Saturday, October 15, 2011

I hate when people sit in wheelchairs who don't need them...

While driving to Minnesota from Chicago this summer, we stopped at a McDonalds to use the bathroom and stock up on root beer. As you can see in the photo, a delivery truck parked sideways across 3 handicapped parking spaces. Luckily for us, there was one more available for us to use.

On our way out, we ran into the truck driver who shared this gem with us: "I'm so glad you actually need a space...I hate it when people take up the handicapped spaces when they don't need them!"

Maybe he should look in the mirror? What about people with disabilities that aren't as visible? Maybe they need those 3 spaces he's taking up. Maybe we want to go there as a team after a wheelchair basketball game, but theres only room for one of us now.

Great job McDonalds somewhere near Janesville, WI. You and your delivery man successfully alienated wheelchair users from your restaurant.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dancers featured on Fox's SYTYCD, use wheelchairs

Derin has a slight (massive) obsession with the hit Fox summer show, So You Think You Can Dance. Set much like the American Idol format, but with dancers, the Thursday night results shows in recent years have always featured guest artists such as Lady Gaga and professional dancers (Alvin Ailey Dance Company to name one).

Two weeks ago, the guest performers were members of the AXIS Dance Company, a non-profit organization whose mission is:
  • to create and perform contemporary dance that is developed through the collaboration of dancers with and without disabilities
  • to teach dance and educate about collaboration and disability through community education and outreach programs
  • to promote and support physically integrated dance locally, nationally and internationally
The dance performed was done by one wheelchair user, and one able-bodied dancer. It was beautifully done, and most importantly, it didn't baby the wheelchair user in any way. This was not a pat on the back kind of dance. The man using the wheelchair was moving, lifting, and dancing just as much and just as effectively as the able-bodied dancer. Not only does this send the message that wheelchair users can do more than you or they think, but it also shows that able-bodied people don't need to be afraid to interact with them as they would anybody else. Well done to the AXIS Dance Company, and to FOX and SYTYCD for giving them a platform and including wheelchair users as performers and dancers too.

See the video below to watch AXIS perform: 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spoke benders: Quick hits for the week

We often have readers send us links and articles that they find interesting. Unfortunately, we don't always have time to turn those leads into a lengthy post, but we want to still pass them on to you, our loyal readers. So today is the beginning of a new series, spoke benders, where we'll pass along a series of links that you will probably find fascinating (or not, but we're giving them to you anyway!).

  • Here's the amazing story of Anthony Robles, a one-legged wrestler from Arizona State. Last week, Robles won the NCAA national championship in the 125-pound division while finishing his season 36-0. After graduating, Robles says he plans to travel around the country as a motivational speaker.

  • Based on past experiences, it comes as no surprise that Northwest/Delta Airlines has been fined $2 million by the Department of Transportation for improperly treating passengers with disabilities.

  • This may be the first superhero ever created that uses a wheelchair.

  • Finally, here's our latest entry for the Yahoo! Accessibility blog. It's an updated version of our original Kids Say the Darndest Things post. Enjoy!
If you have any links or articles that you find, please pass them along. You know where to find us!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Chris!

Happy Birthday today to a member of our Different Spokes team, Chris Sanchez! He's in Florida enjoying the warm weather while we freeze up here in Chicago. Have a great day Chris!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New surgery decreases risks of Spina bifida

We'd like to thank Meryl in Scotland, Hannah in New York, Mike in Georgia, and Carol in Michigan, as they sent off a barrage of emails and phone calls about this new study. According to the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, surgery on babies while they are in the womb has an enormous rate of success at limiting Spina bifida's effects once the baby is born.

In fact, as the article above states, babies who had surgery while still in the uterus are "more likely to walk and experience fewer neurological problems if operated on before being born rather than afterward." The surgery also helped limit the necessity of a brain shunt, which is the cause of many difficulties later in life. Indeed, the study was so successful that those running it cut it short. Rather than randomly choose some babies to have surgery after their birth, it was determined that every baby should have the relatively safe, prenatal surgery.

It's hard to say what the long-term repercussions of this study will be. But it's even harder to think of any that will be negative. Maybe costs are high at first and maybe doctors will need to be specially-trained. But those are small prices to pay for the trade-off of potentially limiting the effects of one of the most common types of birth defects.

Ten or fifteen years ago, when I worked with the March of Dimes, we stressed the importance of women taking folic acid during pregnancy in order to help prevent birth defects. While prevention remains a vital goal, it's encouraging to know that we have progressed to the point where we can possibly "repair" a baby even after the early onset of a birth defect. It may not be a perfect solution, but the recent study is an enormous milestone for researchers, doctors, and of course, all of us in the disabled community. Let's keep up the good work!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Selfish disabled people use their own parking passes...don't they know we need them?

Recently, a fellow at the University of Minnesota got into trouble for using his dead mother's handicapped parking pass. There are so many things I could say about this, but none of them would be as spot on as an email I received from reader Will about the story:
Shake your head? But you don't understand!
1. Parking is very, very important.
2. Handicapped spaces are in the best locations, and
3. It is much easier to swipe a handicapped permit from a dead person, as those people tend to selfishly use the permits for their own disabilities when they are alive.
4. These are not ordinary people, she's a nurse and he's a dentist. So they are just using dead people's handicapped permits to help them care for other people more conveniently. THEY KNOW BEST!
Ah yes, 'tis sometimes better to laugh at idiots than to chastise them. Well done Will, well done.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Those of you in the Chicago area, or the Midwest for that matter, can commiserate with the giant dumping of snow we all got yesterday, in the form a flying, hurricane-like, windy blizzard. We have a post going up about snowfall for Yahoo! Accessibility at the end of the week, but we wanted to give you a glimpse of what we got, and why you shouldn't let using a wheelchair stop you from going out and playing in it! Side note-Chris was a big wimp and escaped to Florida before the snow came, but we'll try not to judge him.

Across the street from our apartment-this street still isn't plowed.

Taking the road since the sidewalks haven't been shoveled yet

11:30pm-right when all the bad stuff hit!

In front of our apartment

The next day-snow stopped at 11:30am

Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Huge shout-out today to Different Spokes blogger Daniel, for turning 28 on the 28th!

 Happy Birthday to you from Team Different Spokes!

Saving Private Welsh-Ryan from inaccessability

Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill (our alma mater), has announced that they're hiring a firm to look at ideas to improve the athletic facilities across campus. We've attended numerous athletic events at Northwestern, including football, lacrosse, basketball, softball, and volleyball. Here are some of our suggestions on how to make the venues, specifically Welsh-Ryan arena where the basketball games are played, more friendly for customers who use wheelchairs. 

When you wheel/walk into the arena, the first thing you need to do is get over the hard plastic speed bump covering TV cables. This obstacle has a pretty steep incline, so it's difficult to get over if you're a manual or power wheelchair user. Dan has to pop a wheelie to get his front wheels over it and Chris has to line up perfectly or he gets stuck on it and has to be helped off of it. 

Once inside, you have a tiny elevator, usually filled with able-bodied people, that moves at a snail's pace. It's unclear which level you should go to, One, M, or B? Your tickets don't tell you, the elevator doesn't tell you, and out of state fans think you're dumb because your school can't just use numbers. Add to that the lack of signs that direct you to the elevator, and we're lucky we've been there before, because otherwise we might not find our way in until halftime. 

Our view from the handicap "section" at Welsh-Ryan.
Finally, once you're out of the elevator of doom, there are zero signs that direct you to handicapped seating, your section number actually refers to the bleachers, and you hover in the doorway waiting for the event staff to come help you. There are no marked seat numbers for wheelchair users, so usually you have to chase people out of your section, which to be fair, is just an area in front of the railing, so how would they know? You finally find your seats, and look to the court, and a beautiful set of green bars are directly in front of you. For a taller wheelchair user like Chris, you have to look above or below the top bar because it's in your line of vision. For a shorter wheelchair user like Dan, you have to lean down and watch the entire game from in between two of the bars like a prisoner. We'd look up to see what happens on the Jumbotron, but Northwestern is one of those great schools that doesn't have a video screen on it's giant, 90s style scoreboard. 

When and if Northwestern does decide to upgrade its facilities, we'd like to see a clearly marked handicapped area with designated seats. We'd love for no visible obstructions to our line of vision, because let's be honest, NU needs all the basketball fans it can get. You'd get us there a lot more if we could see the court and sit somewhere nice like everybody else. While you're thinking on it, we'd like to put in a request for a new head coach too. May we suggest ABC (Anyone But Carmody)?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Welcome back!

After a hiatus from blogging due to our busy non-blogging lives, we're back to blogging and back on blogger. We appreciate the opportunities and experiences we got with ChicagoNow, but are ready to come back to our own blog. We've also started writing twice a month for Yahoo!'s Accessibility Blog, which has a lot of diverse entries. We hope you'll continue to read with us, and offer ideas, questions, or comments on our thoughts. We've enjoyed blogging so far, and hope to continue to do it for many years to come!

The Different Spokes Team