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We hope you’ll visit our wheelchair blog often, because we promise to bring you an engaging perspective every day. A physical disability presents unique challenges for the individual, the family and the caregivers.

5 Actors on Wheels Making Moves in Hollywood

The characters we see on film and TV are becoming more and more diverse. It’s not uncommon these days to see a character with a disability in a show or movie. In the past, though, most actors portraying those characters were played by actors without disabilities. But, thanks to the hard work and perseverance of many dedicated individuals, people with disabilities are taking their rightful place in Hollywood among the stars.

Here are some actors on wheels that have made a name for themselves in the entertainment biz.

1. Micah Fowler

actor micah fowler

Micah Fowler, Image: IMDB

What did you get for your eighteenth birthday? For Micah, he got a lead role in a TV series. The show Speechless is about JJ, a young adult living with cerebral palsy. It aims at giving viewers insights on the challenges faced by people, and specifically teens, with special needs. They tackle issues like dating, parenting, disability awareness, healthcare and more.

Born in 1998 in New Jersey, he started acting when he was five because of his older sister and best friend, Kelsey. He took the next step in his career after his sister booked a role on Broadway. This led him to roles in Blue’s CluesSesame Street, and the film Labor DayMicah is also an ambassador to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and devotes his time to the foundation’s efforts when not performing.

2. Teal Sherer

actress teal sherer

Teal Sherer, Image: IMDB

Teal went from taking theatre classes in college and working on school productions, to starring in the Emmy nominated film Warm Springs alongside Kathy Bates, and working closely with Kenneth Branagh as he prepared for his role of Franklin D. Roosevelt. She has appeared on TV on Survivor’s Remorse, The Guild, and more recently on NCIS: New Orleans. Also a dancer, Teal has performed with the Full Radius Dance Company and appeared on the NBC pilot of I’m with Stupid.

Teal is well-known in the disability community for her web series My Gimpy Life, which won the 2013 Best Female Comedy Performance at the Web Television Awards. She has also been featured in national commercials for clients including Liberty Mutual insurance, Disneyland (Cars Land) and Chrysler.

Next up for Teal, she’ll be starring in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Cost of Living in Vancouver, Canada! And, we’re sure much more!

3. Daryl ‘Chill’ Mitchell

actor daryl Chill Mitchell holding an award

Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, Image: NewMobility.com

Daryl ‘Chill’ Mitchell is without a doubt one of the most recognizable faces when it comes to actors who roll, with film and TV credits dating back to the 80’s. His staying power is a testament to his work ethic and likable personality – and we can expect to see Chill on the big screen for years to come.

Starting as a member of a hip hop group in the 1980’s, he saw further success in acting with roles in films like House Party, The Inside Man, Galaxy Quest and 10 Things I Hate About You, to name a few. He also made appearances in TV shows like The Cosby Show, Becker, Brothers and Desperate Housewives. Since 2014 he has had a role on NCIS: New Orleans and joined the cast of Fear The Walking Dead in 2018.

Chill has paved the way for so many other actors on wheels -and we’re really proud to have as a customer here at AMS Vans in Atlanta!

4. Ali Stroker

actress and Tony award winner Ali Stroker

Ali Stroker, Image: AliStroker.com

You may have heard Ali Stroker‘s name recently, as she just became the first performer in a wheelchair to win a Tony Award for her role of Ado Annie in the revival of the classic Broadway show Oklahoma!!

She has performed at the Kennedy and Lincoln Centers, earned a Barrymore Award nomination for her role in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and was cast as Tamara in ABC’s show Ten Days in the Valley. A talented singer as well, Ali was a finalist on the second season of The Glee Project, and later appeared as a guest star on Glee in 2013. She played the role of Anna in Deaf West’s 2015 revival of Spring Awakening and appeared on the new Lethal Weapon TV series.

Being the first isn’t new to Ali Stroker. In fact, she became the first actress in a wheelchair to earn a degree in Fine Arts from New York University in 2009. Further, in 2015, she became the first performer in a wheelchair to appear on Broadway. If you have kids, you may have also seen her cameos on Sesame Street!

5. Santina Muha

actor and comedian Santina Muha

Santina Muha, Image: IMDB

Growing up in New Jersey as a member of an extended Italian family, humor has been a big part of Muha’s life. Paralyzed at the age of 6 after being involved in a car accident, she found that comedy would often ease the tension in a room. Santina grew up studying pop culture and learning from her favorite actors on TV – and from a young age, it was clear she was destined for stardom. Today she is a comic, actress, writer, storyteller and improviser currently plying her trade in Los Angeles.

Since joining UCB in 2013, Santina has contributed to their shows; hosting Rollin’ with my Homies, and writing and performing her one-woman show, That Girl in the Wheelchair. Not only is Santina raising awareness and dismantling stereotypes for people in wheelchairs through her comedy and writing, but she is also improving physical access to stages around UCB that have never been accessible before.

Santina is best known for her roles on Comedy Bang! Bang!One Day at a Time and starring opposite Joaquin Phoenix in Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. Keep an eye out for this Jersey girl, because you’ll be seeing much more of her!

If you're an actor in a wheelchair, Hollywood is ready for you! With dedication and hard work, your dream can come to life! #actorswithdisabilities Click To Tweet

 

Gaming Companies Making Efforts to Create More Inclusive Games for People with Disabilities

Boy is playing inclusive games on mini computer

More than half of the sixty million people living with disabilities turn to the world of gaming to meet the need for friendship, belonging and self-esteem. According to Mark Barlet, founder of AbleGamers, gaming is a way for them to free themselves from their disability. They can present themselves in a manner that has fewer stigmas.

The reality is, there is a huge market for accessible gaming for people with disabilities and with the advancement of technology, the options are growing. More than ever, developers are considering people of all abilities as they create their virtual experiences. 

PC is the Most Flexible 

While there may be objections amongst the disability community, developers believe that in terms of gaming platforms, the most flexible is the PC (Personal Computer). This is due to the many plug-and-play devices that can be used. While consoles offer more cutting edge games, they are often not suitable due to their closed systems.

There are, however, initiatives meant to make the inclusive games more accessible to a broader range of people, with everyone playing an equally important role; from the developers to the caregivers. This article looks at the initiatives being put in place and how they have helped more and more people with disabilities get into the world of gaming.

man playing video game with hand controls

AMS Vans’ Dallas Crum tests out some hand controls connected to a driving game.

Game Design

Game engines are the tools used in the creation of video games. More and more developers have understood why the element of inclusion should be considered from the beginning; at the game design level. This has been the case recently with specific game engines already encouraging accessibility. An example such as Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4, which enables developers to see the appearance of their game with various forms of color blindness, allows developers the opportunity of addressing disability in their game design.

Accessibility Features

Certain major brand consoles have also joined in on the push for more inclusive games. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 accessibility features allow the player to redesign the controller layout to one that would suit their needs.

There is also the Xbox Co-pilot option found on Xbox One. This feature allows a player to pair a second handset to the first one which allows the player to recruit a friend or caregiver to help with certain buttons or with multi-tasking.

With the increased popularity of Virtual Reality, it has opened another alternative to how gamers can enjoy the different products. However, there is still a way to go. Virtual Reality Headsets can be bulky and when they require head movement, that can be a challenge for some individuals. The opportunity they present for vast and diverse experiences for a user with limited mobility, though, can’t be ignored.

man wearing virtual reality headset

Virtual reality could be the future for gaming for people with disabilities.

Disability-Friendly Companies

Companies such as Special Effect are creating inclusive games and developing all new ways to enable people to play. Furthermore, they are crafted on a case-by-case basis to meet the specific person’s needs.

AbleGamers develop solutions that game developers can implement to make their products more accessible. Remappable keys; which would allow users to reconfigure controls, color-blind options and closed captioning are a few recommended solutions. Tutorials are essential for players with cognitive disabilities since they will allow players to learn the game without fear of failure.

AbleGamers educate content creators, hardware and software developers on how to develop accessible games. On top of that, they also teach and support caregivers on the advantages gaming has to those with disabilities. Events such as Accessibility Arcades help show disabled gamers the technology that helps them enjoy gaming like everyone else.

According to statistics, there are roughly thirty-three and a half million of gamers with disabilities in the United States, two-thirds of them being male. Click To Tweet

Find More Inclusive Games

Able gaming can be fun for people of all ages and abilities! The more accessible gaming is made, the more inclusive it will be. For more information on how this is being made possible, head on to AbleGamers.

Speaking of accessible equipment, we install a variety of hand controls for wheelchair accessible vehicles at AMS Vans! You can read about some of the options we offer here.

Type of wheelchair used in The Upside

What Wheelchair Does Bryan Cranston Use in The Upside?

The film The Upside has been the first sleeper hit at the movies in 2019 so far, earning over $76 million at the box office. In the film, Bryan Cranston plays a disabled billionaire named Phillip looking for help with his day to day functions. He hires a man named Dell Scott (played by Kevin Hart) as his caretaker.

As a quadriplegic, Cranston’s character’s wheelchair plays a pivotal role in the film as it is featured in nearly every scene. Let’s take a look at an overview of the film’s plot, what kind of wheelchair Cranston’s character Phillip Lecasse uses, and also what the film’s real message is.

What is The Plot of the Upside?

When we meet Phillip at the beginning of the film, it doesn’t seem as if he’s been confined to a wheelchair for long. He’s deeply depressed at the outset, clearly not adjusting well to his new lifestyle after a tragic hang gliding accident he suffered and his ex-wife’s passing. He’s looking for an assistant with the help of his caring and kind executive Yvonne, played by Nicole Kidman.

Enter Dell Scott. A down on his luck parolee who’s estranged from his wife and son, he’s bouncing from job interview to job interview without as much as a callback. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to get hired, he shows up at Lecasse’s swank penthouse apartment, desperate just for that signature that proves he’s actively looking for work.

Dell’s desperation and lack of respect for the process trigger something in Phillip. He hires Dell mainly because of how incompetent he thinks Dell will be in the role, almost hoping he fails due to his depression. Dell is overwhelmed in the role at first, though he greatly appreciates the large paycheck and luxury, live-in apartment with state of the art amenities.

The two spend the majority of the film learning each other’s worlds. Phillip takes Dell to the opera. Dell takes Phillip out for hot dogs. They come to respect and even like one another. As Dell and Phillip grow closer, Dell also begins working his way back into his son’s life.

Late in the film, Dell learns that Phillip has a pen pal to whom he writes romantic letters. Due to Dell’s antics, he ends up agreeing to meet her in person. Though the dinner goes well at first, she ends up saying they should remain friends. A heartbroken Phillip goes into another sad spell and fires Dell in misdirected anger.

In the end, Dell gets a new job manufacturing wheelchairs and buys a new home for his family. He reconnects with Phillip and takes him hang gliding. Phillip rediscovers his passion for life and strikes up a romance with Yvonne. Phillip and Dell remain friends to the present day.

What Kind of Wheelchair Does Bryan Cranston Use in the Upside?

Phillip’s wheelchair is known as an F5 Corpus. It features fully independent suspension, a 14″ seat elevator, and lowered seat to floor height for improved accessibility. It also features enhanced tilt functionality, with optional 10º, 20º, and 45º anterior tilt. It maintains 50º posterior tilt.

The wheelchair plays a big role in the movie, as it allows Phillip to perform a number of functions he wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

What is the Film’s Message?

The film’s message was that no matter what life throws your way, it’s important to cherish it and try to roll with the punches. Phillip’s character had been dealt a tough hand, but by connecting with Dell and learning more about his predicament, he understood that everyone has their separate battles to fight.

While living with a disability is a challenge, it doesn’t have to stop anyone from living a rewarding life that includes recreation, fulfilling work, and deep, meaningful relationships.

Bird Box Explained: Is the Janet Tucker School for the Blind a Real Place?

The Netflix film Birdbox debuted earlier this year and was a massive hit for the streaming service. The film stars Sandra Bullock as a mother trying to transport her two children through a post-apocalyptic wasteland while unable to use the power of sight.

One of the most prominent features of the film’s final act was a location known as the Janet Tucker School for the Blind. Watching the film may lead viewers to question whether or not the film’s climactic location exists in real life.

Let’s take a closer look at what happened in the film Birdbox and whether or not the school featured at the end of the film actually exists.

Synopsis

The story of Birdbox unfolds in a non-linear format. Sandra Bullock plays Marjorie, a reluctant mom who’s expecting a baby. As her sister drives her home from a doctor’s appointment, an unseen monster begins causing people to immediately commit suicide upon seeing it.

The only way to avoid it is to not look at it – effectively blinding yourself. The survivors have to get creative to avoid seeing the monster. Some wear blindfolds or keep their eyes closed. Others black out the windows of a car when they have to travel.

Marjorie ends up barricaded in a house with multiple strangers. The story flashes back and forth between that and the present day, where Marjorie transports two children from their hideout to a place they’ve heard about through a transistor radio. Along the way we see her resolve tested.

The Janet Tucker School for the Blind

Marjorie is able to successfully shield the eyes of her and her children from the monster. They arrive at their final destination: Janet Tucker’s School for the Blind. The final irony of the film is that the differently abled are now advantaged in this new society in which these horrible monsters terrorize those with the ability to see.

It’s the closest thing a story like this could get to a happy ending. The Janet Tucker School for the Blind is a sanctuary for Marjorie and her two children. It’s full of flowers, grass, singing birds, and smiling, happy people.

It’s a somewhat upbeat ending for a film that up until that point had been unceasingly bleak.

Is the Janet Tucker School for the Blind a Real Place?

In the film, the Janet Tucker School for the Blind is depicted as being in the middle of a forest, near the end of a long and winding river. It appears to be significantly separated from society. There are no cities or major metropolitan areas anywhere near it, making it a great location for the story’s hero to rest after spending the entire film on the run or in hiding from the monsters.

The film never provides an exact location for Janet Tucker’s School for the Blind, though the film itself takes place in northern California. By all accounts, it is not a real school. It appears to have been invented strictly for the purpose of the film. It does not exist in the novel – one of the several major differences between the film and the book.

Summary

Birdbox was a major hit with a twist ending that portrayed the disabled in a positive light. While the film had plenty of scares leading up to that point, it ended happily with the main character and her kids seeking refuge at the Janet Tucker School for the Blind.

While the Janet Tucker School for the Blind depicted a positive, happy environment for the blind children to learn and grow and the school as it existed in the film was located somewhere in the forests of northern California, the school does not exist in real life. It was invented as a plot device for the film.