Author Archives: Amelia'

About Amelia

AMS Vans provides news about issues that are important to people with disabilities, their loved ones, disability advocates and their friends.

Professor X’s Steampunk Wheelchair


Professor Charles Xavier, the brain and leader behind the popular X-Men comic book heroes, had a wheelchair that didn’t do very much when it was first conceived, but later became a hovering, futuristic device. Daniel Valdez took that a step further by imagining what Professor X’s wheelchair would look like in a steampunk universe, and he made that idea a reality.

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction, frequently featuring elements of fantasy that came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used — usually the 19th century, and often Victorian era England — but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date.


Valdez says he views his Professor Xavier’s Steampunk Wheelchair as an art project inspired by the idea of Professor X’s character, because he is “mysterious, comforting and interacts with his followers in a distinct way.” His creation has been featured in numerous magazines and websites for its innovative design and concept. While these features tend to focus on the on-board control panel itself, rather than the exquisite brass detailing on the corners of the control box or the beautiful metal work over the front tires, it goes without saying that this wheelchair is nothing short of amazing.


To create a steampunk version of Professor X‘s wheelchair, Valdez took a late 19th-century rocking chair, reupholstered it in crushed red velvet, and attached it to a a typical four-wheel, power wheelchair base. Every detail was modified and decorated with objects such as pistons from a 1930s ironworks. The front wheels are covered in wicker to complement the Victorian style of the chair and control panel, which was modeled after the movies The Time Machine and Wild Wild West, and made from beautifully varnished wood with brass, antique-style levers to control the steering, speed, battery, ignition, volume, and pumps.


A custom audio system was put into the chair, including speakers and a sub-woofer that emit different sounds depending on whether the chair is starting, idling, turning, braking, and so forth. There is also a multicolor battery indicator and a working smokestack, complete with crown shaped topper on a pipe coming out of the back, giving the illusion that the chair is steam-powered.

Additionally, no steampunk vehicle would be complete without a drink dispensary filled with a vodka-cranberry mix encased in four bubbling tubes, keeping the alcoholic concoction perfectly mixed, and attached to the back of the wheelchair with an accessible tap at the front, with an ice tank to keep it cold.


Valdez is often asked if he needs the wheelchair to get around, and the answer is no. “I get asked that a lot by many people and I hope that fact doesn’t offend anyone. I’m fascinated by motorized wheelchairs, always have been,” explains Valdez. “Whenever I’ve shown this, I’ve perked the interest of many people who do need a wheelchair, and I hope it has inspired them to seek out modifications of their own to individualize themselves.”

Football Player with No Legs Stands Out from the Rest


At a time when Ohioans are reeling from the football shame of Buckeyegate, Bobby Martin emerged as not only a football hero but as a motivator to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles to achieve his goals. Martin lives his life by a code of optimism and personal strength, constantly changing what seem like drawbacks at first glance into strengths and assets.

At 19, Martin plays semi-pro football at a Dayton Ohio college without any legs. With a disease called Caudal Regression Syndrome that causes his body to end at his pelvis, Bobby maintains one of the top speeds on his team by running using his arms and hands as feet. Throughout high school and college, Bobby Martin has overcome adversity with a sense of humor. At a game in Cincinnati, officials prevented Martin from participating since he was not wearing shoes. Martin simply tied shoes around his waist and kept a smile on his face. Fortunately, football regulations have since been amended and Bobby is now allowed to play without limitations.

From birth, Martin was raised by his mother who instilled values and the mindset that his disability couldn’t hold him back from any goal he wanted to accomplish. Bobby grew into a man that flies down the hallways on his skateboard to his next class, a ladies man who claims to have had over 25 girlfriends, a motivational speaker for children with dreams of playing professional sports; spreading his message of hope and determination, and a loving father of a 3 year old boy.


Bobby Martin has no intention on slowing down his pace in life. His dreams are like many other 19 year old athletes, to finish college with a good college sports career, to move on into the NFL draft, and to continue to be the best father possible to his son. Martin continues to be an inspiration to us all when presented with a problem that initially seems daunting and overwhelming. Martin’s message is to keep looking at that problem, until that problem becomes an asset in another area of your life.


Wheelchair Soccer is a Growing Sport


If you’re looking for pity, you won’t find it with the wheelchair athletes on the indoor soccer field.  Wheelchair soccer is a full contact sport, and as many of the athletes note, it’s much more than a game.  Upon entering the field you have independence, confidence, and camaraderie that turns teammates into family members.  Everyone has their own story and reason to dwell on the negative more than the positive, but there is no time for that when you are focused on living and playing hard.

This past weekend, the 2010 National Indoor Wheelchair Soccer “Blue Northern” Championship occurred in Houston, Texas.  They were there to play hard while promoting the sport of wheelchair soccer which is a hybrid of soccer and basketball, and resembles water polo without the water.

Wheelchair soccer pits two six-man co-ed teams against each other over two 25-minute halves. The goal is the same as in soccer, except players throw the ball into a goal similar in size to a lacrosse goal.

The Houston Toros and the Houston Challengers were the representatives at this year’s tournament.

“We support each other; this sport is hard. You have to train and be fit to compete,” said Ricardo Cedillo Castaneda of the Houston Toros.

The players in the two different skill divisions were bumping against each other with their wheelchairs and laying out for loose balls while picking up fouls. In one case, a player was ejected, showing that these men and women are just as competitive as professional athletes, which is the way these athletes would like to be perceived.


William Lardi, chairman of the USA-IWS, and Dave Stephenson, co-director of the Greater Houston Athletic Association for the Physically Disabled, organized the event, which was both competitive and well organized.

“We sponsor local, regional and national tournaments and occasionally hold clinics to provide exposure of our sport to the disabled population,” Lardi said.  “We currently have several teams in the Houston area, the Northeast, Southern California and other locations across the US.”

“This is a sport that, when the athletes come and play it, they don’t want to leave it. They don’t want it to die. There is so much dedication between the coaches and athletes that this sport keeps living.”

Stephenson insists nobody should be sitting at home wishing they could do this or that when there are organizations like the IWS.

“We don’t turn anybody away. The goal is to compete. The goal is to grow the sport.”

This particular group focuses on wheelchair soccer with manual wheelchairs, but there are also powerchair soccer groups as well.

If you live in the Houston, Texas area – visit AMS Wheelchair Vans of Houston at

NYC Taxi of Tomorrow Finalists Not So Wheelchair Accessible as Promised


New York has been holding a competition for a “Taxi of Tomorrow” that was put in place 3 years ago and focuses on building a taxicab that would eventually take over the entire New York taxi fleet.  The vehicle would include features that are fuel efficient, offer more passenger space, provide accessibility to persons with mobility impairments, and be “iconic to New York City.” Recently, three finalists were announced, and some members of the disability community are outraged that only one of the three vehicles is a wheelchair accessible taxi.

The finalists announced Monday are Ford Motor Co., Nissan North America Inc. and Karsan USA. Karsan is a Turkish company that makes cars for such brands as Fiat and Hyundai.  The three finalists were chosen from seven submissions.


taxioftomorrow_karsan2#1 – The Karsan is the only wheelchair accessible vehicle out of the three finalists.

#2 – The Ford Transit Connect – can be converted after market, but does not come wheelchair accessible as is.


#3 – Nissan’s entry is based on Nissan’s NV200 model. Unlike the other two models, there are plans in the works to make it fully electric.

Currently only 240 out of more than 13,000 city taxis can accommodate a passenger using a wheelchair.

“We are disappointed that two of the vehicles are not being purpose built meaning we’ll still be dealing with vehicles that were not designed or manufactured for inclusive, wheelchair accessible travel,” said Edith M. Prentiss, co-chair of the Taxis for All Campaign.  “We have a unique opportunity to have a fully accessible taxi fleet and it would be a shame to see that opportunity go by the wayside.”

The Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) says that they have already gone above and beyond what is required of them for accessibility standards.

“Taxicabs are not required by the ADA to be wheelchair accessible,” said TLC Chairman David S. Yassky.  “Nonetheless it is the policy of the administration to be sure that we want this industry to be fully accessible.  Whether that means every single vehicle, whether that means a significant number of vehicles and a dispatch system that makes them accessible, whatever the specifics are the commitment of the administration is that this industry must be accessible even beyond what the ADA requires.”

State Assemblyman Micah Z. Kellner has introduced legislation that would mandate full taxi accessibility by 2013.  The legislator said that he is deeply concerned that this program may result in the status quo of inaccessibility.

“The Taxi of Tomorrow is a historic opportunity for the Mayor and the TLC to make New York the world capital of accessibility by mandating a 100% wheelchair-accessible taxi fleet,” said Kellner.  “The Mayor has stated repeatedly that he wants the Taxi of Tomorrow to be iconic—and I agree.  It should be an icon of inclusiveness – a city that welcomes all people should have a taxi that everyone can get into.   If the Mayor can’t choose an accessible vehicle, he needs to go back to the drawing board.”

Yassky said that regardless of what vehicle is chosen, the new project won’t adversely impact accessibility.

“We are required by state law to have at least 240 accessible cabs on the streets, and the Taxi of Tomorrow won’t change that,” he told a small group of reporters at City Hall.  Yassky said it didn’t really matter whether they picked the Karsan vehicle that is accessible or not, regardless there will be accessible cabs either through after market modifications.”

The project was started by former TLC Chairman Matthew W. Daus who promised a fully accessible, fuel efficient taxi, prompting many who partook in the early negotiations say today that they felt betrayed by the lack of accessibility, an early promise by the Commission.

The three finalists have been asked to submit their best and final offering within the next month.  A winning design will be announced early next year; the chosen automaker will have the right to exclusively provide the standard taxicab for 10 years.

Officials expect the new vehicle to be on the road by the fall of 2014.

To visit the NYC Taxi of Tomorrow website and voice your opinion, visit

‘Precedent-Setting’ ADA Complaint Settled with Hilton Hotels


Hilton Worldwide, Inc. and the US Department of Justice announced an agreement on November 10, 2010 that 900 hotels in the chain would now be more accessible to guests with disabilities.  Prompted by allegations, Hilton must comply with a consent decree for failing to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  This marks the first time the Justice Department has required a franchiser to make such a sweeping survey of all its facilities so that the company can certify that the hotels comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Persons with disabilities who travel for pleasure or business must be able to count on getting the accessible room they reserved, and the hotel must provide the choice of amenities that everyone comes to expect from a major national hotel chain like Hilton,” said Thomas Perez, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

The Justice Department alleges that Hilton Hotels failed to provide the required number of accessible rooms, didn’t allow people with disabilities to reserve the rooms through an online system or by phone, and that they failed to disperse the rooms among the various categories of hotel accommodations.

The hotel chain agreed to review all of the hotels it owns or are part of joint ventures built after January 1993 for compliance with the law and regulations of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. Hilton runs hotel chains including Hampton Inn, Doubletree and Waldorf-Astoria.


As part of the consent agreement, Hilton must survey and bring into compliance all its U.S. hotels built after January 26, 1993 – the date the ADA regulations for public accommodations and commercials took effect.  In addition, the hotel chain must also upgrade its reservation system to allow people with disabilities to reserve accessible rooms, appoint a national ADA compliance officer, pay a $50,000 civil penalty, give staff ADA training, and do the same for all future hotels.

Hilton agreed to bring into compliance any of those hotels that were not ADA compliant, including ensuring that accessible rooms have roll-in showers and tubs as well as providing accessible rooms to those who have impaired hearing. For hotels that are franchise-owned or managed, Hilton agreed to require the owners to survey the properties for compliance with the Disabilities Act’s requirements when those agreements are renewed.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Hilton’s Worldwide president, Christopher J. Nassetta, said: “Hilton Worldwide is pleased to take further steps to provide our guests with disabilities the accessibility in accommodations they expect from an industry leader.”


New Floating Wheelchairs on Sarasota Beaches in Florida


Five beaches in Sarasota, Florida are now offering floating wheelchairs so users can get out and enjoy the water.

Beach wheelchairs have been a popular item already providing a method for people to get around on the sandy beaches that are difficult to traverse with regular wheelchairs, but they are not meant to go in the water.  The new floating wheelchairs add a new dimension to the experience of Sarasota’s white sandy beaches.


With bright orange floaters on the sides, the floating wheelchairs lean back into a reclining position once in the water.  They also feature large wheels that make it possible to move through deep sand.

There are 10 new floating wheelchairs being used starting today at 5 area beaches – Siesta, Nokomis, Lido, Venice, and Manasota.  Each beach will have at l floating wheelchair.


One person that has already tried out the floating wheelchairs, Ann Olson, was elated to be in the water again after 12 years of being in a wheelchair due to multiple scleroris.

“The wheelchair restricts where I can go and what I can do,” she said. “It was such a great opportunity. The water was nice and cool.”

Already patrons note that the beach wheelchairs are often in use, so they expect that the floating wheelchairs will be quite popular.


Although not meant to be used in heavy waves or independently, the floating wheelchairs are generally safe and provide a comfortable ride according to Andrea King, the program coordinator with Sarasota County Parks and Recreation.

“They’re more like a recliner or a lounge chair,” said King. “Your legs are out in front of you. It’s much more comfortable.”

The Mobi-Chairs cost the county about $2,400 each and will be great for those seeking wheelchair accessible vacations on the beaches of Sarasota, Florida.

5 Lesser-Known Resources to Get Senior Citizen Benefits


Now, more than ever, senior citizens are pushing back their retirement dates to make ends meet. Some are even coming out of retirement to take jobs with pay barely above minimum wage. In today’s economy, senior citizens need all the assistance possible. While benefits such as AARP, Medicare, and Social Security continue to be among the most well known and largest resources of income and health care above and beyond a senior’s standard pension plan, there are benefits to aid seniors in maintaining their lives that are not as well known.

1. The GETS (Government Emergency Telecommunication) card gives callers a higher chance of completing calls in times of emergency when the phone networks are congested. The card gives you access numbers and a personal identification number that would ensure a senior could call for help and get through. The card is perfect for seniors that live alone in areas that are at a higher risk for natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes. To see if you qualify, visit the GETS website at

2. Leading Age (formerly AAHSA – American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging) helps seniors and their families through not-for-profit organizations that provide services seniors need in their homes. Over 5,700 organizations that offer adult day services, home continuing care, retirement communities, nursing homes, home appliances, furniture, repairs, careers for seniors, and thousands of others joined together to assist seniors maintain their independent lives in their homes that live on a limited budget. To see all the services offered by Leading Age, visit their website at

3. Reverse mortgages are becoming more and more popular in America. Originally created by the Federal Housing Administration, a reverse mortgage enables you to withdraw some of the equity in your home. Many seniors use it to supplement social security and pension payments. It’s a special type of home loan that lets your convert a portion of the equity in the home into cash. The equity that built up over years of paying the home mortgage payments can be paid to the owner. Unlike a traditional home equity loan or second mortgage, no repayment is required until the borrower no longer uses the home as their principal residence.

4. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is available in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and offers financial assistance to senior citizens,  families, or individuals who qualify. The website is a little daunting and not quite user-friendly, but don’t let that dissuade you from filing for assistance. With the temperatures dropping and the home heating bills rising, every little bit helps. For more information, visit for more information.

5. is an all-in-one clearinghouse to help you get started with discovering what programs for which you’re qualified to receive benefits. It’s a service provided by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and according to their website, they’ve helped over 2,600,000 seniors find over $9 billion in benefits and counting as of the date of this writing. The BenefitsCheckUp could prove to be a godsend that can help you determine if you qualify for LIHEAP along with many other programs and is a must visit in your search for senior assistance

In addition to the above items, remember that many businesses offer a senior citizens discount, and some of those discounts do not make you wait until you’re a 65-year-old retiree. For example, AMC Movie Theaters offers a senior discount day for anyone 55-years-and-older. Check with your local AMC for more information regarding their day or if you don’t have one near you, try checking with your local multiplex for a similar offer. Be your own best advocate whenever you can and whenever we find more senior resources.

101-Year-Old Wins Discrimination Settlement Against NYC Salon


In April of 2008, Nettie Lobsenz, 99 at the time, went to a Mayra’s Beauty Salon in New York to get her hair done.  As the woman and her daughter approached with Nettie in a wheelchair, the owner told a young aid at the door not to allow them inside.  The daughter, Juliette Gould, 72 at the time, was told that they weren’t allowed in because her mother couldn’t walk.  Juliette left to get her mother’s walker, but they still weren’t allowed in, being told it was a liability issue.  Nettie, now 101, complained to the city’s Human Rights Commission that she was turned away for arriving in a wheelchair, and the parlor was forced to sign a conciliation agreement for $7,500 to the now 101 year old patron.


“When the owner or the manager of the salon saw us approaching, she came to the door and told the young woman not to let us in and she didn’t let us in,” Juliette said.

“They closed the door and looked passed us seeing what’s going on,” Nettie said.

“I said, ‘Is there a problem with the wheelchair? ” Juliette said. “The woman said, ‘The boss doesn’t want to let her in because she can’t walk,’ ” Juliette recalled.

That was when Juliette left to get a walker for her mother, but the parlor still refused to serve her.

“We just don’t want her in [here],” Juliette quoted her as saying, adding that she was later told there were “liability issues.”

Juliette said her mom was “more puzzled than anything else” at what happened at the parlor.

“She didn’t quite understand why the woman was so dead set against her getting in,” Juliette said.

The salon, which denies any discrimination, also has 30 days to post the sign saying it welcomes people with disabilities.

Watch the video below:

Woman Walks at Revival After 23 Years in a Wheelchair


Gospel singer and minister Delia Knox from Alabama was hit by a drunk driver on Christmas Day 23 years ago, and she was paralyzed from the waist down.  On August 27, 2010, Delia went to a revival and shocked the audience by getting up out of her chair and walking again.

Delia claims that during the revival, she heard a voice telling her to “Just get up”.  After being prayed over, she rose from her wheelchair and began moving her legs.  With assistance, she walked in front of everyone, amazing them.

The video was captured and posted to youtube.  She has since become a global sensation with invitations from around the globe for her to appear as a guest speaker.

This past Thursday Delia returned to Buffalo, New York, for the first time without a wheelchair.  Family and friends gathered around her mother’s house waiting for her arrival.  Her mother, Amelia Roman, said that she has prayed for Delia to be able to walk again every single day since the accident.

“My house is a house of miracles!  I tell you, there is only one way, the Lord.” said Amelia.


Her family cheered as Delia pulled up to the house wearing high heels and walked up the stairs to the front porch with minimal assistance.  Her mother wept with joy as the two embraced each other.

Delia said, “That was one of my things. I wanted to walk up the stairs and see my mom and dad who instilled faith in me, and I thank God they’re alive to see this.”

Carlos Benitez said, “It’s just beautiful. I can’t believe it, you know?”

“Our faith is God does miraculous things, and he’s done it here,” said Casimiro Rodriguez.

Delia claims she had no idea that on the night she was wheeled into the revival she’d leave on two feet.

“I’d stay away from revivals because I’ve been pulled, plopped and dropped. This time I walked; I wasn’t dropped,” said Delia.


Delia said, “All I know is I couldn’t walk, and now I walk.”

A lot of people believe in the miracle, and of course there are a lot of skeptics that also say that it is highly unlikely.


James Randi has been offering a million dollar prize through the James Randi Foundation for many years to anyone that can demonstrate “any psychic, supernatural, or paranormal ability of any kind under mutually agreed upon scientific conditions.”  So far, he says, not a single claim of hundreds of miracles or supernatural events has turned out to be true.

Randi viewed the video of Roman-Knox on YouTube and said it was a “case of whether she couldn’t walk or just didn’t” prior to Aug. 27.

“Where’s the evidence she could not walk? The evidence is pretty clear that she did not walk,” said Randi.

The preacher on Aug. 27 may have displayed enough charisma to convince Roman-Knox that she did indeed possess the ability to walk, or she may have been walking on her own before, away from the public eye, building strength in her legs.

“It’s hard to say without a real medical analysis,” he said.

The outside skepticism didn’t prevent friends and family of Roman-Knox, who is known in evangelical Christian circles for her beautiful singing voice, from reveling in her apparent recovery.

“We’re celebrating today a God that continuosly does miracles. She is just an instrument in his hands,” said the Rev. Alberto Lanzot, pastor of Hispanic United Methodist Church and one of several area preachers on hand for Roman-Knox’s arrival. “We’re celebrating a God that has not forgotten Delia, that has not forgotten us, that has not forgotten Buffalo.”

Watch the videos below!

Actual 13 minute long video of the revival:

What do you think?