Thursday, December 31, 2009

Snow Plow On a Wheelchair

If you use a wheelchair in a snowy area like Montana or Wisconsin, you will be interested in hearing that some people are putting snowplows on wheelchairs. Here is one

Actually, if you put wheelchair snowplow into youtube, you find quite a few such videos. I bet there could be an interesting market for such a product.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Las Vegas native Amy Purdy, 24, is a Freedom Innovations Amputee Advocate with many aspirations, but above all she's an actress at heart. In a rare occurrence for Hollywood motion pictures, Amy was cast as the female lead in an independent film, "What's Bugging Seth," a drama by Man of Steel Productions.Amy first got involved with this film through her prosthetist who received the casting call from O&P Edge. "They were looking for a female, below-knee amputee in her early 20's with red hair and a vintage style," she reflects. "I knew this was my chance."

I am so pleased that this production company gave the role of a disabled character to a disabled person and not an able bodied person with a double. Good on you!!! As you will see from the photo above Amy Purdy has a very appropriate name.
Read the rest of Amy's impressive story on the Whats Bugging Seth site.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The High Salaries of CEOs of The Largest Children's Charities

The Rich Keep Getting Richer, While the Poor Keep Getting Poorer

Are you aware of the salaries of the CEOs of childrens charities? As of September 2008, Jim Cook, President of Children International made an impressive combined compensation of $436'183. Cook's income overtook World Vision's Richard Stearns healthy $421'181.

Frankly, I have no problem with what these guys make if they would only be open about it. All charities are required to state their executives salaries to the IRS in a form 990, which is where I found the information. But unlike most charities, Children International does not place their form 990 on their website. Their website directs the visitor to go to GuideStar's website to find it. Guidestar, a charity watchdog, does not publicly display form 990. You have to register in order to find it. So, in order to learn Cook's salary, you really need to dig around. However, I was able to find Cook's salary from the Foundation Finder Data bank, without registering. You can too. Or you can click on the image above, which I have copied for you.

What I would REALLY like to see is charities being required to openly state the salaries of their executives on their website. Sure, some will tell you how much of your dollar is going to their projects. Many will proudly state for example "81 cents from every dollar you donate goes to this or that program." But NONE of them reveal the salaries of their executives on their websites. Why? Because their executives salaries are usually going to be many times higher than their average donor and they KNOW that if they list their salaries, many donors will be outraged.

While I do not argue that many of the charities are helping children, I do not agree that executivies should get rich doing so. I believe that charity executives should make a reasonable salary. Of course they should not live in poverty. But if they are looking for such high salaries, they should not be in the the so called "non-profit" sector. However, if they would just be open and inform their donors of what they are doing, it would be another story. If charities informed their donors of the executives' salaries and the donors want to donate anyway, by all means they should do so. But for these charities to use the impoverished plight of the children to plead for donations and fail to reveal that their CEOs are using the donations to enjoy luxurious lifestyles is, in my opinion very, very wrong.

How do they get you to donate? They make you feel a certain guilt, a certain responsibility. Their message is this: "You enjoy prosperity. You enjoy a nice life. Our children are in dire poverty PLEASE help our children. It is only $20 or $30/month. You won't miss it and it will make their lives so much better." Of course they fail to mention "Oh, by the way, our CEO will take nearly $0.5 million off of the top."

I want to see Mr Cook and Mr Stearns be honest with their donors. I want them to tell their donors how much go into their pockets, because few know it. I have done an informal survey on my article about childrens charities CEO's salaries. I have asked visitors "Did you realize that Children's Charity Execs Were Making Such High Salaries?" From 27 people surveyed, 60% reported having no idea that the charity execs were making so much money. When I began donating to Children International, I had no idea I was really helping to finance Mr Cook's lavish lifestyle. After finding out, I kept donating until my child left the program and I stopped.

If you happen to donate to any of these charities, I encourage you to forward a link or copy of this post to them. Ask why they do not reveal their executive's salary on the website. In 2004 while I was a donor, I wrote to Children International about the high salary and the rapid growth rate of Mr Cook's salary. Their response was "We feel that looking just at the salary of one individual or a handful of individuals is to miss the big picture and to get a mistaken impression. We could pay less and require less of our employees in terms of skills, experience and performance, but we feel the resulting inefficiencies would end up costing us more in the aggregate and benefiting the children less.". Why don't they post such a statement together with their executives' salary by year and let donors make an informed decision? They don't say. Children International ignored two follow-up letters from me. If any tells you, I will be pleased to post their response on this blog. But I doubt any will.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Taxi Companies Can Get Grants To Buy Wheelchair Accessible Taxis

I am amazed and delighted that Taxi companies can get grants to buy wheelchair accessible taxis.

This article describes how some taxi companies have had 80-100% of the costs of the accessible taxis paid for by the New Freedom Grants. For more information about how to apply for a grant, there is information on the Federal Transit Administration website.

What is interesting to me is that more companies are not applying for this grant money. It seems like a win-win situation. Companies get taxis paid for, wheelchair users get accessible taxis.

It would be useful to have a database of where accessible taxis are available.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wheelchair User Earns Black Belt in Karate

I love stories like this. Kelsey Schmaltz is a 19 year old girl from Fargo. Kelsey uses a wheelchair. Nothing unusual so far right?

Oh yeah, Kelsey just earned her black belt in Karate. How do you earn a black belt in Karate? Well one thing you have to do is break a bunch of boards with your hands. Ouch. That must hurt.

Great Job Kelsey Schmaltz!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Scooting for Multiple Sclerosis

A group of Multiple Sclerosis sufferers in Canterbury, UK have formed a synchronized team of mobility scooter riders. But they are doing it for a good cause. They're hoping to help raise GBP 1.5million to build new facilities for the Kent Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre:

These are some pretty cool mobility scooter riders.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wheelchair Basketball Player Earns College Scholarship

Like the author of this article about Amanda King a college basketball player who uses a wheelchair, I was not aware that wheelchair athletes were now receiving college scholarships. Obviously, they should. I simply didn't know it was happening. Very good news, indeed!

I did a quick google search and found another program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

I wonder if there are alot of disabled sports scholarships? I also wonder if there is a list of schools and sports where such scholarships are available? I think it would be an important resource for young disabled students.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Interview With Magnus Berglund: Disability Ambassador for Scandic Hotels

I have blogged earlier about Magnus Berglund. Magnus is the disability ambassador for Scandic Hotels. Scandic is the only hotel I am aware of that has someone like Magnus who is responsible for developing the hotel on behalf of disabled guests. I learned about Magnus from a CNN Interview (which you can find at the bottom of this blog post) and I contacted him. Magnus has kindly agreed to do an interview with us for the blog and tell us more about what he is doing for Scandic.

GE: Magnus, thank you for agreeing to doing this interview. What do you feel is the main problem for wheelchair users in the hospitality industry and how do you hope to make a difference?

MB: The main problem for disabled guests is the industry looking at the person as someone with a disability, and not as a guest, which we at Scandic Hotels do.

GE: Why should a wheelchair user select Scandic? Why is it different than other hotels for a wheelchair user?

MB: Scandic is trying to involve disability issues in everything we do, for example, we have created a working list of 93 accessibility features for hotels to follow. 77 of these features are mandantory for every hotel. All 93 features are mandatory for renovated or new hotels. Some of these features include; hearing loops at the reception, alarm clocks for deaf people, stick holders at the reception, a guest computer that can be reached from the wheelchair. (Download Scandic's Accessibility Broschure here).

GE: How has Scandic's approach to wheelchair users changed since you have been with the hotel?

MB: The main difference is that we now have ongoing discussions with disability organization and disabled guests. For example, in a few minutes I will take a taxi and meet several different representatives of Swedish disability organizations.

GE: What should a wheelchair user do if he or she visits a Scandic hotel and finds problems related to their disability?

MB: As for every other guest, he or she should address the front desk at the hotel first. If they are not satisfied with the result, they are welcome to contact me ( Magnus' Email address is: Magnus.Berglund "AT"

GE: Do you think that all hotels should be required to meet some kind of industry-wide standards?

MB: Yes, when building new hotels.

GE: What further improvements do you hope to see over the short and mid-term? Can you tell us your vision for the future?

MB: Scandic Hotels is planning quite a few number of hotels, and this is at present my main focus. For example, we are going to build a hotel in Berlin with over 10% of the rooms disabled accessible. The new hotel will have very modern features for disabled guests.

GE: Thanks Magnus.
With millions of disabled guests around the world, I wonder if Scandic is the only hotel chain which is taking disabled travelers seriously? If anyone knows about other hotel chains and what they are doing would you please enlighten us?

I would be pleased to do similar interviews with representatives from other hotel chains to learn more about what they are doing. It would be interesting to learn more about how the hotel industry is evolving to make hotels more accessible to disabled guests.

Please leave a comment below. A hotel executive might read this one day and your comment will help them to understand why this subject is important to you.

Here is the CNN Interview with Magnus Berglund:

More Cool Wheelchairs

Another amazing wheelchair from Japan. This time from Toyota. This looks sooooo futuristic. I wonder if it will ever make it to the market. Who could afford it?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Are You Feeling A Bit Low? This Guy Will Lift Your Spirits.

Nick Vujicic is an amazing motivational speaker. He can speak to a crowd of thousands and reach out to every individual in the room. He has a very unique approach which only he can make as you will see from the video below. This is a must see!

The next time you are feeling a bit sorry for yourself watch this video then ask yourself Nic's question "Are You Going to Finish Strong?"

Monday, November 30, 2009

wUnderGlow Wheelchair Light Website

A new website was launched for wUnderGlow Wheelchair Light. wUnderGlow is the first wheelchair light designed for use on manual wheelchairs. Check out the new uUnderGlow wheelchair light website.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Aaron Fotheringham: Young Guy Who Rocks

Aaron Fotheringham was featured on the CNN program "Young People Who Rock". It was a good interview. If you have never seen Aaron before, it gives a good overview of some of his accomplishments.

What is amazing about Aaron is that he is 17 years old, has been on ESPN, CNN, has appeared in movies and TV shows, has traveled all over the world! This kid has had a pretty eventful life and he is just at the very beginning of it. Aaron, there is so much in life waiting for you!

Now, if the rest of us, disabled and able-bodied alike, would take Aaron as an example and approach life as if there are no limits, no boundaries, nothing we can not do, just imagine what we could accomplish!

Rock on, Aaron!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lady Gaga Hired an Able Bodied Wheelchair Dancer!!

My last blog is about Hollywood producers who hire able-bodied actors to play the role of disabled characters, such as the able-bodied actor who was chosen to play a disabled wheelchair charactor in Fox's Glee.

Now Lady Gaga has hired an able bodied dancer to be a wheelchair dancer??? You have GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

Have a look at Lady Gaga's Dancer. The woman can not even push herself, she is being pushed!!! (She comes on about half-way through the video).

There are some VERY talented wheelchair dancers in the world who put on AMAZING performances such as Auti Angel. I know Auti. She is a sweetheart and is VERY talented. You can catch Auti Angel in the video below.

Have a look at Auti dancing.

Have a look at a wheelchair dance competition (dancing starts after about 1 min).

Obviously, there is no shortage of talented wheelchair dancers. What is it with these people, who would select someone with no talent and not even consider someone whose career is based on wheelchair dancing?? I just dont get it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Spread the Word: DON"T WATCH GLEE!

Do you remember the old days, when hollywood producers would hire a white actor to play an asian or an American Indian? Don't remember? Watch a clip of The King And I.

Do you think you would see that today? No way! So why would hollywood producers use an able bodied actor in a role of a wheelchair user??? Here is KEVIN McHALE, who plays Artie in the series:

What are the excuses for this disaster? I do not believe what they are saying

"I think there's a fear of litigation, that a person with disabilities might slow a production down, fear that viewers might be uncomfortable," said Robert David Hall, longtime cast member of CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

And further

That was the intent in assembling the cast of "Glee," said executive producer Brad Falchuk, along with getting the best performers possible.

"We brought in anyone: white, black, Asian, in a wheelchair," he said. "It was very hard to find people who could really sing, really act, and have that charisma you need on TV."

What do the masses of today think about this? Washington post did an online poll on the topic and an incredible 88% are OK with the idea!!

From millions of wheelchair users, they could not find one who had enough talent for this part? I don't buy it.

I won't be watching Glee and I suggest that you dont either. I would love to see other disability blogs passing the word.

Charlie Wilks: A High School Football Player Who Happens To Be Blind

Ok, I know that this is a wheelchair blog. And of course the vast majority of my posts have to do with wheelchairs or wheelchair users. But this is an exception because it is an exceptional video. I just have to share it with you.

This is the story of Charlie Wilks, a high school student and football team player. Charlie is blind. He is known by his High School Football team as "The Beast". With some help from his teammates who line him up before the play and his teammate who shouts "GO" when the play starts, Charlie is an important member of the team.

Do you note the word "team" frequently in the paragraph above? It is not an accident. That is the key word in the story of Charlie Wilks. Charlie's team helps him and in turn he is a valued and important part of the team. That is the way it should be.

What is also cool about the documentary is that it is Charlie who interviews his mom, his grandfather, his teammates and his coaches. It appears that it is Charlie who has made the documentary.

At the end Charlie says "Don't view the disability as a crutch. View the disability as a leg and start running". Watch this excellent video of Charlie Wilks:

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Ultimate Quad Rugby Match!

On September 20, 1973 the world watched a young woman kick an aging man's butt across a tennis court. Billy Jean King's defeat of Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" went down in history as a break through match for women's tennis. Before then, few were interested in watching women's tennis and women tennis players earned a fraction of male tennis players. After that game, the masses began to accept women professional tennis players as serious athletes.

Of course, this was not the only step in bringing women's tennis out of the shadows and into the spotlight. But it was a very important step. And even though the match was not an even match, Riggs was 55 years old and out of shape while King was a 29 year old champion, it proved something to the masses. Before that game, women tennis players were simply not taken seriously. By winning the game, King made the world take note that women were serious contenders.

Quad Rugby shares a similar image to women's tennis of that time. Basically, outside a small insider crowd, the game is hardly seen. There is almost zero media attention. Since few know how exciting the game really is there virtually no mass appeal.

If you have never seen women's professional tennis before, you might imagine it to be rather boring. Who wants to see a bunch of women tapping a ball over a net? Once you have seen women's tennis, you know that it is every bit as exciting as men's tennis. Similarly if you have not seen quad rugby, you might imagine a bunch of sad disabled guys rolling around a court. Once you have seen it, you understand that quad rugby is every bit as exciting as any professional game.

How could quad rugby be brought into the spotlight? Create a demonstration match based on the Riggs vs King game. It does not matter if it is a fair match. It only matters that it peaks the interest so that people can see the game as it really is.

I propose a demonstration match between a top quad rugby team and a top professional NFL team. Or better yet the best NFL team; the Super Bowl team. Such a demonstration match would create a media frenzy. Top professional football players taking on a bunch of paralyzed guys? The image alone is almost frightening. Such an image would draw alot of attention to the sport, the way that the tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs brought attention to women's tennis.

Give the NFL team 1-2 weeks to train. Bring in Joe Soares, the bad boy American coach of the Canadian quad rugby team which kicked the US Team's butt in the paralympics. Soars' presence would help to bring some tension into the game.

Would the match be fair? Absolutely not. Who would win? Frankly, I have no idea. I don't think it really matters. The ultimate winner would be the sport of quad rugby.

Watch the trailor from "Murderball" the Acadamy Award Nominated Documentary about Quad Rugby:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pimp My Wheelchair!

Did you ever thing about having a pimped out wheelchair? You know, like the MTV TV Series, Pimp My Ride where they would take a beat up, tired old wreck and turn it into an over-the-top, jaw dropping, more than cool super car?

Did you ever think about what you could do to your wheelchair if there were only the right accessories and if you had lots of money? We want to get your ideas about the things you would do.

We created an interactive article with a few ideas to start with, beginning with our own line of cool wheelchair bling, of course. The article is called Pimp My Wheelchair. Please give your input as to what you would do or what you would dream.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Blacks Friendlier to Wheelchair Users?

Ok, this is an interesting topic for a debate. According to a poster on the website "Urban Baby": "Which culture or group do you think has been the warmest and kindest.. meaning .. they make eye contact, they smile, they help with doors or even say a few words of greeting?"

According to the poster, in their experience:

"African Americans were far and away the warmest and kindest people toward the person in the wheelchair. I include many afro-carribean people, (eg. Jamaican) as well."

"Whites and Hispanics were generally equal. Maybe the whites were slightly less willing to interact. Least friendly and avoiding eye contact almost all of the time.. east Asian."

Does anyone have personal first hand experience with this?? If so, let us hear from you.

Read the discussion on Urban Baby

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wheelchair Beauty Contest

Some stunningly beautiful wheelchair users in this wheelchair beauty contest. The first one looks a bit sleepy though. Have you taken part in a wheelchair beauty pagent? Do you know anyone who has? What do you think about it?

Personally...I think it is GREAT! These women are simply beautiful, wheelchair or not. What do you think? If you happen to know any of these women, ask them to write to me (RehaDesign at If they send any photos, I would be pleased to post them on the blog.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Erik Kondo's Response To a Stupid Anti-Wheelchair User Campaign

Gene: Erik, Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. Tell me about your blog Cool Not Crippled , what gave you the idea to start it? When did you launch it?

Erik: Stan, one of the members of the blog, went to a movie in Salt Lake City where the Don't Drive Stupid ad was featured during the previews. He contacted me about it. We decided that it was an outrageously offensive ad and that we needed to get it discontinued. The blog has created in August of this year as a means to voice our disapproval of the manner in which wheelchair users are portrayed.

Gene: Do you see the Dont Drive Stupid campaign as a type of prejudice? What do you think is behind it?

Erik: The campaign is prejudice because it takes advantage of and promotes an extremely negative perception of wheelchair users. The campaign is an example of a "good" public service message that was executed very poorly and in a short sighted manner.

Gene: What is your long term objective? Are you trying to get them to stop the campaign? Do you think you will be successful?

Erik: My objective is to promote a positive image of wheelchair users. One that counter acts the current negative stigma that currently exists. Don't Drive Stupid has responded to our criticism and has discontinued their "wheelchair" campaign. But I feel they need to be held accountable for their actions. They need to take steps to reverse the damage they have caused. In addition, I recently found other negative "wheelchair" ads. These ads seem to feed upon each other. Therefore, they need to be stopped.

Gene: Who is working together with you? I see photos of all kinds of disabled athletes and celebrities on your blog. What is their involvement?

Erik: Right now I am the main driving force behind the blog. Erika Bogan (Ms. Wheelchair America 2010) has recently become involved too. Others have expressed an interest in helping out. Everyone on the blog has provided their support by promoting a more positive image of wheelchair users.

Gene: How can other people help you to achieve your goals? What would you like other people who are interested in this to do?

Erik: My first goal is to build up the blog with "cool" photographs of wheelchair users doing "cool" activities. Future plans will be to expand the blog into a display book and video. People can help out by simply submitting a photograph for the blog, or by informing others who would like to be involved.

Gene: That is exactly what we have in mind too. I hope we can work together on that. Thanks so much for participating in this interview. Please keep us informed about how things are progressing.

Erik: Thank you.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Scandic: An Intelligent Hotel Chain

This is a GREAT idea. I wonder when other hotel chains will catch on? Only thing I would like to suggest is that disability ambassordors could also be wheelchair users.....or someone very smart like Magnus Berglund. I wonder if Magnus has a wheelchair user on his team?

In any case BRAVO to Scandic Hotels for taking this important step. Are any other hotels doing this?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wheelchair Spoke Guards

RehaDesign has added a new range of wheelchair spoke guards to its line of innovative wheelchair accessories. The wheelchair spoke guards are made with screen print technology and have a quality finish.

Wheelchair spoke protectors not only add style and personality to a wheelchair, but they offer safety as well. Fingers often have a way of finding themselves in the rotating wheel spokes, and wheelchair spoke guards keep them from harms way.
The price of RehaDesign's wheelchair spoke guards includes free shipping by registered post anywhere in the world. Have a look at RehaDesign Wheelchair Spoke Guards.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Deal With Disability

I discovered a new cool blog today. It is called The Deal With Disability.

It is sort of like Wheelchair Kamikazee in that it involves a video camera attached to a wheelchair. But it goes a step further and takes "candid camera" like videos of how people treat a wheelchair user. Some of the videos show good treatment, and others, bizaare treatment. Like the waitress who wanted to help Eva, the blogger drink.

There is also a forum where other wheelchair users can share stories and discuss how they have been treated. One forum writer shares a shocking story that a physician told him he would not support getting an electric wheelchair saying "she isn't worth the resources. she'll never be able to drive it".

These are stories that need to be told. Now I hope that the audience will not be limited to wheelchair users.

Cool Wheelchair Designs

See several different cool wheelchair designs on the Tuvie website. The wheels which can transform from round to elliptical seem very interesting to me. What do you think?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wheelchair User Tackles Suspected Child Molester

Wow, I mean WOW! Cameron Aulner, wheelchair user, tackles a suspected child molester as he was running out of a Wal-Mart. Way to go Cameron!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Uprighting a Tipped Wheelchair

Nice demo on how to upright a tipped wheelchair, though this is probably done by a therapist and not an actual wheelchair user. Also, it would be good have a step by step narration together with the video. But the visuals are very useful:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Murderball: An Exceptional Film

I just got finished watching the moview murderball. If you have not seen it yet, you are missing something. It does not matter if you are in a wheelchair, if you have a friend or loved one in a wheelchair or if you have never seen a wheelchair before. This film goes way beyond the game and gets the viewer to see the passion that the players have, for the game and for life. Murderball the film was nominated for an academy award for best documentary and won the Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. Rent it, borrow it, buy it, steal it. Read more about Murderball. Here is a clip:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wheelchair Lights

Check out this cool video of wheelchair lights. wUnderGlow wheelchair lights are very small, but can offer different types of lighting effects for wheelchair users. Improved wheelchair safety and fun. A wUnderGlow wheelchair light system would make a great christmas present, especially for a child in a wheelchair:

Wheelchair Safety: What You Can Do Right Now

I wonder how many people consider wheelchair safety when they use their wheelchair at night? Most people will buckle their seat bealts when they drive a car. But how many wheelchair users use wheelchair ligths or wheelchair reflectors?

This article about wheelchair safety discusses many issues of concern. There are so many problems. Wheelchairs are built low to the ground and are hard to see. Cars are getting larger and larger and most people do not look out for wheelchair users.

Wheelchair safety is a factor that affects everyone, disabled and able bodied alike. If an able bodied drive hits a disabled person in a wheelchair, both people's lives will be forever altered. I would love to see some public safety campaign developed to raise the awareness concerning wheelchair safety. I would love to hear comments and suggestions about how to get the message accross.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wheelchair Ramps

If you are from the UK and are looking for quality wheelchair ramps, have a look at The Ramp People's website. They specialize in all kinds of ramps and have a large collection of UK wheelchair ramps.

A Bed That Morphs Into A Wheelchair

Panasonic has created a bed that morphs into a futuristic wheelchair. But get this, due to possible legal and liability issues, the bed will not yet be marketed. This is an amazing product which will be of great use to severly disabled people. I mean for people who require lifts, this will be a godsend. I don't understand legal issues which prevent products like this from coming to the market.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview with Ken Morrow from Adaptive Fly Fishing

The following is an interview with Ken Morrow, founder of the Adaptive Fly Fishing Institute (AFFI). The AFFI trains adaptive fly fishing instructors. According to Ken's website an instructor "has the Adaptive Fly Fishing Institute's full faith and confidence after a rigorous and intimate training and testing program in which they became highly skilled in the fine art of teaching all aspects of fly fishing to people with disabilities."

Gene: Ken Tell us about the AFFI. What is the objective of the institute? Who and what do you teach?

Ken: The core of what we teach, Gene, is a holistic therapeutic approach to fly fishing instruction and adaptive sports coaching that is totally unlike any other organized training program in the world today. It is designed by professional angling instructors, educators, and healthcare providers primarily for professionals who work in therapeutic and clinical environments. Our methodologies and principles are based on decades of hands-on experience in adaptive and therapeutic outdoor recreation (most specifically fly fishing, of course) which have been honed by a variety of professional credentials and formal education in the fields of physical therapy, pastoral counseling, education, biology, public health administration, leadership development, and behavioral sciences. And we bring that all together to form a certification program whereby consumers can be assured that our certified instructors can equip them or their organizations to deliver highly effective adaptive and/or therapeutic fly fishing-based programs.

Gene: What gave you the idea to start the AFFI?

Ken: I was doing a lot of volunteer work with VA hospitals delivering fly-fishing based therapy programs for their patients when some administrators from a prominent VA hospital and a Navy Morale, Welfare, and Recreation office Director pulled me aside and told me that they had seen such positive results in their patients who participated in our program that they wanted to invest in it to make sure it became permanent. They urged me to figure out how to turn my volunteers into contract workers and transition away from grassroots fundraising based support to grant and contract funding. They were concerned about volunteer burnout and the good will of the public drying up over time. They've been down that road many, many times.

Researching the "how to" of this sort of transition, I soon realized that there was a lot of work to do in terms of professionalization and certifications and such. So I began to search for existing programs that could fill these needs, and they just didn't exist. There was only one organization offering a fly casting certification program, and I was a member of that body. But their program really wasn't compatible with adaptive instructor certification and I met with considerable resistance from a significant portion of the leadership whenever I tried to broach the subject. So I sat down with several of my fly fishing mentors, some experts in the healthcare profession whom I respect, a couple of education experts, and even a lawyer or two (something I try hard to avoid as a general rule). I talked to them about the concept of AFFI and what they thought something like that should look like. Every one of them thought it was a great idea and encouraged me to move forward with it. And I incorporated major aspects of the advice I got from almost all of them. In fact, I formed an advisory board that consists of a few of them plus some additional people with some specialized expertise that helped me draft the certification guidelines and tests.

Gene: I see from your website that only about five or six people have been certified so far. Is that correct?

Yes, that is correct. The institute was only founded in August of this year. And certification as an AFFI is not something to be taken lightly. It requires dedication, experience, and a pretty significant command of a pretty wide array of both knowledge and skills.

Gene: And you do not charge a fee for the instructing/certification?

Well, the institute doesn't charge a fee for training or certifying instructors, that is true. But let me clarify a couple of fine points on this subject. First, our certified instructors are free to charge for their services if they choose to do so. They can't charge to administer the AFFI certification exam, but they could charge someone to train them for it if they wanted to and someone wanted to pay them. But the institute isn't a party to that transaction and neither encourages nor discourages it. But this is partly why an instructor cannot participate in the testing of their own students. Some will charge for training, and many won't. Some will charge at times, but won't charge at others. It is a highly personal choice. The other matter I would like to sharpen to a finer point is this: AFFI does charge a $25 annual fee to certified instructors once they become certified. But there is no charge for taking the test. And that $25 is completely eaten up by administrative costs just to maintain the referral database and internal newsletter for instructors.

Gene; How long does the training last?

This is an interesting question. We have two methods of training AFFI's. The first method is through organic mentorship. There is no set time limit for that, neither minimum nor maximum. The certified instructor decides when his/her student is ready to test. It's that simple. Nobody can test without an AFFI's nomination. And it's important to note here that if an AFFI nominates 3 candidates in a period of 2 years or 3 candidates in a row who fail the exam, a panel of AFFI's will review his/her certification and decide whether or not he/she gets to keep it. So we are a self-regulating body when it comes to the quality of instruction people are getting, too.

The other modality in which we can deliver certification training is for institutional applications. It is seminar based. If the candidates meet a pretty significant set of prerequisites, we can come in for a few days with a small team of AFFI's and teach a compressed course followed by oral and performance exams. This is a great way to get a hospital, camp, or rehab center staff trained and qualified to deliver a clinically effective fly fishing program very efficiently.

Gene: I assume you also instruct disabled people not to instruct, but to fish. Is that done one on one or in groups?

Of course we do. I don't think any of us would want to teach only teachers and stop teaching people with special needs to fly fish! That would be the fastest way for me to lose our instructors. Seriously, it is where all of our passion, energy, and opportunities for personal development come from. It is how we engage in research and development of new techniques and adaptive equipment. Most of our AFFI's are significantly if not totally disabled ourselves. And there is an ethics clause all AFFI's must adhere to that prohibits us from refusing to teach any disabled person to fly fish.

The institute itself hosts some fly fishing events and trips each year for special needs individuals, and our individual AFFI's are almost constantly engaged in teaching fly fishing to both disabled anglers and those who we deem less fortunate (meaning the perfectly healthy).

Gene; Can any disabled person be trained to fly fish?

That's almost a trick question. The politically correct answer would be "yes," but I live in the real world and don't pull punches. If someone has no use of either arm, they aren't going to be able to fly fish. But that doesn't mean they still can't enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle! And I encourage everyone to do that. In fact, I would still be glad to take someone in that situation along with me fishing just so they could get out and enjoy some beautiful nature. Joan Wulff (a famous fly fishing woman) says, "Trout don't live in ugly places."

And another aspect of what we teach is the crafts of of fly fishing: fly tying and rod-building. There are people who have a very difficult time fishing who really enjoy tying flies and/or building fly rods. And we teach all of that.

Gene: Is it very expensive? What kind of costs are we looking at?

"Expensive" is a relative term. I can get someone started fly tying for $50. I can get someone started fly fishing for about $300 without skimping in any significant way. And I can set someone up to fly fish anywhere, anytime, independently, for any species, like a pro, with their own boat and everything for under $7,000. If you compare that to bass fishing, golf, a kid playing high school football or playing in the school band, or many other things that people do; fly fishing isn't expensive at all. And if someone is a disabled veteran, we can even help them get grants to pay for it all.

Gene: If someone is interested in getting more information about adaptive fly fishing, how can they go about it?

We have a few good sources of information out there. And there are several organizations I'll mention quickly who are doing good charity work and we support them. Most of our board members do volunteer work with these charities.

Our website address is and we also have a Facebook fan page for the Adaptive Fly Fishing Institute. Both are good sources of information about both what we are doing and what is going on in the field of therapeutic and adaptive fly fishing. The charities we have been and are involved with are Casting for Recovery, Warriors and Quiet Waters, Rivers of Recovery, Reel Recovery, Global Opportunities Unlimited, and Project Healing Waters. Anyone can type these names into a search engine to get to their websites or read tons of news stories about the organizations. CFR focuses on women with breast cancer. Reel Recovery is a men's cancer therapy group. GO Unlimited is a mobility-impaired hunting, fishing, and horseback adventure charity. The rest are wounded warrior and disabled veteran fly fishing programs.

Finally, there is a wealth of information scattered throughout the archives of my fly fishing blog, UPSTREAM.

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Wheelchair Spoke Protectors

Cool New Wheelchair Spoke Protectors. Five new designs to chose from. A cool way to personalize your wheelchair. Which is your favorite?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Segway Wheelchair

Have you seen the cool Segway wheelchair? I do not know if these wheelchairs are already in production. Though I have been hearing about it for a while. I am not sure how easy it is to transfer in and out of it though. What do you think?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Rough Rider

I have never heard of the Rough Rider. This is a pretty cool wheelchair technology. Sounds like it is ideal for many parts of the world. I like the front casters. I can see that they would be perfect in many countries were the infrastucture is terrible. However, I would think that they would decrease the performance of the chair. Would't it make it harder to push?? Wouldn't the long frame make the chair less agile? Would you use this chair?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Still On A Break

Whew....parenthood is TOUGH! We are not sleeping much and are exhausted. But it is slowly getting easier. Still on a break from blogging, but hope to return soon!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Taking a short break

Hello Everyone:

Well, we had a baby recently and he is quite a project. We love him dearly, but he is not an easy baby. I will be taking a short break. But will be back soon!

Friday, June 26, 2009

New Wheelchair Reflectors

Have a look at these cool wheelchair reflectors:

You can find more information about RehaDesign Wheels On Fire Wheelchair Reflectors

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cool Wheelchair Wheels


Here is a cool article about what you can do with your wheelchair wheels. It includes some pretty cool ideas such as wheelchair wheels with spinners, as well as some accessories you can add to pimp out your wheelchair wheels.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

IBOT is gone but not forgotten

There is still much discussion about bringing back the IBOT. IBOT inventor Dean Kamen, and IBOT users are lobbying congress for reimbursement.

Shannon from Wheelchair Revolution blogs frequently about her experiences with an IBOT.

If you are an IBOT user or still hope to one day have an IBOT, this would be a good time to contact your representative and let him or her know your feelings about this cool wheelchair technology.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Video: Elderly Man In Wheelchair Fights Off Attackers

Watch this video of an elderly Wheelchair User fighting off his much younger, able bodied attackers. Very cool!!

It is a shame that there are such evil people in the world, but the courage of this man is amazing.

Notice in the bottom of the video that there is a witness observing the incident who apparently did nothing to help. Pathetic.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nearly 1 in 50 people living with paralysis!

According to a study initiated by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, there are nearly 1 in 50 people living with paralysis -- approximately 6 million people. Over 1million Americans have spinal cord injuries.

This is the first time I have seen such statistics and I am surprised. The wheelchair community is much bigger than I would have guessed.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wheelchair Hero: Marc from Wheelchair Kamikaze

A very smart man said a very wise thing recently:

If happiness and contentment are the "chips" we try to accumulate, those who triumph understand that what determines their own happiness is not the circumstances life hands them, but how they deal with those circumstances. Happiness is not a choice; it's a million choices, made every day.

Who is the smart man? Marc. The Wheelchair Kamikaze. Marc writes a humorous blog that we follow and I consider him a wheelchair hero. If you do not know Marc's blog, have a look.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wheelchair Safety

This article describes a growing problem and the need for improved wheelchair safety. Everyday in the USA a wheelchair is hit by a car. What can be done to improve the situation? You can give your opinion on the article by voting in a poll or leaving a comment.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wheelchair of the Future?

Is this the wheelchair/car of the future?

The PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) is a collaboration between General Motors and Segway which was announced April 2009.

With a little adaptation this could be COOL Wheelchair Technology. I wonder if something like this might one day replace the IBOT. What do you think?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Power Wheelchair With Underglow

The power wheelchair in the video below has underglow. What do you think about it? Did you know that you can already get underglow for a wheelchair?

Check out the video below and let us know your thoughts

Friday, May 1, 2009

Disablism: What can YOU do about it?

Together with other disability blogs, Wheelchair Pride is joining its voice to blog against Disablism. What is Disablism? Disablism is similar to its "ism" cousins Racism, Sexism, etc. Disablism is ugly, it is discrimination against a person for being disabled. Obviously the worst kind of ism, not only do disabled people have to deal with the challenges of being disabled, disabled people must deal with the perceptions and stereotypes of society. When will this end? What can the disabled community do about it?

The answer of course is Pride. Pride comes in many forms. When society says no, say YES! When a company refuses to have accessible facilities, refuse to buy its products. When congressional leaders vote down a measure, campaign for a leader who will support it. Working together the wheelchair and disabled community can change perceptions.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Blogging Against Disablism

On 1 May, We will be joining over 100 other bloggers to blog against Disablism.

"This is the day where all around the world, disabled and non-disabled people will blog about their experiences, observations and thoughts about disability discrimination. In this way, we hope to raise awareness of inequality, promote equality and celebrate the progress we've made."

Join us on 1 May.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wheelchair Paragliding: Part 2

Watch this wheelchair paraglider make a perfect take off and landing:

He might imagine that he is not in a wheelchair, rather he is in a glider. What is the difference? In his wheelchair he can do things that few people, disabled or able bodied can do. He is living out his dreams and has not let his wheelchair or society or anything or anyone get in the way. He does not listen to people telling him what he can and can not do. There is nothing "dis"-abled about him. That is wheelchair pride.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ms Wheelchair America

Wheelchair Pride means taking risks, reaching for unobtainable goals, living life to the fullest, believing that a wheelchair is no barrier to a rich, full life. This post is a look at the Ms Wheelchair America pagent. Here is a look at the 2009 Ms Wheelchair America, Michelle Colvard being crowned:

From the Ms Wheelchair American site:

Unlike the traditional beauty pageants, Ms. Wheelchair America is not a contest to select the most attractive individual. It is instead a competition based on advocacy, achievement, communication and presentation to select the most accomplished and articulate spokesperson for individuals with disabilities.

This is what Wheelchair Pride is all about.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Thing Of Beauty

Watch this extreme wheelchair user take flight. It is beautiful:

What makes it beautiful? Watching any vehicle silently take flight is always beautiful. Watching a wheelchair user like Aaron Fotheringham or this unknown woman push their limits to the edge is beautiful. When a wheelchair user has not let the wheels become a barrier, but rather turns them to his or her advantage, THAT is extremely beautiful. That is Wheelchair Pride!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Aaron Fotheringham: Wheelchair Hero

The first Wheelchair Hero of this blog is none other than Aaron Fotheringham, famous for his Wheelchair Back flip. We met Aaron in Dusseldorf Germany and saw him hit his back flip an incredible 3 out of 4 times. Each time my heart was in my throat and each time, the crowd went wild. Below is the video that we took of one of his backflips.

Aaron has broken into movies as well. He is the stunt double of a in a German Movie Vorstadt-Krokodile. We have not seen the movie, but we understand it is about a wheelchair user who wants to become a member of a gang.

Aaron Fotheringham is not only a talented athlete he is a good guy. We were fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time with Aaron and really enjoyed his company. He is shy and kind with a good sense of humor. He is mature beyond his years. When speaking to him, it is hard to remember that Aaron is only 16 years old.

Few people will be able to perform back flips, but everyone can take an example from Aaron. Aaron does not let anything stop him. His wheelchair is not an obstacle, it is his source of pride. He earns the respect from everyone who meets him and everyone who sees him perform. Aaron is doing is best to remove the "dis" from disability. Aaron is truly a Wheelchair Hero. Go, Aaron, Go!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wheelchair Pride: Let Your Personality Shine!

For years we have heard about Black Pride, Gay Pride, Hispanic Pride, etc. Minority groups from all walks of life have "come out" taken a stand to end discrimination and to integrate into society.

One of the most discriminated and isolated minority groups is the disabled community. But there is even a movement focused on disability pride. From this site:

"Although there are many barriers facing people with disabilities today, the single greatest obstacle we face as a community is our own sense of inferiority, internalized oppression and shame"

Wheelchair users face some of the greatest barriers: physical, psychological and societal. But at the same time, there are many, many heroes in the wheelchair community who have done so much to break down the barriers.

The Wheelchair Pride Blog is dedicated to wheelchair heroes everywhere. Wheelchair heroes are normal wheelchair users who battle everyday to make society understand the challenges, who demonstrate their wheelchair pride and demand respect.

If you are a wheelchair user, a friend of a wheelchair user or simply someone who sympathizes with the needs of wheelchair users, you are cordially invited to participate. Send us photos and stories. Tell us how you or someone you know has shown their wheelchair pride.

Let your personality shine and show your wheelchair pride!