For People With Disabilities, 2014 Is The Year To Think Big - The Mobility Resource

As 2014 dawned many people took at least a few minutes to resolve to somehow do better in their lives. Whether it’s the ever popular goal of losing weight, going back to school, or spending more time on a favorite hobby, turning the calendar to 2014 offered the chance to start anew once again.

By the middle of January, if not sooner, every late night talk show host had taken his turn at making a crack about new year’s resolutions already being forgotten. Yet, I generally choose to join the resolvers. In fact, last year I took the step by posting my 2013 resolutions right on my computer. Literally.

No, I didn’t tweet them or post them on Facebook. I did write a blog post about them. I guess when you’re a writer, it’s what you do. I printed them out and used a magnet to stick them on my computer tower.

If you’re wondering what a computer tower is, ask your parents.

Finally taking them down in the last week of December, I remember thinking I did pretty well.  I actually finished writing a rough draft of a novel I had started to write in 2012. After months of effort I read it and thought “eh.” So, for now, it’s in a drawer. I didn’t quite create a regular pickup game of manual wheelchair hockey, but I tried playing on a power wheelchair hockey team—Philadelphia PowerPlay. Technically, I expanded my boundaries on the cycle by going a couple extra miles into new territory, but nothing like I wanted. I was in good enough shape to do it, but opportunity doesn’t always meet preparedness. And we won’t discuss my effort to stop wasting time on Facebook.

If I add up the two halves, I’m counting 2 out of 4. Hey, bat .500 for a year at the plate in the majors and I guarantee you’ll make the mid-summer classic.

This year I decided to think long-term. Sure, I want to publish some fiction by the end of 2014, and I’m at least training like I want to do the MS Ride in September. But this year I resolved to do something that I absolutely knew I won’t accomplish by the time 2015 arrives. I won’t even be close. I may never be. But I think there’s something to putting a goal down on paper or out in the universe. Therefore, I decided to set a life goal. It’s a goal I actually mention in my book, but never detailed.

I am going to build a rec center for people with disabilities in the suburban area of Philadelphia.

I have a vision of part gym, part night club, part game room, part living room.

The primary thought is to create a space for people with physical disabilities to have a chance to connect with each other in a place built for us. My idea is to have a place to go to simply be with others in our community. I think of teenagers or even adults who might head to the Y or the playground knowing they can likely find a pick-up game of hoops that they can join. Plenty of people might stop at a bar in the hopes of finding someone to talk to. Others might hit the gym for the social benefits as much as for the workout.

Of course, people with disabilities aren’t excluded from any of those activities. But it’s rare to “bump into” someone else with a disability. Often we shy away from the bar scene for various reasons surrounding our disabilities—at least I do. And even having our friends with disabilities to our homes or going to their homes can be a challenge because of distance or the individual accessibility issues of each person.

As a kid, I rarely got to just hang out with friends. Even now, getting together with friends with disabilities just to watch a ballgame would be a challenge. My home is accessible for me but not necessarily my friends. Most of us live quite a distance apart. And that’s just the start of the conversation.

It might be a big dream to build a place where I know a bunch of us could easily get together to watch a ballgame, have a drink or even play a little hoops. Funding issues alone would make it almost impossible to give a team like the Philadelphia PowerPlay a permanent home of their own. I already know of the many pitfalls a friend came across in her thoughts of creating an accessible fitness center years ago.

In fact, while my friend doesn’t have a disability, thinking of the concerns that squashed her plans before they ever really got going made me want to set this goal even more. I was always taught to be very realistic about my limitations, a message I have begun to think I took too much to heart.

I remember wondering why my friend was worried about how people would get to her fitness center, as if it would be part of her responsibility to provide transportation. But in thinking about my idea, I realize that perhaps it was just a very realistic concern—if people can’t get to a place, it won’t be very successful. Even the thought of trying to “work the system” to help a segment of the local disability community reach a rec center on a regular basis is beyond intimidating to me. Of course, getting to the point of worrying about transportation might never happen. Trying to network with the right people to fund such a project seems impossible when networking for a job was always a nightmare. I don’t have a clue what would go into finding a location let alone actually building the rec center.

I could easily let these concerns along with plenty of others put an end to my idea. If this resolution ever goes anywhere those concerns may very well be its end.

However, instead of being realistic and figuring out all of the reasons it won’t work, I thought it was time to think of what might be. I’ll never be a guy who jumps into the water hoping I learn how to swim, but it might be time to figure out how to enjoy the water anyway.

At the beginning of last year I worried that self-publishing a book could be a big waste of time and money. Instead, with the book out and having dipped my toe back into the freelance writing pool in 2013, I started this year hopeful for an even better 2014. I’m convinced more than ever that writing is my vehicle to all of my professional goals. No doubt it would take the revenue and clout of a bestseller or two to even start to think about making the rec center a reality.

But a new year was dawning and thinking big never hurts as long as the little things are being attended to.

I hope the year is off to a great start for everybody. It’s not too late to think big in 2014 and beyond.

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