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This woman compared stroller shopping to wheelchair shopping. What she found wasn't great.

Are these chairs on wheels really that different? Liz says yes.

This woman compared stroller shopping to wheelchair shopping. What she found wasn't great.

Meet Amanda Berns. She's a caring mother to two small children and the loving daughter of a wonderful father named David LeSueur.

Amanda poses with her family. Photo via Amanda Berns.


David is a kind and optimistic man who navigates the world in a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis.

Amanda's children are 18 months and 2.5 years old, so it probably comes as no surprise that Amanda spends most of her days pushing these two around the city in a stroller.

Upon reading the definitions for "wheelchair" and "stroller," I started to feel like they weren't really all that different.

They are both described as chairs on wheels, just intended for different people. Because I write about inclusion in retail and assistive devices, I thought it would be interesting to ask both Amanda and her dad, David, a series of questions — the exact same questions. When I posed them to Amanda, I used the word "stroller." With her father, I used "wheelchair."

Images via iStock.

My goal was to learn about what it's like to shop for these chairs on wheels. Here's how the conversation went:

Q: What's it like to navigate the world with a chair on wheels?

Amanda (stroller): It's not too bad. I go most places that I would like with two kids. There are a lot of places I can't get in or couldn't go to — but honestly I wouldn't want to bring my toddlers anyway. Sometimes it's awkward to go into places and feel like you are blocking everyone (because let's be honest — you are). But I figure I have to run errands with my kids just like the rest of the world. So I try to be kind and patient and not too annoying.

David (wheelchair): When you're in a wheelchair, people don't talk to you, generally. They treat you like you are a child. They talk to the person with you rather than talking to you. Like when walking into a restaurant to be seated, they ask the person with you how many are in the party. Or the check gets brought to someone else at the table instead of you. I can get in all public buildings, but going to people's houses is always tricky. I have to figure out beforehand if I can do it. I don't want to bother if it's not possible.

Q: How many chairs on wheels have you owned?

Amanda (stroller): I have owned ... eight? I think? Way more than I should admit.

David (wheelchair): I have owned two power chairs, one manual wheelchair, and a scooter.

Q: Why did you purchase separate ones?

Amanda (stroller): I purchased separate ones to account for different needs. I had a jogging stroller, a get-around-town stroller, an umbrella stroller for traveling. And then we had our second kid, so I needed to get a double stroller. I also bought and sold a few strollers because I had changed my mind after using them. I had a jogging stroller with a fixed wheel for two weeks and changed my mind. I got really good at buying and selling them on Craigslist.

David (wheelchair): I purchased separate ones because in each case I became weaker and needed more features. My wheelchair had to adapt to my changing abilities.

I was most struck by what they each had to say about their options when they shopped for a chair on wheels.

Amanda's response gave me a very clear picture of who she is as a person and a parent. David's response, on the other hand, left me having learned nothing about his personality and lifestyle.

It felt like Amanda was able to express herself through her purchases, but David was only able to express that he was simply a person who requires the assistance and the support of a wheelchair.

Amanda's stroller shopping narrative fits within the norm of any retail experience.

Amanda has bought and sold strollers on Craigslist. She has gone to run errands and has come home equipped with a new, store-bought stroller. I'm sure she's received at least one stroller through a baby registry. There's probably an entangled web of stroller hand-me-downs that weave her friends and family together.

Amanda and her two children at the beach. Photo provided by Amanda Berns.

Amanda anticipated that each of her children would rely on a stroller for about four years, but she also said that shopping for the chairs on wheels was really easy: "Pop into any baby store and voila!"

David's narrative, on the other hand, does not fit into a normal retail experience.

David and his grandchild. Photo via Amanda Berns.

"Insurance pays for one wheelchair every five years," David told me. "So you try to think of things you may need over the next five-year period."

This is difficult because David's disease progresses quickly. He also mentioned that ordering a wheelchair is a very slow process. "From the time we start shopping to the time I actually get my chair, it takes four to six months," he said. "And there's not much of a reason for the delay. I think there's not much competition in the wheelchair business, so they don't have any reason to rush it."

My curiosity about the assistive device market can feel confusing at times, but it turns out that this is a big problem.

When I first started thinking about why there are so few options for people with disabilities, I thought it was because so few of us exist. But in reality, our numbers are massive. At any given moment, 1 billion people on the planet have a disability. For some of us, the disability will be temporary. For others, it will change our lives.

A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Commerce published a study that stated two-thirds of the leading assistive device manufacturers were “passive in their pursuit of new ideas — or not interested at all."

This means that the companies who make products for people with disabilities do not invest in the research and development of new products.

It's my dream to change this problem.

I don't believe that I have the best idea in the world. I just have one of the only ideas out there, and it's for J.Crew to start selling stylish canes. I'd love to hear your ideas, too.

Me with my purple cane. I have spent the past 16 months asking J.Crew if they would sell a cane. It has been my goal, from day one, to ease the stigma of assistive devices.

Amanda deserves a lifetime of joy and ease. Amanda deserves to express herself in any way she sees fit. And so does her dad.

Where is the wheelchair that invites David to be looked at? That grants him the validity to say he's picking up the lunch check?

Some of the stigma lies in our perceptions of those living with disabilities. But I also believe some of the stigma lies in the design of the products we're using, too.

Amanda and her family in San Francisco. Photo via Amanda Berns.

If you think equipment for the disabled should be as diverse as their needs are, why not share this and start a conversation?

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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