How People With Disabilities Can Get Into Any American National Park for Free

I was with my girlfriend, going to the grand Canyon National Park and she saw a sign about this, asked about it and this is what we were told.

Any U.S. Citizen or permanent resident with a disability gets a FREE LIFETIME PASS to all national parks.

This is usually $80 per 12months.

You also get half off camping and you get to drive down shuttle-only roads with some accessible parking being available.

This is amazing. You may be able to find this online, but if you happen to be near a national park, you could go there and inquire.

Stop Expecting Things to Be Perfect and Adapt

I myself fall prey to thinking I’m the center of the universe. It sure seems like it most days. What am I saying here? Why not expect things to be perfect? 

A long time ago, I saw some people complaining over some very little things, people in wheelchairs. Once someone in a wheelchair wanted to relate with me about hating how floors are uneven. Yes, I do get annoyed at times, but I don’t expect every floor to be level just for me. Some people were talking about how men’s boxer underwear can ride up, or about shoes falling off. Having a disability isn’t a right to raise expectations and accommodations. Yes, it’s nice to have accommodations, a really nice thing but it’s not global. 

Instead of expecting things to be accessible, I expect myself to be adaptable. The truth is that disabilities are minorities, there is no reason for a hill to be leveled for the likes of me. and I quite like hills anyway. accommodations cost extra money. I am not normal. Some people may want to say they’re normal, but they aren’t. I’m not standing and most of the world’s infrastructure is designed for people who are normal. I’m in their world and fortunate enough that they care about me a little bit and help out. 

The point being, stop complaining and wanting things to be tailored to you. Actually, there are a crazy amount of wheelchair-specific things and accommodations for disabilities and that’s more of a reason to just adapt to an uneven floor.

A Quick Guide to Traveling in a Wheelchair

Disclaimer: This is mainly for America, even though I’ve been abroad and the process is similar, I’m only certain about American commercial flights.

1. Where to begin when flying in a wheelchair?

 When going through the checkout process for buying airline tickets online, depending on the company, there will be an area within passenger information and you can select something along the lines of that you’re in need of assistance, in a wheelchair, and can’t stand up, etc. This feature is typically very hard to find and not entirely necessary. So, begin by buying your ticket as anyone would.

2. What to do at the airport?

 2.1 How to check in and make sure you get the assistance needed?

 This is what I do: I get there early, 2+ hours for any airport the size of Detroit or larger. Before I go through security there are front desks where people are checking luggage, making flight changes and getting their flight tickets. Go to one of these people (wait in line if you must), and give them your passport, ID or ticket information (if you have it through an app or printed from home). Once they know your flight, tell them you’ll need assistance. What I say is, “I’ll need an aisle chair at the gate, my chair is manual and has no batteries, I can’t stand up or walk.” They need to know what kind of chair you have because of the rules for lithium batteries, they need to know you can’t walk because some people can walk but need to be pushed in a wheelchair to get to their gate but not all the way to their seat. The aisle chair at the gate is how you’ll get into the plane.

 2.2 What to do with medical supplies luggage?

 If you have luggage and its medical supplies (or related to wheelchair stuff), it should be free of charge to check it at the check in counter where we are in 2.1. Beware of doing this because there is no insurance or liability on the airline’s side if they lose or damage anything. Always have extra medical supplies with you in case the luggage is lost or broken. Keep higher value/fragile items with you, most airlines should allow extra carry-on items that are medical supplies (I’ve never had a problem).  

 2.3 How it works going through TSA in a wheelchair

 I have TSA precheck and I recommend it. With TSA precheck, you go through a shorter line, they usually don’t require you to take off much, or anything. You will get up to the body scanner, the person there will tell you to go to the side, they call someone else who hopefully comes soon, they bring you through a gate, they swab your hands and parts of your wheelchair, take it back to test it and if it comes back good, you’re good. One person once told me that they went through a yard with fertilizer and it caused the TSA swab to alarm (chemical stuff), so make sure not to do that. 

Without TSA precheck, the process is similar, you still typically don’t have to take anything off until you get brought through the gate next to the body scanner. There a TSA agent will ask you to do some things, but remember that you are allowed to tell them “I can’t do that” if it’s a large struggle, and they may help you or do it for you if they really need it done (think like taking off your shoes). Instead of a quick way, they’ll pat you down, you’ll have to lift yourself up or get lifted as they pat down your seat and your butt. You can get help for any part of this. 

 2.4 What to do at your flight gate?

 Once you get past security, find your flight gate. If you get there too early, no one or people for a previous flight will be there. Once an employee for the airline is at the gate and they’re working for your flight, go up to them and tell them almost the exact thing you told the employee at the check in desk. You’re the one who needs an aisle chair, you can’t stand/walk, you have a manual wheelchair (or not) and you’re going to gate check your wheelchair and will need the chair and an aisle chair at the gate when you land. The great thing here is that you will board the flight absolutely first unless there’s another wheelchair. Otherwise, you are very very first.

 2.5 How to board the plane?

 Watch my video! You meet the people who have the aisle chair, tell them your seat number, give them any bags to help you with and go down the walkway to get to the airplane entrance. You’ll transfer into the aisle chair. While you’re there, take your wheelchair apart. You want to take off everything except the big wheels. Take all the rest with you – backrest, armrest, side panels, cushion, etc. Fold the chair down and they’ll take it away and take you on the plane. If you have an extra bag or room in your bag, it helps to shove everything in there, but keep the cushion out because you’ll sit on it. It’ll be a bit of a bumpy ride so I usually lift my butt off the seat using the aisle chair armrests. 

 2.6 How to get off the plane

 Unfortunately, you get off the plane very last. I find that nice, I never liked awkwardly standing in line and slowly pushing my way up. Relax, read a book, talk to someone, and when the people with the aisle chair come, transfer on and just outside the plane, there will be your chair (hopefully intact). Put all the pieces back on, get on, and go out to your adventure!

There it is, in two steps. 

Why I Wont Do Things I Could (In a Wheelchair)

I could very well do a lot of things, unlike in the far past, nearly everthing today is accessible. It may cost more, but if you’re determined, you can do it. I know of a man who can’t move his arms and can barely stand up (ALS), yet he hunts.

This is something I’m hoping people who are friends/family of someone in a wheelchair can read and understand.
My family encourages me to do things, I say no, they get upset. They think that I’m allowing a wheelchair to hold me back from donig things I want to do. While that is party true, it is only true in a very small, specific way. Yes, being in a wheelchair or having some disability creates a barrier that I sometimes just don’t care to put forth the effort to overcome, but the reason I don’t care to put in the extra effort is that I just don’t care to do whatever it is.

If I did care about doing something, I would do it and don’t forget, I have cared about doing things. In the gym, I have contrived of great ways to do workouts. When I was in Australia (first of all, I went to Australia alone) I wanted to go skydiving and despite the few friends I had not wanting to, I still managed to get on a ferry, go to an island, and jump out of that plane. Even on the way back, getting off the ferry, the exit was up a flight of stairs, so I managed to get help up the stairs, continue into town and find my way back via public transportation.

Here is the short list of why I sometimes won’t do things:
1. I didn’t do it before my injury.
2. I don’t want to do it enough for the cost or extra effort.
3. The accessible way doesn’t interest me.
4. I’d rather focus on other things.

I explained mostly the second one. The first one has a simple logic, I didn’t play a certain sport before I got injured and just because it’s a special thing for me to do now, it doesn’t make me want to do it anymore than before my injury not too long ago. I lifted weights and competed in bodybuilding before I got injured and here I am doing the same post-injury.

The extra cost. Nearly everything, perhaps literally everything, accessible will cost more money and in most cases more time and effort. I value all three, and I like to use all three as a way to advance myself into what I define as a successful life. Many successful people, imagine Bill Gates, don’t do everything. Actually, nearly all successful people say no to enarly everything and focus on a very few things. I have been fortunate enough to have that mindset bestowed upon me, eliminating distravtions that before were all to easy to affect me. Of course, I still enjoy having fun, which is why I went skiing last winter and why I’d still like to go on a 4×4, jetski or snowmibiling (which actually have little to no extra cost for being accessible for me). This also is part of the fourth reason, for me to focus on other things.

The biggest reasoning for me is the third listed above. I love playing sand volleyball, I’m not all too good but a day at the beach with friends, music, grilled burgers and playing beach volleyball has always been considered a great time. Sure, I could probably continue to play sand or hard floor volleyball, and yeah I could get a track chair and go for a walk on the beach, but I won’t. I like sand volleyball for how I used to do it, not for it in and of itself. I want to do it the way I used to or not at all because I only find it enjoyable for what it was. Not many things are like this for me, however, the reasoning for anyone to do anything is because they like to or want to do something in the way they enjoy.

In What Way to Accept Being Disabled

A fair amount of people struggle to accept being in a wheelchair. It’s possible to not like it yet accept it simultaneously. Naturally, I hate it entirely but that doesn’t keep me from being happy, living a great life and doing what I want. I’m here, now.

I was at the zoo with a some friends, they had a kid that was old enough to walk around but young enough that they brought a stroller for her. She ended up not using the stroller at all. Throughout the time we were at the zoo, and struggling to get the stroller around, the mother was poking some passive aggressive things towards the father about how she knew they didn’t need it and so on. The father argued back a little bit, that they might’ve needed it and so on. A typical argument you may have when the wrong decision was made and one person was right. What I couldn’t understand during all this was that they were both intelligent, well read in philosophy, and a virtuous couple. All the while, the stroller was still there and ultimately no good came from their bickering.

Remember this: the stroller is here, now. You are here, now. That won’t change, now.

A Brief Update on This Website

If you didn’t pay attention, you’d notice that you’ve missed nothing – I haven’t been posting on this website or on the youtube channel in a long time. Simple reason, neither have been a priority for me. I’ve had an internship with Oracle and reading or enjoying my summer otherwise. My motivation to write or record/edit/upload has been low and in fact nearly zero. There are many days I don’t think I have anything of value to share. There are also a few other sources of information that put in more time and effort than I do, so I typically avoid putting up duplicate information – though I don’t look at any other sources, so I don’t really know what is duplicate or not. Anyway, I’ve since meditated on the future of my online presence and concluded that if I’m not enjoying what I’m doing, then I won’t do it. You’ll begin to see changes in topic for blogs, it’ll be more authentic and unique to me. I aim to contribute (to the reader) information that is, well, unique to what only I can give. Although the world is much too big for any one of us to have truly unique contributions, what makes it unique is half that it’s me doing it and half that you’re reading it. Two to tango and that type of stuff. I do believe that my life is unique in that the experiences and my personality + knowledge are not shared by anyone who also blogs. This may turn more into philosophy, me expressing thoughts, sharing stories. I will still hope to have a lesson or some type of takeaway for the reader. My audience is still the wheelchair-disabled community, but can begin to grow into a larger, neurodiverse community. Here is where I begin to falter because I am only most familiar with myself and my situation, which is on the lower, perhaps lowest, end of disabilities. How I explain my experience in a wheelchair to anyone, is to tell them “sit down” and that’s how I feel (just don’t stand back up). I have met others, whose situation more dire than mine, and it has given me new perspectives. I would like to bring these forward as well, but again, consider that there is no experience other than through imagination on these topics.
We have now reached the limit to which I can drag out what could be said in a few words to many. My upcoming blogs will be brief and beautiful.

What It Takes to Be a Happy Paraplegic – The Most Important Virtue

Cosmo wearing sunglasses with his arms spread like Tony Stark from Iron Man 1 with Australian views in the background

Reading time: 5 minutes

No matter how you define happiness, I can tell you what it never is. It’s not doing little. It’s not living a secluded life. It’s not doing what’s easy. It’s not bathing in sulk everyday and feeling pity for yourself.

I’ve heard horror stories, all too common occurrences, of people getting injured – paralyzed of any kind – and then they recluse. They go home and stay inside, depressed and lame. Sure, you have “reasons,” but those usually follow actions and thoughts rather than precede. You’re biased. (don’t make excuses).

I can’t act like I’m an average guy. I remember meeting someone in a wheelchair and they asked how many years it’s been for me, and in fact it hadn’t even been 1. It was like 7 months, and they thought it had been many years.
I went on an airplane just a few weeks after rehab, and right after rehab I came back to uni to live in my same apartment with my mates and survived a greatly cold and snowy winter. I then went to Germany for spring break and somehow was able to shower in bathrooms that were more art than a place to be comfortably naked.

I wasn’t able to do any of it without the relentless support of my friends and family. But they wouldn’t have an opportunity to help me if I weren’t the type to do crazy things.

Essentially, one month after rehab I had skills people are lucky to gain 2 or 3 years after rehab. Flying internationally, going up and down stairs, getting in and out of houses (inaccessible), crazy bathtubs, trains, planes, and a Mercedes van (parked 2 feet from the curb). And I still don’t like green eggs and ham.

It goes without saying, and largely with observation, that a very large factor is the physical ability I have. As a bodybuilder, I already had the strength. After my injury, I only can’t move my legs (everything else is perfect).

With all this in mind, I want to tell you that the most important virtue anyone in a wheelchair can have is courage.

Forget for a moment all the things that were in my favor. I mentioned them so you have all the facts, but none of them matter if I didn’t have courage. I’m not sure where I got it, or how you can get some.

All I know is that it begins with courage.

When I wake up at 5am and head out to the gym in 0F weather, angry winds, and terminal snow. Not only do the wheelchair wheels leave a path, but my feet as well. It’s deep snow, covering my feet at points. I get stuck in the parking lot at least 2 times getting to my car and 3 getting into the gym (and I park right next to the door).

How many people in a wheelchair would do this? How many would just go later?

Yes, it takes more than just courage to do all that. But it begins with courage.

Have the courage to try. Have the courage to brave conditions that any normal person would avoid. Have the courage to learn. Have the courage to stop caring what other people think. Courage to love yourself. Courage to begin again. Courage to initiate. The courage to leave the house. The courage to go outside. The courage to ask for help. The courage to look silly. The courage to risk momentary embarrassment for eternal triumph. The courage to believe that you can do it, you will figure it out. Courage to leave your comfort zone. To push yourself beyond what others expect of you. Courage to persist through hardship. The courage to never give up. The courage. to try.

Have the courage, my friend.

And it shouldn’t be everything I do, but it must be all that you are capable of. Then, you will be happy knowing you’ve lived a life worth living.

Immediate actionable items: Really think about this quote by Churchill, “if you’re going through hell, keep going!”

Summary: To be happy, you need to live. Everyone is met with pronounced adversity. Moving beyond those obstacles, displaying strengths and virtues, having the courage to keep going. That is what it takes to be happy. Not doing what’s easy.

Overdeliver:  I’ve noticed that all it takes is the courage to try and the world will help. People can’t help you out of a hole by getting in with you, but when you get close to the edge, when your hand rises above and shouts, “here I am!” that’s when you’ll feel the warmth and firm grip of a friend to help.

I was never fully comfortable doing the things I’ve done. My first flight was about 2 weeks after rehab, and I was alone. Personally, I truly enjoy being out of my comfort zone, but that doesn’t mean I’m entirely calm on the inside. I have the unbreakable belief that I can figure anything out and achieve anything. Having that belief takes courage in oneself.

The reason I talked about myself so much is that I don’t know how to tell you what to do to gain courage, the type of courage that enlightens your life. However, I can inspire you by telling some of what I accomplished with courage.

Paraplegic Gear/Tools of the Month: Hands-Free Phone Calls

For this month, the problem we face is what to do when getting a phone call. True, you can hold your phone up to your ear, but then it gets difficult to move around.

You most likely have Bluetooth earbuds or headphones, but if you don’t, that’s what I recommend you get.

I use Jabra earbuds whenever I’m in a phone call or in the gym, and my hands are free to move around.

You can also get Apple earbuds, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, or anything else you find online. There are plenty of options.

Wheelchair Modifications: Sliding Feet Solution

Reading time: 1 minute

This will be quick

The footplate on your wheelchair, the metal plate that your feet rest on, can get slippery.

If your shoes slide off, or feet slide off, you can add grip tape to your foot plate.

Be aware that this is basically sticky sand paper and could damage your feet, or make them super smooth.

Check this out: cool grip tape (you’ll have to cut it to size)

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