Family and Friend Peer Support

· I AM Group · No Comments

We know that spinal cord injuries and disorders don’t just affect the person that they are happening to.  We are considering starting a family and friends support group and would love to get you thoughts on how it could be best organized.  Please consider answering a few questions to help us create a format that aligns with what you would like to see.

Want to Be Part of Disability Awareness Week?

· I AM Group · No Comments

Every year Resica Elementary School has a disability awareness week where the students learn about different disabilities all week.  Last year I had the opportunity of going there with Diane, Lindsey, and Kevin of RollCall Wheelchair dance to teach and inspire the students about our endless capabilities, despite being in a wheelchair. This year, Resica would like us to go back to talk to the children and interact with them like last year.  For anyone who may be interested in going this year, we will start with classroom interactions followed by a school assembly that we can leave after.  Last year for the class interactions, we were individually split up to talk to a classroom where we briefly talked about our accident/injury, what our interests were, and what we do despite being in a wheelchair. The children had a ton of questions prepared, so the majority of the time in the classrooms I was actually answering those (it was very laid back and the students were so excited to ask the questions they had). The assembly that followed consisted of all of us introducing ourselves and then ended with a wheelchair dance demonstration, all of which was led by Diane. I had such an amazing and fun experience last year talking to and inspiring the students at Resica Elementary that I can not wait to go back. For anyone else interested in going this year, it’s on Friday May 27 starting at 11:00 a.m. and ending whenever the assembly is over (around 2:00 p.m.). Resica Elementary is in the East Stroudsburg Area. Contact Natalie Smirne @ nasmirne@gmail.com for more information.

Let’s Bowl!

· I AM Group · No Comments

Hello All,

This month’s post coincides nicely with our bowling event which occurred on Saturday, March 19. When it comes to sports activities, bowling is no doubt one of the best for building camaraderie, and friendship. Gathered around a lane, bowlers can play on a level field against people from any demographic. There is no limit. In this article we’d like to offer a brief overview of bowling as a sport, and then focus on wheelchair bowling and the advances made in adapting bowling for people of all abilities. In particular, we will focus on Paul O’Hora, a Scranton native whose advocacy and inventive spirit allowed for many to see the possibilities available if you are only willing to try something new.

The sport of bowling has a very rich history. According to the Mummy with Bowling Apparatuswebsite of the International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame (IBM), “A British anthropologist, Sir Flinders Petrie, discovered in the 1930’s a collection of objects in a child’s grave in Egypt that appeared to him to be used for a crude form of bowling. If he was correct, then bowling traces its ancestry to 3200 BC.” In any case, there have been many versions of games where a ball is thrown at pins, which most likely means that the modern game of bowling was continually modified, and not merely invented in one place.

“Undoubtedly, the English, Dutch and German settlers all imported their own variations of bowling to America. The earliest mention of it in serious American literature is by Washington Irving, when Rip Van Winkle awakens to the sound of “crashing ninepins.” The first permanent American bowling location probably was for lawn bowling, in New York’s Battery area. Now the heart of the financial district, New Yorkers still call the small plot Bowling Green (IBM).”

The modern game of bowling has its roots in the creation of the American Bowling Congress on September 9, 1895, by Joe Thum. This organization was a collection of representatives from various regional bowling clubs.  The creation of the Bowling Congress led to standardization of bowling ball weights and pin dimensions, as well as major national competitions. Then, in the 1950s, with the creation of the automatic pinspotter (or pinsetter) the sport became embraced by a larger audience. “Today, the sport of bowling is enjoyed by 95 million people in more than 90 countries worldwide. Under the auspices of the Federation Nationale des Quilleurs (FIQ), bowling’s top athletes regularly compete in Olympic Zone and worldwide competitions (IBM).”

As we have seen with other sports, wheelchair adaptations for bowling came out of social and physical rehab programs developed for veterans returning from World War II. There is not a lot of published information about bowling as a wheelchair sport, mostly because adaptations consist of specialty apparatus. However, a significant event in it’s history is certainly the creation of the American Wheelchair Bowling Association (AWBA) in 1962 through the vision of bowler Richard F. Carlson. Since the founding of this group, it has grown to have over 500 members and an average of 10 tournaments a year spread throughout the country (for more information about the AWBA see their website, here).

Paul O'HoraThis brings us to the main focus of our article this month, Paul O’Hora. Mr. O’Hora, began bowling at the age of 23 with a group of co-workers at Harper and Row Publishers. Later he found that he had to overcome an unexpected obstacle when he fell from a roof while building a country house in 1954, sustaining a spinal cord injury. However, through trial and error, while working with staff at the Wilkes-Barre Veterans Administration Hospital, he came up with an invention that allowed him to continue in his passion for bowling.

His invention became known as “the stick,” a device made up of an Paul O'Hora's invention, "the stick."aluminum rod with two side points a few inches above the floor to steady a bowling ball. A small wheel in the rear enables the ball to roll, and hard fiber skis slide along the floor. A hand strap at the top of the stick allows the user to push and control the ball. This invention allowed Paul to control his bowling play, and to continue his bowling career, even winning several titles, including the 1965 American Wheelchair Bowling Association’s Scratch Division title. In addition, Mr. O’Hora was a charter member and past president of the AWBA, and appeared at five National Veterans Wheelchair Games, winning gold in bowling and 100 and 200 meter races, and bronze in billiards. Finally in his list of bowling achievements, O’Hora became an inductee in the AWBA Hall of Fame in 1976, one the first inductees.

Paul O'Hora using the stickPaul O’Hora is not only known for his invention of the stick and his achievements with his own bowling, but also for his leadership in creating a bowling league for the Deutsch Institute of Northeast PA, called the Up and Down Bowling League. To quote Paul, “Our goal was to open doors for all people with disabilities. We told handicapped people, if you can get to an alley, we’ll prove to you you can bowl.” Certainly, Mr. Paul O’Hora is a great role model for the saying, “You can do anything you set your mind to.”

I would like to finish this article by taking a brief look at other adaptations for wheelchair bowling. First of all, there are many adapted stick devices that are similar in some ways to Paul O’Hora’s stick. Mr. O’Hora never held a patent for his invention, and was okay with companies appropriating his stick design. So, today there are many companies which sell push sticks for wheelchair bowlers. In addition, a popular device is a bowling ramp. This device allows the bowler to rest the ball at the top of the ramp and release the ball down the lane, either with a quick release button or by pushing the ball.

As we can see, there are many options that allow wheelchair users to participate in bowling, and be a part of an active sporting community. In the words of Paul O’Hora, “I’ve made a lot of friends bowling. Activity prevents loneliness. Be active and competitive. The more competitive you are, the happier you’ll be.”

With that in mind, let’s get out there and bowl!




New Notification System

· I AM Group · No Comments

Hello All,

We are excited to announce yet another way for us to stay in touch. You will now be able to opt in to receive text messages through our newest notification system. This system will allow us to notify you directly regarding activity updates or cancellations. Individuals who register for this service will be notified of upcoming events at the beginning of the month and also several days before a specific activity. Any notice of an activity or event that needs to be cancelled due to weather or other circumstances will be sent in a timely fashion. If you have become a member of I AM, or registered to be affiliated with the NEPA chapter of United Spinal, and provided us with a mobile telephone number you will receive a message allowing you to opt in or out of this service. If you aren’t sure if you have became a member you can always do so on our website. If you have not received a message allowing you to opt in to this service, and would like to receive future notifications, please send your phone number to Joseph Salva (info@individualabilities.org, or 570-561-6139).  This system does not allow users to respond to text messages, but updated information can always be found under the events tab or by contacting us. There is no registration fee, but standard text messaging rates apply. Personal phone numbers will not be shared with third party organizations.

Musical Adaptations

· Blog Posts · No Comments

Hello All,

Music is quite possibly one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. Most people enjoy music in some way, whether through playing a musical instrument, or going to a live concert, and when we do these things we are communicating with each other. Unfortunately, for some who have suffered a spinal cord injury, music becomes less accessible. Injuries may deter some from picking up a musical instrument, with the fear that they may not be dexterous enough to play, or learn how to play, and public access may impede wheelchair users from going to music venues that they enjoy. Fortunately, we can access music through new and unique ways. In this article we would like to discuss some musical adaptations, and also take a look at the ADA guidelines for concert venues.

Musical Instruments:

In an article from New Mobility (March 2004), Derek Mortland, a guitarist since the age of 12, described how his life was changed on June 14 1997 when he sustained a T9 injury in a motorcycle racing accident. Due to the level of his injury, Derek felt that he would not have any problem playing his guitar from a wheelchair. But the process of getting back into music proved to be more challenging than he thought. Here is a quote from his article in New Mobility:

“Although my hands and arms worked well enough, my trunk balance and wheelchair presented tremendous difficulty in holding and positioning the guitar. I tried playing lying down, sitting in bed with pillows, on the couch, in my chair, and none of it was working. I couldn’t get anything in the appropriate playing position to make music the way I wanted to.”

Finally, with the help of a physical therapist, Derek was able to work out a way to play:

“We began to work out options and I also began changing seat and dump angles on my chair. It took about a year before I could really play again, and it is still challenging for me with the position I play in. I learned how to incorporate the use of different guitar tunings to compensate for my unusual hand positioning on the instrument. This opened a whole new world of musical possibilities for me.”

Further in the article, Derek writes about his struggles with gigs, and some of the creative projects that he went on to be a part of. His success is a great starting point for inspiring musicians who feel that their injuries hinder their ability. However, some may ask, “What about those that have no background in music, or may have a mid to high level injury?”

This is an excellent question. Indeed, having a mid or high level injury will have a significant impact on what musical instruments are available for one to play. Fortunately, there are some options for those who are interested, including a unique instrument called the Jamboxx.

Jamboxx was developed by David Whalen, a musician who for 25 years following his injury lived without the ability to play music with his friends. He had the idea of using the computer and digital technology to make a new musical instrument. According to the Jamboxx website, the instrument is a “USB powered, breath controlled device styled after a harmonica that comes with special music software that allows for playing digital music.” In addition, it is claimed that, “Within seconds of installation, users can utilize a built-in karaoke feature which allows for playing melodies using simple play by numbers with backtracks we provide. There are literally hundreds of features that can be used for performing and recording music.”

For an example of what the Jamboxx can do please enjoy this video of it in action:

Music Venues

In addition to enjoying music through performance, many wheelchair users may enjoy listening to music in a live setting. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy purchasing tickets or navigating venues which might have accessibility issues. Fortunately, there are some ADA guidelines that cover these topics and might make it a little easier.

First of all, when it comes to ticket sales the ADA states that, “Any government or private entity that sells tickets for a single event or a series of events must modify its policies, practices, or procedures to ensure that individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to purchase tickets for accessible seating.” Equal opportunity means that the accessible seating must be, “during the same hours as other patrons; during the same stages of ticket sales, including but not limited to, pre-sales, promotions, lotteries, wait lists, and general sales;  through the same methods of distribution; in the same types and numbers of ticketing sales outlets, including telephone service, in-person ticket sales at the facility, or third-party ticketing services; and under the same terms and conditions as other tickets sold for the same event or series of events.”

Unfortunately, concert venue accessibility is another issue. There are many bleak stories of problems experienced at music events (here’s one). The regular ADA guidelines for public access, as explored in this previous post, apply here. However, there are complications that crop up as a result of older buildings or locations which were not originally intended as concert venues. The best advice for choosing a venue is to contact them before tickets are purchased, either through a website (many venues post accessibility information), or by phone. Confirming your access before the day of the concert is a good precaution to take, and it ensures that when the time comes you can enjoy live music without access problems.


Well, that’s it for this month. Please look forward to more content being published on a monthly basis. As always, thank you for reading.

An Overview of ADA

· Blog Posts · No Comments

Hello All,

This is another flashback. This time we have an article from September 21, 2014. This is a basic overview of the ADA. Enjoy reading!

Our previous post discussed the history behind the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), beginning with the first US patent for a wheelchair, and ending with the passage of the most sweeping disability rights legislation in history.  This time, we’d like to take a look at the ADA from a different angle.  Just what is the ADA, and what does it mean for individuals with disabilities, particularly those with spinal cord injuries, and wheelchair users?  The entire text of the ADA is available online (I’ll put a link below).  Because of this we don’t wish to go into extreme detail about every aspect of the act.  You can read through it if you wish.  Instead, we would just like to take a brief look at what each part of the law means, and explore the topic of public access today.   Let’s explore ADA in the spirit of Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month!

There are two central concepts relating to the ADA that are commonly misunderstood.  The first misconception is that the ADA is a building code.  Although there are many implications and precepts that affect both local and state codes, the ADA is more than just a guide to construction practices.  It is a civil rights law, modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  Because of this a building owner can be taken to court for blatant refusal to comply with ADA.  The second misconception is about the rigidity of the law.  The ADA is actually quite flexible, and worded to cover many different situations fairly and differently.

There are five titles in the ADA, so in order to understand the law completely let’s take a look at each individually.  Following each section we will list some examples of how it relates to individuals with spinal cord injuries.

Depiction of Employment, Title One of the ADA.

Title I: Employment

Title I: Employment

This section of the ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment, and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the known limitations of qualified employees, unless such accommodation would impose undue hardship on the employer.

E.g.- Reasonable accommodations for individuals with spinal cord injuries could include making facilities readily accessible, job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, and acquisition or modification of equipment or devices.

Title II: Public Services

This takes the concept of program accessibility from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and extends that concept to state and local governments, regardless of whether they receive federal funds.  It also insures transportation to individuals with disabilities, while tempering these requirements with limitations that guard against undue burdens on the owners of such services.

E.g.- Individuals using wheelchairs may not be denied access to parks or recreational facilities. Requirements that tend to screen out individuals with disabilities, such as requiring a driver’s license as the only acceptable form of identification are also prohibited.

Title III: Public Accommodation

Sign that reads accessible entrance.

Title III: Public Accomodation

In this section public accommodation is defined to mean a private entity that owns, leases, or leases to, or operates a “place of public accommodation”, where the general public has free access.  This governs accessibility in commercial facilities, meaning facilities intended for non-residential use whose operations affect commerce, such as warehouses and factories.  This section states that a physical barrier need be removed only when its removal is determined by the owner to be readily achievable, that is, accomplished without much difficulty or expense.  The most rigorous requirements in this section apply to new construction, and alterations.

E.g.- Barrier removal may include installing ramps, making curb cuts at sidewalks and entrances, and widening doorways.

Title IV: Telecommunication

This mandates that companies offering telephone services to the general public must offer telephone relay service to individuals who use telecommunication devices for the deaf, T.D.D.s, or similar devices.

E.g.- Applies primarily to hearing or speech impaired individuals.

Title V: Miscellaneous Provisions

This addresses fine points in defining disability and implementation, and offers sources of technical assistance.

E.g.- This part of ADA insures that states cannot claim immunity from being sued in relation to the ADA, and also protects individuals who successfully sue a company, government agency, or other entity from retaliation.


Hopefully this brief overview of the ADA’s parts has helped in the understanding of it as a whole.  As promised, below is the link for ADA.gov if you wish to explore the law in more detail.  The entire document can be found under the Law/Regulations tab.  The website also has a collection of documentation of past and ongoing cases and complaints regarding violations of the law.  This is very eye-opening to look through.  In addition, there are sections for technical assistance materials, and design standards.   Until we meet again…


Wheelchairs Throughout the Years

· Blog Posts · No Comments

Hello All,

This is another old piece. This one comes from September 29, 2014, when we were on our previous website. We hope you enjoy.

The wheelchair is one of the most common adaptive devices which individuals with spinal cord injuries use.  Let’s look back through the years and find out what they looked like throughout history.

Confucius and Children

Confucius and Children by an unknown Chinese artist.

1) The earliest documentation of the existence of a wheelchair is dubious.  Some sources say that the first known image of a wheelchair is from the 6th Century B.C.E., and was carved upon a stone on a Chinese sarcophagus.  However, we were unable to find clear evidence of this, mostly because we were unable to find a picture, or any back story to this claim.  The oldest picture of a wheelchair, to our knowledge is dated to 1680, and depicts Confucius and his disciples, with the wise one being transported on what appears more like a handcart than what we think of as the modern wheelchair.

Drawing of King Phillip II and his custom built wheelchair.

Drawing of King Phillip II and his custom built wheelchair.

2) There are many examples of wheelchairs, usually furniture with wheels attached, being used in almost every location and era since the invention of writing.  Often the wheelchair user was not traditionally disabled, but rather employed people to wheel them around because they felt that they were too important or rich to walk.  In any case, there are only a few well documented examples of wheelchair use.  The earliest, and most known is King Phillip II of Spain (1527-98), and his use of a custom-built chair for when he suffered from gout, a complex form of arthritis, later in life.

Stephen Farfler’s “Manumotive Carriage”

Stephen Farfler’s “Manumotive Carriage”

3) In 1655, Stephen Farfler, thought to have been either a paraplegic or an amputee, invented what has come to be considered the first self-propelled wheelchair.  His device is also considered by some to be a precursor for the modern day tricycle, and the bicycle.

4) Throughout the 18th Century several prototypes and improvements where made in wheelchair design.  One of the most popular designs was the Bath wheelchair, invented in Bath and designed to take wealthy individuals to spa waters.

Wheelchair at the Museum of Bath

Wheelchair at the Museum of Bath

The Dated Patent for an “Invalid Chair”

The Dated Patent for an “Invalid Chair”

5) More modern designs started to appear after the American Civil War.  These included wheels design for individuals to propel themselves, and rely less on assistance for getting around.  These led to the first US patent for a wheelchair in 1869.





6) The first folding frame wheelchair was invented in 1932 by Herbert Everest, an injured miner, and Harold Jennings, a mechanical engineer.  These individuals eventually formed the company known today as Everest and Jennings.

Everest Jennings Folding Frame

Everest Jennings Folding Frame

7) In the 1950s Everest and Jennings developed the first powered wheelchairs for mass production.

A prototype of the Motorized Chair

A prototype of the Motorized Chair

8) Throughout the 1980s wheelchairs powered by microprocessors were in development, which allowed for far more customizable controls.

9) 1990s- Today: Wheelchair design, maneuverability, suspension, travel distance, and comfort continue to be fine-tuned.

Modern Wheelchair

Modern Wheelchair

10) Wheelchairs of the Future?

We hope you have enjoyed our look at wheelchairs throughout the years.  Take a look at this fascinating link to future wheelchair concepts.


A Newer Sport- WLUSA

· Blog Posts, Sports · No Comments

Hello All,

Here is another older post from our previous website. We still find old articles that we have yet to transfer over, so we will continue trying to collect all of our content on this newer website. This post was from November 26, 2014. Thanks for reading!

In a continued look at adaptive sports equipment and the exciting opportunities that exist in adaptive sports, we would like to discuss one of the newest full contact adaptive sports.  Since the creation of wheelchair rugby in 1977, there have been few creations in adaptive sports that have taken off.  Yet, in 2009, Ryan Baker and Bill Lundstrom decided to adapt the sport of lacrosse.  It’s been taking off ever since.

A group of wheelchair lacrosse players.According to an article from New Mobility in September of this year, Baker and Lundstrom were not new to adaptive sports when they decided to adapt lacrosse, but neither of them had played lacrosse prior to their injuries.  However, with some research, and determination, they have been able to tap into the a growing base of individuals interested in the sport, holding clinics to teach the sport in various locations, including San Diego, Denver, Atlanta, Tampa, Richmond, Baltimore, and New York City.  According to New Mobility, Baker and Lundstrum hope to eventually see wheelchair lacrosse become a Paralympic event.  Until then, the sport keeps growing, and changing, along with the rules.

Let’s take a look at the sport through the lens of the official rule book, available at wheelchairlacrosse.com.  First of all, there are several pieces of equipment necessary to play wheelchair lacrosse.  The crosse, or lacrosse stick, is composed of wood, laminated wood, or synthetic material.  The rules provided specifications for the length of the stick, as well as the pocket size.  The ball used is an indoor no-bounce lacrosse ball made of solid rubber.  Because lacrosse is a full contact sport, padding is required for all players.  The rule book calls for a helmet, mouthpiece, gloves and shoulder pads.  All players may wear knee pads to protect from any checking by the opponent, but this is not required.  In addition, the goalie must wear a chest protector, shin guards, and a throat protector.  A protective athletic support cup is also encouraged.

Wheelchair lacrosse, usually played on a roller hockey rink, requires eight players per team to be on the field at all times.  There are two attackmen, whose job it is to score goals.  This generally restricts their play to the offensive end of the field, and also requires them to demonstrate good stick work with both hands, as well as quick mobility and skills to maneuver around the goals.  There are three midfielders, who cover the entire field, playing both offense and defense.  They also must demonstrate good stick work, including throwing, catching, and scooping.  They’re main job is to clear the ball from defense to offense.  Also, two defensemen, responsible for defending the goal, must be able to react quickly in game situations.  Finally the goalkeeper leads the defense by reading the situation and directing the defensemen to react.  Because of this, they need to have good hand eye coordination, and a strong voice.  Quickness, agility, confidence, and ability to concentrate are also essential.

Besides making goals by throwing the ball past the goalie into the net, the players are allowed to make often brotal contact with competitors by swing lacrosse sticks, poke checking, and slamming into one another in order to force possession of the ball.  While doing all of this, players must be coordinated enough to handle their crosse, while maneuvering their chairs at the same time.  If you are interested in seeing the athletes in action, please visit the Wheelchair Lacrosse website.  There are many videos from the clinics that have been held across the country.

Lacrosse is a very exciting sport to watch, but for those who are interested, it often more fun to participate in sports than to be on the sidelines.  For more information about participating in wheelchair lacrosse, in addition to more general information about the sport, please visit the wheelchair lacrosse website, or visit New Mobility.com.  Also, please see the links posted below.

Hope you enjoyed learning about this up and coming sport, and we look forward to more sports articles in the near future.

New Mobility Article: Wheelchair Lacrosse

WLUSA Website