Category Archives: SCI Superstars

SCI Superstar: Deb Davis

The world is full of fearless women, and many of them use a wheelchair. Deb Davis is one of these women. A longtime paraplegic hailing from Florida, Deb wears many hats – mother, disability advocate, businesswoman, and entrepreneur. She was injured as a teenager, and has gone on to forge a rich life despite her injury, all while making her family and health her top priorities. She is also the mind behind the revolutionary sites Disability Photos and PUSHLiving. Read on to discover how she was able to accomplish so much.

Why She’s Fearless

Deb knows the journey post-spinal cord injury well. Now a mother of two adult women in their twenties, Deb was injured when she was 18. Although she lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida today, that was not always the case. Born and raised in Maryland, Deb was injured after falling asleep behind the wheel while driving home after work, crashing in the snowy cold night in Pennsylvania while driving back home to Maryland. “I had been transferred [to Pennsylvania] due to sexual harassment by my manager,” she says. “He was not fired or addressed; I was just moved to a new location.”

Sadly, Deb says that “this incident was pre-Anita Hill and pre any sexual harassment in the workplace laws,” and after her crash, she was left with a C6-7 incomplete injury. Post-injury, Deb says she went on auto-pilot to cope. “I never got the ‘stages of grief’ and was puzzling to the psychologists on floor. I was ‘in denial,’ I think I was just trying my best to find LIFE in what was now my life.”

After six months of rehabilitation and four months at home with her mother, she was ready to go to college. Deb flew to Florida to begin her freshman year at the University of Miami. Before her injury, she was a professional ballroom dancer and was hoping to compete internationally. After her injury, she didn’t know what area to study in college.

“Dad said business, and I just agreed as it was a general degree. I often think I should have gone into psychology. I am fascinated with how people interact and would love to help people be, cope, and do better emotionally. I guess that is part of what PUSHLiving.com is about, with many articles focused on these topics.”

While in college, Deb was a normal freshman. “I was all about survival and love and all the things 19-year olds focus on.” In college, she met her children’s father and by the age of 23 she felt the urge to have children. At 26, she finally became pregnant. “I was worried, but one day I got really sick…vomiting non-stop; seven days later, I finally went to the doctor and the nurse told me I was pregnant. I was in complete shock and awe…overwhelming joy.” They had two girls.

It took Deb six years to graduate from college, as getting used to a new city and trying to find friends were her main priority. And that worked out for the best, as her business degree helped her get a job right away. She began her career in nonprofit fundraising and went on to become an executive director of a company that provided services and training for people with disabilities via Willing to Work programs. She also worked as a medical product representative for several years.

It all came to a stop, however, when she realized she was working too hard. Her body began to show signs that she needed to slow down. “I was working in the field and driving hand controls, lifting briefcase and medical samples/ brochures, transferring in and out of the car and van, and pushing a wheelchair in and out of facilities. I ended up with body-wide exhaustion and overuse issues with all joints.”

While resting, Deb began to research other professional opportunities that would be better on her body. She realized that most of the agencies she worked for related to travel did not have any Marketing Materials that featured real people with disabilities. “So, the idea came to me – we will provide the images for their websites and materials, and the idea was born.” Deb started the site Disability Photos (now PUSHLivingPhotos.com) and she also began the online lifestyle magazine, PUSHLiving.com.

“PUSHLiving is a magazine by and for people who use wheelchairs,” she explains. “We talk about issues like love, romance, health, travel, business, inspiration, and lifestyle activities that many may enjoy and gain from, but of course, we are the stars of the show. Our big picture goal is to elevate disability and stop others and even ourselves from limiting what is perceived as achievable. Can everyone afford a luxury trip to Miami Beach? No, but don’t assume everyone with a disability is not able to do what their non-disabled peers can do and enjoy.”

What’s Next?

Since beginning PUSHLiving.com, Deb has added annual inclusive group travel trips to PUSHLiving that explore locations around the world, including Portugal and Ireland. They have also set up solo excursions to Africa and Morocco. “This year, believe it or not, the Italy tour planned (as well as Ireland) is now completely shut down to tourism, as well as an event for Women on Miami Beach. Both have unfortunately been canceled due to the coronavirus threat and fear.” You can sign up for their newsletter and learn their new tour dates on PUSHLivingtravel.com.

Deb is also working on expanding and rebuilding the PUSHLivingphoto.com site. “We welcome models and photographers to be a part of this site. We are wanting to work with more disability influencers to help them to expand their reach via our network. That is an exciting way to collaborate.” She has also launched a PUSHLiving Podcast that is available on both iTunes and Google Podcasts.

An avid world traveler herself, Deb says the most fascinating place she’s visited is Sweden due to the happiness quotient of the people she witnessed. “The social democracy and peace from any wars have had a dramatic effect that is palpable.” She also loves to swim, handcycle, and connect with friends and family.

As for her confidence, Deb says it’s all about not having underlying issues that cause you to need more emotional support, and creating an internal attitude that rejection is not personal. “Allow yourself to roll this world untouched by those who want to put you down or dim your light.”

Visit her Sites

PUSHLiving.com

PUSHLivingphotos.com

PUSHLivingtravel.com

SCI Superstar: Darryl Tait

Far north in the Yukon Territory of Canada—north of Juneau, Alaska—you won’t find that many people, let alone a wheelchair-user: and that is exactly the way Darryl Tait likes it. Born and raised in the small town of Atlin, British Columbia, Tait grew up immersed in Winter sports.

He soon found out that things, however, never go as planned in life; Tait sustained a spinal cord injury 10 years ago at just 19 years old. To see what this he has done with his life since is extraordinary. From trying literally dozens of adaptive sports to rejoining X Games, learn how this adrenaline junkie is still doing what he loves while living with a spinal cord injury.

Why He’s Fearless

Tait was only four years old when he started snowmobiling, and he took to the sport right away. With a pilot dad who loves speed, Tait was allowed and even encouraged to partake in various Winter sports as a child. He began snowboarding at a young age and became so good that he competed in the Arctic Winter Games in 2006 and in the Canada Winter Games in 2008, at 16 and 18 years old respectively. At the same time he was still snowmobiling, becoming incredibly good at freestyling.

This is when Tait decided to switch sports and become a professional snowmobiler. The sport is small compared to sports like snowboarding, making it easier to climb the ranks. After the switch, Tait went to Maine in 2009 to demonstrate backflips on his snowmobile. However, the engine stalled midair, causing his 500 pound snowmobile to fall on him. He was diagnosed with a T4 complete injury and spent several months in rehab.

Early on, he decided to not let his injury take away the sports he loves. He had no interest moving away from the Yukon, despite the lack of accessibility. While in rehab in Whitehorse, Yukon, Tait searched wheelchair skateboarding and found Aaron Fotheringham, a wheelchair skateboarder who helped put WCMX on the map. While still a rehab patient, Tait rolled himself to the nearest skate park to try WCMX.

Once he was discharged, Tait began trying various adaptive sports. He also took on the task of doing his own repairs to his equipment, which required welding knowledge. “I was originally studying welding to get into the trades before my injury,” says Tait. “Unfortunately, I had problems with employment, as people saw me as a liability in the workplace. I couldn’t continue my education to get my journeyman welder’s license.” Tait still welds, however, and does his own repairs.

He has tried the following adaptive sports since his injury: Mono-skiing/sit-ski, adapted snocross/snowmobiling, adapted motocross, adaptive mountain biking, sledge skating, adaptive climbing, para-surfing, adaptive 4-wheeling, adaptive kayaking, adaptive rowing, handcycling, adaptive bobsledding, and adaptive snorkeling. Tait says that he may one day take on either para-surfing or bobsledding at the Paralympic-level.

Also known as the “Backflip Guy,” he does backflips in his wheelchair and even landed one in a snowbank, which got him featured in a Family Guy episode. He is the first Canadian to ever land a backflip in a wheelchair. In 2013, he rejoined X Games, competing in the Adaptive Snocross category. Tait placed 8th in this competition. He also helped create a custom seat for his snowmobile to help stabilize his core.

While he hasn’t competed in X Games since 2013, Tait has worked with the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program where he coaches adaptive mountain biking, a sport he fell in love with post-injury.

What’s Next?

Over the years, Tait has become an expert at sharing his adaptive sport adventures online, notably on his Instagram account, where he shares photos of his wheelchair adventures in the beautiful Yukon wilderness. He is so good at social media, in fact, that he teaches a class on how to use social media to propel adaptive sports forward at the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program.

Tait recently celebrated the 10 year anniversary of his injury, celebrating his “rebirth” with families and friends. He also went back to get his prerequisites for medical radiological technology and is a rep for Kinetic Gear, a European adaptive clothing company that makes practical adaptive gear for all the elements.

When he’s not doing a jaw-dropping adaptive adventures, Tait is also helping kids with disabilities. He works with various organizations, helping facilitate adaptive sport clinics for kids with disabilities. He is also an ambassador for the Rick Hansen Foundation and has helped improve accessibility in both the home and work environment—as well as at public parks—throughout Canada.

– Follow him on Instagram: @d_rail

Darryl’s Videos

Wheelchair Motocross (WCMX) SCI BC TV

Wheelchair truck transfer, Load/Off Load snowmobile independently

My Wheelchair vs. Yours