banner

The New Stuff

Power Wheelchair Models2
1862 Views

Comfort Conversations: Where are all the Power Wheelchair Models?


Join us every month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion series led by our Ambassadors who share their thoughts on issues affecting wheelchair users worldwide. Today’s topic is on the role of beauty and inclusiveness in advertising for women who use power wheelchairs, written by Comfort Ambasssador Margarita Elizondo.  Learn more about the Comfort Ambassadors here.

comfort-conversations-header

According to a report from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation, approximately 6.8 million individuals in the United States who have disabilities use assistive devices to help them with mobility. Among these people, 1.7 million use manual wheelchairs or power wheelchairs/scooters. Nearly 6.1 million use both wheelchairs and other mobility devices like canes, crutches, and walkers.

Power Wheelchair Models4

Margarita Elizondo

As the disability advocacy movement continues to gain strength, our diversity in media is improving. What does that look like? Who are the “faces” of disability or in this case,  “wheels” that are represented in media today? Is it fully inclusive?

We ask the question because what people see on television, film and advertising is critical to our understanding of all aspects of society. Beauty can be found in all forms of disability, yet power wheelchair users seem to be missing from the scenes shown online, in print and on air.

But change is happening. Society has made great strides in challenging stereotypes and acknowledging diversity in skin color, size, age, race, sexual orientation gender, and have now even begun to include disability.

In recent years, major brands have begun featuring models with disabilities in many ads and television commercials. For example, Tommy Hilfiger recently added a new line of clothing specifically designed for individuals with disabilities.

tommy hilfiger runway of dreams

Wheelchairs are the International Sign for Disability

The “wheelchair” has become the international sign for disability, mainly because it is the most visual form of disability. That’s why media’s perception of inclusiveness means featuring a model in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, this has both a good and bad impact as media has a direct and profound impact on how we feel ourselves and view others.

Everyone needs someone to look up to or aspire to be like as a role model. Ten years ago, when I first acquired my Spinal Cord Injury, disability was not as prevalent in the media so it was rare to see any women using wheelchairs in media campaigns.

As an inpatient I was introduced to Joni Eareckson Tada and I later came across Auti Angel and Briana Walker while surfing the internet. Those three ladies were my light at the end of the tunnel. Reading about them and seeing how far they had come after their SCI (Spinal Cord Injury) gave me the faith I needed to roll on.

They showed me I could dance again and, through their writing, they kept me grounded in my faith.

push girls

Today, the reality TV show Push Girls has helped shed light on what life is like for a manual wheelchair user and continues to inspire both able-bodied and disabled individuals who watch the series.  And currently, there are many empowered and beautiful models, actresses, performers, and athletes from which the newly injured can identify with and gain inspiration from.

That is if you are a manual wheelchair user. Power wheelchair models are still amiss.

Power Wheelchair Models1

Despite significant change and growing acceptance, many forms of disability are still largely underrepresented, misrepresented, or just plain ignored by the media. Specifically, power wheelchair users are rolling way behind in terms of media inclusiveness.

In the 10 years since my injury, other than the old Hoveround and Scooter commercials promoting free power wheelchairs to “qualifying callers,”I have only seen one television commercial on air featuring a power wheelchair model.

In fact, I was that model. In 2012, I was featured in a Spanish-language San Diego Gas & Electric commercial. See it below.

I’ve only met one power wheelchair singer/actress starring in a major stage performance – Jennifer Kumiyama – who performed in the Disney Aladdin show for over 10 years and was cast in a major role as ‘Carmen’ in Sundance Film Festival hit film “The Sessions.”

If you search online for“wheelchair model,” you get tons of pictures of very beautiful models who utilize manual wheelchairs. But if you Google “power wheelchair model,” you get tons of pictures of different models of actual power wheelchairs. The sad reality is you will find very few pictures of an actual model who utilizes a power wheelchair for their mobility.

For example, in February 2015, multiple media outlets proudly shared, “Disabled models proudly take to catwalk in wheelchairs as New York Fashion Week promotes diversity.” Nine manual wheelchair models were featured in the New York fashion event, but that catwalk did not include even one power wheelchair model.

Jennifer

Jennifer Kumiyama has performed in the Disney Aladdin show for over 10 years.

Power Wheelchair Models3Why is this a Big Deal?

While manual wheelchair users and power wheelchair users face many of the same social and structural barriers, believing that we are one and the same in terms of appearance and physical function is another stereotype.

Manual wheelchair users tend to have much more mobility, therefore have the ability to be more physically active. Seeing them represented in the media so often is great for men and women with similar abilities, but what about those with limited mobility?  Where is their frame of reference for society?

It’s time society introduces through media examples that power wheelchair models with more limited mobility are “beautiful and inspirational” too.

Individuals with limited mobility need to have roll models they can identify with and that will give them the faith they need to roll on. Power wheelchair models deserve the equal right of showcasing and celebrating their many abilities.

Beauty is not always demonstrated through physical activity, but rather through humility, spoken word, essence or simple presence.

I’m honored to  have had the opportunity to demonstrate my beauty as a power wheelchair user as Ms. Wheelchair California 2013 and being featured in the upcoming Raw Beauty Project LA featuring models with a variety of disabilities. Yet, working as a model in this industry is painfully slow for me due to the limited opportunities, so I maintain a full time job as well.

margarita elizondo wheel-life comfort ambassadorWho is to blame for the lack of exposure of power wheelchair models in the media?

There are dozens of power wheelchair manufacturers on the market in the U.S. The average cost of a power wheelchair is $7,000 and that expense can easily reach over $30,000 dollars, depending on the complexity of the powerchair. In my opinion, wheelchair manufacturers definitely have the power to influence media. I’m excited that both Permobil and Quantum currently have a casting call out for models.

However, we need to do our part too, ladies!

When I realized how powerful my message was and the impact I had on those who listened, I chose to make my power wheelchair my brand. As Ms. Wheelchair California 2013, I have had the opportunity to meet many very beautiful power wheelchair women with amazing talents and abilities.  I know there are many of us out there with the potential to succeed in this field.

So if you are interested in pursuing a modeling career, don’t be shy. Get your headshots, resume, and face out there! There is someone waiting to be encouraged by you and your many abilities, and it’s time to add power wheels to the face of disability appearing on the silver screen.

What Do You Say?
Share Your Thoughts in the Comments Below.

 Margarita Elizondo 1About the author:

Comfort Medical Ambassador Margarita Elizondo is a motivational speaker, entrepreneur, producer/host of Wheel Talk Wheel Issues, model, author and an ambassador for the Los Angeles Abilities Expo. She was paralyzed in 2006 after an intruder broke into her home. Now, a single mother of three and grandmother, she pursues a degree in Communication at Grossmont Community College, and works for Axia Management where she designed a wireless phone service for seniors and individuals with disabilities. As Ms. Wheelchair California 2013, she is a strong advocate in the disability community and volunteers for numerous nonprofits. You can follow her @Ms_Hotwheels on Twitter and Instagram, or reach her on Facebook or through www.margaritaelizondo.com.

Have a question for one of the Comfort Ambassadors? Let us know! Contact us here.

Or, find a peer support group near you using our helpful reference guide!

comfortmedicalicon

Comfort Medical delivers the leading brands of catheters and ostomy products to customers who use wheelchairs nationwide.

Comfort Medical delivers the leading brands of catheters and ostomy products to customers who use wheelchairs nationwide.

comfort medical brochureThe Wheel:Life-Comfort Medical Relationship

Wheel:Life is now part of the Comfort Medical family! With more than 26,000 followers on social media, we served more than 100,000 website visitors with lifestyle resources in 2015.  To help us expand our community impact, we have become part of the Comfort Medical organization.

Thanks to our relationship, we are able serve even more people who use wheelchairs with lifestyle resources, helpful products, and services.

Comfort Medical provides an extensive selection of name brand catheter and ostomy supplies to thousands of customers nationwide.

Their attention to detail, unmatched customer service, and dedication to helping customers live a happier, healthier life are just a few of the many reasons Comfort is one of the fastest growing catheter and ostomy supply companies in the nation.

If you have any questions about your medical supply needs, click here to get in touch with a Comfort Medical specialist!

Note: The Comfort Conversations articles are for informational use only and are not intended to be construed as medical advice. Ask your doctor about issues related to your health and medical needs.

Recently Published

img_0223
»

Adaptive Aerial Yoga Allows Wheelchair Users to Fly

  Editor’s Note: Texas native Sara Schaffer has been ...

take-a-look-at-this-heart-cover
»

Sex, Love, and Disability:  Ben Duffy’s New Documentary Exposes It All

Filmmaker Ben Duffy and Ajani “AJ” Murray met while working on a ...

Hospice nurse giving medicine to senior man in wheelchair
»

Why Nurses Care About DEHP in Catheters, and You Should Too

Have you noticed a growing awareness to be conscious about eating ...

img_0438
»

Amputee Bob Clausen Says If You Want Something Bad Enough, You Will Do It

Editor’s Note:  Widower and Navy veteran Rober “Bob” ...

img_3960
»

The Ms. Wheelchair California Pageant: A Life-Changing Experience

As the Ms. Wheelchair California Leadership Institute, formerly known ...

key-support-systems-1
»

Comfort Conversations: Support Systems Are Key After a Life-Altering Tragedy

Having key support systems after a life-altering injury is crucial. ...

sheri-melander-smith-6
»

Sheri Melander-Smith on Living Your Best Life

Editor’s Note:  Sheri Melander-Smith was born with a vascular ...

wheelchair-boarding
»

5 Extreme Activities to Add to Your Bucket List

Have you already tried all of the typical adaptive sports available ...

best-of-2017-cover
»

Reflections and Lessons Learned in 2017

We hope your 2017 was as enlightening and empowering as ours was here ...

styledwel-ms-1
»

Living with MS: One Family’s Solution to Enjoying Life Events Again

Dave was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999 and for the first ...

tips-to-help-teach-your-child-about-self-catheterization-1
»

4 Tips to Help Teach Your Child About Self-Catheterization

At a certain age, kids will be the first to tell you that they want ...

waving happy young adult woman on wheelchair in the city in winter at sunset
»

Winter Weather Preparedness Tips for Wheelchair Users

Are you dreading this winter season? Dealing with slushy, icy, snowy, ...

adaptive-climbing-10
»

Making Adaptive Climbing More Accessible with Arthur Torrey

Editor’s Note: When a tree-cutting accident in 2010 led to broken ...

woman on wheelchair entering the platform
»

Barbara Cramer – 75 Years of Defying Stereotypes

Editor’s Note:  An earlier version of this post may have left the ...

falmouth-road-race-2017
»

Serving the Spina Bifida Community with the SBAGNE

I serve as the executive director of the SBAGNE. One of my primary ...

spinal-cord-injury-720x400
»

Comfort Medical is Helping People to Achieve a Healthier and Happier Lifestyle

If you’re an avid Wheel:Life reader, you may remember that we ...

stephanie-woodward-9
»

Advocating for Disability Rights with Stephanie Woodward and CDR

Editor’s Note: During a summer internship at the Center for ...

handi-capable-fitness8
»

Building Strength and Confidence with Handi Capable Fitness

Editor’s Note: A botched hernia operation during infancy left James ...

adaptive-bike1
»

Comfort Medical Sponsors Freedom Concepts to Help You Win An Adaptive Bike

Have you always dreamt of gliding down the street with the wind in ...

abilities-expo-toronto-2
»

Experience It All At the Abilities Expo!

Days are becoming shorter, nights longer, and the holiday season is ...

me_northeast-passage
»

ParaSportsLive: Bringing Adaptive Sports Coverage to the World

Editor’s Note:  When wheelchair user Tony Jackson’s original ...

cure-medical-october
»

Introducing the New Cure Ultra Coude Intermittent Catheter for Men

Cure Medical has unveiled the new 16-inch Cure Ultra® Coude ...

each-by-name-1
»

Get Ready for Rolling With Me’s Each By Name Conference

Wheel:Life, Comfort Medical, and Rolling With Me is excited to ...

smooth-sailing-with-david-gaston9
»

Smooth Sailing with David Gaston

Editor’s Note:  A Texas coast native, David Gaston has been in and ...

Husband and handicapped wife taking stroll in park alley
»

Gain Traction This Fall with National Ramp

Summer is officially over and dreary winter weather is on its way. ...

wheelchair-dance-organization-21
»

Wheelchair Dancers Organization Says Everybody Can Dance!

When life-long dancer Beverly Weurding was diagnosed with limb-girdle ...

malaise-wheelchair-fitness4
»

Pursuing Health and Happiness with Malaise Wheelchair Fitness

Editor’s Note: Justin Malaise grew up in small-town Wisconsin as a ...

kim-brown-cover
»

Former Ms. Wheelchair Illinois Continues to be a Voice for the Community

Editor’s Note: Born with spina bifida, Kim Brown has been a ...

img_00261
»

Dare to Discover the World of Accessible Travel With Handiscover

Editor’s Note: Sebastien Archambeaud has always loved traveling, so ...

pediatric-hydrophilic-cure-catheter1
»

Made for Kids! The Pediatric Hydrophilic Cure Catheter + Free Backpack Program

Parents only want what’s best for their children and keeping them ...

jhudson-featured
»

Wheeling, Driving, Bowling, Preaching, Parenting…Johnny Hudson Does It All Hands-free!

Editor’s Note: Johnny Hudson was born in 1977 with unforeseen ...

Pat Dougherty explains FreeWheel to a new fan at a recent Abilities Expo.
»

The Abilities Expo is Coming To Boston!

Boston awaits with open arms. This September 8–10, head over to the ...

margarita-7
»

Comfort Conversations: Change Starts with You – Becoming an Advocate

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...

wheelchairtravel14
»

WheelchairTravel.org: Blazing the Trail Towards an Accessible World  

Editor’s Note: After sustaining severe burns during a car accident ...

ag-featured
»

The Artfully Gifted Foundation – Serving Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

Editor’s Note: The Artfully Gifted Foundation (a non-profit) was ...

jose-gonzalez-on-how-the-scrs-il-can-help-you-live-independently24
»

How the SCRS-IL Can Help You Live Independently

Editor’s Note: When triple degree holder Jose Gonzalez returned ...

peter-arballo-1
»

Peter Arballo Never Gave Up on Himself — Neither Should You

Editor’s Note: Peter Arballo was born in Southern California to ...

michael-johnson-racing-8
»

Full Speed Ahead with Endurance Racer Michael Johnson

Editor’s Note: Michael Johnson of Lansing, Michigan, started racing ...

monica-vickers9
»

The Extraordinary Life of Triple Amputee Monica Vickers

Editor’s Note: Monica Vickers was born in 1954 missing both legs ...

rick-hayden-rolls-on-capitol-hill-for-your-rights1
»

Rick Hayden Rolls on Capitol Hill for Your Rights

When Rick Hayden visited the US Capitol last week, he went with your ...

abilities-expo-chicago-2017
»

Gear Up for Abilities Expo Chicago

Calling all Midwesterners — Abilities Expo is coming to Chicago! As ...

angel-city-sports-12
»

Run, Jump, and Throw Stuff with Angel City Sports

Editor’s Note: Clayton Frech is the CEO and founder of Los ...

1coach-koz2
»

Sled Hockey with Coach Koz

Editor’s Note: Sled hockey (also known as sledge hockey) is almost ...

Summer Solutions with STYLEDWEL
»

Summer Solutions with STYLEDWEL

Editor’s Note: Mary Marshall, founder of STYLEDWEL, created ...

kristina-rhoades11
»

Following Your Inner Guidance with Kristina Rhoades and How National Ramp is Helping Her Do It

Editor’s Note: Kristina Rhoades is a mom, wife, speaker, writer, ...

men who use wheelchairs
»

Comfort Conversations: Finding Encouragement Through Peer Support Groups

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...

wheellife1
»

Allen Beauchamp on Life, Love and Hockey

My name is Allen Beauchamp, and I’m 43 years old. I live in a ...

altolife9
»

Yoocan Get Empowered!

Editor’s Note: Inspired by a family member with disabilities, Moshe ...

cure-medical-catheter
»

Introducing the Cure Ultra: Ready to Use Catheter for Men

Cure Medical has unveiled the new 16-inch Cure Ultra™ Intermittent ...

manual-wheelchair-skills-800
»

Refuel and Rejuvenate At Abilities Expo New York Metro

East coasters, or anyone within striking distance, gear up for ...

criptado7
»

Criptaedo: Breaking Boards and Barriers

Editor’s note: Paul Brailer, aka Criptaedo, was born with spina ...

stella5_small
»

Rolling Forward with Amputee Advocate Stella Sieber

I’m currently 63 years old and live in Durham, North Carolina. ...

mallory_black-and-white-quickie-photo-shoot_july-2016
»

Stroke by Stroke: Moving Forward with Mallory Weggemann

Editor’s Note: At 18 years old, Mallory Weggemann walked into the ...

Margarita Cover Photo
»

Comfort Conversations: Finding Your New Normal After a Spinal Cord injury

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...

wheelchair-daddy-1
»

Glenn Moscoso: Wheelchair Daddy

Editor’s note:  Glenn Moscoso is a husband and father living with ...

national-ramp-cover-photo
»

Avoiding Slippery Slopes with Garth Walker and National Ramp

Editor’s Note: After selling his prior business, Garth Walker went ...

national-sports-center-for-the-disabled4
»

The National Sports Center for the Disabled: Finding Self-Confidence through Personal Challenge

Editor’s Note: The National Sports Center for the Disabled, founded ...

susies-travels
»

Wheeling around the World with Susie Twydell

Editor’s Note: Based in England, Susie Twydell, an avid traveler ...

What rolls through your mind as you approach your own journey?
»

Amplitude Media Group: Closing the Information Gap

Wheel:Life is thrilled to announce their newest community partner, ...

wow-2
»

Accessible Hiking, Camping and Fishing? WOW!  

Editor’s Note: Wilderness on Wheels (WOW) is a foundation and a ...

the-woody-foundation-6
»

Comfort Conversations: Events, Free Packs, and More with James “Woody” Beckham

Editor’s Note: The Woody Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit ...

S
»

Jenn Sexton Shares Her Secret for Independence: An Extra Long Cure Catheter

Jenn Sexton was five weeks pregnant when she and her husband, Thomas, ...

img_2236glen-schlotterbeck
»

Glen Schlotterbeck: Reinvent Yourself!

Editors note: As a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, Glen ...

The-Abilities-Expo-6
»

Educate, Energize, and Enlighten at Abilities Expo Los Angeles

The Abilities Expo is back in Los Angeles and gearing up to show you ...

14juan-sebastian
»

Juan Sebastian Betancourt: Changing the Way Businesses Serve People with Disabilities

Editor’s Note: Juan Betancourt is on a path to change the world for ...

yogya-borobudur_ai
»

AccessibleIndonesia: Making Travel Accessible in a Non-Accessible Country

Editor’s note: Kerstin Beise, a German physiotherapist, who also ...

hydred-cover
»

A Lesson on Living Life to the Fullest with Hydred Makabali

Editor’s note: Hydred Makabali, born and raised in England and now ...

Up/Down Team Champions (Top L to R) Shane Hayden, Harold Collins (Seated L to R) Gary Bowling, Kenneth Hill, and Don Law
»

Knocking Down The Pins of Life with Wheelchair Bowling Champion Kenneth Hill

Editor’s Note: Fifty-year-old Kenneth Hill from Plainfield, ...

10-2take-your-wings-and-fly-with-denise-horn
»

Take Your Wings and Fly with Denise Horn

Editor’s Note: Fifty-six-year-old Denise Horn of Janesville, ...

ashley-hudson
»

Ashley Hutson Wilson Beat a Small Chance of Survival to Live a Full Life

Editor’s Note: Thirty-one year old Ashley Hutson Wilson from Kyle, ...

wheely-guitars-mel-header
»

Jam with Mel Bergman: Creator of Wheely Guitars

Editor’s Note: Mel Bergman of Camarillo, California, is the ...

gary-boxing-friend
»

Gary “Tiger” Balletto: Champion Prize Fighter Who Rolls with the Punches

Editor’s Note: You can capture a ferocious wild tiger and put him ...

9 Robby Heisner
»

Meet Robby Heisner: Creative Entrepreneur on Wheels

Editor’s Note: Robby Heisner of Smyrna, Georgia ...

Joseph Logar1
»

The National Rifle Association’s Adaptive Shooting Program with Dr. Joseph Logar

Dr. Joseph Logar Editor’s Note: Dr. Joseph Logar has his doctorate ...

rollettes-2
»

The Rollettes Take On an E.P.I.C. Project to Empower Others

Editor’s Note: Chances are, you’ve seen these ladies ...

medicare-access-header
»

Speak Up Now to Save Your Wheelchair: Fight Medicare Cuts

Your window is narrowing to preserve access to mobility equipment – ...

engineered for adventure GRIT
»

Go Further Together with GRIT: Stories of Community Support

Our friends at GRIT, the makers of the revolutionary Freedom Chair, ...

military-gang
»

Paralyzed Veteran’s Mom Awarded Dream Trip by ElDorado Mobility

Editor’s Note: Serving our country as a military service member is ...

4Kenneth Perry
»

Wheelchair Karate: Attack the Attacker with Kenneth Perry

Editor’s Note: Kenneth Perry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ...

5 Tom Cannalonga
»

Ditch Your Chair to Sit-Ski the Slopes with Tom Cannalonga 

Editor’s Note: Fifty-two-year-old Tom Cannalonga lives in Edison, ...

wlbannerFBfall
»

Welcome to Wheel:Life

We are so glad you’re here! Wheel:Life is a global initiative ...

%d bloggers like this: