Deep Sea Diving On The World’s First Underwater Wheelchair (VIDEO)

Although both scuba gear and wheelchairs extend people’s range of activity, Sue Austin says one accoutrement is associated with excitement and adventure, while the other garners a completely different response. In order to challenge misconceptions about disability, Austin — who has been in a wheelchair for the past 16 years — set out to create live, underwater performances that would promote positive, empowering images of people in wheelchairs. Watch the mesmerizing video above and it could challenge your perception of disabilities, both by land and sea.

[via Virgin]

Ten best extreme wheelchair sports videos

It wasn’t until a close friend of mine wound up in a wheelchair that I took any notice of sports for quadriplegics. That’s when I realized the athletic feats accomplished by these wheelchair-bound competitors are truly astonishing. While I, and my perfectly capable limbs, stood on the side lines and cheered, my friend was out skydiving, skiing and even kayaking as a “quad.” Check out the ten best extreme wheelchair sports in this round up of videos.

Can’t Feel My Legs, Haha
Clay Egan is one of the best Rock Climbing drivers in the world. This inspirational man broke his neck in a motorcycle accident, but that never stopped him from participating in events that have him literally falling off of cliffs. After one wild fall, he remarked, “Man I can’t feel my legs!” Just a little quad humor.

North Pole Wheelchair Accessible
The North Pole is wheelchair-accessible? David Shannon proved that it is. He reached the summit on the 100 year anniversary of the first North Pole expedition. This video outlines the journey he took and the obstacles he encountered. Many able-bodied people try and fail, but this quadriplegic was a success.

Hang Ten, Baby. Quad Surfing
The Disabled Surfing Association of Australia allows Kelly McCann, a C2 quadriplegic to surf. She has no use of her arms or legs and needs constant breathing assistance, but can get on a board and experience the awesomeness of the ocean.

Yes, He Can
Gene Rodgers does it all in this video clip. Bungee jump? check. Ride an elephant, check. Parachute? check. This quadriplegic has done it all and his catchy little background song is by the blind musician Jeff Moyer. “Yes, I can”….and yes I will be singing this all day now.

Leave Your Disability at the Dock
Beautiful clip on sailing for quadriplegics. Control the sails and gain your freedom on the open sea. There is a man in this clip who gets to take his wife and service dog out for a sail. On land he is dependent. In the boat, he is in control.

Scuba Diving, Up Close and Personal
Dive right in. Regardless of your abilities, diving is a wonderful experience. The adaptations they have for quadriplegics like zip in wet suits and webbed gloves make it easier for anyone to give it a try.

Power soccer athletes doing their thing. Played indoors with a foot guard over the front of a power wheelchair. This sport allows individuals who are completely dependent on others for their day to day care to be competitive athletes. Fun video to watch!

Ride a Bike
All ages get together to ride hand cycles. These awesome pieces of machinery allow the wheelchair bound freedom on the streets. I loved seeing the little kids on the bikes. The clip mentions how the hand cycle gives them common ground with their family and friends. Going for a bike ride puts everyone on the same playing field, nice.

Sledge Hockey at the Paralympic Games
Exciting game! Check out these Canadians, nothing disabled about them. They came away with the GOLD.

King of Extreme Wheelchair Sports
We end this round-up of the 10 best quadriplegic extreme sports with the “King of Extreme,” Rugby. Wheelchair rugby, or Murderball, is brutal but thrilling to watch.

Gadlinks for Tuesday, 1.26.2010

Happy Tuesday, Gadling fans! Here are a few more travel tidbits to help you through the week.

More Gadlinks HERE.

Get tips on visiting Disney with a special needs child at Mouse-Aid

Disneyland and Disney World are supposed to be the happiest places on Earth. Every child wants to go to this place of wonder and excitement, and special needs children are no exception. But for parents of these children, the thought of organizing a trip may seem like a far too difficult task. That’s where the Mouse-Aid website comes in.

The website is not affiliated with Disney, but it is designed to help parents of children with special needs negotiate the obstacles to taking their kids on a Disney vacation. There are tips for travel, packing, get around the parks, dining and choosing a room, and what issues parents of special needs kids should consider The special needs covered range from physical and mental disabilities to ADHD and terminal illness.

For many parents, the most helpful part of the site might be the forums. Here parents can discuss the issues important for their children, like which rides might scare kids frightened of the dark. They can also find support in parents dealing with similar issues as themselves. As the aunt of a special needs child, I’ve seen how just knowing that there are other parents who understand your situation can be a big help in and of itself. If you are the parent of a child with special needs, and you are planning a trip to a Disney theme park, it might be worth checking out the Mouse-Aid site.

A Canadian in Beijing: Accessibility? If You Roll When You Stroll, 麻

[???? ? Troublesome, Inconvenient, Bother!]

I’ve been here for almost three months now (well, eleven weeks to be precise!) and I’ve been collecting images and information about accessibility in Beijing throughout my time. By this, I mean I’ve been looking around at the wheelchair access or lack thereof here.

I shouldn’t suggest that there’s no access here in Beijing. There are a few noticeable efforts that have been made. But, overall, I’d say that there’s lots more to be done to make this city more open to chairs and the people who occupy them.

If you walk on wheels, Beijing will be a tough place for you.

The sidewalks are bevelled. These kinds of designs in the sidewalk are for the blind, I am told. It enables blind people to feel the sidewalk’s center and to follow the subway corridors or the outdoor sidewalks more easily. For someone in a chair, however, these kinds of raised parts of the walkways would get tiring fast. Tiring and annoying, I’m sure.

What’s more, the steps in all the subways have a raised lip on each individual stair. Not that you’d enjoy going down sometimes more than fifty steps at one time (not all entrances and exits have escalators but most do), but if you had to descend even a few stairs in your chair, you’ll be met with a speed bump each time. I’m imagining that this would also become annoying.

But, once you get into main part of the subway, each car has a wheelchair section where there are no seats. I have never seen a chair here, just people standing. I’m wondering if this is because it’s so treacherous and steep to get down the steps and many winding corridors into the subway itself. Still, at least it exists.

Should we credit partial solutions for being part-way to complete, at least? Or, is “partial solution” an oxymoron?

Otherwise, I have seen the occasional ramp, especially at more tourist-friendly places. Here at the Summer Palace, there’s a ramp into most of the courtyards. Traditional Chinese courtyards generally have the kind of doorways that require one to step over a threshold. Sometimes these thresholds are more than a foot high! That doesn’t work too well for wheels and so these ramps enable all visitors to enter.

At the Summer Palace, I also noticed this sign before entering one of the park areas. It wasn’t clear which way was really ideal for the rolling stroll, but when I followed one of those arrows, it led to this steep climb that included occasional steps as well. So, if you were in a chair, your arms wil be mighty tired here and you’ll have only climbed half-way up the hill!

I have also seen a few ramps recently on sidewalks or outside of restaurants. This one appeared outside the Beijing Art Gallery near the parking lot.

This one is a new addition to a local restaurant in the Gu Lou area near Hou Hai.

Finally, there is almost no option for chairs on sidewalks, especially when there’s any construction going on, which, as you may recall in this post, seems to be happening at every turn. The obstruction of sidewalks in that process is rarely a concern here, forcing pedestrians onto the roadways quite reguilarly. As a result, I have seen several wheelchairs being pushed along the street, which becomes the only option. This series of images shows a woman pushing a chair in the same zone as the bikes and taxis. All have wheels, of course, but I think I’d prefer not to compete for space with a cab driver looking for side-of-the-road fares!

Here is a bike swerving around them:

Here they are being passed by a taxi.

Here they are about to swerve around a parked car. Yikes!

Anyway, the best wheelchairs that I’ve seen here are the motorbike chairs. I mean, if you’ve been forced into the same travel spaces as the motorized vehicles, why not motorize your chair, right? If you can’t beat ’em, join em! These are really cool looking with seating in front (the main driver) and then room for someone to sit comfortably behind as well. When I saw one, I thought it would be cool to ride on it. (Pictured at the top of the blog and here is a view of its backside.)

I think it’s rather sexy, myself.

All in all, I’m hoping they’re building in more accessibility into this city as a result of the coming Olympics and resulting increased tourism. As it stands, the city could use it. The attitude towards disability issues or, more appropriately, differently abled issues is rather slack and/or absentee. Some of my Chinese friends just shrugged when I mentioned it, like it was really something they hadn’t thought of before and/or didn’t feel the need to spend much time thinking about.

I have heard that traditional China kept those with disabilities separated from those without. I don’t know much more than that, but this was said in passing once and it stuck with me. Maybe in North America, we have become more accustomed to integrating everyone, regardless of what their walking legs look like, into a full society. I think China is coming along on these points recently, but it needs a push from behind.

It needs a little nudging around the parked attitudes of the past and into the diverse traffic of the future.

And hopefully this future will include sidewalks that will accommodate wheels and feet at the same time!

Smooth surfaces whether you stroll or roll.