I had the opportunity to attend Flying Car 2014, an event in Milwaukee focused on showcasing innovation and forward-thinking.
I missed days one and three, when the legendary Steve Wozniak delivered the keynote, but I did get to see some great speakers on the day I did attend.
Major League Baseball commissioner and former Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig was the keynote. In part because I’m a big baseball fan, I enjoyed his recap of the innovative, often controversial decisions he’s made to improve and modernize the game.
One of his messages — innovation can be unpopular, particularly in old, reluctant-to-change institutions like baseball, but that’s not reason to back down. I’d say that Selig’s efforts, from inter league play to expanded playoffs, have proven him right.
There were a number of really good speakers after Selig. What really stood out for me was the lab session that I chose to attend in the afternoon.
Damian Buchman is a man with an amazing story. At age 13, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a very rare and very deadly bone cancer. Doctors told his mother to take him home and let him die, rather than face a grueling, painful, and nearly hopeless fate.
Despite such a prognosis, Damian has beaten the “one-in-a-billion” odds, despite constant struggles including 20 knee surgeries and the realization that one day, he could lose his legs.
Not taking for granted the miracle that he’s still alive and still able to walk, he’s currently on a mission to create a groundbreaking facility called The Ability Center.
The Ability Center will be a place that emphasizes “universal design” for fitness and wellness. Existing gyms and fitness centers, to varying degrees, offer very limited options for people with disability (maybe one or two pieces of workout equipment, or the ability to play wheelchair basketball in a very tiny time window). The Ability Center will be fully accessible for those with special needs.
More to the point, Damian emphasized that it’s a place where both the disabled and non-disabled can exercise, play sports, and hang out together. That particularly resonated with me given the message we’ve been saying from day one on this blog — that accessibility is about opening doors for everyone, not just the disabled. Just as superior web sites or applications meet the needs of everyone, The Ability Center isn’t limiting itself solely to people with disabilities.
If someone with no disability at all still wants to experience wheelchair basketball, they can wholeheartedly do so. This sort of openness can only help raise people’s awareness about disabilities, not to mention dispel myths.
Check out The Ability Center website and learn all about Damian’s undertaking. It could really be a game changer, and I’m pretty stoked about it being rooted right here out of Milwaukee.
Stay tuned to their website (and mine) for updates!