Posted in disability heroes, Hilary Lister, sailing with disabilities

Hilary Lister, first person with quadriplegia to sail the English Channel, is dead at 46 years old.

Hilary Lister was physically active as a youth, but a neurological disease left her paralyzed from the neck down. It also caused her to have considerable chronic pain.

However, when a friend introduced her to sailing, she realized that the water was where she could move and feel free.

But that wasn’t enough for her. She decided to sail the English Channel (alone), the first person with quadriplegia to accomplish that.

Ms. Lister had other sailing accomplishments, but perhaps the most meaningful is the foundation she set up, to help other people with disabilities discover the joy of sailing.

That is clearly an example of walking your talk,and also leaving the world better than she found it.

See the article below for more information about Ms. Lister and her foundation.

Posted in Accessibility for people with disabilities, disability civil rights, Mobility Devces

“I decided in that moment I would never be confined again.”

A rollator is a walker with wheels. It is hard to describe the freedom I felt when I first used one.

Rather than walking (often staggering) slowly and always thinking about falling, I was able to actually look up and enjoy (or at least take in!) the world around me as I moved about.

I was no longer at the mercy of some unobservant person who might accidentally knock me down. This was both because I was more stable and because my “wheels” signaled to others to be more careful around me. And I can definitely understand why Heather M. Jones, the writer of the article below, described her first ride in a wheelchair as “like flying down Route 66…”

Lest this sounds too “pollyannaish,” let me assure you that above all, I wish I did not have multiple sclerosis and did not need this device. But since I do, this is one of the things that greatly enhances my quality of life.

And for others who think that something like this (or a cane, a wheelchair or a scooter) might make their lives more manageable, I definitely encourage you to at least give it a test drive!

Posted in Air carrier access act, Emotional support animals, Service animals

A Registry for “Real” Service Animals?


You may have heard about the passenger who attempted (unsuccessfully) to board an airplane with her “emotional support peacock.”

This and similar instances have heightened public awareness of a most unsavory trend – people boarding airplanes with their pets and avoiding the standard fees by referring to them as “service” or “emotional support” animals.

Among the many problems is that it casts an unfavorable light on people with legitimate disabilities who truly need to be with those animals during airline flights and in other public venues. When properly selected and trained, these animals (almost always dogs) can assist those with vision or hearing problems. They can also open doors, pick up objects, alert their handlers if they sense an epileptic seizure, and provide relief to those with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

To resolve the confusion, several airlines have tightened up their policies on service animals. The U.S. Department of Transportation has also proposed regulations which would provide much clearer standards on what animals can board and what questions can be asked of their handlers.

And some organizations are in the process of creating  national service dog registries, which would list only those dogs who have received training and have “graduated” to become legitimate service dogs.

This is an interesting concept and a couple of organizations are planning to launch their registries this fall. For more information, see the link below.




Posted in multiple sclerosis

Studies show that Exercise may enhance Cognitive Function in People with Multiple Sclerosis


People with multiple sclerosis used to be told to avoid exercise. The thinking was that since our strength was limited, we were best off using our bodies as little as possible.

Fortunately, time and observation have shown that not only is that wrong, but exercise can actually help people with MS in a variety of ways. Attached is the latest newsletter from the Providence Multiple Sclerosis Center in Beaverton, Oregon. On page 4 is an article by Doctor Meghan Romba, where she discusses clinical studies showing that regular exercise may improve cognitive function in people with MS.

This is a very significant discovery. Between 40 and 65% of people with MS have some form of cognitive decline during the course of their disease, but no medication has yet been shown to be effective against this. In addition, as with almost everyone else, people with MS may improve their general health and well-being if they embark on an exercise program (after checking with their doctor, of course).

And as more and more people are exercising these days, you may also find that your social life becomes healthier!

Posted in disability civil rights, Franklin d. Roosevelt

New Video Surfaces of Franklin Roosevelt Walking



Few, if any,  presidents were as beloved as Franklin Roosevelt.

Roosevelt came to office at a very volatile time in our nation’s history. He is credited with lifting our country out of the Great Depression, as well as rallying the country to defeat a murderous  despot.

Roosevelt succeeded largely because of his intellect, his determination and his boundless charisma. Families would crowd around the radio during his “fireside chats” and were comforted and encouraged by what he said.

But few knew the lengths he went to conceal the fact that he could not walk. He had contracted polio at age 39 and his legs were virtually useless. In reality, he struggled to get in and out of cars, often used a wheelchair and even resorted to being carried or crawling on the floor when necessary.

The press did not photograph him during the times he was struggling to move. This was apparently never a stated policy;  photographers just put their cameras down during those moments.

But a rare video has just been released that actually shows Roosevelt walking. How did this video come about? It was not taken by the press but by a tourist, who was unaware of this practice and who just kept his camera rolling.

In viewing this video, one is struck by how effective Roosevelt was in hiding his disability. He had undergone years  of physical therapy and body building,  and had developed the strength to swing his legs forward with his upper body strength. You also can see in the video that he supported himself by holding onto his bodyguard with one arm and a cane in the other. When he reached the podium, he clung to it and his bodyguard discretely left.

When one understands this about Roosevelt, he is even more  inspiring. But it’s impossible not to wonder what he also might have accomplished if he didn’t (justifiably) feel the need to put so much time and energy into disguising his disability.  And it’s fascinating to ponder if he would handle things the same way today.