The Standing Wheelchair – Scott Liesch Interview

Scott Liesch in the Standing Wheelchair

Scott Liesch in the Standing Wheelchair

We’ve all heard the benefits of standing, but that can often be difficult for people with paralysis. However, the Standing Wheelchair allows those with disabilities to stand whenever and wherever they want.

I spoke with Scott Liesch, of The Standing Wheelchair Company, and he described how the chair has helped him stay healthy while living with a spinal cord injury. The chair allows people to take pressure off of their hips and buttocks, stretch their leg muscles and be at eye level with others that are standing.

The chair comes in three configurations, depending on the person’s needs:

  1. manual chair with manual standing
  2. power chair with manual standing
  3. power chair with power standing

In the video, Scott uses a power chair with manual standing. Medicare insurance does not cover the standing wheelchair, but some private insurance companies will help fund the chair. Even if you are denied the first time, you may be approved on the second attempt.

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Gary Karp Q&A

Gary Karp and Alex JacksonFollowing up from last week’s post, I had the opportunity to speak with Gary Karp and asked him about the importance of advocacy. He said we should not forget the history of disability awareness and remember key leaders like Justin Dart and Judy Heumann. We should continue promoting disability awareness to improve the lives of people living with disabilities.

When he’s not writing books and speaking to students, he is practicing his juggling skills. Watch the video below or click this link:

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Gary Karp Speaks to OT Students at MUSC

Last week, national disability advocate and author, Gary Karp, spoke to occupational therapy students. He talked about how his spinal cord was injured at 18 years old after falling out of a tree.

Gary recounted his experiences in a rehab facility where he learned how to transfer to and from his wheelchair and other tasks to help him live independently. One of the key points in his presentation is that the rehabilitation process is a vital part to the recovery after a traumatic accident.

Gary Karp holding his book, Disability and the Art of Kissing.

Gary Karp holding his book, Disability and the Art of Kissing.

Nowadays, rehab stays are becoming shorter and shorter than when Gary was in rehab. To help those who want additional resources, Gary has written two books about spinal cord injury.

Life on Wheels is a comprehensive guide ranging in topics from choosing the correct features on a wheelchair to knowing the steps to take make traveling easier when living with a disability.

His second book, Disability and the Art of Kissing talks about issues dealing with intimacy. Often, this subject is rarely discussed in rehab centers, but is an important part of the recovery process.

Tune in next week to see my video interview with Gary. He talks about the history of the independent living movement, ways the younger generation of people with disabilities can be better advocates for themselves, and how employers can hire more people with disabilities.

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The Making of a Wheelchair-Accessible Vehicle

There have been a lot of advancements in technology allowing people with disabilities to live as independently as possible. Just within my lifetime, I’ve seen wheelchairs become more streamlined and powerful. Cell phone technology gives us the power to communicate with the world via the internet.

Toyota Sienna RampvanBut one of my favorite pieces of technology is the modification of vehicles. The ability to customize vans and trucks gives people so much independence and freedom. Have you ever wondered how these vehicles become equipped with ramps or lifts?

Conversion companies like VMI and Braun have presented new possibilities for the disability community to travel. Check out the video below to see how a standard mini van gets transformed to be a valuable piece of equipment for myself and others who have disabilities.

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Microsoft Superbowl Commercials

While many Superbowl commercials weren’t as promising this year as in previous years, there were a few that hit the mark.

Microsoft seems to have the right formula for demonstrating how their technology can be an empowering tool to help people. The Estella’s Brilliant Bus commercial showed how one woman took it upon herself to bring the technology to low-income, inner-city students.

Braylon O'Neill

Braylon O’Neill

The other commercial by Microsoft exemplified how technology can change the life of a person with a disability. Braylon O’Neill was born without the lower leg bones, the tibia and the fibula.

At 11 months old, Braylon received his first pair of prosthesis. The doctors and therapists are able to use  special software to track his gait and adjust it as he gets older. Through advances in technology, Braylon is not limited in what he can accomplish. Watch the video here or view below.

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No Greatness Without Goodness

Traditionally, jobs for people with disabilities were custodial or related to working in a kitchen. However, then-Senior Vice President of Walgreens, Randy Lewis, wanted to change the types of jobs that were available to those with disabilities within his company.

Lewis envisioned that individuals with autism, Down’s syndrome, or spinal cord injury would be able to work alongside their able-bodied counterparts in Walgreens distribution centers and retail stores. Everyone would have the same types of jobs and get paid the same wages.

No Greatness Without GoodnessLast week, Lewis spoke to folks at the College of Charleston, and explained why he was so passionate about inclusion in the workforce. It was because of his son, Austin, who has autism.

In his presentation, Lewis said Austin is just as capable at doing the job as anyone else; he just goes about it a little differently.

One of the key points I took away from his speech was that when employers are arranging workplace accommodations,  they should use the acronym “ATP,” which stands for “Ask The Person.” It makes more sense to ask the person what they may need to help them do their job more effectively than trying to assume what people may need.

In his book, “No Greatness Without Goodness,” Lewis shares why he wanted to change the lives of people living with disabilities. To learn more, visit

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“NCIS: New Orleans” Actor Isn’t Just Playing A Role

It’s more than just a television role for actor Daryl Mitchell…it’s real life! Mitchell acquired a spinal cord injury in 2001 after a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the chest down.

Daryl Mitchell plays Patton Plame on "NCIS: New Orleans."

Daryl Mitchell plays Patton Plame on “NCIS: New Orleans.”

He plays a security analyst named Patton Plame on the new CBS show, “NCIS: New Orleans.” Mitchell has a device attached to his chair allowing him to carry around his tablet while maneuvering around in his chair.

From a casting perspective, I appreciate seeing the diversity of having a person with a true disability having a major role. It shows others with disabilities that they, too, can have careers ranging from acting to computer science.

Although the roles are becoming more accessible, Mitchell described how one award show venue is inaccessible. Mitchell noted that the Kodak Theater did not have adequate wheelchair seating.

Mitchell is married and has four children. He says humor has helped him cope with becoming a person with a disability. He says, “People associate the wheelchair with being a liability instead of an asset. So when you come in and let everybody know I am just as human as the next person – I drink, I have sex – then the wheelchair starts disappearing.”

Read more about Mitchell and how he lives a fulfilling life with a disability in New Mobility Magazine. You can catch the next episode of “NCIS: New Orleans” tonight at 9/8c on CBS.

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