Living Independence for Everyone (LIFE) of Mississippi
In A Nutshell:
The purpose of Living Independence For Everyone is to empower people with significant disabilities in Mississippi is to be as independent and as fully involved in their communities as they can and want to be.
Why They Rock:
- Since October of 1993 they have provided core independent living services to more than 35,000 individuals with disabilities throughout Mississippi.
- Project LINC: assist individuals with disabilities in their efforts to relocate from an institutional setting back into the community or to insure that independence in the community is maintained.
- Provide or coordinate equipment or supplies, modifications or other services to live independently, such as car improvements.
- PRO-HEAL (Promoting Recreational Opportunities, Healthy Eating and Active Lifestyle): two part project designed to improve and enhance independence among individuals with a spinal cord injury by promoting a healthier lifestyle.
- Healthy Opportunities for Transition (HOT): transition services for Mississippi children with special health care needs and their families, bringing together diverse groups and individuals, building community infrastructure, and resulting in successful transition to adult life.
I peed like a girl, slept in a hotel with cowboys, and lived in a wheelchair for a day. I don’t think I can top this opening sentence the entire tour, and if you want the truth about disabilities then grab some sweet tea and keep reading about the amazing people of LIFE!
LIFE didn’t want me to feel like an outsider since about 80% of their staff has some type of disability, therefore I sported the Jackson Jags wheelchair (rims fitted with local wheelchair rugby team)…my new home for the day.
8 a.m. at the office and I am introduced to the entire staff by Augusta (who runs shop) with a warm welcome and I loved their theme about being empowered to live with disabilities…they are not trying to convey they need special treatment, just wanted to be on an equal playing field. The warmness cooled off quickly because they wanted me in the wheelchair pronto…off to Shoney’s to experience dining in my new vehicle.
Five minutes on the street with my gang and I experience my first wipe-out in a dirty south puddle…almost did a 180 over on my head (Headline: ‘Northerner Becomes Disabled in Wheelchair?’). I made it through the restaurant front doors like a bull in a China shop. I fixed my own plate at the buffet and received a great overview from Scott who is diagnosed with MS about accessibility (how functional something/area is for people with disabilities) in regards to all the curbs and bus stops in Jackson.
We rolled back to the office and I experienced a transfer (moving from the chair to another location) to the toilet with the help of Robert…he taught the ways, and then I tried in private and peed like a girl (sitting down)…this was very challenging since my legs didn’t ‘work’ so I had to pick them up with my hands and shimmy off my jeans.
Next challenge was taking the bus to downtown to an ADA (American Disabilities Act) meeting, and I spilled again on the side-walk and Roger (jedi/salty dog/tells the truth) taught the proper technique of rolling into a ninja to pop back up. The bus arrives and it takes about 10 minutes to strap my chair in, and in Jackson I would encounter more issues due to the lack of side-walk ramps and bumpy streets. I got VIP service for the ride home from Desmeon in his modified white mini-van (gas/brake on the steering wheel).
Back at the office I met Christy (CEO) who has multiple disabilities and filled with good energy…which pumped me up for the CBS News interview! After the interview, Rickey, Josh, and Roger took me for a tour of the sweet wheelchair ramps they built around town and we visited Handicapable Vans & Mobility Products owned by John and Daryel…they convert cars for wheelchairs and sell new beautiful mini-vans equipped with lifts.
I went back to rest at the comfy hotel (donated by LIFE) where the cowboys where roaming around preparing for their cutting (chasing/herding cows) at the Coliseum…and then I was off again to meet my LIFE contact Josh and his wife Courtney to hand-out food/supplies to the homeless on the streets. This couple is all about giving; they treated me to Mexican, had me over to look at Josh’s man-cave, and insisted I come by again for crawfish when in-season.
This day occurred because I was connected to LIFE via an amazing gentleman named Dwight Owens, who won the 2010 National Americorps Spirit of Service Award for his work at LIFE – there were 325 nominees for the award out of 15,000 Americorps Members Nationwide! Dwight was struck by a drunk driver on the way to work at age 23 and left with no mobility in his legs…Dwight said the driver was clocked at over 100 mph and the driver had zero remorse during the trial, Dwight asked to have the sentence REDUCED…he didn’t want him to die in jail, complete forgiveness. Dwight now devotes his life to giving back with his program: “Before You Drink, Think Dwight”…he is super busy because prom season is in full swing, so I was honored to see him during my trip and you can learn about his journey in this PDF document.
This visit was a wake-up call for me and vital for sharing:
- Accidents: They happen, many on the road and I now stow my phone away while driving. Texting/Drinking/Tiredness increase the chance of wrecks for you and strangers.
- Past: Nobody told me their whole story of what happened and why…they are living today in the present and LIFE members help each other – a real family that likes to rag on one another and gets on with their lives.
- Accessibility: I had a tiny sliver of living without legs and it was really tough, so jump on the bandwagon of making places more accessibility for all humans.
“Here is the truth, your legs will never work again, if you don’t clean your skin often then you will develop scabs and they will get infected and they will amputate your leg.” If I heard this, then I might freak…I think you would need to be at complete peace which is something I strive for everyday…but thankfully now there is peace, support, and love in Mississippi called LIFE.
Dwight Owens History:
“If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.” – Tenzin Gyatso