SPINALpedia: A Social Network for People With Spinal Cord Injury

We have all heard of popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and  Twitter, but have you heard about Spinalpedia?

SPINALpedia Logo

SPINALpedia Logo

The website is a combination of Facebook and YouTube for people with spinal cord injury. Users can upload videos and share how they live with the disability. From Zumba to Zip lining, there are a myriad of videos for all levels of activity.

One of my favorite features of the site is the ability to filter your searches. For example, if you’re wanting to see a video of how a person with quadriplegia with limited hand dexterity drives a vehicle, then you can find videos fitting those specific details.

SPINALpedia is a great resource for both the newly-injured and those who have been injured for years. The organization’s motto is “See it. Believe it. Do it.” Like myself and so many others with disabilities, we  have learned a lot from our peers.

Tiffany Carlson is the executive director of SPINALpedia. Carlson is a well-known disability blogger and often writes for New Mobility Magazine. In addition to the website, she heads up the Determined2Heal Foundation, which empowers people who are paralyzed. To learn more about these great resources, visit http://www.spinalpedia.com.

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Developing Communication Skills

From doctors and lawyers, to educators and politicians, the art of public speaking is important. Nearly every profession requires you to have the skills for both written and oral communication. Communication skills are needed in entry level positions all the way to senior management positions.

Looking back on the history of rhetoric, The Sophists, Greek orators, were the ones to give public speeches in the town. They were gifted with speech and used their talents to get people interested in what they had to say. They were the ones to teach how to properly give a presentation.

Moving in to the modern era, those same principles still apply. When we communicate today, we want to draw the attention of those who are willing to listen. A couple years ago, I participated in Toastmaster’s six-week public speaking course called Speechcrafters. I attended the classes with other people with disabilities.

The abbreviated course taught us how to better express our ideas and present them in ways that were meaningful. I believe the classes allowed us to be better advocates for ourselves and others living with disabilities.

I asked my friend, Nathan Todd, to be a guest blogger and share his thoughts on the Toastmaster program. He was part of the same Speechcrafters class, but he then joined an official Toastmasters Club. Read Nathan’s post below.

Toastmasters: Where Leaders Are Made

By Nathan Todd

Nathan Todd

Nathan Todd

We have all been there, standing in front of our classmates, our papers shaking and our voices quivering. When it comes to public speaking, most of us can relate to that experience. Psychology Today published an article related to people and their fears. The research found public speaking ranked number one over death. 1

There is good news.  An organization is out there to help ease those fears. How do I know this?  I was the guy in front of that classroom. Now I am a more confident speaker. This organization is Toastmasters International. Specifically, the Pretty Darn Interesting Club (PDI). It is where leaders are made!

Toastmasters allowed me to hone my speaking skills, sharpen my critical thinking and develop my writing style. Toastmasters is not only about public speaking. The first time I walked into a meeting, the environment was warm and inviting. Toastmasters is a great place to expand your network and form friendships.  PDI members support each other as we grow and achieve our goals.

When you leave the podium after a riveting speech and someone says, where did you learn to speak with such confidence?  Your response should be, have you heard of Toastmasters?

For more information about the PDI Club, send an email to pditoastmasters@gmail.com or visit the website at pdi.toastmastersclub.org.



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Giving Tuesday

Now that many of us have given our money to businesses during Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, why not continue the giving today for Giving Tuesday!

Support nonprofit organizations of your choice, whether they help people with disabilities, the homeless, children that are hungry or animals in need.

The Giving Tuesday website explains why we give. The three main reasons are gratitude, altruism and compassion. It is human nature to help others. Through supporting the well-being of others, we, in turn, are supporting our own well-being.

When I think of giving, it reminds me of the Boy Scouts of America slogan: “Do a good turn daily”. That phrase simply means that you should do something good for someone else when they have done something good for you.

Throughout this Thanksgiving season, be grateful for what you have, and who you have in your life. Share some of that love with others around you.

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Every Day is a Day of Thanksgiving

As the choir sang “Every Day is a Day of Thanksgiving,” it put everyone into a joyous mood Sunday morning! This is a classic gospel song for the St. Matthew Baptist Church Mass Choir during this time of year.

The chorus of the song goes, “Every day is a day of Thanksgiving. God’s been so good to me. Every day, He’s blessing me!”

We all have something for which we can be thankful. I am thankful for so many things. I’m grateful for my family and friends. I’m grateful for my health. I’m grateful for my abilities!

As many of you know, I had a long battle with my left foot amputation last year. It is doing well and I’m now able to wear a prosthetic on that leg. This is my new normal, but I haven’t let it control who I am.

New prosthetic on left leg

New prosthetic on left leg

Reflect on why you’re thankful and share your comments below.

Take a listen to “Every Day is a Day of Thanksgiving being performed by Dr. Charles G. Hayes and the Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Choir.

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The Sam Schmidt Story

You may recognize the name Sam Schmidt from Indy car racing. In 2000, Schmidt was injured in a racing accident with a C-3/4/5 spinal cord injury, leaving him paralyzed from below the neck. Although he uses a wheelchair for mobility, he hasn’t let his disability slow him down, literally!

Schmidt worked with Arrow Electronics to design a race car that he can drive using his head and mouth. He controls the vehicle similarly to how he drives his chair: using a head array system.

Now that Schmidt is not racing, he started the Sam Schmidt Foundation to raise money for a cure for spinal cord injury. He hopes to be able to walk his daughter down the aisle when she gets married.

Here is a video showing a glimpse of Schmidt’s life after injury. He still has a positive outlook on life and loves spending time with his family.

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Veterans Day and My Week in Review

On Veterans Day, our nation honors the men and women who have served in the United States military. Without their dedication, our country would not have the liberties and freedoms that we have today.

While I am not in the military, it’s been a privilege to work as a civilian for the Department of Navy and SPAWAR. I get to work alongside many veterans who have served our country. Thank you all for your service!

My Week in Review

Reading to students at John L. Dart Library

Reading to students at John L. Dart Library

I read to about 30 kindergartners and first graders at the John L. Dart Library last week. The students were from Carolina Voyager Charter School and New Israel Child Development Center.

I read to them The Little Engine That Could. I also shared my experiences of living with a disability. Using the same theme of determination that’s talked about in the book, I told these young learners that they can accomplish their goals if they stay focused.

The kids really enjoyed looking at my wheelchair, and they had really great questions. I talked to them about how I play tennis and that I love photography.

Speaking of photography, I submitted three photos to the photography competition at the Coastal Carolina Fair. One of my photos, Spirit of the Carolina, received an Honorable Mention. My other photos were a red tulip and a sunset at Brittlebank Park. This was my first year submitting photos to this competition.

Spirit of the Carolina

Spirit of the Carolina

Red Tulip

Red Tulip

Brittlebank Park Sunset

Brittlebank Park Sunset


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It’s Your Right to Vote

VoteToday is Election Day and you have the right to vote! While it’s not a presidential election, this vote is just as important. We, as Americans, have the opportunity to let our politicians know what’s important to us and one of the ways to do that is by casting your ballot.

For people with disabilities, curbside voting is available at all polling locations. If you decide to go inside, there are voting machines that are more accessible for people in wheelchairs. Make sure you let a poll worker know if there is anything you need to make the voting experience easier.

I did curbside voting during the in-person absentee voting last week. A poll worker came to me and brought everything to my vehicle. It definitely made the process more accessible.

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