Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bengie the Dog and Wheelchair Stolen

Philadelphia Police are searching for the heartless thief who stole a wheelchair and a dog from a man who suffers from cerebral palsy.

The shocking theft happened at about 11 a.m. Thursday outside a convenience store located at 27th and Lehigh Avenue in North Philadelphia.

Warren Lloyd parked his motorized wheelchair outside the Yoscar Mini Market and went inside to get a sandwich. His dog was in a carrying case on the back of the wheelchair.

In the time it took Lloyd to go inside and pay for his food, the thief struck and made off with Lloyd's wheelchair and his dog Bengie.

"I use it every day, that's my way of getting around. I can't drive, I have cerebral palsy. That was my vehicle," Lloyd said.

Adding to the cruelness of the theft, neighbors said the suspect tried to sell the dog shortly after the theft.

Lloyd is pleading for the thief to return his dog and the wheelchair that is valued at approximately $3,000.

If you have any information regarding the theft, you are urged to contact the Philadelphia Police Department

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Glee Dream On: Pitiful and Pathetic

'Glee's' Artie: Why Make Him a Pitiful Victim?
By Adam Wright

The Fox mega-hit "Glee" has made its mark this year. It’s one of television's biggest hits of the year. It’s the tale of a group of high school underdogs and their glee club.

One of those underdogs is Artie (played by Kevin McHale, below right). Artie is in a wheelchair because of a spinal-cord injury.

Adam Wright TVDoneWrightNow readers, when I first saw Artie’s character, I said, “FINALLY!” Not many of you know, but I’m also physically disabled. I am in a wheelchair (left), and it was so refreshing to see a fellow physically disabled person prominently featured in a hit show.

Artie has been a minor character for most of the series' first season, with the exception of the great episode entitled “Wheels,” where he was highlighted.

What we know about Artie, besides the obvious ride he has, is that he’s funny, smart and witty. He also has a love interest named Tina Cohen-Chang (played by Jenna Ushkowitz).

So far, the series managed to portray Artie in a way that was pretty good, I thought. Yes, it showed his struggles with his disability, but it didn’t make him look helpless or pathetic. It didn’t make him out to be the victim.

Until tonight…

Tonight’s episode entitled “Dream On” was about, guess what, dreams! And what was Artie's dream? To dance.

First problem here. Did they really need to make his dream so impossible? Trust me, it would be nice to dance and walk and run, but is it a dream? Heck no. One of the first things we learn is Artie Gleeknow one's limits. So why make Artie’s dream the one thing it’s impossible to obtain? Why not make his dream to become a movie star or singer or the next Hugh Hefner.

OK, I get it, they want to create a touching moment for the audience. Moving on.

Next we have Artie trying to stand up with Tina, with the help of arm crutches. He then suddenly collapses. A heartbreaking scene, yes, but it was followed by him just … lying there.

Lying there, helpless, the victim. Seriously? After all the struggles, all the things he’s been through, he’s just going to lie there?

That scene alone played on the audience's emotions, but in the wrong way. It made people feel sorry for Artie. Made him look like the victim, even pathetic.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Another Rugby Player Goes Down

Delmar resident and rugby player Michael Jones suffered a severe spinal cord injury at a rugby tournament in Florida on February 27, 2010. A neurosurgeon called his wife, Lisa DeStafo Jones, to tell her the shocking news. He said, “This is a Christopher Reeve-type of injury,” an article in the Times Union reported. At age 44, Jones was healthy and vibrant, still able to knock around with the younger rugby players. Now, he battles to win back the health of his spine and the use of his body at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in New Jersey with his grieving wife and his daughter Liliana.

Football and hockey organizations and officials have recently introduced new rules and protocols for preventing, identifying, and treating head and neck injuries. Part of that shift in awareness required the disillusion of the idea that it is a sign of manliness or toughness to go on playing after an injury. Rugby, while it has evolved over recent years, still does not have any sport-wide regulations for spinal cord and/or traumatic brain injuries.

In South Africa, rugby officials have started the BokSmart safety program, according to an Eyewitness News article. The program requires all coaches and referees to be certified by BokSmart beginning in January 2011. According to the South Africa Rugby information page on BokSmart, “The primary aim of BokSmart is to provide rugby coaches, referees, players, and administrators with the correct knowledge, skills, and leadership abilities to ensure that safety and best practice principles are incorporated into all aspects of contact rugby in South Africa.”

Regardless of any changes of rules or protocols, training of coaches and referees, and attempts to make the game safer, part of what defines rugby is the toughness required by its players. No helmet and no pads have become a hallmark of the game and one of the main differences between rugby and football.

Rugby players from around the world have shown Michael Jones support the same way they might during a game. “Low and tight, Brother Jones! Low and tight. Keep on pushin’ the pack is with you. All good stuff to you,” one supporter wrote. Another said, “JonesyStoke the fire my friend. Use your strong heart and passion to keep going forward. You’ve got a strong pack in support…and backs too!” according to the Times Union article. We wish Michael Jones a full recovery.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wheelchairs Not Safe to Ride

Most wheelchairs not made to withstand car crashes

Questions and answers about wheelchairs and seat belts on buses:

Q: How safe is it to ride in a wheelchair in automobiles?

A: Wheelchair safety researchers say that riding in a wheelchair designed primarily for mobility is more dangerous than being in a car seat because most wheelchairs and scooters on the market aren't made to withstand the forces in an auto accident.

Q: So what's the best way to ride?

A: Researchers recommend moving the person from the wheelchair to a seat inside a bus or van. If that's not possible, crash-tested restraints should be used for both wheelchair and rider. They also say it's best to buy wheelchairs that meet voluntary industry standards for safety. Details can be found at

Q: Why don't most buses have seat belts?

A: Bus companies say their high-back seats are safe and designed to protect passengers. Mandatory seat belt laws in most states apply only to passenger cars or people in the front seat, but there are six states that do require belts on school buses.

Q: What do regulators say?

A: The National Transportation Safety Board began recommending belts and other safety features on long-distance buses decades ago. It said a lack of seat belts was a factor in the deaths of five members of Ohio's Bluffton University baseball team, whose bus plunged from an Atlanta highway overpass in 2007. That led the father of one of the players killed to lobby Congress to require changes designed to prevent passengers from being thrown out windows and strengthen bus roofs.

Q: Why weren't changes made?

A: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration resisted calls for seat belts on buses for years, siding with bus industry leaders. They didn't move on the proposals until the Obama administration ordered a safety review after two crashes killed passengers who were thrown from buses.

Q: Does that mean changes are coming?

A: Several deadly bus wrecks in the past three years were enough to lead Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to announce in November that the NHTSA later this year will propose requirements for seat belts on long-distance motor coaches.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

No More Therapy Dogs: Bring on the Hot Therapy Girlfriend

They had the day off, and the eight camp counselors were taking a break from a canoe trip down the Saco River in southern Maine last July. One of them, Zack Weinstein, began jogging downhill about 15 feet from shore. When Zack reached the water, he stepped into the locked hands of his friend, who gave Zack a boost as he jumped into the air.

It was the last time Zack had control over his own body.

Meeting Zack, 20, for the first time, you're not really sure how to greet him. He uses the controls on his motorized wheelchair to approach you. He smiles. You smile. Then he nimbly stretches out both hands to shake your hand.

It's a soft handshake, one that he cannot feel. But going through the motion breaks down a barrier.

Beside his bed is a laptop computer and a headset that allows him to provide voice commands. From that computer he has started an unusual process: healing by blog. Zack started an online journal in July while at a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta. The postings, available to anyone with Internet access at, provide a raw look at the joy of opening a candy wrapper again and the frustration of not having control over bowel movements.

Some site visitors have injuries, some none at all. Many of them Zack doesn't even know. One person had a similar spinal cord injury a year before, and he's now back at college. He and Zack e-mail and talk on the phone.

''It's hard enough for me anyways," Zack said. ''I can't imagine what it would be like without all the technology."
'Standard issue girlfriend'
''I truly believe that every patient should be provided with a standard issue girlfriend," he wrote last year. ''Maybe the patient could choose the type of girlfriend that they would feel most comfortable with. For example: hair color, age, height, race, nationality, size of . . . um . . . well use your imagination. Obviously I would choose a blond, 22-year-old, 5 ft. 5 white girl from England."

Zack met Anna-Maija Webb at the summer camp. They were both counselors and connected over similar interests in drama and music.

They both took it as a summer fling (''I didn't even know her last name," Zack said). After camp, Zack was going back to college and Anna-Maija (pronounced: Mai-ya), who had just graduated from drama school in England, was going to be a nanny in the United States for a few years before going back.

Three weeks after they met, though, Zack was paralyzed.

Did Anna-Maija feel like she had to stick around?

''Not at all," she said.

Her brother was living in Atlanta, 15 minutes from the Shepherd Center, where Zack went for several weeks for rehabilitation. So she stayed with Zack. One week became two, then three. Next thing she knew, she was living with Zack's family in Needham.

''I don't know. It's really strange," Anna-Maija said. ''I don't even know what to say about it. I hadn't planned it."

She bristles at the notion that she enjoys taking care of him.

''I hate the whole mothering aspect, and it has nothing to do with it," she said. ''He gives me as much back as I give him."

Their dates are low-key, they say, and often consist of dinner and a movie.

They watched all of the Oscar-nominated movies, and she tries to persuade Zack to watch ''Desperate Housewives" with her.

''We're serious about each other," she said. ''But we're practical as well."

They're still at the stage in a relationship where they stare into each other's eyes with dreamy smiles.

''She still thinks I'm cute," he said, offering a big, toothy smile.

''Yes. I do," she said.


Gleeful Spinal Cord Injury Guy to Play Spinal Cord Injury Guy

Actor Zack Weinstein will be appearing in next week's episode of hit television show GLEE. What makes the appearance stand out is that, unlike Kevin McHale - who plays GLEE's wheelchair-bound character "Artie Abrams" - Weinstein faces disabilities on a daily basis. The actor became paralyzed during a canoeing trip in college. While he was left with only the use of most of his upper body, leaving him unable to use his hands or legs, Weinstein has fought to continue his dream of acting.

In a recent profile in the NY Post, Weinstein shared about his appearance on GLEE: "The part was written for a character with a spinal cord injury similar to mine. It's very well-written and truthful to what I've experienced." The actor adds, "Everyone on set was great, and I had a blast! It was 12 straight hours of filming two scenes for five minutes of airtime."

Fox describes the episode, "Rachel panics when a sore throat affects her singing; Kurt tries to change his persona to impress his father); and Puck makes a strategic move to elevate his social status."

While Weinstein cannot discuss the specifics of his episode, the Post suggests that the performer might have a duet with GLEE star, and Broadway favorite, Lea Michele.

"The way it's written, there's a chance I could be called back," he adds hopefully.

"My goal is just to be a working actor - it's what I love to do." He paused and then said shyly, "And I think I'm pretty good at it, too."


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Your Top Ten List

Here's the official list of the Top 10 Things that Annoy People who use Wheelchairs:
1. Able-bodied people parking in accessible parking spaces 37%
2. Accessible bathroom stalls being used by an able-bodied person 12%
3. Talking over my head as if I'm not here 9%
4. Continuing to insist on helping me after I've said no thanks 8.3%
5. Congratulating me for things like going to the grocery store like it's worthy of an Olympic medal 6.1%
6. Strangers asking what happened to me 5.7%
7. Not inviting me to an event because you are protecting me from some frustration (let me figure it out) 5.3%
8. Patting me on my head. Don't. 5.0%
9. Holding on to the back of my chair so I can't move 4.4%
10. Speaking slowly to me because I'm in a wheelchair 3.5%