ever seen anything overanalyzed quite to this extent. I mean, I’ve been in a chair 30 years and called a lot worse than inspirational. I’ve been told that from time to time or just had people say they wonder how I can do it every day. I just tell them that I don’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter, and that’s pretty much the end of the conversation. I really think they just say it because they honestly don’t know what else to say to you and are scared of saying something stupid.
Behind the Curtain
What an insightful read about a side of the speaking industry I knew nothing about (“Confessions of a Motivational Speaker,” August 2019). Turning away from the simple tricks so that the real message can take center stage.
Thanks for your insights. I live with cerebral palsy and think deeply about the world, its systems and my place in it. I have dabbled in public speaking and hope to get back into it. I’ll definitely carry with me a lot of what you have learned and observed.
Striking for Access
Our group “South Fraser Active Living” (part of Spinal Cord Injury – British Columbia) has been bowling a couple of times, and we are fortunate that the local lanes have four or more traditional ramps (“Opening Up the Lanes,” August 2019). We have found that it is impossible to get the ramp ready yourself, someone has to hold the ramp up between each chair user and of course it’s tricky to line it up, etc. It is bowling, after all! This device seems to hook up on each chair, I’ll see if we can find a video, but because it attaches, does that mean everyone has to have their own [IKAN Bowler]?
Writer Kenny Salvini responds: You do not need a Bowler for every person, but the ease of sharing depends on which style of mount is required. For chairs with swing away footrests, the ratcheting clamps are easily attached and removed within minutes. For chairs needing the utility rail attachments, it’s a bit more labor-intensive but not impossible. The brackets themselves are fairly sleek and would not be noticed when the bowler is not attached. We bought extra mounting brackets for a recent event and brought in a handful of assistive technology professionals from our local DME providers to attach them to people’s chairs so they could test it out. For a more long-term solution, I would suggest that each person who wants to bowl get their own set of mounting brackets to have on their chairs at all times.
Left on the Curb
In Greater Boston, the public transit system (MBTA) has been trying to wean some users from the inefficient paratransit system called The Ride by piloting a partnership with Uber and Lyft to subsidize rides in accessible vehicles (“Want to Know Why Your Uber or Lyft isn’t Accessible? Ask Your State Legislator,” August 2019). My 24-year-old son is a new paraplegic using a manual wheelchair. He had been an avid user of Uber prior to his injury, so I was excited by the prospect of his being able to continue that way of getting around.
However, as it turns out, manual wheelchair users fall through the cracks (literally as well as figuratively) with Uber and Lyft. For example, Uber’s paratransit service is designed for motorized wheelchair users, who need to be lifted in while sitting in their chairs. Those vehicles are scarce, and what’s more, not great for manual wheelchair users who want to transfer into a seat and stow their wheelchair in the cargo area. A non-paratransit Uber selection, “UberXL,” basically gets you a minivan. Transferring into the passenger seat of a minivan can be really awkward; my son ended up on the running board of one while trying to transfer into it. With “regular” UberX, you can’t tell what kind of vehicle you’ll get. Some are easy to transfer into and stow your wheelchair; others aren’t.
If the app allowed a user to select the type of vehicle, like “small SUV,” its utility to manual wheelchair users would improve greatly. My son now has a car with hand controls, but parking isn’t easy in congested areas, so life would be better with a viable Uber/Lyft option. With taxi companies sucking air, and therefore putting fewer accessible vehicles on the road, it seems like options for wheelchair users have dwindled rather than expanded … for the meantime at least.
Kristen Parisi’s blog post recounting a cross-country summer flight in which she arrived home but her wheelchair didn’t inspired a number of readers to share their air travel stories in the comments section (“When the Nightmare of an Airline Losing Your Wheelchair Comes True,” Sept. 3, Newmobility.com).
Lots of horror stories out there from wheelers who are flying. If any new wheelers out there are now too scared to fly, DON’T BE. Since being in a chair for over 30 years, I have flown at least 50 times. Consider me lucky, but all my flights were pleasant, and the airlines treated me well, even giving me a few free upgrades to first class. I always use the gate tag, so the chair is taken from the jetway, then loaded directly onto the plane. Then when I arrive at the destination, the chair is one of the first things unloaded, and it comes up to the jetway.
My father-in-law flew with a chair for years with nothing but wonderful experiences! Now my multiple sclerosis makes it my time to take a chair. I have been from Chicago to Mexico three times last year alone! No problems, and the help in Mexico was fantastic! The U.S. should take some examples from the air service reps in our southern U.S. neighbor!
Laura Ringle Markley
My wife and I just flew from St. Louis to Los Angeles for business, and both trips were smooth as could be. We don’t fly often, and I’m always a nervous wreck, but I always gate tag my chair and make sure at least one attendant is invested in my situation. So far so good. Oh, and I always try to fly direct, no layovers.
An airline I won’t mention left my chair on the tarmac during a connecting flight last year. It was returned to me the next day. They said I would have to wait five hours for a loaner to arrive, so I left in the airport’s chair and dared them to arrest me. They did not, and came and got it after my chair arrived.
I had this happen once. I flew into a small airport where a loaner chair just wasn’t going to happen. I kept the airport manager in his office as I sat in an airport wheelchair for six hours. They had to fly my chair in. Ugh. Needless to say, I always double-check with the crew that my chair is not still on the bridge when they close the doors.
I have had more issues with the people that get you to your seat in that aisle chair. I’ve been dropped and slammed into the side of the plane, resulting in injury. They don’t move me without someone else (my wife) guiding them. Sorry, but they are usually grossly under-trained.
I have flown a fair amount of times myself and never — knock, knock — lost my chair. Here’s the thing I do to that’s worked over the last 34 wheeling years. Gate tag for sure, wheel yourself to the connecting flight, make a deal with the flight attendant, or the escort, to watch your chair go down and get loaded. Then upon arrival, sit on the left side of plane as much as possible, and you’ll see your chair come off. Now, if I could only convince them to stop putting my chair in a place where it gets squished with forward slamming luggage when landing.
Crista Lawrence Adamson
The Angry Skies
The Department of Transportation’s mid-year Air Travel Consumer Report showed that airlines damaged 1.62% of wheelchairs and scooters enplaned between January and June 2019. That may not seem like a lot but imagine if airlines broke or injured the legs of every 62nd passenger — the equivalent of 1.62%. Do you think they’d get away with that? Keep up with the stats yourself at transportation.gov/airconsumer.