I didn’t believe my 14 year old self when a physician told me I was to be reliant on a mobility scooter or wheelchair by 25. I laughed and played it off reassuring myself I was different than the rest.
My FSH muscular dystrophy progression wasn’t as noticeable; I could still run and play competitive sports surely my physical state wouldn’t succumb to that. Many nights were spent balling my eyes out scared of being defined by an assistive device. I refused to accept reality blind to what all the research said. Why was I so afraid of wheels as legs? I would become another statistic, another check off the researcher’s list, another burden to the able-bodied. Something about being labeled “disabled” or “handicapped” all of which my core defied pierced my thoughts.
The best decision my 22 year old self made was to face this ugly monster of a mental obstacle and purchase a 3 wheeled, red, shiny scooter. The last 9 months have been the antithesis of everything I expected. I am alive, inspired, and ebullient. My scooter takes me places I would have never considered in a million years.
There are tons of perks with wheels: people holding doors open for you, front row seats, free parking and in general people lending a hand. However, not to say getting wheels has been all kittens and rainbows. Scooters require regular maintenance and parts break or loosen from regular wear and tear. It’s a machine, and machines break. Downtime can be weeks or months depending on the part. Being 100% reliant on electronics for mobility is scary when insurance is not able to supply a backup and this is the reality of the situation.
Now that they see me rollin (not hatin’), I’m even more cognizant of uneven surfaces, curb cuts, ramps, elevators and overall ADA accessibility. My scooter takes a hard beating in the city of Atlanta, so I dedicate my free time to advocate for change. The way I advocate is by wandering around the city, taking pictures/videos of areas that need improvement and submitting claims through the Department of Public Works.
The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design notates that there must be an accessible path of travel. We are at a pivotal point in architectural history were we are required to start designing for wheels first. If we design for wheels first, we are saying yes to inclusion. If we design for wheels first, we believe in equality.
Another way I advocate for disability awareness is by taking on outdoor physical adventures. The last 2 years my family coined the term “Piggybacks for a Cure”. My brother and sister have carried me piggyback through two Reebok Spartan Sprints and raised awareness through NBC’s American Ninja Warrior. Our next piggyback adventure in October is partnered with Vestigo where we will conquer Georgia’s 78 mile section of the Appalachian Trail.
My belief is to show the world that regardless of your physical condition, you don’t just give up on life rather you look for outlets to inspire action and lobby for change.
Read Carden’s first story called Equal Access here!