In Mid-August, Special Tree rehabilitation in Romulus hosted their SCI Mobility & Recreation Expo 2019. Vendors and groups were brought in to showcase various sport & leisure activities for people with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI). A few of the attractions were adaptive sport demonstrations (tennis, rugby, & basketball), accessible vehicles, clothing adaption for buttons, home modification contractor, and even a few rehab clinics, along with many more who were on-site providing information.
The attendees were mainly people with SCI, ranging from as recently as a few months post injury to over 20 years. Those in the latter stages have been witness to tremendous advances in rehabilitation, wheelchairs, and incorporation of technology into said equipment. In my various conversations throughout the day among those with long-term SCI, consistently they remarked how they no longer have to have huge, full size vans or how they didn’t have even a quarter of the adaptive equipment available following their injury. A couple of the reasons being that the technology just wasn’t there to facilitate those changes, but neither was the overall desire to make things more accessible. Whether accessibility just wasn’t on people’s minds or without social media and our 24 hr. news cycle to put these common grievances out there publicly, it wasn’t known and was just easier to push aside. Ignorance is bliss, right? But in 2019, that isn’t the case.
21st Century is just getting rolling and has already made leaps and bounds to improve lives for People with Disabilities (PWD). Everything has sped up and downsized. No longer are the only vehicle options limited to full sized Econoline vans. Now, PWD have options like a minivan, truck, or SUV that has been equipped with ramp, lift, or hoist. Technology is an integral part of this new wave in accessibility. I watched as high level quad’s played a PC Shooter game with just a mouth piece, no hand/finger movements needed! Which may not seem like much, but for someone with limited mobility, especially very minimal mobility, the chance to try anything you used to do or haven’t been able to do in a long time is exciting and fun again.
These advances making more daily life activities obtainable may seem like a minor feat. But for PWD, doing anything independently can be seen as an accomplishment. The ability to move your chair whether it is manually, joystick, or by head controls, is a freedom of its own kind. Most people won’t get it, because you haven’t had to rely on others for literally, everything. Just naming a few but dressing, eating, communicating, moving, or using the bathroom all through another person’s assistance is tough. But, gaining any independence and reacquiring identity as a person are major achievements. There are many things to be watchful of as we progress into the 21st Century, broader accessibility and independence for all people should continue being important public issues and not continually set to the back-burner.