The Most Accessible Thing in the World

Reading time: 2 minutes

It’s not a ramp.

It’s people.

And right away, that makes sense even though that may not have been your first thought when reading the title.

Buttons to open doors are nice, ramps are helpful, technology that allow people like Stephen Hawking to change the world is really great.

But it all comes from people who care. Of course, there are people who don’t care, and why should they? There just isn’t a reason for everyone to care, but those that do care have a good reason. A good reason enough to dedicate their lives to making the world accessible to everyone for disabilities of the physical and mental kind.

This is something I hadn’t truly realized until lately. I was thinking about how it doesn’t matter where I go, as long as there are good people around or coming with me, then accessibility is the help I can get.

While applying for internships, places such as Microsoft come to mind and they’re phenomenal with accessibility, which is really nice. But I also think sometimes that, at least for me, it doesn’t matter as much as the culture and the people. If it’s an accessible culture, then they’ll carry me up the stairs, or as an engineering company, they would maybe create some jetpack thing.

When I go out on trails with my friend, I don’t feel like a burden (ever), but it’s impossible to feel a bit bad that it’s all about me. And not that I’m uncomfortable with having the spotlight, but I’m a host and when I go out to do something with my friends, I want to make sure we’re all having a memorable, danger zone experience. It’s hard to do that when everyone has to focus on me and helping my get around and then we all end up missing that serene feeling that comes with a slow walk through a beautiful trail.

For most people with disabilities (not me, so I could be wrong because I don’t have direct experience), there could be a feeling of not-belonging. An inferiority complex could arise, especially if the person is disabled throughout their developing years. That is why a community of accessible culture is more important than anything, with technology as a very close second.

There are doubtless some disabilities where a culture won’t completely suffice, such as ones that truly need help from technology and can’t be replaced by a human, but even then, it takes a team of dedicated engineers and wicked smart people who care to help create that technology.

It’s all about the people, it always has been.


Immediate actionable items: Are you a member of the accessible community? Someone who has a bias for action to help others? Probably.

Summary: the most accessible thing in the world is a caring community.

Overdeliver:  Something I’ve decided to try and do instead of going somewhere and buying a memento is to go and create a moment. At a store, or traveling, or anywhere possible – try to create a memorable time and leave a (good) mark on every part of the world you go to. But don’t try too hard, it’s unbecoming.

People in Wheelchairs Have Gotta Get Away

Reading time: 2 minutes

This is something on my mind and one of those rare occurrences where I will indict myself and say, “do as I say, not as I do.”

At the time of my writing this, there is a global pandemic. But I write for the future as well as the present, so viruses aside, here’s what I have to say this week.

Unconditionally, going outside – preferably in nature or with people around – is beneficial for your mental health.

Go outside. Go for a walk. Go downtown unless it’s closed for the virus.

Too often people aren’t going outside and unless they have a really good reason to do something, people will migrate towards the most convenient thing. It could be laying down, watch TV, social media, eat, or doing something not necessary or the best use of time.

Especially for those that are in a wheelchair or have a seeming obstacle to going outside, this is why you must do it.

When I was getting my car, I sent a message out to a group and asked for car advice. Someone in a wheelchair sent me a long message raving and praising minivans and telling me that I absolutely need to get one.

I am adamantly against minivans on the grounds that I don’t like them. I can’t be persuaded otherwise, however, the argument I was told by that person along with many others who don’t share my taste in vehicles was that it would be easy to get in and out, which does matter.

It wasn’t the minivan that people loved, but the value it can give to those in wheelchairs – reducing effort to go out.

It’s true – getting in and out of a van or some maddingly modified vehicle is about as easy as opening the front door and walking in.

If it’s such an endeavor to get in and out of your car, the likelihood of not going anywhere will increase. It’s how everyone is. Ask someone if they want to go somewhere but then tell them they need to do 50 pushups first and watch as they reason how staying home is better because they have dishes to wash anyway.

I’m giving you an order, even in the thickest snow, hardest rain, and repelling heat, go outside and remind yourself that you’re in the world.

Don’t be a hermit that stays inside all the time, too many people have told me stories of people in wheelchairs who become secluded and never leave.

Of course, there are some exceptions, such as myself with college where I do find myself inside much of the time studying, however, I’m not afraid to get out and have an adventure or fall over a few times. Even so, I should be going out for a walk by the water at least once every few days, and I’ll start doing so.


Immediate actionable items: Mark times to go outside on your calendar. The first thing in the morning is best because as the day progresses, more will come up and you’ll find an excuse to not go outside.  Write down, “I will do ____ every X days.” as a contract to your mental and physical health.

Summary: If you’re in a wheelchair or have any obstacle of any type, that is no excuse to not go outside at least once a day and go for a walk, see some people, see some trees. It’s easy to stay inside, which is why going outside is so necessary.

Overdeliver:  Marking things on your calendar make you more likely to commit to doing them. Have a friend go with you to make it more enjoyable or go alone and take time to think and be present in the world.

Having someone else makes both of you accountable for the other and it’ll become something you look forward to.  

Happy Birthday Stephen – Pictures from Life

October 2nd is my brother’s 18th birthday (2020). I think he’s pretty cool, not to be sentimental or anything.

Go give him the love he deserves. (view profile)

We have heaps of pictures from our childhood all the way through to now, but here are the ones I could find in 5 minutes since I’m going to bed soon.

Some are good, some are funny, some are explicit. And most will have context supplied below.

Press play then start scrolling:

This is from a long time ago, probably in Chicago.
He also takes after me for being a stud. (you can clearly see when this was taken).
This is in Canada right before a meeting. We kept the facial hair on.
This is him at a gymnastics meet a very long time ago.
We went to the Bahamas for a cruise and got burnt
In the Bahamas again, before we got burnt. (We’ve done 2 cruises)
We went on a trail and he literally moves a tree out of the way.
In Africa doing a mission trip (Ghana), we got tailor made shirts and look rather charming.
At EAA. Holes in the socks and a stick for defense.
The photographer
Pictured Rocks, my friend Matt took us out for a float.
This was a while ago. Obviously on a bridge.
Apple a day.
Charming and slightly rebellious. Not shown here, but we’ve done some dangerous and spontaneous things
HHAHAHHAHA, he once shaved his head. Lots of confidence, this guy
At some fort. We have matching necklaces from Africa.
It can’t be some pictures without some sleep.
At a Christmas lights garden trail, he was illogically cold and pushed me through a half mile of wet mulch.

Finally, here is what will probably be our greatest contribution to the world. Watch all of these, if you think you can handle it.

My brother is likely the best younger brother, making me the best older brother. Maybe some day I’ll let him be player 1 when we play Lego Star Wars. Until then, we’ll keep up our shenanigans and push the limits of what we can get away with.

Necessity and Creativity for the Paraplegic

Reading time: 2.5 minutes

Dying of thirst, an eagle was flying over a rather dry area looking for what it needed badly, water.
When the eagle passed over a hut that had left out a vase of water, it landed and tried to drink the crystal water. After struggling with no success – the water was low and out of reach for the eagle – and knowing that it needed this water, the eagle knew it had to get creative.
Tipping the vase over wouldn’t work. The eagle thought for a while, and then thinking “if only there were a way to make the vase shorter by raising the bottom.” Then, the eagle went around collecting rocks and dropped them in the vase until the water level came within reach.

You may have heard a similar story, but with a crow. I read this in my Aesop’s fables book, but I like eagles more than crows, and I added some detail.

Everyone is, in some way, unique.

Or at least we all think we are, and so I don’t expect anyone to disagree with that.

You can interpret that fable in any way you like but the intention is to show that necessity drives creativity. That isn’t the only place creativity is found, but necessity always leads to creativity if there is an obstacle. Food is necessary, but I don’t have to get creative because the market is nearby.
If I were hunting in the wilderness with Boone, I would likely have to get creative in finding the next meal for my family.

You can find that almost anywhere you see creativity, there is a necessity and an obstacle between what’s needed and what is currently being done.

If you think deeply about things you might’ve wondered what really is necessity? Not what we consider a necessity, but what makes us consider things a necessity. The answer is belief. Which may not seem much different.

If you don’t strongly believe that something is necessary, you won’t care to get creative and solve problems.

Here’s an observation on my life. I go to the gym every day, now that I use a wheelchair, I have to get creative if I want to have a good workout and do the exercises that I want. In the gym, when I’m doing some crazy workout, people would come up to me and tell me that it’s smart or creative and ask how I came up with it. Well, I believed that I had to do it, and that necessity inhibited my creativity.

If you don’t like going to the gym or you don’t believe it’s necessary for you to do, then you won’t go in and put in the effort to figure things out in an unconventional way.

Where our beliefs come from is a larger topic, but this is an observation you can make of yourself quite easily if you’re in a wheelchair.

People in wheelchairs, or anyone with a disability of any type will, by that nature, have obstacles in life.

Unconditionally, everyone faces obstacles, and we either turn the other way if we don’t believe that we have to overcome, or we get creative and persist.

The purpose of talking to you about this is to have you realize the strengths and development gained from things such as being in a wheelchair.

It isn’t all good using a wheelchair, but it has driven me to observe more, visualize more, get creative, figure things out, and learn about myself and where my true beliefs are.

These skills will help in every area of my life and now I have experience, maybe not professional, but the gym is still a good place.


Immediate actionable items: Think about a time that you had to get creative to solve a problem, and think about what that says about your beliefs of what’s necessary. Stories of creativity are good during interviews, parties, and for introspection.

Summary: Our beliefs determine what we consider to be necessary, and if obstacles arise, as they often do, we will get creative. This is especially relevant for those in wheelchairs in a world of mountains, but it only makes us better when we get creative.
And most of our beliefs are created by our behaviors, which is why you will never belief what you do to be bad, or “that bad.”

Overdeliver:  A quote I read every morning, I don’t recall where I got it from, but it says, “when the values are clear, the decisions are easy.” Being fully aware of your values and beliefs will help you easily make decisions and when you do something you believe is necessary, nothing will stop you.

Stop Caring What Other People Think About You in a Wheelchair

Reading time: 2 minutes

Seriously.

I don’t have this problem, but I’ve seen it. Here’s something I read everyday, followed by my logic for how I don’t have this issue.

“A [hu]man is about as big as the things that make [them]him angry”

Winston Churchill – Artist, Writer, Orator, former PM of the UK

If you live your life worrying what other people think about you, you’re as good as dead. I do whatever I want, whenever I want, within the confines of my own morals and goals. Some people really care what others think, that can sometimes be important, but not in this case.

You may or may not know, but I’m in college. I go out on campus and out to parties and do anything you’d expect from an average bloke. When I was at a party, people were telling me how cool it is for me to be there – I considered it no big deal. Most people in wheelchairs may shy away from a party for being in a wheelchair. I’ll be trying to ski this winter as well.

Some people in wheelchairs are so self-absorbed that they avoid doing things for the sake of people looking at them and having some thought about it. That’s no way to live.

Consider your last conversation, how did it go? How did you feel? Do you know how the other person felt? or do you remember more of what you said and what you were thinking during the conversation?

People, myself included, will listen for a little bit and then get distracted on what they think and are going to respond with.

It takes a considerable amount of time to gain meditative qualities of being present in the moment and being able to listen. So, if you said something silly, remember that you’re probably the only one who remembers – other people are too busy remembering the silly thing that they said!

The only perspective you truly experience is your own, for your entire life. So, without constant work, you’ll think about yourself a lot. It’s why being an good listener is hard, because people always focus on themselves rather than what that person is saying, or it’s their interpretation of what the person is saying and then thinking of a response.

If you’re in a wheelchair and do even a trivial amount day-to-day, people will think you’re awesome for it. I get praise for things wildly underrated as well as things that I would actually expect it for. But people always think it’s badass.

The truth is, there are many people in wheelchairs who have just given up on life. Although I accept my situation, I don’t actually accept it long term and I don’t accept the negatives. I’m using it as a launch pad into the next successful platform of my life. There are countless opportunities, especially today with skiing as an availability.

You wont ever know what people think, and you’re likely to be wrong if you guessed. Don’t guess and don’t care. Do what you want, and if you look a bit silly when you transfer into a kayak or need help getting into a helicopter, just own it – I did.

Throughout my life, I’ve seen many people trip right in front of me.
Publicly losing balance is one of the most embarrassing lay events to happen, and I don’t even really remember witnessing the events, I remember my perspective and feeling bad both for the person and for internally laughing, but I don’t actually remember the person. I wouldn’t recognize them if they kissed me (got up close).

Overall, most people will admire you. Even if they don’t, it doesn’t hurt to imagine they do.

And one more time for the cheap seats,

A man is about as big as the things that make him angry

Winston Churchill – Artist, Writer, Orator, former PM of the UK

Immediate actionable items: Stop caring what others think of you while doing things. Take a look at the “over deliver” section for my personal brainstorm of things to do TODAY.

Summary: people are thinking of themselves just as much as you are, and if you give it some conscious observation, you think about yourself a lot. Do whatever you want and holding back for the consideration of your ego is a waste of an amazing life.

Overdeliver:  Practice doing silly things and not caring what others think or do daring things. Go ski, bike, do a weird transfer, have a friend carry you along the beach, have a grandparent push you around town. Whatever you do, just don’t mind other’s opinions.

Why Hygiene is Important for Paraplegics

Reading time: 2 minutes

Well. The title says it all.

Hygiene is important. And there isn’t an excuse.

Have you ever talked to someone with mule breath, they smell a hockey locker room minus the body spray, maybe their teeth are ripe and yellow.

Not the greatest image for me to put in your head. Whatever type of person you thought of, you likely didn’t have high regard. What if I told you they were the CEO of a Fortune 10 company? That might change a lot of presumptions, but you’d think they would shower and brush in tiny little circles.

It’s a fact, and it won’t be changing anytime soon, that people judge within the first few seconds of meeting people. It starts with the shoes, actually. But it might begin with the breath so bad that it touches your bones.

Bad hygiene is ever more so bad if you’re in a wheelchair. There are already some negative stigmas, none that I know of but I’m sure there are some, so being a stinky person won’t make people want to help you more.

Another thing that people do, aside from judge you based on appearance, is to judge you based on history.

I’ve met some really awesome people, and when I meet someone else with the same name or some similarities, I’m more apt to like them.

The same goes for the opposite. If you’re in a wheelchair and have certain negative connotations, then when that person meets me, they will already have a pre-conceptualized stigma.

This is good to know because if you’re outside and someone says something mean to you (never happened to me, but I know it has happened to others), you know that it’s not actually you and that it’s likely just that someone in a wheelchair was mean to them or did something to give them a reason, whether logical or not, to dislike all people in wheelchairs.

This issue, the one above, has happened all over history, mostly with race, heritage, or culture.

There are not many excuses for having bad hygiene. There are reasons, such as a literal inability to keep good hygiene, but you’d have to at least try a few times, and with help if necessary, to deem it unfeasible.

If you can’t move your arms, then it’s possible that you have someone to help you with certain things, they could likely help you with hygiene as well – smelling good and looking good.

The point is that it feels good to feel healthy. When you dress up well, shower, brush, and put on deodorant, it’ll make for a good first impression and have you feeling alive. When I start to get gross from camping for a few nights, I don’t feel as energetic or charming as I typically do.


Immediate actionable items: Clean up. Get a routine or start doing something now.

Summary: Good hygiene is important for you and others. To make a good impression, to have others want to help you and not think lowly of you. And to make yourself feel good.

Overdeliver:  If the times are dire, you can always get some wet wipes and clean yourself off that way. Or a sponge bath.

How to Ask Paraplegics About Their Injury

Reading time: 3.5 minutes

Talking to someone with an accent. We all hear it, but should we ignore it or mention it?

If you’ve been somewhere that considers the way you talk as having an accent (obviously its normal where you’re from), then you’ll have experienced that the first thing almost everyone says is something about your accent.

How do I know this?

I was in a coffee shop and saw someone wearing a hoodie with my – our – uni logo. I went up and said hi, we talked for a while and now we’re the best of friends (based on my analysis). We were having lunch or something and were talking about the first time we met and she mentioned that in her mind, she thought, “he didn’t mention my accent, YESS!!”

I definitely noticed it. I just didn’t think about bringing it up. But of course I was curious, and after talking for a while, I learned that she’s from Joburg (South Africa), not from asking about her accent, but in casual conversation about whatever and anything else.

With a name like Cosmo Socrates, rivaling names as unique as Elon, throughout my childhood I’ve gotten praise and jokes. I’m acclimated to being asked about my name and where it’s from (Greek), most people can’t refrain from vocalizing some observation about it. Seinfeld.

These two seemingly irrelevant examples – accent and names – are all to put in perspective the question of how do you talk to a paraplegic? How to strike a conversation with someone in a wheelchair, properly.

Some people have mentioned that someone once said “so, you don’t look like you need to be in a wheelchair,” and that can invoke some anger (it did), but really, I see it as someone who just doesn’t know what to say, wants to be nice (a failed compliment), and are interested.

In my experience, the best way to begin asking about someone’s injury is always with “If you don’t mind me asking,” and then followed by “how did you get injured?” or something in that discourse locale. Even though I personally never do mind, it’s polite and shows that you understand it could be a sensitive topic – respect.

It may have been a traumatic experience, and by definition, won’t be pleasant to recite and relive every time someone is curious. So that’s where the “if you don’t mind” part becomes important.

The environmental context is probably second only to trauma – that is, is it even appropriate to ask given the longitude latitude?

If I’m in the gym, I probably don’t want to tell you all about how I got injured, the details and my life thereafter, I just wanted you to spot me and then tell me I look good. Similar for being in the store or parking lot and about to get into my car.
I don’t mind the interest, but similar to someone with an accent, it becomes trite, sometimes inconvenient, and irritating to a point – having to explain how I got injured to everyone and their mother. This is one of those arguments of my time isn’t more valuable than yours, but equal and I just don’t want to say this story again.

The story doesn’t always have to be long. I have my one word explanation – “skiing.” Which leaves a lot to the imagination but resolves the curiosity. Likewise, I just say, “Greek.” if someone asks about the name. If you get a one word answer, that’s probably code for, I told you and let’s leave it there.

If you do find yourself post-mortem of saying something that pluck a nerve, you can always save yourself and say, “sorry if that’s rude/the wrong approach, I’m just interested.” People love when other people are interested in them.

Mystery isn’t a dreadful thing either, after all, satisfaction is the death of desire. If the probability of seeing someone again is likely, then leave the story for the second, third, or never time you see them. It will come up in conversation at some point and you’ll be able to focus on the most important exchange – learning about who they are as a person. You might think of it as dialing a wrong number, but not awkwardly. Just talking and learning, you have no face for that voice – no body either.

If you get to know the person first, they may be similar to me and have a website and YouTube where you can read/watch/listen to the story and relieve the mystery itch on your own.

Short answer: The best way to ask or bring up the topic is to just get straight to it. One thing you can be sure of is that it’s not the first or last time they’ll be telling the “what happened” story (results may vary).

Personally, I’ve never has anyone ask me about my injury in a rude way.

For those reading who are in wheelchairs, though there are rude and creepy people, most people who ask about your injury, whether it’s an elegant or off-putting performance, at its core it’s just someone who’s interested in you. It may well be the first time they’ve talked to anyone in a wheelchair or asked someone. Don’t mistake ignorance for belligerence.

There it is. My two cents. A while ago you could get a ride on a horse while your mom checked out at the market. Now, it’ll get you much more. (results may vary)


Immediate actionable items: If you’re in a wheelchair, it’s a good idea to have the short, medium, and long version of your story or a scripted way of saying “no” when asked. If you’re not in a wheelchair, maybe practice with leaving some open loops in your conversation, give mystery a chance.

Summary: When it comes to talking to someone in a wheelchair, there are best practices and considerations. Starting with “if you dont mind me asking,” is always great, being aware of the fact that your curiosity is not more important than the other persons time and it may be best not to ask depending on where you are (in the gym and places like that).

Overdeliver: I can’t think of anything. Usually I leave something out and put it here if it doesn’t fit like clockwork. I suppose it’s also important to know that people in wheelchairs are just people sitting down and you should take some interest in them before their injury, otherwise it’s quite one-sided – your interest and just their trite story.

On Changing Your Vocabulary

Reading time: a few

You can still say walk and people shouldn’t have to change their lexicon just to suit you (in a wheelchair) and not offend you. Were strong and we don’t get offended.

That’s about all I have to say. But here’s some more.

When I go for a walk, I’m still in my wheelchair, but I call it a walk. When people talk about going somewhere, they don’t need to say “roll” or “wheel.” People do that out of respect of course.

Some people have preferred pronouns, but for me at least, this is nothing like that.

My message to the world is that you don’t need to change the word “walk” with “roll”, I won’t be offended. Expecting someone to change how they talk on behalf of you is silly, in the context of being in a wheelchair. The wheelchair is not a part of me.
I dont get offended if you do say roll. And I stand up for what I believe in. And I do make jokes sometimes because I don’t take it seriously.

The perspective I’ve had since day 1 is that I’m just sitting down. If you’re reading this standing up, sit down and think about how you feel. You’re still you, nothing really changed except that you’re just sitting. Imagine that you can’t stand up. Still, nothing really changed except that now you’re just sitting and you magically can’t stand.

Here’s a quote and then we’re done.

I support anyone’s right to be who they want to be. My question is: to what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?

-Dave Chappelle, comedian, actor, writer, and producer

The Benefits of Being in a Wheelchair

On the bright side

Reading time: 9 minutes

When you first get injured, there’s no doubt that you’re flooded with a white water rush of those negative thoughts. We’re almost wired to think about the bad things in life, if not from our primitive roots, it’s definitely been inhibited through our comparisons on social media and a generally gloomy world, maybe not totally but more than the peace, love, no war 70’s. If you’re really into psychology, there are some very persuasive explanations for why we’re more gloomy than before.

While the grey skies clouding our sun, adding a truly life altering injury doesn’t exactly bring out Mr. Blue Sky. Or does it?

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you use your injury to your advantage or let it use you.

Because I’m feeling good, I thought I would inform you or remind you that being in a wheelchair can actually be a quantum leap to heights that would otherwise take a lifetime. In short, this is a non-exhaustive list of the benefits of being in a wheelchair. So, if you’re new to the game and you’re not sure what to expect other than negatives, here are the positives that outweigh it all.

In a list + experience format, here is a short list of the grand benefits that answered the door when my caffeinated mind knocked and asked, “what are the benefits that make being in a wheelchair so nice that I almost want to stay. Almost.”  (and that I wish I could tell everyone who’s in rehab).

  • Parking – starting out with just something that has always bugged me. It truly drove me bonkers when I had to spend 10 minutes winding through a parking lot, just to get stuck by a car ahead of me waiting for a spot and then eventually find a spot in the back.

    I’ve had some problems with parking even with my handicap pass, but 95% of the time, I can pull into the parking lot, go right to the front and get my executive slot. We’re spoiled, but we deserve it.
  • Skip lines – every now and again, we’ll be able to skip a line. Typically, this doesn’t apply at Starbucks, but in airports – where the worst lines in the world exist – it’s absolutely unparalleled. After traveling almost too much, I have plenty of stories, but I’ll spare you. All I’ll say is that I’ve saved hours of waiting time, and this perk is very enviable when you’re flying international and another added benefit is your entourage gets to tag along and reap the benefits.

    I’ve actually been invited to events just so that the group I went with would get to share my benefits with me and sometimes I’ll also be the one to drive the group.
  • Extra care – people will heed you, unless you’re among a sea of wheelchairs, you’ll most likely stick out like a Goldfinger. When I went to EAA Oshkosh, you would not believe the presidential treatment I got, the parking especially. I got so close to the ground that it was almost unfair.

    When I was waiting for the theater to open so I could buy tickets for Phantom of the Opera, the security guard and I made respectful eye contact and he opened the door in front of me first. This was a student rush, where any college students get to grab the misfit, loner seats at a bargain and everyone waits outside the doors in the cold just to rush in and try to get the best low hanging fruit, they open one door at a time. People will also, in general, be most attentive and caring for how they could best help you, be it at a restaurant or the gym.
  • Moral high ground – this one is an ace up our well fitted sleeves. Only to be employed where it’s appropriate because with great power… We always have this card. The ability to shame someone and take the high road. Usually this is when there’s an ever so slight inconvenience or a major one, if something isn’t working you can almost always win an argument or get something. Of course, this is something that can make you look like an unwiped asshole if you’re not careful.

    An example of a time I could’ve made a scene was when I went to a restaurant with my extended family and they sat us at a high table. I simply just ate on my lap or from the table, but it was at chin level. The owner came up and apologized too many times because this of course is normally unacceptable, however it was thanksgiving and they were quite crowded, though I’m not sure they even made much of an effort to find us a new table. In summary, being in a wheelchair gives us the option to take the moral high ground twice as much as the average dude, maybe three times as much.
  • People are nicer – some people will be rude, but a lot more people are nice. It can make the difference when someone decides to have a nice chat with you. People are more receptive as well, at least in my experience. So, the world seems to smile at you a little more. Just a few days ago (at the time of writing), I was going for a walk along a beach side path, from a pier looking over me and into the Indian ocean, there was this child, a girl about toddler age, or whatever age that kids made comprehensible sentences and she screamed out in excitement, “LOOK a man IN A wheelchair!” It was pure excitement, as if I were Brad Pitt. She said that same sentence many more times, boasting to those around her as if she were Indy and discovered something so mystical, it belongs in a museum. I waved and couldn’t help to laugh a bit at her amazement that she saw a man in a wheelchair, she didn’t even wave back, she just kept telling everyone to look. It was nice.
  • Able to inspire much easier – anyone can be inspiring if they do something inspirational. How about going to college? Everyone does that, so not really. How about a college with extreme snow and a reputation for being especially difficult? Still, there are lots of students at that college. So how would that person inspire others? Even getting a 4.0 and doing a sport isn’t unheard of, it’s definitely inspiring, but not all that rare anymore.

    Being in a wheelchair adds the extra edge to make you an inspiration with almost anything you do, so long as you’re challenging yourself. I was a pretty average college guy. I stood out a little bit and caught the attention of the people that were around me for a while, but I wasn’t entirely prominent. Now, being in a wheelchair, I have the same extreme ambitions, plus some, and I’m suddenly inspirational. I don’t deny it, but for me, I’m just picking up where I left off, and adding some things. But I’m still going for the same things I was initially after. So, if you have the ability to make the world better and inspire someone else to do something great, then you have to. It’s the law. If I can prove to be an inspiration to others when I’m getting into my car during the snow, something that wouldn’t be inspiring if I were walking, then you can definitely inspire others – it’s a great feeling.
  • Become a unicorn – like I mentioned above, you have the rare opportunity to become a unicorn. Like a black, female astronaut in the 1920’s (I know astronauts weren’t a thing, which makes it all the more impressive). Whatever you do, being in a wheelchair adds the horn to the horse and thus I knight you as a unicorn. Everyone wants to be different. We’re all the same at least in that we all think we’re different, but now we have a true testimonial to our belief.
  • Scholarships – if you’re in college or will be going to college at some point, you are now able to get scholarships that are wheelchair or handicap specific, which can be a great advantage. I’ve applied to many scholarships and programs that require the applicators to be in a wheelchair, it shrinks the competition, albeit the competition becomes all unicorns.
  • Uniqueness/pattern interrupt – when I showed up to a formal even, with all the attendees wearing dresses or suits and ties, I wore a button up shirt and my sexy jean jacket. Show up different, be a pattern interrupt. I always imagined myself, as we all do, as the center of a film. For me, whenever I walk into any building, or go anywhere, I see myself as James Bond. In reality, like the Churchill quote, no one was thinking about me at all, they were absorbed in their own self featuring silver screen. Now, no matter what you wear or do, you’re interrupting the pattern just enough that you become, at the least, a supporting character in everyone’s first person plot. It gives you that seasoning, the sugar and spice, the dish at the potluck that was cleaned out first. Some people don’t like attention, but they all want to be special and remembered.
  • You have a story – a story people want to hear. A peel from the same banana above, when you go somewhere, you have a little mysterious aura around you. You’re in a wheelchair and there’s definitely something that happened. I’ve been working on mastering my story telling, you don’t have to be extreme, all you actually need to do is write out the long, medium and short story of what happened to you and once you have your story sorted out (you’ll stumble over your words if you just go from memory without writing out once), you’ll be able to tell a captivated audience a story they want to hear, probably an inspiring one.
  • People wanting your perspective – it depends on who you are, but more likely than not, your opinion is now held a little higher, maybe a lot depending on who you are. You have a new perspective and people are interested in that. This is more conditional that the rest of this list because you have to present yourself as (and actually be) intelligent and astute. For me, when I was working at Kimberly-Clark for an internship, a lot of people wanted to know any recommendations I had for helping them improve and be a disability forward company. I was never good at giving great advice because everything was actually really good, but I was still asked and when people seek out your opinion, you feel and are important. Not many interns were asked the same amount of perspective questions as I was, or at least not of the same nature (I was the only one in a wheelchair, a true unicorn).
  • Opportunities like crazy – the best for last to end this with a big explosion. Once more for the cheap seats, this post is for anyone in a wheelchair or in any unique situation that seems like a disadvantage and I’m giving examples of how to look at the positive side of life, which makes life all the better.

    So, through many opportunities given to me, which I may map out one day, I find myself at a Disability:IN conference. I find myself talking with an especially important woman, who has become a mentor of mine, the CEO of Disability:IN! Because of looking on the positive side, having my story, my ambitions (being a unicorn) and wearing a jean jacket along with many other factors that hindsight can’t even discern, my life took an imperceptible turn for the best. It brought me 10 years into the future. If I weren’t in a wheelchair and never had gotten injured, my ambitions would’ve been close to the same (a little less) and it’s very possible that I would’ve gotten to where I am now in terms of success, measured by my own goals and their progress, but it would’ve taken a lot longer than just 8 months.

Although I love to brag, I hate to be boastful. That doesn’t make sense but it sounds good.

What I mean is that none of this is me just telling you how great my life is, although it literally is, the deeper meaning behind this is that whether you, the reader, have just gotten injured and you’re in dire need for something good to look forward to, or if you (the lovely reader) are going through any obstacle in life, you can look to my experiences and notice that everything I focused on, down to the small stuff such as parking, is all positive. I don’t neglect the negatives, I deal with them sternly, but I don’t let them take over my mind. I choose to focus on what is good in life and I’m giving you the exact things you can likewise focus on (if you’re in a wheelchair).

If my past self, in rehab, could read this passage and realize that being in a wheelchair will give me an extremely favorable advantage, it would’ve helped me out immensely.

The world is grand because it’s yours for the taking.


Immediate actionable items: Write out some of the positive things that are going on in your life as a result of something that may have been an obstacle, failure, or perceivable set back.

Summary: Being in a wheelchair have insane benefits. Focusing on the positive will make everything even more positive. My list of some of the benefits I’ve had along with some examples are: Parking, Skip lines, Extra care, Moral high ground, People are nicer, Ability to inspire, Unicorn, Scholarships, Uniqueness, Story, Perspective, and Insane opportunities.

Overdeliver: When you catch yourself focusing on the negatives, write them down and next to them, write out the benefits and opportunities that can or have come from them. If you can’t think of any, look at the negative and complete the sentence “This is good because ______!”

Being Different and Being a Leader

Cosmo giving a speech

If you’re in a wheelchair, or have some injury/disability, no doubt you’re different.

Whenever I’m in a group, either as the designated leader or just assuming the role, I always take notice to those who are a little reclusive and get them involved. When people are shy or feel out of place, they might pull back from the group a little and if no one makes a conscious effort, they will easily be left out. I always (or I like to think I always do) take notice of those more introverted in a group and try and make sure they feel included and give them the hand reaching out or the nudge they need.

I was re-reading Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace and decided to watch some Pixar shorts. The early ones give me a nostalgic feeling and remind me of when I was a little dude sitting on the ground, eating popcorn and watching a film on one of those huge TVs that use VCR tapes. That baby always gave me the jeebies

You can interpret the moral of this short below however you want, but my main takeaways were of being a leader and being different – disability or otherwise.

Here’s the short and after watching, I have a few things to point out that are worth making a mental or physical note of.

Pixar short – Purl

You’ll notice that Purl doesn’t quite fit in, though her skills are what got her the job (through the resume). The first lesson here is that no matter who you are, it’s what you can do to help and the value you give that matters. Like the quadriplegic I mentioned in this post (under the Generous Luck section), he was eager to do more and made it known to me. I was worried that he would overlook his opportunity to use his voice, words, and mind as a tool to develop and master a skill that would render everything else unimportant.

You’ll also notice that Purl gets ignored and left out. It’s not always appropriate to force yourself into situations, but without a sponsor – someone to bring you into the group – it can be hard to fit in and join the group.

Purl subsequently changes herself to fit in and when someone like her past self comes in, she realizes how she betrayed who she truly is.

Don’t change yourself to fit in. When it comes to the work life or college/school, all you need is to find one good or great friend and they will help you, or at the least, you can both take on the world together.

If you’re the only one, wherever you are, with a disability then you’ll definitely feel alone. Stay true to who you are, and stay positive. Soon enough, people will recognize that you can’t be affected by external things (if you build up that skill) and will respect you for it. Getting discouraged is possible, but there is always at least one person that you can confide in. The person who hired you or the leader of where you are. Leaders – good ones – are inclusive and understanding, they’re a leader because first, people were able to go to them and see them as someone that can help.

If you are being left out because of your disability, face it head on. You could even call you own meeting to set people straight if you’re that bold, or you could prove yourself through your work, or just stay persistent and maybe your own Lacey will join the workplace and then you can both start tackling the issue.

I began to think of this as analogous to disability in the workplace when, at the end, you’ll notice that everyone became better because of acceptance. You’ll notice that people had colored shirts on, the work was flowing, and there were all types of different characters getting along swimmingly.

Another lesson in this short is that if you have the opportunity to reach out to someone and include them, do it. You’ll make the world better for it. Don’t let social pressure pin you down and freeze you. All it takes is you and someone who you can help, even if that person is yourself.

When I worked at Kimberly-Clark, I never had a problem with being included. Everyone was beyond nice and it felt how the end of the short looked, inclusive and supportive. Although I was the only one in a wheelchair, I didn’t feel isolated because of it.

I was able to pretty much forget about it – a feeling I have often when I’m with the right people.

I was brought nearly to tears by the end of this short. It doesn’t take much for me.

This is a rather sporadic post, so I don’t have reading time or the typical summary and action items. I do have an overdeliver though.


Overdeliver: If you’re looking for places that are disability friendly, look at this website here. There are some companies that are accessibly and inclusive and aren’t on this list, so if you’re looking at a specific company, you can look at the resources on the aforementioned site and ask some questions.