Editor’s Note: Growing up in Long Beach, California, Paul Amadeus Lane was drawn to all things creative. Music became a passion at a young age and the self-proclaimed hyperactive kid channeled his energy into learning to play numerous instruments which eventually led him to gigging with multiple bands, songwriting, and even collaborating with jazz legend Wayne Henderson. The desire to continue his education steered him toward the medical field where he became an emergency medical technician for Los Angeles County up until the accident that changed the course of his life in 1993. Wheel:Life writer Betsy Bailey sat down with the Abilities Expo Los Angeles Ambassador to talk about his story pre and post-injury.
On January 21, 1993, I had an automobile accident. I knew something was wrong instantly because I couldn’t move. It was confirmed later that I had a spinal cord injury. I wasn’t on the job at the time of the collision, but my coworkers were the ones who rescued me, and they made sure to take great care of me. They called for a helicopter to lift me over to Harbor-UCLA. At first, I was told I had 24 hours to live; then they changed it to 72 hours, and then a year. That was 25 years ago. I was in various hospitals for about eight months. They had to transfer me to different facilities because I was having some other health problems unrelated to my SCI. My heart kept stopping, so they put a pacemaker in. I also had a collapsed lung and internal bleeding.
When I got released from the hospital, I went through a period of feeling down for a few months. It wasn’t until my father told me I was still the same person as before my injury that I snapped out of it. When reality sets in, you realize that this is life now.
You can’t do certain things that you used to do, so you just embrace what you can do and live life to the fullest.
I got tired of sitting at home watching TV all day, so I started my own electronics company.
Beating the Broadcasting Odds
After a few years, I decided I wanted to be creative again. A friend of mine had a radio program, and he had me on the show to talk about being a disabled business owner. I thought that was pretty cool, so I asked him how I could get more involved in radio and then started doing it off and on as a hobby.
In 2006, I decided I wanted to get paid to be on the radio, so I enrolled at the Academy of Radio and TV Broadcasting. At first, they weren’t going to let me in because of my chair. They thought I wouldn’t be able to fit into the studios and that it would be hard for me to get a job because nobody in the field had been hiring people with disabilities. There was also a module where you have to splice a tape, and being a quadriplegic, I wasn’t able to do it, so they said I would fail. I felt rejected and thought maybe it wasn’t for me. Then I called them one day and said, “I want to go to school.” So I went!
I ended up graduating with one of the highest scores ever. I got my first job at KFWB Los Angeles as a news production assistant. After that, I started working for an NBC radio affiliate in San Bernardino. Now, I’m a bureau chief for ABC and a news radio affiliate with KMET in San Bernardino.
Broadcasting has been awesome. I’ve been able to cover great events like WonderCon, Comi-Con, E3, and the Consumer Electronics Show.
When I’m in the press rooms doing interviews, I’m kind of the talk of the town because most people have never seen anyone in a wheelchair working in the industry before.
I’ve been able to keep in contact with some well-known people in Hollywood because of my situation, and it’s great being able to break down the barriers and the walls.
Tech and entertainment are my focuses now, so I always try to see what is out there for the disabled community. I want to do away with the term “accessible technology.” It should simply be called “technology” because it’s for everybody. We need to take away the stigmatism of accessible technology. A lot of tech creators have no idea that what they’re doing can help the disabled community, too, but technology is everywhere and can enhance life for everyone. The disabled community isn’t even on the radar of most tech companies. When I interview people and tell them their product would be great for the disabled community, they say, “Wow, you’re right!”
Broadcasting is my love now. I feel free when I do it.
A highlight of my broadcasting journey was when I met the lead counsel for PlayStation, Kevin Chung. We had emailed each other and one day he asked me if I would help him put together something at PSX, their annual convention. He wanted to do a meet and greet with the disabled community, video game developers, and human resources at PlayStation. It was all about how people with disabilities could apply for jobs with them, but we also talked to developers and gamers about ideas to make gaming more inclusive so that we can have the same experience as everybody else. I also got a chance to meet the CEO of Sony, Shawn Layden, who’s a big proponent of accessible gaming.
You Do Belong
I would like to tell people who are going through a rough time after an injury not to give up. You’ll feel like you don’t belong anymore, but you do belong.
We’re like a mosaic in a beautiful masterpiece being painted by a world-class artist.
Find something you like to do. Surround yourself with good people who will encourage you and have your best interest at heart. That means you may have to break away from friends and family who are not encouraging. If someone is not going to empower you, embrace you, and help you to reach your full potential, drop them like a bad habit.
Look for ways to do good for others as well. When we are able to help out and brighten someone’s day, that takes our minds off of our troubles and worries. Look for ways to serve people, even if it’s just a call, a text, or a smile.
No matter if you are disabled or not, don’t let anything prevent you from writing chapters in your life.
Sometimes we can block ourselves from achieving great things. An idea you may have can change the world or stop a person from taking their life. An idea you may have or a word you speak or write could brighten someone’s day. Always look for ways to empower people and to not give up.
Editor’s Note: Tune in to Paul’s show, Tech Zone, on 1490 AM KMET every Sunday at 9 a.m. PST. Listen on the go with the free iOS or Android app or catch previous episodes on his website, YouTube channel, or iHeartRadio.
Betsy Bailey has a diverse background including experience in marketing research at American Express, business operations and client relations with 601am, travel and culinary writing with VegDining, and playing volleyball professionally overseas.
Betsy is excited to get back into writing, something she’s adored since childhood, and thoroughly enjoys the process of getting to know her interviewees. On top of her work with Wheel:Life, she also teaches students learning English as a second language, speaks French fluently, and travels any chance she gets!