The online Community for people with spinal cord injury, their relatives and friends
cancel

Archive Blog

35 Views
2 Comments

Dave Lupton, better known as Crippen or Sox, is a very famous disabled cartoonist in the UK.

As a matter of fact, he has been commissioned by many television companies such as the BBC, and Channel 4, but also by numerous mainstream newspapers such as the Guardian and the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Since Crippen is on a wheelchair for many years now, he is very much attached to disability and disability-related issues. Currently, in his blog one can find 26 different topics addressing different aspects of disability.


As mentioned in his webpage, Crippen's main goal is to work on disability issues and rights by identifying the barriers within the society. He addresses them by using humor and by showing the absurdity of many situations.


Here you have some examples of his cartoons:

In this short post, the Crippen wants to make non-disabled individuals realize that in certain situations they behave in a very contradictory manner. For example, in the image below Crippen portrayed a "Grand Gala Evening For the Disabled" in which he shows the non-disable people standing on a pedestal well separated from the disabled. Nevertheless, they state it is good to be close one another... Isn't this contradictory?


The main point here is that disabled people have been marginalized for years, making them "invisible". That's what Operation Invisible is for: to give voice to those who usually don't have one.

The OI initiative has also a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/906875132730084/

As previously stated, Dave Lupton's work aims to promote disabled individuals' rights.

Dave was commissioned by Toyah Wordsworth – a disabled woman active in the Disability Equality Training – to develop some cartoons for a board game she designed: 'Removing Barriers'. The game main goal was to raise awareness on the multiple barriers and challenges that individuals with disabilities have to cope with every day. In total, one can find 15 boxes on the board, and each of them covers a different topic – as, for example, the accessibility of a public structure (like a public transportation, a school or a restaurant) or having a positive attitude towards one's disability by saying: "Think Positive – we are Disabled and proud and we are capable of achieving anything!".


'Removing Barriers' is easy to play, educational and also a great deal of fun. Toyah hopes that it will be available soon to all people involved in providing disability equality training throughout the UK.

This cartoon is kind of special: despite he comes from England, Dave is not a football fan, so it was difficult for him to work on this topic. He had no idea of the real difficulties of a disabled football fan – especially those in a wheelchair.

In the images below you can see what he found out:




As you can see, the difficulties Crippen discovered for disabled football fans are numerous, as getting "dumped" behind standing photographers, being close to the opposite team's disabled fans, or even receiving the ball right on the head because you're sitting right behind the goal.

The Social Model identifies that disabled individuals are disabled by the many barriers that exist within society. These barriers prevent disabled people from participating fully in mainstream activities. These barriers are classified into four groups:

  1. Attitudinal: the negative beliefs and attitudes of non-disabled individuals who do not believe in disabled's abilities.
  2. Physical Environment: no or little accessibility to the environment.
  3. Institutional and Organisational: institutions and organisations are many times unwilling to be flexible regarding the provision of services and employment of disabled people.
  4. Information and Communication: the lack of availability of information in alternative formats, as for example in Braille format or the provision of sign language interpretation.

Below you can find the drawing Crippen made for this Topic:


The Invictus Games were launched by Prince Harry and are sort of Paralympics championship involving injured members of the armed forces. The first event took place in 2014 in London. The idea behind the Invictus Games is that sport can positively impact the lives of wounded, injured and sick soldiers.

"The competition would recognise the sacrifice made by those who fought for their country" – Prince Harry

Well, Dave does not share the view of the Prince; in fact he writes:

"Now, having already been down this road many times, disabled people will tell you that the only thing you actually achieve by encouraging competition in this way is to highlight the difference between those who can and those who can't. Yes, sport, activity and personal challenge can be positive and motivating for many of us, but turning it all into a media spectacle often puts negative pressure on those who "Can't". They end up being given an even bigger rod with which public opinion can beat them with.

[...]

However, in the shadows are those of us who make up the highest proportion of our disabled community, but are unable to participate in competitive sports and games. Those of us with severe impairment issues, those with hidden impairments, with mental health conditions, with HIV and Aids etc. Compared to the Paralympians, we represent the failed side of disability, the unglamorous, darker side, not photogenic or sexy or even coming close to participating in our celebrity obsessed society.

The armed forces have their own dark side too. [...] How, in the words of Prince Harry, are these people going to be able to 'celebrate their fighting spirit through an inclusive sporting competition that recognises the sacrifice they have made ... by serving their nations so bravely'?"


What's your opinion about sports events like the Invictus Games and the Paralympics?

Generally, I found Dave's works very interesting, as for example I've never thought about the controversial aspect of Paralympics or similar sport competitions for disabled. I am starting now realizing how many difficulties and barriers disabled individuals must be facing.

What do you think about all these cartoons? Do you know one of the described situations or do you think that he exaggerates? I would be interested to hear about your experiences.


19 Views
1 Comment

Humans of New York is a project born in 2010 by the photographer Brandon Stanton. His main purpose is to tell stories – snapshots of individuals' lives – no matter their characteristics: there are stories of women, men, elderly people, kids, foreign or locals, disabled or abled-bodied individuals, heterosexual or homosexual, etc. etc.
Probably this is a way to highlight that every story is important, unique and of interest and that normality involves everyone – or, conversely, it does not concern anyone.

Prerequisite for being interviewed? None, except from living in NY, or at least this was true when the project started. Now there are also stories collected over the years during the author's travels around the world (e.g. Iran, Iraq and Pakistan)

There are long stories, sad stories, funny stories and sometimes very short stories – usually these latter include solely a few sentences. In some rare cases, the photograph is not followed by any sentence, usually this happens when words are superfluous and the image speaks for itself.
The author emphasized that the core strength of his project is its simplicity. The images capture the attention of who is watching, but what it really makes the difference are the photos' descriptions. The success of HONY (Humans of New York) is attributed to the talent of Brandon Stanton and the empathy his photos arouse.

Why do I want to share these stories with you? First, because I personally love them, I very often found myself lost in reading them. Second, because I think you might find interesting some portraits of the interviewed individuals with SCI. For example, the one of this girl who has well clear in mind where she wants to go and what she wants to do. Her intervention made me think about the word "inspiration". In fact she states: "I don't want people to pity me. I don't want to be another 'poor her.' I don't want to inspire peop...

Actually, before reading this, I've never thought the word "inspiration" could assume this connotation. Now, since I do believe disabled people are inspiring, I don't know what word to use instead or if it is the case to use this word again when talking with an individual with SCI… What do you think about this?


Beyond this, there are many other stories regarding people with SCI – I leave you the link of the Facebook page and the website at the end of this post. One of my favorite is this one: "We met on a dating site twelve years ago. I sent her a message saying: 'I want to let you know up f..."


I think the most beautiful thing of these messages is that they never pity individuals with disabilities, these are sentences that shows their ordinary lives, their personal strengths and their hobbies or passions. As in this example: "I like scuba diving, kayaking, anything outdoors. That's what the third wheel is for-- it makes thi...


Of course there are also stories of individuals with other disabilities as the one of this tenacious guy: "After I was born, I was the subject of a 45-minute dissertation at Columbia University. Almost all ...


I leave you some others "snapshots" about individuals with SCI or other disabilities here below, if you are interested take a look:


And here you can find the website and the Facebook page of Humans of New York:


If you are interested, Brandon Stanton also published three books:

  • Humans of New York (2013): this book, which is inspired by the blog, contains around 400 photos and portraits of NY individuals;
  • Little Humans (2014): this book focuses on the portraits of children living in NY;
  • Humans of New York Stories (2015): as anticipated by the title, this book includes less images than the previous ones, but it contains more developed stories.

11 Views
0 Comments

In a country of 45 million people, it is estimated that 3.5 million people in Tanzania live with a disability. People with disabilities are often among the poorest and most marginalized in society. Disability can have a significant impact upon the quality of a child's education. The WHO estimates that, in 51 countries, only 51% of boys and 42% of girls with disabilities will complete their primary school education. This seriously limits the development of these children, as they lose access to information, are unable to socialize with their peers and are unable to develop the skills they require to seek employment and contribute to their family and the wider economy. The illiteracy rate among Tanzanians with a disability is 48%, compared to 25% among people without disabilities.

The existing laws in Tanzania categorically emphasize on the equal rights to education, health services, employment, information and communication, cooperation in economy, respect, ability to reach all areas and good standard of life. However such rights are not fully given to the people who are physically challenged. People with disability are still facing challenges in various issues concerning their welfare, especially education. There is insufficient equipment to facilitate the people with disability to study. This makes people with disability not enjoying the right to information and communication as they lack the equipment and translators to assist them. They also face challenge in accessing health services as they usually get humiliated by health providers, while health centers' infrastructure pose obstacles for them to reach the areas.

To give you an insight to the situation of people with disabilities in my home country Tanzania I want to share with you the stories of two persons, Eliezey and Seretti, which I found on the website of Neema Crafts (https://www.neemacrafts.com/). Neema Crafts is a project of the Anglican Diocese of Ruaha and it trains people with disabilities to become skilled artisans from carpenters, to tailors, ceramicists to paper-makers, great chefs, or entrepreneurs starting up their own enterprises. By this, people with disabilities get an opportunity to support their families, send their children to school and get integrated to society, while also changing the attitudes toward disability in Tanzania.


Eliezey

"I've had polio in my legs since birth, which means I've always had to crawl around. We had very little money, so my parents couldn't buy me a wheelchair. I desperately wanted to go to school, but my parents told me I couldn't because I couldn't walk. 'You can't go, don't keep asking!' they'd say, so I tried to keep quiet. I was very sad because I was too afraid to tell them how I really felt, just in case they sent me away. I didn't want to make them angry.

There was nothing to do at home and I got very bored. All my friends were at school and I felt low almost every day. I used to try to get around to see other disabled people, just so I could feel I wasn't alone. I felt a bit better when I did this and made some good friends."

Eliezey also experienced challenges in finding employment, which would enhance his personality and his level of understanding as well as improve his financial situation. However Neema Craft, by offering skills and creating an employment opportunity, has been of great support to him.


Seretti

"'She should be killed, she can't work, she can't help out at home, she can't go to school, get a medicine to kill her.' That's what they told my father. I was two weeks old when it happened. A witch doctor came to my house at night, took me from my bed and put me into a blazing fire in the room next door. I was only saved by my uncle, who smelt the burning and came to find out what was happening. My legs had been burnt off past the knee and I was so badly injured that the doctors had to amputate them at the hip. After eight months in hospital I was well enough to return home.

'No I will not kill her, she is my child' was my father's reply to the people around him. People saw how disabled I was and though I would only be a burden on my family. I learnt to move around in a bucket, as I didn't have a wheelchair and at the age of ten went to primary school after finding support with the church. I passed my exams and then decided to go to a secondary school in Iringa."

Due to the financial situation of her family, Seretti had difficulties with continuing her education and finding work until she got a chance of employment at Neema Craft, which helped her to be independent and to manage her daily life needs.


You can find many more stories of people with a disability in Tanzania at https://www.neemacrafts.com/stories.php


Sources and literature:

9 Views
0 Comments

Who hasn’t dreamed of a fairytale wedding and seeing the world on their honeymoon? Maybe not many men do but certainly many girls do and Fang Ling, a girl from Taiwan who became paraplegic since she accidentally fell from the staircase during a business trip in 2010, did not only dream about her honeymoon but recently realized her dream with Yang Yun-hao, the man of her life who also suffers from spinal cord injury (SCI) due to a serious car accident happened three years ago.

It was love at first sight for both Ling and Yun-hao when they first met about two-year ago at the Development Center for the Spinal Cord Injured (財團法人桃園市私立脊髓損傷潛能發展中心). They fell in love and last year, they decided to get married on September 12th – turning the memorial day of Ling’s injury to the happy wedding anniversary for the loving couple. The couple did not have a fairytale wedding ceremony. Instead, they took off on March 9th this year with two other abled friends of the Development Center to fulfil Ling’s honeymoon dream – touring and taking wedding photos around Taiwan, their home country, with wheelchairs and bikes.

Gear up! – the day before Yun-hao (second left), Ling (second right) and their friends went on their 25-day trip around Taiwan.
 
Recently I had the pleasure to talk with Ling and Yun-hao on phone and learnt more about their extraordinary honeymoon adventure.

SCI couple touring around Taiwan: difficult but not impossible

Taiwan, an island nation with 22 administrative divisions famous for its nature, simplicity and hospitality, is a popular tourist destination. It has also become the recent favorite destination of wedding photoshoots for Asian couples. Naming themselves “Love Ring Taiwan  輪子出走”, Ling, Yun-hao and their two friends finished their round-the-island trip in 25 days setting foot in every single administrative division in Taiwan. Recalling their journey, Yun-hao said, “we trained ourselves for more than an hour each day before the whole trip – pushing the wheelchair, rolling up the slope. Originally we’ve planned for more attractions but eventually we were still travelling slower than we thought. That’s why we changed our plan to visit only one attraction for each division.” During the 25 days, they travelled with their scooter-wheelchair, handcycle and bikes on their own with only one or two exceptions that people drove them to their destinations. Most of the time they booked their accommodation on their arrival day. They mentioned that not every hotel or hostel offers wheelchair-friendly facilities but they were able to overcome the difficulties with the help of their friends and the friendly people met during the trip. “There is never a place which is totally obstacle-free and we have learnt to express our needs and that is very important. In most situations, people are willing to help as we ask politely,” Yun-hao said.

 

Out-of-battery: Yun-hao and Ling chatting with the villagers while charging the wheelchair at a temple in Ruifang District.

Culture and venture: patron goddess wedding ceremony, diving, paragliding and more

The 25-day journey is the first proper trip the couple had together since their injuries. They shared with us their many exciting first experiences during the trip. “We had our first paragliding experience. Suit up, wear our helmet and just like that, we went paragliding in our wedding dresses! We felt really hyper,” Yun-hao and Ling said. 
“Yeah! We did it!” : Ling cheered for her first skydiving experience…and in her WEDDING DRESS!!


Diving was also the couple’s first experience. With the help of three coaches, they dived 10-meter deep into the water at Kenting - the first national park of Taiwan and a popular destination for water sports and activities. Yun-hao learnt how to swim before the injury but expressed his insecure feeling to swim after the injury; Ling has never learnt swimming before. Nonetheless, they both enjoyed the exciting experience of diving.
 First experience: Ling and Yun-hao dived 10-meter deep into the water at Kenting.


Another highlight of the trip would be the couple participating in the patron goddess wedding ceremony (known by locals “Ta Chia Jenn Lann Gong Wedding”) at the Chenlan Temple in Taichung. The ceremony was considered one of the biggest annual cultural events in Taiwan. During the ceremony, 99 pairs of couples get married under the witness of Mazu - the Chinese patron goddess who is said to protect fishermen and sailors. With their unique love and adventure stories, Yu-hao and Ling did steal the spotlight at the ceremony. The couple said this massive traditional wedding ceremony has been one of the most precious and unforgettable memories from their trip.

Married “once again”: Ling and Yun-hao joined the patron goddess wedding ceremony with 98 pairs of couples at Chenlan Temple in Taichung.
The 99 blessed couples: could you find Ling and Yun-hao?

From impossible to “I’m possible”

While I was thinking a 25-day honeymoon round a country must have cost a fortune, Yun-hao shared with me the heartwarming truth, which is really impressive. “We did several street performances during our trip,” he said, “sometimes when there were children around, I made a variety of balloons for them, and Ling would sing and play her guitar. It was more for having fun than making money. The crowds were so supportive that we eventually received enough donations for our performances to cover the spending of the whole trip!” When asked if they could complete the trip with just the two of them, both Ling and Yun-hao had no hesitation and answered, “yes! Certainly! It could take more time but it is not impossible.” They are both thankful for their accomplishment.
Music says it all: Ling wrote and performed a song about herself with Yun-hao and their fellows on the street in Kaohsiung.
 Support, Care, Infinity: Ling and Yun-hao at one of the street performances during their 25-day trip, making balloons for children.


With the help of friends and their persistence, Ling and Yun-hao transform from not knowing where to visit and take wedding portraits to making wonders and administering their “Love Ring Taiwan” facebook page with more than 7500 likes. They showed us impossible is nothing, “we met other SCI patients on our trip. They all refuse to bow to fate. They play snooker better than normal people; they bake very delicious cakes; the websites they create are nicer than many others; they never give in because of their physical disabilities and even work at farms early in the morning with their families.” Yun-hao finally added, “people tend to be afraid of the roads ahead – what could happen – and think why things never seem to work out for me? But you gotta try, face the problem and solve it. This is how we learn and move forward!”
 A dream comes true: unlimited by their physical inabilities, Ling and Yun-hao completed their 25-day journey with love and pleasure.

The “Love Ring Taiwan” journey ended but this is certainly not the end of Ling and Yun Hao’s story. You may revisit their extraordinary honeymoon journey and find their updates on their facebook page here (in Chinese only).

If you are interested in visiting Taiwan, formerly called “Formosa” (meaning “beautiful island”), here are some websites to help you plan your own unique journey:
• Welcome to Taiwan – official website by Taiwan Tourism Bureau
http://eng.taiwan.net.tw/ (English version)
http://www.taiwantourismus.de/(German version)
http://taiwan.net.tw/m1.aspx?sNo=0016597 (direct link to accessible tour information, in Chinese only)
• Blog articles about a 10-day Taiwan trip of a Singaporean wheelchair user
http://taipeidreams.com/2009/10/taiwan-travel-in-wheelchair-a-special-taiwan-travel-story-for-you (in English)
• Taiwan Access for All Association
http://www.sunable.net/(full Chinese version)
https://twaccess4all.wordpress.com/ (limited English version)

16 Views
1 Comment

Hello everyone,


My name is Bryce John Rafferty. I am a 26 year old American man currently living in Colorado, where I went to college. I grew up in New England around Boston and New York, but much like the Swiss people, I love the mountains and the healing energy of life and beauty they provide. I had a diving accident in Prangins on 30/8/09 that broke my neck and left me as a C5-6 tetra. I was the third young man in 20 years to break their neck diving at that beach off of a long pier, and subsequently the canton decided to remove it. Sadly, I was injured just one day after I moved in with my host family, and one day before classes started for the study abroad program I was a part of in Geneva. I was studying International Relations and French. I was saved from drowning by a boy Damien who is part of the host family from Prangins who graciously let me stay with them. A helicopter flew me to SPZ where I spent 45 days in ICU. While in ICU I contracted pneumonia and lost all function in my left arm because of a cyst in my spinal cord that was partially fixed here in the USA. All told I was at SPZ for 5 months before flying to Craig Hospital here in Denver for further rehabilitation. 
Almost exactly a year post-injury, I returned to college, and graduated with a degree in International Political Economy in 2012. Since then, I have lived in Denver and been taking steps further and further towards living as independently and happily as possible. I now have a car and am able to drive, worked 3 part-time jobs, and am composing music again but now on the computer. I will be working again hopefully by mid summer, and plan to go to graduate school in the coming years. Below are 2 links to videos my father put together about my early recovery. 
I will be forever grateful for SPZ, it's employees, and the wonderful people I met there. I will be back to Switzerland soon I hope. In the meantime feel free to contact me here on paraforum if you have any questions/comments or just want to talk. 
All the best to all my Swiss brothers and sisters in wheelchairs and to SPZ. Ciao!

'Perseverance Under Pressure'

'Finishing Up Strong'

Perseverance TEDx talk

Sincerely,
Bryce Rafferty