Peace and Love
The next time you go see a live musical group, check out the stage. Does it have a wheelchair ramp leading from the audience to the stage or are their steps? Is there a wheelchair ramp backstage? Is there handicapped parking where the performers load and unload? Chances are that the venue doesn’t provide these accommodations. It’s like this: my biggest challenge as a quadriplegic jazz vocalist is finding accessible stages on which to perform. I was once raised up to a five-foot high stage using a forklift and a wooden palette because the stage was not wheelchair accessible. Fortunately, I didn’t die. Point is that there are
few wheelchair accessible stages; otherwise, I’d sing much more often.

It’s easy to see why this isn’t a mainstream problem: there are few “physically challenged” performers, but that’s merely an excuse encouraged by indifference. We handicapped performers exist and are eager to share our dreams with fans who dig what we do. But why are we unconsciously ignored? That’s easy: Being unable to perform even the most rudimentary acts of daily living is a major downer; the wheelchair, quite frankly, is a symbol of lost hope. Let’s face it; it’s a marketing problem, and this is where you come in to save the day.

Physical handicaps are wrapped in lugubrious imagery, but not every moment of life in a wheelchair is steeped in mournful decay. Believe it or not, I laugh every day… some days more than others, but if life were perfect, I, for one, would take a bite of forbidden fruit to find some excitement from the decay of entropy (the hypothetical tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity). What I’m trying so desperately to connote here is the fact that having a physical challenge can, at times, be fun and inspirational. What we need is positive imagery, and here’s where I ask for a favor from you, dear reader, and it has to do with social media, more specifically, using the ubiquitous #hashtag: will you help by coming up with a #hashtag meme that has positive connotations for the handicapped and send it to me. This could be fun. Maybe I can come up with prizes for creative contributions. Regardless, this could be the beginning of a social movement that witnesses an outcry of creative energy by talented people who have difficulty overcoming the obstacles that are hidden from people who can hop out of bed running full tilt. By the way, I’ve come up with a possible #hashtag meme that might work: #FantastAbility. What do you think?

The gauntlet has been dropped. Do you accept the challenge? Please reply to this email with as many suggestions as you want, and challenge your friends as well. Let’s see if we can extend this conversation internationally. (Actually, when you send in your suggestions, include the name of your hometown city. We’ll see how far this request goes.) Let’s make the wheelchair a symbol of fun… or grace… or intelligence… or, dare I say it? Let’s make the wheelchair Sexy!

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