Science is Amazing!

Injuries to the central nervous system — the brain and spinal cord — are particularly devastating because the body doesn’t regenerate neurons to repair connections between vital circuits and restore function. In other words, the damage is permanent or even fatal.

A variety of early studies in animals and humans indicate the field of neural regeneration research is advancing. A 20-year-old man in Naples, Florida recently enrolled in the first clinical trial to assess the ability of stem cells to repair spinal cord injuries. But, a team of scientists from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, are working an entirely different method to inject hope into an otherwise bleak prognosis.

Working with rat neurons grown in a petri dish in the laboratory, the team artificially connected two neurons using an atomic force microscope and tiny, polystyrene spheres. Though the work is an early proof-of-concept, it could lay the foundation for novel surgeries and therapies for people with brain and spinal damage.

Read more here.

Determination and Fierceness

Christy Gardner had never tried hockey, because her parents thought she'd get injured. She says, "So now that I'm really, really hurt, we figured, 'Why not?'"

A few years ago, Christy Gardner's future looked bleak.

She'd suffered multiple, traumatic injuries while serving overseas in the Army in July of 2006. Though she'd rather not talk about the specifics of what happened, because of "the nature of the mission we were on," her injuries were grave.

One leg was damaged so severely that amputation was necessary, and she no longer had feeling in the other leg below the knee because of spinal damage. Her skull had been fractured in two places, and the resulting brain trauma wiped out most of her memories. She lost her ability to speak and the hearing in her left ear. She had to re-learn words, spelling, grammar and math from the third-grade level up. She had frequent, intense seizures. Two fingers on her left hand were gone.

At one point during a meeting with her medical polytrauma team after nearly four years of rehabilitation, she was told she'd never be able to live an independent life. "I got pretty down for a while," she says.

But about that time, another patient, a Vietnam veteran, kept pestering her every day in physical therapy to join him at optional recreation events.

"I finally gave in to shut him up," she says.

He took her to something called a Fun in the Sun Day at the beach. Gardner and other disabled vets were introduced to activities such as kayaking and water skiing. It was as if someone had flicked a switch from off to on inside her. "Once I got there, I saw all these things that all these disabled people could still do, so I thought, 'Maybe I could do that.' That's when I started trying again," she says.

It was a turning point, thanks to her friend. Later, she tried snowboarding, surfing and sled hockey. "He knew what I could do and saw it in me before I did," she says.

Read more here.

Webinars from #DHorizons that might interest you!

Disability Horizons Co-editor, Martyn Sibley, has developed a series of webinars; see if any topics appeal to you! 

Volunteering – Click to watch the video in full

Relationships – Click to watch the video in full

Travel – Click to watch the video in full

Employment – Click to watch the video in full

Housing – Click to watch the video in full

Pilot series:

Webinar 1: Parents of a disabled child
Webinar 2: The teenage years
Webinar 3: Independent Living 1 (housing, work, transport and equipment)
Webinar 4: Independent Living 2 (Personal Care – recruitment and retention)
Webinar 5: Leisure and Travel


High school student with cerebral palsy shows football team what it means to never give up

By Gavin Porter

Things don’t always go the way you want them to. At Mooresville High School in Indiana, this football season was a disappointment. But thanks to one inspirational individual on their sideline, the thought to give up never crossed their minds.

Team manager Nick Crenshaw is a 16-year-old Mooresville student who has cerebral palsy. Not only does Crenshaw attend every weight room session and team function, he suits up in full uniform to be alongside the team during their games.

Crenshaw was forced to miss Mooreville’s Oct. 9 game after having eye surgery. The Pioneers dedicated the game to Crenshaw, and the team came away with a victory.

Watch the video for more on Crenshaw and his story.

#HighFivesAthlete Back on the Slopes!

Kailyn Forsberg high fives Georgiana Burnside using skis during her first day back on the snow since being paralyzed in a slopestyle skiing accident last year. Forsberg and Burnside spent time at Craig Hospital rehabbing after their respective injuries last year. Forsberg was photographed at Winter Park on Saturday, January 16, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Kailyn Forsberg high fives Georgiana Burnside using skis during her first day back on the snow since being paralyzed in a slopestyle skiing accident last year. Forsberg and Burnside spent time at Craig Hospital rehabbing after their respective injuries last year. Forsberg was photographed at Winter Park on Saturday, January 16, 2016. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Denver one of 5 wheelchair-friendly cities!

Cities across the United States have helped individuals with paralysis and other wheelchair users live full and productive lives, thanks in large part to the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Some cities have gone above and beyond ADA requirements, however, whether through establishing special disability commissions, consulting onaccessible design for new building projects, or simply keeping an open ear to concerns of people with disabilities. While there is still much more that can be done to fully open up cities to the millions of wheelchair users in the United States, some cities are helping to steer that progress in a positive direction.

Based on feedback from some Paralyzed Veterans of America members, we’ve put together a list of five U.S. cities that are wheelchair-friendly.

Read more here

Will Uber "kill off" wheelchair cabs?

Uber's rise and future regulation will make it more difficult for people with a disability to get around, advocacy groups have warned, unless safeguards are put in place.

Despite widespread use in Victoria, the state is yet to regulate the popular ride-sharing service and has been considering how to do it for nearly a year.

In December, NSW and Western Australia joined the ACT in legalising Uber and other ride-sharing services. Many in the Labor government believe it is "inevitable" Uber will be legalised in the state.

And while disability groups are not opposed to Uber they want measures put in place to ensure people with a disability are left in the lurch.

Taxis provide a critical service for people with a disability, with 750,000 trips taken every year in Victoria.

In the US the rise of ride-sharing services, including Uber, has seen a strain placed on people with a disability with drivers opting to work for Uber over traditional cabs. 

In San Francisco the introduction of ride-sharing saw the number of wheelchair friendly cabs drop by from 100 in 2013 to just 64 in 2015.

Read more: 

A sweet story of love, loss and hope - with 4 legs, spots and firefighters!

After nearly 15 loyal years, a beautiful dalmatian puppy that was donated to FDNY’s Ladder 20 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center has died.

Named “Twenty,” the dalmatian that came to signify hope in the aftermath of 9/11, which saw seven members from Ladder 20 lose their lives on the 35th floor of the North Tower that day, has “taken her final run to Heaven,” says FDNY Lieutenant Gary Iorio in a moving Facebook tribute to the beloved dalmatian.

In the post, Lt. Iorio tells the story of how Twenty came to Ladder 20 on a dismal day following 9/11. He says that in the days following 9/11, condolences were pouring in from around the world by those who had heard of the seven FDNY members from their company that had perished in the North Tower. One day, the post says, two sheriffs from Rochester, New York, showed up at their door with a tiny dalmatian puppy.

“Her name was Twenty, and she became our mascot and companion. She really helped to build the morale in the years following 9/11. I can’t say enough about what she did to help us.”

According to the New York Daily News, Lt. Iorio said that Twenty went with them on all of their runs and loved to jump into the truck, stick her head out the window, and bark.

“She became a local celebrity,” reads the Facebook post, which has been shared over 26,000 times.

In a testament to how much Twenty meant not only to FDNY’s Ladder 20 but also to the community, comments have been pouring in on the FDNY Facebook page, offering condolences for the loss of their mascot and companion, and sharing stories of the dalmatian who lifted spirits at a time when many thought that an impossible task.

“Attention all stations, Signal 5-5-5-5 has been struck. FDNY Dalmatian Fire Dog ‘Twenty’ has completed her shift,” commented one man, giving a brief history lesson of fire department dispatching in the 1800s, “Fire dog Twenty, [t]he last box has been struck, you’ve caught your last call, your job is done and you are released, we’ve got it from here.”

“Probably the only firefighter that never went home,” wrote a woman who also spoke of fondly remembering the dalmatian jumping into the trucks and strutting about the FDNY fire station “like she owned it.”

Scores of others offered their sympathies, wishing the dog a safe journey over the Rainbow Bridge. Many posted beautiful but heart-wrenching poems in Twenty’s honor.

The FDNY is certainly not the first fire station to have a dalmatian as part of their company. In fact, the tradition dates back more than a century, according to Live Science. Although today the breed is used more as a mascot, dalmatians originally played a pivotal role in fire stations.

Before the advent of fire trucks, firefighters used horse-drawn carriages to get them to the scene of fires. Their dalmatians would run alongside the horses, protecting them from potential predators and other dangers. Once they arrived at a fire, the breed served as a distraction for the horses — who are afraid of fire — and would allow them to get closer to the fire without being afraid.

Dalmatians also protected the belonging of the firefighters who were busy working hard to put out blazes, ensuring nothing was stolen from the wagons. Often, the dalmatians would also run into the street, barking, as soon as the fire bell rang, warning passersby to get out of the way as the wagon would be exiting soon.

For nearly 15 years, Twenty the dalmatian served as companion and morale booster to the firefighters of the FDNY’s Ladder 20 after the 9/11 attacks. Today, we say goodbye to a hero and one of New York’s Bravest as she joins her FDNY brothers and sisters who passed before her.


Disability advocates demand an end 'inspiration porn.' What do you think?

Carly Findlay doesn't want your prayers on Facebook.

She has only one ask: think before you click.

The Melbourne-based writer and appearance activist is among a growing number of people with disabilities demanding an end to online "slacktivism" that reduces their lives to a world of pity and low expectation.

They argue that heart-tugging social media posts of children with disabilities, promising "one prayer for one like" are demeaning at best, and exploitative at worst.

More concerning, they say, is how many emotive posts presented as awareness-raising for disability are actually "like farming" scams, where the pictures are used without the owner's consent as a way to drive traffic to a site.

Consumer group Choice has also urged the public to be wary, warning that "unscrupulous marketers" are using emotive images of people with disabilities to gain large followings only to later replace the content with marketing for "dodgy products".

"Just stop and think, are you actually helping someone? Would you really stop someone in the street and pray for them if they look different?" Findlay said.

"Maybe donate some money if you feel like you have to help. Or talk to someone with a disability. These posts give the impression that we need fixing and that we're suffering ... I don't want people to take pity on me. I lead a really good life."

Read more: 

On Sweat, Sport and Determination @Alana Nichols

Alana Nichols is a two-sport phenomenon in wheelchair basketball and alpine skiing, having competed in four Paralympic Games, winning three gold medals and becoming the first female American to win Gold in both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games. In 2014 she was inducted into the Warner Brothers "Superman Hall of Heroes" into the inaugural class of real-life heroes and is a three-time Espy Nominee. She is a 2015 Paracanoe World Cup and World Championships team member.

Alana grew up in Farmington, N.M. and was an avid snowboarder until, in 2002, she landed back-first on a rock while attempting a backflip on her snowboard. The injury caused her to be paralyzed from the waist down.

She shares her story of hope, picking herself more times than she's ever been knocked down, and how adversity brings out and sharpens the true colors of an individual.

Presented in partnership with the Town of Vail Public LibraryGirl PowHER and The Women's Foundation of Colorado.


Vail Symposium to host an all-female Unlimited Adventure series

For the first time, the Vail Symposium will host an all-female Unlimited Adventure series, presented in partnership with the town of Vail Public Library, GirlPowHER and The Women’s Foundation of Colorado.

“This series of great female adventurers is designed to awe the audience with terrific tales of sport, exploration and adventure, while simultaneously inspiring the young girls in the audience to get outside and find their own great adventure.” (Dale Mosier, chairman of the program committee)

In three separate programs, the series will feature presentations by:

Stephanie Davis — the first woman to free solo The Diamond on Longs Peak, the second woman to free climb El Capitan in a single day and the first woman to summit all peaks in the Fitzroy Range in Patagonia

Jessica Martin, the first person to summit and descend all of the legal-to-ride 14ers in Colorado on a mountain bike

Alana Nichols, the first woman to win gold in both the summer and winter Paralympic Games.

New Year's Resolutions @WildernessWheel

It seems as if it is that time of year again - time to make resolutions. I've never been very good a keeping them on a personal level, but maybe taking it to the professional level will help!

So, this year, WOW is resolving to join the social media universe - in this case Twitter. We hope that by telling some of our own stories, connecting with other great organizations, and retweeting stories, we can bring you a fun and interesting perspective on our WOW world.