Advocacy Day at the Statehouse 2016

Advocacy Day banner at the South Carolina State House.

Advocacy Day banner at the South Carolina State House.

I spent the day in Columbia, SC at the Advocacy Day rally for people with the disabilities. The for main topics of discussion were related to healthcare, employment, housing and transportation.

A few members from the South Carolina Legislature addressed the crowd and a proclamation was read to commemorate the day. Several members from the disability community from around the state pitched their stump speeches, so to speak, on issues that mattered most to them.

Maria Saxon of Charleston spoke about the importance of accessible healthcare facilities, and she also shared her experience on disability employment.

Even though today was Advocacy Day, we can promote awareness and educate our community and legislators all year long. To see my photos from today’s event, go to https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10101551236731164.1073741875.21310342&type=1&l=d6ab339d16.

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Maria Saxon waving to vehicles passing by in front of the State House.

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Boston Marathon wheelchair athletes race to the finish

Marcel Hug of Switzerland crosses the finish line ahead of Kurt Fearnley of Australia (C) and Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa (R) to win the men's wheelchair division of the 120th Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Marcel Hug of Switzerland crosses the finish line ahead of Kurt Fearnley of Australia (C) and Ernst Van Dyk of South Africa (R) to win the men’s wheelchair division of the 120th Boston Marathon in Boston, Massachusetts April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

It was one of the closest finishes for the wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon! Last year’s winner, Marcel Hug, barely won it out in front of Kurt Fearnley and Earnst Van Dyk in the 26.1-mile race.

According to Boston.com, “Hug, of Switzerland, crossed the finish line in 1:24:01, one second ahead of South Africa’s Ernst Van Dyk, 1:24:02, and two seconds ahead of Australia’s Kurt Fearnley, 1:24:03. Hug won with a time of 1:29:53 in 2015.”

Take a look at the story and watch the video of the photo-finish win.

Tatyana McFadden was the female winner in the wheelchair division with a time of 1:42:16. McFadden, who is a native of Russia, now resides in the United States. In a People Magazine article, it notes, “She’s the first person to ever win all four of the world’s major marathons in London, Boston, Chicago and New York.”

McFadden competes in the London Marathon next week and will participate in track and field events at the 2016 Paralympics this summer. Read more about McFadden in this article.

I am absolutely amazed at the strength, both physically emotionally, of these athletes as they overcome the barriers they face.

Michael Jordan once said, “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen!” I can definitely say these athletes are making it happen!

Tatyana McFadden, of Clarksville, Md., crosses the finish line to win the women's wheelchair division of the 120th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Tatyana McFadden, of Clarksville, Md., crosses the finish line to win the women’s wheelchair division of the 120th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 18, 2016, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

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TV commercials featuring the disabled

Angela Rockwood, a quadriplegic model, who has appeared on the Push Girls television show and Nordstrom catalogs.

Angela Rockwood, a quadriplegic model, who has appeared on the Push Girls television show and Nordstrom catalogs.

With my love for media, it’s always exciting to see the inclusion of people with disabilities in television shows and commercials. Even though improvements are being made, there is still a disproportionate number of commercials that do not include those with disabilities.

The cover story of New Mobility Magazine describes how some advertising agencies are becoming more inclusive for both television and print media. Angela Rockwood, a model from the TV show, Push Girls, has been featured in Nordstrom ads and catalogs. Kroger grocery stores, Kleenex tissues and Honey Maid graham crackers are among the companies that have featured people with disabilities.

Take a look at Allen Rucker’s story in New Mobility. As we break down the barriers for inclusion, there will be more folks like me gracing the presence of television screens and magazine pages.

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Recap of the Cooper River Bridge Run

The rain held up for the 36,000 participants of Saturday’s 39th annual Cooper River Bridge Run. Among the crowd were the wheelchair racing athletes and two people with spinal cord injury who walked the entire 6.2 miles with the walking devices.

James Senbeta wins 1st place - Photo: Post and Courier

James Senbeta wins 1st place – Photo: Post and Courier

James Senbeta of Illinois has won the wheelchair division two years in a row. This year, his time was 25:31, and last year, he clocked in at 26:07. Other wheelchair racers this year were  from New York, Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia.

The other notable athletes who completed the race were Marka Danielle Rodgers and Adam Gorlitsky. If you’ve followed my blog in the last several weeks, you’ve seen my posts about these two amazing people.

Marka crossing the finish line!

Marka crosses the finish line

Marka crossed the finish line with a time of 2:08:47. She had a team of supporters around her as she walked with the Ottobock knee and foot orthotic (KAFO) active stance brace system.

Adam used the ReWalk exoskeleton to cross the finish line. Adam’s exoskeleton allows hm to walk about one mile per hour, allowing him to complete the 10K trek in about six-and-a-half hours. The race route was changed and the finish line was moved to the Charleston Maritime Center so Adam could officially cross the finish line.

To see pictures of the race, visit my Facebook page.

Adam Gorlitsky - 2016 CRBR

Adam Gorlitsky nears the finish line

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Adam Gorlitsky gears up for the bridge run

Adam Gorlitsky - I Gog Legs

Adam Gorlitsky, 29, was paralyzed with a spinal cord injury ten years ago after he was in a car accident where he fell asleep at the wheel. He always hoped he would walk again, and that opportunity is happening thanks to an exoskeleton system.

This system is strapped to his legs and trunk, which gives assistance and provides support while walking. He uses crutches to propel forward and those crutches help Adam stabilize his upper body when walking.

You can follow Adam on his I Got Legs Facebook page where he shares videos of himself working out at the gym and other activities he hasn’t done while standing with a spinal cord injury.

Both Adam and Marka (who I featured on my blog two weeks ago) will be walking in the Cooper River Bridge Run this Saturday. The exoskeleton technology is amazing and it provides an awesome opportunity for both of them.

To see Adam walking with his exoskeleton, take a look at the video below. You can also read a recent article in the Post and Courier.

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Wheelchair-friendly restaurants

Wheelchair-Friendly SignCharleston was recently named No. 15 in the Top 20 Most Charming Small Cities in America! Part of what draws people to the area is it’s restaurant scene. There are tons of great restaurants around town, but some of them are easier to get in than others…especially if you’re using a wheelchair.

I’ve had my share of interesting experiences of getting into restaurants, whether it’s going down a side alley to go through the kitchen or using the back entrance to get to the dining room. I know there are a lot of constraints in modifying historic buildings, but at least these restaurant owners are proving an accommodation to the problem.

Sporkful.com posted an article and podcast about wheelchair accessibility. The story features David Friedman who writes a blog called The Disabled Foodie. He reviews restaurants for their food and wheelchair accessibility. John Hockenberry, from the national radio show, The Takeaway, also shares his experiences along with Zach Anner, a comedian with Cerebral Palsy who has his own Youtube channel. Take a look at the story and listen to the podcast: http://www.sporkful.com/dining-out-in-a-wheelchair-2/.

Share your favorite restaurants in the comment section below and let me know how you overcame the physical barriers.

 

 

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Marka sets sights to walk bridge

Marka Danielle standing with the Ottobock exoskeleton while looking at the Cooper River Bridge.

Marka Danielle standing with the Ottobock exoskeleton while looking at the Cooper River Bridge.

We are about two and a half weeks away from the Cooper River Bridge Run happening Saturday, April 2. Thousands of people will be crossing the bridge, but Marka Danielle will be  taking on a whole new feat….on her feet!

Marka will be walking across the bridge using an Ottobock exoskeleton system. From straight-leg braces to the hinged-knee system, she has the ability to walk with a more normal gait.

Marka has always been determined to accomplish her goals and she hasn’t let adversities get in the way. While insurance companies will not help pay for the exoskeleton technology, she is proving the need and importance of this equipment for people with spinal cord injury.

Accessibility Assessments

In addition to advocating for these medical needs, Marka has a strong voice in the community to promote accessible parking and access to public venues. Last week, Marka and I performed a roll-through of Charleston’s newly-renovated Gaillard Center to evaluate wheelchair accessibility features of the building.

While the facility has made significant improvements, we were able to make some recommendations including the ease of opening doors and improving signage to accessible seating. We would like to thank the City of Charleston’s Americans with Disibilities Act (ADA) coordinator, the project manager and Gaillard Center contractors for their support.

Support Purple Legs Up

As Marka prepares for her journey to walk the bridge, you can follow the progress on her Facebook page: Purple Legs Cooper River Bridge Walk and share her success by using #purplelegsup on social media. The video below documents her journey as she prepares for this momentous event.

I always like to say that anything is possible when living with a disability. You just have to take it one roll, or in Marka’s case, one step at time!

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