Student with Down Syndrome Begins College Career

Do you remember watching the YouTube video of Rion Holcombe that went viral when he received his acceptance letter to Clemson University? Holcombe is a South Carolina resident with Down Syndrome. That video has nearly two million views!

 It is now time for Holcombe’s dream to become a reality! He moved in to his dorm recently and CBS News was there to capture the excitement. Holcombe is enrolled in Clemson LIFE, a two-year program for students with intellectual disabilities. Programs like this one are becoming more popular on college campuses around the country.

 One of the greatest benefits is the opportunity for inclusion. Both students with and without disabilities can interact with each other, which promotes diversity. This model of education has become very successful and I hope it continues to improve the lives of people like it has for Holcombe.

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AccessAbility: A Bridge to Independence

The disAbility Resource Center is now doing business as AccessAbility. The new name, logo and website were created over several months and signifies the future for independent living.

By empowering people with disabilities, the organization will focus on four core services: advocacy, peer support, independent living skills training and information and referral. Each of these services promote inclusion and will create a better environment for everyone.

I’ve been on the Board of Directors for a number of years and I’m excited to see what AccessAbility will do for the disability community of the Lowcountry. Please watch my video below.

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Dare Devils on Wheels

I occasionally like the need for speed, but some guys take it to a whole new level. Can you imagine using your wheelchair as if it’s a skateboard and you’re doing tricks on half pipes? Or can you see yourself BASE jumping off bridges and building just for an adrenaline rush?

Aaron Fotheringham

Aaron Fotheringham

Aaron Fotheringham, also known as “Wheelz” does extreme stunts. Fotheringham, 22, has cerebral palsy and has been using a wheelchair since he was three years old. He has performed extreme stunts against some of the greatest BMX riders.

Watch him in action:

From one extreme sport to another, Lonnie Bissonnette is flying high. Bissonnette has a spinal cord injury and is a paraplegic BASE jumper. He acquired his injury from BASE jumping in 2004, but continued to have a passion for the dangerous sport.

Lonnie Bissonnette

Lonnie Bissonnette

ESPN’s Sports Center featured Bissonnette recently as he performed a jump off of the same bridge where he was injured.

Take a look at the video:


Both Fotheringham and Bissonnette have years of experience with their sports. I don’t recommend trying this at home.

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Celebrating 24 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

This past Saturday, July 26, marked the 24th year of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was signed into law in 1990 to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in a variety of areas, including employment, recreation and transportation.

The law has enabled better access to many aspects of life, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. From an employment perspective, the Federal government is working to hire more employees with disabilities. I’m on a committee at my job at SPAWAR to review the policies and procedures for hiring people with disabilities. We’re trying to inform the community that there are these opportunities are available.

The ADA National Network has already begun a year-long campaign to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the civil rights law in 2015. An ADA Legacy Tour began in Houston, Texas and will be traveling around the country. For more information about the monthly activities, check out

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It’s Time to Travel

Traveling by plane, train or automobile can be a daunting task for people with disabilities. But, that shouldn’t stop you from exploring the world. A number of resources are available to make traveling a more enjoyable experience.

I came across a website that was shared by one of my Facebook friends that presents some of the best accessible tourist destinations. TravAbility advocates for inclusive tourism and works toward making the world accessible for all. Information is available for locations stateside, abroad and on cruise lines.

The Australian-based website also has tips for flying, which includes everything from making reservations to proper procedures for getting on and off the plane. It is definitely worth planning ahead when traveling with extra gear like a wheelchair or other devices.

If you have a disability or have family or friends with disabilities, share your experiences in the comments below. You can also post your travel photos on the Tuesday Talk With Alex Facebook page! I will share them on my blog in the coming weeks.

Happy traveling!

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A Positive Outlook on Recovery

Not sure if you watched the CBS Evening News last night, but their closing story showed the remarkable journey of former Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken Rouen. She was injured in an ATV accident over a month ago. However, her outlook on life is very encouraging.

Even though she has lost the ability to walk, she still has the motivation and determination to make the most out of her new way of living.

It’s important to note that everyone recovers at different rates. While it may seem that Amy’s recovery is going quickly, that should not discourage anyone from their own recovery process. Take your recovery one step at a time. The smallest steps toward recovery are worth the effort.

Check out Amy’s story and video below.

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