Janne Kouri, President and Founder of NextStep Fitness, a state-of-the-art specialized gym facility in Lawndale, California, is an advocate with a focused dream: “…to expand NextStep Fitness in communities of
need throughout the U.S., so people living with paralysis or disability would have access to community-based fitness options. This is a nationwide problem, and it needs to be addressed,” he says.
This mission is inspired by Kouri’s own journey. In 2006, while playing beach volleyball with friends, Kouri took a break and dove into the water to cool off; he hit his head on a sandbar and was instantly paralyzed from the neck down. He then began a challenging rehabilitation for his spinal cord injury at Fraizer Rehab Institute in Louisville, Kentucky. His background as an avid exerciser and former college football athlete at Georgetown University equipped him with a unique sensibility for tackling the demands of his recovery.
Yoga has gained significant popularity, with classes held in small towns and big cities throughout the U.S. What may not be as widely known is the practice of adaptive yoga; yoga that is gentler, less rigorous in its poses, and modified by utilizing a chair or assistance from another person. A year ago, I interviewed Matthew Sanford of Mind-Body Solutions Center. Sanford is a pioneer in teaching yoga to persons with disabilities and believes that yoga can be adapted to many levels of limitation. In Matthew's own life, yoga was a means to establishing a mind-body connection.
If you've never tried yoga, find an instructor who has experience with restorative/adaptive yoga methods. Start with one or two restorative poses that you can count on a few times a week for stress relief, and then build on that. Here is one example of a restorative pose, taught by Rodney Yee.
My interest in Paralympic sports was sparked after viewing Murderball, a gripping documentary on the fierce athleticism of wheelchair rugby competitors. Earlier this summer, I spoke with Charlie Huebner, Chief of Paralympics, U.S. Olympic Center based in Colorado, about the paralympics movement in the U.S. Still in its infancy, the Paralympic movement has grown exponentially both in the diversity of sports
venues and in the broad ranging disabilities of its athletes.
On May 21-23, the Abilities Expo - New York Metro division - will be showcasing an impressive range of options in disability technology, expanding the scope of accessibility for persons with disabilities. Thirty-one years ago, the Abilities Expo began with the humble efforts of Dick and Pat Wooten. Dick, a polio survivor and wheelchair user since his teens, wanted to establish a forum to share the resources that enabled him live a better life. Today, the Abilities Expo has grown exponentially, providing direct learning to attendees on the latest in assistive devices, home furnishings, and daily living aids across disabilities.
On any given day, Robert Greco, Director and Curator of Gallery U —an artspace located in Montclair, NJ—is evaluating art submissions from around the world. “I have a sense of what kind of art our audience would like,” says Greco. Gallery U is a modest artspace with broad purpose: to cut across boundaries of ability and disability, showcasing original, contemporary artwork at affordable prices. This vision is alive on a multitude of levels.
Gallery U and its sister venue, the U Consignment Boutique, have been created by Universal Institute, a rehabilitation facility for people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and neurological impairments. The Institute takes a unique approach to recovery, synthesizing vocational training with the arts.
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