Sonshine Morris, an artist from Florida, USA shares with us a story about their personal experience with disability as a result of her husband’s injury and how it inspired her daughter Merry Lynn, a choreographer and dance teacher at the University of South Florida to help develop a hands-free wheelchair to allow people with disabilities to learn to dance.
Let me describe how I came to be inspired with technology as a gift graced with life and love. I am experiencing a rather atypical life which began from a fairly typical USA formative youth and family. My husband experienced the same. It was the Vietnam War years of the early 1970’s when both of us met at an avant-garde prayer meeting after questioning the value systems of basically everything (we still question almost everything!). God became a reality to us and we both were new Christians. We fell in love and married within two years.
Life does not always seem to be measured out quite fairly in a general and especially global sort of way. We always felt that, and wondered with everyone else the big “Why?” That was our beginning and the story continues in hope of never ending! When Merry Lynn was 12 years old, her dad went up to the store to buy yellow paint to finish her room design. Not five minutes from our house, two 18 year-old boys crossed the centreline and hit my husband head-on flipping his car in the air. On a respirator and brain shunt from surgery, his mangled body was somehow being kept “alive.” The thread of his being hung on comatose while he remained severely brain-injured with a broken hip, crushed knee, blind in one eye, pneumonia, paralysis and seizures. The unbelievable picture of this is all the worse as one realizes he was such a very strong-boned six foot three (6’3″) man in the prime of his life. I find it is still hard to imagine it all. He resembled a broken puppet with all the strings of life cut. And, so began our years of suffering in disability which has a ripple effect felt like that of a tsunami.
We became a working embodiment to free or relieve my husband from his disability. Out of all his needs spanning over years, came incredible invention! As Merry Lynn aged, she became the design inventor of a hands-free wheelchair called the Rolling Dance Chair to allow the freedom of movement and access we wanted in both his care and for him and for those who we worked with who also had disabilities. CNN recently featured the wheelchair and work of Merry Lynn in this video:
At present, the recently patented accessible hands-free wheelchair is now in Phase Prototype 2 and soon to be in market. Other inventions are at different stages or on the drawing table. Recently, the University of South Florida documented the continuing significance of Merry Lynn’s project in reaching many people from all areas of life in this video:
The blessing of the internet has finally connected everyone globally. We really all can affect the life of someone with disability from afar. By staying linked we are working together to “get the info out.” Just last week, Merry Lynn had the privilege of meeting Aleksej Talai, who is an inspirational speaker in spite of his quad-amputee status from the explosion of an old WWII land mine in Belarus when he was sixteen. His interest in the hands-free chair is keen with enthusiasm for even dancing!
Disability affects everyone globally without regard to country, race, religion, age, sex, etc. It has taken every possible thing we are in talent, spirit, breath, and money to come up to its challenges. As it crosses all barriers, we are thankful that the global technology is gracefully crossing all barriers, too. May God bless us all and continue to grace the technology!
In Hope always, by Sonshine (& Merry Lynn) Morris
For more information on the work of Sonshine and Merry Lynn Morris or would like to get touch with them, please visit their blog called Arts & Disability.