This past weekend was the Abilities Expo at the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. This was my first year going, though to be fair, I’m not really sure if there were any before. I’m assuming there were by the way people were talking. But either way, it was my first time going. I’m glad I did.
The hubs, the little mister and I went. This was the first time taking the baby on any sort of road trip and excursion. He did well, which was a huge plus! Parking at the convention center was a nightmare. There was a designated lot for the Abilities Expo. However, there weren’t any additional handicapped parking spaces. Doesn’t it seem like common sense to increase the number of wheelchair spaces when there is a convention aimed at people in wheelchairs? We were lucky enough to find a space on the opposite end of the elevator that was next to another empty space. So, at least I was able to get out of the car OK.
The other downside was that the configuration needed a little work. Checking in, there were long tables and two rows on the pre-registered side and three rows on the on-site registration side. The tables were next to each other. The entrances were on the opposite ends of the tables. So, if you were on any of the inside rows, you had to backtrack and cut through the lines of people. This was super hectic for us, with me being in a wheelchair and the hubs pushing the stroller. And, given that a majority of the people were in wheelchairs or with wheelchairs, it was hectic. The aisles inside the convention were fairly narrow too. For a normal convention, I’m sure they were fine. But, again, factor in the amount of wheelchairs, and it was jammed. There were tons of traffic jams on the inside.
Ok, those were the negatives. Now for the positives. It was amazing to see so many people in wheelchairs in one place. All ages and walks of life. All different levels of functionality. It was pretty cool. I overheard people who were friends on Facebook meeting in real life. That was pretty cool, and a testament to the benefit that the community groups on Facebook provides.
I had gone looking to talk to a representative of Tilite, the wheelchair company that I currently use, as I want to order a new wheelchair. But, then I met a representative from Colours, another wheelchair maker. I’d heard of them, but didn’t know much about their chairs. Within seconds of my going up there, the man identified the 3 main things that I hate about my wheelchair and told me how they would fix it on a new wheelchair. An added benefit is that they are manufactured about 45 minutes from my house, so I can go there to get measured and have it repaired if it gets fixed. So, that was a huge benefit of going to the Abilities Expo! Opened my horizons, for sure!
I picked up a FreeWheel, which I’d been thinking about for quite a while. I’d already bought the Dragonfly wheelchair attachment, which turns my wheelchair into a handcycle. That was a pretty great investment! If a person is looking for a great way to exercise, I recommend this! I’d been looking to add the FreeWheel to my collection which will be amazing for my trips to Wyoming. It’s going to open up more outdoor areas: grass, dirt roads, etc. And I’m looking to use it in my own backyard so I can finally start a garden! I was stoked that they were selling these at the Abilities Expo and can’t wait to try it out!
The coolest part of the Abilities Expo may have been the bikes. There was an exhibitor showcasing their bikes which had been specifically designed for people with disabilities. The pedals were held up in the front, which is huge for a person with drop foot, like myself. (In the video, you can see at the end how my feet are inclined to point down.) The bikes had a handle on the back so an able bodied person can help give you a push if needed, or a stop, I suppose if you’re picking up too much speed. The bikes are custom made in Canada, and built to the individual’s specifications. They told me to jump on, but I was reluctant. After the hubs gave me some encouragement, I decided to give it a try. I am so glad that I did! I actually pedaled two small laps! Being an incomplete paraplegic, I do have some functionality in my legs. My hips have managed to come back pretty strong, which allows for the pedaling. My left quads are fairly strong (not like pre-paralysis strong, but compared to no movement, they’re strong) which allowed my left leg to pedal pretty well. My right quads are kind of there but not as strong. The problem was with bringing the leg back up and around. So, I just use my hand to help my right leg along and was able to go! It was exhilarating!! I always say that not being able to ride my bike anymore is the biggest hardship from being paralyzed. This gave me that joy back. And sweat. It gave me a lot of sweat. I’m not sure that I will pick one up, as it was on the pricey side, and I live in a hilly area. If I lived in the flat lands, I would pay for it without even second guessing! But for now I have the video of my adventure.
I am so glad that I went to the Abilities Expo! I didn’t attend any of the workshops or panels. And I didn’t see the dancing girls or participate in the world’s largest wheelchair painting. But I made the most of the exhibits that I did want to see. I got better access to my backyard by purchasing my FreeWheel. And I can’t wait to make use of it in Wyoming! And I found my new wheelchair, which I hope to get in the works in the next few days. And I got to experience the joy of riding a bike again. I would consider all of that a win!