Tuesday, April 26, 2011

California wheelchair user writes children's book with hand-cyclist as crime fighter

From The News-Tribune:

RICHLAND, Calif. -- Richland author Dave Carl (pictured) isn't a superhero. But he shares some characteristics with John, the hero of his book, Super Cyclist.

In the children's book, John, a boy who uses a wheelchair, is told by his peers that he can't be a crime fighter. But instead of giving up, the boy works hard to follow his dreams with the help of a three-wheeled bicycle powered by his hands to fight crime as a superhero.

Like John, Carl uses a wheelchair to get around. Carl has spina bifida, a birth defect -- his spinal cord wasn't fully developed when he was born. It's the most common birth defect that disables someone for life, according to the Spina Bifida Association of America.

And like his protagonist, Carl, 36, has had to overcome obstacles, although his have dealt with employment and health rather than a desire to fight crime.

Carl uses the word "obstacles," not "barriers." Barriers, he said, stop people. Obstacles just slow someone down until a way around is found.

For example, people with spina bifida frequently tend to become ill, he said. That's how Super Cyclist was born.

Carl said he was sick in bed and bored when he came up with the idea.

The book was published by Etcetera Press of Richland and illustrated by Kathryn Mack, a North Idaho woman who is legally blind.

Some of the proceeds from the book will go to the Spina Bifida Association of America. Carl said he hopes that some of his donations will be used to help people with spina bifida live independently.

He has sold several hundred copies since the book came out in February 2010.

The freelance social worker hopes Super Cyclist starts the conversation with parents about what to do when their child is diagnosed with a disability.

Just because someone has a disability doesn't mean he or she can't do things, he said. And that's one of the messages he hopes to spread to children and parents through his book.

It's a message he got from his parents and family while growing up near Buffalo, N.Y. Carl said his family helped him develop confidence.

After all, Carl said, everyone has difficulties to overcome, whether a disability or something else.

"They taught me how to see beyond the wheelchair," he said.

For example, Carl said he has traveled the world playing sports. He's participated in everything from wheelchair racing and wheelchair basketball to skiing and kayaking.

He is a frequent volunteer and public speaker. He is a case manager at Kennewick's Shop CI, where he helps people with disabilities work on their communication skills and is also a coach for Special Olympics.

Carl said when he has read Super Cyclist to children, the questions fly. They also give him suggestions for the next book.

Super Cyclist is available at www.supercyclist.com, from Amazon.com.