Monday, March 18, 2019

Spotlight: Thomas Panek

Yesterday, Thomas Panek, the president and CEO of the nonprofit school Guiding Eyes for the Blind, became the first blind person to complete the New York City Half Marathon. Three Labrador Retriever guide dogs named Westley, Waffle, and Gus took turns leading him to the finish line in two hours and 21 minutes. Although Panek started to lose his eyesight in his early 20s, he didn't want to stop running. He ran with volunteer human guides until 2015, which is when he developed the Running Guides program to train running guide dogs. Panek hopes his latest accomplishment will inspire other people with disabilities to achieve their goals. For more details on this story, go to

On a side note, today's Google Doodle honors Seiichi Miyake, who created the tactile paving slab (known as the tenji block in Japan) 52 years ago for blind people who walk around cities while tapping the ground with a cane. To learn more, go to

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Thomas Panek during the NYC Half Marathon
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Monday, March 11, 2019

March: Wheelchair Collection Month

The disability ministry Joni and Friends, which has declared March to be Wheelchair Collection Month, is sponsoring wheelchair collection drives all over the United States. (Melbourne is the only drop-off location in Brevard County.) There is a great need for wheelchairs; according to Joni and Friends' website, only 10% of people who need wheelchairs have access to them. Used manual wheelchairs (including those that can be easily repaired) are accepted along with other mobility equipment such as walkers and crutches. Wheelchair donations are tax-deductible. Volunteers participating in the wheelchair collection drives are known as "Chair Corps." Go to to find the volunteer closest to you and schedule a pick-up or drop-off before the end of this month.

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Joni and Friends' updated logo
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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease is a rare medical condition in which a child's hip bone falls apart due to interrupted blood flow. Symptoms include limping and limited range of motion of the hip joint. Perthes disease can be treated by limiting physical activity, wearing a brace, or surgery; recovery takes two to five years. Children with this condition are less likely to have major hip problems later in life if they are diagnosed before age six. A week ago (two days before Rare Disease Day), actor and Entertainment Tonight co-host Cameron Mathison (who was diagnosed with Perthes disease early in his childhood) appeared on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? He donated his winnings to the Legg-Calvé-Perthes Foundation. For more information, go to

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Legg-Calvé-Perthes Foundation logo
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Monday, February 25, 2019

Spotlight: Keith L. "I'M POSSIBLE" Brown

Keith L. Brown, who likes to refer to himself as "Mr. I'M POSSIBLE," was considered a special education student because he was a very talkative and hyper child. This didn't stop him from being successful as a consultant and an author. Brown founded the I'M POSSIBLE Institute to teach people how to be effective communicators and leaders. He has made appearances on Showtime at the Apollo, Family FeudCelebrity Name Game, and radio shows. Married with one son, Brown received the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award. He will be speaking on the Main Stage of the Simpkins Fine Arts Center at the Cocoa campus of Eastern Florida State College from 2:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M. on Thursday, February 28. For more information about Brown, go to

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Keith L. "I'M POSSIBLE" Brown
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Monday, February 18, 2019

Wheeling to the End of the World

To continue with the theme of travel for people with disabilities, this post is about a national park with hiking trails named Torres del Paine in southern Chile. The beauty of the 1,127-square-mile park draws people from all over the world. One of its trails, Base de las Torres (a leg of the W trek), ends with a rocky ascent. With assistance, Álvaro Silberstein became the first person in a wheelchair to make it to the end of the W trek in 2016. He was pushed in an all-terrain wheelchair called Jóelette, which can be used by anyone with reduced mobility for free, but it must be reserved in advance at EcoCamp Patagonia. Silberstein was featured in a short film entitled Adventure Is for All, which won first place in the Adventure in Motion film contest last year. He founded Wheel the World, a travel company for people with disabilities in Chile as well as Peru and Mexico. To read more about hiking in Torres del Paine, go to

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Álvaro Silberstein and others during his trek
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Monday, February 11, 2019

Winnebago's New Handicap Accessible Motorhomes

If you don't like cruises, perhaps you prefer road trips. Winnebago displayed three new accessibility-enhanced motorhomes at the 2019 Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa last month. More comfortable for traveling wheelchair users, the RVs include a wheelchair lift; other features include roll-in showers, a ceiling track mobility system, and customized beds. Unfortunately, these RVs cost more than $200,000. (It's fun to dream, right?) For the occasional road trip, renting a handicap accessible RV would be more economical. For photos of and information about Winnebago's handicap accessible motorhomes, you can click on the following links: Intent 30R AE (, Adventurer 30T AE (, and Forza 34T AE ( Safe travels!

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Winnebago's Intent 30R AE
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Note: Online registration for the 21st Annual Family Café at the Hyatt Regency Orlando taking place June 7-9 opens at 9:00 A.M. on Thursday, February 14. Go to to register for this event, which features disability-related workshops, vendors, guest speakers, and the Governor's Summit on Disabilities.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Nassau and Charlotte Amalie: Accessible Ports of Call?

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Nassau and Charlotte Amalie on a map
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Last week, I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise with my family for the second year in a row. I was excited partly because the cruise included two ports of call to which I hadn't been before: Nassau (the capital of the Bahamas) on New Providence Island and Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas (the capital of the United States Virgin Islands). Getting off the ship wasn't difficult; the ports themselves were wheelchair accessible with no steps. While they looked aged, the sidewalks were flat enough with cracked curb cuts on street corners. Shopping for souvenirs was a little challenging for me because the aisles in stores were narrow. I didn't stray too far from the ship, so my awareness of the handicap accessibility of Nassau and Charlotte Amalie is limited. For more comprehensive reviews of these two locations, you can go to and They make Nassau and Charlotte Amalie sound like good destinations for wheelchair users.

My dad and I in Nassau, Bahamas
(photo by Tracy Jensen-McGrath)