Adventures with Rio: My Perspective


Liz Hacker, junior, shares her experiences with handicap accessibility.

I got a rental power chair when I was nine; that one was as slow as a turtle. We kept it at my grandparents’ apartment, and unfortunately, I practiced driving it for 30 minutes once a week. After some time, just before I started fourth grade at my first school, we rented a more “high energy“ power chair.

Driving those first few months was a disaster at school; I drove over people’s feet more times than I’d like to admit, so I practiced in big areas like gyms and around my neighborhood.

On St. Patrick‘s Day  in 2010, I got my first “new” power chair. Her name was Molly. Molly was an excellent companion. In August 2011, we moved into a house where I could bring my wheelchair in. It was satisfying knowing how much I could do on my own without having to ask for help.

Today, my new chair Rio and I are together all day, every day . We go to school together, we sleep in the same room, we go on adventures in stores, and sometimes we get into trouble together.  It took time to get used to driving around the Homestead hallways. Passing through the commons sometimes feels like a marathon with people, distractions, and obstacles everywhere.

The phrase “Hey, watch out for the girl in the wheelchair!” is something I am now accustomed to hearing. Sometimes people are ignorant and run into Rio. Rio is a part of my body and people sometimes don’t understand what that means. The annoying part about people not understanding is that I don’t want them driving Rio without my permission.

Classrooms are sometimes hard to navigate when everyone is moving around the room. Thankfully, peers are really good about moving desks and personal items.

Rio has some special features that most people don’t know about; it can tilt back like a recliner and elevate nine inches. The tilting feature is very useful for dentist appointments.

Overall, I think my relationship with Rio is best described as adventurous.

Here is my point-of-view as I ride Rio through the hallways of Homestead:

Liz’s Wheelchair Perspective from Hannah O’Leary on Vimeo.