|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on October 16, 2012 at 9:40 AM||comments (0)|
My most recent assignment for the Vehicle Production Group was to meet with several of our dealers and work on a plan to assist in hitting our targeted audience for sales: the disability community. But, this experience turned out to be so much more rewarding then just talking about selling vehicles. For those of you that follow us, you know that as a company, the Vehicle Production Group is not just focused on selling our cars, but rather, our goal is to change lives. We are a purpose driven company with a purpose built product.
Throughout my years of living life on wheels, I have learned that there are so many things that we (PWD) have to think about and deal with that most able-bodied people would not think about. I have also learned the importance of educating the able-bodied community about living with disability and disability ettiquette. Our idea is to meet with the dealers, who are able bodied, and give them a perspective of how to market to a community that they do not live in. It was so rewarding, and it also has opened my eyes to the things that are often overlooked.
We all know that, for a person living a differently abled life, accessibility is one of our main challenges and concerns when thinking about leaving our homes. Fortunately, because of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), all public places are supposed to be Universally Accessible so that all people are able to visit or utilize their services. But, just because a business or product says it is "Handicap Accessible" doesn't mean that it is. Accessibility does not just mean that the doorways should be wide enough for a wheelchair user to pass through. Accessibility means that the wheelchair user should be able to enjoy the venue or product just as an able-bodied individual could.
As you all know, I travel on a regular basis to different cities across the United States, showing the Vehicle Production Group's MV-1. This means that not only do I get many frequent flier miles, but I also stay at many hotels. Of course, I request an "accessible" room to make my stay a little bit easier. Unfortunately, all too often, I have to bring one of my co-workers to my room to make sure things are really "accessible" and within reach before we part ways for the night. Nine times out of ten, things are not where they should be in order to accomodate someone who is traveling alone, and unable to stand up from their chair. For instance, is the shower head within reach or is it up as high as it will go? Are the towels in reach? Can I get to the room thermostat? Can I reach the hangers in the closet or the iron from my chair? The answer to these questions is usually "No".
I have learned to bring these things to people's attention, and also to educate them. As I said before, these are all things that an abled-bodied person would not think about unless it is brought to their attention. These "teachable moments" are so relevant in bringing awareness to the needs of people with disabilities and another step towards inclusion and independent solutions for the differently abled community.
This trip was so rewarding because I was able to open our dealers eyes and give them a different perspective. The most wonderful part was not just educating them on how to market to the disabled community, but knowing that they will now see the little things that count and be more sensitive to the needs of our customers and the things that really count. Just another reason that I love our company and our product. We are changing lives one MV-1 at a time.
|Posted by email@example.com on July 13, 2012 at 11:35 PM||comments (0)|
Hello! Ive been very busy traveling with VPG as we show the MV-1 and I am feeling so blessed to have the opportunity to change the way people around the nation are viewing the importance of universally accessible transportation.
My most recent trip with the company took me to the vibrant city of New Orleans, Louisiana. So far, throughout the year, I have been everywhere from New York City to Louisville and Virginia, and have witnessed, firsthand, the lack of public transportation that is accessible for all people. It amazes me how some of the most diversely populated and visited cities throughout the United States, all have very few options for accessible transportation. New Orleans followed the same mantra as the rest... Lots of places to visit but few options for transportation for us, High Rollers.
As a community, we all need to be letting our voices be heard and continue to push for change. I spoke with many different people in New Orleans about the lack of accessible transport services for people with disabilities, including a few taxi drivers, and learned the samething from all of them... These big cities are not making the proper changes because they are not hearing our voices, our stories, and the stigmas about people with disabilities not being active are not being broken. We all, as a community, need to start educating and have our voices heard so that we start to see changes made within our states and cities. People don't know if they are not educated.
Speak up! Help get our voices heard! Education is power and we all have the ability to spread the word!
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on July 13, 2012 at 9:30 PM||comments (1)|
As most of you know, I have embarked on a new adventure as a Consumer Advocate for the Vehicle Production Group, makers of the MV-1. The MV-1 is the first universally accessible vehicle that has been made in America! http://www.vpgautos.com This vehicle is already changing lives through consumer purchases and as public transport vehicles around the nation. During my recent trip to Chicago for the Abilities Expo with VPG, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there was a company utilizing the MV-1 to not only provide public transportation for people of all abilities in the greater Chicago area, but it is giving an opportunity for them to have luxury transportation. Yes, that's right... With their fleet they are giving everyone with disabilities the chance to have a "Limo" like service in our MV-1! From a night on the town, to rides to conferences for professionals, to rides to the airport, people of all abilities in the Chicago area now have the option for transportation in a luxury vehicle instead of just a plain old taxi because of Q Transport!
I had the opportunity to utilize their services while visiting Chicago and I was more than impressed. Just as they advertise, Q Transport makes it possible to have "no more barriers to a quality, upscale ride. In VIP elegance and comfort, making your journey a smooth, pleasurable experience.". My friend, Auti Angel and I were very happy with their service during our night on the town. Our driver, Jeremiah, was very knowledgeable and trained on "Disability etiquette", on time, and very professional. The company even made sure that we had transportation arranged for the remainder of our stay.
So if you live in the Chicago area or you are planning on a trip to Chicago for business or pleasure don't hesitate to look them up and schedule a ride! You will be more than satisfied with their services! To find out more visit them on the web at http://www.qtransport.com/. Not only will you get to check out our MV-1 but you will also have the opportunity to arrive in elegance and professionalism no matter what you're rolling in for your abilities!
|Posted by email@example.com on March 13, 2011 at 10:39 PM||comments (0)|
This month has been full of planning for the 2011 Abilities Expo show season which will start in April in Los Angeles, California. I have also been working on a couple of articles within the disability community. The featured article that was printed this month was in Sports N' Spokes Magazine about my Costa Rican Adventure with the Ocean Healing Group JAWS- 7 camp. Here is the link for that article as well as the manuscript.
Making Anything Possible by: Erika Bogan
As a nine-year veteran and athlete in the disability community, I have been blessed with many adventures and opportunities to meet some of the most amazing, vivacious people in the world. When I sustained a spinal-cord injury at age 21, as a result of a domestic violence incident, I had no idea it would be the start of a new life.
From the very beginning, I made up my mind anything was possible, and I was not only going to prove that to myself but to others through my journey. Some of the opportunities I have been blessed with include holding the title of Ms. Wheelchair America 2010, being part of Team Colours, for Colours Wheelchair, and of course participating in my favorite sport, surfing. I had the honor of surfing in many different Life Rolls On events around the nation as well as the WSA West Coast Championships of Surfing in May 2010. None of these events, although cherished memories, have touched my life as much as my recent adventure to Costa Rica as a participant in the Ocean Healing Group’s Just Add Water Surfing (JAWS) Program.
Ocean Healing Group (OHG) is a non-profit (501c3) foundation dedicated to taking children with spinal-cord injuries and their parents on a lifetime adventure to Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. The adaptive surfing program is not limited to surfing but gives the youngsters the opportunity to zip line through the Costa Rican rain forests, ride down the Nicoya Peninsula on ATVs, and go snorkeling, and horseback riding, all with the company of amazing volunteers. This program allows parents to enjoy a vacation as well, which is a rare opportunity due to the day-to-day care their special-needs children require. All these activities, at one time, were thought impossible for children with disabilities, leaving them feeling unaccepted or awkward. Well, times have changed. OHG is an organization helping replace that feeling of awkwardness with a sense of accomplishment, proving that anything is possible.
The JAWS program takes place at the beautiful Shaka Beach Retreat, located north of Mal Pais and Santa Teresa in the neighborhood of Playa Hermosa. On arrival at our camp, I was amazed how peaceful and luscious our surroundings were. I could smell the warm sea air, feel the calm welcoming breeze, and hear the hustle and bustle of monkeys above our villas. It was paradise. There was no need or desire to check e-mail, answer cell phones, or watch TV. More importantly, I observed the children interact and knew they could be comfortable in their own skin, proud of who they are and what they were accomplishing. Throughout the week I saw the transition as the kids slowly emerged from their shells, replacing fears with smiles, and best of all, make many lifelong memories. Volunteers, parents, and campers all truly became a family through this experience.
OHG is possible thanks to the selfless efforts of founders Christiaan Bailey and Frank Bauer. Bailey, OHG’s C.E.O., is a professional surfer and wheelchair user who was injured during a skateboarding accident in 2006. He is a coach at other camps for children with disabilities, working closely with families and offering his guidance along the way of recovery. The children chosen for OHG trips have a fire in their eyes the moment their parents drop them off at summer camp.
“For them, camp is a once a year opportunity, and they aren’t going to waist a single second of it,” says Bailey. “These kids don’t hide behind their disability, and refuse to let anyone make excuses for them.” These are the kids he looks for when selecting participants for an OHG camp. “The kids are passionate about making the most of the opportunities given to them. They just need someone to provide them that opportunity – that’s where we come in,” says Bailey.
I was able to see that spark after meeting Timothy Rodriguez, 12, and Chase Marcott, 14, who accompanied me on my OHG adventure. Both boys individually possessed that passion and yearning to experience everything life has to offer and push the limits put on their lives through their disabilities. Rodriguez and Marcott were born with spina bifida, and neither was willing to let that stop them in life.
The most encouraging part for me was watching these children as they got into the ocean for the first time. Their vibrant, ear-to-ear smiles as they caught their first wave, and the confidence they had knowing they were accomplishing something they never thought possible was a memorable moment for all. Their proud parents watched in awe as their children beat the odds on the shore of Costa Rica, completely at ease knowing they were in the safe hands of the many volunteers. As a parent, I understand the promise we hold for our children to reach every goal they dream.
I believe this program is the steppingstone to the path these children are going to make for themselves, making anything they encounter in their life possible. The ocean is truly healing, not only physically by the surf it provides but also the emotional and mental healing as the kids overcome the stigma of being “confined” to a wheelchair.
Aside from the surf and excitement of each day’s activities, the nights at Shaka were my favorite part of the experience. We spent each night eating dinner together, laughing, talking, playing games, and sharing the moments of our experience together as a new family. What could be better? The love and compassion from each of the volunteers was felt from the moment of arrival. I learned throughout the week, while talking with the volunteers (a couple of whom have been a part of OHG camps in the past), how the experience has humbled them and changed their lives, knowing they had a positive impact on the children’s lives in such a proactive way.
After returning home, I spoke to several people from my new OHG family. Bauer gave the best description of what being part of the program meant to him and the participants and people who make it happen. “Helping create this program has affected my life in tremendous ways, and being part of such an amazing experience has given a lot of purpose to my life,” says Bauer. “It’s something that helps so many and is very rewarding and enriching to my life and allows me to see the true gifts in life – it’s just a blessing.”
There are so many instances when the actions of a single person shape the course of the lives of many. When Bailey and Bauer first started strategizing this monumental undertaking, little did they know just how big an impact it would have on their lives, and more importantly, on the lives of the kids they would be “blessed” to work with. I believe following your passions in life, no matter what they may be or how far away they may seem, sets the course for who we are to become; that path is paving the way to the lives we are destined to touch, making anything possible.
For more information visit Ocean Healing Group online and don't forget to check them out on Facebook.
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on March 13, 2011 at 9:49 PM||comments (0)|
Thanks to your generous donations and sponsorship from an amazing sponsor (Thanks Brian), I was able to end this amazing year with a trip to Costa Rica with the Ocean Healing Group to surf with two amazing kids, and the OHG family for the JAWS- 7 camp.
This was a magical, and life-changing trip that was very enriching for all who were a part of it. We spent a week on the Nicoya Peninsula, in the town of Playa Hermosa at Shaka Beach Retreat. This was an amazing opportunity to have a major impact on two extraordinary youngsters, Timothy Rodriguez and Chase Marcott and their families. We used the week to take the kids surfing, zip lining, snorkeling and quad riding. This was also an amazing opportunity to have a positive and proactive impact on these boy's lives, showing them and proving that anything is possible and the sky is the limit for them, despite their limitations.
This was a perfect way to end the year and to start another amazing year of journeys.
Until next time...stay blessed
|Posted by email@example.com on September 30, 2010 at 11:46 PM||comments (0)|
September has been my month to catch up on everything that fell behind throughout my reign as Ms. Wheelchair America. I have been cleaning out closets, getting kiddos back into the groove of school and homework, and working on some projects that are going to be coming out in October. I am happy to say that I am already booked up for October, with the Atlanta Abilities Expo on the 14th, a speaking engagement in Charlotte about disability employment, and then in November I am heading to Costa Rica to surf with Ocean Healing Group and two amazing young boys born with spinal bifida. My journey is continuing and I am so grateful to all of you who have supported me and followed me over this last year. I can not wait to finish writing my story of adventure and hope.
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on September 30, 2010 at 11:21 PM||comments (0)|
On August 9th, I traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan to embark on another amazing week with some of the most amazing women I have ever met, at the Ms. Wheelchair America 2011 pageant. The week was full of activities, and I must say Shelly Loose really did an amazing job putting together and organizing this amazing week. She is an angel for sure!
All of the girls were able to bond and spend time together throughout the week while going on scavenger hunts around the city, eating dinner together with a mystery theater, and of course dancing!
Above: All of the girls in front of an amazing sculpture in Grand Rapids
Below: Dancing Queens
Then the night came when the girls gave their platform speeches in front of the audience and judges. They were all so nervous, but got up on that stage and courageously spoke about their passions. I was so proud of each and everyone of them.
Saturday night was the night we all waited for..the crowning ceremony. Here I would crown the new Ms. Wheelchair America 2011 after giving my farewell speech. My farewell speech is below:
On January 20, 2002, I was injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by domestic violence. After being in a coma for 2 ½ months, I awoke to learn that my life as I had known it for 21 years had been changed forever. The doctor’s told me that I would never walk again, and that I would be “confined” to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. They had no idea, and neither did I or my family, that I was going to be where I am now in life. I have proven to all of them, and myself, that anything is possible, as well as give them a reason to redefine there definition of “confined”.
The first couple of years after my injury, I was not introduced to other people in wheelchairs, especially other women in wheelchairs. The only thing that kept me getting out of bed from day to day was my children. Inside, I felt as if I had no purpose, but I knew that everything happens for a reason, and that if nothing else I had to show my three little girls that they can be strong, independent, and motivated women no matter what obstacles they faced in there life’s journey. I knew that I had to find a way to make my negative situation a positive one, and help not only my children to believe that anything was possible, but also the millions of other people that found themselves in the same situation that I was facing. I have never been one to give up, or stop living, and I was not going to stop now; that’s how I roll!
I started networking on the internet, building relationships with other woman just like me that were living with disabilities and realized there was a whole community that existed that I never knew about. It was a community that showed me that I could still surf, ride a bicycle, dance and play sports. A community that did not judge people’s outward appearance or their disabilities, but instead they focused and motivated each other to bring out their abilities; people who were showing the world that life rolls on. That is when I found out about the Ms. Wheelchair America Organization and it’s mission to educate the public about disability issues, and promote awareness. I figured this would be a great way to meet even more women like myself, and to share my story with as many people across the nation as I could, all with hopes of making a lasting impression of determination and motivation to others with the same circumstances. Little did I know that I was embarking on one of the greatest adventures of my life, up to this point.
Now, over a year later, I can’t believe how fast this time has gone by, and what an amazing year it has been! When this journey all began for me in April of 2009, when I was crowned Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina, I never expected what the future held for me. I also had no idea that I was going to meet some of the strongest, accomplished, and vivacious women that I have ever met, and who were also in wheelchairs from day to day. My week at the national competition in Rapid City, South Dakota was, by far, my most cherished memory of my year as Ms. Wheelchair America 2010. Throughout the week prior to being crowned, I was so humbled and touched by the other girls that were participating in the competition with me. We had all overcome so many obstacles to get to that point in our lives and each of us brought a unique and inspiring story of persistence and determination. I did not expect to leave that competition with a crown, but rather with new friendships that would last a lifetime, and a sense of humbleness for where I had come to at that point in my life.
After I was crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2010, I definitely realized that with my title I was going to represent all of those women plus the millions of others across the United States. It had to not only inspire many to do the same as I was doing, but also to set an example to all about accomplishing their goals and reaching their dreams, no matter how they may “roll” through life.
I have had many, many adventures along the way this last year. Here are a few highlights. There have been way too many to write.
In November I traveled to Washington D.C., to speak on behalf of the National Disability Institute and the IRS for the Real Economic Impact Tour kick-off at the National Press Club. It was definitely for a purpose that I hold very close to my heart. The REI Tour is to promote financial means and stability for people living with disabilities through education and vocational opportunities.
On New Year’s Day, I was honored to participate in the Tournament of the Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, along with Alyson Roth. (Ms. Wheelchair California 2009 and my second runner-up) We received the opportunity to ride on the Kiwanis International Foundation float in the nationally famous parade.
At the end of January, I traveled back to Rapid City, SD to downhill snow ski with the Black Hills Annual Ski for Light Organization, where I was able to visit with old friends and make many new ones, as well as experience adaptive snow skiing for the first time!
Another one of my favorite highlights was attending the Abilities Expos in October 2009, April 2010, and May 2010, in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Edison, NJ. There I was able to meet with many people of all ages with disabilities, as well as many of the companies within the disability industry.
Thank you to my sponsors over the past year, including Colours Wheelchair, Lega Wear, the National Disability Institute, 54 Freedom, NCAMES, VGM, and the many supporters who have donated toward my travel needs. And finally, my daughters and my family for standing behind me, as I reached for the stars.
It wasn’t until I had a moment to catch my breath at the end of my year, that I realized that I finally reached my biggest dream. That dream was to touch the lives of as many people living with disabilities with my story, and to show them that there is always a road ahead no matter what limitations they were facing, anything is possible. I have made so many friends and left an impression on so many people’s lives by advocating for, not only myself, but for the disability community at large. I know that this year’s title holder, as well as the Ms. Wheelchair America Organization will continue to thrive and make a difference in lives of many. To all who are competing this year, and in future years, I want to say that everyone of you are winners. It does not take a crown and sash to make a difference. It only takes going out into the world and showing that we are not “Dis”abled, but rather “Differently” abled. We are actually very able, just in a different way. It takes many voices, forming a community, to spread our messages and break the stigmas that exist about people who are living with disabilities, and that is the community that we are all building within the disability industry by representing our states and competing for the national title. It is not this week, and whether or not you win, that makes the difference, but rather the fact that you have overcome so many obstacles to get to this week in your life. You are all winners! And to our new Ms. Wheelchair America 2011, enjoy the adventure that you have just embarked upon!
Congratulations to the new Ms. Wheelchair America 2011, Alexandra McArthur, from North Carolina! We are all so proud of you!!
Above: Me crowning Alex!
Below: Alex and I in tears..this was such a proud moment for me
...and the new chapter now begins!....
|Posted by email@example.com on September 30, 2010 at 11:14 PM||comments (0)|
This month I was ready for some rest and relaxation before Nationals! I was able to travel to New York to visit some family and friends for a couple of weeks and then return home to prepare for my last week of being a title holder. It is kind of bittersweet. I am looking forward to passing along the title to another deserving young woman and allowing her to have this adventure. But, I am a little sad to see this chapter close because of all of the memories that I have made through out this last year. I will cherish those memories for the rest of my life. Thank you to all of you that stood by me and supported me along the way!
Above picture: Best friends and our children! Stacey and I have been friends for 23 years. and I don't know where I would be without her. Now our children are best friends as well!
|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on July 21, 2010 at 3:25 AM||comments (2)|
In June, I was honored to attend two different conferences in Wrightsville Beach, NC. The first on was for the NCPTA (North Carolina Public Trasportation Association). The second one was for the NCAMES conference. I was sponsored by Van Products, and treated like Royalty by Bill Schmidt at Van Products. I am so thankful for their generosity in getting me to the event!
At both, I shared my story and stressed to both groups how thankful we, as people living with disabilities are to them for all of their hardwork everyday to help make our lives more active and with less obstacles.
At the NCAMES conference I had many in my audience in tears and received a standing ovation after my speech. That was one of my proudest moments. I really felt as if I touched their hearts and encouraged them to remember that even on the worst day, they have helped my life and many others by what they do.
|Posted by email@example.com on July 21, 2010 at 3:12 AM||comments (0)|
At the end of May, I also had the opportunity to attend the NJ/NY Metro Abilities Expo 2010 with Colours Wheelchair and Ms. Wheelchair America. It was yet another amazing show..these shows are starting to feel like monthly family reunions! We all get so close to eachother throughout the shows that it is always hard to say goodbye, but we always know that we will see eachother at the next show.
At this show, I received my kit from Lega Wear and became an official Rep for the company! I am one of four American Representatives, for this amazing family.
I was also on the agenda for the show, for a "Meet Ms. Wheelchair America 2010". It was so amazing to me at how many people were looking forward to meet me, get my autograph, and hear my story. I was so excited.
Above pic: Me beating Trevor on his own obstacle course for a second time..maybe you'll win one in Chicago Trevor
Below pic: Me giving an interview about the Ms. Wheelchair America Organization
Below pic: Me meeting fans