Looking for Adventure?

Photo courtesy of 9Lives Adventures

Photo courtesy of 9Lives Adventures

When one hears about a friend or acquaintance going skydiving, bungee jumping, racing, white water rafting, etc., the news is usually followed by one of two reactions: “That sounds amazing. I would LOVE to do something like that” or “Wow that is terrifying. I could NEVER do something like that.” So which person are you?

For people with disabilities, hearing about someone partake in one of the adventures above, might invoke a different reaction: “I didn’t know I COULD do that.”

There are so many wonderful stories about adrenaline adventures involving people with disabilities. You may remember the young woman who went bungee jumping in her wheelchair in British Columbia last year. According to CBS News, Christi Rougoor loved racing her dirt bike and after a motocross accident left her in a wheelchair, she was searching “for that rush to replace what I have lost.” While the reasoning may not be the same for all, most people who choose these types of adventures, are indeed looking for a rush.

Recently Kyle Maynard made the news. Kyle is a 25-year-old congenital amputee with a mission to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Kyle was born without arms or legs, but for him that was never a barrier. The expedition aims to “demonstrate to young people with disabilities that no obstacle is too great to be conquered with an active, no-barriers lifestyle and mindset,” says the Mission Kilimanjaro website. Despite all of his accomplishments and adventures, climbing to the 19,341 ft. summit of Mt.Kilimanjaro will be Kyle’s toughest test yet.

And then there is motocross racer Ashley Fiolek, who has brought a lot of attention to the sport as a deaf athlete. Ashley explains that being deaf can be both positive and negative in this sport. Because she cannot hear when racers are on her tail, she does not feel the same pressure as other racers. However, she has to be very careful to hold her lines when racing since she cannot hear other riders passing.

Pretty cool individuals. Maybe you’re reading this article and saying “okay, I’m ready, sign me up.” If so, let us introduce you to the company that has made many adrenaline adventures possible: Canadian-based 9Lives Adventures. The founders, Karim Ladki and Matt Thola, both suffered from C7 spinal cord injuries and bonded over their love of adventure and their thrill-seeking spirits. The result? A company that specializes in tandem skydiving, bungee jumping, wheelchair skateboarding, jet boating, and sit skiing.

So if you’ve got the adrenaline bug, get to it! Jump out of a plane, climb a mountain, go jet boating. Nothing is stopping you.

 

Other organizations that promise to thrill:

Disabled Travelers: Adventure Travel Information

Epic Enabled: Accessible African Safaris

Roll Over Bali

Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch

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Take a Turn in Santa’s Shoes

With the holidays just around the corner, the pressure is on to find the perfect gifts for your friends and family. So this year, why not do something different?

Throughout the year, there are always children and families in need. What better time to help someone than the season of giving?

The Jackson Sun recently published an article about the Reid family in Kentucky who are asking for help this holiday season. They adopted their daughter Jasmine when she was 12 years old. Now 20, Jasmine has cerebral palsy and scoliosis and suffers seizures. She uses a wheelchair and needs oxygen. The family cannot afford a vehicle that accommodates a wheelchair so Jasmine is limited to walks around her neighborhood.

We all have families like the Reids in our communities. This holiday season, explore the options. Giving back can mean donating toys and gifts to those in need, volunteering with your family for an afternoon, or making a monetary donation to a charity in lieu of exchanging gifts.

We did some research and found a few charities to get you started. But there are so many wonderful organizations out there. Have a look and find one that you are interested in and shares your passion for a cause.

The Sunshine Foundation is a national charity in Canada that helps children with severe physical disabilities. After losing his teenage son to muscular dystrophy, an Ontario police office created The Sunshine Foundation of Canada to brighten the lives of other children and families by fulfilling dreams.

Variety – The Children’s Charity is a philanthropic organization with locations throughout the United States. Variety’s National Mobility Program started in 2009 and provides assistance to children with mobility concerns. Children want to be active in their communities but they need access. Variety provides equipment such as adapted bicycles and medical equipment to children in need.

And in recent local news (for us here in Brampton, Ontario), singer John McDermott brings Christmas cheer to veterans during the annual Christmas concert at Sunnybrook Veterans Centre. McDermott has raised more than $1 million for McDermott House Canada, a registered charity dedicated to serving those who serve. Their first project is to create an innovative and warm, home-like environment for Canadian veterans, military, first responders and community patients in the Palliative care Unit at Sunnybrook Veterans Centre in Toronto.

Thank you to these organizations for all that they do. Happy holidays to all!

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One Couple’s Journey to Accessible Living

David Strawn Art Gallery (left), Loren (right)
Photos provided by Personal Mobility

At Savaria, we like to hear about our end users and how our products are making a difference in their day-to-day lives. But when we heard about Loren and Joy from Illinois, we couldn’t resist turning their story into a full blown article. This couple purchased not 1, not 2, but 3 Savaria mobility products.

Loren and Joy lived in a farmhouse in Jacksonville, Loren’s childhood home since the age of 6. Loren was an amputee and used a wheelchair. Sadly, he passed away recently at age 69. He lived in the farmhouse until he died.

Throughout his life, Loren owned lowered floor minivans, adapted full-size vans, and curved stairlifts. In 2005, the couple met with Savaria dealer, Personal Mobility, to purchase a residential lift. The first purchase was complete. A V-1504 Vertical Platform Lift was installed in their farm house. Chosen because of its durability and ease-of-use, the lift was a perfect fit for this couple. Loren was a woodworker, farmer, and overall a handy man, so he fashioned himself a rope handle for the platform gate that made it even easier still for him to enter the lift.

Loren and Joy’s farmhouse was originally part of the Jacob Strawn home place. This property was one of two built by the same couple. The other was donated to the Art Association of Jacksonville in 1915 and was converted to become the David Strawn Art Gallery. With ties to the gallery, Loren spearheaded the purchase of the second V-1504 for the building. The lift was customized with a bronze plexi glass enclosure and provides access to the main floor, elevated 9 feet off the ground.

The third product was purchased by Joy after Loren’s passing. Joy moved to a new home and though she is able-bodied, she recognizes the convenience of a home elevator and is planning for the future with her decision to install a Telecab.

All of these installations were performed by Savaria dealer, Personal Mobility. Owners Gerry and LuAnn Davis got their start in the industry when their daughter endured brain damage from an asthma attack that turned into cardiac arrest. When researching alternatives for an accessible van, the couple decided to open a mobility company to provide access for families such as themselves. Eleven years later, this family run business, in partnership with United Access, is considered to be one of the top mobility centers in Illinois.

We loved hearing Loren and Joy’s story and felt lucky to be a part of it. This wonderful couple faced physical barriers at times but they were quick to find solutions and adapt. They helped a beautiful art gallery become accessible and many will appreciate that in future years.

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Universal Design: Access for everyone

It’s a common story. People get injured and their house becomes home to 20 grab bars strategically located so that getting up and down is never a problem. What about navigating kitchen cupboards? Bathroom sink? Alternatively, parents express to their children that they do not want to move to a retirement home or a senior’s facility. But what are the options? There are too many stairs in those old houses.

Universal design has become a bit of a trendy buzz word in recent years, but some may not know what this means exactly. Simply put, universal design is the answer to a growing need in the home: accessibility.

Essentially, universal design is about creating a beautiful space that everyone can live in/visit both now and in the future. Age, size, ability… none of that matters. With universal design, there is safe access for everyone. Needs and abilities can evolve over time so universal design allows residents to live in and enjoy their home during all stages of their lives.

The trend was given a big boost by the recent dip in the economy. Homeowners would rather remodel than buy a new house. But ultimately, the reason to embrace universal design is the desire to age in place. An AARP National Survey found that 67% of people age 45 and over want to remain in their homes as long as possible. That number increased, up to a whopping 90%, as people age. Someone had to respond. Architects and builders embraced that desire and began to create homes with unique features that provide safe access for people of all ages. So, it started as a solution to the “age in place” dilemma but has expanded to providing livable homes for anyone and everyone.

It’s also important to note the word “design.” This is not just about adding grab bars around a home. Universal design means creating a beautiful home that happens to have features hidden in the design that will help homeowners and visitors alike.

Some essential universal design features include:

  • No-step entry
  • Wide doorways and hallways
  • Reachable controls and switches
  • Easy-to-use handles

If you own a multilevel house, you can incorporate universal design by adding a home elevator or wheelchair lift, making the home you love more accessible in the future.

If you are looking for smaller ways to update your current home and incorporate the new concept, some great solutions include:

  • Raised front-loading washer and dryer
  • Easy access storage and counter tops
  • Low or no-threshold stall showers with built-in benches or seats
  • Non-slip floors, bathtubs, and showers
  • Stairlift for stair travel

So get creative. How can you update you home now so that you can enjoy it well into the future?

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What do you PUSH for?

Mia: I PUSH beyond my comfort zone to explore new adventures!
Angela: I PUSH for a more peaceful and happy world!
Chelsie: I PUSH to inspire others to live to their fullest potential!
Tiphany: I PUSH because stereotypes don’t define me!
Auti: I PUSH to command attention!

Who are these women? Sundance Channel calls them the Push Girls. Season One has come to a close but a second season is in the works and if you haven’t heard of them yet, it’s time to learn about these phenomenal women.

Push Girls is a 14-part reality television show that follows the lives of four women in Los Angeles. The common denominator is their wheelchairs, but the show is not about wheelchairs. “It’s about lives and how we live life to the fullest. We are four women living in this world trying to have a normal life,” says Angela, one of the Push Girls. We see both how the women perceive themselves and how others see them and their wheels.

Auti and Angela became friends first when working in the entertainment industry. Six years later, Mia took part in one of Angela’s acting classes. And four years after that, they met Tiphany, who now lives with Angela. Angela is the only quadriplegic of the group; the other three women are paralyzed in the lower body. And from this group of women, Push Girls was born. “We realized we had a kindred spirit of reaching out, inspiring, encouraging and motivating people. And we all have different walks of life, so much to share,” says Auti. A fifth Push Girl was added after the pilot: Chelsie Hill, a young performer who dances with Auti and Mia in a group called Colours ‘n’ Motion.

The show has had a huge effect on people in wheelchairs, as well as able-bodied viewers. “Other shows dealing with disability often either downplay or sensationalize what it means to use a wheelchair, but Push Girls is much more holistic” (New Mobility Magazine, June 2012). It’s a show that means something different to each person. For some, it’s about informing people about paralysis and spinal cord injury. For others, it’s about five independent women and their friendship. Maybe it is the truth about life in a wheelchair. No matter what you take from it, it’s a wonderful accomplishment. Its existence itself is exciting! This could be the start of much more inclusion in television.

And audiences are responding! Push Girls hit social media hard with their Facebook page, featuring Q&As with the 4 stars of the show, inspirational stories of other women or wheelchair users, the Push Girl hall of fame, and more. Fans have responded to the show in a huge way – social media blew up every Monday night and now the series has been renewed for a second season. People in wheelchairs are seeing themselves not only represented on television but celebrated, and these strong women are to thank. Creator Gay Rosenthal says “It’s real, it’s outspoken and it’s from the heart” and that’s why we love it! Congrats on your upcoming second season ladies!

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