Stunner on Wheels: Alexandra Santibanez, Paralyzed Miami Fashion Model

They say getting injured at a younger age makes it easier transition-wise, and Alexandra Santibanez certainly proves this is the case. A fashion model hailing from Miami, Florida and a motivational speaker and advocate for disability awareness, her injury at the age of five has barely slowed her down.

But what we especially love about Alexandra is her sense of style. Not only is she a model, but she went on to receive her bachelor’s in a field perfectly suited for the fashion industry, making sure she’s armed and ready for the future.

Brilliantly smart and the most fashionable woman on four wheels in South Florida, this is the outstanding story of Alexandra Santibanez. Read this entry

En Garde: The Awesome World of Wheelchair Fencing

Arguably one of the most elegant adapted sports ever created, wheelchair fencing remains untouched in the coolness and disability departments. It’s one of the oldest adapted sports out there, yet it still remains one of the most popular, and it’s hard to argue why.

There are paralleled inexpensive adaptations for this sport; some of the cheapest you’ll find out there among any other adapted sport. All you need is a weapon, protective gear and really good brakes, and you’re set. Read on for three videos showing the best of what wheelchair fencing has to offer.

SCI Superstar: Marc de Hond

The “Ryan Seacrest” of Amsterdam, Marc de Hond is a well known TV personality and presenter who started out his media career as a DJ, but he wasn’t always paralyzed. A tumor on his spinal cord had different plans, and it changed his entire life when he was 25 years old.

But what’s glorious is how Marc threw himself back into life after rehab, especially since his rehabilitation stay was longer than most due to his incomplete injury, and he soon realized his wheelchair was a better form of transportation vs. desperately trying to walk, and it was in this moment he reclaimed his life.

Read on to see what Marc has been up to since his injury. Read this entry

Deep Thoughts, from the Wheelchair-User POV

Having a spinal cord injury means thinking about the bigger picture. I’m not saying all of us have copious amounts of free time to wane philosophical, but it comes with a package when you sustain a spinal cord injury.

Is it God’s plan? How do I move past this? How can I be ok with using a wheelchair in public? These are the big questions we SCIers ask ourselves, and it’s not easy finding an answer. Sometimes, there’s no answer to be had, but there is however always a worthwhile, valid opinion from other people out there.

With that said, here are three phenomenal videos from people with SCI and other disabilities sharing their deep thoughts on aspects of living with a disability. Read this entry

SCI Superstar: Ashlee Lundvall

Growing up with a Dad as a pastor, Ashley Lundvall was raised to be positive, but after a teenage freak accident, her nature was challenged….but only for a short while.

Now a motivational speaker, Ms. Wheelchair Wyoming, a wife and mother, this determined woman got over her fears and vowed early on her wheelchair wouldn’t take anything more from her. Strong women are what we love to profile here at SPINALpedia, and Ashlee Lundvall could very well be the cover girl for them.

Whether she’s hunting in the wilderness of Wyoming or taking her daughter out shopping, she is a great example of what can be achieved in spite of a spinal cord injury, and we love her for it. Read this entry

Quadriplegic Animator Launches Kickstarter Campaign

drewwarnerDrew Bates, one of the only …if not the best quadriplegic animator/voice-over actor in the world needs your help.  That’s right – he is launching a $30,000 Kickstarter campaign for his REDNECK NINJAS comic/cartoon.

I have been a fan of REDNECK NINJAS for years, and Drew deserves the chance to create the hysterical shorts I know he has in him. If he meets his $30k Kickstarter goal, his plan is to create three new 60 second animated shorts for his YouTube channel, and if they’re anything like this one, you know they’ll be good.

So donate! I mean how can you not?! Have you seen Drew’s cute mug? =) Pledge here.

And remember, it’s rurally powerful, Kung-fu cool!

– Pledge today! REDNECK NINJAS on Kickstarter

– His official site: Drew Bates, the quadriplegic animator

– My podcast interview w/ Drew Bates: Drew Bates: Voice-over actor, storyteller, aims high – June, 2011

Never Easy: How Do You Ask for Help?

It can be a lesson in maturity learning how to be ok asking for help. Truly ok; not the kind kind where you can’t look them in the eye when you ask. In our culture, it can be seen as a sign of weakness, and when you sustain a spinal cord injury, it’s hard to overcome this is a big way.

But even the walkers (not the zombie walkers) of the world eventually need help. Say you were moving a piano, you would need help. We come out of the womb needing help; it’s just a fact of life, and people with spinal cord injuries can become experts at it.

From a sassy school teacher who has no problem asking for help (and giving it too) to a few guesses as to why the jerks of the world don’t like helping is, here are three videos showing that asking for help should be the last of your worries in life. Read this entry

SCI Superstar: Damon Rozier

“Laughter is the key to life” is a quote Damon Rozier, a C7 quadriplegic and standup comedian, lives by. After his spinal cord injury, filled with anger and frustration, he worked hard to not let those emotions take over, and so far he is on the winning end of the stick. Also a single-dad and an aerobics instructor, Damon is truly non-stop.

In fact, Damon has been excelling at it quite impressively. Since his injury he’s done comedy work with BET, motivational speaking all around the country, as well as tried out several adapted sports, from quad rugby to wheelchair racing. Damon is driven to show others anything is possible.

Energetic, funny, positive – there is not one negative adjective you can use to describe this unforgettable man. Read on to learn more about Damon Rozier, one of the funniest wheelchair comedians in the world. Read this entry

No Free Rides Episode #106 – Integrative Therapy Pioneer Chanda Hinton Leichtle

Chanda and her husband Paul.

In podcast #106, Tiffiny is joined by the gorgeous Chanda Hinton Leichtle, a C5-6 quad from Denver and the famous namesake of the Chanda Plan Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to bringing free non-Western integrative therapies – acupuncture, massage and adaptive yoga – to people with disabilities all over the country.

During the show, Tiffiny has Chanda open up on her early years post-injury (after being accidentally shot in the neck at age 9), and shares how she found the strength to leave her small rural town in Nebraska after high school to attend college in Denver, where entire life changed. At age 21, she hit a rocky patch – increased chronic pain that dropped her weight to dangerous levels.

But this hard experience gave birth to an amazing organization – the Chanda Plan Foundation. What saved Chanda were non-Western therapies, and she and the foundation have dedicated their lives to spreading the excitement of these therapies to as many people with disabilities as possible.

Tune in for a great conversation, and to to hear two quadriplegic women gush about yoga. You can’t go wrong with this episode.

– Learn more: Chanda Plan Foundation

Apply to receive direct services from the Chanda Plan Foundation

No Free Rides is sponsored by

Show run time is 45 minutes. Listen via the player below.


IZ Adaptive Designs to be Showcased in Museum Exhibit

Now this is something I can guarantee you’ve never seen at any museum before. Debuting this Saturday at the Royal Ontario Museum,  also known as the ROM, Canada’s largest natural history museum, is a textile exhibit sure to impress any wheelchair-user, or anyone interested in fashion created for the seated form.

Called Fashion Follows Form: Designs for Sitting, this exhibit showcases the brilliant designs of Izzy Camilleri and her line IZ Adaptive, which were all created with wheelchair-users in mind. But it’s not just showcasing her designs and no one else’s. The exhibit also will be showcasing designs from the 18th and 19th century that were also created for the seated form.

This part is pretty cool considering how difficult it is to preserve textiles from even 100 years ago. I absolutely love antique clothing for this very reason. To get into specifics on the new garment side, Izzy will be showing 12 of her looks, including her leather jacket that splits into two with a vertical zipper for easy access, a trench coat with the shorter back (my all-time fave) and her gorgeous wheelchair-friendly wedding dress.

And there will be 6 antique textile pieces shown alongside IZ’s garments. A few of these include a dolman created to accommodate a large bustle, 18th century breeches and a 19th century side-saddle riding habit. All of IZ’s garments will also be shown on standing mannequins to demonstrate why the designs work so well for sitting.

Also, 12 of Izzy’s iconic designs, garments she’s made for film, will also be on display, including her silver fox coat worn by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada.

Fashion Follows Form debuts this Saturday, June 21, 2014 at the ROM and will run through January 25th, 2015. And even cooler – if you can’t make it in person, the exhibit will also be online. I’m so glad an exhibit like this is happening. It will give a huge slice of the population insight into a world, a textile issue, they’ve never thought of before.

And if you’ve never gone to the ROM, definitely consider going in you’re in the Toronto area. It has won several accessibility awards and has dozens of fascinating exhibits. You won’t regret it.

Will you go to Fashion Follows Form: Designs for Sitting?

– Learn more: Fashion Follows Form: Designs for Sitting

– Izzy Camilleri’s online clothing store: IZ Adaptive