Monthly Archives: July 2013

SCI Superstar: Lex Frieden


When it comes to one of the brightest SCI Superstars we could profile, you can’t get more significant or note-worthy – heck this guy will have a chapter on him in history books one day – than Lex Frieden.

One of the architects of the ADA and a big time policy-maker, Lex Frieden is dedicated to helping people with SCI and other disabilities live as independently as possible. A college professor, husband and a dog-lover too, read on to learn about one of the most important figures in American disability history.

Why he’s fearless?

When Lex Frieden was a freshmen in college at Oklahoma State University, he sustained a C4-5 spinal cord injury in a car accident. The year was 1967 – the US was sending men to the moon, the world seemed to be “modernizing,” yet Lex Frieden meanwhile was having to focus on something so basic as life in a wheelchair, and the landscape wasn’t too friendly either.

The whole term of “living independently” hadn’t even been coined yet, but Lex Frieden had a different idea about things. He was a young man desperate for his independence, and after meeting a visionary doctor while in rehab at TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston who shared the same notion – Dr. William A. Spencer – Lex Frieden knew he wanted to dedicate his life to the psychology of rehab medicine.

But going “back” to school wasn’t that easy. He was at first denied admission at Oral Roberts University of Oklahoma because he used a chair, and was finally accepted at the University of Tulsa. The school put all of his classes in one building so he could attend his classes, and Lex Frieden graduated with a BA in Psychology in 3 years, then went on to receive his masters in Rehab Medicine from the University of Houston.

With his degrees and desire to see a change in hand, Lex Frieden made his first appearance before Congress at age 25 as a member of a Congressional Task force on Science, Technology and Disability, speaking on what was “not” being done re: disability research by the US government. That very panel ended up becoming the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), a unit of the US Department of Education, in 1978.

And throughout the ’80s, Lex Frieden was the  Executive Director of the National Council on Disability, a council the reported to the US president, and it was in this tenure where he helped write the first drafts of the Americans with Disabilities Act, an act we all know was finally passed in 1990. He was also Chair of the NCID again when President George W. Bush was in office from 2002 – 2008. Lex Frieden is a born and bred policy maker.

But changing young minds is just as important to Lex Frieden. He’s also a Professor of Health Informatics and of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Houston and an adjunct Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College.

It’s no secret his heart lies on this campus – attending and then working here till this day. Lex Frieden also met his wife Joyce when he was studying his masters at the University of Houston, with the two tying the knot in ’77. Joyce uses a powerchair too. She had encephalomeningiomyelitis when she was a single mom, a virus that paralyzed her from the chest down.

What’s next?

And nowdays Lex Frieden is busy working as the Director of the Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) program at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital, the very program he attended when he was newly injured. He was also recently President of Rehabilitation International, a federation of 200 national and international organizations in 90 countries dedicated to providing adequate rehab medicine. Can you say full circle? At 64, Lex Frieden is not slowing down in the least.

Lex Frieden’s family life is also pretty cool – he has a “blood-brother,” his best friend Mac, who’s been his PCA since the ’70s. Mac is Vietnam vet who sustained a brain injury. Lex Frieden met him when they were both in rehab, and offered him the job, taking the time to train him. Lex Frieden and Joyce also are very close to their grandson, who they helped raise in his teens.

There’s no doubt Lex Frieden’s legacy has made every one of our lives better. He’s a fighter true and true who refused to accept that status-quo. Thank you Lex Frieden Frieden for showing us what is possible, and how one person can make all the difference, as long as he stays true to his fight.

How has Lex Frieden inspired you?

Visit his website

Watch the videos!

Lex Frieden speaks on why being able to “help ourselves” is vital to personal growth

Lex Frieden speaks about the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Lex Frieden answers the question, “What kind of care do PWD want?” to the Amerigroup National Advisory Board

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Retro and Awesome Wheelchair Exercise Videos

seated-aerobics-video  marcus

Getting in shape and staying that way is one of the hardest things to do when you can’t walk. Diet modification can only do so much. We can try…eating low-cal foods, swearing off regular soda, no more eating past 8am, but that can only do so much.

If you’re really serious about really getting in shape, adding a workout regimen to your weekly schedule is key, but sometimes…….it can be hard figuring out what to do. That’s where the videos below come in. Read on for three intense videos of wheelchair exercises created by tough-willed people with a spinal cord injury.

For the young kiddos out there, i.e., anyone under 25, chances are you’ve never had a chance to see Lisa Ericson’s amazing seated workout video before, and if you haven’t – boy are you missing out. In 1992, Lisa, who was injured 7 years prior, released, “Seated Aerobics,” as well as an included booklet that outlines 100 moves.

What’s really cool is that Lisa was an aerobics instructor before she was injured. Adapting aerobics for people who use wheelchairs was her fate. And even though the video is 1980’s retro big time, watching the adapted aerobics routine in action is worth it alone. She developed an award-winning S.M.A.R.T workout, that uses music with 200 beats per minute to get our heart rates up. Watch a clip of Seated Aerobics

When it comes to building muscles from a wheelchair, Nick Scott, a paraplegic, is the beefiest guy you’ll ever meet. Known as simply “The Beast,” Nick is no one you want to mess with. After his car accident in HS that left him a paraplegic, Nick gained over 100lbs, but he lost the weight in his twenties and hasn’t looked back. He’s won several bodybuilding titles since, including placing several times in the IFBB Pro Wheelchair Championships. He also has made videos and offers tips on wc-fitness on his website.

In one of his videos recorded at his hometown gym, Nick shows how he targets his back area; an area that is not easy to reach when you’re sitting down. He transfers onto the bench and goes over a handful of important moves as he works out using the pull-down bar above. Watch Nick in his workout glory

And Simon Marcus, an adorable C6 quad looking to get his heart rate up, has developed an awesome home-based aerobic workout. It’s just him in his powerchair in his bedroom, with two 5lb wrist weights tied on, and a laptop blaring out workout tunes courtesy of Daft Punk. He shows his entire workout from start to finish, even throwing in some cute as heck dancing in the end. Watch him workout and bust a move

I know it’s not easy finding the energy to exercise, especially on bad days, but video encouragement can be just the thing to inspire you. I cannot say enough about how good it feels to get your body and heart going, no matter how you make it happen. So strap that retro sweatband on and start crackin’.

Do you work out? What kinds of wheelchair exercises do you do?

– Visit Lisa Ericson’s site: Seated Aerobics

– Visit Nick Scott’s site: Nick Fitness

Watch the videos!

Retro wheelchair aerobics workout video of wheelchair exercises with Lisa Ericson, a paraplegic

Award winning paraplegic weightlifter Nick Scott shows intense wheelchair exercises

Simon Marcus, a C6 quad, shows his home workout of wheelchair exercises using 5 lb wrist weights and Daft Punk to get him movin’

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