By John Maclean
I became an incomplete paraplegic at the age of 22, because of a road accident. Running was the thing I loved to do most in life and it was taken away from me in a split second without warning or consultation.
Meeting the man who put me in a wheelchair was not going to be easy. I didn’t feel anger towards him or crave retribution, but I was apprehensive about getting in touch with him, hearing his voice, seeing him in person. My concern was that it might be a negative experience—and that would make things worse for me, not better. But I also knew that if I didn’t face up to this I would never be free of it. I wanted to know what happened in the cabin of that truck just before it hit me and what the driver’s reaction had been and how his own life had turned out. I wanted to know for sure that it was an accident, that my paraplegia was an unfortunate consequence of a random event.
Dialling the number was extremely difficult. It was nothing compared to facing up to the injuries I’d suffered when I woke up in the spinal unit at the local Hospital, but I had no choice but to keep going then. Facing the man who put me in a wheelchair was another issue altogether. I would be putting the ball squarely in his court and that was both risky and confronting. Continue reading
It started out as a rerouted date night for Mick Ebeling and his wife. A friend convinced them to check out an art show instead of the more traditional dinner and movie, and it was there Ebeling first learned about the artist “Tempt.”
Despite the signs, posters, and artwork all over the place with references to Tempt, the artist himself was nowhere to be found. As it turned out, and as Ebeling soon discovered, the show was a benefit event for Tempt, a graffiti artist who suffers from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and is paralyzed in his hospital bed. With mobility only in his eyes, Tempt hadn’t been able to create his art for 7 years. But that all changed in 2011.
Inspired and distressed by Tempt’s story, Ebeling sprang into action. He has years of experience as a film and digital media producer and entrepreneur and was able to organize a team of skilled, dedicated collaborators to develop the first open source eye-tracking device, called the EyeWriter. “Open source” means that the EyeWriter is copyfree, inexpensive, and DIY-possible. No more insurmountable insurance bills and restricted access to the best technology. Ebeling took a cause, his passion for art, a network of resources, and the grassroots, non-hierarchical values latent in graffiti culture to create something truly remarkable. After a year of planning and programming, the first EyeWriter was born and gifted to Tempt, who, with it, was able to draw and communicate again after 7 years of feeling trapped under water.
As Ebeling says in his TED talk, we all have the potential for greatness. We just need to ask ourselves two simple questions:
If not now, then when?
If not me, then who?
Watch Ebeling’s inspiring talk, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below:
Photo credit: EyeWriter.org