The 'Backbones' to Living Fully with SCI
By Mike Ervin, Abilities Expo Ambassador
For Reveca Torres, the key to recovery from her spinal cord injury was connection. Finding the disability community meant finding the technology, tips, resources and moral support that helped her realize disability wouldn't destroy her dreams.
That's why she founded Backbones in 2008. Her mission, she says, is to "connect people with spinal cord injuries and similar disabilities, family members and people without disabilities to one another and create a network of people working towards similar goals. I want to provide information and resources, start conversations and change stereotypes."
Reveca was only 13 in 1994 when she was paralyzed in a car accident on a family vacation in Mexico. She had a talent for drawing and illustrating and wanted to be a fashion designer. Now that she was a quadriplegic she doubted she could continue down that path. "I thought I wouldn't be able to pursue art and fashion like I wanted. I thought I would probably become a teacher or something. But during rehab I was learning to write my name again and I started trying different pencils and markers. I began to draw again. Later, in my junior year in high school, a teacher showed me how to use a computerized sewing machine to sew without needing the use of my feet. I knew I would become a designer!"
She went on to study theater arts at the University of Arizona and today, working from her home in suburban Chicago, she designs costumes for dance and theater performances. She also works as an illustrator and even designs tattoos.
She is also director of Backbones, which uses a variety of methods to help people with disabilities and their allies find each other. Sometimes the connection is made online. Last year Backbones sponsored a 16-hour web-a-thon on Google Hangouts. A wide variety of people with disabilities involved in interesting projects and activities were featured guests. Sometimes the connection is made in person. Backbones members have organized wine tastings, art exhibits and yoga workshops open to everyone.
Whatever it takes to make positive connections, Reveca is happy to do it. It brings her great satisfaction. "We connected a young woman with T-level injury using a manual chair with a woman who had a similar injury who studied in Spain because she was interested in doing a study abroad program in Spain. Both shared experiences and tips. The young woman completed a program in Spain this summer and is currently studying in the Netherlands. We also connected two mothers whose sons were around 5 or 6 years old and were injured due to cancer. They had a lot to talk about."
And somewhere in the midst of all this activity in her life Reveca finds time to practice and teach yoga. Since she first took up yoga in 2008, she's figured out techniques and adaptations for making yoga more accessible for people with disabilities like hers. She loves sharing her knowledge an enthusiasm about yoga with anyone who wants to listen. "I like doing hot yoga because I am always cold and it really helps relax me. Yin Yoga is great too. I have found many benefits in my own life physically and emotionally and so I think everyone should practice yoga."
For more information about Backbones, visit www.backbonesonline.com.
Mike Ervin is a writer, playwright and disability rights activist living in Chicago. Mike is a columnist for New Mobility Magazine and writes the blog Smart Ass Cripple, www.smartasscripple.blogspot.com.
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