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Paving the Path to Discovery

Reprinted from SNS September 2009

A unique event informs, educates, and motivates people to try new devices and activities they may not have thought possible.

In the words of 10-year-old James Culver and his mother Cathy, "No Barriers is awesome, and No Barriers is a good place for people with disabilities!"

This past June, 550 people gathered in Coconut Grove, Fla., for the first water-based No Barriers Festival, at Shake-A-Leg Miami. It brings together inventors, researchers, scientists, and end users to provide a forum for discovery, explora­tion, and innovation. The festival focuses on technologies for people with disabilities through interactive clinics, award-winning films, and a technical sym­posium that provides the framework for future innovation and development.

Life Rolls On founder and former professional surfer Jesse Billauer uses an adaptive paddle and seat in order to safely and independently kayak.
A Boy Who Knows No Barriers

At age 7, James contracted the strep group A bacteria in his bloodstream, resulting in amputation of both legs and one arm. He has been in a wheelchair for the past three years and was recently fitted with his first prosthesis.

In 2007, just ten months out of the hospital, James attended his first No Barriers Festival, in Squaw Valley, Calif. Although he couldn't participate in everything, he enjoyed a few clinics, met other people "just like him," and his mother found resources, devices, and adaptive equipment she didn't know existed.

It was such a positive experience that when Festival 2009 at Shake-A-Leg Miami was announced, she started to get her travel plans in line to be there again.

"It is good for James to be around other people with no arms or legs. I think it's comforting to him," she said. "The No Barriers Festival keeps him busy all day. There is always something for him to do or to try out like the dune-buggy-type device for wheelchair users that was there this year."

James's favorite things this year were scuba diving and swimming with the dolphins. But his mom was more amazed that he rode a bike for the first time, which she didn't think he could do. After the 2007 event, James received a donated Segway, and this year his family is planning to get him a handcycle.

"It doesn't matter if you have a disability," says James. "It doesn't mean you can't do that much stuff. You can do anything you set your mind to."

Cathy says she and James plan to attend future No Barriers Festivals. She says James looks forward to doing as much as he can, especially scuba diving. She enjoys seeing the smile on her son's face and learning about more technologies and adaptive equipment that help James have a more active life.


No Barriers offered clinics in sailing, sponsored by partner Shake-A-Leg Miami; rock climbing; outrigger canoeing; open-water swimming; handcycling; fencing; horseback riding; golfing; fishing; and kayaking.

A team of international experts enlivened the technology symposium with presentations on advancements in spinal-cord injury, intelligent-prosthetics development, and sight-improving operations and technology.

Some interactive-clinic highlights showcased the innovative techniques for wheelchair users and amputees in open-water swimming, hand­cycling and windsurfing demonstrations, and adaptive yoga and tai chi clinics that taught methods to increase flexibility and reduce pain.

For Craig Kennedy (shown on the S'NS home page), a Colorado resident who made the trip to Miami for the festival, one of the event's highlights was "muddin'" through the mangroves on a One-Off handcycle.

"For someone like me who is unable to mountain bike because of my spinal-cord injury, this machine—and it is a machine with a motorcycle wheel on the back end, disc brake, and all—is a serious crawler for people in wheelchairs. Any obstacle is defeatable; it's the 'Superman' of handcycles."

Long-time wheelchair user Charlene Vine was attending the festival for the second time.

"Meeting people with like minds and getting pointers from Mark Wellman on rock-climbing techniques was great. As long as the No Barriers team keeps organizing more of what they have had in the past two festivals, I will continue to be there."

Vine also took a ride with a dolphin during the clinics at the Miami Seaquarium.

Read other personal stories and find out about the latest technologies and discoveries in this month's S'NS.


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Paving the Path to Discovery


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