Canadian MP in Wheelchair Pushes for Disability Rights, Contends with Thick Carpet

Canada has recently elected its second-ever chair user to its parliament. Manon Perreault, a member of the New Democratic Party, has represented Montcalm, Quebec since taking office this past May. And she’s confronted some unexpected challenges unique to people with persons with disabilities, namely the over-thick carpet on the floor of the House of Commons. The Chronicle Herald reports:

Perreault usually asks parliamentary pages to give her a push across the fluffy fabric, which she says offers a surprising amount of resistance.

“The more that carpets are comfortable, the softer they are, the harder it is (to move),” Perreault told The Canadian Press in a recent interview at her riding office north of Montreal.

“It’s a bit like snow.”

The carpeting hasn’t stopped her from making a name for herself, though. Perreault seeks to increase the visibility of disability issues in Canada. In her first House of Commons statement, she claimed that her win is shared with every Canadian with a disability. BlazeSports wishes MP Perreault the best of luck as she campaigns for the rights of all people up in our neighbor to the north!

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Fewer Characters with Disabilities on TV this Fall

Artie Abrams of Fox’s “Glee” is one of the few characters with disabilities on TV. Pic courtesy of Ams Vans.

Yesterday GLAAD issued its annual study of “Where We Are on TV.” It turns out where we are is still a long way from where we need to be. Of the 647 regular characters on broadcast television, only five of them have a disability. To put that in perspective, somewhere between 12 and 20% of Americans have a disability. Cable TV proved to be somewhat more representative, with 10 regular and four recurring characters with disabilities. These numbers are down from last year.

The handful of characters carrying the torch for the disability community include the angel-voiced, wheelchair using Artie Abrams from “Glee,” the cantankerous genius Dr. Gregory House from “House,” and Dr. Albert Robbins, who solves crimes on prosthetic legs on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

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The NY Times Takes on Plight of Wounded Soldiers and Their Families

April and Tom Marcum. Pic courtesy of the New York Times.

Last month, we pointed you to an AP story about the difficulties that veterans with disabilities are having as they attempt to collect disability compensation and move on with their lives. Today, the New York Times ran a piece on the toll that war injuries–both physical and psychological–take on servicemembers and their families.

The article introduces us to April and Tom Marcum of Ray City, Georgia. After experiencing a traumatic brain injury during his second tour in Iraq with the US Army, Tom was left with post-traumatic stress disorder, memory loss, and problems controlling his impulses and his anger. April has since quit her job to act as his full-time caretaker.

We also meet Rosie Babin, whose son Alan took a bullet through his abdomen in 2003 that robbed him of 90% of his stomach and a piece of his pancreas. The injuries forced a stroke that left him with permanent brain damage. The military sought to put Alan–who has only recently regained some speech–in a nursing home, but Rosie fought to get him into a rehab center and now cares for him at home.

Many of these caretakers have quit other jobs to care for their loved ones and are dealing with problems like depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure. Yet despite the sacrifices they–and, of course, their veteran–have already made, the compensation offered to such caretakers tops out at just over $1,800 per month, or $21,600 per year. This is better than nothing, but for many families, it is not nearly enough to compensate for the lost income or depleted savings caused by the injuries sustained on the front lines.

It is heartening to see that the mainstream media is taking notice of the problems faced by veterans with disabilities and their families. These individuals have given up a lot for their country. They deserved to be remembered, and they deserved to be cared for without sending their families to the poor house.

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Louisville Adaptive Sport Roll Out a Big Success

BlazeSports’ own Cully Mason at the Roll Out.

Today our friends at Frazier Rehab in Louisville, Kentucky hosted the Adaptive Sport Roll Out at the University of Louisville. This free event provided an opportunity for Kentuckians with and without disabilities to learn more about Paralympic sports and to see demonstrations of archery, wheelchair basketball, handcycling, power soccer, wheelchair racing, rowing, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis, and track and field.

The Roll Out ended less than an hour ago, and I’ve already gotten word that it was a smash hit. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has partnered BlazeSports with the city of Louisville as part of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program, so we are especially happy to hear that disability sport is making such a splash in the Derby City. Congrats to Frazier Rehab and to the people of Louisville!

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Canadian Scientists Discover New Stem Cells, Could Lead to New Spinal Cord Treatments

Pic courtesy of Regenexx.

Science Daily reports that researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Montreal have discovered a new class of spinal cord stem cells that behave like neural stem cells. This discovery could pave the way for a new line of research that might eventually result in new and improved treatments for spinal cord injury and disease. SD reports:

The nervous system has historically been thought to be incapable of repairing itself, as the cells used to create it are exhausted during development. With the identification of these new stem cell-like radial glial cells, it may be possible to activate a certain set of genes in order to encourage those cells to reconstruct a damaged network in the adult spinal cord.

We can’t know now where this research will lead, but the possibilities opened by research like this are as intriguing as they are important. Congrats to all the scientists involved! We wish you the best as you explore the possibilities of these new cells.

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BlazeSports Conference a Tremendous Success – New video posted

Daniel Pierre-Charles, Director General of the Haitian Ministry of Sport, shares a laugh with BlazeSports CEO Carol Mushett Johnson.

Video Link – 2011 BlazeSports International Conference – Video Link

The 11th Annual BlazeSports International Conference on Paralympic Sport and Physical Activity wrapped up today in Decatur, Georgia, and the consensus says that it was the best ever. The attendees who traveled in from across the country and the globe were treated to sessions from renowned experts and cutting-edge professionals. Training ranged from hands on coaching sessions to policy discussions to a primer on social media, and Orlando Magic Vice President and NBA legend Pat Williams gave a killer keynote address.

But the conference was not only about attendees receiving information from speakers; it was also about activists, coaches, athletes, and sport and recreation professionals from throughout the disability community coming together to forge friendships and strengthen existing bonds. The disability sports movement relies on these interpersonal connections to build strong networks, disseminate information, and organize events and initiatives. These last few days in Georgia helped to ensure that wenot just BlazeSports but all of us in the movement–will continue to succeed as we work to level the playing field for people with disabilities.

Congrats to everyone who help make the Conference such a profound success, and a big thanks to all the presenters and attendees!

Conference attendees get some hands on training in wheelchair rugby.

Poolside lessons.

BlazeSports’ own Cully Mason and Ann Cody offer insights to the crowd.

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Dana Cummings Teaches People with Disabilities to Hang Ten

Six-year-old Shaun McLaughlin learns to surf. Pic courtesy of Voice of America.

Dana Cummings wasn’t raised surfing, nor did he pick it up in his teenage years like many other aficionados. It wasn’t until a car accident cost him a leg that he took up the sport. It didn’t take him long to discover that riding the waves was changing his life. Cummings tells Voice of America:

I was just existing, not living. It took me to lose my leg to realize how precious life is and get off the couch and start living. I do more things now than I ever did before. Next week I am going to compete in a contest in Hawaii.

And Dana wasn’t content to keep his passion to himself. In 2003, he founded AmpSurf, a California-based non-profit that teaches surfing to people from across the disability spectrum. The organization does some great work, and Voice of America’s audio report is worth a listen. (A heads up: VoA is designed for non-native speakers of English, so the methodical, almost stilted delivery of its reporters is likely to strike your ears strangely if you’re fluent.) Also worth a look is 6-year-old Shaun McLaughlin catching a wave:

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