Fábregas: Disabled Carnegie man's van up for vote
When he wants to leave his Carnegie house, Steve Spohn must rely on a transportation service for disabled people.
It's not bad, but it's not convenient. Spohn, who uses a power wheelchair and needs a ventilator to breathe, must tag along with other people. Trips that should take 10 minutes stretch to an hour.
You can't blame him for wanting to change that. Spohn, 33, wants his own wheelchair-accessible van. Listen to his story and it's easy to understand why — and root for him.
Spohn was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic condition that affects muscles throughout the body and often causes problems with breathing. Despite having virtually no movement in his legs and a host of medical problems, he graduated from high school and obtained an associate's degree in information technology and a bachelor's degree in visual communications web design. He spends time writing and hopes to become a successful novelist.
“We all need something to drive us, something to make us get up in the morning, and for me that's trying to make the world a little better place in my own sector,” he said.
Spohn needs caretakers around the clock to handle his ventilator and other needs. When you're disabled, he said, everything turns to logistics, especially when traveling. It took days to plan a recent trip to Boston, including hours to rent a van and load it with equipment such as wheelchair batteries and accessories to operate the ventilator.
Many of his trips are part of his responsibilities as chief operations officer for AbleGamers Foundation, which supplies gaming technology to people with disabilities. As Spohn explained it, video games are an important outlet for people with disabilities because they provide a way to socialize. Though not everyone considers video games an essential part of life, he said, people with disabilities lack the freedoms others take for granted.
“I know what it's like to be in a hospital with nothing to do except stare at the ceiling and wonder what fate may come,” he said. “I know what it's like to be alone in a room full of people. That motivates me to do everything in my power to ensure everyone has access to the escapism of video games.”
Since it was created four years ago, the AbleGamers charity has given about 300 grants worth $80,000. Spohn says the group's website receives more than 3 million hits per month. The group has more than 30,000 registered members.
“We need the social networks to keep our motivation positive. Having these networks can make a difference,” he said.
Spohn is trying to get enough votes to win a van in a contest sponsored by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association, a nonprofit. His friends helped him make a video that you can watch at www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com. If he gets enough votes, he could become a finalist to win one of three vans, worth about $90,000 each.
Watch the video and you can see that Spohn isn't doing this for himself. He's advocating for others because he genuinely wants people to feel grounded and stable, and help them thrive. Watch and you might vote for him.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins trade for Toronto’s Kessel; lose Martin, Comeau via free agency
- Pirates’ Cole not fazed by remarks from Tigers’ Martinez
- Pitt’s Boyd waives right to preliminary hearing
- Second Blair County friar commits suicide in province under sex abuse investigation
- Dragon boat competition canceled at Three Rivers Regatta
- Steelers submit application to host Super Bowl
- Judge revokes bail for Plum High School teacher
- FBI searching for Homestead man indicted for sex trafficking in children
- Donora-Webster Bridge plunges into Mon River after 106 years
- Marinucci sentenced to life in prison with no parole
- Woman arrested for Forest Hills bank robbery