When T-5 paraplegic Chris Collin rolls into the Dallas Abilities Expo in December, he'll be rejoining a community of friends that he hasn't seen since before COVID, and he couldn't be happier to reconnect.
A New England native currently residing in Hollis Center, Maine, Chris works for Motion Composites as a sales manager who educates wheelchair users, clinicians, and homecare providers about the advantages of ultralight wheelchairs. A familiar face at Abilities Expo events nationwide, Chris shares below how much his career developed (literally) on the Expo show floor while encouraging you to consider opportunities there too!
Chris' First Expo Opened His Eyes to Assistive Tech
"I've used a wheelchair for 14 years (since I was 22) after I injured my back in a motorcycle accident. The accident crushed my helmet, and they trached me on the way to the emergency room. I rehabbed at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where I first heard about this amazing event called the Abilities Expo," he says.
"I attended my first Expo in 2011 when they had a show in Boston," Chris adds. "I remember being so excited to go because I could see products and equipment in person that I had only been able to view online. But the most surprising part for me was realizing how much I enjoyed being around other people with disabilities and people who are passionate about the products on display there."
His Social Network Exploded as he Made Connections with People with Disabilities Through the Expo
"I was fortunate, even before my first Expo, to have a great group of friends in Maine because I played wheelchair sports competitively. I'm a sit ski instructor in the winter, and I also practiced with my local quad rugby team because I loved the sport. During the summer, I also compete in long-distance handcycling events, and take part in group motorcycle rides with my Can-Am Spyder," Chris explains.
However, he notes, Chris had no idea how big his world would become just by joining the fun at the Expo for a long weekend.
"While I did have a close group of guys who play adaptive sports in Maine, I had no idea how many people I'd meet in person at the Expo," he says. "I came home from my first event exhausted from talking so much! And the Expo has been that way for me every time since. I always go home worn out but so happy about all the new friends I've made."
It turns out that talking to people was also the ticket for his career shift.
How Chris Landed a New Career at the Expo
In 2018, a friend invited Chris to go to the Expo again. But this time, he was invited to attend as an exhibitor and an advocate for one of the medical products he used.
"I had met some of the folks who worked at Cure Medical, a catheter manufacturer owned today by Convatec, the parent company of 180 Medical," Chris relays. "The local sales rep invited me to consider attending the Expo as a Cure advocate. I thought it was a great idea!"
"At the time, and still today, I don't let opportunities go to waste. I try to say yes to anything that doesn't sound completely horrible," Chris says with a laugh. "And it wasn't horrible. It was a lot of fun, and I learned many new skills, like public speaking and describing technical medical products."
Before long, Chris was touring the country, working nearly every stop on the Abilities Expo road show while volunteering as a motivational speaker and peer mentor at rehabilitation hospitals in cities across the country.
A First Stop May Not Be Your Final Stop at the Expo
If you'd like to explore your career options based on the strengths and experiences that your disability offers, Chris agrees that the Abilities Expo is a perfect place to do so.
"You never know what could come out of a situation if you don't try," he shares. "I guess the way I looked at it was, 'I'll give it a shot.' If it doesn't work out, no harm, right?"
However, Chris stresses the importance of staying flexible, with networking in mind, when you come to the show. "My first couple of opportunities didn't turn into my first full-time opportunity," he explains, "but they helped me decide what was better for me long-term and what I hoped that role would look like."
"During my time at the events, I also considered what career would fit best with my personality. As a territory manager for Motion Composites, I work daily with dealers, clinicians and end users," Chris says. "Most of the time, I'm using the skills I developed while working in a booth at the Expo, as I'm educating people on seating and positioning products plus our line of ultra-lightweight wheelchairs."
"In my case, I was a people person, a good communicator, confident and detail-oriented," he adds. "That set me up for success in a full-time sales position. I will admit, though, it's completely different being on the road once a month for a tradeshow than being behind the wheel 3-4 days a week, every week, as I work across six states in my territory."
"I love every minute of my job, though, especially knowing that I'm making a positive difference in the life and health of every person we serve. It's an honor, and I'm so thankful for the Expo's role in that, too," Chris says.
Approaching the Expo as a Career Opportunity
If you'd like to get more involved in the disability community, get your free pass now to join us in Dallas at Dallas Market Hall on December 1-3, 2023! Chris offers the following advice for anyone looking for job opportunities during the event:
- Be yourself, and make contacts when you're there.
- Stay involved with community programs before and after the event that will help you grow your network while uplifting your exposure.
- Offer to help people in areas of work that you enjoy personally.
"Leave the interview suit and your resume at home when you first come to an Expo. Focus more on building relationships and learning what's available and interesting to you first, and follow up after the show," Chris explains.
Connect with Chris at the Dallas Show
"I'd love to meet you if you're attending," Chris says. "The Expo has played a huge role in developing my personal and professional life. It's given me a place to gain friendships all over the country, not just near where I live in Maine. I'm happy to help you experience that too, and I hope to see you soon!"
About Motion Composites
Known around the world, Motion Composites has built a reputation as a leader in the design and manufacture of ultralight manual wheelchairs. We use the world's most advanced materials, draw on innovation, determination and creativity, and pay attention to the smallest detail. Keeping users top of mind, our motivation is matched only by our high engineering and design standards. We foster a culture open to ideas, focused on humans and challenging conventions. As technologies advance, technical discoveries happen and trends shift, we continue to strive for the same goal: to help every person using our products enjoy a fuller, freer daily life. Learn more at www.motioncomposites.com.Pre-Register for Abilities Expo Today...It's Free!
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