How the ADA Helps Me

We’ve all heard the saying, “We work to live and we live to work.” I would not be able to work or live as independently as I do if it were not for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In the 25 years of the ADA, it has helped create opportunities for inclusion in the workforce, on the tennis court and beyond. For the average person, he or she may not realize how many accessibility features we encounter in a typical day.

Accessible Van Parking SignBy the time I get to work, I park in a handicapped accessible space. Once I’m parked, all of the doors leading to my office have automatic door openers. The restrooms and cafeteria are also easily accessible.

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations like screen readers and voice-to-text software.  My only accommodation is a larger cubicle to maneuver my wheelchair.

Life would not be the same if it were all work and no play. So, when I’m not working, you can find me at one of my favorite restaurants. I always make sure the entrance is accessible and there are no barriers in the dining area. When the weather is nice, I like to be outdoors at accessible parks or attending sporting events.

This is just a glimpse of how the ADA helps me and others live fully. Without ADA, many people would not have the same opportunities. We have progressed in many ways, but there is still more to do to make our country more accessible.

How has the ADA helped you? Comment below.

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President Barack Obama Speaks on the Americans with Disabilities Act

President Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of disability rights activists to celebrate 25 years of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) at the White House Monday.

In his speech, President Obama recognized key people who helped enact the law, including Sen. Tom Harkin, Judy Heumann and President George H.W. Bush. Other disability rights leaders were in attendance who have helped remove barriers for people living with disabilities.

Because of the ADA, people with disabilities have access to public places like movie theaters, restaurants and ball parks. Individuals with disabilities also have better access to employment. Employers now understand that people with disabilities are just as capable as anyone else, and, through workplace accommodations, those with disabilities can complete their jobs even easier. President Obama also said Federal agencies have been mandated to increase the number of disabled employees within the workforce.

Please watch the President’s speech below.

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An Interview with Bob Peters

I had the opportunity to interview Bob Peters and asked him to share his story of living with a spinal cord injury. He encouraged many people throughout his life and helped remove barriers for people with disabilities.

Please watch this inspirational video.

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Remembering Bob Peters

Bob and Penny Peters

Bob and Penny Peters

I can’t believe that just a month ago I met Bob and his wife, Penny, in Minnesota while celebrating 40 years of spinal cord injury research. Bob passed away unexpectedly about a week ago from complications from cellulitis.

As I mentioned in my blog post after my trip, I bought a copy of Bob’s book, A Dive Too Deep, where he described the 14-month journey of his recovery and rehab experience after diving into a lake. He was paralyzed with a spinal cord injury at 24 years old.

As a newlywed of one year, Bob explained how his life changed forever.

“My dive took me deep. I hit the hard, sandy bottom with my head. I heard a thick snap and saw a bright flash of intense white light. I laid there facedown in the water–unable to move, unable to breathe. My mind was racing, but somehow racing in slow motion.”

After he was pulled out of the water and rushed to the hospital, Bob’s neurosurgeon said that he broke his neck and crushed his spinal cord. The doctor added, “You’ll probably never get out of bed. If you do, you’ll never walk and it’s not likely you’ll live much past forty.”

Those chilling words brought a mix of emotions, including fear, anger and frustration. He kept questioning why this happened to him. But, Bob had the love and support from his wife, family and friends along the way.

He received rehabilitation services from the Sister Kenny Institute in St. Paul, Minnesota. Bob worked with physical therapists and occupational therapists to regain strength. He learned to feed himself, drive a power chair and use adaptive equipment allowing him to go back to work.

Bob Peters

Bob Peters

As he continued to strengthen, he gained a sense of confidence and optimism. He was grateful to prove his neurosurgeon wrong on two points: he did get out of bed, and he lived much past forty years of age.

Bob retired in 2004 after a 43-year career in the electronics field. Over the years, he dedicated his life as a disability advocate and served on many local, state and national disability organizations.

Bob liked to say that he survived in spite of his disability, but he thrived because of his disability.

In the final paragraph of his book, he says, “Now, I ask you to do two things: treat people with disabilities and everyone you know with respect. And one last thing: be sure to check the depth of the water–don’t dive too deep!”

A Dive Too Deep

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My View Through the Lens

I had the opportunity to capture photos of two amazing events this past weekend. First, Rev. Clamenta Pinckney’s funeral at the TD Arena was very powerful. Second, I snapped pictures at Shots with a Spin with physical therapy students from MUSC.

Rev. Pinckney’s Funeral

The choir at Rev. Pinckney's funeral.

The choir at Rev. Pinckney’s funeral.

It was inspirational to be among the thousands of people who attended Rev. Clamenta Pinckney’s funeral. The love and support shown by people from around the country was amazing. The TD Arena was filled to capacity with individuals of different backgrounds and religious beliefs to exemplify the unity within our communities.

President Obama delivering the eulogy.

President Obama delivering the eulogy.

President Barack Obama spoke about that unity and said we will overcome this tragedy through grace. From the choirs singing gospel hymns to President Obama leading ‘Amazing Grace,’ there was definitely an uplifting spirit while we celebrated the life of Rev. Pinckney.

Shots with a Spin 2015

Gilbert Smith coaching a team on wheelchair basketball.

Gilbert Smith coaching a team on wheelchair basketball.

The 4th annual Shots with a Spin wheelchair basketball tournament took place this past Saturday. The MUSC Department of Physical Therapy students organize this event to support Achieving Wheelchair Equality athletic events.

The bracket-style competition features able-bodied players using sports wheelchairs to play basketball. The winning teams advance until there is a champion! In addition to the novice wheelchair athletes, two official wheelchair basketball teams compete against each other in an exhibition game. The North Charleston Hurricanes played against the Port City Spokesmen from Wilmington, N.C.

Tip-off of the championship game.

Tip-off of the championship game.

This event is always a lot of fun and showcases the talents of many wheelchair athletes.

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Remembering the Victims of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church Massacre

It’s been almost one week since nine people innocently lost their lives while in Bible study last Wednesday. All of these people were active in their communities and enjoyed spreading the Word of God. It is disheartening to see bad things happen to good people.

Rev. and Sen. Clamenta speaking at a Blue Jamboree rally.

Rev. and Sen. Clamenta speaking at a Blue Jamboree rally.

I didn’t know any of the victims well, but I had the opportunity to photograph Reverend and Senator Clamenta Pinckney at the 2013 Blue Jamboree, a Democratic Party rally held in North Charleston. He definitely had a deep, booming voice that commanded the attention of the crowd.

The outpouring of support by the Charleston community, the state of South Carolina and our entire nation is incredibly heartwarming. To drive past “Mother Emanuel” and see all the people who are paying their respects with flowers and cards shows how this tragic event has shaken the core of the human spirit.

Let us continue to pray for the family and friends of Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Clamenta Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons Sr., Sharonda Singleton and Myra Thompson.

The cover of Sunday's (June 21) Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier newspaper. (Courtesy of Post and Courier)

The cover of Sunday’s (June 21) Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier newspaper. (Courtesy of Post and Courier)

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Handling the Heat and Humidity

Dog sitting in front of a fan with its ears blowing in the wind.  It’s not officially the dog days of summer yet, but Charleston is definitely feeling the heat! For some people with spinal cord injury, it’s difficult for us to regulate our body temperature and handle the hot, humid weather.

An able-bodied person can cool off through sweating, but, for those who are injured, the brain doesn’t communicate with the spinal cord when the body becomes overheated. Some signs of heat exhaustion are dizzines, weakness or feeling nauseous. When these symptoms are present, it’s best to go into an air-conditioned room or use fans.There are also several companies that make cooling towels that stay cold for several hours.

I usually try to beat the heat by packing a cooler with water and cold towels when spending the day outdoors. Placing cold towels on my arms and on the back of my neck help keep my body cool. Our bodies are similar to cold-blooded animals; we match the temperature of our environment. Much like alligators and other reptiles, we can go for a swim to handle the heat and humidity!

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