A few weeks ago, I attended the Los Angeles Abilities Expo for the first time. Because I am now a moderator for the Muscular Dystrophy News Forums, I thought it would be a great opportunity to inspire some topic discussions. My mom attended a few Abilities Expos in the past when they were at the Anaheim and Long Beach convention centers. While there, she bought me a bag that attaches to my wheelchair’s armrest and she discovered the Disneyland Disability Access Service Card.
Other than what I had been told about the expo from my mom and by online advertisements, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had heard there would be a climbing wall and incredible devices. I hoped to sneak a peek at Micah Fowler from the show “Speechless” and maybe see The Rollettes.
My mom, my dad, and I entered the expo and my eyes immediately scanned the rows of vendors. There was so much to take in that I didn’t know where to begin. One of the first mobility aids I saw might’ve been the most impressive. A man rolled by in a wheelchair controlled only by the lateral movements of his torso. No joystick was needed. The wheels were bulky, making it ideal for rough terrain and snow. The company responsible for this extraordinary device is Omeo Technology. The gentleman in the wheelchair traveled all the way from New Zealand to introduce it to America’s disabled community.
My next stop was to The Rolletes table where members of the all-women handicapped dance group took pictures with people and sold their merchandise. I had a wonderful and enlightening conversation with the group’s founder, Chelsie Hill. I learned that Chelsie became a paraplegic nine years ago after a car accident left her with a broken spine. As a dancer, she was devastated to lose her leg abilities.
Itching for the chance to dance again, she created The Rolletes. Not only are they a dance group that empowers all women with disabilities, but they also offer what they call “The Rolletes Experience.” It is a three-day summer event in Los Angeles that includes dance classes, seminars about health and wellness, and of course, a few parties.
The convention had many inclusive activities to partake in. Along with the climbing wall was a basketball court where a team of disabled players dribbled and shot free throws. PlayStation was there letting people try their new line of gaming modifications made for those with physical and mental disabilities.
I noticed that a lot of the equipment was very affordable. Companies and engineers seem to be actively trying to lower prices. This came as a very pleasant surprise to me, considering I had recently received a $38,000 wheelchair.
While my parents and I took a break to fill our stomachs, Micah Fowler gave a speech nearby about his disorder and how he became an actor. Although his speech is very much affected by cerebral palsy, I was in awe of his endearing nature and upbeat personality.
I knew full well the consequences of going on such an energy-depleting trip. I made sure to clear my schedule after the expo to ensure that I could recuperate. Despite living relatively close to LA (an hour without traffic), the drive is still quite strenuous on my body. I am no longer able to tolerate four hours in my wheelchair, no matter how comfortable it is.
Despite my extreme exhaustion after the trip to the Abilities Expo, it was definitely worth it. The many inventions, equipment, and companies I saw demonstrated meaningful advancements. That gives me hope for a better future for those with disabilities.
Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.