Then it happens to you. A drunk driver, a skiing accident, a health issue, and you can no longer use your legs. Without your permission you are inducted into the "Wheelchair Users' Club," get the "Least Likely To Be Employed Award," and break the record for "Things I Used To Be Able To Do."
You have a wheelchair and can get around using it, but you can't hold an umbrella and operate your chair at the same time. You can still use hand tools to tinker with your car, but when you accidentally drop them, you can't just get up to look for them in the engine compartment, or stoop down to look under the car. And you can't adjust the shower head while seated in your shower chair.
You need gadgets to make life a little more normal: some for holding necessities while you operate your wheelchair; some for seeing over and under and around corners; and some that extend to reach, grip, and twist things like the shower head.
You need a better wheelchair with improved off-road mobility. One that would allow you to roll across the grass, down a nature trail, or over a sandy beachhead without getting stuck. One that is affordable on a very limited budget.
You search your favorite store and rummage through specialty catalogs hoping to find those certain items, but if they even exist, they are flimsy, don't work, or are way too expensive. Your frustration mounts. Your wish list grows daily. You imagine gadgets and mobility solutions you could make if only you had a bit of help.
Your job hunt turns up an overwhelming list of rejections. Employers repeatedly perceive you as not being able to add value to their company. The hope of employment becomes more like a myth.
You feel stuck, hopeless, and worthless.
You hear from a friend about this research-and-development institute that is doing just what you need: creating innovative ways to improve your quality of life through applied technology.
You drop in to see this "Innovation Institute," and a group of people, many in wheelchairs, welcomes you.
You discover that they are all about creating practical assistive gadgets, building inexpensive off-road wheelchairs, and providing part time jobs!
You are encouraged when they tell you that your disability and your limitations are your main qualifications to work there! At the Innovation Institute, your greatest asset is your disability because it qualifies you to help build and test machines, and to prove that this applied technology will truly improve your quality of life and the quality of life of others as well.
You find camaraderie! With many shared experiences, needs, and interests, it is no wonder everyone is glad to be here. The "Wheelchair Users' Club" doesn't look so grim anymore. It looks like a great way to make new friends and solve problems together. Here people don't pity you. They see you for who you really are, and they want you around. Anything you can contribute is welcome as the group refines and improves another assistive device.
See the projects we're working on now. Proof that there is life after paralysis!