Wheelchair Accessibility

Wheelchair Accessibility is constantly evolving in today’s world, so AMS Vans gives this hot topic the attention it deserves in our blog. You’re not alone in facing challenges when traveling, commuting, working, and simply getting around in your day-to-day life. You’ll read first-person accounts of the obstacles encountered by others with disabilities. Our hope is to educate everyone on the critical need for wheelchair accessibility.

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

 

Diverse & Inclusive Toys for Kids Who Roll

Lego boy in wheelchair playing ball with his friends in the park as disability-friendly toys.

Lego boy in wheelchair playing ball with his friends in the park

Playing is one of the most important parts of any child’s healthy development. In the past, kids with special needs didn’t have access to many toys or heroes that represented disabilities – and that can impact a young person’s self image. Thankfully, it’s now much easier to find inclusive toys that represent people with disabilities as major toy manufacturers begin to think more inclusively.

We put together a list of cool, inclusive toys and books for kids who roll! #AMSVans #SpecialNeedsKids Click To Tweet

Hot Wheels Wheelie Chair

This cool chair was created to resemble extreme adaptive athlete Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham‘s WCMX wheelchair. You may already know, Aaron Fotheringham is an extreme wheelchair athlete with spina bifida who was the pioneer of WCMX riding, in which people perform tricks and flips with their wheelchairs, similar to the way a skateboarder uses his board.  Aaron travels the globe with groups like Nitro Circus – and has landed amazing tricks, including the world’s first double backflip in a wheelchair. If you get this toy for a kid you know, be sure to pull up some YouTube videos of Aaron doing his thing! But, be sure to mention not to try this at home (at least, not without proper instruction and gear)!

hotwheels wcmx wheelie chair

Photos of the Hotwheels Wheelie Chair in action, courtesy of Aaron Fotheringham.

Lego Wheelchair Minifigure

What kids doesn’t love legos? Fans celebrated in the summer of 2016, when Lego introduced a minifigure in a wheelchair as part of its City line. The tiny figure features a detachable wheelchair in the same style as other Lego accessories. The achievement was in response to an online petition by Toy Like Me, which had over 20,000 signatures and encouraged toy companies to represent more diversity. The petition urged many toy companies to start creating disability-friendly, inclusive toys.

Wheelchair Barbie

Amidst lots of hype from the media, Mattel has plans in June, to introduce a barbie in a wheelchair and a Barbie with a prosthetic leg. Although Mattel has sold wheelchair Barbies in the past, such as Becky Barbie, there are none currently being sold. This summer, these dolls should be available everywhere to promote inclusiveness and raise the visibility of people with disabilities. Kids can expect the traditional Barbie look that they’v grown to love, with long hair and large eyes – but with the diversity we’ve been missing.

barbies fashionistas line including barbie in wheelchair

Soon, Barbies will represent better diversity! Image: Mattel

American Girl

These classic dolls, which are based on the equally popular American Girl books, can represent a wide range of disabilities. American Girl dolls are fully customizable, so you can get a doll that looks just like your child. Then, you can choose from a number of accessories associated with disabilities, including a wheelchair, crutches, hearing aids, diabetes kits, glasses and a walking stick for kids that have seeing impairments. American Girl has long been cherished as a company that provides inclusive toys with diverse representation. The books are also fun, too. They’re full of adventures featuring girls from all over the world and many time periods.

Books for Kids in the Disability Community

In addition to inclusive toys, there are quite a few children’s books about characters with disabilities. A popular one for kids who roll is called Don’t Call me Special: A First Look at Disability. Some other good ones include Meet ClaraBelle Blue by Adiba Nelson, about a little girl living with cerebral palsy, or Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher, about having a parent who uses a wheelchair. This is just the tip of the iceberg for diverse children’s books. For more, search Google or ask your librarian!

mother and baby reading

There are tons of children’s books out there featuring characters with disabilities!

 

Do you have a favorite inclusive toy or children’s book celebrating disability that we missed? Let us know and we’ll include it in a future blog!!

5 Important Questions Answered About Uber & Lyft Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles

Uber and Lyft have become an exceedingly popular alternative to public buses and taxi cabs. Both of these companies are most notably known for allowing riders to choose their ride preferences and certain customizations. What about options for those who require wheelchair accommodations? Let’s take a look at the 5 most frequently asked questions when it comes to Uber and Lyft’s services to those who need wheelchair accessible vehicles.

What is a WAV (Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle)?

A wheelchair accessible vehicle, known more commonly as a WAV, is a vehicle which has been modified to easily accommodate a wheelchair. Typically, the interior is adapted in order for a wheelchair to fit as well as either a wheelchair ramp or a power lift for convenient access.

Does Uber or Lyft Have Wheelchair Accessible Vans?

Uber offers UberWAV which connects riders to drivers with vehicles which can accommodate wheelchairs. UberWAV drivers have completed a special training course in order to help you or a loved one safely enter and exit the vehicle. It is important to note that in areas where WAV services are not available, Uber will send alternatives directly to your phone.

Lyft offers Access Mode, which puts riders in need of a WAV in touch with drivers who have a WAV. As with Uber, in areas where this service is not available, alternative transportation methods will be sent to you.

How to Request an Uber or Lyft WAV?

Requesting a WAV with both Uber and Lyft is quite simple. For Uber, you will simply use UberWAV to schedule an on-demand ride that meets your needs, schedule, and location. When utilizing Lyft, users will need to enable Access Mode, by tapping ‘settings’ on the app and making sure the ‘wheelchair access’ toggle switch is green. Next, you will type in your destination and access wheelchair mode to find your perfect ride.

Does Uber or Lyft Offer Any Discounts?

From time to time Uber offers promotional discounts for both first-time passengers and loyal customers. The type of discount and expiration dates are constantly being updated, so be sure to search for any eligible promotions before you pay full price.

Lyft offers a few different kinds of promotional discounts. These include:

  • Percentage discounts – Receive a certain percentage off of your ride.
  • Fixed discounts – Remove a certain amount from the total cost of your ride.
  • Flat rate – This means a set fare for rides that would typically cost up to a certain amount.

Lyft credit is a system in which Lyft users earn credit each time they take a ride. These credits can then be applied to a qualifying ride.

How Do I Identify an Uber or Lyft Driver?

Both Uber and Lyft take safety very seriously and have measures in place to ensure you are able to confidently identify your Uber or Lyft driver. Once you have been assigned a driver by Uber, you will be sent information about the make and model of the vehicle, name of the driver and a photograph of both the driver and the vehicle. Upon arrival of your Uber ride, verify the information and pictures match the approaching vehicle.

Lyft offers similar safety measures by also sending passengers detailed information and photographs of both the driver and the vehicle. Passengers can verify the vehicle that pulls up matches the information received.

For both Uber and Lyft, thorough background checks are conducted before they are allowed to become drivers for either company.

The Possibilities are Limitless

When it comes to transportation. It’s all about convenience. Wheelchair accessible vehicles are specially designed to allow for comfortable and convenient travel. With the WAV services of Uber and Lyft, transportation is easier now than ever. AMS Vans understands the needs of those who require wheelchair accessible accommodations and have over 20 years of experience in the industry. Contact us today to learn more about our services!

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.