As we come to the end of a successful month for spinal cord injury awareness, we want to highlight the things we have learned and appreciated reading. Awareness comes in many forms and we really feel that people around the world stepped (or wheeled) up to the plate this month. We are stronger together and we really felt a true shift in peoples perspectives over this last 30 days. From blog posts, to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the SCI community felt united in its cause to educate, enlighten and inform. Here is a list of our top 10 favorite moments this month.
- The 3 A’s for spreading SCI awareness. In our first blog post of the month (read it here), Chelsea talked about:
- Accessibility – “Until owners or event planners are directly involved or physically see the issue, they aren’t going to know and it’s not going to be a priority.” Take a show, not tell approach and people are more likely to make the change.
- Advocacy – “Be firm and strong in advocating for care and don’t hesitate to explain why.” Our health care systems don’t know enough about SCI so it comes down to us to make sure that our loved ones are getting them proper care and that the professionals are aware of their needs.
- Audience – “With the use of Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, etc, there are plenty of ways to spread SCI awareness around the world. If there is a message you want to tell, make that Facebook post or take that photo and put it on Instagram.” There has never been a better time than now to get your message out there.
- Community and peer support. Colleen talked about the importance of finding a community you can belong to and how much of an impact it can make on both your physical and emotional recovery after a life changing injury. “The outpouring of love and support from a peer group of people living full lives in wheelchairs was a godsend. They welcomed us into their gang and in a very short time, I knew that one day, everything was going to be okay and that no topic was off the table for discussion.” (Read the full article here)
- Education.“Ignorance can be fixed and the solution is education. I encourage everyone to help educate with a kind approach.” Adele wrote about the handicap parking situation educating people with kindness. Just because you CAN park there, doesn’t mean you SHOULD and sometimes people just need a gentle reminder. (Read the full article here)
- Relationships with care staff. Emily said it best when she talked about the importance of establishing a relationship with care aides and making sure that they know you don’t expect them to take care of certain tasks for you and that if they do go out of their way to help you, a thank you can go a long way. “If you’re moving in with your partner and they already have a well-established relationship with a care aid, take the time to build rapport, become familiar with their current routine, and ensure the lines between care-aid and partner are not blurred.” (Read the full article here)
- Differences are okay. A wheelchair user isn’t someone that needs to be gawked at or pitied. Kendra says, “I would hope that people see persons with a SCI (or others who use mobility aids) as capable, strong, independent humans who are struggling and thriving in life alongside the rest of us.” Acceptance of our differences is key. (Read the full article here)
- Bowel and bladder. “Often people will think that a spinal cord injury means you can’t walk and that’s it. That is completely false. I’m going to make an executive decision and say that every person with a spinal cord injury, if given a choice of what they want most, would choose their bladder and bowel function back.” Kristen, our resident girlquad, hit the nail on the head. Oftentimes, the ability to walk is the least important part of an SCI. (Read the full article here)
- Simple change. The world needs simple change. Sam pointed out that although technology advancements are really neat, “we wouldn’t need to invent some fancy piece of equipment to climb stairs, that realistically no one can actually afford any way, if there was a ramp.” We need more of the obvious changes to access, things that don’t require an engineering degree and a million dollars. Let’s make the venues accessible to the masses. (Read the full article here)
- Attitudes are the biggest barrier. An all time favorite (fellow Canadian) interabled couple, Kev and Dee recently had a run-in with their local food and drink guide after they asked for them to include accessibility features. After posting about their encounter on social media, a formal apology was issued regarding their attitude towards accessibility AND accessibility will be included in the next issue of their guide. How cool is that?! You can check them out on Instagram (@accessibleadventurers) and YouTube (Accessible Adventurers)
- Never assume. Another one of our all time favorite interabled couples is Cole and Charisma. They have been doing amazing things in the way of SCI Awareness through their YouTube videos and social media accounts and the things they highlighted this month are no exception. The one that really resonated with us came yesterday when they said, “there is such a spectrum to disability and no matter how someone presents, you can never be sure what they’re dealing with.” Don’t assume that paraplegic means from the waist down and quadriplegic means from the neck down, because there are so many variations of each that you are most likely to be wrong. Make sure to check out their Instagram (@roll.with.cole) and YouTube (Roll with Cole & Charisma)!
- Be the change. All of this brings us to the power of social media and the SCI community being the biggest proponents for change. Our digital age allows for wide spread information exchange. See someone who is doing something right? Post about it; likewise if you see someone or something that needs some improvement. This month taught us that there is still SO much that the general population doesn’t know about spinal cord injury and life in a wheelchair and that our community is doing amazing things with the platforms available to us to change all that.
Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month is an amazing opportunity to unite together and flood the internet with stories, information and advice. For most of us, however, spinal cord injury is our every day, not just one month out of the year. If there is anything we learned this month, it is that the need for SCI awareness is an ongoing movement that extends long past September 30th. So keep making posts and creating noise. We are all making a difference, one wheel at a time.
The Wheel Love Team