United Spinal Association’s president and CEO Paul J. Tobin gave an impassioned keynote speech during the 2012 CELA Conference in Arlington, Virginia on April 17-19––a gathering of wheelchair consumers, suppliers, manufacturers and clinicians who advocate for people with disabilities to have access to proper mobility equipment.
Tobin, a wheelchair user and Navy veteran, captivated attendees with an insightful, historic overview of how empowered wheelchair users and other Americans with disabilities have shattered numerous barriers to equal rights and inclusion–and that their future participation in dialogue on sociopolitical reform must be protected.
“People with disabilities succeed when we speak for ourselves,” Tobin asserted as he engaged hundreds of stakeholders from the complex rehab technology industry that filled the room.
Tobin emphasized that in order for people with disabilities to participate in reform, it’s essential that they have access to this type of technology. Complex rehab technology includes manual and power wheelchairs that are professionally tailored to fit a person’s medical and functional needs.
There are some people who believe a wheelchair is just a wheelchair; it works for everyone the same way. Tobin and United Spinal contend this could not be further from the truth. We believe that access to complex rehab technology is vital, and represents the front lines of the battle for equality for wheelchair users and others within the disability community.
“Without the proper mobility equipment, many individuals cannot live with dignity and independence. They may be confined to their homes or forced into nursing homes. They might not be able to get involved in their communities, discover recreational or educational opportunities, attend family and religious gatherings, or seek employment. They lose their voice and, ultimately, their empowerment,” he explained.