Friday, August 24, 2012

PUSH GIRLS

Sundance Channel's new reality show, Push Girls, follows the lives of Tiphany, Auti, Mia, Angela and Chelsie. Five women who don't let the fact that they are paralyzed and in wheelchairs stop them from doing anything they want to do.

After five minutes of watching the show you realize that their chairs are just an accessory, much like earrings or a purse. (Okay,maybe that's a bad analogy, but you get the idea.) Their chairs do not define who they are. They are five women who face life's challenges with a positive attitude. The girls can do just about anything, they may just do it a little differently.

I cheered when Auti won first place in a ballroom dance contest competition. It was my favorite episode featuring Auti. It was so cool that she competed against able-bodied dancers and won! She had been a professional dancer before her accident. Auti taught herself how to do hip-hip dance moves in her chair and created a wheelchair hip-hop dance team called Colors 'n' Motion. The group puts on shows to raise awareness and show what people with disabilities can do. She had a role in the independent film, Musical Chairs, and is working on a CD. She calls herself a diva because she likes to take charge but, in my opinion, Auti is diva with a heart of gold.

Unlike the other girls, who became paralyzed in car accidents, Mia became paralyzed when a blood vessel ruptured in her spinal cord. Before she became paralyzed Mia was a competitive swimmer. . My favorite Mia moment was watching her compete in a swim meet. Watching Mia achieve her goal of competing again was so thrilling. I was on Team Mia, shouting "Go Mia" as I watched. It didn't matter what place she finished in, what mattered is that she did it. Mia also went kayaking on a date. She was and is fearless. I cannot wait to see what sport Mia conquers next!

Tiphany attended her high school reunion which happened to take place on the same day as the anniversary of her accident. I think it took tremendous strength and courage for Tiphany to return to her high school and face her classmates. Then she had the courage to drive by the site of her accident and have all the feelings and emotions connected with that day come to the surface again. It was something she knew she had to do so she could move forward with her life. It was very emotional for Tiphany and her dad. I cried with them. I applaud Tiphany for allowing cameras to film such personal scenes.

Since her accident Chelsie speaks at school assemblies about the dangers of drinking and driving. She has been interviewed by Seventeen Magazine. Chelsie also loves to dance. She would like to attend college and study communications and business. Her accident happened just over two years ago and the girls offer her support and friendship as she learns to deal with the challenges of her new life. My favorite episode featuring Chelsie was when the girls went high heel shopping with her. Just because you're in a chair doesn't mean you can't still be fun, sexy and feminine. Whatever Chelsie does, I know she has a bright future ahead of her.

Angela had a lucrative career in modeling before her accident. Her dream was to return to modeling. There aren't many calls for models in wheelchairs. One agency Angela called told her she could come in. When asked if they were accessible they told her the agency was accessible. The agency's idea of accessibility included a staircase. Angela didn't give up. Her tenacity paid off. On the season finale Angela flew to New York to do a photo shoot for a national campaign for Nordstrom Department Stores. Angela's success is a perfect example of why you should never give up. With determination you can achieve your dreams.

It took me a long time to finish this blog. Everything I wanted to say sounded cheesy. I wanted to say more than I love Push Girls and everyone should watch the show. I love it because the girls support each other. They are there for each in good times and bad. Push Girls shows that disabled people want the same things that everyone wants. To be accepted, to be loved and to be thought of as people first and disabled second. As the girls say, "If you can't stand up, stand out."

Thank you Tiphany, Auti, Angela, Mia and Chelsie for letting us into your lives. Season one was awesome. I can't wait for season two.

www.sundancechannel.com/pushgirls




































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Sunday, August 12, 2012

HAPPY (BELATED) BIRTHDAY ADA

The Americans With Disabilities Act became law on July 26, 1990. The purpose of the law is to ensure that the disabled live in a society that is accessible to them. The ADA covers employment, accessibility of state and local government buildings, any restaurant or store as well as public and private transportation services. The law ensures that anywhere telephone services are given to the public, telephone relay services are given to anyone who is hearing impaired. In short, anything that is available to the able-bodied should be made available to those with a disability as well. No one with a disability should be discriminated against for trying to have their rights upheld.

The law has come a long way, but still has a long way to go, particularly in terms of architecture and quality transportation services. Last year, I went to a restaurant that had steps in front. The restaurant staff offered to pick me up in my motorized wheelchair and carry me up the steps to the inside. . I declined their offer. My chair is heavy and I didn't want anyone getting hurt. There are many people with chairs larger then mine. Carrying a chair up steps can be difficult for those offering assistance and scary for the person in the chair. The restaurant staff then directed us to an entrance where I assume deliveries are made. I had to drive down a steep ramp and then go through the restaurant kitchen. When I was little going through a restaurant kitchen to get to the dining area was a common occurrence for me, but in 2011, I never dreamed I'd still have to go through a kitchen. When we left, I did let the restaurant staff carry me down the front entrance steps. because the ramp for the delivery entrance scared me and I felt being carried down the steps would be quicker and safer.

Earlier this year I wanted to have little chocolate teddy bears made as I was having a book signing. Since my children's book, The Busy World of Bianca Bear, is about the adventures of a little pink bear I thought it would be nice to have chocolate teddy bears on my signing table for anyone who stopped by. I called a candy store near my house and they told me they had teddy bears and I should come in and look at their selection. I wanted to stop in, but when we went by, the building was not accessible. I don't even think there was a curb cut and I know there was a step to get in. I called to complain and was given a voicemail. I left a message explaining my situation along with my contact information. I never heard from them. I was very disappointed that
the store. didn't care enough to return my call and address my concerns.

I am fortunate enough to have an accessible van and caregivers to drive me where I need to go. Most disabled people are not so lucky. They must depend on public transportation, buses and Call-A-Ride. I have been told the lifts on buses are always broken. I have also heard horror stories concerning Call-A-Ride. They can be either fifteen minutes early or fifteen minutes late in picking a passenger up. A rider must be outside and waiting no matter what the weather. Call-A-Ride may be a hour or two late and it may be raining, but a rider must be outside waiting for the van otherwise the van will leave them. The rider will get a warning letter. If they are late again they will be suspended for a period of time. If a rider misses a van, it may be several hours before another van is available to pick them up. I know of someone who didn't make it to their doctors appointment because Call-A-Ride was late picking them up. By the time they arrived at the doctors office, the office was closed. Call-A-Ride left the person outside and it was getting dark. Thankfully, another van picked them up in a few minutes. A rider may have to transfer several times before reaching their destination. Again, they must wait outside, no matter what the weather, for the next van or the van will leave. My friend was hurt due to an inexperienced driver who didn't secure their chair in the van properly. Call-A-Ride paid their medical expenses.

Disabled people deserve safe, dependable transportation. There are a few accessible .taxis now, but they can be expensive. Every building needs to have a safe accessible entrance. I realize money is tight and budgets are being cut, but something needs to be done so that disabled people can continue to lead independent and productive lives.











































































































































































































































































































































Monday, August 6, 2012

GOING FOR THE GOLD

I hadn't planned to blog about the Olympics. What could I write about? My personal experience competing in sports consists of being forced to shoot a bb gun and bow and arrow at targets while at summer camp and an ill fated attempt to play baseball in a gym class in high school. (Every time I was at bat and the pitcher threw the ball I closed my eyes. It wasn't pretty.) Even though my three older brothers love sports, sports just aren't my thing.

Every few days I visit the website for the Today Show to see what stories they are covering. Last week I saw an interview with a young man from South Africa named Oscar Pistorius. Oscar Pistorius is a double amputee who is a runner in track and field. The men's 400 meter to be exact. He races on prosthetic limbs. I was amazed! He ran so fast! It took many years for Oscar to get to the Olympics. People said that his prosthetic legs gave him an unfair advantage over other runners because the blades on his prosthetic legs allowed him to run faster. Oscar went through extensive testing to prove the naysayers wrong. Last Saturday Oscar's dream of competing in the Olympics became a reality. He finished second in his race allowing him to advance to the semi-finals where he finished twenty-third out of twenty-four. It doesn't matter in what place Oscar finished. What matters is that he raced against able-bodied competitors. He achieved his goal. He didn't let what others said or thought deter him. Oscar believed and he did it.

I believe people with disabilities go for the gold all the time. Each time a person with a disability reaches a goal, that others have told them is impossible for them to achieve, is a gold medal moment in their life. One of my gold medal moments was getting a part-time job at St. Louis Community College at Meramec after my Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor told me I'd never find emplyment becase I need assistance with personal needs. (This was before the ADA was passed.) I proved my counselor wrong by creating a job for myself. I taught classes in computer software on an individualized basis of two students per class. It was offered through the Continuing Education Department. I retired in 2005.

Oscar Pistorius is an inspiration to all of us. .Through his racing he's shown us that no matter what your limitations are, with hard work and determination, you can achieve your dreams.