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.
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
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
Brittlebank Park Sunset
Today 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.
We are four days away from the 16th Annual Charleston James Island Connector Run! Get ready to lace up those shoes and get those bikes in gear as we raise money for students with disabilities.
All of the proceeds go to the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation and support students at College of Charleston, The Citadel, Charleston Southern University, Trident Technical College, The Art Institute of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina.
These scholarship recipients come from different backgrounds, but they all have one goal in common: to achieve their educational dreams. They have the same indomitable spirit for learning and becoming productive citizens.
As National Disability Employment Awareness Month comes to an end, it’s just the beginning for these students to start their careers.
Live 5 News has done a video series for the past few weeks featuring many of the scholarship recipients. Check out the videos at http://search.live5news.com/default.aspx?ct=r&q=james+island+connector+run.
Join us November 1 for the Charleston James Island Connector Run and support a great cause! Register online at www.jicrun.com by October 29 or register in person on race day.
It’s becoming a little bit easier for people with disabilities to find resources that will help them in their daily lives. From accessible equipment in the home to modified desks at work, possibilities are endless when it comes to doing certain tasks.
While there are a number of organizations within our communities that people can acquire accessibility information, the United States government is working to improve the lives its employees.
Edwards Air Force Base in California hosted an Abilities Expo for the disability community to learn more about the wide array of products and services. Accessible vehicles and tank chairs were among the many items on display. A service animal company also demonstrated how dogs serve as companions for people with PTSD and other disabilities.
It’s exciting to see that employers are being proactive about such issues. I’m hoping this momentum continues and we can ramp up employment for people with disabilities. To see photos and read the story, go to http://www.edwards.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123428209.
We’ve all heard the phrase “neccessity is the mother of invention,” but that statement was true for Louis Braille, the inventor of the Braille system for people with vision impairments.
I came accross an article that describes how the then-14-year-old modified an existing code system used by the military in the 1800s to make it useful for who couldn’t see.
Now, braille signs are placed in many places…at elevators, doorways, etc. it’s amazing that something so innovative that can improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Braille allows for people to be more inclusive in their lifestyles, from work, to home and everything in between.
Read more of this remarkable story at http://braillebug.afb.org/louis_braille_bio.asp.
“Expect, Employ and Empower” is this year’s theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The month of October is when our country recognizes the importance of equal employment for people with disabilities.
Individuals with disabilities are just as driven to become employed as much as anyone else. Unfortunately, some employers believe that people with disabilities can’t be a valuable member of the team. Even with the right skills and training, people aren’t being hired because employers are unaware of the accommodations that can be made to assist a person in doing his or her job.
For instance, adjustable desks can be ordered to raise or lower to the correct height for people in wheelchairs. Ergonomic computer keyboards and other hardware can make doing tasks a lot easier. There are a number of programs like Dragon NaturallySpeaking that will type while a person speaks. Regardless of the disability, there is an accommodation that can be made to ensure that everyone can do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
Gavalas Kolanko Scholarship Recipients
Last night, I went to dinner with several scholarship recipients from the Gavalas Kolanko Foundation. This Foundation provides collegiate scholarships to students with physical disabilities in the Charleston area. From pharmacists to educators to computer scientists – and everything in between – these students are achieving their goals and are ready to join the workforce!
The expectations are high, but the disability community is ready to be employed and empower the world!